Tuesday, March 5, 2013

California: Healthy Eating Extraordinaire

California - a Foodie's paradise!

Part 2. How Living in California became my personal catalyst for healthier eating, cooking from scratch and foodventuring

My Favorite Beach in California (and my backyard for a while)

I started cooking a lot more in California, probably because I was a starving graduate student and eating out was too expensive while cooking at home was just cheaper. Living costs in California are definitely high but what might be surprising to a lot of people is that the cost of food is actually not that bad! You can get three avocados for a dollar during avocado season, 2 pounds of strawberries for a dollar, a bunch of cilantro for 35 cents, 64oz of local, organic, milk for a little over three dollars and a few jicamas for a buck or two. Eliot and I don't shop at the big chain supermarkets, instead, we shop at stores like Henry's (now Sprouts) for our fruit and bulk items, we subscribe to a CSA (community supported agriculture) where we get the majority of our locally grown, organic vegetables delivered to our house, we sometimes frequent Trader Joe's for arugula, mache, tofu, cheese and sausages and we stock up on frozen fruit, frozen fish from time to time, apples and spinach at Costco. This shopping combo has allowed us to save a lot of money on our groceries while still eating very healthy and less processed foods. For example, we make our own muesli, better known as granola to most, by buying nuts, oats, granola, dried fruit and buckwheat from a store like Henry's where you can buy these items by the pound. It's great because you don't really pay for packaging and what you get is what you actually pay for. We usually eat this mix every morning with our home made yogurt - we stopped buying yogurt and started making our own a while ago. Getting our CSA box once every two weeks has been fantastic and a great way to afford local, organic vegetables. Everything we get is seasonal so we get really creative with our cooking and we don't really shop for vegetables at the store anymore, which ends up saving us not only money but also time. We have made spinach strawberry salsa, fennel salad, baked turnips and pumpkin quinoa just to name a few dishes. In my opinion, Trader Joe's is way too much into packaging (do peppers really have to be on a tray wrapped in plastic?) so we only go there for a few items every once in a while because quality is still very good and prices are very reasonable. Costco has made smoothies really easy and cheap to make! We get their frozen berries and add it to the kale, spinach, and/or cabbage we get in our CSA with perhaps some oranges and bananas and ginger. In a matter of minutes, we have a meal ready to go.

Making a summer smoothie after blueberry picking in Santa Barbara

One of the private events we catered: lentil salad, veggies sticks, Moroccan Kefta, Spicy Hummus, Fruit Kabobs and Chocolate Mousse

Now that we cook more at home (we even cater sometimes!), we rarely cook meat at home and often opt for vegetarian meals just because it is easier. We don't really go out to eat but when we do, we make it count. We have explored many of San Diego's culinary hot spots and have found some stellar restaurants. We have found our favorite spots (at a great bang for your buck!) for:

Lebanese (Alforon), fish tacos (Oscar's), adobada tacos (Tacos el Gordo), French with a California twist (Bo Beau), juice bar (Casa de Juice), Vietnamese/Chinese (Phuong Trang), lobster tacos (only on Tuesdays at Jose's in La Jolla), craft beer (too many to name here since SD is the craft capital of the world right now but Green Flash, Regal Beagle, and Tiger Tiger are all pretty good), pupusas (El Salvadoreno), carnitas tacos California style (Carnitas Snack Shack) and sushi (expensive but oh so worth it at Sushi Ota) to name a few.

Foodventuring in San Diego has been really fun. Unlike other cities, you have to go find good food places as they are not all concentrated on one place. Some people complain that food in San Diego is just okay but I feel that SD has great food choices! When I travel I definitely try not to just eat in the touristy spots, and I'm willing to go explore in order to find good, legit local food.

Cooking at home!

This is the kind of spirit I will continue to have during our 6-month trip, which officially starts now! Follow me in my foodventures as we trek around Nepal, explore Ethiopia, cover every bit of Sri Lanka and walk around with Orangutans in Sumatra, Indonesia and then top it all off with a week at Burning Man in Nevada. Eliot and I will try to co-post as much as we can about our trip so make sure to check out his blog as well at www.eliotpeper.com! Before diving into the trip, I'll talk about how this crazy Foodventure trip came to be in Part 3.

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