Well, Four Hundred and One, to be technical.
You don’t have to read all this – there are no recipes today (although I’ll link to a few favorites). Keep Calm and Carry On…
Changes in Eating over Time
It’s been fun. On the way, within the first year blogging, I went mostly Paleo in order to deal with some encroaching health issues. It worked, in that my triglycerides plummeted, my HDL/LDL ratio was to be pleased with, and while my overall cholesterol remained the same, it was mostly HDL going on in there. And the health symptoms and issues I was having cleared up. Incidentally, I lost around 40 pounds, which put less strain on my organs and all. But it was the underlying health changes that were of real import.
So there is something to be said for limiting grains and dairy.
I did learn I needed to eat more fiber, which is indeed possible if you choose properly on any food plan. There are good high-fiber healthy plants and fruits (avocado is a fruit) out there.
Now, if I followed this plan, there was no need to “hold back” on the tasty foods I could make at home eating this way. I followed two major changes: NO potato chips (I really can’t eat just one). Made 90%+ of my own food, meaning bringing my food to work for lunches instead of relying on the “heart healthy” (hah!) stuff served at the cafeteria. Where they sneak in flour thickeners, and sugars, and think that cutting fat with extenders and more sugars is “heart healthy”… Naw… (Guess what, your “healthy” low fat yogurt is loaded up with sugars to make up the taste difference, in nearly all cases, although I also cut back on yogurt, too.) My home cooked foods actually tasted better, anyway. Oh, and sniff…. very little cheese. (I was still putting a dollop of milk in my coffee back then, but that obviously wasn’t a problem.)
The cheese has crept back in, as well as eating out more now that I am in a town where a lot of “getting to know you” happens on a weekly-plus basis around food. Or going back down to my old Connecticut home (that should be a song, right? My Old Connecticut Home, by Stephen Foster?) where I effectively no longer have a kitchen, and thus eat out. This spring I could tell I’m starting to gain a bit of that tell-tale marker, weight, back. And I’ve a little less energy. With my various leg injuries I’m less active, too.
So, my goal is to go back into more of the Paleo/Primal eating style that I used to follow: and NO, for me it never meant cutting any food group out entirely — well, maybe the potato chips. It means instead focusing on great foods that I love, seasoned well with an extensive international library of herbs and spices, discovering new (to me) veggies and fruits, raising more and more of my own food, saving the eating out for special occasions (keeping in mind that by my essentially just changing five meals a week back when I got healthier – those workday lunches! – made so much difference!) Diets where one essentially and eventually starves oneself by just stopping eating after x amount of calories when they are still hungry are not effective over time. There’s more to food than simple calorie measurements. Likewise, saying NEVER again to grains or added sugars won’t work either. No, it’s finding new and heathy TASTY choices so one craves those other foods less. Researchers are also finding out that increasing fat consumption (healthy fats, mind you) over simple carbs, can trigger the satiety button more quickly. I didn’t need to eat incessantly.
That being said, there is No One Best Food Plan that will fit everyone. In some cases, food allergies and sensitivities will also dictate what one cannot eat. (For instance, I need protein for breakfast, and have known that for decades. I’m better off skipping it entirely if I’m faced with a Continental breakfast. It’s a sugar balance issue here. It’s like being drunk without the fun…) I am sensitive to many tree nuts, a sensitivity that developed in recent years, most notably to the two I love best: pistachios and pine nuts. I have recently discovered that almonds are all right. I’m allergic to fiddlehead ferns (!).
In my case, I simply have to get back to what worked best for me in the past. A modified Paleo that allows for the use of properly cooked legumes, the occasional dessert or slice or two of pizza. Something that was definitely sustainable for 6 or 7 years for me. Cook most of my own food, and cut back on cheese. Desserts have seldom held out a siren call here, which will help. Unfortunately at one weekly lunch one well-meaning individual brings in her home baked cakes. I don’t need that… but I also hate to tell her… please but no thank you. I would rather save such things (which aren’t my primary food drive anyway) to perhaps a monthly or so thing.
Oh, and we need to find a good source of a variety of AFFORDABLE fish and shellfish around here!
Why do you blog? What brought you to starting your blog, and have your motivations changed?
I like to write, and when it isn’t fiction, non-fiction is fine. But… “write what you know” is a useful adage. It only goes so far, but it is still useful. Well, I know food – not everything about food, but I do tend to live to eat (to some degree as I also live to do other things). I discovered WordPress and decided this would be as good a first topic to set about blogging on as any. At that point I wanted to raise goats for meat, and I’ve always (well possibly not in my Terrible Twos) loved most of my veggies. Even broccoli.
I started by posting recipes on the then-Recipezaar (now Food.com), but found the technical strictures for putting up recipes annoying to say the least. Do-able, but time-wasting. Hence, WordPress.
I continue to blog because it is both enjoyable and challenging. I’ve tried recipes, and entire dishes, that I probably would not have known about were it not for blogging, reading other blogs and getting inspiration.
One of the best aspects is “meeting” other food bloggers, getting and giving feedback.
Now that I am beginning to homestead in a retirement rural location (Helloooo Chickens!) there will be a lot more homesteading ventures and posts.
How were you brought up around food as a child? Have your tastes expanded, narrowed? How did perceived roles of health factor in, as data has changed over the recent decades?
When I was young, I am told I wouldn’t eat steak. I also refused fish (fear of bones) until I was about 6 years old, when Dad took me fishing in a nearby lake, and I caught my first fish. It was probably all of 3 or 4 inches long, possibly a bluegill. I insisted on eating what I caught. It was MY fish, after all. After that, I haven’t looked back…
At any rate, my parents had a good food philosophy. Try everything once. (“Once” came back around at least every year or less, with regards to lima beans and Brussels sprouts, and they kept failing to excite me up until adulthood — when FRESH lima beans and Brussels sprouts were available!) Dad was always up to trying new things; Mom had her standard southern German training from her Mom, but she was game to try the new cuisines they ran into upon moving in the early 50s to cosmopolitan New York City. Chinatown’s foods were a blast of fresh air. Arthur Avenue with their Italian foods that expanded the world beyond Spaghetti-O’s was a welcome influx for both of them, and they appreciated these things in a way they imparted to me. We had little fear of organ meat, either. Tongue and sweetbreads and heart were standard in our house. While it took time for me to like liver (adulthood), it was never deemed weird nor unusual.
They never switched us from butter to margarine. We didn’t have butter all that often – a pat on a piece of toast, and desserts were only made for company, Christmas and birthdays. So, as Mother said, splurge for the quality and taste on special occasions. I really wish I had her raspberry cobbler recipe, or her pineapple upside down cake recipe… most I’ve tried are Too Sweet. Milk was always whole, and we never suffered for that. (Indeed, “whole” milk is about 3.5% fat, NOT the 100% or whatever that might be assumed from the name. Frankly, skim milk is such you may as well just use water!) I did use 2% in my coffee as an adult (sometimes), but never less than that. I’ve weened myself away from any milk in coffee (unless it’s really baaaad coffee) within the last three years.
As far as liking things that I didn’t like then: In part, you have to understand we didn’t have the access to the fresh veggies that are findable today: My dislike of lima beans, Brussels sprouts and green peas vanished when confronted with the fresh and not-canned varieties. Brussels sprouts were also improved by roasting them, or pan frying them. I’m still not fond of them just boiled in water. The best way of eating fresh garden peas is straight off the vine. They don’t even get in the house.
Carrots, no, still not my favorite veggie, but I’ll eat them. I’m fine with them seasoned and cooked, over raw.
What’s your own personal comfort foods?
- Eggs. Life feels incomplete without them. Soft boiled, poached, omeletted, scrambled (correctly – Gordon Ramsey scrambles them wrong, Test Kitchen does them right), crustless-quiched, hard boiled for road food on trips. PS “liquid egg product” is right out… I get the same terribly unpleasant reaction to those as with many tree nuts. “They” say they’re just eggs, but something is really off about those. It’s possibly a GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) thing, and I really don’t trust that.
- Chicken, specifically the dark meat. Skin on, skin off, crispy baked-“fried”, or in marsala, tandoori, cordon bleu, or just plain baked with a good lemon sauce. Or a hot sauce, especially if we’re talking wings (this one or that one…).
- Tongue, especially like Mom used to make. Simmered for hours in unsweetened dill pickle juice with pickling spices, and served with mustard and horseradish. But great in a crock pot, too. Enjoyable in lettuce wraps. Was served it in a taco once — awesome.
- Spinach, steamed, drained, served with butter and/or cream cheese, and a sprinkling of Italian herbs. Speaks for itself. Either frozen/thawed, or fresh and just lightly wilted.
- Pizza. Not plain, however, and pizza is best if the stuff on top comes as close to the edge as possible (not one for the pizza “bones”). While I’m not fond of “everything” pizzas either, a reasonable selection of 3 or 4 toppings in addition to the tomato and cheese could include: olives, garlic, spinach, artichoke hearts, onions, roasted peppers, mushrooms, shrimp, pepperoni, sausage. Not all at once, and left to my druthers, I tend to go for the vegetarian choices, if only because I can be leery of the sources of ground meat. Oh, back in the day our computer club used to meet over pizza – the head of the club always wanted anchovies so he ordered them on the side. I’d take ONE anchovy, cut it up and divvy it over my own two slices. The flavor for me works, the excess salt did not. Red pepper sprinkles and extra oregano are ALWAYS welcome on my pizza. Especially the oregano!
- Grapefruit, especially pink and tart. Slice in half, segment it, eat, squeeze out any juice, drink. Add NO sugar! An adjunct: Mom’s Avocado Grapefruit Salad. Slice up each, and drizzle the pre-80’s version of Catalina salad dressing over them. I’ve made a substitute healthier and less-sweet (but back to the original vision) version.
- Artichokes, steamed for the appropriate time depending on size, and served with Time Machine Catalina salad dressing, or my healthy replacement, or Annie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- Asparagus. An awesome springtime stalk. Asparagus can be made so many tasty ways. It’s actually one of the few foods that can cook up fine in a microwave, if done right. It’s possible to overcook to mush, or make tough, and a few other bad cooking choices, and it is a terribly depressing state of affairs when that happens. (Need to note that the cafeteria where I once worked actually made superb asparagus! I’d go and order some as “dessert” after eating my own home-made meal, it was that freakingly seriously good.)
- Tangy, healthy heirloom tomatoes, grown at home or from a local farmstand. There was a Formative Moment early in freshman college when I laid eyes on the salad bar. Those tomatoes looked so red and luscious, and it was September, tomato season. I loaded down my plate with tomatoes — but they were cardboard, tasteless endeavors – almost hate to say it, but they ended up in the trash. I. Just. Couldn’t. It apparently had been unspoken at home, but there’d been a reason my parents always either grew their own or hit roadside stands. Or did without. I’m that way today. Tomatoes are not necessary in salads… Wait for heirlooms in season!
- Potato chips. Never baked or putatively healthy, but good ole Lay’s. Ruffled or not, no special flavors but salt. Yes, for me they are evil, and I’ve cut them out of my road food grabs. I don’t bring them home anymore, either, not for years. The ads are right: Seriously can’t eat just one. And, they’re indeed evil if you can’t stop!
We could add sushi/sashimi, lobster (soup, salad, or so-forth), shellfish, and so on and so on. Maine vacations provided inexpensive lobster, and free clams or mussels for the foraging. And a good Indian vegetarian Saag Paneer really hits the spot! Dad’s “eggplant pizzas” – eggplant slices with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and onions / mushrooms / etc. cooked on them, absolutely no breading needed. Mom’s recipe for sweetbreads. Mom’s recipe for cream of mushroom soup pan-baked chicken. (I’ve created a healthier version, although it is time-intensive.)
Comfort food, all. You won’t find books out there writing up recipes for most of MY comfort foods! (Which is why I will never buy said books. I didn’t grow up in a standard American setting in many ways, which is what those books are geared for. I can assure you that comfort food in Vietnam will be different than comfort food in Sweden will be different than comfort food in Morocco. Or, in the household I grew up in.)
Comfort food is something that settles into your soul, and it will vary for each and every one of us. Some of these foods we may never even discover until we are adults. Some are even now waiting around a corner, hoping you or I or someone else will discover them.
Some, like potato chips, might even seduce some of us down a wrong path.
Anything you’ll never bring yourself to eat?
Natto. Just NO to natto. It looks like nasal secretions on a ramage.
Stinky tofu. I don’t think so. Tofu is fine just as it is.
Thousand year old eggs. Actually, I’m open to trying balut (cooked just-about-to-hatch duck egg), as I’ve eaten and loved both regular duck eggs and adult duck – balut is just along the continuum of the former to the later, but the thousand year old egg thing – I don’t think so. Even though I know those eggs aren’t a thousand years old.
Endangered species. Bluefin tuna is now on this list; I’ve eaten bluefin toro belly in the past, but not for a decade, not since learning how endangered it truly is. Oh, not we’re not eating cats, dogs or primates either.
The crickets I feed my chickens for snacks just smell nasty. Maybe human-grade crickets would get me past the smell barrier. I’m willing to try mealworms, though.
Live baby octopus… just… no. Cruel to the octopus; and people have choked on them.
I do NOT forage for mushrooms.
What challenging recipes, or just different, are you hoping to make in the next year, with your blog in mind?
I doubt I’ll get to all of these, and other recipes may interrupt, but these are ones I’d seriously like to make and put on the blog.
- Xiao Long Bao: Chinese pork soup dumplings. This will require making the pastry dough properly, getting the meat seasoned and textured right, and creating the “soup” portion — then having it all work together without rupturing. When there’s a blizzard here this winter…
- Takoyaki: Japanese octopus balls. This requires a specialized cooking implement (but this can also be used for other rounded foods).
- Vegetarian/vegan burgers or sliders. Tree-nut AND gluten-free. The goal will be to have them hold together, and taste good – there is absolutely no need for them to try to taste like meat. Just taste like GOOD.
- Vegetarian chili. I made a huge pot last Cinco de Mayo, but it was such a crazy day I didn’t get to record what I did. I want a reprise, keeping a record. (That pot was good enough omnivorous friends demanded to take leftovers home with them.)
- Gluten-free oven “fried” chicken. I’ve been playing around with this for the last two or three years; it’s time to use my best recipe and post it. Oh, and yes, tree-nut free.
- Chicken and dumplings. A recreation of Mom’s old recipe. The dumplings will be the harder part, because I don’t recall what she did with that. Hmm, it might have been Bisquick. I’d like to get it down her way, then see if I can come up with a gluten-free variant. This recipe should be great for stewing hens and tough roosters…
- Soul food pigs’ trotters. I’ve actually made this and am ready to post it for the New Years, as it is alleged to bring luck.
- Soul food black-eyed peas. Another recipe for New Years, it also brings luck. I’ve made it in the past, but never put it together for the blog, so I have to make it again. (One can never have too much good luck…)
- Mushroom ketchup. It’s a condiment. Blast from the past, before ketchup was associated with the tomato.
- Harissa. Another condiment.
- Further explorations of Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese foods.
- Further explorations around the Indian subcontinent.
- Indian rasam soup.
- Greek avgolemono soup.
- Vietnamese pho, probably tonkotsu.
- Spanish gazpacho.
- Lobster bisque.
- Straciatella soup. With chicken thigh instead of breast.
- Greek vegetarian moussaka.
- Lasagna of several styles: spinach and mushroom lasagna using regular lasagna noodles, ground beef lasagna using bean-based GF noodles, and a zoodle lasagna.
- Eggplant rollatini.
- Perhaps a monthly recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.
- Sous vide pork tenderloin. This is an effort to streamline getting the internal temperature just right. Cooked, but still juicy.
- Liverwurst. I’m getting a quarter of the meat from a cow soon. I asked for organ meats. I like liver in the form of liverwurst (also, fried up as liver and onions, cooked properly, but since I’ll be getting this in 1 pound packages, I need to do something with the rest of the liver once the package is open…. hence, liverwurst, which I can re-freeze after making).
- Souse/head cheese. Check this next Tuesday.
- Smoothies and juicings. Mine may be a bit, er, unique. I mean, when I first heard of them, I thought they were just a way to get more vegetables in on one’s eating plan. So… I did things like add onion… I figured, a savory vegetable course, right, just more liquid? (I still prefer my original conception of this!) I leave the fiber in, in most cases. Fiber, generally, is healthy! Hand held immersion blenders work just dandy, take up little kitchen footprint, and keep the fiber to hand.
- Fish/seafood tacos. Drool.
- Tiramisu. Yep, I do want to make a dessert. Other than quality ice cream, this is my favorite dessert ever. Sugar may be over-rated, but I’m fine with it here…
- Pumpkin pie. From a real pumpkin. I made this around 30 years ago, and it was good but watery. I think I am up for trying this again. I may try crustless, I don’t know. I may make a crust using rendered leaf lard. Expect this near Thanksgiving.
- Just about anything (savory) with sweet potatoes, asparagus, lentils, black beans, okra, eggplant…
- Exploring farro and emmer wheat.
I also want to play around with the crock pot, expanding its horizons. Likewise the rice maker, which I already know makes great quinoa. The sous vide will get more uses here and there, but I don’t expect it to be a frequent tool (except with chicken breast). But I want to try it with pork tenderloin, as the lines between undercooked, tender and dry are very fine. I plan to purchase a smoker next year, and that should mean better and more authentic
I want to buy a hand-crank meat grinder, for making and stuffing sausages.
There will be a LOT more posts specifically on homesteading, now that I can! Not just food, either.
Fridays will remain recipes; Tuesdays (if I post something then) will be “Other”, such as restaurant or book reviews, small notes, homesteading material, and possibly additional recipes…
What are your favorite recipes you’ve posted on the blog?
I’m not going back through the four hundred. Perhaps I should go back just one year, shortly before I moved to Massachusetts, which gives me a reasonable amount of recipes to look through. I’ll select five.
- Vegetarian Cauliflower and Onion Pakora. A simple Indian dish, it took me three tries to get this one right.
- Pyogo Jeon, Korean Stuffed Mushrooms. Wanted to try something completely different for the Asian New Year.
- Pork Butt (Shoulder Roast). Something about low and slow is beginning to settle into my mind.
- Moroccan Slow Braised Leg of Lamb (Mechoui). A great success in sharing at a potluck hosted at my home recently.
- Vietnamese summer rolls. Shrimp or pork.
I have to give an honorable mention to Sous Vide Chicken Breast with Lime/Mushroom Sauce – because I finally found a chicken breast preparation I could truly enjoy rather than just eat because it was there. Or had crossed the road. Or, something.
And well, while it’s an older recipe, I’ve made this one several times for myself and for others, and it is unique enough I’m so glad I ended up in an online challenge back then to make it the first time: vegetarian South Indian Uttapam Pancakes. I’d love to find other online recipe challenges that would get me to step way out of my envelope to try other savory and previously-unknown (to me) dishes like this. So, maybe the uttapam pancakes are my top selection out of 400 posts? Maybe.
Do you have a “go to” favorite professional online recipe source?
Serious Eats. They test most everything several times and they are not afraid to step out of the box with seasonings, discussing the basics, and working on being both authentic and source-able. The Spruce Eats is also good, but usually I hit up J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (of Serious Eats) first when wanting to explore something new. No, I have not purchased his cookbook. Reviews seem to indicate he doesn’t step out of the box as much in the book as the recipes do online. I could be wrong, but I’m happy to surf Serious Eats any day, and there are several other well-established cooks and chefs on that site, too.
I also have a plethora of favorite home cook blogs I visit, but at least for today, not enough space or time. Future posts!
A toast to your health!!!
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