Monthly Archives: May 2010

Homemade Butter: ridicuously yummy!

I know, I know, this is a bit of an odd post to follow right on the heels of my post about weight dilemmas.  However, I very strongly feel that part of eating well is eating closer to nature and closer to the ground.  I have this notion that if I could simply just eat real food (with the sugar in moderation) then my weight would adjust itself accordingly and I would be ok.  However, I haven’t ever successfully been able to accomplish this.  Which leads me to homemade butter.  When we were in France, the butter was fantastic.  The flavor just popped in your mouth.  Then spread on a fresh baguette made it just fabulous!  Since coming back, I have tried in vain to find something that approximates the same taste to no avail.  So I decided that I would try to make it myself.

My first stop was Whole Foods, where I had been told that I could find the sea salt from the Island of Re which is off the northern coast of France.  This salt is particularly good for some reason that I don’t know.  I found the sea salt and also picked up some Strauss Family Creamery heavy whipping cream. They have the best dairy products that I can currently find in a store.  I am still working on finding an actual dairy to get some raw cream from for butter.  The French butter is made from the raw cream and I think there is something there, but more on that later.  Then I started googling for butter recipes.  I had an idea of how to make it, but just wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.  I found this recipe on Cooking for Engineers.  It is amazingly detailed and complete with pictures of what things will look like.  It made very tasty butter and I used their approximations for the salt to add.  My only addition is to make sure that when you are removing the buttermilk, that you pour the butter through a strainer.  It helps put the butter into a ball so that you can knead it in the cold water next.  The recipe was fairly simple to make, just throw the cream into my favorite kitchen aid mixer turn it on, put the splash guard on and let it rip.  I checked on every 5 minutes or so, but spent most of the time cleaning up the kitchen instead of working on the butter.  It was really surprisingly easy.  It was all finished in about 20 minutes and then you can spread the butter on bread and ohmygoodness it was fantastic!

Morale of this story – go out an make yourself some butter!!

And then don’t keep it in the fridge – it spreads better and has a better taste when it is room temperature!

Weight dilemmas: Where’s the peace?

I have always struggled with my weight.  I love to eat and there is such an emotional tie for me to food.  I also yearn to be one of those French women who only eat a couple of bites of everything and seem to be effortlessly thin.  I remember when I was about 10 and I weighed 106 pounds and I was a bit chubby so I decided that I needed to get back down to 100.  Needless to say, I grew before I could lose the weight.  In my adult life (well at least since I stopped growing), I have gone back and forth with my weight.  I lost 20 pounds in high school and got down to my thinnest at 150 and then went to college and promptly started the upward climb.  Then there was law school and campaigns and taking the bar and just general unhappiness which topped me out at 5′ 11″ and 190.  According to the doctor’s charts, I should be somewhere between 143-174 for my height.  So it was time to do something.  So I joined weight watchers and got back down to 158.  Then there was my honeymoon, a move cross country and taking the bar again and again.  This has taken me back up to about 173, which is right on the line of acceptable from a health standpoint.

My vice is mainly sugar and I work to try to figure out how to manage it.  My younger sister, Peggy, and I are constantly trying to figure out what will help to keep us on a moderation track.  We have tried all sorts of things and generally it seems that avoiding it is the only full proof way to do it.  However, this isn’t sustainable either because at my birthday I want a piece of cake and at other times there is such a connection between something that someone has made for you that you don’t want to not be able to have some of it.  But once I start eating it, it is very hard to stop myself. Then there is the barrage of other junky bad for you things that you encounter in everyday life and have to attempt to avoid which is really hard.  I get worn down or am tired or hungry and then I eat it.

This gets further complicated at the moment because Alex and I would like to have a baby.  Foremost, I don’t want the baby to have the same sugar addiction that I do.  This means that I really need to somehow reach a happy ground with the sugar sometime soon.  Secondly, I would like to think that I can eat more healthy and cut out the chemically things that I eat and just generally be healthy about my food choices.  The problem is when I get to work and there are nacho cheese Doritos staring me in the face or yummy chocolate from See’s and I am almost drawn to them, or when I have just finished dinner and I want a bit of something sweet.  Or a million other times when it seems somewhat appropriate or yummy to have something that I know isn’t good for me.  It is so enticing and so far I have no lasting good solution to this.  Peggy is starting her residency and really worried about gaining weight and eating too much because she is tired and stressed.  So I think we are going to implement the start of another no sugar stretch and see how it goes this time.  It is always easier to do it together because then we are accountable to someone else.

As a forerunner to this, a friend has recommended a juice cleanse (the juice is so tasty!) and allowed me to borrow her juicer so I think I am going to embark on it first.  The juicing is connected to yoga and meditation and just generally exploring your relationship with food.  The juice follows your chakras.  So for instance you start with the root chakra which is red so the juices that you drink that day are red.  It also combines the juicing with a broth too.  It sounds interesting and fun so we will see how it goes.  This journey is an ongoing one and perhaps sometime I will come to a point of peace about it all.

Meditation Challenge: My first weekend of Yoga Teacher Training

This last weekend I began my yoga teacher training.  It is one weekend a month for 9 months. It was kinda fantastic.  I had forgotten just how lovely a group of women can be.  There are 15 of us and we range in age from 30 (how come I am always the youngest at these things?) to probably mid 60s.  There are mothers and teachers and engineers, but the important thing is that they are all very open-minded and loving.  This sounds so simple, but when you are apart of it, it is amazing.  Everyone is happy and excited about life and thrilled to be there to be deepening their yoga practice and learning to teach. The teachers are vivacious and lovely people also.  I was a bit afraid of them not being approachable as they seem to be important people.  Not at all, they were happy to chat and relax and just share stories too.

By the way, this teaching thing – super harder than I would have expected.  My teachers over the years just make it look so easy that I never really thought it was that hard.  I guess this just means that they are good and I am just beginning to grasp exactly how good they are.  This weekend we learned Tadasana (Mountain) and Uttananasna (standing forward bend).  These are basic yoga poses that one learns quit quickly and easily when you are learning yoga.  I can’t count the number of times that I have done each of them.  However, try leading someone through the poses and suddenly the words that seemed so easy on your teachers lips, aren’t there anymore.  But after stumbling through it a couple of times, it seemed to get a bit easier….if only I can remember to tell people to inhale and exhale!  One woman remarked, “My students are all dead! I forgot to tell them to breathe!”

A hefty part of the teacher training is classes in meditation.  I guess I logically knew that the physical practice of yoga was meant to prepare the yogi to meditate, but I haven’t really ever put the two together.  Meditation has always scared me just a bit.  I mean you are just supposed to sit and do nothing except attempt to still your mind for somewhere from 20 minutes to all day.  It is intimidating! I am a person that does things and I have an awfully hard time sitting still, which is all the more reason I should, but still….  We had a class each day on meditation and giving us the basic technique on how to set yourself, relax yourself and then just try to be.  The teacher, Sundari, challenged each of us to try to develop a daily meditation practice of anywhere from 20 minutes up to an hour if we could get ourselves to do it.  She said that it has completely changed her life for the better.  So I thought I would try, I have wanted to for years, but there were always excuses.  I thought I might blog about it from time to time just to keep myself honest!

So today I started.  I set my iPhone for 20 minutes and sat on a yoga block. (Your knees should be lower than your hips and my hips aren’t that flexible).  I am going to try to increase 5 minutes a week at least until I get to 30 minutes, then I will reevaluate.  My mind was rather scatterbrained.  I had a really hard time bringing it back to just being.  I tried to concentrate on my breathe and give myself the mantra of “om” on the inhale and “shanti” on the exhale.  I had mixed results.  I kept thinking about all the things around the house that needed to be done.  Then towards the end my leg fell asleep, which was very distracting, so I moved it a bit to wake it up.  The yoga block was a bit hard on my bum too.  I used meditation cushions this last weekend and I am thinking one might be a good investment.  Perhaps at some point my hips will be flexible enough that I can just sit on the floor.  However, until then I need some propping up!

Snails

I want to start out this post by saying that normally I am a very peaceful, non-violent person.  However, there is one thing that gets my blood boiling: SNAILS!!  I am not quite sure if other gardeners have quite so many problems with snails or it is just this part of the Bay Area, but they are on a rampage this spring. You see I try and have an organic garden which means no pesticides allowed.  I am lucky because in the Bay Area this is somewhat possible because there aren’t a ton of bugs waiting to destroy my crops.  However, there has been lots of research done saying that the more you put on pesticides, the more you kill the good bugs and get more bad bugs, but I digress.  The long and short of it is that snails love nothing better than to munch on my strawberries or my cute little lettuces or anything just poking its head out of the ground.  You can also leave out beer in little plastic cups to deal with some of the snails, but that tends to work better on slugs and rolly pollies.  I figure it is a rather pleasant way to go in that they just drown drunk.

According to the gardening books that I have read, the most effective way to deal with snails is to simply go around and pick them off and smash them.  This sounds very simplistic, but I have found in the past if I can regularly get out into the garden, this actually does work.  This year, they are all over the place.  Now granted, I did leave them alone for 5 weeks to breed and grow while I was eating lots of yummy food in Europe, but still!  Even before I left, I had done several sets going around the yard grabbing them from all their favorite places (in the compost, under the wood slats on the fence, in my strawberry patch! and hiding in the orange tree) piling them into flower pots and then smashing them all.  Then this has to be followed up by an almost daily regimen of going back over the places and more grabbing and smashing.  Once we got home, I did a thorough run through of grabbing and smashing and I thought I was doing well.  However, today while I was putting around the front yard doing some pruning and watering, I discovered so many snails hidden in a lily that was on the side of the house.  Now I have read that snails can travel over and under fences quite some distance to get to their food and these snails were big and fat so that meant that they had been eating lots of strawberries and such.  The side of our house isn’t far from the garden.  So I set to grabbing and smashing with a vengeance.  Those buggers hid really well too.  Every time I thought I had finished getting them all, there were more and more.  I thought about cutting down the lily, but then I realized that I shouldn’t because it was a good snail attraction and I now knew where to find them.  This is the bad point, when you start designing your landscaping around having snail traps……Now I need to head out to the backyard to check my traps.