Snowlandia 2014

ImageDay 1

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Where has all the wildlife gone?

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Day 3

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How am I going to get to work on Monday?

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Home sweet home.

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Good thing I decided against going for a run this morning.

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Forgive my excitement. I grew up in the desert.

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Posted in Oregon, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fall Projects

Has it really been 3 months since my last blog post? This fall has really flown by, and several times I thought about writing a blog post update, but never got around to it. Lately I have been working 3 part-time jobs (which translates to working 6-7 days per week), while taking a full-time load of college courses towards a dietetics degree (which translates to not reading any “fun” books aside from college textbooks). That aside, here is a run-down of a few of my favorite fall projects.

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Homemade Labneh: I attended my first mixer for registered dietitians and dietetic students this September — a potluck wine social — and was looking for an impressive appetizer to bring along that would be both healthy and tasty. Labneh is a traditional Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spread made with Greek yogurt. Although is takes 4 days to make, the active time is actually only about 20 minutes.

You simply combine 2 cups of full-fat Greek-style yogurt, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper in a bowl. Line another large bowl with a cheese cloth or piece of muslin, spoon the mixture into the center, fold the corners together and tie to a wooden kitchen spoon. Leave the labneh like this in the fridge for 3 days, allowing any liquid to drain out and a ball to form.

Next, roll the yogurt ball in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of oregano and 2 teaspoons of thyme. Place in a pint-sized mason jar with 1 1/3 cups olive oil and 1 bay leaf and leave in the fridge 1 more day.

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Serve at room temperature. For the wine social, I brought the labneh on a standard chips and dip platter, with a  sliced, locally-baked whole wheat baguette and celery sticks to spread the labneh onto. The spread was one of the biggest hits of the party, and the RD crowd preferred the bread far more than the celery. It’s all about balance!

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Apple Asiago Pie: I made this pie for Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. There’s not much added sugar, so the pie is not overly sweet, and the addition of thyme, black pepper and asiago cheese adds a nice twist. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply Organic. I haven’t made a recipe out of this book I didn’t like.

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Mixed Media Paper Witch on Canvas: I took this art class on a rare Saturday morning I didn’t have to work in late October. I am a huge fan of Halloween in general, in addition to October 31st being my wedding anniversary. This collage is something I think I’ll leave up year-round. The class was taught by Katrina of The Paper Parrot, who sells paper crafting kits and offers online crafting tutorials through her website.

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Lion Country Afghan: This was my big craft project of the summer because, who doesn’t need a 6-foot by 10-foot hand-knit map of the United States on their living room wall? I used this free pattern from Lion Brand Yarns. The pattern is geared toward advanced knitters, and it took me over 100 hours to make. I bought all of the recommended yarn for the pattern from Lion Brand, and since so many colors were involved, I have a ton of yarn left over. So if you would like to make your very own hand-knit map of the United States, send me an e-mail and I will sell it to you at a heavily discounted price.

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Salt, Sugar, Fat Book Review

I first heard of the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us when my friend Claire reviewed it earlier this summer, and thought it sounded like an interesting read. Last week I received a free copy of the book from the Bob’s Red Mill Hero of the Mill Club, and I breezed through the entire book over the weekend.

Along the lines of the title, Salt Sugar Fat is divided into three parts, each focused on one of the key ingredients in processed food. Each section contains the overarching message: processed foods are the leading cause of the United States’ obesity epidemic, and the multi-billion dollar processed foods industry is capitalizing on giving the American people what they want — convenient, addicting food.

As someone who is passionate about food and nutrition, the main theme of the book was nothing new or shocking to me. I know processed foods are bad for my health, they don’t taste that good to me, and I rarely eat them (I perhaps eat a processed food item an average of once per month).

But I did learn a lot while reading this book. For example, cigarette giant Philip Morris, who already destroyed the nation’s public health once, owns several of the largest processed foods conglomerates in the U.S., namely Kraft Foods, General Foods Corporation and Post Cereals. In many regards, the same marketing tactics that were used to hook people on cigarettes are used to hook people on processed foods, both with dire health consequences. Yet Kraft in particular has tried to make their foods healthier in recent past, but this has been met by much resistance by the consumers, Wall Street, and even the U.S. Government, which subsidizes some of the products that are poisoning its citizens.

Despite this dire situation, author Michael Moss argues, there is still hope. As he sums up in the epilogue to the book (page 346):

If nothing else, this book is intended as a wake-up call to the issues and tactics at play in the food industry, to the fact that we are not helpless in facing them down. We have choices, particularly when it comes to grocery shopping, and I saw this book, on its most basic level, as a tool for defending ourselves when we walk through those doors.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us is an informative and important read for anyone looking to improve the health of themselves and their families.

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Salmon & Steel Cut Oat Chowder with Dill Crème Fraîche

This year, for the third annual Spar for the Spurtle United States Porridge Making Championship sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill, I created a recipe for Salmon and Steel Cut Oat Chowder with Dill Crème Fraîche.

I was inspired to create this recipe after our trip to Ireland earlier this year. The Irish were perhaps the inventors of steel cut oat stew, and using oats in lieu of rice in soups gives the soup a slightly nutty flavor while also adding a healthy dose of fiber. While in Ireland, I ate a delicious seafood chowder and came up with the idea of creating a hybrid recipe of sorts. Add to that my love of French cuisine, and I couldn’t resist adding a dollop of crème fraîche.

In addition to the excellent nutritional profile of steel cut oats, the salmon adds a dose of essential Omega-3 fatty acids and the soup has loads of carrots and parsley to give it a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals.

Check out my video tutorial below.

Do you have an idea for a creative use of steel cut oats? There’s still time to enter this year’s Spar for the Spurtle competition for your chance to win $2,500 and a trip for two to Scotland. Simply design an original recipe utilizing Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, create a video of no more than 3 minutes that explains how to make your recipe, upload it to YouTube, and complete the short entry form. Then, be sure to leave a comment to enter my Spar for the Spurtle giveaway, sponsored by the folks at Bob’s Red Mill. Four additional readers will each receive a prize pack that includes a package each of Steel Cut Oats, Scottish Oats, 7 Grain Pancake Mix and Buttermilk Pancake Mix.

This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. The giveaway will end at 12 noon PDT on July 23 or when 5 entries have been received and verified, whichever comes first.

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Wild Book Review

I feel like I am a bit late to join the group of people reading Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Last year’s non-fiction sensation continues to be a best-seller. This week it appears for the 51st week on the New York Times Best-Seller List for Non-Fiction in 11th place. Currently there are 100 holds on 98 copies of the book at my local library, and I had to wait a full month to check it out. What is it that makes this book so popular? I had to find out.

JacketWhen 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself in 1995, her mother had recently died, she’d just received the divorce papers finalizing her first marriage, and she was losing the profound connection she’d hoped to maintain with the rest of her family. While in line to make a purchase at REI one day, she notices a copy of Pacific Crest Trail Volume 1 California near the check-out line. She’d never actually heard of the PCT at that point, but it soon becomes something that she must do. A pilgrimage, of sorts.

In this tell-all, at times humorously written memoir, Strayed talks about shooting heroin, chewing opium gum, cheating on her then-husband, and many other antics of her youth. This is not another book where the author glorifies himself/herself for accomplishing some amazing feat, but rather Strayed takes a more humble approach similar to “if I can hike by myself in the wilderness for 100 days, so can you.” I’d read a PCT hiker’s memoir in the former category last winter, and now I can for certain say I appreciate Strayed’s style of writing much better. Oftentimes Wild is written in the stream of consciousness, and the book is essentially more about her personal, internal journey than about the Pacific Crest Trail itself.

What I liked the best about this story is that it is one I could relate to. It is, above all, a tale of survival. Although Cheryl grossly underestimates the amount of money she will need on the trail — at times walking for days with only 2 cents in her pocket and finishing the trail completely broke — she presses on. She loses 6 toenails in the process of walking approximately 1,100 miles, but she doesn’t give up. She presses forward as if it is the only thing to do, which is essentially a metaphor for life in general. At times she calls herself a “big fat idiot” and at other times a “hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian Queen.” I was again reminded of how much a person can endure, yet still survive.

I am not sure if I’d be up for walking the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada — Strayed herself walked parts of California and the entirety of Oregon — but perhaps I would consider hiking the 500 miles through Oregon someday. I wonder what lessons such a pilgrimage would teach me.

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