Looking back at two years of healthy living

In late summer 2011 I wrote a blog post explaining the life events that lead Oliver and I to start consciously living and eating the way we do. A few days ago I reread the post and was reminded (and surprised) of the things I had been struggling with. I still craved salty, crunchy, addictively snackable Goldfish and I was sad to have given up my beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. At the time it was hard to imagine a future in which I preferred oatmeal for breakfast and didn't miss cheddar flavored crackers.

Two years later, abiding by our family standards for heart healthy eating now comes effortlessly. Our meals are real food, high in fiber, low in sugar with an occasional major splurge (everything in moderation, even moderation). I don't think about fat or calories and I really enjoy a great trip to the gym. My blood pressure is healthy and according to a recent "dunk tank" hydrostatic test I'm 25% body fat - which is fine by me.

Oatmeal has completely replaced cereal for weekday breakfasts. Once a week Oliver cooks up a big pot which we reheat by the bowlful every morning. My favorites come and go: Last month I liked my oatmeal with a dollop of fresh ground YDFM peanut butter; this month I'm loving sweet coconut flakes sprinkled over yellow raisins and walnuts. And like the true Louisianan he is, Oliver continues to cook up Monday/Wash Day pots of beans for lunch. Black beans, red beans with andouille, pinto beans, chick peas; it changes week to week just like the oatmeal. 

Beans and oatmeal, couldn't be simpler: high in fiber and really really cheap. Even if you include the box of chicken stock, bags of raisins, etc. the cost of healthy, tasty breakfasts and lunches for two adults for an entire workweek comes in under $15. That's amazing. $15 is three boxes of sugar cereal. It's two sandwiches at a deli. It's a pizza!

Our exercise routines have changed the most. We no longer go to the gym together but we still go an average of 3 times a week. (Oliver prefers to work out during the day and I usually can't make it until late in the evening.) I'll spend 30 minutes on the elliptical (level 10/rolling hills) and then 15 to 20 minutes on weights (focusing on either legs or arms - I'm pretty bad about skipping core workouts). 

I also have a new perspective on the addictiveness of many packaged foods. It seems blatant and intentional and it worries me that most people aren't even aware that they're hooked. Breaking the addiction requires completely giving up those foods for long enough that you stop craving them. As you replace those fake foods with real foods your taste buds slowly to start reset themselves. With enough time you start to notice just how strange and unreal those fake foods taste. For me, it meant finally appreciating delicious fresh fruit and losing interest in corn syrupy candies and cakes. I never ever imagined that was possible for me - but hey, slow and steady wins the race, right?

Happy Summer my friends. XO

Louisiana Maque Choux

Being married to a man from Southern Louisiana is an ongoing lesson in food and history. Tonight's dinner, Maque Choux, reminds me of the very first things I learned about the lives of Acadian descendants in Louisiana: 1. An "x" on the end of a last name is silent (Boudreaux, Malveaux, Thibodaux, etc). 2. The difference between Cajun and Creole cooking (Cajun = one pot/bayou, Creole = lots of pots/NOLA). 

The story of the Acadians in South Louisiana is a fascinating one. One that I'm quite proud to have married into. If you want read more about it click here.

Maque Choux, takes the Acadian's traditional food base (the "holy trinity" of onion, celery, bell pepper) and combines it with the Native American influence of corn. It is often topped with a local protein: chicken, shrimp or crawfish. It's a perfect midsummer dinner!

Bicycling New Orleans, Louisiana


Thursday O&I each packed a small suitcase, locked our bikes into the pick-up and headed to New Orleans for a long weekend. Good Friday 2013 marked not only the annual family reunion but also my 35th birthday: two reasons to get away! During the four years we've been together we've visited NOLA at least half a dozen times but until last weekend it'd never been just the two of us following our own agenda. 

Friday day was spent with family at the St. James Boat Club. As usual, the food (crawfish, oysters and shrimp) was exceptional; if you want to read more about it be sure to check out last year's post. That night we drove 45 minutes into New Orleans and checked into our AirBnbWe picked this particular AirBnb because of it's location and price: Garden District, walking distance to both the St. Charles streetcar as well as the shops along Magazine Street. We were satisfied to find even one AirBnb that fit our criteria and since beggars can't be choosers we agreed to be happy there regardless of it's condition. Walking in with medium expectations we were blown away by how much this AirBnb over-delivered (since we booked it has posted all new photos that more accurately document the home). More about this amazing home at the bottom of this post. 

Saturday morning O&I were eager to hop on our bikes and get started on the 15 mile route I'd mapped out back home. The morning was spent visiting boutiques, antique shops and vintage clothing stores on Magazine Street (it was my birthday so he indulged my shopping kick). Just before lunch we picked up a sandwich at the French bakery, La Boulangerie, and continued towards Audubon Park. Outside of the zoo we climbed into an ancient Oak tree and shared our sandwich. 

From the park it was back the way we came and onward to Avenue Pub (a world class beer bar on par with Atlanta's Porter). From Avenue Pub we went weaving in and out of rick-shaws and streetcars on St. Charles to riding down the tracks on Canal Street. Canal Street to the French Quarter.  Near the French Market we darted between tourists and stopped traffic occasionally glancing back to make sure the other hadn't been lost in the thick crowds. Left on Esplanade. A few laps around Royal and Bourbon (with a stop for to-go beers at Verti Marte) and then back to Avenue Pub. It was here that I came face to face with a man on a motorcycle with an adorable pup in his sidecar (photo above). Avenue Pub back to the AirBnb. 

Back at home base we cleaned up and prepared to head back out for a night on the town. This time we walked to the St. Charles streetcar. The sun was setting and the breeze was warm; I was in heaven. We disembarked at Canal Street (the same spot we'd biked through earlier in the day) and walked to Galatoire's. (Galatoire's - there's so much to say about this historic restaurant - so much that I think I'll finish this thought at a later date.) Galatoire's to Arnaud's French 75 to Frenchmen street in search of live music. On Frenchmen we enjoyed a small art fair, bought a triptych of painted oysters, eggs and a bottle of hot sauce and then headed into the Blue Nile for fun. Very late in the night we rode the streetcar "home" again. Everything was wonderful.

More about the Parks Bowman Mansion
The "Parks Bowman Mansion" is everything an outsider hopes to find in an antebellum New Orleans home. Imagine a mash-up of Interview with a Vampire, Tim Burton and Dia Dos Muertos. The two nights we stayed there we had the entire third floor to ourselves; this included a library, private balcony and very comfortable bed. To top it off our hosts were far and away the most generous, warmest and most interesting AirBnb hosts we have ever encountered. (Thanks again to Adrienne, Bill and their lovely menagerie). If you go, be sure to visit at least one of the two timeless and romantic restaurants just blocks from their home (Commander's Palace and Coquettes) and tell them we sent you!

Easter with friends

We spent Easter Sunday in Baton Rouge with Oliver's best friends from high school (it works in our favor that they married one another). Mandy's* Easter goodies were impressive as always (her baking and cake decorating skills are second only to my cousin Amber, a full time cake decorating professional). Pictured here are Mandy's hollow Rice Krispie Treat eggs filled with M&M's, coated with white chocolate and individually decorated. Just below them, in those perfect clear take out containers, you'll see traditional Rice Krispies, coated in dark chocolate and each uniquely decorated. There were also very cool ostrich eggs made of white chocolate, filled with pudding and topped with a cake ball to look like egg yoke! 

As a person who barely cooks and never bakes Mandy's skills impress me. Add to that that she did all this with two little boys and a five week old girl and I am speechless. AND she goes back to her full time job at a biology lab next week. High five to super woman!

One of the couple's several sister/sister-in-laws** also made half a dozen of the ever-impressive silk tie die eggs. Except to make this fun decorating technique even better then usual - they filled their eggs with cash! Way to up the intensity of the same old egg hunt! Thanks again to our friends for making us feel like family on the holidays. We'll never be able to find the words to tell you how much it means to us. 

*For anyone at our wedding, Mandy made the mini Whoopie Pies that disappeared in seconds after the dessert table opened. 
** Shout out to Sam's sister Stephanie!
***I also had the pleasure to finally meet Kari and Stewart, of www.raringstogo.blogspot.com. Kari is Mandy's younger sister as well as a fellow blogger. Check out their blog soon - they'll be moving from Texas to India later this month!

Good Friday in Louisiana

My apologies for the lack of posts over the last week. I aim to post at least every other day but I also do not have a smart phone, iPad or laptop so when we travel - I don't post. And yes! That means we've been traveling! We left Atlanta at 4pm on Thursday and jumped on the road for the annual Boudreaux Family Good Friday Reunion in Reserve, Louisiana. 

Boudreaux is a BIG, very common, last name in that part of the country so I should specify that this particular reunion is for Oliver's grandfather's 12 siblings and their countless descendants. ("Pops", Oliver's grandfather, and his wife, Aimee', have 7 children - multiply that by Pops' 12 siblings and you get an idea of how many people we're talking about). 

I consider myself "East Coast" and not particularly "Southern". (This surprises some people because I was born in, raised in and after college returned to - Atlanta. I know my parents consider me "Mid-Western" and my college friends see me as "Southern"... but once I leave Atlanta all surrounding culture is quite foreign.)  My husband's home state of Louisiana is VERY SOUTHERN (read: foreign). I am still fascinated by everything I've married into - including, but not limited to: THE FOOD! I'll let the reunion food photos speak for themselves with promises to return to normal posting ASAP. (After a quick Easter update tomorrow). Things to note: the crawfish in the galvanized steel tub are alive (as are the ones in the nearby purple mesh bag), both casseroles have shrimp and the freshly shucked oysters were huge and delicious. 

Sadly, the rest of our quick trip was taken up with repairs on our rental properties so we weren't able to see the other side of Oliver's family. Our apologies to the Rivets with a promise to see them all next time! So sorry we missed you!

Christmas in Louisiana

We spent our Christmas in Louisiana visiting both sides of Oliver's family. Before we left Atlanta I pledged to eat healthy and get the most exercise I could. My success was mixed. While I did eat a lot of local foods it was fairly hard to find anything I considered "good for you". (Every salad I encountered was iceberg based). Fortunately I was able to do a lot of walking (mostly around Baton Rouge and NOLA). 

Perhaps the biggest offender I enjoyed eating was a fried oyster Po Boy from a NOLA bodega found years ago by Oliver and recently endorsed by Anthony Bourdain. I asked about having the oysters grilled (in the shell) instead of fried - and while the grill cook seemed happy to accommodate - I decided a slimy sandwich might be gross.  One giant, mayo slathered, deep fried sandwich a year is okay. Everything in moderation! So, no regrets. 

And now, it's time for the gym!