I finally took the plunge! I joined my fellow fresh food lovers and signed up for a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture) from nearby Brenckle’s Farm in Zelienople, PA. When I first heard about CSAs, I liked the idea but was skeptical of its value and convenience in my life. But when I got to talk to members of the Brenckle family at a recent CSA fair in Pittsburgh, I wanted to support their business from that day on. My original worries were quickly negated when I received my first basket last week and ooohed and ahhhed over the colorful bounty. For just over $20 per basket, Brenckle’s CSA members receive a variety of organic produce and value added products, delivered right to their door (or at least very close for an easy pick-up).

In my late spring basket, I received a huge head of lettuce, a bunch each of beets and radishes, big bags of spinach and arugula, chives, garlic scapes, and kohlrabi. I also got half a dozen free-range eggs (yum!) and a pint of THE BEST STRAWBERRIES EVER! I have never gone strawberry picking or eaten truly farm fresh strawberries, so I could not get over the juicy sweetness of these little red gems. After I emptied the basket’s contents and stocked my fridge, I literally stood over the sink, individually rinsing and devouring these just picked, pesticide-free berries. I am still dreaming about them.


Armed with several seasonal recipes from Wild Flavors, a book about “one chef’s transformative year cooking from Eva’s farm,” and my overflowing basket of farm fresh goodies, I set out to create a light, healthy and produce-rich dish. While sifting through nearly a hundred recipes and quirky anecdotes about an even quirkier lady (Eva of Eva’s farm), I stopped at the “Spring” section of the book, hoping to make good use of my ingredients. I found the perfect recipe in “Wild Rice, Arugula, and Parsley Salad.” I wanted to feature the bunch of arugula I received because, one, I’ve never used arugula before – tasted, yes, prepared with, no – and the other reason was because I had a lot of arugula to use up! I was also happy to see that I could include some of the spinach from my basket and those flavorful and colorful strawberries.

I appreciated that author Didi Simmons explained in the recipe’s introductory blurb that the chef can substitute herbs and greens based on what they have, and the recipe will still turn out great. I took that reasoning a few steps further, substituting brown rice for the wild variety, dates for raisins, and canola oil for olive because these were things I already had, and I really need to clean out my pantry! So I present to you a modified version of Didi’s farm fresh, springtime recipe. Feel free to use it for your own CSA-inspired creation!

Brown Rice, Arugula, and Strawberry Salad
(adapted from Didi Simmons’ “Wild Rice, Arugula, and Parsley Salad” in Wild Flavors)

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
4 cups Arugula leaves, torn
1 cup strawberries, sliced
¼ cup red onion, minced
1 cup spinach, chopped
3 Tbs. canola oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and follow directions for brown rice, about 45 minutes at a simmer. Stir in the chopped dates when rice is almost tender and let simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Rinse the rice, draining it under cold running water until it is cool. Let dry in the strainer for 5 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, combine arugula, strawberries, onion, spinach, oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the brown rice and dates, stir well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Friday’s Food For Thought

Happy Friday, y’all! Spring break is upon me, so I’m letting loose and finally writing in the blog! Sorry about the hiatus, folks.

Anyway, as I lounge lazily on the couch in the car dealership waiting for service, I thought I’d share some great “food for thought” resources/articles I’ve recently come upon:

1. “7 Foods You Should Never Eat” – scary title, but interesting and though-provoking article!

2. “Looking Ahead: Ingredient Trends 2012” – short and sweet (~20 mins) webinar about new trends in restaurants, consumers’ minds, and the general food system.

3. Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food – the USDA just launched this fantastic initiative which offers “a digital narrative with stories, pictures and video about USDA’s support for local and regional food systems, and interactive map with datasets displaying the various ways and places where the initiative has made an impact” (quoted from the USDA’s blog). This is a step in the right direction!!

Check these out and let me know what you think. 
I’ll be back soon (promise) to talk about some great companies I’ve recently found, and update you on some yummy food I’ve been putting in the belly 🙂 

Happy New Year!

Hey Blog friends! Happy new year to you all. I hope 2012 is treating you well so far. I am enjoying my last day of “freedom” before I start classes again tomorrow. It’s been so nice to have 3 weeks off…I almost forgot what it was like to be a college student and have such a long holiday vacation, instead of having to work in the “real world”!

I have so much to share about my time off and my trip to Las Vegas last year (ha). I haven’t quite gotten back into the writing groove, so stories will be coming soon, but until then, I’m enjoying quite a few great articles/stories to get the new year started right:

1. Fast-Food Outlet Stirs Concerns in a Mecca of Healthy Living

2. Dietitians Pick Detroit as Healthiest Airport

3. The 10 Most Influential People in Veganism

4. 6 Steps for Planning Next Year’s Garden

5. 2012’s Top Nutrition Trends

6. 270,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto

OK, so my links are all food/veg-centered…they are interesting anyway, and that’s my life these days! Also, in general, the Good News Network is a great place to learn about wonderful things happening in the world rather than just reading about the bad…it’s the perfect way to start off a new year!

Enjoy your first week of 2012 and all to come after it!

Flowers or Not So Much?

It’s August…which means hot weather (we’re ALL used to that by now), back to school shopping, and the beginning of the end of wedding season. Right? Wellll, all the weddings I seem to be invited to are after Labor Day. Weird…

Since summertime is full of weddings, that also means anniversary season. What feminine gift comes to mind for celebratory occasions such as these? You guessed it: flowers. A card and a colorful bouquet are pretty standard this time of year (I guess they crop back up on Feb.14, too). Here’s the thing, though…there are plenty of us ladies out there who don’t want flowers. Yes, we appreciate the thought (that’s the best part about holidays, right? :-)), but think about it. Flowers only last a few days, or less, if you’re me. They are beautiful, yes, but I can’t truly appreciate them because I don’t know what they are called and I’m too busy worrying about the cat eating them…

My florist and I just had the best time while planning the flower scheme for my wedding! “Um, I like those purple flowers.” “No, those green flowers are too green.” “Those smell funny…” Yeah, I should have left a bigger tip for Bruce the Florist…All turned out well though:

centerpieces with pretty purple, green and white flowers

Loved my bouquet, just don't ask what was in it!

Want a fun alternative to the standard roses? Do what my mama did – ain’t that the truth! My parents sent a lovely, edible arrangement shaped like flowers for our anniversary. Fresh, bright fruit. Delivered to my door. And it goes in my tummy and not in the garbage. WIN!

Mmmm LOTS of fresh fruit!

10 Personal Questions

Taking from a recent post by Caitlin HTP, here are my answers to 10 personal questions:

What do you have on your bedside table?

Alarm clock, pen and paper, In Defense of Food, hand lotion, and a monkey beanie baby with giant eyes named Coconut!

Do you have a tattoo?

No, tattoos aren’t really accepted in Judaism. I don’t know if it’s biblical or more about our family getting forcibly tattooed in the Holocaust. My grandmother has numbers on her arm that I thought about transforming into a memorial tattoo for her and all of my grandparents and relatives that made it through World War II, but in the end, I don’t think it makes sense for me to get a tattoo when trying to move on from the past. I try to remember my grandparents (alive and not) in other special ways.

Do you believe in abstinence prior to marriage?

I grew up with pretty liberal parents and didn’t practice abstinence as a teen. I actually got advice (from an important, unnamed person in my life) NOT to wait to have sex until marriage. They did not encourage promiscuity, but rather doing it when I was ready and being open and honest about it. I do not regret having sex before marriage because it was with my first real boyfriend, and I felt ready.

What is your worst habit?

I am a very public, leave-the-door-wide-open-while-I’m-peeing kind of person, so Hubs some people might not like that trait of mine…
I also touch my hair way too much when it’s straight or looks nice, as if messing with it will make it perfect…right, Mom? 🙂

How do you handle finances in your relationship?

Well, I’m the only one making money right now! Regardless, Hubs and I combine all of our earnings into one bank account that we opened when we got married. I still have some money in an old bank account that will be put toward graduate school, and Hubs has another bank account as well. I also pay the bills and keep track of monthly spending. The most important thing is that we are both open and communicative about spending, especially on bigger ticket items. We definitely had to reassess finances when I decided to go back to school. TWO post-bacc tuitions to pay? Ouch.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

When I was young, I loved the name Veronica. I don’t know where that came from…but now that I have a long last name, I would probably go with something short like Mia. In the end, I actually really like my name because it’s pretty common, but not many women my age have it!

Where do you want to go on your next vacation?

This could take awhile 🙂 My next feasible vacation will be Hawaii in December. Stateside, I would also love to go on a west coast road trip from Seattle all the way down to San Diego. In my dreams (or in the next 20 years), I plan to go to Australia and many more exotic locales!

What is one political cause you feel strongly about?

A smaller gap between the upper and lower classes.

Have you ever stolen anything?

I may have stolen some stuff from my local Meijer when I was 14 years-old and got caught red-handed and had to do community service. Maybe. In all seriousness, getting caught was the best thing that could have happened because it was such a stupid thing to do.

Tell us something embarrassing about yourself.

I’m gassy and sweaty. And I still managed to find a boy who loves me the way I am ❤

One Year

One year ago today I did this:

Since that day, so much has happened.
I honeymooned in the south Caribbean with my best friend.

I moved to a new city with a different last name.
(I started a blog in there, too :-))
I found my place in a welcoming community.

I started supporting myself and a husband in medical school. mentally. emotionally. financially. (with plenty of additional family support!)
I got overwhelmed with my daily commute (still do…).

I applied for graduate school.
And I got in.

What a year! Happy 1st Wedding Anniversary Hubs. My love. My almost high school sweetheart. My biggest fan. My life partner.
Boo 🙂


Interesting videos this week:

Detroit: The next Silicon Valley? – Detroit is on the up and up!

Gene Simmons’ view on Obama’s Israel Policy – He’s from Israel, he should know…

Jenna Marbles’ take on Nicki Minaj – a good laugh!

Finally, whether you like her or not (I have no issues with her), here’s a cool commercial featuring Lady Gaga:

Reality Check

Imagine if you only had $5.00 per day…

What would you do?
How would you survive?

I work for a non-profit fundraising organization, and almost on a weekly basis we have representatives from partnering agencies speak about the work they do with the dollars we help to raise. Today’s speaker moved me to be increasingly thoughtful of the way we live in America and how much we take for granted. 

After hearing about poverty in Moldova and other FSU countries (one of which my dad is from), it really hits me how fortunate I am to be born into the family I am, and to be an American…with rights, opportunities, and plenty of money compared to so many other people. I write about trying to keep a $75 budget per week on groceries for my husband and me (and often overspend), yet there are people spending $60 per month on keeping themselves fed, and that surely doesn’t include the luxury of eating out, which I don’t even count in our $75 weekly budget. AND many people can’t even afford that $60 per month and need to seek aid elsewhere…

The fact is, many of us in first world countries are lucky and blessed and need to help those in worse situations, whether it be our neighboors or strangers in other countries. Please be more mindful of this, and maybe save that money you’d normally spend on $4 coffees and send it to United Way, UNICEF, WHO, or some other worthy acronym…

That is all. I’m stepping down from my soapbox now.
I will leave you with this:

“It is not your obligation to complete the task,
but neither are you at liberty to desist from it entirely…”
Pirke Avot 2:16

What Would You Do?

You’ve probably asked yourself this question many times. I’d like to know the answer…

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Let’s say that you won $10 million free and clear (after taxes and all that fun stuff). What would you do with that 10 million dollars? After the jumping up and down and screaming in disbelief part…
For some reason, this question kept me up last night and I began to fantasize about all that money…I do understand that you have to play the lottery to win the lottery, but I’m just too cheap for that :-). But if I had $10 mil…

Responsible Julie would first pay off Hubs’s medical school debt, then distribute some moola to various family members that need it. I would help them pay off debt, invest in career paths (hey bro!), and do what I could for them to live comfortably. I would also invest some money for the future/retirement (oh what an adult thing to do!).

Introspective Julie would then quit her job. I like my job, but it would be a luxury to be able to take some time for myself to figure out what I really want to accomplish in life. I haven’t found my passion, and I would like to have the freedom of time to explore all the options out there on my way to finding something I can be proud of.

Adventurous Julie would TRAVEL. That’s obvious to everyone that knows me. I would steal Hubs away from school for a bit (that’s allowed now that we have $10 mil!) and we’d trek across the globe learning about different cultures, each other, and ourselves along the way. We’d road trip in the U.S., get lost in South America, and go down under with the Auzzies. Oh, I have such a long list of places to see and experience…

Philanthropic Julie would give about 10% of that money away. I work in non-profit and I’ve volunteered for plenty of organizations over the years. There are so many worthy charities to donate money and time to. I would like to do some serious research and find a few orgs close to my heart where I can devote my time to advancing their cause and help them raise more money for their future.

So…what would you do?


This Saturday is not like most Saturdays…I did not get my grilled banana french toast, nor did I start the weekend off with A.M. spinning 😦

It was for good reason though, because I got to watch Hubs receive something very special today:

White Coat!

Today we experienced the very traditional (and stiff) white coat ceremony for medical school students. It’s a kind of “rite of passage” marking the transition from pre-clinical to clinical health sciences, at least according to Wikipedia 🙂

Now it’s time to laugh out loud and learn a thing or two about Pittsburgh.

Please enjoy:

Previous Older Entries