My Veggie Tale

FoodincLast year I set a goal for myself to try one new vegetable a month. Leading up to this idea, I had watched enough food/health documentaries on Netflix to convince myself that a plant-based diet is the only way to survive. At that time, the only veggies I ate were pretty much corn, beans and potatoes – not the best selection. My ultimate goal was to expand my palate with some healthier, less life-threatening foods.

I should mention, I would’ve said I didn’t like vegetables. Some I even thought would make me “sick.” I do seem to have troubles digesting tomato foods, so my “fear” is grounded in some bit of rational thinking. I think it all started as a kid getting sick after a Chuck-E-Cheese (or was it Showbiz?) outing. I had noticed the sauce changed and now had lots of tomato chunks. The words “chuck” and “chunks” are both doubly relevant. I also recall mixing a bunch of different flavors of soda that night, so I’ve also been afraid to mix flavors since. While I may have gotten sick for any number of other reasons, that’s what I ended up associating it with.

So, how did it go?

Well, it actually started off pretty easy. I was at my older brother‘s house in Colorado for Christmas and knocked a few out right away. Another brother had made spaghetti squash with dinner one night. I’m not sure it was the best to start with, but I gave it a try. I don’t remember much about the taste, but I didn’t care for the texture.

The next vegetable was artichoke. It was on a Papa Murphy’s chicken-artichoke thin crust pizza. The pizza was already a flavor I would have liked if the artichoke was left off, so it was a pretty easy try. Turns out, I really liked the combination. I’ve started trying other foods with artichoke in it, and for the most part enjoy them.

fajitas.JPGOther successes came later on. We tried a recipe from my sister-in-law for pork roast with red potatoes and zucchini that was very good. I also enjoy making (and eating) fajitas with green and red peppers and onion. I also don’t mind spinach on sandwiches or as part of other things, like pastas or pizza. While I don’t mind the flavor or asparagus, I prefer it to be with something else – like potatoes or in a pasta.

I was introduced to humus a couple years ago, and instantly became a fan. Someplace I read that an idea for a healthy snack was to dip carrots in humus instead of pita chips. I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I just can not swallow carrots. I don’t know what it is, but it feel like I have to keep chewing and just can’t get them to go down. Carrots that are cooked and soft, like in a stew, I can eat just fine.

fortunePerhaps the biggest breakthrough was stir fry. Now, I have always thought of stir fry as a Chinese food, which I avoide for a couple of reasons. One is that it tends to have lots of vegetables, mushrooms, and weird looking meat. The second is that nobody ever says they feel great after eating a plate full of Kung Pao chicken.

Anyways, my wife’s Grandma was staying with us for a while after Harvey was born and made chicken stir fry for dinner. Instead of soy sauce and white rice, she used olive oil too cook with and long grain and wild rice on the side. It wasn’t like Chinese food at all and to my surprise, I really liked it. The broccoli didn’t smell or taste bad. My impression of broccoli was that it smelled and tasted about like a full garbage bag. Now I could probably eat some form of stir fry a few times a week and be happy.

So, what did I learn from all this?

I’d have to say that first off, vegetables in fact, do not make me sick. Secondly, fresh whole vegetables are much different from frozen bags of chopped veggies. Third, cooking or adding vegetables to other foods goes a long way to getting them into my diet.

While I didn’t stick to the one-a-month plan, I have made quite a bit of progress. My goal for the future is to start replacing processed, prepackaged and frozen foods with more organic fruits and vegetables. Luckily, resources for healthier eating are becoming more convenient, with both the Fresh Market and New Pioneer Co-op both recently opening stores in Cedar Rapids. Eventually, I plan to start cutting back on meat, as well (more on this later). But I still won’t mix pop or eat tomatoes…

New Vegetables Eaten:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Red/Green/Yellow peppers
  • Snap peas
  • Spinnach
  • Squash
  • Zucchini

Resolution 01

No, this is not really a post about a resolution for the new year. “Resolution” is in reference to image resolution, and an ongoing learning project I have started for myself. “01” refers to this being the first installment of it.

Several months ago, I bought a Panasonic Lumix G6 camera. It’s a micro four-thirds format interchangeable lens system – basically a DSLR without the mirror mechanism. This makes for a much lighter, smaller camera body and lenses – among other things beneficial to me. A friend had turned me towards the m43 format, and I’m glad he did. Because the camera was small and felt unobtrusive, I felt comfortable taking it with me around the hospital when my son, Harvey, was born. I’m glad I have those pictures.

drdadBefore Harvey was born, I hadn’t gotten completely comfortable with the camera yet, and I still don’t completely understand the science of photography. Luckily, there is a pretty good (and quick to turn on) fully automatic setting on the camera. I used this most of the time at the hospital.  It was even easy enough to be able to pass off the camera to someone else. For the most part, given the conditions, the pictures turned out great. However, there were quite a few where the focus wasn’t on what was wanted, and a lot of grainy, blurry images from the low light in the room.

More or less, I understand the basic concepts of how to use the aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. It takes me a bit too long to remember which button does what when the dial is set on what mode, and how to use the combination of things to achieve the image I want. I read up on these things and start to get a better understanding of them, however, it’s just real-world experience that does the most help.

That’s why I’ve started a bit of my own “challenge.” Because I didn’t like making a photo collection called “Practice,” I’ve decided to refer to this project as “Resolution.” The goals I am setting out to achieve are:

  • learn all of the features of my camera.
  • get comfortable with the controls and settings.
  • understand better how to control depth of field.
  • work on composition.
  • find interesting points of view.

My plan is to take my camera out with me once every week or so and find someplace to take some pictures. I’ve already done this a couple of times on my lunch breaks. I’ve found it can be kind of hard to find something interesting to take pictures of by just picking a random spot in a park. Part of the challenge, though, is to find an interesting way to look at everyday things.

One afternoon I was parked on the street along a park and planned to go walk along a creek. The snow was deeper than I anticipated, so I ended up just looking around on the side of the road. It was all pretty boring. About the only thing I saw that could be interesting was the full bright sun, high up in the sky without a cloud to be seen. So I took some pictures of the sun peaking around the side of a telephone pole. Still, not very interesting. It did give me a chance to experiment with the exposure, though.

Street ShadowI finally realized, the interesting part wasn’t the sun or the pole, but rather the shadow created by them both. I got down low and actually had the camera on the ground. I tried a few different things, and eventually packed up feeling underwhelmed.

Once I got back to my computer, and after a bit of cropping, I ended up with an image I actually enjoy. Which made me realize I need to focus more on my framing and composition. That’s all it took to make a relatively boring scene into something interesting.

As I continue with this project, I’ll be posting my results to my flickr account as well as writing updates here – hopefully with what I’ve learned!