Cannoli and Sharing

img_5056

Memory: a work lunch where, with my two co-workers, we order dessert. I very, very rarely order dessert at a restaurant, and no wonder; there’s enough calories in a dessert to be a whole meal, and I’ve already eaten a bowl of lobster bisque and half my sandwich and I really don’t NEED any more food.

Shared dessert is the perfect solution. The truth is that cannoli, a wonderful combination of crunchy wafer cookie and thick, ricotta-rich sweet cream with chocolate chips in it, is just too much for any one person. I am sure there are circumstances when cannoli, this particular pile of it, would be perfect to be relished alone, but it would have made me ill that day. 1/3 of it, however, was totally perfect.

That’s the thing about good, rich, sweet things in life: I’m so much worse at appreciating them when I’m alone. Instead, I need to look into another pair of eyes and share that bright feeling of “are you tasting this?” as we both dig in to something that has absolutely no vegetables in it. I can eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains alone, feeling like I’m nourishing myself and thus the life I’m leading in community, but with dessert… mmm it’s just better to get 3 forks and dig in together.

Salmon for health and delicious eats!

memory salmon.jpg

Husband and I have changed small things about our eating habits over the years, but the big one has been adding in a little fish where we were eating pretty much no fish. I’ve become a big fan of salmon in particular; while it is especially good with a delicious butter and garlic sauce, it’s also a really rich, fatty fish on its own. You can eat your salmon with a pile of greens and still feel like you had a rich and filling meal, usually without feeling stuffed.

We made a really tasty pistachio salmon during Whole30, but this one was a grilled salmon from a restaurant, and thinking about it today makes me want the weather to improve so that I can get outside and grill a fillet. One recipe I really want to try as well is this one; will write again when I actually get around to trying it! I love maple as a flavor, and I’m excited to explore it on main dishes rather than just pancakes: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/maple-glazed-salmon-0

Food Memory: A Port in the Storm

imagejpeg_0

In a month of health problems, grief, and overwhelming amounts of work, Husband and I took a weekend in a nearby city to cut the stress and try to recover a bit. I wasn’t feeling my best, but that is nothing that a plate of lemon ricotta pancakes couldn’t help. This memory is perfect for me – the most delightful crispy edge on the pancakes, the tart berry sauce they gave me, and of course the morsel of that amazing hash brown that I stole from Husband’s plate. Sometimes, especially on crazy Mondays, I like having pictures of past meals that have helped me to relax. This feeling of treasuring a sweet memory, a good moment in a good day, is so great for propelling me forward through the many tasks that lie ahead this week.

Family Time Adventures

img_5169

Because of a family funeral, I’ve been on the road for days now. One unexpected surprise, among many, was the visit to the Bob Evans Farm, which is in Ohio and is the original Bob Evans restaurant! We had a delicious meal after a long drive on a very overwhelming week, and I will remember for a long time how nice it was to sit down and be greeted and served here. The weather has been almost heartbreakingly pretty lately and I barely know what to do with February 70s, but I’m trying to take everything one moment at a time.

A Single Piece of Ham

My boss is one of the people who initially inspired me to try Whole30. She takes it seriously in a way that I sometimes find intimidating; basically, she thinks that as participants in Whole30, we owe it to ourselves to stick with the program. She’s never going to shame someone for not sticking with Whole30; it’s more like she wants people to treat themselves to the real experience. She gave me my first RX bar, a clean-food energy bar that many Whole30-ers and Paleo folks swear by.

One thing that I realized, though, is that there are certain foods that Whole30 participants should be able to have, but current popular methods of production simply don’t make. A good example would be sausage or ham; both of these foods don’t need to have added sugar in order to be delectable, but pretty much all commercially available kinds do. So the other day, my boss walked into my office and gave me a single piece of ham in a plastic baggie. It looked pretty ordinary, and I looked at her with amusement, ready to hear a hilarious story.

It wasn’t hilarious though – she told me how she’d found uncured, no sugar added ham at a local market from a nearby farm. She was so excited to find ham that was still in a reasonable price range that supported local farmers, that she wanted to share that excitement with me. Instead of being amused, I was really excited.

I think that the presence of so many “celebration” foods at our fingertips may have had an unfortunate side effect; as Americans, we have a hard time seeing almost any food as rare or special. When you choose to make a lifestyle choice, like eating less added sugars or trying to buy more locally produced products, you create a kind of scarcity. This scarcity does lead to more expense most of the time, and often a little confusion or frustration at social gatherings where folks don’t share your passion, but it also leads to moments like this: someone found the hard-to-find item you were looking for, and shared it with you. I’ve seen this look when I made gluten-free cornbread instead of regular cornbread for a dinner with a friend who cannot have gluten without feeling wretched; it’s an opportunity to be there for someone. I still appreciate people who are flexible on their food intake, because it does make hostessing less stressful, but the opportunity to give someone exactly what will nourish them? That’s a pretty special gift.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

img_5157

I’m well aware that running is hard on my body – it seems to constantly leave me with some form of ache or pain. I decided that a good thing to try might be eating more toward the anti-inflammatory end of the spectrum. According to Harvard Health, some of these foods include:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • leafy green vegetables
  • nuts
  • fatty fishes
  • berries

The more inflammatory foods, according to the same site, include:

  • refined carbs (white flour)
  • fried foods like french fries
  • soda
  • red meat
  • margarine/shortening

I have no idea if trying to eat more in the first category will help with my training soreness, but I like a lot of those foods anyway, so I’m going to try it – do any of you have experience eating to avoid inflammation?

Making “Breakfast Food” Your Own

img_5158

I love breakfast food – I mean, pancakes? Waffles? Bacon? All the fanciest and tastiest of breakfast foods are wonderful to me. When it comes to everyday, average breakfasts, though, I’m pretty weak: I’ll enjoy a bagel and cream cheese, or a big glass of fruit smoothie, but I have a hard time working up an appetite at 6AM and whatever I do manage doesn’t hold me till lunch.

When I learned on the Gastropod podcast that breakfast food is somewhat a modern invention, I felt pretty liberated; if in the past, most people just ate whatever they had lying around as leftovers for breakfast, I would do the same! Today I had leftover quinoa salad, filled with tomatoes and spinach and walnuts and feta, for breakfast, and it was wonderful: hit the spot and also was so full of protein that I didn’t get hungry!

It’s time to take breakfast to be another meal; one where, yes, we sometimes eat french toast because it is so delicious, but where most of the time we eat healthy veggies and proteins we need to get through our day, just like other meals! It is very comforting to realize that I’m not crazy for feeling a sugar-crash many mornings when I start off with a sweet-tooth breakfast. This is fine for a lazy Saturday morning, when I might actually enjoy a blissed-out morning reading and feeling calm, but at work, I want all systems go, and that means protein and nutrients aplenty. Quinoa, to the rescue!

Will the Real Olive Oil Please Stand Up?

img_5152I grew up eating a lot of food cooked in butter, toast covered in butter – it was the oil of my childhood in the South! But in the past few years, especially living in Madrid, I became an olive oil person. I like it for cooking, I like it on toast, I like it for everything.

So as I was reading the book Real Food, Fake Food, I was surprised to find that many of the olive oils are actually a mix of fresh olive oil (the yummy stuff) and a refined, low-flavor, super-stable version of olive oil. Sure, the book calls that fake, but if you read between the intense accusations, it still shakes out that the labeling in this industry is deceptive. This doesn’t mean that every bottle is mislabeled, but Extra Virgin Olive Oils from California, it turns out, actually have a more consistently high quality than some brands from Italy, according to tests!

It made me wonder if I had good “taste” in olive oil; so I bought a bottle of California Olive Ranch, and grabbed my most recent bottle of EEVO, and tasted them. I liked them both – but the California one was really flavorful! It makes me think I could happily use whatever olive oil for cooking but might want to keep the delicious California kind with me for toast and other kinds of direct use.

Do you have a favorite brand of EEVO? I’m only now opening my eyes to the idea that they can taste different!

In Praise of a Dependable Chain

img_5102-1I spend a lot of this blog talking about how much I want to eat out less, spend more time cooking, know more about the origins of my food, etc. While all of those things are definitely true, let’s not be unclear: I love eating at restaurants!

I don’t need them to be fancy; I love eating at the counter at Waffle House and I love trying tiny, fancy tapas at a swanky Spanish restaurant with candles on the tables. I like the interaction, the fact that I have so many options but I don’t have to come up with exactly what I want; I just have to identify it among many great choices.

I love that while my food is cooked, I can talk to my friends or to Husband, and I love guzzling tall glasses of water that I tend to forget to drink when I’m making my own meals or eating on the go at work. I like the sitting-down, doing-nothing-else of it.

Husband and I went to a big sit-down chain restaurant last night, a Chili’s, and I was reminded again how nice it is to go to a restaurant. I’m not a big fan of the little computers they keep on the tables, but it does help them save on costs and keep things quick for the servers, which I can appreciate in the prices. I loved eating something totally different from my husband; I liked my food, but I also loved stealing some of his. We were too full for an included dessert, so there was cheesecake to take home.

What I’ve loved most about my favorite restaurants is that some part of our experience is colored by the chef or the server or the bartender who talks to us about the life of the restaurant; that doesn’t really happen at Chili’s, but it still occurs to me, just in the easy kindness of our server last night who was clear and got us our food very quickly. There are times when a reasonably priced, super tasty, and convenient meal is just what I want. When I’m healthy and well rested, I’m all for taking things the long way with home gardening, home cooking, and restaurants that prioritize the local and seasonal, but I sure to appreciate the systems that allow me to, on a whim, decide to take a break for a night.

Valentine’s Is for Cookbooks!

Because I was still recovering from the sniffles this morning, Husband set up my present for me before I came downstairs: a cookbook! It looks wonderful and I wanted to share it with you all. Her website is here: http://www.simplebites.net/my-cookbook-brown-eggs-jam-jars/ While making a cookbook isn’t one of my aspirations, it’s always so lovely when a fellow blogger realizes this dream. Check it out!bejj-cover-final-e1421631517405