Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mojo de Ajo

Today, Tatyana and I are making some mojo de ajo.  There are several, different recipes for making this available online so I won't bother to repeat it here.  Click on the link above and you will be taken to Rick Bayless' recipe for making mojo de ajo.  As we don't have any lime juice available, we are substituting lemon juice.  Where all of the recipes agree is the main ingredients - garlic and olive oil.  Essentially, mojo de ajo can be used as a seasoning, marinade, or condiment for a variety of dishes.  It keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, but I honestly don't think that it will last that long!  We put the garlic and olive oil in the oven about 20 minutes ago and my house is already smelling wonderfully of garlic.  I can't wait to try this stuff out.

On our way home from Boston on Saturday (see my previous post for a recap of the trip - What's the Rush?), we stopped at one of the rest areas on the Mass Pike.  We got there too late to visit the Farmer's Market but one of the vendors was still there - Absolutely Raw - selling their raw honey.  I was thrilled!  A relatively local source or raw honey!  Sure, they are a little far away to buy my honey in person on a regular basis, but they will ship my order to me.  Absolutely Raw offers a variety of honey products - all of them raw.  I encourage you to visit their website and check them out.  I purchased their liquid honey and their Cinnamon Delight Creamed Honey.

Oh, by the the time that it took me to write this entry (with distraction), the mojo de ajo finished cooking.  I thawed out a slice of Ezekiel bread and spread some of the mojo de ajo on it...  Oh My!  This is amazing!  I am really looking forward to using it in some recipes!  I'll keep you posted...

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's the Rush?

Rush is one of my favorite bands.  However, in the context of this blog, 'rush' or 'rushing' - especially when it comes to cooking - is taboo.  In order to follow a more traditional diet as laid out in The Maker's Diet, it takes a bit more time and planning of meals.  Today's society is all about speed and convenience.  If it isn't easily or quickly prepared, we tend to choose something else to eat.  We opt for the microwave over the Crock Pot, the teflon-coated pan over the cast iron skillet, the drive-thru over the traditionally prepared food.  We choose the packaged, prepared foods with nutritional information on the label that is designed to protect us from harmful ingredients (whether we read them and understand them is another issue) rather than choosing locally grown foods that only come in their own, natural container that needs no label.  All of this largely because of convenience.

Personally, I love to cook.  I am no stranger to the kitchen.  Even still, I have spent more time in the kitchen preparing and cleaning since starting on The Maker's Diet than I used to.  Cast iron tends to be a bit more labor-intensive to clean than teflon - though stainless steel cleans up relatively quickly.

Proper, prior planning really came in handy this past weekend.  We took a family trip to Boston and I was a little concerned about my eating choices during the stay.  We had already planned to bring most of the food we would need in order to save money, so it wasn't too hard to make sure that I had the right food available.  We stayed at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Cambridge.  Every room in the hotel has a mini refrigerator, so it was easy to bring what we needed.  Thanks to my Hilton Honors membership, I had enough points to get two nights in a two-room suite for free (except for parking).  We drove in on Thursday but got there too early to check in.  Fortunately, we had already prepared and packed our lunch for the day.  Though we couldn't check in, they had no problem letting us park in the garage and make use of the complimentary shuttle to get into Boston.  We took the shuttle to Copley and walked the short distance to the Prudential Center to get on the Duck Tour.  While we waited for our tour to depart we ate our packed lunch.  I had made a sandwich of Ezekiel bread with hummus (that I had made with my food processor) spread on the slices, roast beef, provolone cheese, and lettuce accompanied by some celery, carrots, and raisins.  After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to check in and eat dinner which, for me, consisted of quinoa that I had cooked at home the previous night.
Our next stop was Fenway Park to watch the Boston Red Sox beat the Arizona Diamondbacks.  This time, we walked about a mile from the hotel to get to the Central Square T station.  We discovered that there is a Whole Foods Market within a 5 minute walk from the hotel.  While we didn't end up shopping there, it was a comfort to know that we had easy access to good food should we need it.
Thanks to the fact that we had already eaten dinner, I was able to get through the game with only buying two hot pretzels for the family to share and one Italian Ice for Victoria.  While hot pretzels wouldn't normally be acceptable on The Maker's Diet (thanks to the bleached white flour), I knew going into this trip that I would be cheating on occasion.  I ate less than half of one pretzel, so it wasn't too bad.  Plus, the vendor gave me a couple of packets of Gulden's mustard.  I used one with my pretzel and saved the others for future meals.
After the game, we hopped on to the 'T' and headed back to the hotel.  An eventful Day One had come to a close.
In addition to watching the Red Sox win, we were treated to an amazing sunset over Fenway Park.

Friday morning found us back on the shuttle after a breakfast of VidaCell and an apple.  This time, we headed to Harvard Square.  I wanted the girls to see some of the architecture of Harvard University - primarily the Widener Library - and there is a convenient 'T' station right there.  After a brief visit to Harvard, we hopped onto the red line to the Park Street station at Boston Common.  Our main goal for the day was to walk The Freedom Trail and visit several of the historical sites that is leads to.  We primarily wanted to see Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument.  The trail starts (or ends) at the Common and meanders around Boston for about 3 miles until it reaches the Bunker Hill Monument.  After visiting several of the stops on the Trail, we found ourselves at Quincy Market right around lunch time.  As we had packed our lunches again, we weren't tempted by the incredible array of foods available at the Market.  This is fortunate on several fronts.  One, we didn't need to spend any extra money on food ($7.00 for a slice of pizza isn't my idea of a bargain!); two, we didn't have to wait in any of the lines to order food; and three, we were able to continue on a walk a little further to find an unexpected surprise!  Thanks to the incredibly over-budget Big Dig, the City of Boston has replaced a raised highway with a tunnel.  Among the fringe benefits of this effort is the Rose Kennedy Greenway.  The Freedom Trail led us right through one section of this newly developed park.  We found ourselves on an amazing, green grass lawn.  This particular section of the park featured a fountain that welcomed visitors to take off their shoes and run through it.  We plopped ourselves down under one of the trees and had our lunch.  The fountain proved too tempting for all of us, so we took off our shoes and cooled off our already tired feet.  Tatyana got quite a bit more than just her feet wet, but given the relatively dry heat of the day, it didn't take her long to dry off.

 Just a small part of the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Lunch for me was very similar to Thursday's lunch, though I replaced the hummus with mustard (thanks, Mr. Fenway Park vendor!) and the raisins with cherries.  After lunch we resumed our trek on the Trail.
We shortly found ourselves in the North End and Little Italy.  On one street corner, we were presented with some tempting, fresh-made gelato.  Temptation was once again defeated as we had just had lunch (we weren't hungry) and $4.95 for a small serving was too much to 'stomach.'
Eventually, we did give in to temptation on the Trail as we tackled a fairly long, hot section of the Trail.  Emack & Bolio's Ice Cream has a strategically placed shop right on the Trail.  I have to say, though, that if you are going to cheat on a diet, you could do a whole lot worse than Emack & Bolio's.  We each got a small serving of ice cream (no cone for me), took a seat, and a rest.  Shortly after our ice cream break, we made it to the Charlestown Navy Yard - home of the USS Constitution.
The second-to-last stop on The Freedom Trail was one of our first-and-foremost goals.  We took our time in the Navy Yard.  We didn't want to rush through it.  After perusing the exhibits in the Visitor Center, we boarded the ship.  It is a pretty amazing thing to be able to stand on the deck of one of the most important ships in the history of the United States of America.
Given the time spent on the Trail and the various stops along the way, we found ourselves needing to make a decision...  Either we could continue on the Trail to the Bunker Hill Monument and take the chance that we would be too late to be able to climb to the top or we could head back to the hotel and save the Monument for the next day.  Right in the Navy Yard is a water shuttle provided by the T and the Boston Harbor Cruises.  This shuttle travels between the Navy Yard and the New England Aquarium at a cost of only $1.70 per person (children under 11 are free).  I was pretty well tapped for the day and, even if we made it in time (they close the Monument at 4 PM), I was fairly certain that I would not have the energy or strength required to climb the Monument.  We decided to conquer the Monument with a fresh start.  We boarded the shuttle and started our trek back to the hotel.  The Doubletree's shuttle service has a pick-up/drop-off right at the aquarium.

 This is a composite photo of Boston (four pictures stitched together thanks to Windows Live Photo Gallery) taken from the water shuttle 'Rita.'

After returning to our room, it was time to hit the pool!  Rae isn't too fond of indoor pools as the chlorine smell tends to throw her into an asthma attack, so she stayed in the room while the girls and I changed into our suits and went for a swim.
Dinner again consisted of quinoa and various vegetables and fruits.
Saturday morning, we packed up the car and checked out of our room.  Again, Doubletree allowed us to utilize the parking garage and the shuttle even though our stay with them was technically at an end.  We took the shuttle directly to the aquarium and hopped on to the water shuttle back to the Navy Yard.  We walked the final leg of The Freedom Trail and found ourselves at the Bunker Hill Monument (which, of course, stands appropriately on Breed's Hill - why is that appropriate?  Well, I will leave that for you to find out!).  Last year - even a few months ago - I would never have considered attempting to climb the 297 steps to the top of the monument.  On Saturday June 19th, 2010 - 235 years and 2 days after the Battle of Bunker Hill - there was not even a thought in my head that I couldn't make it to the top!  My daughter looked at me as we started to enter the monument and asked - a little surprised - "You're coming, Daddy?"  My response was simply, "Of course I am." 

I had to stop several times on the way up to catch my breath, but I made it!  I won my personal Battle of Bunker Hill.

After enjoying the view for a while - fortunately it wasn't too busy and we were not rushed to depart - we began the descent.  The monument sits atop Breed's Hill in the middle of a beautiful lawn - a perfect place for us to have our lunch.  Guess what I had...  OK, so my meals may have lacked variety, but they were healthy and did not require me to make less-than-optimal choices.
After eating lunch and allowing time for my legs to recover a bit, we headed back to the Navy Yard to hop back on the water shuttle.  Our target this time was Boston Common and the swan boats.  Tatyana wanted to visit another section of the Rose Kennedy Greenway that also had a fountain.  She had seen this particular fountain on our Duck Tour on Thursday.  She had seen the kids splashing through it and had her heart set on doing the same.  This fountain is right near the aquarium, so it was an easy decision to stop and and let her splash.
 Tatyana gets drenched in the fountain.
On we went to the Common, walking there from the aquarium.  We re-visited the Visitor Center/souvenir shop on the Common that serves as information center for The Freedom Trail for one last memorabilia purchase and walked across the Common to the swan boats and the nearby statue of the 'Make Way For Ducklings' fame.
 The Boston Common Swan Boat Ride.

Our time was at an end.  We needed to catch the shuttle (pick-up conveniently located on the southern edge of the Boston Common at the corner of Charles and Boylston), retrieve our car from the parking garage, and head home.

This, and any trip, could easily have been a nutritional disaster.  I could have indulged in foods at the ballpark, Quincy Market, and many other places.  Instead, with a little planning and effort, I was able to maintain making better choices.  In addition to eating well - except for a few, minor cheats - I was able to spend less money on food over the whole trip than what dinner at Fenway Park (or Quincy Market) would have cost for one meal!  Spending the time to make and pack our daily lunches, we were able to spend more time playing in the park(s) and seeing the sights that we went to Boston for in the first place.