This was supposed to be a lazy weekend, but it turned out to be anything but! It also turned out to be pretty wonderful. :)
It included working at Maiden South, and utilizing our full length mirror to get some updated baby bump pics. Oh, and Easter goodies! I don’t get an Easter basket anymore, but if I did, these would be my picks.
Whoa! Where’d that thing come from? I want to hear your guesses: boy or girl? I got a new one last week (from two separate people!): I’m carrying 100% all out front (I don’t look pregnant from behind), which is supposed to mean it’s a girl. What are your tried and true wives’ tales? I need to test them all and do a blog post documenting the guesses ASAP.
Saturday night my very dear, very sweet friend Mary invited me to dinner and a show… The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, to be precise! She was lucky enough to have her brother’s tickets to use, and I gladly accepted her offer to join her! We dined at Z. Bhardi’s in Tallahassee first, and we both ordered the seafood lasagna. It was AMAZING, and we both cleaned those plates!
The Symphony was unreal! It was my first time attending, and I enjoyed it more than I ever could have anticipated. I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to go! My favorite was basically the second half: Clouds by Debussy and Bolero by Ravel (which was the grand finale). This baby loved it too apparently – it was moving the entire time music was playing! Which got me thinking… Before this babe is even born, it will have heard (but not seen) JJ Grey and Mofro, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, and Jason Isbell, as well as hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I hope it’s taking notes in there!
Sunday morning we let Juin out, and then came back a little while later to see this precious sight:
So sweet I can’t even stand it.
Sunday after Church we went to the annual Allee Trout Pond Draining. Each Fall Dr. Allee stocks a pond with rainbow trout, and each Spring he drains the pond and the fish must be caught. Down the chute they go to the lower pond, and the folks and kids line up with nets to catch them. It’s a ton of fun to watch!
Then we came home and worked on taxes. Weh! #grownupproblems Trying to wrap up as many of those sort of things as we can before le Bebe makes his or her appearance… 7 or so short, short weeks to go!
Happy Holy Week, friends! This is my favorite time of year!
A couple of weeks ago, Jessica and I (also known as the Maiden South maidens) went on a field trip to White Oak Pastures up in Bluffton, Georgia, which is about 45 minutes from Bainbridge. Amber Reece contacted us a while back about some of the goods they make at their zero waste facility (nothing at this place goes to waste… literally, nothing!) and we jumped on the opportunity to finally visit this place that we have idealized for so long. It didn’t disappoint!
Jenni Harris, owner Will Harris’ daughter (on the right), gave us a personal tour of the whole operation. It was so sweet of Jenni and Amber (left) to take an entire morning to show us around, and we appreciated it so much. Plus, we had a TON of fun with these farm girls.
First up on the tour were all the birds! All the chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, and turkeys are White Oak Pastures are free range. They have giant chicken tractors (like a coop but move-able) for them to provide shade, nesting boxes (for chickens), supplemented food and water, but other than that, the birds are free to go and do wherever and whatever they darn well please.
The eggs from this group of free range birds (chickens and ducks) are collected from their nests in the woods for sale.
Chickens have their own hen houses with laying boxes.
These turkeys can be yours come Thanksgiving!
The only exception to the free range rule applies to the baby birds. They need added protection until they reach a certain age, so they get special treatment. They are even given toys to play with to keep them engaged and happy!
So many little chicks!
Baby Guinea fowl
Happy baby guinea fowl
In addition to all the birds, White Oak Pastures has so much more to offer. A personal favorite part of the trip was meeting these very special pigs.
Iberico Ham from Spain is the most expensive, most delicious type of ham in the world. A quick introduction:
The story of Jamón Ibérico ham is steeped in mystery and romance. The ancient oak pastures of Spain, the noble black Ibérico pig, the mountain air which caresses each ham as it magically is transformed into one of the world’s most exquisite foods – all play a part in this uniquely Spanish phenomenon. Without each ingredient the recipe is disturbed. Greatness can only be achieved with patience, skill and adherence to traditional methods.
The origin of the Ibérico pig goes back millennia, even to the time of the cavemen who decorated the caves of Spain with their art. These are the original swine of Spain, tamed over the centuries. Only in the last couple of hundred years have the pink pigs of our imagination invaded their territory. The Ibérico hog is big, with slender legs and a very long snout. Ibérico pigs are black, with very little hair. They have black hooves as well, which is the source of the phrase “pata negra” which describes the black hoof that remains on the ham throughout the curing process and distinguishes it from a Serrano ham. They are also much fatter animals with veins of fat running through the muscle of the pig. This, along with the large amount of fat layering each ham, allows the Ibérico hams to be cured much longer, resulting in a much more complex, intense flavor, with a note of sweetness that is unparalleled.
Here we must make a very important point – not all Ibérico pigs win the Jamón Ibérico lottery and live free in the Spanish countryside. Most Jamón Ibérico is made from Ibérico pigs who live normal pig lives eating corn and other feed. It is still an excellent ham, benefiting from the noble lineage of the Ibérico pig. But for the ultimate ham, you must add ‘bellota’, or acorns. As an indication of the difference, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota can cost twice as much as a normal Ibérico ham. So note well the difference between the two main types of Ibérico ham: there is Jamón Ibérico , and then there is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, or acorn fed. If they are lucky enough to be destined for Bellota status, the Ibérico pigs finish their lives on the dehesa (more on this later), in small family clans, until their day of “sacrifice” arrives. The favorite pastime of Ibérico hogs is rooting around the pastures in the dehesa, foraging for acorns as well as herbs and grasses. All this running around feasting, especially during the acorn season, does more than make for a well rounded, happy pig. It makes for exquisitely marbled raw material, packed with natural antioxidants – a key ingredient for extended curing of the ham.
Long story short, thanks to our Southwest Georgia climate and the love and care White Oak Pastures puts into each and every animal, they are now the proud owners of a small herd of Iberico pigs. And Jess and I got to meet them! Maybe one day we’ll get to taste them, too.
After a long visit with future (crazy expensive) bacon, we got to see what the farm does with cow hides, along with various other parts that normally would be wasted. Hides that can’t be turned into something much prettier (i.e. leather or cowhide rugs) get scraped and strung up to dry for dog treats. This is done the old fashioned way, without bleach and harsh chemicals.
Once dry, the hides are cut into either squares or strips that are then rolled and further dried to become rawhide doggie treats. I can personally attest that Amber gave me a couple treats to take home and Juin loved them.
Not only do they make and sell the rawhide dog treats, but they also do bully sticks, dried trachea, animal feet, and more. Good, clean fun for dogs! Albeit, maybe not a treat for use indoors.
We wrapped up the tour with a trip to see the rabbit operation, which included getting to hold a baby bunny. It was almost the highlight of my day (spoiler alert: lunch was the highlight of my day).
Nothing cuter than a baby bunny! Except maybe this burger.
Jenni and Amber treated us to lunch at the White Oak Pavilion, which was the bomb.com, in case you were wondering. My burger was on a fresh potato roll, topped with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg, micro greens and aioli. We also were fortunate enough to get to eat with Will Harris himself and hear more about this history of the family and the farm, which goes back five generations.
It’s an amazing family business, which started as an industrial cattle operation employing 3 people full time at minimum wage. White Oak Pastures now employs 115 people, all above minimum wage with benefits – something the Harris family is very, very proud of. It’s clear that the good people who work at White Oak Pastures are crucial to this well-oiled operation, and they make all the difference in their zero waste, chemical free, grain-fed free, antibiotic free, hormone free, organic farm. All meat is slaughtered on site in a Temple Grandin-designed kill floor, where the animals are fear-free and calm when they meet their end. Everything left over from every single process on the farm is composted and returned to the soil. They even use leftover cooking grease from the Pavilion to power their diesel farm vehicles. They are completely committed to a better, healthier process for better, healthier food and better, healthier people.
More to come on the real reason we visited White Oak Pastures (hint hint: LEATHER!), but for now, take a minute to visit them at www.whiteoakpastures.com to learn more, sign up for their meat or organic veggie CSA, or shop online – everything ships directly from their freezer… I’ve seen it! Or better yet, stop by next time you pass them on Highway 85 and grab a burger. You won’t regret it.
Picking up where I left off: This week started out with a busy, but nice week – all at home! – and included one of my favorite Whole30 meals to date: Whole30 Hamburgers!
Said Whole30 Hamburgers garnered a lot of unfair criticism in our house. That is, before they got eaten. Wheat was extremely skeptical of my plan to perch a burger, topped with a fried egg, on top of a salad. He hemmed and hawed and attempted to get me to change the meal plan to hobo pockets instead. However, I eventually wore him down as I almost always do (he’s doing Whole30 with me, isn’t he? ;) and after a few bites, he declared that they were actually pretty darn delicious. I concur completely!
The ground beef we picked up from our favorite local butcher, Jones’ Meats, and after Wheat seasoned them with salt and pepper and grilled them, we placed them on top of salad greens, sliced pickling cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, sliced dill pickles, topped them with a fried egg each, and then drizzled sriracha all over the place. A 100 calorie pack of Wholly Guacamole on top of it all, for me. So good!
June 11th: for breakfast I inhaled a hard boiled egg with sriracha and 2 juliet tomatoes, along with my usual coffee + coconut oil. For lunch I had the other half of my hamburger that I couldn’t eat the night before on top of more salad greens, another pickle, and sriracha… all before I hit the road for Atlanta for one of my college besties’ wedding!!
I arrived in Atlanta around 4 and had picked up some roasted, salted cashews and almonds at a gas station pit stop on the way up for snacks. For dinner, my girlfriend Courtney, her husband Matt and I hit a taco joint for a quick dinner. I had tacos sans tortillas, which was weird. And a side of steamed kale. Not my favorite meal. Guacamole and salsa help, but it was still weird. No picture.
June 12th: started this day out with a verse from my devotional (Proverbs 15:23) that I liked so much I copied it down into my food journal:
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply… and how good is a timely word!”
For breakfast, I had an apple the hotel offered at the front desk on my way to a hot yoga class with Courtney! We headed to Atlanta Hot Yoga in Buckhead for their 9:30 am Bickram class, based on my fabulous aunt-in-law’s stellar recommendation (check her fashion blog out at Undercover 411 if that’s yo thing). It was intense but amazing! A seriously great first hot yoga experience for me. We left with a yoga high and headed to another one of Aunt Vicki’s Buckhead recs: Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic.
Here I had fresh pressed juice (hydration flavor – tasty and needed!), a green salad, a salad with mint, green tomatoes, honeydew melon, and cucumbers, smoked salmon with tomatoes and capers, and a side of fruit. I was starving, it was 100% Whole30 compliant and it was also completely refreshing and delicious! So glad we stopped in on Friday. I cleaned my plate and my bowl.
We shopped a bit at Lenox and headed back to Roswell to get ready for evening festivities. The three of us again left for dinner, this time headed to downtown Roswell (Canton Street) to piddle, eat, and have a couple drinks (not Whole30, I knowwwww) while we waited for the rehearsal activities to be done. We had an awesome dinner at Salt Factory. I started off with a salad topped with heart of palm, tomatoes, fresh radishes and herbs. And I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I could not resist that goat cheese crostini. #sorrynotsorry
For my main course, I had the blood orange glazed salmon on top of mashed potatoes. I’m sure it was somehow not Whole30 compliant per se, but for the most part it checked all the boxes, so I’m going with it. Plus, it was DELICIOUS.
June 13th: It’s MK and David’s Wedding Day!
I started the day with the hotel’s buffet (which was really, really good by hotel buffet standards). I had lots of bacon, some scrambled eggs, and a mess o’ strawberries. After breakfast, Courtney and I went on a long (5.5 miles!) walk on a greenway nearby, and picked up cobb salads at Corner Bakery to eat by the pool with our friend Sara. They were pretty decent – lettuce topped with bacon, avocado, tomatoes and green onions with a vinaigrette dressing. We skipped the bleu cheese. After a while by the pool, we got dressed and headed to the chapel to see our friend get hitched!
Our friend Mary Katherine is from Atlanta, but has lived in Shanghai since we graduated from college. The groom is from LA, but they met in Shanghai. They’ve travelled all over the world, and their cocktail menu commemorated some of the more special spots.
I indulged in the Thailand Tonic, which was as tasty as the flowers were pretty.
It was the MOST gorgeous wedding. The ceremony was held at Roswell Presbyterian, which was beautiful and home for the Bride. The reception was held across the street at an historic home. It was simply stunning, just like the couple. The toasts were so sweet, so heartfelt, that we all teared up. Even the bartenders were crying! MK and David are such a special, sweet couple. I love you both very much! So happy I got to be a part of their day.
And while everyone was lookin’ pretty, I unleashed my inner nerd and was catching fire flies to show the gals what one looked like up close. Because I’m cool like that.
The food was just as amazing, and I’ll admit, I cheated a bit and indulged in a small serving of the ravioli… along with a ton of veggies, baked chicken, fried green tomatoes, pesto chicken skewers, and hummus on pita (only one little sliver!). Oh… and some late night pizza back at the hotel. That one, I am sorry about. I paid for it all day on Sunday! But not sorry about staying up late playing Heads Up in the hotel bar with some of my best friends. :)
June 14th: The next morning, MK and David treated everyone who could make it to a fantastic brunch at Public House in Roswell. I jumped back on the bandwagon with black coffee, an omelette with spinach, bacon, and sundried tomatoes topped with a side of guacamole, plus some fruit.
After lingering for far too many cups of coffee, we all finally said our goodbyes and hit the road. I miss them all so much already! Luckily, we have a couple more reunions already on the books for 2015 – and I’m already counting down the days until we reunite again! There really is nothing like time spent with college girlfriends.
I took the opportunity of being in a real city to make pit stops at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for some items we can’t get back in Bainbridge. And once back in Bainbridge, Wheat and I reconvened over this very tasty, Whole30 approved meal.
Squoodles (squash noodles via Spiralizer) sauteed in ghee and minced garlic, along with sweet peppers and halved juliet tomatoes. (Steps: warm ghee; add garlic, then peppers and tomatoes, then shrimp, then squoodles, then serve.) Light, healthy, totally delicious, and no guilt whatsoever.
June 15th: Which brings me to Monday, Monday. I picked up some gluten-free rolled oats at Trader Joe’s, and following the directions, I made some oatmeal (water, pinch of salt, plus some pecans, cinnamon and blueberries). Not bad! A little bland, though. I want to puree some fruits and freeze them in ice cube trays to thaw and swirl into things like oatmeal and chia pudding in place of a sweetener. Not pictured: I also had a scrambled egg with guac. EDIT: I had a late night realization that although gluten-free, oats=grass/grain and are not Whole30 kosher. Oops. Guess I cheated again.
For lunch yesterday I had some vegan egg white salad I picked up at Trader Joe’s on the recommendation of my favorite yogi and yoga instructor and health nut and bestie, Ashley. It was pretty good! Upon closer inspection, it contains soy, so it wasn’t 100% Whole30 approved, though, so I probably won’t get it again. We were out of salad greens, so I had it was random veggie plate. The highlight was the pickled green beans from my sister, Anna Jo, and her husband, Marc!
And I’ll pick up next week after that!
Current thoughts on Whole30:
Well currently, Wheat is hangry. Mostly because I had late night pizza and he didn’t (he stayed behind in Bainbridge to attend another good friends’ wedding!). We are really missing some foods, but if the late night pizza did anything, it made me realize just what pizza does to me. I was bloated and ill all the next day, and yesterday morning I woke up with what felt like a hangover – foggy and not sleeping well at all. I feel so much better today after a full day of getting back on track, even though relatively speaking, let’s be real: it was the healthiest I’ve probably ever been at a wedding!
Anyone got any good Whole30 recipes or tips to share this week?