Thoughts

I’m finally done with Fall quarter! I still don’t really feel like I am on winter break. I don’t think I’ve ever studied so hard in academia like I did these past few months. Looking back, not only did I learn a lot from my classes but I also learned a lot outside of the classroom.

I work with the Food Systems Working Group on campus, part of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems program. It’s a student oriented group that puts together field trips and tours for students to reconnect with their local food system, and of course, the beautiful farm we have on campus. One of my favorite parts of the quarter was a trip we made to San Francisco to Alemany Urban Farm.

It’s a small farm off the free way right in the city. It’s situated next to low income housing and offers a free CSA program to the neighboring residents. I’m not really sure how it’s subsidized since the farm is volunteer operated. They practice permaculture there. I’m still learning how permaculture works but pretty much it’s the concept of planting a garden in a way that mimics nature and the garden is supposed to grow and be maintained on its own without constant care. It uses a lot of the same concepts of companion planting (planting things that grow well together, symbiotically).

There are a lot of urban farms and gardens in San Francsico!

There are plenty here in Santa Cruz too. I think Santa Cruz should copy this idea and make a nifty map.

This coming year I want to re-do this blog and make it more recipe oriented. Hopefully I’ll have time over this short school break. I’ve received too many threats from friends and family that I need to make a cookbook, so I figured posting on here may be a good place to start collecting photos and recipes of dishes that I whip up in the kitchen. Before that i just need to remember to write down what ingredients and amounts I put into the recipes I cook.

I always forget to have a notebook with me in the kitchen. I tend to just dive in and put random ingredients together as I go. For you food bloggers out there, how do you do it?

December 10, 2010 at 10:47 am 1 comment

Blog?

Hi folks! After a long time away from the blog, I plan on making a comeback! I’m going to re-do a lot of things on here first though once I have time. I’m an overloaded full-time student.. with and internship and a job! As the Terminator says… “I’ll be back!”

November 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

My Birthday Wish

Hello friends in blog land!

You might be anticipating a tale of the fig and goat cheese tart I mentioned in my last post. Well I will get to that soon enough but this is a more important issue that is very dear to my heart.

My birthday is just a couple of weeks away. I feel very fortunate to have been able to reach this age in good health. As you all know, I’m pretty active..I ran my first marathon this year!

I’d like to give the credit for my health to the local farmers that provide the food on my table for every meal of the day. I feel very fortunate to be able to say that as well.

Some of you may be familiar with La Milpa Organica Farm, a micro farm tucked away in the agricultural preserve of Escondido, California. La Milpa has cultivated the land and nourished our county with organic food through 7 years. Aside from nourishing San Diego through food, this little hidden gem has also nourished and warmed the hearts of so many through building a community.

Every third Saturday of the month, it has opened its arms to welcome all for an evening potluck out on the farm beneath the stars. This farm has been a place to leave the material world behind and to be at peace with the simplicity of life by sharing an honest meal with complete strangers (who by the end of the night will become your new friends) and spending time with your loved ones.

Very recently I was saddened to learn that Barry Logan, farmer of La Milpa Organica, has since decided to close the farm. After facing cost increases, legal issues cracking down on the farm’s apprenticeship program, and water cutbacks, continuing to operate the farm has become virtually impossible for him.

This news is heartbreaking for many, but also serves as a prime example of how important it is that we protect the farms that continue to feed us, and the farms that will feed us in the future.

At the start of this year I began volunteering with San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a non-profit that works to educate, cultivate, and empower sustainable food communities in San Diego County. I have devoted a lot of my time to this organization because I truly believe with every inch of my being that if we want to see healthier families and a healthier planet we must get back to the soil and remember where our food really comes from. What we eat on a daily basis not only affects our health, our wellness, and our being but also affects our environment. The ability to educate others about the dying art of cultivating the soil will provide future generations with the priceless knowledge of being able to live as one with our planet. We must work with, not against, the earth so that it can continue to provide the food we need to continue to live healthy lives and so that others can have access to healthy food.

I have never asked for any gift on my birthday, but this cause has compelled me to make a special request this year. I understand that economic times are difficult now but I would be very grateful for any measure of donation you are able to give to the San Diego Roots Educational Farm Center (Roots @ Suzie’s). This farm is taking shape on newly leased land, adjacent to the Tijuana River and Suzie’s Farm, in Imperial Beach. As it grows it will provide an agricultural landscape for children to learn where their food comes from, workshops on how to build a garden at home, farm-to-table cooking classes, permaculture classes, and so much more. Any amount you are able to donate will speak volumes to our local community.

To donate, please visit the San Diego Roots Grow The Farm web page at:

http://www.sandiegoroots.org/farm/grow-the-farm.php

Thank you for your time, lots of love, and best wishes.

~alex

September 2, 2010 at 7:47 am 1 comment

Say Cheese!

When I was in Costa Rica working at Finca La Flor de Paraiso in July, I was able to enjoy fresh goat’s milk and fresh goat cheese for the very first time in my life. Up until then, I had never seen a goat be milked in person and I also didn’t know what goat’s milk tasted like straight out of the udder.

The goat’s milk at the finca wasn’t my favorite since it was still warm when I drank it. The cheese wasn’t like the goat cheese I knew from state side either. In fact, after building up such excitement to try the legit, raw, real deal I was kind of disappointed and a little pushed away. The flavor of the milk and cheese was extremely goaty. I mean, REALLY goaty. Even so, I was so intrigued about the process I made sure I woke up at 6am every morning to watch Henry, one of the farm workers, ordeñar las cabras (milk the goats) and carry the milk over to the kitchen.

My interest in the process of cheese making followed me all the way home after returning from my two-week stay at the farm, and despite my Costa Rican goat’s milk encounter I still have a romantic interest in all things goat dairy. For some reason I like goat’s milk and goat’s milk cheese here in the US a lot better! Maybe it’s just my taste buds playing a trick on me?

Aside from working at a farmers market once a week I also work at a natural grocery. Every two weeks we host a garden swap for non-certified farms (a.k.a. backyard gardens) to trade their excess goods with other growers.. or in my case bakers.

Despite working my three-hour shift this past Saturday, my generous bosses allowed me to partake in the swap! I toted along these little beauties…

Orange zest sugar cookies. Recipe? None. I pretty much winged it and wanted to get rid of different flours in our pantry. I do know that they were 50% gluten-free, 100% organic and vegan. I was sure they’d be a crowd pleaser!

Aside from a bowl of enormous brown turkey figs, a tomato, peaches, smoked chili peppers, a canary melon, and a muffin..one of my favorite swaps I received was definitely the quart of fresh raw goat’s milk.

I instantly foresaw the fate that would meet this quart’s worth of liquid gold. Operation goat cheese!

Using this recipe I took to the stove top with thermometer in hand. I learned that patience is key when cheese making!

The result? After bringing the milk to 200*F, removing from heat, adding the juice of 1 lemon, allowing to curdle, straining through cheese cloth and letting rest for 1 hour… I unwrapped my little gift:

How gorgeous is that? It’s okay to be a little jealous but I always say that jealousy is silly when you can easily do it yourself!

I’m thinking I’ll use this little loaf of cheese with figs and honey in the near future… The possibilities are endless. To be honest I’m leaning towards a goat cheese tart.

If it turns out well, maybe (just maybe!) you will be lucky and get to see a photo of the final product!

August 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm 1 comment

Turning the Soil (and a new recipe!)

In my previous post I gave you guys a nice recap of what I have been up to. I laugh at myself for saying “you guys” because I honestly have no idea who my audience is nor do I know if anyone even really reads my posts! But I guess I’ll continue to use that phrase while writing on here.

So my time away from the whole blogging world made me feel entirely cleansed. I loved not taking pictures of everything I ate, hoping the photos turned out decent, and shocker: I didn’t work out for two whole weeks while I was in Costa Rica and I didn’t fall apart! All of this has led me to realize I don’t want to continue blogging as a “What I Ate” gal anymore. Who has time for that anyway? :shock: I know that I don’t! Since I will be starting school again I will have even less time, so here is my plan for where I plan on taking my little virtual diary:

Recipes? Yes. Farm and garden talk? Yes. Occasional photo of something I ate (only if it looks good!)? Yes. Photos I’ve taken? Yes. Blog posts every single day? Sorry Charlie, but no thank you.

I’m going to mix it up and change this blog around so that I can use it as more than an insight to my daily episodes. I like my privacy so don’t expect photos of everything I eat, every mile I run, every race I run in, and every thought that goes through my head. I’m still interested in food and fitness and the whole bit but I’m excited to expand my blogging horizons! It’s just like cultivating the earth, you have to turn the soil. :wink:

—————————————————————————————————-

With that said…I have a new recipe to share! Many of you don’t know, but I work for an organic farmer and help sell at his stand every Sunday at a farmers market. Something I look forward to seeing in the summer are the lemon cucumbers he grows. Have you ever seen one or eaten one?

[ Insert photo of lemon cucumbers that I thought I had, but couldn't find in my iPhoto ]

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, search for a photo in Google before proceeding… :mrgreen:

One of the questions that customers ask me most about this cute veggie is, “Does it taste like a lemon?”. You might be wondering that yourself and in case you are, the answer is no. Some things are named the way they are simply because of appearance! I’ve yet to see an elephant garlic that looks like an elephant.

If you happen to spot these crisp gems at your local farmers market and are curious about their taste they have a light sweetness with the crunch you can only get from sinking your teeth into a juicy cucumber. Make sure you grab a few this season before they are gone!

Here is a great way to put the cucumbers to good use. Of course you can substitute the lemon cucumbers for an English or Persian or any cucumber for that matter. This is a very easy and fresh salad you can use as a side dish to your Labor Day weekend barbecue!

Summer Zest Lemon Cucumber Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • -6 medium-sized lemon cucumbers
  • -1/2 bunch of your favorite herb (parsley, cilantro, basil..), chopped
  • -1 cup cooked whole wheat orzo (or your favorite grain)
  • - 4 oz. fresh feta, cubed
  • - 1/3 C raisins
  • - 2 T grape seed oil
  • - 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • - zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • - salt and pepper to taste
  • - thin slices of lemon for garnish (optional)

Mix grape seed oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, salt in pepper in a small bowl. Place remaining ingredients in a larger bowl and pour dressing over. Toss gently and adorn with thinly sliced lemon. Chill in fridge before serving.

Until next time! Arrivederci!

August 23, 2010 at 6:27 am 4 comments

I’m Still Alive!

So I have obviously taken a large leave of absence from this thing. It was a very much-needed leave of absence because I think I have grown a lot from when I started this blog earlier this year. You may be wondering where I have spent my time? What I have done? What I have been eating, perhaps? We’ll get to that in time. Read on if you will…

So throughout the past months I’ve devoted a good chunk of my time working at the San Diego Roots farm, as well as different aspects of the organization. I’m no Farmer Jane yet but I hope to be someday! We’ve continued to clear the fields at the farm. We had a seed planting but the local critters found the sprouts and whaled on it like a group of school children would at an ice cream parlour. Fear not though, I’m most certain that in time the farm will be well underway and will really make a positive impact on our local food system here in Southern California!

Aside from volunteering at the farm, I was fortunate to take a two-week trip to Costa Rica to..you might have guessed by now.. work on an organic farm! I divided up the majority of my stay at Finca La Flor de Paraiso, a small farm up in the mountains tucked away from the busy streets of San José in a town called La Flor. When I say small, I mean SMALL. When most people think of Costa Rica, they envision luscious beaches, tropical fruits, and emerald-green jungles. You’d be surprised to hear that I was freezing my buns off for most of my visit! The farm received copious amounts of precipitation which helped provide for soil so rich and moist it could almost pass as black forest cake. Yes!

I could go on forever about what I learned at the farm but I’ll save that for future posts! Aside from working on the farm another memorable part of my trip was going to Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean side of the country, for four days. I traveled with two guys I met at the farm – one from Texas and the other from LA. I couldn’t have asked for better travel buddies. And the vibe on that side of the country? Totally Rasta man!

You bet I found a local farmers market to buy organic fuel for my body!

To wrap up my entire trip in one bundle, it was a trip of a lifetime. I know how cliché of me to say that.. but it was my first time outside of the country, venturing out solo! I made amazing connections and gained a great deal of confidence along with respect for others. I am forever humbled and have been changed by my stay in Costa Rica.

So where does that leave my blogging escapades and myself? I plan to revamp this virtual self-extension! I view change as a very good thing. :)

~alex

August 20, 2010 at 6:34 am Leave a comment

Farm Days

I did so much yesterday I didn’t have any time to sit around and blog during the day, so here is a recap of how my Saturday went:

For breakfast I ate two slices of the banana bread I made the day before, with a drizzle of honey and some blueberries. I also ate some cherries.

After breakfast, I headed out to the door and at 7:30AM I met Karon for a morning run.

I definitely was experiencing déjà vu!!! We ran around the area where I ran my last 6 miles of the marathon from last Sunday!

We had an awesome run. The morning was brisk but not too cold, there was a very slight breeze but we didn’t really feel it while running. Karon is such a trooper. She owned the run even though she while  fighting a cold. We finished just over 8 miles with an 8:49 pace. It feels great to be able to run that distance only a week after such a long race!

After our run we headed back to Karon’s house to hang out a bit, and then we went out to Adam’s Avenue Grill with her husband John. I ordered the tofu and egg white stack and ate  about 90% of it.

At 2pm we headed over to Suzie’s Farm, where a lot of volunteers for San Diego Roots gathered yesterday to get some work done out on the farm! San Diego Roots is in the process of getting the land ready to begin an educational farm. There is clearly a lot of work to be done, as we clear this from the fields..

..to yield this.

The crops to be planted in the rows of black plastic you see, will include the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. I got a lot of scartches all over me from picking up dried weeds and rolling piles of hacked dried brush. We had a lot of volunteers come out, and got a lot of work accomplished!

I ate some snacks that didn’t make it to the camera during all the work. Those snacks include 1 mini Luna bar, some chips with some hummus, a few pinches of cilantro, and how could I not mention the these little beauties??

There are several blackberry  bushes nearby as well as two peach trees that are just loaded with the sweetest little gems your palette could ever imagine! I began calling one of the peach tress ‘The Tree of Enchantment’ because it just pulled you in to eat the fruit whether you wanted to or not. I definitely filled my quota yesterday of peaches and blackberries. Yum!

After working for a good three hours on the farm, we called it a day and brought it in for a nice potluck. Unfortunately I was a dud and didn’t bring anything! I left home early for the run with Karon and completely forgot. So consider this a moocher’s dinner plate:

It was loaded with everything from potato salad made with homemade yogurt, quinoa salad, watermelon-mint-feta salad, some hummus, chips, grapes, and two little slices of greyeure cheese. Delish!

After getting home I had to urge to make something so I made my parents a baked fruit dessert. Didn’t take a picture of it but I promise you it tasted very good!

Definitely a food overload type of day :( .. but I guess some days are just like that and you have to enjoy every bite, yes? :)

Hope you are enjoying the last day of your weekend!

June 13, 2010 at 5:41 am 2 comments

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Hello! My name is Alexandra.


This blog is a chronicle of living a healthy lifestyle through food and fitness! I'm a student, a gardener, an environmentalist, an athlete, and I love to cook and eat food that is locally grown. I love our planet so much, and I think it's important to treat it right so it can treat us right in return!

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