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Bits and Bites

July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day! We took a long bike ride through a new neighborhood this morning, carved up a watermelon, and are on our second pitcher of herbal peach iced tea with lemon wedges and mint sprigs.

I intended to have a festive and fitting post about Virginia’s Historic Triangle (in a way, the birthplace of the U.S.) for you today. But I changed course because it’s not quite polished and ready yet, and I have several other bits and bites bumping around my brain to share with you.

First, I have restrained myself from taking pictures of every weekly CSA box we’ve received from Snow’s Bend Farm since April. It’s our first year in a CSA, and though I am growing weary of not having the freedom to pick my own vegetables each week, I have to admit that it’s been exciting to try varieties of produce I’ve never come across at farmer’s markets or stores.

This week, I could not stop myself from pulling out the camera for you, because they gave us brilliant magenta okra. Magenta! I think technically it is called red okra, but that is probably just because the person who named it wasn’t familiar with the full color vocabulary of paint sample cards, lipstick collections, and clothing catalogs. Apparently the pink hue disappears when you cook it. I will probably admire it for a few more days before I do a silly thing like cook it though.

If you are outside the South and happen to be curious about okra, my favorite way of eating it so far is pickled. If you’re so inclined, you can order jars from Wickles, a small business in Dadeville, Alabama. When David and I first presented boiled frozen okra to my West Coast family they were turned off by its sliminess, but pickling gives it more of a crisp texture and enhanced flavor.

Besides the tomatoes and shallot in the CSA picture, the other new veggie this week is rattlesnake beans. I’ve never cooked with them before, but their name takes me back to childhood in California. Though I never saw a poisonous snake personally, we used to watch and listen carefully outside in the sun, especially as my siblings and I ran through old, unproductive orchard land behind our house, imagining that a spooky man living in a small, abandoned shed back there would shoo us off his property any second.

Well, I didn’t realize I had so much to tell you about okra. Onto the second bit!

Another discovery this week was these raw, organic Power Snacks from Navitas Naturals. I stopped into a new health-conscious grocery store in Birmingham, Earth Fare, for the first time on Monday.

I loved that it had a little section dedicated to packaged raw foods, and I enjoyed walking up and down all the aisles. Vanilla chai and creamy cocoa lip balms caught my eye, among other goodies.

     

Though Earth Fare is significantly smaller than Whole Foods and carries many of the same products, it also seems to stock unique items that they don’t. I saw Peet’s Coffee, for example, and I don’t think I’ve noticed that outside the West Coast.

However, I had lunch at the store, and must say that I was completely unimpressed with the prepared foods. The hot bar was full of cheesy and meaty dishes, none of the 4 soups were vegan, the roasted Brussels sprouts looked droopy, and the three items I tried were all too salty, overcooked, or over-seasoned for me. Lots of people in work clothes seemed to be enjoying their lunch break there though, so maybe it is just my taste buds. :)

Anyway, I was excited about the Power Snacks because they have no sweeteners other than date paste- no agave, honey, maple syrup, or refined sugar. Plus they are packed with superfoods like maca, chia, and camu-camu. And they come in portable, relatively un-messy, easy-to-eat little cubes. All that, and they still taste pretty good!

I got two packages at Earth Fare, then found a third flavor yesterday at our local health food store, Manna Grocery. It looks like Navitas might publish the recipes for the Power Snacks on their website, which would be fantastic. They are also inspiring me to go back to some of the recipes from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive books, which are similar in combining nuts and dried fruit into chewy, slightly sweet, nutrient-dense, energizing, easily stored bites.

Lastly, I signed up for six weeks of online courses about plant-based nutrition through Cornell University, and today is the first day of class. I’m excited to learn more than what I’ve read in books, and of course I’m sure you’ll find interesting facts and findings on here soon.

In the meantime, Happy 4th of July! Hope those of you in the U.S. enjoy the holiday and the summer celebrations!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Our Kitchen Inventions July 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

What a fun box of goodies! Love the beans. They remind me a bit of our borlotti beans. Can’t wait to see what you make with yours. I am going to check out that online course, as it sounds like a fun bit of learning – (unlike algebra or something “useful”)…LOL!

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Sharon July 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

Ha! I can’t wait to see what I make with the rattlesnake beans either! Have gotten busy with other things and haven’t taken the time to figure out what to do with them yet! :) You and I are definitely bean birds of a feather that flock together!

I have only been in the eCornell course for 3 days so take my opinion with a grain of salt :), but so far I am really enjoying it. I hope you will like it if you look into it too! The instructor is very, very involved and available- answering questions, adding new information to discussions, structuring conversations, etc. So far the two lectures I have done have included mainly things I’ve read before with just a bit of new information, BUT it sounds like lots more is coming in addition to what the instructor adds to the forums.

And I TOTALLY know what you mean about “useful” learning- ha! I have convinced myself that nutrition and health learning is useful for me and my loved ones and hopefully will even save us money down the road in health care costs. (Even though, you know, spending my time learning other beneficial things like investments and economics could also be pretty useful too- ha!)

Also, this may sound wishy washy, but lately I am coming around to thinking that passions and interests are useful just because that is what you love! For example, I adore pretty file folders and things like that. Maybe they are not as “useful” as economics knowledge, but they make me happy and maybe just adding a little bit of joy and beauty to someone’s day is useful in its own way? I don’t see my affinity for them waning, so surely there is SOME reason I am so drawn to them, I’d like to believe!

Anyway, thank you as always for visiting and for your insights and comments, Susan! Always glad to hear from you and I like knowing a fellow bean fan! :)

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Our Kitchen Inventions July 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

Sounds like a really good class to consider for learning what is important for health and happiness reasons! Thought you’d like to know this: in Italy, they call people like us “Mangiafagioli” or “Bean Eaters”. LOL! How funny is that?

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Sharon July 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Yes! Hopefully by the end of the course I will have more advice on whether or not it was “worth it,” so you can take that into consideration as you decide what you think!

HA! Mangiafagioli, unite! That is a mouthful. Don’t remember it being covered in my one semester of Italian, either. :) Thank you for the fun fact!

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