Healthy Pasta Substitute: Chickpeas (with recipe)

by | Sep 29, 2010
Chickpea Puttanesca

Chickpea Puttanesca

I’m generally not a big noodle fan. Homemade fresh pasta is great, but I rarely go through the trouble to make it myself. Also, pasta isn’t particularly healthy and I’m happy to keep it as a special occasion food.

But sauce is a different story. I love a chunky summer tomato puttanesca sauce. In the past I have made a big batch, put the first serving on rigatoni, then used the rest on whatever I happened to have in the fridge over the next few days. I’ve tried it on brown rice and quinoa (neither is particularly good), but one day all I had was some chickpeas I made in the pressure cooker.

This changed everything.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a perfect match to a thick Italian red sauce. At this point I actually prefer my puttanesca on chickpeas rather than pasta. And I feel way better after eating it. This is also a wonderful substitution if you are sensitive to gluten.

I doubt chickpeas would hold up as well with all sauces, but I think red sauces are safe. My guess is lighter sauces that rely more on the distinct flavor of pasta would prove disappointing. Pesto might be nice, but probably as more of a side dish than a main course.

This is a new version of my puttanesca recipe. In a pinch you can substitute a 28oz can of diced tomatoes for fresh ones.

Chickpea Puttanesca

(serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes (Early Girl or San Marzano are best), diced
  • 8 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2-3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas

If you’re starting with dry chickpeas, soak 1 cup (or more) dry beans overnight. Cook in pressure cooker until tender ~20 min, or boil covered in a pot (~1 hr). The rest of the cooking takes about 20 minutes, so adjust accordingly. You can make these a day or two ahead as well.

Press or finely mince garlic and soak it in 1 tbsp of water in a small cup or bowl. Let sit 5-10 minutes.

Heat a large pan on medium and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the olive oil swirls easily in the pan add anchovies, garlic mixture and chili flakes. Stir continuously until garlic just begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and simmer.

Allow tomatoes to cook, stirring occasionally. If the tomatoes begin sticking to the bottom of the pan, add 1/4 cup water to thin the sauce. You may need to do this several times, depending on your tomatoes. When the tomatoes begin to soften, use a wooden spoon to crush them a bit in the pan to create smaller chunks.

After sauce has simmered about 12-15 minutes toss in capers, olives, and parsley. Mix to combine. I tossed in some excellent olive oil at this point to brighten it up. (Don’t bother with this if you only have cheap olive oil.)

Pepper is a nice addition, but salt is probably not necessary because of the anchovies.

Drain chickpeas and scoop about 1/2 cup into a bowl. Remember that chickpeas are much more filling than pasta, so you will likely need less than you think. Spoon over sauce generously. Serve immediately.

You may also enjoy Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe and Video

Have you tried beans as a pasta substitute?

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10 Reasons Dieting Is Idiotic

by | Sep 27, 2010
Start diet today

Photo by alancleaver_2000

Are you looking to gain a few pounds over the next 3 years, slow down your metabolism or develop an unhealthy relationship with food? Then dieting is the perfect solution for you.

But my guess is that is not what you want.

Diets are seductive because everyone who tries one loses weight and, for awhile, looks great. They rave about how good they feel and you congratulate them, all the while secretly plotting your own personal transformation. (“This time it will work!”)

You start your _(insert latest trend)_ diet. Maybe you feel good for awhile, maybe you lose weight. But it is a struggle, it affects your social life and, worst of all, it never lasts.

Diets are a trap.

Similar to drug use, a diet gives you brief, immediate satisfaction (short-term weight/water loss) at the expense of your long term health and happiness. And just like a drug, with each use you need more and more to achieve the same results.

But dieters are actually a lot stupider than drug users, who sadly have an excuse to maintain their self-destructive behavior. Drugs are physically additive, diets are not.

You can think your way out of dieting, so let’s start now.

10 Reasons Dieting Is Idiotic

1. Diets don’t work.

Maybe this is obvious, but if diets really worked you would only need one in your entire life. The reality is that diets are a short-term fix, like putting a Band-Aid on a cut when the bleeding is internal. Diets don’t solve the real problem.

2. You’ll probably gain weight.

Not at first, in the beginning you will lose weight. But studies have shown that in the long term, dieting is a reliable cause of weight gain. That’s right, even if you’re overweight you’re better off never dieting.

3. Diets make you miserable.

Calorie deficits make you grumpy. Nutrient deprivation makes me grumpy. I think there are better ways to spend our time, how about you?

4. Diets screw up your metabolism.

When you lose weight too quickly, you’re bound to lose some muscle. Also, when you dramatically decrease your calorie intake, your body adjusts to this lower level and learns to use less energy. These two strikes against your metabolism mean that when you go back to your old eating habits (if you’re lucky and don’t over compensate for your starvation by eating more, like most people) then you will store more calories as fat than ever before.

4. Diets make you a buzzkill.

Friends and family with restrictive diets ruin it for everyone. If you won’t even pretend to eat or drink what everyone else is having in celebration you make people uncomfortable in at least two ways: 1) they can tell you aren’t having as good a time as they are, which isn’t fun, and 2) they feel judged being less virtuous than you. Suffer on your own time.

5. Diets destroy your relationship with food.

Diets set you up for a feast or famine mentality, where you oscillate between barely eating anything and binging on 12-packs of deep-fried bacon-stuffed cupcakes. You can’t win.

6. The food tastes horrible.

Eating bad tasting food won’t kill you, but it’s hard to argue that you’re really living either.

7. Diets are hard.

Diets take lots of time, energy and self-discipline. They aren’t easy to keep up, and they’re nearly impossible to maintain. Since they don’t work, this is particularly unfortunate.

8. They’re temporary.

Even if you can stick out a diet and meet your weight goals, you know that as soon as you go back to your old habits the pounds will return (and probably bring some friends). So if it isn’t going to last, what’s the point exactly?

9. They cost money.

Not all diets are expensive, but chances are high that if you start one you will invest in a book or program, and probably special foods as well. It’s true that good food costs money, but do you need to pay extra to suffer and gain weight?

10. There’s a better way.

All the above inconveniences might be acceptable if weight loss is very important to you and there are simply no other ways to achieve it. But that isn’t true. Small, customizable lifestyle changes can transform your body and your health. The changes are slower and much less dramatic, but they last because they are permanent. Losing a simple 2 lbs a month (.5 lb/week) will set you down almost 25 lbs in one year. More important, for most people a shift to healthier eating greatly improves quality of life. Not only do you get healthier and lose weight, the food is amazing and you discover a world of flavors and food culture you never knew existed.

It’s amazing, and it works.

How smart is your diet?

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Farmers Market Update: Santa Fe

by | Sep 26, 2010
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

One of my favorite Summer Tomato contributors recently took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and visited the farmers market there.

Virginia Griffey is an editor in Oakland. She spends her time running, snowboarding, cooking, and hanging out with her friends and dog, Pebbles. Virginia is currently training for her third marathon while trying to raise $1,500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.

Follow her on Twitter @virginiagriffey.

Farmers Market Update: Santa Fe

by Virginia Griffey

I am lucky enough to have some wonderful friends, Henry and Kristin, living in Santa Fe, the unique and beautiful 400-year-old city that is the capital of New Mexico. I went there at the end of May for a visit, but I didn’t get a chance to go to the Santa Fe Farmers Market. When I went back again this month, I made visiting the market a top priority.

First I visited the Santa Fe market’s website to find out what to expect. The market operates year-round with four markets a week during the summer (two Tuesday, one Thursday, one Saturday). The agricultural products sold at the market are grown in a 15-county region of northern New Mexico. Crafts and processed items are made with agricultural products from that region. The market accepts WIC and food stamps. As is the norm at farmers markets, no dogs are allowed (besides service dogs), but there is a free dog-sitting service.

Shallots

Shallots

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

I also examined the website to see what kinds of products to expect. Santa Fe is at an elevation above 7,000 feet, so I thought there might be some interesting vegetables that aren’t available in the Bay Area, but I didn’t see any fruit or vegetable vendors offering anything that stood out much. I did, however, notice that there was a vendor selling yak meat, and I was very excited about trying some. Yaks are high-elevation animals, so it seemed to make sense that someone might raise them in the area.

Yak

Yak

I headed to the market on a Tuesday morning. I wasn’t going to be in town for the Saturday market, so I was crossing my fingers that Tuesday’s market would have a good showing of vendors. It did. There was a lot of squash, corn and stone fruit available, but Henry and Kristin have squash in their garden, and we’d just bought corn and peaches the day before at a fruit stand in Velarde, about 40 miles north of Santa Fe. So I looked around for what else was available.

White Peaches

White Peaches

Chard

Chard

Following Darya’s farmers market suggestions, I made sure to walk around the market, check out all the vendors and try a few samples before buying anything. I tried white and yellow peaches and honeycrisp apples at Freshies of New Mexico. I admired the lovely allium offerings at Funnel Farm’s booth — leeks, shallots, early bosque garlic and onions. I ate some yellow carrots at Tina’s Farm. To me, they seemed milder and less sweet than the orange carrots that I’ve had.

Yellow Carrots

Yellow Carrots

After walking the length of the market, I came to Jacona Farm, which had a colorful selection of heirloom tomatoes as well as baskets of padron and shishito peppers. Best of all, they had samples of their tomatoes. Trying these tomatoes was my first true “Summer Tomato” experience. They were the best tomatoes I’d ever tasted: pure tomato flavor, the perfect soft but not mealy texture. Though each tasted like a tomato, they all tasted different from the others. I couldn’t help but think that this amazing variety of flavors is one of the things we risk losing by buying off-season “notional tomatoes“ at supermarkets rather than supporting these amazing local farmers.

I ate some grilled shishito peppers from Monte Vista Farm. Kristin had told me about these mild peppers, which often are fried, so I sought them out. Monte Vista also was selling garlic scape powder, so I bought a packet to bring home. I stopped by South Mountain Dairy’s booth to sample a few goat’s milk products. The dairy’s motto is, “It’s all about the girls.” I tried apricot chèvre, green chile chèvre and queso fresco. The vendor was selling goat’s milk but didn’t have any samples, but I did get to try some blackberry-flavored goat’s milk yogurt.

Chevre

Chevre

Shishito Peppers

Shishito Peppers

Next, I headed to the Taos Mountain Yak booth. The vendor said the meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef but high in omega-3s and stays very tender when cooked. Henry and I were planning a barbecue for later in the week, so I picked up a couple of yak tenderloin steaks to grill up. I also grabbed a bag of yak jerky milk bones for Henry and Kristin’s dogs.

That Friday, Henry threw the steaks on the grill. They were small, and generally I like my steaks about medium rare, so I was worried it would be very easy to overdo it, especially since neither of us had any experience with yak meat. Henry flipped the steaks over a few times as I became increasingly concerned that they were getting overcooked. Finally, I just couldn’t watch anymore. I went inside to get something to drink, came back out, and Henry finally had taken them off the grill. I looked at my steak, thinking about all the money I’d spent for it to end up overdone, and took a bite. It was the most tender meat I’ve ever tasted. I think Henry could have cooked them a lot longer without any problem. As far as taste and tenderness, I give yak meat two thumbs up!

Inchelium red garlic

Inchelium Red Garlic

Leeks

Leeks

Purchases:

  • striped German tomato – Jacona Farm
  • rainbow chard – Santa Cruz Farm
  • blackberries – Santa Cruz Farm
  • yellow carrots – Tina’s Farm
  • honeycrisp apples – Freshies of New Mexico
  • inchelium red garlic – One Straw Farm
  • shallot – Funnel Farm
  • pinto beans – Shirley Martinez
  • shishito peppers – Monte Vista Orchard
  • garlic scape powder – Monte Vista Orchard
  • green chile chèvre – South Mountain Dairy
  • yak tenderloin steaks – Taos Mountain Yak
  • jerky milk bones for dogs – Taos Mountain Yak[link:
  • baguette – Cloud Cliff Bakery
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For The Love Of Food

by | Sep 24, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Many thoughtful stories on the internets this week. I love JC’s piece on clean eating and food dogma. And if you’re curious about genetically modified salmon or other foods, I’ve included some very informative links. Enjoy :)

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Pennsylvania

by | Sep 19, 2010
Fuji & Golden Delicious Apples

Fuji & Golden Delicious Apples

Huge thanks to Alex and Becky for sharing with us their local farmers market in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Becky, is a kindergarten teacher and a mother of two boys, a preschooler and a one year old. Alex is a recent college graduate and an aspiring graphic designer. Visit his site www.alexfelts.com and follow Alex on Twitter @alexfelts or Digg (alex3540).

Farmers Market Update: Lansdale, Pennsylvania

by Becky Geremia and Alex Felts

The Lansdale Farmers Market is a newer market. This is only its second year, but the quality they deliver is fantastic. Lansdale is a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. The market is hosted in Railroad Plaza every Saturday from June to November.

Cheese

Cheese

Summer Veggies

Summer Veggies

My brother and I have been loyal customers since it began. We both are big supporters of the revitalization of Lansdale and have enjoyed seeing the patronage coming to our town through the Lansdale Farmers Market.

The requirement of being a vendor is that you sell only what you produce. All products sold at the market must be grown, baked, crafted by the seller and must be done locally. The products vary but produce, meat, wine, breads, plants, herbs, cupcakes, and even furniture are for purchase at the market.

Melons

Melons

Meats

Meats

We begin the morning walking the few short blocks from my house to Railroad Plaza. We start with a stop by the Tabora Farm and Orchard stand, where my brother always gets breakfast, an orange cranberry muffin and my son gets a sweet treat, a happy face cookie.

Happy Face Cookies

Happy Face Cookies

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

We continue our walk with a quick preview and then set our sights on buying. We have been hooked on corn and peaches all summer long. Now that fall is just around the corner, apples, squash, and pears are plentiful. A great buy is the all natural anti itch soap and the novelty soaps from Green Street Luxuries. This year, special kids events (bouncy house, crafts, story time, birthday cake, etc.) are scheduled too.

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Onions

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Onions

Peppers

Peppers

At home, it is a decision what to make first. While my son enjoys cutting the ends off the beans, my brother lights up the grill to cook us up some steaks. Now… if only we could find an occasion to pop the jalepano wine from Boyd’s!

Purchases:

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For The Love Of Food

by | Sep 17, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

We’re doing something a little different this week. Rather than a bunch of links, I’d like you to watch this 2 minute video made by Slow Food USA about the recent outbreak of Salmonella in half a billion eggs. Please share.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Living Easy

by | Sep 12, 2010
Black and Green Figs

Black and Green Figs

It’s finally summertime in San Francisco. Woohoo! And what a beautiful day to return to my beloved farmers market.

Since I was sick and working on finishing my thesis I hadn’t been to the market in weeks, a lapse I haven’t made in years. It was terrible. But now that those things are behind me I was thrilled to return to the market today and stock up on delicious foods to get my healthstyle back on track. Life is good.

White Nectarines

White Nectarines

Sungold Tomatoes

Sungold Tomatoes

We are currently at the peak of summer: tomatoes are ripe, stone fruit is juicy and greens are plentiful. Now is your chance to get the best peaches, nectarines, figs, melons and pluots. I was so taken by the iridescent pink glow of these pluots I forgot to look at the name of the varietal (or maybe I’m out of practice).

Pluots

Pluots

I was sure to grab enough lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes for salads this week. I also got some kale for dinner, and green beans for more pickling.

Sharlyn Melons

Sharlyn Melons

Green and Yellow Beans

Green and Yellow Beans

I am also seeing the beginning of some of the fall fruits like grapes, pears and apples.

Comice Pears

Comice Pears

Grapes

Grapes

The apples looked amazing today. There are so many heirloom varieties I’ve never heard of, I grabbed a few different kinds just to get myself acquainted. I’m particularly excited about these pink pearl apples I found at the Apple Farm.

Jonathan Apples

Jonathan Apples

Pink Pearl Apples

Pink Pearl Apples

Nature never lets us forget that the next season is right around the corner. I spotted potatoes today and *gasp* winter squash. As delicious as they are, I don’t think I’m quite ready to make that leap yet, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my summer first.

Potatoes and Winter Squash

Potatoes and Winter Squash

There were a couple other interesting finds today in San Francisco. Langier Ranches was offering a fruit called paw paws, which look like a mango but taste more creamy and less acidic. I was also ecstatic to see my favorite bean company Rancho Gordo has started offering heirloom corn tortillas. Yes, I bought some.

Heirloom Corn Tortillas

Heirloom Corn Tortillas

Paw Paws

Paw Paws

Today’s purchases:

What did you find at the market this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Sep 10, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

The biggest news this week is that I defended my thesis on Tuesday and am now officially a PhD, but that didn’t stop the universe from producing a bunch of other important food and health stories. It might be time for a reality check on your pants size, as well as your understanding of fat and metabolic health. I also found a simple and delicious guide to cooking okra.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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A Year Of Summer Tomato Inspiration

by | Sep 8, 2010
peaches

Peaches on Farm To Fork Tour

It is amazing to me that what I write here can have such a tremendous impact on people’s lives without me even knowing. I got an email from an old friend a few weeks ago telling me how much Summer Tomato has influenced her life over the past year, and I was so touched by her story I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing it here to inspire others.

Virginia Griffey is an editor in Oakland. She spends her time running, snowboarding, cooking, and hanging out with her friends and dog, Pebbles. Virginia is currently training for her third marathon while trying to raise $1,500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.

Follow her on Twitter @virginiagriffey.

A Year Of Summer Tomato Inspiration

by Virginia Griffey

A few months ago, while enjoying a delicious dinner I’d made of steak, roasted potatoes and chard, I realized just how effective Summer Tomato had been in helping me become a healthier person. I discovered Summer Tomato last October after getting in touch with Darya again over Facebook. I checked out her blog and immediately was hooked.

I’ve spent the past year developing my own healthstyle based on numerous tips from Darya. Now I weigh 22 pounds less, I feel a lot more energetic, I’m a better athlete and I’ve tried a bunch of new vegetables that I never would have thought to eat.

When I came across Summer Tomato, I’d been wanting to lose some weight for a while. I ran my first marathon in October 2008, and I gained five pounds while training. I hear a lot of people say they run so they can eat whatever they want, and that’s the way I had been thinking. Clearly, eating whatever I felt like didn’t work, regardless of how much exercise I was doing. It took my 150-pound body nearly seven hours to complete the marathon. I knew losing weight would make me faster and less likely to get injured.

I’d also been curious about eating and its effect on health. Another thing I hear a lot of people say: “I’m only going to live once, so why restrict what I eat and drink? I’d rather die a little younger and happier than live to an older age while not really enjoying life.” I think what many of these people don’t understand is that when you die younger because of diseases that often are tied to nutrition (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.), it’s not a quick death. It’s a slow, painful process of hospitalization, surgery, expensive medical bills, stress for you and your family, and the inability to do the things you once loved.

I know this from experience because I’ve had to deal with several kinds of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke in my own family. I’ve seen the attendant suffering, and it’s not something I want to go through as I get older, nor is it something I want my family to have to worry about.

The first thing Summer Tomato helped me change was the way I thought about eating healthfully. Diets are restrictive. People give up on diets or can’t maintain their weight loss, because of the restrictions. I don’t think about restricting myself. I think about what kinds of delicious foods I can add to my diet. I think about simple ways to integrate nutritious foods into what I’m already eating. For example, I’ve often turned to legumes and rice as a simple meal for eating at work. Instead of starting over from scratch, I began to add vegetables to the dish or bring a salad as well. Later, I started cooking new kinds of dishes that were based on vegetables.

Darya also has helped me understand the importance of meal planning. If I take the time on weekends to think about meals for the upcoming week and go grocery shopping, I’m set. Breakfast is usually steel-cut oatmeal with plain full-fat yogurt and fruit or muesli with yogurt and fruit. Lunch is usually a salad (greens, nuts, dried fruit, homemade vinaigrette and occasionally some cheese as a treat) and a one-pot meal like a soup or stew that I made myself over the weekend. Dinner can be a wide range of things depending on what groceries I’ve picked up. One of my favorites is fried eggs on top of chard.

There are plenty of things I need to work on: eating slowly, shopping more at farmers markets (Summer Tomato did inspire me to visit Oakland’s Grand Lake farmers market for the first time after living nearby for more than a year), avoiding the processed foods that beckon from around the office (they’re rarely as good as I think they’ll be), planning meals based around what I’ve bought rather than buying food based on meals I’ve planned. I have been making slow progress on these things, and that’s what is so great about the Summer Tomato Philosophy. It’s all about making gradual, small, permanent changes rather than doing a whole bunch at once and then going back to your old ways.

I’ve made so much progress in the past year. I weigh about 128 pounds, but I’m wearing clothes sizes that I wore when I weighed 110 in high school, so I know the weight lifting has built up lean muscle that’s keeping my metabolism up and giving me sexier arms and legs, and a thinner physique. I finished my second marathon about 40 minutes faster than my first, and I’m training for my third marathon now. I’m really enjoying what I’m eating, which is essential to eating healthfully. I’m cooking a lot more, and I’ve found great joy in cooking for myself–though it’s fun to impress my friends with amazing and simple dishes too.

Here are some more of the wonderful things Darya has brought to my life:

Delicious foods I’ve started eating: sardines, fennel, chard and fried eggs with smoked paprika.

Cooking tips: toasting nuts in the pan before adding the veggies and chiffonading basil and mint.

Exercise: weight training. I had been doing this consistently for a few months before I found Summer Tomato, but Darya’s discussion of its benefits has kept me committed.

NEAT: I wear a pedometer now, at least on weekdays. I know I get a lot of exercise on my own, but my goal is to make sure I’m not otherwise sedentary, so I don’t count my running. Things like giving my dog a long walk every day and walking up one floor to use the restroom at work go a long way.

Knowledge: I know a lot more now about how the foods I eat affect my health and how the industrial food system affects my health, public health and the environment. Darya has inspired me to go beyond what I read on Summer Tomato and pay more attention to food-related news. I even went on a Farm to Fork Tour a couple of weeks ago in Brentwood, where I learned more about local agriculture and sustainable farming–and ate delicious food!

Darya’s dedication to Summer Tomato has improved my health and my life. I’m not missing out on anything by choosing to eat nutritious food. I want to enjoy a long life of running, snowboarding, cooking and eating amazing meals, and spending time with family and friends. What I’ve learned on Summer Tomato is helping me do just that.

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