Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Homegrown Wisconsin/Simply Wisconsin CSA Weeks 15-21

Week 15: September 23, 2009

Tatsoi, red peppers, radishes, tomatoes, red cippolini onion, eggplant, potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, celery

The tatsoi was new to me, but tasted great raw. The carrots tended to be stubby but flavorful. At this point I started donating all my potatoes to my coworker Anand (there will be many more to come).

Week 16: September 30, 2009

Broccoli, red and green peppers, potatoes, green cabbage, parsley, radishes, pears, carrots, red/heirloom/roma tomatoes, two dozen eggs

The eggs continue to impress, and parsley goes well with them. Heirloom tomatoes are weird but kinda tasty nonetheless.

Week 17: October 7, 2009

Butternut squash, kale, leeks, carrots, red bell/lipstick peppers, potatoes, heirloom tomato, green pepper, pears, kale, mizuna, two dozen eggs

The greens were good but a surprise (haven't got that many in a while, but it was no challenge to finish them all). I ended up cooking the squash with a pot roast - probably wasn't the best way to prepare it but it turned out OK.

This was a Jeff-style omelet served over this week's green's and a curry chicken tender from Trader Joe's. What you can't see is the pool of coconut milk underneath everything. Mmmmmmm.

Week 18: October 14, 2009

Carrots, red cippolini onions, acorn squash, butternut squash, tomato, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, sweet pepper, leeks, mustard greens, cilantro, sweet potatoes, apple cider jelly, two dozen eggs

Phew, what a box! Saving the jelly for later, when I figure out something to do with it. With eggs, peppers, and onions it became sort of an omelet week, which isn't a bad thing. The mustard greens were OK as salad, not quite my favorite.

Week 19: October 21, 2009

Pie pumpkins, beets, Connel red/Cortland apples, candy onions, brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, red cabbage

The first apples, and they're great. I gave the pumpkins to my mom since I had little interest in them. Brussels sprouts are in a tie for first place as my favorite vegetable so this week was all good.

Week 20: October 28, 2009

Lettuce, potatoes, carrots, Delicata squash, unknown greens (something like cabbage), apples, onions, parsnips, celeriac, two dozen eggs

This was the last week. =( The newsletter wasn't available, so I couldn't tell what the green cabbage-like thing was. It was pretty good in salad though. Also, I wasn't sure what to do with the celeriac so unfortunately it ended up going bad. The squash is yet-to-be-consumed but I have a feeling it will end up being quite tasty, knowing the person who will be helping me prepare it.

This marks the end of my summer Wisconsin CSA. In the end, it was well worth the money. However, as in my previous experience, it was a bit much for one man to consume, particularly in those weeks with lots of greens or unusual items.

Now I'm signed up for a meat CSA through Liberty Family Farm in Michigan. I'll post some updates as that progresses. So far, it's great. More to come on that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Homegrown Wisconsin/Simply Wisconsin CSA Weeks 9-14

Week 9: August 12, 2009

Tomatoes, green peppers, watermelon, carrots, green beans, eggplant, sage, white onions, celery, rhubarb

Normally I'm not a fan of tomatoes, but these were good. Cut them up and grill in a skillet. The watermelon was yellow, which I've never seen before. With some apprehension I bit in, only to discover it tastes exactly like red watermelon. As usual I failed to do anything with the rhubarb so I froze it.

Week 10: August 19, 2009

Red tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, bell and cubanelle peppers, carrots, green beans, raspberries, rhubarb, white onions, chard, sweet corn, two dozen eggs

A nice variety of peppers for omelets. The berries are consistently tasty. Green beans aren't really paleo but I ate them anyway (steam), as well as some of the corn (boiled). Again froze the rhubarb.

Week 11: August 26, 2009

Red tomatoes, green peppers, watermelon, basil, parsley, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, red onions, sweet corn, raspberries

More good peppers and soft, crisp lettuce. The heirloom tomato was pretty tasty and juicy.

Week 12: September 2, 2009

Red tomatoes, green bell pepper, anaheim peppers, red onions, sweet corn, muskmelon (cantaloupe), lettuce, cucumber, turnip greens, two dozen eggs

The cantaloupe had a bad spot in the middle but was otherwise great. Another nice variety of peppers for omelets. The eggs are, as usual, fantastic, with golden omega-3 rich yolks.

Week 13: September 9, 2009

Tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, yellow onions, two of: lettuce, arugula, chard, kale, collards, or frisee

No picture because I didn't actually get this one! Oddly enough, I was in Wisconsin this week for a trail building volunteering event with the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The person who was supposed to pick it up for my, in my absence, wasn't able to. So it was donated to a local food bank. I'm sure somebody ended up eating and enjoying it.

Week 14: September 16, 2009

Orange tomatoes, green Italian fryer pepper, garlic chives, yellow onions, a very large cauliflower, kale, lettuce, potatoes, celery, pablano pepper, two dozen eggs

What a massive cauliflower! Everything has been great from this box.

Sometime during the past month they changed the name from Homegrown Wisconsin to Simply Wisconsin. Regardless of the name, sadly, the season is almost over. But the good news is they have a winter share too, which I might sign up for, and I also found out about a meat CSA from a different farm that will deliver locally grown beef, pork, chicken, and lamb from November through March. I'll definitely be signing up for that one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homegrown Wisconsin CSA Weeks 5-8

Week 5: July 15, 2009

Bunched beets, leafy hardy green, kale, red cabbage, zucchini, mini onions, dill, cucumbers, blackberries

The cabbage was excellent. Getting killed by so much dill though. Berries were succulent.

Week 6: July 22, 2009

Spring onions, celery, Swiss chard, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, mixed beans, common thyme?, two dozen eggs

Eggs were awesome as always. No trouble polishing off everything this week, except the herb...

Week 7: July 29, 2009

Portabella mushrooms, chives, red new potatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce, fresh garlic, fennel

Everything was good except the potatoes and fennel. Got this one just before going on vacation so I brought it all with me. My family could use everything on the trip except for the fennel, the stalk of which tastes like black licorice.

Week 8: August 5, 2009

Portabella mushrooms, chives, white new potatoes, carrots, onions, mixed beans, zucchini, fennel, cucumbers

I was still out of town for this one so again Jen was kind enough to pick it up for me. Most of it was gone by the time I got home so no picture this week. I still enjoyed the onions, zucchini, and a couple potatoes in a stir fry.

I'm picking up another one tomorrow, so no more time to waste not cooking, eating, or doing dishes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Homegrown Wisconsin CSA Weeks 3 and 4

More delicious and nutritious veggies and berries over the past couple weeks. I'll just skip right to the pictures.

Week 3: July 1, 2009

Little gem romaine, green cabbage, collard greens, garlic scrapes, turnips, green zucchini, snow or sugar snap peas, mini onions, unknown herb

That list is from the newsletter but not everything is necessary in the picture. That's because I was out of town for the 4th of July weekend and had my roommate's girlfriend pick up the box in my absence. In return I encouraged them to eat whatever they wanted from it, which I presume they did. But there was still a good amount left when I got home on Sunday night.

Another funny thing... I really wasn't kidding about the "surprise factor." As you can see and I'm embarrassed to admit, I couldn't even identify the herb at the time! In the newsletter they only tell you it will be either X, Y, or Z (the exact item is a mystery to everyone until you open the box). No matter, whatever it was I chopped it up and sprinkled over almost every dish and it worked. Googling around now I'm 90% sure it was parsley.

After a late Monday night of orchestra rehearsal and drinking polish beer, nothing quite hits the spot like tuna in olive oil and frozen blueberries over a pile of greens. The sudden and unexpected disappearance of our can opener almost prevented this meal. Fortunately, it turns out that with a little effort you can open cans with a Santoku knife (thanks again, Google!)

Another "Everything in the box" stir fry, this time cooked in delicious and nutritious coconut oil. And to think... some poor souls believe it's meant to be wasted in their hair!

Week 4: July 8, 2009

Lettuce, some other type of lettuce, kohlrabi, hardy green, kale, garlic scrapes, zucchini, snap peas, mini onions, cucumbers, unknown herb, blackberries, and another 2 dozen eggs

I crept heroically through the 7:30 PM Eisenhower traffic jam to make it to the pick up site on time this week. As you can see, totally worth the effort. Where to even begin? With no time to think... I just started eating.

When a man is forced to test the limits of how many pounds of greens a human can consume in a single meal, that man requires two plates for dinner. A nice side effect of this - even if I somehow had the desire to eat something bad like a candy bar or some oatmeal afterward, it would be futile to attempt since the first bite would quickly run into an impenetrable wall of chlorophyll just south of the pharynx.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homegrown Wisconsin CSA Weeks 1 and 2

I signed up for the Homegrown Wisconsin CSA program this year. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, Wikipedia and Localharvest do a nice job of explaining it. Basically, you pay money to a nearby farm, or set of farms in this case, and receive a bunch of fresh, healthy, local produce every week. The cost is about on par with buying veggies at the grocery store, but the quality is much higher, it's a lot fresher, and the farmers get a bigger cut. I'm fortunate that one of the pick up sites for this particular program is just down my street, so there is simply no excuse for me not to do this.

One of the most interesting, and occasionally frustrating, things about doing a CSA is the surprise factor. To put it succinctly: you never know what you're gonna get. Nature isn't a mechanical contraption spitting plants out of the ground according to finely tuned inputs and schedules. On the contrary, the quantity, quality, and distribution of the farm's output follows a probabilistic model. Growing is a stochastic process where a million incalculable factors (most notably weather) influence the final result. You generally know which produce will be ready for harvest within a certain window, but the exact yields for a particular week aren't known until hours before pickup.

The biggest surprise for me came a couple years ago, when I received an entire basket (think laundry basket) full of tomatoes sometime in July. I'm not much of a fan of tomatoes to begin with, but this would be a bit much for anyone to eat before they spoiled, which unfortunately did happen to many. So my goal this time is to make sure everything gets eaten, or given away, never wasted. To that end I'll be documenting each week's pickup and holding myself accountable for its full consumption and enjoyment. Nobody will legitimately be able to accuse me of not eating my veggies between now and October!

Week 1: June 17, 2009

Rhubarb, green garlic, white button mushrooms, asparagus, common mint, strawberries, spinach, and a ton of lettuce

The asparagus was excellent (a lot better than the usual from TJ's) and the strawberries were very tasty. The biggest problem was the rhubarb; I'm not much of a baker so I didn't know what to do with it except eat it like celery. Unfortunately I had to throw some out since it went bad in the fridge (I didn't know it needs to be stored in a wet cloth, then cut up and frozen if not used).

Week 2: June 24, 2009

White button mushrooms, spinach, green garlic, peas, strawberries, rhubarb, spinach, common mint, zucchini, more lettuce, and two dozen eggs from chickens eating their natural omnivorous diet (including insects and worms)

Here I present my "A little bit of everything in the box plus a few stray frozen shrimp" stir fry

So far so good; I have no issues downing a metric ton of lettuce per week. But seriously, if you have any ideas for rhubarb that aren't rhubarb pie, then please get in touch with me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Media Distortions and the Lastest Big Diet Study

You may have seen the buzz around the latest diet study, just published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The New York Times' article about it is quite representative of the coverage this study is getting.

For people who are trying to lose weight, it does not matter if they are counting carbohydrates, protein or fat. All that matters is that they are counting something.

Reading this with my morning coffee threw me into a bit of a panic, given it flies so completely in the face of my personal opinions and experiences. What if my weight loss has all been a lie? Did I really take the blue pill after all?

Then I read the actual NEJM study article. Existential crisis averted. It turns out the study itself has some major flaws, serious enough that the conclusion (which the media picked up on) doesn't even really follow. Let's examine it in detail (below here, quoted sections are directly from the study).

First, it wasn't even designed to address the question of whether caloric restriction works as a general dietary strategy or not. Why not?

Each participant's caloric prescription represented a deficit of 750 kcal per day from baseline, as calculated from the person's resting energy expenditure and activity level.

This one sentence is rather telling. It seems that every group, regardless of macronutrient breakdown, was given a "caloric deficit" up front. So already we are abandoning the idea of testing whether caloric restriction, in general, works. In fact they admit there is no control group whatsoever.

No diet was considered to be a control diet, and the dietary counseling and the attention that we provided were the same for all diet groups throughout the study period.

We're not off to a very good start, but let's continue by looking at the metric they did actually measure, weight loss. Ordinarily here I would raise objections because what most people really want is to lose body fat, not weight, and losing the latter does not imply losing the former. But in this case (the individuals were overweight or obese middle aged men and women) they are probably close to the same, so we'll overlook it. Fortunately, they did measure waist size, a far better indicator of body fat levels. Here is what they found.

They claim the results are equivalent among groups but I'm not so sure. In both the "high protein" and "low carbohydrate" groups, waist reduction was 20% greater than in the "low protein" and "high carbohydrate" groups respectively.

OK, well even with these relatively minor problems, surely the central premise can still be salvaged. I mean, they are actually testing whether it's just the number calories that matter, not what they come from, right? Surprisingly, no! The bombshells (credit goes to Garret Smith and Steven Low for pointing this out to me).

Other goals for all groups were that the diets should include 8% or less of saturated fat, at least 20 g of dietary fiber per day, and 150 mg or less of cholesterol per 1000 kcal. Carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index were recommended in each diet.

Behavioral counseling was integrated into the group and individual sessions to promote adherence to the assigned diets.

The goal for physical activity was 90 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Participation in exercise was monitored by questionnaire and by the online self-monitoring tool.

First they are mandating a dietary fiber requirement, which clearly falls into the "where they come from" category. But more damningly, by even acknowledging glycemic index, they are freely tacitly admitting that not all calories are equal. That is, after all, precisely what GI is concerned with (favorable versus unfavorable carbohydrates with regard to weight management).

And not only that, but now they are throwing in the undeniably confounding variables of exercise and counseling into the mix. I thought this was supposed to be a dietary study.

So, in the final analysis, this study has very little to do with diet in general, forget the significance of the number of calories consumed. Now, as a fun experiment, let's visit some bizzaro alternate universe where they actually designed this study to test whether it was strictly the number of calories that matters in fat loss.

  • Create real control groups, which are allowed to consume as much food as they want but in the proportions as each of the test groups. This will let us test whether caloric restriction actually works.

  • Get rid of the exercise requirements and counseling. Let's stick to testing diet.

  • Make a real low carb group (35% isn't low enough), and high protein group (25% isn't high enough).

  • Impose no requirements on saturated fat, fiber, or glycemic index. Only calories matter, remember?

Yay - I could be a medical researcher!