Monday, September 30, 2013

Jordan Estate Tour & Tasting.

I wanted to share this particular experience with you all because, well,  I love Jordan...

The wines.  The people.  The estate.

Located in the heart of the Alexander Valley amidst the rolling, burnished hills and ancient oak trees of Sonoma County, Jordan Vineyard and Winery sits quietly and graciously alone, in an almost palatial fashion.  With it's gorgeous ivy-covered chateau, extensive lawns, exquisite guest suites and fantastic wines (of course), Jordan Winery has long been a favorite of aficionados from all over the world.  

"One of the few wine country estates with nearly 1,000 acres dedicated to to natural habitat, Jordan Estate is a journey for all senses, enchanting wine lovers, epicures and nature lovers alike."

Enchanting indeed.  The hubbs and I have been fans for years, and were lucky enough to be invited to test drive a very special opportunity that Jordan has now made available to the public-- an estate tour and tasting.  Previously, guests were only able to visit Jordan by appointment or invitation, which was limited to the visiting the winery grounds and tasting room.  Now, by reservation, guests can experience the entire estate by touring in Jordan's super-luxe coach, experiencing points-of-interest all throughout the property.  All this, while sampling Jordan's wines and indulging in property-grown food pairings, prepared by Estate Executive Chef, Todd Knoll. 

The scones. The scones!
You will start by touring the 40-year-old Winery Chateau, which radiates classic French sophistication and elegance. Marvel at the towering oak casks in the cellar room, ornate architectural details and luscious surrounding gardens while learning the history of the Jordan family legacy.  On our visit, we were presented a lovely breakfast of house-made scones, freshly squeezed orange juice, house-made preserves and fresh fruit grown on the property.  A delicious beginning.

Fruit Orchard.
Tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans.
Continue on, meandering down through the hills- keep your eyes open for wildlife!  The Jordan Estate property is teeming with birds, deer, rabbits and other woodland creatures all living peacefully and happily amongst the vines.  Your next stop is the Chef's Garden, nearly an acre of vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs that provide Chef Knoll with "inspiration for seasonal, farm-fresh dishes to pair with Jordan Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon."  The garden was copious and thriving for us, with ripened fruits and vegetables that we were encouraged to sample.  We tasted figs, tomatoes, onions, carrots, basil, apples and fresh herbs, all of which were simply mouth-watering.

Bouquet anyone?
Fell in love with these fire-colored roses.
Next door to the chef's garden, you will have the pleasure of viewing (and perhaps picking a flower or two) at their very own cutting flower garden.  It here that the staff finds their awesome blooms for the arrangements you will see scattered around the estate corridors.  I was taken aback by the rare Austin roses, fluffy like cotton balls and delicate as lace.  The garden focuses on heritage and exotic flowers, over two dozen varieties, all of which are used in Director of Hospitality & Events, Knitsa Knoll's floral arrangements for Jordan events.  Take note as your pull away from the gardens and notice the of solar photovoltaic array- an impressive installation of solar power that has reduced the estate's utility bill by 99%, churning out CO2 offsets equivalent to planting nearly 8,000 trees to date.

Solar power.
Say cheese!
Goose & Mav.
Another wonderful aspect of touring the estate is getting to visit the farm.  A petite barn, chickens (Australorp to be exact), donkeys ("Goose" and "Maverick"), longhorn steer and black Angus cows dot the pasture, setting an ideal scene for visitors.  CEO John Jordan is even exploring the possibilities of farming his very own beef for consumption on the estate, blending his breeds, thus creating the "perfect" home-grown cattle hybrid.  You can't help but think to yourself, "This place has it all."

Until you see the lake.

 Chair on the deck and I'm good.
As you can tell by now, the Jordan family's passion for nature is present and clear.  The estate boasts a thriving wetland, and a fully stocked 10 acre lake that is surrounded by forest and olive trees.  This brings us to Seven Oaks.

"Named for its cluster of craggy, blue oaks, Seven Oaks is nestled at the edge of Jordan Lake.  This serene corner of the estate is a haven for wildlife and offers sweeping views of our olive orchards and grapevines.  Its dock is the perfect place for sipping Jordan Chardonnay."

Shadowy snacks.
Ginger, pistachios... Best cracker ever.
It is here where we sampled our first pairing with 2010 & 2011 Jordan Chardonnay.  When we arrived at Seven Oaks, we were greeted and presented a small, dark wooden box with glasses.  Inside of this box rested a special Spiced Garden Escabeche with Gravenstein Apple Vinaigrette & Wild Fennel. Also inside was a Nigiri of Seasonal Fruit with Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sonoma Honey & Citrus.  Both were served in tiny stone bowls, tucked neatly into the boxes-- a slightly more modern, chic presentation that contrasted nicely with our rustic surroundings.  I adored the fresh basil, tomato and beets of the escabeche, and the unusual combination of fresh fruit with cool, faintly seasoned rice "nigiri" style was a delightful surprise.  Both paired seamlessly with the Chardonnay-- I enjoyed the 2010 immensely and was sad to leave both the view and that little wooden box behind.

One of the many olive groves.
The experience at this point was turning somewhat dreamy, with the perfect weather, wonderful wine and great company.  As our coach rambled up the rocky hills, letting way to panoramic valley views, I noticed a considerable incline beginning to occur.  Rows and rows of vines were passing us by, groves of olives and more grapes than the eye could see.  Our ride came to a lumbering halt under the giant bay trees at the Creekside Landing...

"Situated between our sustainably-farmed vineyards, this seasonal creek is a tranquil habitat for native flora and fauna.  The Creekside Landing bridge leads to an ideal location for exploring the grapevines' annual life cycle."

Excited and giddy, we were finally able to dig our toes (shoes, actually) into the rich soil of Jordan Winery, red, silty and richly textured.  The majority of us whipped out our cameras and couldn't get enough of the scenery, while others walked along the wines plucking samples of berries in their natural, original form.  The sun was high in the sky and although the air was dry and warm, the vines were lush and beautiful-- I couldn't resist plucking a few of the deep purple marbles from their clusters, savoring the tangy not-quite-ready zing that only a fresh grape can produce.  And yes, I pulled out my camera and took some photographs of my own.  How could I resist?


I could tell that this entire journey was headed up hill-- a really, really big hill.  After we left the grapevines behind, we set off on a vertical ascent up a rocky driveway surrounded by flaxen gold fields and wooded crevices.  I watched the birds flitting from one tree to another, gazing across the horizon at the hills that felt so familiar to me.  Growing up in Sonoma County was such a blessing and I miss it so much, everyday.  Visiting Jordan is like taking a small mental vacation for me, where I can take deep breaths and feel a little bit sentimental for lichen covered oaks and dry chaparral landscapes.  Giant dark boulders with lime green moss peek out from behind manzanitas, beetles and crickets fill the air with a constant summertime buzz that quiets as you pass through their massive playground.  Small, dry creeks weaving their way through tall grass, jack-rabbits peering through aged tree stumps at the passers-by...  

As I was busy zoning out on the beauty surrounding us, I hadn't realized that we were about to reach our final destination on the tour.  At the very top of the largest hill on the estate grounds sits Vista Point, one of the highest locations in the county providing a complete 360 degree view of the entire surrounding wine regions.

"Breathtaking views from Jordan Estate's highest hilltop give Vista Point its name.  The stunning panorama of three mountain ranges and three wine regions define this one-of-a-kind location.  A fitting culmination to the ultimate excursion."

Once we had all taken in the enormous view, we were seated for a special final pairing and relaxation period under arguably one of the most elegantly constructed roofed entertaining areas I've ever seen.  All stone and polished wood, hammered copper and slick concrete floors.  A blazing contrast to the natural environment encapsulating this dream dining room.  I smiled when I first saw the cool, perfect, modern little house sitting against the crackling crunch of summer in Sonoma county.  A place of respite and contemplation, where it feels special to be at one with the wind and wine.  

In front of me sat another wooden box- this time made of bamboo.  Along with it, a tiny sky blue colored Staub ramekin and a pressed linen napkin.  Inside of the box was a Selection of Sonoma County & European Artisanal Cheeses.  One can never have enough cheese.  In the cast iron ramekin was a small-bite of Miso-Glazed Sonoma Beef with Maitake Mushrooms & Braised Endive.  We were also served the 2002 & 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our afternoon bites, both of which were an absolute dream to drink.  The perfect ending to a perfect day.

Thank you to the family and staff at Jordan Winery & Estate for this delicious, delightful adventure. This experience will stay with me for years to come...


Jordan Winery Estate Tour & Tasting info is available at
Tours are 3 hours long at the cost of $120 per guest
Or call 800.654.1213 for arrangements

*Photos 1, 7, 8, 13 & 16 courtesy of
All other photos are authors own.




Friday, September 13, 2013

Day Five: The End. 2013 Hunger Challenge

I'm going to keep my post short and sweet today, bringing up the rear of the 2013 Hunger Challenge. Throughout this week I have learned so much about myself and even more about hunger issues that are affecting so many of those around us.  While I seemed to do just fine with the amount of food I was allotted, keep in mind these things:

-  I do not work a 9-5 job.  I have the freedom of planning my day as I please, therefore I am able to cook mid day, or spend extra time preparing dishes if need be.  I am also not working in a physically demanding field, which would change thing completely- burn more fuel, need more fuel.

-  We do not have a family.  Providing for both myself and the hubbs is infinitely easier than say, if we had two kids.  Our budget would be slightly bigger, but portions would most certainly shrink.

-  I have access to several different grocery store options in my area, where perhaps those options might not be available to the majority.

-  I live in an ideal situation, in an ideal house with all of the proper tools and appliances to accommodate my needs.  That may also not be the case for the majority.

-  My experience was temporary.  Knowing that made getting to Friday a relief.  Those who live this day-to-day life do not have that luxury and will continue on hungry.

I'm actually very interested in continuing this challenge next week, beginning on Monday to see if I can diversify my meals and make more out of less.  While one week is a valiant effort, I don't feel like it sheds true light on the reality of have so very little.  I'm going to try and meal plan better, add more vegetables, less starch and figure out a balance to make the most of what nutritional value I can manage.

Here's what was left of our challenge food...


For breakfast today, I shredded a potato (1) and made myself hash browns.  I finished off the rest off our cantaloupe (2 oz) and had a small glass of whole milk (1/2 cup).  Plenty for more today, as Ive got a busy list of errands to run before going out of town.

My lunch was very light, consisting of sliced tomatoes (1/2 tomato), a piece of whole wheat toast (1 slice) and a super under-ripe plum (1 yucky).  I think the excitement of Friday is taking over and I just have too many things on my mind to eat much.  Which is fine, because there's not much left to eat. I'm running out of time for packing my things and getting the dog ready to go, so I think I'm just preoccupied.  I must admit, dinner will be on the go tonight since we'll be on the road.  I am bringing with me our last plum and some of our bread for snacking.  We'd otherwise eat what leftovers we have in the fridge, consisting of mashed potatoes from the day before yesterday, and last night's pasta remnants.  


The 2013 Hunger Challenge may officially come to an end tonight, but I'm not done yet.  I have struggled, yes, with this week's eating options, but I'm curious to continue the journey.  Honestly, I think a month of this same challenge would prove more realistic, but I'm at least willing to give another week at this point.  It has definitely opened my eyes in so many ways, some that I am proud of and others not so much.  The main goal of this was to bring awareness to people about the ongoing problem of hunger in our very own backyards.  Living this way is not easy by any means, and the more it is brought to light, perhaps the more of us fortunate folks can help make the less fortunate life a little better.

Visit for more info on how to help.

Be well,


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day Four: Wanting. 2013 Hunger Challenge.

Last night, the hubbs and I were discussing how fortunate we are to be able to entertain our indulgences by eating & drinking whatever we choose on a regular basis.  In fact, it's probably our primary source of "cash-burn", seeing as we eat out quite a bit and I love to shop for fancy foods at higher priced grocery stores.  This week I'm being reminded that the majority of the population does not have that choice and rarely ever will.

I kept saying to the hubbs, "I just want sushi!" In a whiney voice I proclaimed, "I can't wait to have a steak this weekend" and "I'm getting sick of tomatoes."  Well boo-hoo for me.  The more I thought about it, the more embarrassed I was that I was actually complaining already.  Day four and I'm being a big, spoiled baby.  We have plenty of "food" to feed ourselves with, it's just not the food I want. Wow Beth, must be nice to have the option.  Knowing that this situation is temporary is a reassuring thought, but what if it wasn't?  What if this was my reality?

Feeling moody and irritable, I made a quick breakfast this morning.  I need to clean my house and get out of it for some fresh air.  I whipped up a breakfast burrito using our pantry eggs (1), some cheddar cheese (1 oz) and sliced, leftover tomato (1 oz).  My nectarine was starting to get over-ripe, so I sliced that up and savored the juicy sweetness.  My dependable glass of whole milk (1/2 cup) sure tasted good, I wish I could keep drinking more.  For those who don't know, I regularly drink about a half gallon of milk each day-- I'm obsessed.  I woke up with slight headache, but eating the fruit has helped a little bit, so that's good.


Again, today I wasn't particularly hungry for lunch but I forced myself to have something, just because I'd knew I'd be very low on energy by later tonight I didn't eat.  Kept it basic with some white rice (1/2 cup), a few chunks of cantaloupe (1/2 cup) and a glass of sparkling water.  Not a very satisfying meal, but it will have to do for now.  

My natural cravings are definitely kicking in full-force today.  As I was out running errands, I kept noticing EVERY restaurant I passed by.  I also came to the conclusion that a good portion of my free time is spent enjoying food-- whether I'm brunching with friends, eating breakfast with the dog at a local cafe, BBQ'n, having dinner parties or just testing new recipes on the hubbs.  Not having the outlet has been eye-opening in a way I never expected.  Instead of grocery shopping every day for a new dish I'd like to attempt that evening, or going to watch the game and having a beer, I'm forced to find other ways to spend my extra hours.  

I guess I've never realized (or at least forgotten) how much money I was spending just on food related fun... Hello?


Since the hubbs will be participating in the Pacific Grove Triathlon this weekend, he's been needing to do some major carb-loading.  This hasn't been a problem this week, obviously.  With our supplies running very thin, I still managed to come up with really tasty meal for dinner this evening.  I was happily surprised by taste and ease of the pasta, while the cheese sauce gave a good amount of flavor.  

I used our farfalle pasta bowties (1 1/4 cup per), canned chopped tomatoes (1 cup per), chicken stock (2 cups for boiling pasta), the remainder of our cheddar cheese (4 oz) a smidge of whole milk (1 cup), leftover pan seared boneless skinless chicken breast (1/2 breast per) and last but not least, garlic (1 clove) boiled along with the pasta, peeled and incorporated into sauce.  I spread the mixture into a casserole and topped it with fresh cut tomato and place in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes.  The results were a hit with the hubbs, and I rather enjoyed it myself.

As a treat, and because tomorrow is the last day of the 2013 Hunger Challenge, I decided to come up with a fun dessert with some of the fruits we still have.  I sliced our watermelon (1 small) in half, scooped out the insides and mashed them like potatoes.  I then took the few over-ripe strawberries (approx 8) and included them in the mash.  I then added whole milk and mixed very thoroughly until the melon/berry was a rough, creamy puree.  For kicks, I poured the mixture into each half of watermelon and threw it into the freezer for a few hours.  Voila!  Melonberry ice milk, served in a watermelon shell.  It was nice to have something sweet to share after our meal.  While it was a very mild dessert, it still brought smiles.

Foods we have left for tomorrow:
1/2 small loaf of whole wheat bread
1 cup farfalle pasta
1/4 gallon of milk
1 yellow onion
3 oz Monterey jack cheese
5 flour tortillas
2 plums
1 tomato

Should be interesting.

Day Four done... 



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day Three: Feeling good. 2013 Hunger Challenge

I slept like a rock last night, thanks to this cool weather and a bit of over-exertion yesterday.  That is a good thing, since my sleep patterns have been so up and down ever since the little dude with all the energy came to live with us.  We were up before the sun today, or rather, with the sun-- but strangely, it didn't feel so bad to be up, perky and ready to take on the day.

I'm starting Wednesday off right by having a nutritious meal that will help fuel my favorite workout, swimming.  I've recently rediscovered my love for swimming and have been enjoying regular trips to our community pool.  Not only is it fantastic during the hot weather, swimming just makes me feel good all over.  There's a certain freedom to jumping in the pool, feeling the water against your skin and having super-human power as you pull your way down the lanes.  For that, I need fuel.

Today's breakfast:  poached egg (1), whole wheat toast (1 slice), skillet potato (1/2 russet), some cantaloupe and a few strawberries.  Whole milk (1 cup) as always.  Hearty, but necessary to get me through the next few hours of busy work and pool time.

I really enjoy being up early in the morning, especially when the weather is mild.  Being in the kitchen prepping food and cooking in the A.M. makes me feel very homey.  I love having the dog under my feet as I shuffle around in pj's toasting, slicing, sipping and savoring the quiet time.


My morning went as planned but I struggled with the swim, having covered only 800 meters in 45 minutes (which is slow for me).  I need to get back into the groove and on a regular schedule again, otherwise my body and metabolism suffers.  Before my workout, I drove over to Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek to visit the dog patch, which resulted in a good hour of chasing our four-legged friend around with a frisbee... Somehow I always manage doing all the work as my dog looks on in curiosity. Nonetheless, a nice way to burn some calories and get outside both swimming and at the park.

Upon my return home I was surprised to notice that I wasn't quite as famished as I thought I'd be, so I pushed myself a little harder by getting household chores done and watering our huge garden.  This time of year is huge relief for homeowners (in my opinion) because the sun finally relents and the winds pick up, giving a breath of fresh air to a recently parched landscape.  With the sprinklers on and my pants rolled up to my knees, I managed to clean up some stubborn wild seagrass and prune our roses back for the fall.  It took about an hour, so by the time it was 1:30 I could feel my body getting shaky-- the biggest giveaway that I've waited too long is that I start to smell ammonia through my nose.  Think I'm kidding? I'm not.  Check this article out to learn more about the strange and wonderful ways are bodies tell us, "Hey! I need sustenance!"

Eat I did.  I kept it relatively simple with a whole wheat (1 slice) grilled cheese sandwich using our precious cheddar cheese (1 oz), along with a chopped tomato (1 oz) & white onion (1/2 oz) salsa, a side of cantaloupe (1 serving) and washed it down with whole milk (1/2 cup).  I've already drank about 64 fluid ounces of water today in an attempt to stay incredibly hydrated, so that's a positive thing.  I know, I know- my bread looks totally burnt.  I had to figure out how to do grilled cheese without oil or butter, so I used our broiler and lost track of time.  Not wanting to waste, I scraped off the worst bits and ate it anyways.  I will say that I rarely eat this much bread, let alone sandwich bread, but I am grateful to have it.  I really wished I would've planned better and purchased a head of lettuce, spinach, or some cucumbers, as we are definitely lacking in greens this week.  At least I still have a yellow onion and some carrots left to use for supper, along with tomatoes.


I was trying to go as lean as possible for today, but I quickly realized that our food options are starting to become a little more tricky.  We have fruit left, some dry pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, an onion, chicken broth and 1 chicken breast left for tomorrow and Friday.  I'm not terribly concerned, but the strange remainder of ingredients is making things slightly interesting-- my creativity will prevail!

For dinner tonight, I wanted a typical triangle meal with meat, starch and vegetables.  That's exactly what I got when I pan seared boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 oz per), steamed some of our carrots (1- 7in. per) and then boiled & mashed our russet potatoes (1 potato per).  Because we have one extra tomato, I sliced one for us to share before dinner.  A basic, filling meal that I was able to give a little more flavor by adding the pan sauce from the chicken to the potatoes, along with a dash of milk for creaminess.  Not too bad.  Considerably healthy.

I had a MEAN case of the snackies this afternoon that was driving me crazy.  I found myself pacing around the house looking for something to do just to distract myself from diving into my candybag. Indeed, I keep a bag of gummy bears, milk duds, skittles, sour patch kids and junior mints stashed in my cupboard for emergencies.  All I could do was stare at it.  But I didn't give in!

Day Three... Done.        

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day Two: B-L-D. 2013 Hunger Challenge

Last night was pretty hard.  I went to bed around 9:30 with the intention of falling asleep pretty quickly, but was kept up by my slowly grumbling stomach.  As I tossed and turned, my body couldn't relax and the pang became annoyingly noticeable.  By two in the morning, all I could think of was, "Can't wait for breakfast... Ugh."  I think it was around 3 when I finally dozed off, thankfully.

The dog wakes me up every morning quite early, as dogs do, but today I woke up feeling motivated-- if not a little sluggish.  I usually let him do his business and then crawl back into bed, but today I simply made the bed, checked me email and began to put together breakfast.

I'm not normally a breakfast gal, but after yesterday I thought it pretty important to fuel up for the day, since I have bunch I need to get accomplished and will be whirring for a few hours solid.  Today I made myself one soft scrambled egg, 2 slices of whole wheat toast, 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries and my token 1/2 cup of whole milk.  That's a bigger breakfast than I would ever normally eat, but I have to say, I feel better when I do.  Starting off my day at 369 calories.

Note to self: still waiting for my stone fruits and melons to ripen.  My strawberries were ready to eat and will need to be used within the day or tomorrow, while my larger fruit is still firm and inedible. The cantaloupe has about a day, along with the watermelon, but the peach, plum and nectarine were all unripe when purchased.  Craving the lightness and sweetness of fruit, so berries will have to do for now.

We'll see how far my resilience lasts today on a full morning meal...


I got most of my errands finished up, including lugging 23 quarts of paint down to the hazardous waste recycling center, braving Costco at 10am for a box of triathlon nutrition bars for the hubbs, watering the garden and spending a hot hour at the dog park.  I've been busy this last hour writing other articles and keeping correspondence up to speed, all while enjoying a semi-dull lunch.  Not much you can do with carrots (1 carrot) and white rice (1/2 cup), so I portioned out a little (1/4 cup) of last nights leftovers for substance.  Topped off with a glass of sparkling water, I feel satisfied if not underwhelmed.  Saving our fresh tomatoes for this evenings tacos.  Why don't I just have a sandwich you ask?  Well, I couldn't afford lunch meats, and other than that I have cheese, which I'm trying to make last all week.  I gobbled up my lunch quickly, all 356 calories of it.


This evening I prepared the hubbs favorite- Mexican food!  Well, sort of.  As close to it as I can get. I used our 80% lean ground chuck (4 oz per), flour tortillas (1 per), tomato (1 chopped), and Monterey jack cheese (2oz), along with white onion (1/2 chopped) and I thought that I'd try shredded carrots in place of something crunchy, like lettuce (1 carrot).  I tossed in some garlic (1 clove, minced) for some flavor with the beef and then decided to add hot water to the mixture and braise it.  I find that when you have a cheaper cut of meat, especially ground beef, it always helps to braise in order to soften up the texture.  It will also help to permeate the garlic into the beef, giving it a richer flavor.  

Not the prettiest, but it didn't taste bad!
I had a hard time with this meal because I desperately wanted to keep eating the tacos.  I could sit and eat four or five if left to my own device, but I'm sticking to the plan and only allowing myself a serving. Luckily, a serving of ground beef is rather generous, so this meal, wrapped up in a large tortilla, was plenty satisfying.  Self-restraint is more difficult when it's a favorite food.  I will be taking advantage of these leftovers for sure-- maybe for lunch? 

I've found that by dinner time, I'm pretty darn ready to eat.  We generally aim for 6:30 at the latest (due to the hubbs work schedule) and on Day Two, I was definitely feeling the growl by 5pm.

Tomorrow, I think I'll try going lean and light.  That's been a big struggle, figuring out how to eat well enough to feel energized and FULL at the same time.  I can't eat potatoes all week or I won't be able to move, nor can I eat only raw veggies or lean meats for the opposite reason- I'll faint.  Plus, I'm swimming my regular 1200 meters in the morning, we'll see how that makes me feel.   

Day Two... Done.   



Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day Jitters: 2013 Hunger Challenge

So here's the thing....

I have this new pug puppy who's a maniac and needs to be run like a thoroughbred pony for the majority of the day in order to get any peace and quiet around here at night.  It's also 100 degrees at our house, with no air conditioning.  Therefore, I spend the cool mornings running the dog ragged, sweat my way through the afternoons in front of a giant fan with all the windows closed, and then beg for wind in the evenings, which rarely arrives.

Today I got up pretty early, cleaned my house, took pug to the dog park (stood without shade for an hour), walked another half mile, brought him back home and then jumped in the car to go grab groceries.  I was hungry before I left for the store, but decided to stick it out in order to conserve.  By this time (around 11am) I am usually pretty voracious for something, anything, to eat.  Knowing that I had limited food amounts definitely made me think twice about *when* I was going to have lunch-- even after mid-range exertion.  I kept thinking to myself, "I'm not even really putting forth that much physical effort and I'm famished.  Argh!"

When I finally found the time to eat lunch, I was feeling lightheaded and very, very cranky because I'd waited too long to eat and my blood sugar level had plummeted.  I'm one of those people that are good one second, and totally not ok the next when it comes to personal fuel, so the lesson I will be taking away from today is that I should eat breakfast.  When meal planning and limiting intake of food becomes an issue, it's crucial to start out on the right foot.  Tomorrow I will be making myself a decent breakfast, because when my lunches are this small, every bite matters.

For lunch today I treated myself to a risky Monterey Jack quesadilla with sliced tomatoes.  I also made sure to savor one cup of whole milk, as an addition of nutrients and a tummy filler.  Yes, I was still hungry and could've eaten more, but that's not the point.  I did notice that it's much harder to NOT snack then I thought it would be.  Because guess what?  We don't have any snacks.  And I forgot to buy other produce.  It is what it is, but man, it's painful realizing that each slice of cheese costs thirty cents.  In order to stretch out the dairy luxury, I portioned myself 2.5 ounces on just one single tortilla. That tomato (both inside and as a side dish), by the way, is about the size of a golfball. Cheesy lunch goodness at 570 calories.

Dinner tonight is a throwback to the good ol' days and cozy, comfy favorite : Tuna Wiggle!  At least that's what we call it, but most people refer to it as Tuna Casserole.  Egg noodles, condensed cream of mushroom soup, albacore tuna and milk, all baked together to form a solid carb bomb.  I decided that if the hubbs was gonna take leftovers to work each day, this was a good place to start because it keeps for a while and still tastes pretty darn good.  It's also quite filling, and strangely satisfying at the same time.  At a whopping 600 calories per serving (1 3/4 cup), this should do the trick for a hearty, homestyle meal. Yum.

For me, this challenge isn't about buying a week's supply of ramen and calling it a day.  That's too easy.  I'm attempting to create thoughtful, decent meals with what little I could manage that possess at least a measurement of nutritional value- not just for myself, but for my husband as well.  I was able to find protein (like lean beef and chicken breasts) as well as canned tuna, pastas and broth at prices that fit in to the daily budget.  It's up to me now to turn the few items I have into dishes that make the most of my limited pantry within the next five days, as if it were my only choice.

Day one... done.



2013 Hunger Challenge.

Today marks the beginning of the San Francisco Food Bank and Marin Food Bank's 2013 Hunger Challenge... Let's do it!

I found this to be an interesting subject topic and with so many well-known local chef's participating, I thought to myself, "Hey, I would like to get the word out."  With that, starting today and running through Friday evening, I will be an active participant in the project.


An invitation from Paul Ash, Executive Director, San Francisco and Marin Food Banks:

"I invite you to participate in a Hunger Challenge designed to bring awareness to the struggles faced by low income residents in our cities. The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks want you to experience what it’s like to build your weekly meals around a food stamp budget and groceries similar to those we distribute at our pantries. 

The Food Bank Hunger Challenge includes two parts – a simulated food pantry experience and a self-imposed $4.50-per-person a day food budget. This challenge is designed with two parts to mirror the experience of food pantry participants who also receive SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps). For the simulated pantry experience, the Food Bank will provide a grocery list for you to purchase foods that are traditionally found at our weekly pantry distributions. This does not count against your $4.50-per-person SNAP food budget. We ask that you live for five business days on the pantry groceries and an additional $4.50 a day per person food budget.

The Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge will begin Monday morning, Sept. 9 and run until midnight, Friday, Sept. 13.We’ve provided a helpful Frequently Asked Questions page about the campaign. 

As you have heard in the news, SNAP benefits are currently under attack in Congress with a proposal to cut the program by $40 billion. In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, and most of them are children.

The grocery list we provide you will parallel what we provide to more than 30,000 families through our pantry network each week. More than 60 percent of each pantry offering is comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables. The healthy produce is complemented by lean protein, such as chicken or eggs, and grains like rice and pasta.

If you’re asking yourself whether this challenge will be difficult and inconvenient, I assure you it will be. Going out for a restaurant dinner or buying a daily latte doesn’t figure into this budget. This will be a week of planning meals and making every dollar stretch.

I invite you to take this challenge with me, so that together we can speak from the perspective of a food pantry participant and SNAP beneficiary."


I began my day with a trip to Target for my grocery needs.  I'm adhering to the pantry grocery list of the following foods, which reflects the food I would receive at the Food Bank pantry, along with a minimal budget of $4.50 a day for additional groceries. 

Quantities are for individuals, (small families, 2+ people) and (large families, 5+ people)

Cantaloupe: 1 medium (1) (2)
Carrots: 6 (9) (12)
Onions: 3 (5) (7)
Oranges: 2 (3) (4)
Pears: 2 (3) (4)
Potatoes: 4 large (6) (8)
Stone Fruit (mix of peaches, plums or nectarines): 4 (5) (6)
Strawberries: 1 carton (1) (2)
Tomatoes: 4 medium (6) (7)
Watermelon: 1 small/medium melon (1) (1 large)
Eggs: 1/2 dozen (1 dozen) (1 dozen)
Rice: 1-lb package (2-lb package) (2-lb package)

I decided to spend my extra $22.50 all at once, on staple products that I knew would last/keep throughout the week such as the following:

Whole Milk (1 gal)
Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
Flour tortilla (10, 8-inch)
Farfalle pasta (12 oz)
Wide Egg noodles (16 oz)
Cream of mushroom soup (1 can)
Diced, peeled canned tomatoes (1 can)
Albacore tuna (10 oz)
Russet potatoes (8)
Ground Chuck (1 lb)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1.5 lb)
Garlic (3 bulbs)

All this for $22.50 you ask?  Yes.  Since I stuck mostly with the cost efficient store brand, the total came to $22.28 out the door.  I substituted the oranges (not a fan) for garlic (need seasoning somewhere!) and walked out feeling pretty satisfied with the amount of food.

While at the store, having to budget and plan meals down to the penny was stressful- every few minutes I'd stop, take out my calculator and really think to myself, "Is this a need or a want? Can it be savored as leftovers?  Are these portions too small?  Why is this so expensive?"  I can't imagine having to do it for a family of four or five- I was struggling just planning for me and the hubbs.  Already effecting my perception, I realized that when it comes down to it, I buy WAY too many groceries for one week.  Being forced to choose the options that would stretch further, I came face to face with my own excess.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days in just one packed grocery bag seems a little intimidating, but we can do it.  

*As soon as pulled in the driveway* 
I thought I did pretty good... Until I realized that I forgot to buy vegetables.  Yes, that's right.  The only veggies in our possession this next week are three tomatoes, a couple onions, lots of potatoes and some carrots.  We usually eat VERY balanced meals around these parts, consisting of a protein, starch and green super vegetable- not this week!  We're back to basics.

I'll be blogging meal recipes and tips on how to make a little go a long way this week during the Hunger Challenge, so stay tuned.  While I realize I am lucky to be making this choice, I am hoping to gain better insight, having been moved to advocate for the hungry. 

Visit for more info on recipes, budget shopping tips, donations and inspirations.

Be well,