Shape Up or Ship Out
Wake Up Call

Well.......I had a little health scare a few weeks ago. An almost literal 'come to Jesus' meeting with doctors followed. And the skinny of the experience (isn't that term ironic?) was that if I don't SHAPE UP, I'm going to SHIP OUT.... in a pine box. It almost scared the life out of me.

Almost. BUT NOT SO FAST, life. Because I don't plan to go silently into that good night. I've got plans for the next 30 years or so.

I'll share the experience in bits and pieces, probably. It's likely boring to most people who haven't had the everloving S&@T scared out of them in the same way. The take-away from the experience is this:

  • I need to put my money where my mouth is. I need to eat right, and not just a few meals per week-- it's got to be pretty much EVERY meal. And that's no easy task for a food writer.
  • I've got to get moving. Disappointed with myself after a spectacular personal fitness failure last year, I fell off the wagon. I'd get going for hikes, but my daily practice went by the wayside. And the physically active jobs I had gave way to sedentary work. NO MORE EXCUSES.
  • I've got to be nicer to myself. I, like so many of us, create a lot of anxiety for myself by worrying what everyone BESIDES me thinks of me, my life, my decisions, my hair.... and I'm only joking a little bit there. I give all kinds of weight to those vocal critics. Worse, it's what I tell myself about those thoughts--I wouldn't even associate with a person who speaks to me like my own inner critic does. Life is short. It's time to grow up and drop that dead weight, literally and figuratively.  

Bottom Line: I'm going to make better choices. All around. 

I've got to tell you, even this vague reference to my private life makes me nervous. I'm not sure if it is appropriate. It's difficult to share my perceived faults and failures. What if I look like an idiot? What if I look like a fraud? What if I look.... HUMAN?  It's just so very personal.

And probably the same types of personal fears that many people struggle with daily. Not just me. Maybe you. Or maybe someone you know. It's scary to be so open. It's either brave, or foolish, or both. Like me.

It's bound to be hysterical from time to time. So, I'm going to learn to laugh at my mistakes, my foibles, my weaknesses, my HUMANITY...... and MOVE ON.

I'm. Moving. On.
"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space." Johnny Cash

So for a brief recap, a few years ago (it's been that long?!) I embarked on a fitness project to lose 50 pounds. In a year. By my 50th birthday. I called it Spring into Fitness: 50 by 50. I succeeded. And I kept that entire 50 off for, oh, say 3 days. Maybe a few weeks. Not long.

At first, my weight fluctuated only a pound or two. And then a lot of anxiety, and a lot of upheaval, and a lot of self indulgence helped 10 pounds creep back on. In retrospect, not a dismal failure, especially for one whose world revolves around delicious food, but if that 10 pounds a year becomes the norm, well, you can see it just can't.

So what does this mean for Notes from Maggie's Farm? Well, there really won't be much of a change. I've concentrated on wholesome, fresh, seasonal foods, primarily, and that will continue. I might share some of my path back to more robust health, occasionally, if that's interesting to you. I'll still offer a few culinary indulgences from time to time. I'll be focused on balance. Creating, and maintaining balance in the many avenues of life that combine at the crossroads of wellness.

Occasionally that might mean I'll be away for a while. Living life. Then returning to share it all when the time is available. Who knows? Like life, we'll just see how the path unfolds, taking it one precious day at a time.

The Seasonal Plate
What to Eat in April

Eating in season saves money, provides optimal nutrition, and supports local farmers. In North America, find many of the vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, poultry, and seafood, below, in season, and in markets, for the month of April.

Fruit and Nuts
avocado + cherimoya + citrus fruits (grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, citron, pomelo) + guava + strawberries 

Meat and Poultry
rabbit + lamb + porkeggs  

Varies by season, location, and weather patterns
North America: sea bass + black drum + clams + crawfish + crab + halibut + mussels + oysters + shrimp + red snapper + redfish + spot prawn + shark + flounder + pompano + trout + tuna  

Primarily year-round species include ahi tuna + atlantic, true, and ling cod + catfish + flounder + grouper + mahi mahi + rainbow trout + sole + (atlantic) salmon + swordfish

And a couple of great links, with maps, charts, and interactive resources, to keep yourself, and those you love, eating well:

Ten-Minute Meals
Honey-Glazed Ham Steaks on Balsamic Bitter Greens

Whether it's time or patience you find in short supply, Ten-Minute Meals will help put a seasonal, nutritious meal on the table in less time than it takes to navigate a rush hour drive-thru.

Honey-Glazed Ham on Balsamic Bitter Greens
Prepared for Texas Farmers' Markets, Market Chef Maggie Perkins

In a heavy skillet over medium high heat, add just enough cooking oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, tilting pan to cover. Remove excess. Just as oil begins to shimmer, add ham steak. Heat until seared with edges slightly browned, then turn to sear opposite side. Drizzle honey over top of ham steak to coat thinly, reduce heat to medium, and allow honey to ‘melt’ over steak to coat. Turn, cook 1 minute, then turn again, to coat. Remove from heat and set aside.

To skillet over medium heat, add balsamic vinegar, scraping any remaining bits from ham into the vinegar, honey, and ham drippings. Add greens and dill, stirring until coated and slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Cover, and allow to cook until greens are fully wilted, stirring occasionally, approximately 3 minutes. Add salt and cracked red pepper, if using, to taste. Top greens with ham steak and cover, heating all together on low for 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve.

Farmers Market Favorite
Egg Salad for Grown-Ups

Say a certain long-eared mythical creature has dropped by with a dozen or so colorful hard-boiled treasures dropped by over the weekend. The children in your family may have raced around a yard and unearthed the jewel-toned treats and exulted in their success for maybe an hour....then concentrated their attention to the treats that accompanied the hunt. A basketful of candy, wrapped in bright spring-colored attention-getting labels, too sweet for the more mature palates in the house. When I was a young mother the Easter Bunny, I might have been tempted to steal ask politely for a few jelly beans-- red ones, please, or Smartees-- green ones please, or seasonal pastel M&Ms with almonds-- pink ones, please, but it was really the more savory and satisfying that I preferred-- those REAL EGGS.

When I distracted the girls long enough to nab the booty  got my hands on asked politely for those golden yolked goodies, my first order of business was a bonafide adult egg salad. I'd fill it, not with that cloying sweet pickle relish, but as many fresh green herbs and crunchy vegetables I could get my hands on, and pile it high NOT on delicate and puff cloud white bread, but a dense, whole grain rye or seeded slice, maybe toasted if I had enough time before the theft was discovered the girls were contentedly reading the special book the Bunny chose yearly for each, studding the sandwich with additional veggies where they'd fit. I'd hide in a closet retire to a quiet corner and hunch greedily over my ill-gotten gains recharge with a languid lunch and a pitcher of mimosas cup of tea after the morning's festivities.

This was no ordinary egg salad sandwich. This was an adult egg salad for grown-ups.

Over the holiday weekend, I prepared this particular incarnation at the Texas Farmers' Market at Lakeline, with slight variations the next day at the Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller. So well received were each versions that several vendors sold out of their particular ingredient, and there was a definite dent in the dill at both markets.

Each ingredient in this salad was sourced directly from the market vendor, and no other ingredients "from the outside" made the cut. Completely market-driven, to my delight this vegetable-packed, healthy and sophisticated egg salad was a smash success with market-goers, who scurried off with the recipe in their heads and these ingredients in their totes:

 One dozen OrganicareFarms eggs, hard boiled

1 jar Stellar Gourmet Pecan Alioli*

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, stems finely sliced (Hairston Creek Farm
1 bunch young carrots, peeled and sliced thinly, with carrot top greens chopped and large stems removed (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)

1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped finely (Johnson’s Backyard Garden)

Optional salt, additional olive oil, if needed (Texas Hill Country Olive Company)

In a large mixing bowl, grate boiled eggs with a large-holed grater.  Fold in remaining ingredients. If too dry, add just enough olive oil to bind ingredients together. Serve on a slice of hearty, whole grain bread, perhaps toasted, dressed with additional seasonal vegetables of your choice tucked under a generous sunny mound of salad.

At the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller, I substituted Stellar Gourmet’s wildly popular Poblano Ranch Dressing for their pecan alioli*, which they sold out of the previous day to eager samplers, and nutritional powerhouse dandelion greens, chopped finely, from JBG Organic in place of the asparagus that was swept up by eager sandwich makers on Saturday.

* Alioli is similar to the more familiar aioli in flavor, but traditionally contains no egg, thus making it suitable for vegans. If you aren't a local, or simply prefer to start from scratch, a great beginning is this aioli, made in home. 

Find tips for boiling eggs, including not boiling the boiled eggs, at the following links: 

Alton Brown: Baked Eggs (video)

A Pleasure in the Pathless Woods
Purgatory Creek Natural Area, San Marcos

©2015 Maggie C Perkins
Purgatory Creek Natural Area
San Marcos, Texas

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
   There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
   There is society where none intrudes,
   By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
   I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
   From these our interviews, in which I steal
   From all I may be, or have been before,
   To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal,,,

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
George Gordon Byron, 1788 - 1824

©2015 Maggie C Perkins
©2015 Maggie C Perkins
©2015 Maggie C Perkins
©2015 Maggie C Perkins

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