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Today marks two weeks since we returned from Europe, the continent where people eat whatever they want (for the most part) and seldom exercise the idea of a dietary restriction. Mother Nature is still the biggest supplier of food there, and no one questions that order. I choose to believe that based on the quality of ingredients that had built our meals while in Poland, and then in France.

When we first arrived back in Los Angeles, Jason and myself decided we needed a break from eating meat, as it was such a fundamental part of our diet when still on the Old Continent. The first week went swimmingly well. I whistled cheerfully as I cooked away quinoa, made meals with a variety of beans, various grains (e.g. barley), then lentils, and greens rich in protein (like broccoli). Last but not least nuts were all around us, all day long. And I don’t mean just because we live in Hollywood. Each morning I began with a whole-grain toasted muffin, topped with a layer of almond butter and slices of fresh strawberries. Jason snacked on a mixture of raw nuts and dried fruits in between the meals. Roasted pine nuts or walnuts ended up in fresh salads. Toasted pepitas served as a base for my vinaigrette.

About three days ago I realized I was …hungry. Sixty minutes after I finished breakfast I was ready to eat again. The first craving hit me right between the eyes leaving a black-eye the size of a fist.  No matter how versatile menu I prepared for the day and how much flavor I incorporated into each dish, it all began to taste …boring. Every time I inserted a fresh bite of food into my mouth, from the start I knew it was missing one ingredient–meat. It didn’t matter what I was eating. If I could I would sprinkle pancetta bits into my whole-grain cereal with blueberries and a sliced banana. A temporary comfort I found in hard-boiled eggs, and cheese sandwiches.

Now, I know that all protein is equal. It doesn’t matter, from a scientific point of view, whether you get your amino acids (which are the molecules of the protein) from an animal or a plant, as our bodies are dexterous engineers and can put together a complete protein out of those building blocks. As long as you provide your system with those standard 22 amino acids it requires to form the protein we need. That’s the reason all nutritionists of the world emphasize the need for a versatile diet, in particular for the vegetarians walking amongst us.

Enough with the lecturing. I know that I had enough protein in my diet over the last two weeks not to NEED any meat. Though I realize now the source of my misery. It is all in my head. My cravings for a juicy steak, and beef stew, or a tender chicken thigh have everything to do with the fact that I can’t have it right now, for I do not appreciate restriction. It goes deeper than that. I refuse to be pressured. If there is a movie coming out that the entire planet can’t shut up about, and 70 million people go see it on the opening night, you can be sure Agi won’t participate in the mass hysteria. For example, I have never seen “Titanic” nor “The Da Vinci Code”. I wasn’t interested in the slightest. You know what else I have not watched, nor read? The entire “Harry Potter” series. Sure, we can argue whether I am better or worse for that, but it is not the point of this discourse.

Despite that fact that my diet over the last two weeks was nutritionally dense, I began to notice feeling weaker and weaker. I was no longer able to lift words and put them down on paper. At the gym, when requested by Jason to do abdominal crunches, I didn’t even stomp my foot on the ground anymore. I fought him just for a moment when he made me get down on the ground and throw my legs in the air, but only because resistance to a voluntary pain application is a part of my psychological make-up. Then I got a hair cut, as those two extra inches of hair made a whole lot of difference when washing it. Saving energy became my motto.

Agi in Poland, by the Baltic Sea, all happy and joyful knowing she can eat whatever the hell she wants!

I am facing another two meatless weeks, which in my head translates into a form of mind slavery. It is my brain that has to make an effort to relax and breathe knowing it will be OK.

Agi, let me introduce you to DISCIPLINE. I hope you shall become fast friends.

Amen.

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This morning, as Jason and I sat at the breakfast table and slurped the last drops of hot coffee, we went over our options for today.

We’ve been challenged by the weather–it’s been raining a lot, and the sun has been rather a rare visitor over the last couple of days, which has greatly affected our sightseeing schedule. I felt a tad resigned , but Jason had a plan:

AFTER BREAKFAST, IF IT DOESN’T STOP RAINING, WE SHOULD GO TO THE PHARMACY AND GET…HM… THE…MMM… Here Jason raised his hands in the air, both positioned as if they were holding a thick pipe-sized object, and quickly moved his hands back and forth in opposite directions as if he was… loading a weapon.

A GUN? I suggested flabbergasted by his train of thoughts.

AN UMBRELLA! Jason found what he’s been looking for in every corner of his mind.

We’re taking it easy this morning due to the drip-drip situation outside, which at least allowed me to sit down and report about our whereabouts here in Poland. Don’t get too excited as we still have The Wawel Castle to visit before we leave this gorgeous city, hence for now I’ll just use my crutch–photographs–to catch you up with the latest and greatest.

It wasn’t raining when we first landed in Poland. On the contrary, the spring welcomed us with its saturated colors bearing new life on the Earth. My mother’s garden, her pride and joy, showed off the strength of a new life that Mother Nature gives year after year.

Mama and her husband of 11 years took us to Goluchow where the Czartoryski’s Castle is open to visitors. The Czartoryski Family is Polish aristocracy whose heirs are still spread around the world today.

 

The King Of The Castle

 

 

Jason vs the Knight

 

Jason, my hero, fought the guardian of the castle and cleared our way in.

If you’re in the mood for some royal hanky-panky, here’s your chamber–the Royal Bedroom.

 

The Royal Play Room (if you know what I mean)

 

The Castle is surrounded by a vast and luscious park, spotted by crystal clear lakes and wild animal quarters.

This blog centers mostly around food, hence I cannot omit the details of our diet while on the road.

 

Polish Little Horses

 

Hunger makes us fast learners and so we didn’t waste any time:

 

The Royal Dears (hello!)

 

At last we escaped from under my mother’s wings and we met up with my cousin Kinga who lives in the region of Great Lakes–Warmia and Mazury. She took us to the countryside, where soon she’ll reside, and we later drove along with her 1.5 year old happiness named Kalina to Gdansk, one of the oldest Polish cities resting by the Baltic Sea.

 

Horsing around in the country. Kalina's expression--priceless.

 

 

Three Joys in Gdansk, in Old Town.

 

 

May-shmay. It was freezing by the Baltic Sea. Lovely nonetheless.

 

We arrived in Krakow in the PM hours last Wednesday after a 10-day long marathon across Poland. I shall leave it at that for now and come back later with the images we’ll have captured in here and descriptions of the actual foods we’ve been enjoying throughout the trip.

I hope you had fun during this leg of our journey.

Hello, have we met? I’m Agi, or better Agnieszka, also known as

A RTISTIC

G RATEFUL

N ATURAL

I RRESISTIBLE

E ARTHQUAKE-FREE

S TIMULATING

Z ESTFUL

K ICK-ASS

A GELESS

This newfound and boosted self-esteem is a result of doing a few simple exercises with my wonderful and so inspiring circle of women-friends. As the New Moon arrived, Missy gathered us in her cozy abode and guided us as we set our intentions for 2010. Camilla got the energy moving with the above-mentioned fun practice. Writing those down really got me all excited about the POWER OF ME, and only then was I able to write down

MY TOP 10 TRIUMPHS OF 2009:

1.   I ended my slavery to various employers, which brought on the whole theme of reinventing of self along with so-longed-for sense of freedom.

2.   We found and created with Jason our first home together. It’s beautiful, cozy and really does feel like home, at last.

3.   Living together only strengthened and enriched our relationship.

4.   I unleashed my creative “monster”, as I truly believe that nothing can stop me now from creating whatever I want in my life. I do have a shit load of confidence in myself all of a sudden. Yee-haw!

5.   I created “One More Bite” – the blog you’re reading, which was a pretty kick-ass idea and quite a bold move considering the commitment. I love it!

6.   I mastered my culinary skills, which is and forever will be a work in progress as it’s nothing like riding a bike, kid yourself not.

7.   Hey, I became a PERSONAL CHEF! Hello! Give yourself the gift of being served a homemade, delicious and organic meal that will make your hair shine and a bod so fine – send me an email through facebook or twitter.

8.   I chopped off my hair, thus marking the end of my healing process from various pains of my 20s (that manifested with miserable eating disorders and such, now just a vague and sad memory) and embracing my commitment to living in balance with nature and loving myself for I rock my world!

9.   I built many new and wonderful friendships, and boosted the existing ones, which is HUGE considering my ALIEN status with a green card. My kinfolks, for the most part, are all on the other side of the BIG POND, a.k.a. Atlantic. Hence, my friends are my immediate family over here.

10.  I felt GREAT for the most part of 2009. Let’s see: 365 days – 12 days (PMS) = 353 days of pure, nauseating, daring HAPPINESS.

Yup, it was a good year. Now you go. Stop whatever it is you’re doing, put that doughnut down, stop reading nonsense on the Internet, don’t scratch yourself there!, leave the dishes for later, stop worrying about the bills for a moment, ignore your meowing companion (whoever it is) and take a 10 minute break to write down, hence see with your bare eyes, how successful your 2009 was, how powerful being you are, and feel the energy flowing through your temple of a body.

Done? Feeling MIGHTY? Purrfect. Now take that elevated spirit and translate it into a hearty and comforting meal you deserve right now. Here’s an idea – SPANISH RICE a’la Agi that will punch you in the face with its rich and robust flavor.

Here I used this fancy-shmancy blend of rice grains mixed with black barley that added to the drama of the final look of my dish.

You can use leftover rice that you don’t know what to do with. Or just as well get yourself a pot full of brown rice, or any other unbleached, husk-on variety, and plan on feeding your lovely self and all your neighbors for weeks to come. I don’t care. All I want from you is a batch of cooked rice that you will now flavor to your liking.

Let’s begin with infusing olive oil with yummy flavors. Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan; drop in a handful of peeled and crashed garlic cloves, one or two branches of fresh thyme, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Keep the pan over low heat thus letting everyone get comfy in the warmth of the oil for about 2 minutes.

Next, remove the herb and smash the garlic with a fork, enforcing it even deeper into the oil. Now, instantly add the rice (about 3 cups of cooked grain) and stir and fold it to ensure everything gets coated evenly with your flavored olive oil. Open a small can of tomato paste and empty it into the pan. Season it with a touch of kosher salt and one tablespoon of dry paprika. If you’re going for that smashing HIT in your mouth, feel free to add cayenne pepper as well. Once again, shuffle the rice and spread the paste all over it. When the mass is of a coherent color, spread it evenly over the surface of the pan and let it sit there over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the bottom gets a little crispy.

In the end, add a touch of Mother Nature in the form of fresh parlsey and/or dill, roughly chopped and sprinkled like snowflakes over the tip of Mount Everest.

I love my SPANISH RICE on its own, however for Jason I stir-fry a few chicken tenders that later tend to his six-pack, biceps, and those delicious cheek muscles (my favorite cut).

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