Friday, December 30, 2011

time for another whole30?

grass-fed beef, sauteed mushrooms with onions & garlic, fresh salad with lemon & olive oil---no sacrifice
I had not really planned on starting the new year with a Whole30 commitment. It's not like my diet is much different on a daily basis anyway. I still eat 99% clean in any given week, 100% in most. My only food indiscretion during the holidays was one piece of home-made divinity from my sister-in-law, Tara. BUT I have occasionally been having a glass of wine, sometimes two or three, and that's simply not working for me. I guess I really like or need the structure, though there really is little, and the sense of accountability that goes with saying I'm going to do something and following through.

While I don't necessarily plan to start this on January 1st or 2nd, it will most likely be the first week or two. We have a Las Vegas trip planned over the holiday weekend mid-month. It's for a CTA conference, and I'll have less control over food choices, so I've considered putting the Whole30 off. Problem is there's always something. New Year's Eve this week-end, Valentine's Day and my birthday (yay!) in February, Saint Patrick's Day in March, Easter in April---we do a HUGE Easter party. Every month has a reason not to commit. So what the hell? It may as well be January. And probably another 30 sometime in February with Carrie, Ginger Lemon Girl.

The thing about the Whole30 is that while it may be considered a strict plan, even rigid by some, it involves no sacrifice. Seriously, I don't see the sacrifice. I see wonderful food without the chemicals and GMOs and plastics or processed junk. Actually now, I'm starting to view this as an on-going, intermittent routine that could very simply keep me on track and feeling good. I do like the sound of that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

a mostly paleo christmas

My family is coming to our house on Christmas Day.  For me that's usually a good thing. I like to plan big meals. I like to cook big meals. I love to play with food in general. What's worried me a bit this year is how to do this without their feeling unsatisfied or my feeling like I'm serving them all poison. Most of my family do not follow a Paleo lifestyle; some are vegetarians; some would be happy with all desserts. I want to please everyone, yet that is quite simply not going to happen.

As I try to simplify the menu, partially due to my still-malfunctioning oven, it's looking less like a holiday dinner than a meat buffet. Every form of vegetable that captures my imagination these days relies on oven preparation. And desserts? I'm hopelessly at a loss. This is not going to work.

As of today, our menu is looking like this:
  • grilled wild salmon
  • grilled lamb chops
  • grilled chicken legs
  • lamb stew
  • meat-free "meatballs" in mushroom gravy for the unconverted vegetarians
  • sweet potatoes
  • my paleo-ish version of a green bean casserole made with coconut cream and sauteed onions
  • steamed cauliflower
  • winter fruit salad 
 You may notice a definite lack of anything approximating a dessert. That's cause for flogging with some of my family, I'm afraid. Clearly, this menu needs work. I'm thinking maybe I should spend a little more time pouring over my current obsession, Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed. She has several sauces that may be just what I need here. Of course, what I really have to do is get past my frustration over the oven. That's just the way it is right now, and Christmas is coming oven or not.

Monday, December 19, 2011

oh my, did she write this just for me?

You'd think with all the cookbooks around that it would be surprising to find one that's very much different than the others. This is not to say the others are bad, not in the least. I'm guessing I have somewhere between two and three hundred cookbooks, and I'm not ready to part with a single one. I love to look through them randomly. I get ideas for some related dish, some adaptation that I might try. I play off them, the recipes and the pictures alike. But I rarely follow a recipe, even in Paleo cookbooks. So many ingredients that I can't eat or even handle without penalty are in those books, too. Still, I love them.

I was fascinated by the idea of Melissa Joulwan's new book, Well Fed. I knew a little about her but not a lot. I'd read "The Clothes Make the Girl" and enjoyed it, though I didn't visit with regularity. I knew she had a connection to Whole9 and commented knowledgeably on the Whole30 blogs. I'm seriously in love with the Whole30, as you must know if you've been here before, so that was encouraging. Ginger Lemon Girl's review was impressive. Okay, I thought, better add this to my bookshelf. First I downloaded the preview that Ms. Joulwan offers free, at The Clothes Make the Girl. Then I ordered the book from Amazon.

I was expecting a good book. I'd seen the preview. I'd liked it. But still, I have been just a little bit blown away by how very much I like every little detail of this book. It's practical. It's beautiful. It's well organized and well written. Beyond that, it speaks to me, answers my preparation questions, and offers hints and tips I can actually use. Maybe more exciting though, at least for me, is that I can use (have used) these ideas and these recipes just as they are. For me that's monumental.

I cook, more accurately I live to cook, and yet I still am frustrated at times that if I want to stay healthy and avoid pain, I must cook virtually all my meals everyday. Sometimes I wish I could just open a can or pour a bowl of cereal, even though I have never liked cans and never did eat cereal. I'd like to be able to put something on our plates and in my mouth without having to romance the kitchen every single time. Well Fed to the rescue. From the detailed descriptions of planning weekly food purchases that include not just what but how much, to the equally detailed methods for having this food ready throughout the week by spending a bit of time prepping in advance, to just what to do with it all when mealtime approaches, this book seemed to be talking to me, personally, directly. I kept thinking, "I could do that!" I don't really need inspiration, I need organization, but she gave me both. And the best need not know on Sunday what you'll feel like eating on Thursday. The flexibility is perfect for those of us who just can't, won't maybe, plan meals and menus.

Still the best part, the the mayonnaise icing on the cauliflower cake, I can eat every ingredient in every recipe I've read so far. They're not filled with butter or cheese or sweeteners or other questionable foods. These are Paleo recipes, of course, but stick close to basics. Paleo basics that is; these recipes are far from mundane. They are also not overly complicated for the most part. I have absolutely nothing against overly complicated, just not every time I cook. The first recipe I tried was the antithesis of complicated, Caramelized Coconut Chips. They took almost 7 minutes from start to plate. Not complicated, just really good, as in not a morsel left on the plate, and GK doesn't usually touch coconut. Oh, that recipe is in her trial download, too.

The chapter on sauces could be my favorite, but...I could probably say that about each one.

I cannot wait to put more of these ideas to work in my kitchen. While I love holiday food prep and celebrations, I have a whole new plan to set in motion once these holiday meals are done. I'm excited and motivated and ready to go.

To Melissa and everyone else involved with the creation of Well Fed, thanks so much, though you really didn't have to write a whole cookbook just for me.