February 7, 2014

the whole 30: continuing the journey



It's the end of week four, and in terms of the whole30 challenge, my husband and I have officially completed the full 30 days and finished well (high five!) As I mentioned last week, we'll be continuing on the paleo auto-immune protocol for another two months, and after that will try re-introducing certain foods like eggs, nuts and seeds, and nightshades. In terms of what we put on our plate, for us, this has been a real change in direction, and not merely a temporary diversion from certain foods like other elimination diets we've tried before. It hasn't been easy, but here's the thing: no lasting, life-changing choice ever is.

January 31, 2014

the whole 30, week two & three

My husband and I are still diligently holding the line here in following the whole30 auto-immune protocol, and we have one week left until we complete the 30-day challenge. Once we reach that goal, we'll to try to stick to the auto-immune protocol for an additional two months to see what kind of progress we can make in our health. I'm scheduled for a check-up with my primary care doctor towards the end of that time, so it'll be interesting to find out if things like cholesterol and blood sugar have improved. I've lost 8 pounds without trying and have been eating whenever I'm hungry, but though I have a good amount of energy in the morning, by the late afternoon I'm feeling more spent then usual, so getting enough sleep is really important right now. 

January 17, 2014

the whole 30, week one



So if you're following our story here, we've completed one week of the whole30 auto-immune protocol. The photo you see above, with a ground chicken patty, roasted sweet potatoes, wilted spinach and sliced avocado, all drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a dusting of sea salt, has been a pretty typical breakfast for us this week. We might switch out the sweet potatoes (which are left-overs from dinner) for a piece of fruit, but there is always some kind of meat and dark greens on the plate. The last couple of mornings I've also made the ginger-lemon tea that helped me through the flu recently, but I don't add the honey as added sweeteners aren't part of the program. It's quite a switch from our grain-focused or strictly smoothie breakfasts of the past, but I don't mind at all since I find my blood sugar is more stable for a longer period of time this way. The recipe for the ground chicken patty you see is the "Garlic-Sage Chicken Patties" from the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook I mentioned in last week's post, and having a resource like that has been extremely helpful when you can't fall back on what you're used to making for breakfast.

January 10, 2014

starting the whole 30



Tomorrow my husband and I start a program called "The Whole30," a kind of nutritional reset that eliminates sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol and processed food for a period of thirty days. It's a brilliant way to help the body heal by eating nutritionally dense real food such as pastured meats and organic vegetables and fruits while avoiding food that contributes to inflammation, a damaged digestive system, and any number of resulting chronic health issues.

January 3, 2014

recovery is on the way

I'm still recovering from the flu that snuck up on me at the beginning of this second week of Christmas vacation, but it's been the perfect opportunity to be able to just completely relax, read, and sleep. While I drank many cups of this soothing ginger honey lemon tonic, I made a commitment to do something I've been thinking about doing for awhile, and so I'll share more about that next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, and keep warm!

December 6, 2013

chocolate cranberry pudding

Though I really enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal we made this year, I had much more fun re-purposing the left-overs afterwards. On Friday morning I made pumpkin purée waffles. On Friday evening I made a pizza using just about everything from our Thanksgiving dinner, which included short ribs, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Finally, on Saturday morning, I made sweet potato scones.

This Chocolate Cranberry Pudding makes use of David Lebovitz's "Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Figs," which I made to go with our Thanksgiving dinner. The cranberry sauce was so good I used it as a topping for the waffles and drizzled it on the pizza too. For the pudding, I slightly adapted the chocolate pudding recipe from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Since I wanted to keep dessert simple, all I did was make the pudding, purée a little bit of the cranberry sauce, stir a little extra red wine into the cranberry sauce to thin it, then swirled it with the chocolate pudding. The sweet-tart puréed cranberry sauce became the perfect contrast to the smooth, rich chocolate pudding.

Even though I spend several hours a week being paid to bake or cook, I still find cooking at home something I readily gravitate to in my free time. Seems I can't resist the urge to put my own creative spin on things, but it's more that. The repetitive and focused motions of cooking are almost a form of meditation, and the time spent in my home kitchen is a restorative process. At the end of all of it is a gathering place for family and friends, and a good meal shared with love is still one of my favorite places to be in the world. I wish the same for you in this holiday season and always. Merry Christmas, and buen provecho!



November 1, 2013

sweet potato, pear, ginger, & kale smoothie

It's an utterly gorgeous fall day today, the kind that makes you ache for a hundred more like it. It's also my first full day off, after a bit of a difficult and long week, and my only day to get this blog post, due today as well, together. As it stands, my mind and body were more inclined to wander outside than to linger inside and focus a camera lens for a picture, and so I bring you a recipe whose enticing image you will need to imagine until the next opportunity arrives to capture it.

Imagine then, if you will, the flavors of tangy yogurt, creamy roasted sweet potato, spicy fresh ginger, aromatic nutmeg, sugary pear, and pungent kale, all coalescing in one smoothie. It's not your standard fruit smoothie, with the inclusion of roasted sweet potato, and yet it's a very satisfying direction to go if you're looking for something different in the way of smoothies.

Be sure to blend everything together for at least 30 seconds, even if you have a very high-powered blender, for the smoothest result. This smoothie makes a very filling meal, especially if you include some kind of protein powder, and it's colored a beautiful bright green from the kale. Then be sure to enjoy the remaining days of fall with some wandering of your own, too.

October 4, 2013

tamari-maple glazed salmon salad

Lately, when eating dinner out, the things I've eaten have all been creative variations on the same theme. The theme is this: some type of fish, usually tuna or salmon, supported by a bed of tender mixed baby greens, and then the whole thing beautifully finished with other ingredients that are small but strong hits of complementary flavors. For me, it's a perfect combination: a meal that's a really satisfying way to end a long day, and a very healthy way to recharge for the next.

I came across this dish at a local bar and grill, a late-night place we found after a longer-than-expected meeting and three "sorry, the kitchen's closed" restaurants. I was pretty sure I could re-create the same salad at home, and after a little experimenting I came up with a simple oven-baked version. For a very fast dinner, you could make and store everything but the salmon ahead of time as well, and then just broil the fish when you are ready to eat. Use the freshest organic ingredients you can find, and sustainably-raised or wild-caught salmon if possible. Then make this tamari-maple glazed salmon salad for dinner tonight, and put a big smile on someone's face.



September 6, 2013

einkorn lemon blueberry scones



Back in 2011, the Texas legislature passed SB 81, a bill that allowed certain foods made at home to be sold legally to customers. In 2013, HB 970, which further expands the list of foods and allows home bakers to sell their product at farmer's markets, successfully passed the house and senate, and was signed by the governor on June 14. This past Sunday, September 1st, the Texas Baker's Bill, a boon to the entrepreneurially-minded home baker, officially became law.

July 5, 2013

roasted fruit sauce

Summer is the time when sweet stone fruits like apricot, peach, plum, and nectarine are piled high in farmer's markets and grocery stores, and who can resist them? I love these botanical relatives of the rose family in their fresh, straight-forward form, but I think I love them even more when roasted. This sauce, with the body of a compote but puréed like a coulis, is my riff on the "Fig Compote" recipe from Kim Boyce's award-winning cookbook "Good to The Grain". By extending her idea a bit further and adding extra maple syrup, fresh herbs, and a spin in the blender, the compote becomes a silky sauce with many sweet or savory applications. Stone fruits aren't the only soft fruit that would work for this recipe; varying the herbs or spices lends an endless palette to experiment with as well. How about plums and sage? Or mango and cilantro? How about substituting unsweetened chocolate for the butter, added after roasting the fruit in the maple syrup and as it cools in the bowl? I could go on, but I think you get my drift; this roasted fruit sauce provides another enticing excuse to play in the kitchen.



June 7, 2013

quinoa with roasted vegetables & wine-glazed chicken

I'm currently working three different jobs right now (two of them food-related), which along with other things, makes for a rather busy and energy-draining schedule. This brilliant dish, slightly adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, is something I've come to depend on for a much needed healthy meal, and it holds its own beautifully whether you're eating it freshly made or re-heating it for lunch the next day. I think it gets even better as it sits, even deeper in flavor, and it's quite adaptable to other ingredients if you don't have exactly what's on the list below. I've used chopped roasted brussel sprouts instead of the sweet potato, and then replaced some of the olive oil with a toasted sesame oil and mixed it with a rice wine vinegar. Different grain substitutions would work as well, such as a cooked wild rice mix, with maybe some cooked green lentils, chopped grape tomatoes, scallions and artichoke hearts mixed in. Substitute a white wine vinegar with the olive oil for the dressing, serve the mixture over some tender mixed baby greens, and you've got another stellar variation on the theme. If you find yourself on the go and needing the right kind of nourishment to keep up, this dish meets both those requirements very well. But healthy isn't the only thing going on here. As some folks like to say, this dish is flavor city.



May 3, 2013

strawberry mango arugula smoothie

When things get heavy, it's good to lighten up and change the regular rhythm of daily life a bit. It's Spring, after all, or at least it's trying to be, putting forth its best effort to shed the layers of winter and show itself off. I'm all for that, because it's something like a make-over, of the earth as it were, and I love makeovers. In fact, I'm hoping to shed a few things myself, ranging anywhere from a bit of weight on my body to a bit of length from my hair, or even, whenever possible, an uninspired attitude. So be gone, shackles of winter, I say, and hello, you sweet little strawberry-mango-arugula smoothie.



April 5, 2013

taking time to plant

We've fallen behind in starting this year's garden, with both of us working, but as soon as we can corral ourselves for an afternoon, we'll do some planting. Though I've got a tray full of herbs, I'd still like to get a few more, including sorrel, with its sharp, lemony flavor, good for sauces, soups, and pestos. Currently packed on the tray and awaiting their new locations in the garden is Thai basil, along with the standard Genovese, a spearmint to go with a chocolate mint; lavender, oregano, onion chives, thyme, Italian parsley, French tarragon, rosemary, sage, and my husband's favorite mint tea sweetener, stevia.

On the other hand, the weather hasn't exactly been ideal for getting things planted. Though the calendar says it's Spring, an unexpected two-day cold snap (which happened after the last frost date of winter and a warming spell) unkindly burned the tender new leaves on our fig trees. Though it looks like the trees are okay, I wonder if the warm up-cool down cycle we've had lately is at all confusing to the natural cycles of plants. Even so, the plants still seem to soldier on, and that is always encouraging to see.

March 29, 2013

tocino de cielo (bacon from heaven)



To follow the Pastel de Medianoche I posted last week, I give you Tocino de Cielo, with its short but magical ingredient list of egg yolks, sugar, water, vanilla and lemon juice. According to The Heritage of Spanish Cooking, Tocino de Cielo was one of many desserts made with egg yolks leftover from the process of making sherry, which uses egg whites for clarifying the fortified wine. In Jerez, the region of Spain famous for its sherry, the egg yolks were donated to the local convents, where the sisters used them to make a selection of sweet specialties.