Wednesday, December 26, 2012

a bit of year-end nostalgia

I can't remember a time in my life, aside from a few bouts with depression long ago, when I was not enamored of food, just about every aspect of it. Cooking has long been my claim to fame, even though on a quite miniscule level. While there is much that I love about the way I cook and eat these days, I do miss a good deal of what I've left behind.

I miss coming home tired from work and starting yeast dough for a pizza that night. I've always made my own sauce, and it was ready and waiting in the freezer for the mood to strike. On several occasions, I made batch after batch of pizza dough from a recipe that had become muscle memory.  They were certainly not perfectly round, and the toppings were a bit esoteric for some tastes, I'm sure---artichoke, eggplant, feta cheese, fresh tomato, jalapeno peppers, anchovies, fresh herbs from the garden as well as the expected and accepted. I will never forget some of the children in our family discussing my pizzas. They all agreed they were the best they'd ever eaten. I loved that. And I miss it.

Yesterday, I served a lasagne as part of a buffet lunch. It had to be gluten-free so that I could even handle preparing and cooking it. I had to ask GK and my daughter to taste the sauce as I made it. It was big and heavy with several kinds of cheese, a bit of eggplant still hanging on in our garden, thin slices of summer squash, spinach, and of course, the somewhat spicy homemade sauce. As it came out of the oven to oohs and aahs from a few nearby family members, I was almost simultaneously sad that I could not enjoy it myself and guilty that I was serving something I don't look upon as healthy to people I love. It's a weird one, like pouring another drink for a friend who's had too many.

So I'm giving myself a few days to reminisce about foods of days past. At the same time, I refuse to fall victim to my own mental ramblings. Right now, I have the rear half of an organically raised turkey browning in the oven before I put in in a crock pot to simmer a bit with some vegetables. I'll remove the meat when it's done and let the rest continue to simmer. It may not be pizza, but it's still playing with food. And at the end, I can serve it guiltlessly to my family and enjoy it myself.

I won't deny feeling a little deprived occasionally, not so much by what I can't eat as by what I can't cook, but I wouldn't change a thing at this point. Well, maybe I'd speed up my progress with some new cooking skills. I'd like for people to look forward to what I'm serving, and pizza is sure off the table.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

my best breakfast yet

I used to love going out to breakfast, especially when I was presented with a meal that looked like a work of art. Eggs Florentine was a favorite, with all those spiffy garnishes and pools of delightful hollandaise. Those days are over for me, and I don't miss the pain one little bit. I do, however, miss pretty meals.

At home I'm sure I could make our table and plates look lovely, I just haven't gotten there. I'm still in the whining about preparing from scratch every single bite that goes into my mouth phase. It's been more than two years, so I hope I get over that soon.

I am over thinking of my meals as limited or limiting. I've mentioned one of my favorite things about this Paleo adventure is that I get to enjoy cooking and being a foodie again with no guilt, pain, or regrets. Yes, I'm still mourning the loss of really good cheeses but only slightly.

My mind started wandering down this path, the breakfasts out path, this morning as I ate my very ugly breakfast. This one did not even sort of look nice. I must have been REALLY hungry to serve myself a pile like that. (I did take the time to make GK's look pretty, partly to make up for forgetting to cook dinner last night.)

The thing is that lumpy bumpy pile of food was one of the best breakfasts I can remember eating. I sat there just savoring the flavors that almost took me by surprise. Not one thing on my plate was there for the first time: sweet potato hash browns cooked crisp in coconut oil, oven-baked and perfectly finished Beeler's bacon strips, two soy-free eggs cooked in bacon fat to just barely past over-easy. I don't think I've ever combined them all before. That's probably because sweet potato hash browns are fairly new to me and bacon, even safe humanely raised bacon, is not an everyday protein choice for me. Whatever the reason for the delightful flavor combo, I savored every bite.

I really should start working on the aesthetics, though. Flavorful and healthy may come first, but pretty meals are such fun.

If you've never made sweet potato hash browns, you're in for treat. With the use of a food processor, they are almost effortless. It certainly possible and not at all hard to make them without a food processor, though I can't make the effortless claim when a dish involves grating or shedding by hand.

Sweet potatoes vary in size, of course, and when shredded seem to grow in volume more than I ever expect. This is more of a method than it is recipe for that reason.

I usually peel one or two, since I keep them on hand for awhile. If your sweet potatoes are fresh and thin-skinned, you can certainly leave the peels on. Using the shredding disc or small julienne disc, shred potatoes. I use the pulse button, usually, as it give me more control. This takes approximately 45 seconds. To a preheated griddle or low, wide pan add an ounce or 2 of coconut oil and shredded sweet potatoes. I like to mound them in piles that touch but can be turned independently. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. All that's left is to turn them occasionally, keeping a close eye as sweet potatoes can burn quickly.  As I turn them, I often add a little more oil to the pan around the edges. The result is crispy, slightly sweet and salty goodness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

paleo processed food

What's not to love about processed food? It's fast. It's easily stored. It's often tasty. It's readily available. It's diverse. It's so nice to come home to after a hectic day. It requires little of us. It's healthy? Uh, not so much. Unless, of course, you are your own food processor.

I am convinced that daily meals and entertaining become so much easier with the help of a well-stocked pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. That for me means processed food.

Still, I buy almost no processed food. It's almost because I do but olive oil, coconut oil, almond flour, coconut flour, and coconut milk. I also buy meat that has been butchered, aged, and packaged. And I buy spices from around the world. So, I do not claim to do all my own processing by any means.

Paleo processed food is do-it-yourself processed food. It's really very easy and very cost-effective. Every time I hear complaints about how expensive it is to eat clean or how budgets just don't allow for good food, the first thing that crosses my mind is the unreal cost of processed food: potato chips, prepared frozen meals, pizza, burgers, ready-to-eat entrees. Seriously, while I may spend a lot on groceries, my steak, salad, and sweet potato fries cost less than most combo meals at a drive-through. And some do-ahead prep, your own processing makes it quick and easy, too.

So, teasers for today. Soon I'll post some specific tips for making meals healthy, quick, inexpensive, and most importantly, tasty. Can't wait a day? Check out all the great ideas from Well Fed from The Clothes Make the Girl.