Babies are on the brain over here at A Couple Cooks. Now that we’ve shared the news that we’re adopting, we can post this without confusion that we’re pregnant (though we’re ready for it!). Our friend Nicole Gulotta is the beautiful writer behind the fabulous blog Eat This Poem, where she pairs poems + recipes and shares literary city guides. We first met Nicole a few years ago and have since developed a lasting friendship. So we were stoked when she approached us about contributing to our Healthy + Whole series on the topic that’s foremost in her mind, her new bundle of joy due in October! The topic of eating during pregnancy is new to A Couple Cooks, but the principles of balance and listening to your body are no stranger. Nicole’s words and philosophy are inspirational even if you’re not expecting. Hats off to Nicole — we can’t wait to welcome her little one into the world! And make sure to check out Eat This Poem for more of her fantastic writing and food. (Photo by Kelly Burson)
I’m excited to be joining Alex and Sonja’s Healthy + Whole series today, with a new topic I’ve been exploring over the past several months: healthy eating during pregnancy!
I’ve long been a healthy eater, avid cook, and lover of fresh, seasonal produce. Prior to starting my pregnancy journey, I’d spent the past couple of years learning more about what my body liked to eat and developing intuition around food.
Then I saw two pink lines. A few weeks later, nausea arrived, and that’s when I started eating toast for breakfast. I couldn’t predict how I would feel hour to hour, so my usual attempts to meal plan were quickly thwarted, and I entered survival mode.
One week I ate a few scoops of lavender honey ice cream after dinner, another week I craved peaches every day, and the week after that I ate an English muffin for breakfast every morning, sometimes with almond butter. Then I wanted peaches again. There was also a week of starting my day with applesauce, as well as a baked potato phase.
I even bought boxed soup for emergencies. (This turned out to be a mistake, as even the organic, low-salt versions with 20+ ingredients tasted far worse than what I made at home with only five ingredients. Lesson learned.)
The second trimester has been infinitely smoother. Gone are the days of being repelled by smells coming out of the refrigerator, and I’m back to cooking every night and eating with enthusiasm when my appetite is in full swing. But with a baby boy due this October, my eating habits have certainly shifted since discovering I was expecting, and I’ve had to be more gracious with myself. So how do pregnant women retain a sense of normalcy and control?
The first thing to remember is everyone’s pregnancy is different. It doesn’t matter how much you trust your mom’s wisdom, or how many times your best friend says the cure for her morning sickness was drinking ginger ale. Part of the journey is about discovering what works for you. With this in mind, I’ve taken most advice I’ve received with a grain of salt.
Try a simple Google search, and you’ll discover endless opinions about how you should eat, the best foods to include in your diet, and debates about the benefits and drawbacks of prenatal vitamins. A lot of the messaging, while well-meaning, is rooted in fear.
If I don’t take prenatal vitamins for at least three months before conceiving, I won’t have a healthy baby. If I don’t gain any weight in the first trimester, my baby won’t develop properly. If I gain too much weight in the first trimester, I’ll have a 10 pound baby! If I eat mayonnaise, I’ll immediately get salmonella. If I don’t eat the correct ratio of omega 3’s, fiber, and folate, the end is near!
Instead of giving in to the paranoia that comes with pregnancy, attempting to achieve the opposite has been my goal. If you’re pregnant, it’s definitely not the time to disengage with your body, especially if you’re not feeling well.
I spent about six weeks eating carbs like pasta, toast, and potatoes, all day, every day. Between bouts of vomiting and all-day nausea, it was all I could stomach. I often felt worse when I took my prenatal vitamins, even the non-GMO/vegan/raw versions, and with the clearance of my doctor, stopped taking them all together.
I could have easily felt guilty. I was certainly frustrated on more than one occasion, but always tried to remember that the first trimester was a temporary period, and I’d soon be able to resume a regular cooking and eating schedule.
Since every day can be different, I’ve tried to eat when I’m hungry and listen to cues from my body when food cravings ebb and flow. Over the course of nine months, there’s nothing predictable about pregnancy, so I’ve found the best approach has been to both rely on my healthy eating habits, but also remain open to what my body might be telling me it wants and needs. And if it tells me to have a scoop of ice cream (ok, my body might not need ice cream the same way it needs lentils, but still), I allow myself to enjoy a few bites. If it wants a giant kale salad (and my body certainly has), I go for it. I also never leave the house without dried cherries and almonds in my purse.
Something that gave me peace of mind early on was knowing the healthy and whole lifestyle I devoted myself to for so many years is part of the reason I was able to get pregnant in the first place. This knowledge, combined with the reassurance from my doctor that my weight is on track and the baby is healthy, is a great recipe for calm during a period when so much feels out of control.
I still make my own almond milk, avoid processed food, and eat pasta (I am Italian, after all!). And whether you’re pregnant or not, healthy eating is always a long-term lifestyle. With that, there are bound to be periods of time when something changes. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a move and forced to eat takeout pizza for a week. Maybe you recently discovered an allergy and are attempting to adapt with new recipes.
Or maybe you’re pregnant,learning to navigate morning sickness and balance cravings with the desire to eat the healthy foods you ate before pregnancy. No matter where you are on your health journey, staying mindful is always an important step, because it means you’re paying attention, listening to your body, and trusting it to guide you.
Summer is all about simplicity in the kitchen, and nothing could be simpler than berries and cream. Before it’s too late, here’s an idea to use with the last of the summer’s berries. Many times after summer meals, Alex and I will whip up our sweetened whipped cream recipe to top some seasonal fruit. However, this yogurt whipped cream from our friend Cheryl’s cookbook Yogurt Culture recently caught my eye, which uses both yogurt and cream, and we thought we’d give it a go.
What results is a slightly tangy, lightly sweet cream that pairs perfectly with ripe berries. Alex said he likes it even more than whipped cream since the flavor is more complex; it’s almost like frozen yogurt (but better). It works with any type of seasonal fruit, and we like to throw something crunchy on top like toasted almonds, though you can use any type of nut or other crunchy topping. Get creative, and experiment with your own creations!
This recipe is a great gluten-free dessert option. Our berries were from Locally Grown Gardens. Also check out Cheryl’s website with a compilation of yogurt recipes and information over at Team Yogurt.
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip 1 cup cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add 1 cup yogurt and ½ teaspoon vanilla, then continue to whip, gradually adding 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue to whip until the peaks hold when the whisk is lifted. (Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
Toast the almonds in dry pan over medium low heat until lightly browned, stirring constantly.
Scoop the cream into bowls. Top with berries and toasted almonds.
Already the cicadas are humming, the state fair is at its peak, and corn and poblano peppers have appeared at the farmers’ market–meaning, it’s late August. The summer has flown by, and kids are already back to school (each year it comes sooner and sooner, it seems!). Change is in the air, and we’re feeling it with our announcement that we’ll be adopting a little one sometime in the future, which is incomprehensible and exciting all at once. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and notes–they mean so much to us!
Late August and September give me a craving for corn, which is natural here in Indiana. But it’s interesting to think of a time, just a few years back, when I couldn’t have told you the time I should be craving any food. Growing up, we ate peaches and corn in the summer–but we also ate them in the winter if we wanted, along with strawberries and tomatoes and all sorts of seasonal foods. When I started getting into seasonal cooking, I realized there was a reason we ate foods at certain times; not for tradition sake, but because that’s when they were at their peak. And I must admit, as much as people knock food blogs, a lot of what I know about seasonality has come not only from the farmer’s market but from food blogs. I learned that when all my favorite blogs started posting squash recipes, it was time for fall. And when they were talking up asparagus and ramps and strawberries, it was spring. And corn and poblanos? Well, that means it’s almost September.
This recipe is similar to our poblano and corn calzones, and in pizza form, so it’s even easier. This version uses naan for an even simpler take, but you can use normal pizza dough (instructions below), which is even tastier. It’s a perfect late summer meal to enjoy those fleeting last moments of al fresco eating.
If making homemade dough, follow the instructions in So Cal Pizza for dough preparation and pizza baking instructions. The recipe for naan pizza follows below.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Cut the poblano peppers into strips. Cut the corn off the cob. In a bowl, mix the peppers and corn with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon each of cumin, oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, and kosher salt. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove when tender.
While the vegetables roast, dice the red onion.
When ready to bake, place naan on the oven grate and pre-bake 3 minutes per side until crisp.
Remove the naan and spread each with mozzarella cheese, then top with poblano and corn mixture and red onion. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake for 5 minutes on the oven grate, on a pizza stone or on a baking sheet, until the cheese is melted. Slice and enjoy.
There are a lot of complicated diet and exercise plans out there, a lot of workouts that are the latest craze, a lot of fad diets and detox juicing and more.
If it’s the newest craze, I recommend skipping it.
Instead, let’s get down to the simple fundamentals: it’s not that complicated to get healthy. In fact, I’ve boiled it down to two strategies.
Here’s my simple plan:
1. Eat a crapton of vegetables. 2. Do something active and fun every day.
No, you don’t have to eat only vegetables — but you should make them the foundation of your diet, and eat them first.
I believe that if you follow this plan, you’ll be healthy. It might not be a miracle weight-loss plan, but you’ll be healthy, and you can definitely lose weight. You can gain muscle. Get lean. Live healthier.
So just eat a lot of vegetables and be active every day.
Optional upgrade: Get an accountability partner if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
You might have a few questions about the plan. Here’s everything you want to know
Can I eat meat?
A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first. (Note: I don’t eat meat for reasons of compassion.)
What about sweets? Or grains?
A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
What kind of vegetables can I eat? Should they be superfoods?
A: Vegetables are all superfoods. Eat any kind you want. Green ones are the gold standard, but all colors are welcome: white, yellow, orange, red. Eat a lot of the greens, and a bunch of the others.
What about starchy vegetables like potatoes?
A: Yep! Eat those too! Yum.
Can I eat fruits?
A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
Do I count calories?
A: If you want to. But no, you don’t have to, if you’re eating a crapton of veggies first.
How much is a crapton?
A: It’s a scientific measurement that means, “A helluva lot.” Basically, if you’re filling up a plate with food, it should be mostly vegetables. Two thirds is better than half, and three fourths is even better.
What if I have an allergy?
A: Don’t eat the things you’re allergic to. But do eat a crapton of vegetables.
Are there other foods I should aim for?
A: Sure, beans, fruits, proteins. If you’re not trying to lose weight, nuts and healthy oils. But mostly veggies.
Can I eat fast food?
A: Yes. Just eat a crapton of veggies first.
Why do you recommend eating a crapton of veggies?
A: They’re the food that has been proven by research to be the healthiest, and they have pretty much all the nutrients you need (yes, including protein). There is no optimal diet, but all the healthiest diets (including the Blue Zones) put vegetables at the forefront, and have smaller amounts of protein, fats, nuts, seeds, grains. If you fill your plate with veggies at every meal, you will get healthier. You’ll probably lose weight if you’re overweight. You’ll be filling yourself with the best things for your body first, and then adding the other things as a taste satisfier.
Can I put dressing on my veggies? Or how should I prepare them?
A: You can use dressing, as long as you eat a crapton of vegetables. Prepare them however you like, but this is my preferred order: raw, steamed, baked, cooked in stews or chilies, stir-fried, blended into a smoothie, sautéed. Deep-fried would be last.
Can I just juice the veggies?
A: No. Eat them.
What if I hate veggies?
A: Try different ones. Cook them in different ways — try to bake or sauté them. Season them. It’s delicious. Try dipping them in hummus. If you have to, hide them in soups and chilis so you can’t taste them much.
What if I don’t like salads?
A: No one said you have to eat a salad, dude. Think of baked cauliflower and broccoli (seasoned, maybe add some olive oil), or a bunch of kale, mushrooms, carrots and broccoli in a stir-fry (tempeh or tofu are my favorite proteins), or baked sweet potatoes.
When you say to be active every day, can you give me an example?
A: Anything that gets you moving: play a sport, go for a walk, do some pushups, go for a bike ride, do a few sprints, run for a few miles.
How long should my daily activity session be?
A: Not long if you’re just starting out — even 5 minutes a day is a good start. But if you’re already pretty active, then you can shoot for 30 minutes a day, and do some of those days with some intensity. If you’re already active but not doing strength training, add some of that in.
What if I miss a day?
A: Start again the next day.
Can I do a fad workout, like tae bo or soul cycling or whatever the latest workout DVD is?
A: Yes. Whatever seems fun to you.
Why should I get an accountability partner?
A: It keeps you on track when you find a dip in your motivation, it’s fun to go for walks or do workouts with people, and if it’s your spouse, you can take turns cooking each other a crapton of veggies!
What if I want to lose weight?
A: Eat a crapton of veggies, and not a lot of calorie-dense foods like oils, fats, nuts, refined sugar, refined flour. To your veggies, add beans, protein, some whole grains, fruit. Also: wait until you’re actually hungry to eat, and stop before you’re really full. Don’t snack or drink beverages with calories.
What if I want to gain weight?
A: Still eat a crapton of veggies, but increase your proteins and add some fats to your meals (olive oil, coconut oil canola oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter). Eat more grains if you’re really active. Be sure to be lifting weights so the excess calories become muscle.
“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
When I was very young, not more than 4 years old, I remember going on a walk with my grandfather. He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A writer,” I said. In his day, I’d imagine many little girls asked that question would say, “A mother”. I wanted that too, but at that point playing with baby dolls was secondary to writing and illustrating my own books.
Fast forward 30 years and here I am, a writer who now dreams of being a mom. As some of you may know, the path for Alex and me has not been easy. My health and a miscarriage have led us to a place where options were limited: ask another woman to carry our child, or adopt. I can’t say I ever imagined to be in this place, but I’ve also never imagined about 98% of things I’ve experienced in life. I guess that’s what’s fun about this exciting, fascinating, and terrifying world–it keeps us on our toes.
Alex and I sat with the decision of surrogacy versus adoption for quite a while. Fourteen years ago in the infancy of our relationship, we’d talked about names for our future child. Now that the time was right, the path to finding the child to give a name was so uncertain. The answer for me came unexpectedly, after we were weighing options and someone mentioned they could see that having a biological child was important to me. It was then that I realized what Alex already knew: we’re ready to start a family, and it didn’t matter whether our little one was made up of our genetic material or not.
So yes, we’re adopting! You know that feeling when you’re on a diving board, wobbling out to the tip and then staring at your toes gripping onto the edge as you reach deep down for the courage to jump? That’s where we’re at. It’s meant letting go of a lot of things we expected: no belly pics, no gender reveal parties, no before-the-fact baby showers, no pregnancy cravings. But now, the time for grieving is behind us and were are 110% on board with this new phase. And we’ve found that there are new things we’re experiencing that we might not have otherwise–like finding so many gracious, vulnerable couples in a similar stage. And learning about courageous birth mamas who give up something huge for their little ones. While so much of this process is unknown at this point, the outcome is certain: we will end up as parents.
The scary-slash-exciting part about adoption is the timing. We’ve found an agency we trust, filled out mounds of paperwork, and are on track to be shown to prospective birth mothers in about 1 month. After that, we wait: could be 1 week, could be 1 year. There’s no way to know, and even if we’re matched with a baby, there’s no telling until it happens whether it will officially become baby Overhiser. So we wait with open hands.
Along the way, we’ll share as much as we can, but don’t be surprised if an announcement about Baby O comes unexpectedly! In the meantime, we sit trusting in God as we wait for this story to unfold. Thank you so much for walking along with us in this process! Your well wishes, thoughts, and prayers have meant so much to us as we navigate this journey.
Do you have any questions, aspects you’d like to hear more about, or advice? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!
My mom just left our house after visiting for a week, and once again, our lives were changed.
She visits us about twice a year, and every time she does, she leaves us with a new hobby, a new passion, a better version of ourselves.
My mom (Shannon Murphy) makes everyone around her better, and yet most people whose lives she changes don’t even realize it.
So what’s her secret? I honestly wish I knew her special recipe, but I’m going to do my best to share what I know with all of you. It’s amazing, honestly.
Some examples of ways she’s made people around her better:
She recently got Eva and I into the Fitbit fitness tracker, just by making it look like so much fun when she did it. As a result, we are walking a lot more.
She had a talk with my 22-year-old daughter that inspired my daughter to pursue her dream job, and begin creating again (as a writer).
She got my youngest kids into doing crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper.
On different visits, she’s gotten Eva into sewing, drinking red wine, gardening, and more.
My mom runs Guampedia, an online encyclopedia about Guam, and whenever she visits, she gets us excited about Guam history and the political status fight.
She makes people feel good about who they are: for example, she tells other people about how good I am at various things.
I could go on and on with examples, but I’d like to distill the magic of my mom into a handful of ideas that I draw inspiration from:
She inspires others to become interested in what she’s interested in, because of her excitement. Things just sound interesting, when she’s really interested.
She is genuinely interested in what you have to say, and you feel like a good person, an interesting person, when she listens.
She encourages you to grow, to do something beyond your normal, without making you feel like you’re not already great. She’s encouraging without making you feel bad about yourself.
She’s accepting of who you are, not critical. She’s kind. You don’t hear her badmouthing people, only feeling compassionate for their difficulties.
She’s always looking to help people, without concern about herself. That’s not to say she doesn’t look out for herself — she does — but it seems like she wants to help without needing to be repaid, nor given credit.
I’m not saying my mom is perfect. No one is, no one is a saint. But these are traits in her that I admire, and constantly strive to imitate. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach those heights, but I’m grateful for her example. Thank you, mom.
The other day I came across the quote, “Practice being kind to yourself in small, concrete ways.” (It’s part of a book I’m reading on creative renewal, which I’d highly recommend for those who consider yourselves creatives — and even those who don’t!) Maybe it’s a tad bit cliche, but it got me thinking. The challenge here is not an excuse to be self-indulgent, simply kind. Are you feeding yourself well? Do you have socks? A new houseplant? Have you committed to daily solitude and reflection?
Why is it that to stay afloat, it’s much easier to sacrifice the very self-care that’s essential for us to care for others in our lives? Even for committed home cooks Alex and me, thoughtful, nutritious meals are the first to go. We’ve gotten into the pattern where our “meals in a pinch” are still healthy: salads, omelettes, stir fries–but even so, there’s something about a thoughtfully-prepared meal that’s comforting. Kind.
This salad has a few components to prepare, but if a few are completed in advance, it’s simple to put together and a fantastic combination of flavors. The star is the coconut bacon: smoky, crispy and rich, against the bite of the blue cheese, the velvety hard-boiled eggs, and the juicy tomatoes. It hardly tastes like a salad, the flavors are so bold and bright–not to mention the colorful visual appeal.
For a little kindness the other night, Alex and I indulged in a Cobb salad and a cool glass of rosé on the porch. So worth the extra time and effort. And then instead of my habitual catching up on work in the evening–I read a book. (Take that, workaholic self.)
Let’s get real: we’re not about to bash bacon. Many of you reading have intense love for the stuff, which is A-OK in our book. Bacon has a intoxicating smoky flavor that adds a unique intensity to everything from salads to gourmet doughnuts. Since we eat *mainly* vegetarian, we do allow ourselves a bit of bacon every once in a while (and it tastes even better than we remembered). But most of what we cook at home is vegetarian, and it’s incredibly hard to imitate that unique flavor that bacon can add to a dish.
Enter coconut bacon. It might sound odd, and we generally stay away from anything resembling a meat substitute. However, after experimenting with this concept, it is definitely worth a try. Wide strips of coconut are infused with a spicy, smoky flavor that both crisps in the oven and maintains intermittent chewy parts, reminiscent of the crispy + fatty texture of bacon. While its shape and size are not a substitute for bacon strips on a breakfast plate or in a BLT, it works perfectly sprinkled in a salad or on one of those fancy gourmet doughnuts. Oh, and for snacking. (Pop them in the freezer for a quick fix of smoky, salty goodness; they thaw in a few seconds.)
2 cups large unsweetened coconut flakes (not shredded coconut)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
What To Do
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium bowl, gently mix all ingredients until the coconut is coated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread the coconut in a thin, even layer on top. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, flipping once. Remove when bacon is browned. The bacon will crisp up as it cools. Enjoy immediately. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer; the bacon comes to room temperature quickly.
One of the biggest frustrations many of us feel is having too much to do, and not feeling like we have enough time to do it. We are overwhelmed.
Of course, having “not enough time” is just a feeling — we all have the same amount of time, but we often fill up the container of our days with too much stuff.
The problem is having too much stuff to fit into a small container (24 hours). If we look at task management and time management as simply a container organization problem, it becomes simpler.
How do we fit all of the stuff we have to do into our small container?
And letting go.
I promise, with this two-step process, you’ll be able to deal with the problem of “too much to do, not enough time.”
Simplifying Our Tasks
When we realize we’re trying to fit too much stuff (tasks, errands, obligations) into a small container (24 hours), it becomes obvious that we can’t get a bigger container … so we have to get rid of some stuff. It just won’t all fit.
We do that by simplifying what we have to do.
Mindfulness is a helpful too here: pay attention to all the things you do today and tomorrow, and try to notice all the things you’re fitting into the container of your day. What websites are you going to in the morning? In the evening? What games are you playing on your phone? What are you reading? What busy-work are you doing? How much time are you spending in email, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram? How much time on blogs, online shopping sites, Youtube? How much TV are you watching? How much time do you spend cleaning, maintaining your personal hygiene, taking care of other people? How much time driving around or commuting? What are you spending the valuable commodity of your attention on?
What you might realize is that you’re fitting a lot of junk into the container. Toss some of that out. Ban yourself from certain sites or apps until you’ve done a few really important tasks.
Notice also that you’re committed to a lot of things. Those commitments are filling up your life. Start getting out of some of them, and saying “no” to new ones.
Now look at your task list: how many of those things can you reasonably do today? I say three.
If you could only do three things today, which would be the most important? If you’ve ever played baseball, and swung a bat, you know that what matters is not so much how hard you swing, but hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. What you need to do with your task list is hit it with the sweet spot of the bat — find the tasks that have the most impact, that matter most to your life. Choose carefully, because you only have so much room in your life.
Now ask yourself this: which task would you do if you could only do one task today? That should be what you put your focus on next. Just that one task. You can’t do your entire list today, and you can’t do your top three tasks right now. So just focus on one important task.
Clear everything else away, and focus on that.
By picking your tasks carefully, you’re taking care with the container of your time. You can pick important tasks or joyful ones, but you’re being conscious about the choices. You’re treating it like the precious gift that it is: limited, valuable, to be filled with the best things, and not overstuffed.
The Art of Letting Go
What about all the other stuff you want to do (or feel you need to do)? What if it doesn’t fit into the container?
This is where the joyful art of letting go becomes useful.
You have too many things to fit into your container, and you’ve decided to only put the important and beautiful things into the container. That means a bunch of things you think you “should” do are not going to fit.
You can get to those later. Or you can not do them. Either way, they won’t fit into today’s container.
This in itself is not a problem, but it only becomes a problem when you are frustrated that you can’t fit it all in. Your frustration comes from an ideal that you should be able to do it all, that you should be able to do everything on your list. Plus more: you want to travel, workout, meditate, learn a new skill, read more, be the perfect spouse (or find a spouse), be the perfect parent/friend/sibling, draw or create music, and so on.
Your ideals don’t match with reality — the reality is that you can’t do this all today, or even this week. You can choose to do some of them, but the others will have to wait, or not get done at all.
Since you can’t get a bigger container, you need to adjust your ideals. The ideal you choose to have can be this: that this moment be exactly as it is. The old ideal is one that you can toss into the ocean, as it was harming you (causing frustration). Let it go with joy and relief.
The new ideal is that this moment is perfect, and it deserves to be in your container.
A few weeks ago, we took a trip to an urban farm in an unexpected location — on the roof of a hospital! Eskenazi Sky Farm provides produce and an educational facility for the hospital. We are big supporters of Eskenazi’s efforts to integrate food and health, so we took a trip to the top to show you around. As luck would have it, the Sky Farmer is a dear friend, Rachel White. I caught up with her to ask a bit about her background and the farm, and Alex shot some lovely photos as a virtual tour below. Hope you enjoy it as another installment in our Healthy + Whole series!Sonja: You are an urban farmer (!). How did you get into this field? Were you always interested in food?
Rachel: Honestly, like a lot of people my age, jobs were not available when I left college. I just happened to find a farmer that was willing to pay me for a season of work, and lucky for me, he had been farming organically for most of his life. It was about 4 acres, just the two of us and his dog, and it was a quick learning curve for me. I hated weeding in my parents garden when I was little, but this was different for some reason.
I wasn’t always interested in food. I think that with the convenience and cheapness of food there were some cooking and gardening skills that were lost in my family. I was fed well as I grew up, but I didn’t see food as fuel, I didn’t understand that it affects the way I feel, and I didn’t know that a sharp knife is the one thing you need in a kitchen. I had a lot to learn and I feel like I’m still catching up.
Sonja: The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health is special, since it’s on the top of a hospital. What do you grow, and how is it used?
Rachel: I grow a variety of vegetables and fruit. I try to have a good combination of items that the general public might recognize from the grocery store, and a few that they may have never eaten before. The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health is just over 5,000 square feet, so it is not considered a production farm, it works much better as an educational space. People get to walk the farm and find the items they recognize, ask questions about those they don’t, and sometimes participate in programs we put on.
All the food is used by the hospital. Some goes to restaurants on the hospital campus (Ingram Micro Mobility Marketplace and Café Soleil) to be worked into the existing menu, and some goes to a food and nutrition class as a take home shared located at one of our clinic. Another portion goes to our Veg Fridays event here at the Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health where we pass out samples, have a small nutrition lesson, and hand out some veggies so people can try them at home. I also have a small area of flowers and work with the Eskenazi Health Spiritual Care manager here at the hospital to pass them out to patients.
Sonja: What is your favorite thing about your job? What are some challenges?
Rachel: In short, my favorite thing and the most challenging thing are the people that come through. In general, we are pretty destructive to our land, and the Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health is no exception to that. It is a public space and that means that a lot of people come through, Many enjoy the space, enjoy the view, bring their lunch, explore, and ask questions, but every once in a while I’ll find plants pulled up and produce harvested before they are ripe. This happens infrequently, but it can be disheartening. I should say that wind and storms can do just as much or more damage to the plants, especially this year.
Sonja: What’s your favorite thing someone has made with the produce from the farm?
Rachel: A couple of Veggie Fridays ago the main item was beets. Our sample that day was a cool beet soup that was just beautiful. Usually the soup is a deep dark red like the color of a typical red beet, but I grow three different varieties up here. The combination of the three make a beautiful magenta color that was really shocking. Tasted delicious too.
Sonja: Why is having a farm as part of a hospital important?
Rachel: Having a small farm located on a hospital campus is not common, but now that I work here, I’m not sure why it isn’t common. To make it simple, the food we put in out bodies is a large part of our health. Sharing food and knowledge is a large part of being a part of being a part of a community. That’s what the Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health is here for, health and community.
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