A new blog for eating right

Somebody should get a Nobel Prize for this one: Chocolate-dipped waffle cone, chocolate ice cream, brownie bits, Oreos AND Cocoa Puffs. It's a beautiful thing.

Newsflash: I’ve started another blog that will be devoted to my take on Paleo cooking. (Short and over-simplified Paleo definition: A diet that does not include grains, dairy, processed sweeteners or legumes. It’s all about the meat and vegetables, baby. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Really.)

In this earlier rant I bitched because there are hardly any quality recipes for people who like to cook. Many Paleo disciples lack enthusiasm for entertaining, food, and the preparation thereof…..essentially some of my favorite things in life. I refuse to feed the people I love underseasoned and poorly cooked meat and vegetables as if they were a herd of neanderthals huddled around a fire in their cave. I am not satisfied throwing five ingredients into a crock pot before I go to work. (Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with that…it’s just not how I prefer to cook.)

I’m going to feed my darlings not just feed, but cuisine. There’s a lot of paleo-friendly food out there, and there are thousands of recipes of familiar food that can be easily converted to Paleo without resorting to a — dare I say? — barbaric and simplistic repertoire of poorly-paired raw ingredients and dishes. Some of Julia Child’s masterpieces? Totally Paleo already. Dolomades? Can be tastily tweaked. Curry khormas? I’ll make them Paleo in no time. I’m doing all this work to feed my family well, so it’s my duty to give people who get all hot and bothered about food (like I do) my experiences and recipes.

It is possible to eat healthy AND well if ya put a little effort into it.  You don’t have to lose joy and pleasure in the kitchen.

Just so you know, I’m not a saint. If you have read any other post on this blog, you know I love  – no, LOVE — cheese, pasta, chili with 3674 different kinds of beans, chips, pastries, [insert other naughty food item here]. As I go, recipes will occasionally incorporate a teeny-bit of the bad stuff, just enough to keep us on the mostly-straight and narrow. Don’t like that “close enough” approach? Fine — skip that recipe and go on to the next. There will be loads of 100% Paleo stuff on here.

I’m not going it alone, so my overused “I” will be replaced by the royal “we.”  This new blog-and-hopefully-book scenario will be a joint project with Tom, a man who is simply f’n exquisite. (I don’t get it. I still can’t figure out why he’s with me either.) He got me to look into the whole Paleo thing in the first place, so now I’m going to subject him to my culinary experiments and hope to hell he gives me honest feedback for my benefit and yours. He does Crossfit, a training regimen that is often paired with the Paleo lifestyle. (Yeah, he’s hawt.) I may give Crossfit a shot too, if for no other reason than to say I was a baddass enough to subject myself to that kind of torture. At least once.

To that end, our new blog is www.palatablepaleo.com. It will be a diary-style site where you will be privy to our triumphs as well as our (hopefully rare) food failures. This blog will continue to live on, outlining exceptional naughty recipes and restaurant experiences. And the personal stuff that’s been floating to the top like virtual flotsam lately. It’s my blog and I can do that if I want, dammit.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope you give Paleo a try.

High five,
s

Paleo-friendly Curried Pumpkin Soup

Curried Pumpkin Soup....in a bowl I clearly borrowed from someone with better taste than me.

I risked life and limb to make this soup, so by gawd I’m getting a blog post out of it. Specifically, I created what shall heretofore be referred to the “the pumpkin kerfuffle,” or in Calvin and Hobbes parlance, the notorious and mysterious “pumpkin incident.” This formula tells the story:

Boiling soup + blender = grotesque burns/explosion of biblical proportions²

Lesson: Don’t put too much hot soup in your blender before you blitz it, yo.

The good news is the soup was pretty darn good, and it met most of the stringent requirements of the Paleo diet. I lifted the recipe from Epicurious, and I tweaked it a bit because: 1. Curry leaves aren’t available in just any grocery store so I used curry powder instead; 2. I’m never a fan of having more than a 1:1 ratio of water to broth in soup (if you have 32-oz container of broth, use the whole thing, says I);  and 3. Spank me now, but I added a teeny-weeny bit of sugar because this recipe needed something to offset all the heat of the red pepper flakes, cumin and curry.

This soup is quick and reasonably easy to make, barring any orange-soaked kitchen disasters like that of yours truly. (How did it get INSIDE the fridge?!) The original recipe says it serves 10-12, and despite a serving or two that ended up on the walls, it really makes about 6 generous portions. (I’m not one to eat a dinky cup of soup.) Besides, it’s surprisingly light and you won’t feel naughty for indulging in a nice bowl of it. This soup is liquid autumn, and I think you’ll enjoy it. I served mine topped with a little pile of green pea shoots (chi-chi, no?), and it looked as delicious as it tasted. (Special thanks to Tom, my willing culinary guinea pig. He’s crazy, I know.)

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Gloriously lifted and mangled from Epicurious.

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3-5 teaspoons curry powder to taste
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 (15-oz) cans solid-pack pumpkin (3 1/2 cups; not pie filling)
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (32 fl oz)
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk (I used low-fat)
4 teaspoons sugar

Cook onions in butter in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, curry, and cardamom and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, pumpkin, water, broth, sugar, and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth (blogger’s note: keep the blender less than one-third full), transferring to a large bowl, and return soup to pot. Keep soup warm over low heat.

My Beef with Paleo. Oh, and a totally unrelated ice cream recipe.

My great³ uncle Phil

I’ve been trying not to eat like a red bovine lately. After moving and trying to get my shit together, it’s about time I drop some lousy habits I’ve picked up, and I’m starting with the food I unceremoniously dump into my body every day.

I’ve been introduced to the Paleo Diet, and I’m buying into a good portion of it. I won’t get into the minutia here (debates on the value of olive oil vs coconut oil, what kinds of meats are best, how much fat one should consume, etc.), but in general terms Paleo — as the name implies — derives from the way our knuckle-dragging caveman ancestors ate: dead animals, fruit and veggies. Carbohydrates (through wheat and root veggies), dairy and beans are no good very bad . I’ve always lost weight dumping the carbs, so this coupled with the fact that, unless I want to be starving all the time, I need to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Fine.

I can follow the requirements of the diet, but I see no reason to eat food that tastes like it was cooked by Barney Rubble, without the luxury of seasonings, modern appliances or a cookbook or two for inspiration. My research (read: screwing around on the interwebs and casually picking up a book) has revealed a general disregard for anything that actually tastes good. Many Paleo practicioners treat food as nothing more than raw fuel for the body. Generally, these folks strike me as super-athletic people who treat their bodies like temples, and they gain pleasure from things that are not food related. (“Hey baby, wanna see my 6-pack?” Alas, this poor sucker is not talking about some frosty Schlafly.) Their recipes reflect this inclination to treat food to a means to an end (and a well-sculpted rear-one at that).

What am I bitching about? Here’s a serving suggestion that is fairly representative of the Paleo regimen: For breakfast, eat half a cantaloupe and a slab of salmon leftover from the night before. (I didn’t make that up, I promise.)

Screw that.

If I’m eating salmon for breakfast, it damn well better be smoked and sitting on a decent everything bagel with capers, red onions and cream cheese. Of course, this sarcasm is anything but helpful if one is trying to stick with Paleo. My solution? An egg white omelet stuffed with salmon (smoked or left over from dinner), avocado and a few capers. Served with a side of sliced cantaloupe or fresh berries, this is a meal, something to look forward to while you’re dragging your ass out of bed in the morning.

I have always believed in making eating special, even if it’s a dum-dum Salisbury steak on a Wednesday night. Lunch — for me, anyway — is usually  a harried hassle in the middle of the day, so I do my best to make breakfast and dinner special. These are two times of day you should be spending with the people you care about the most, and gosh darn it, good food enhances that time together. In short: I’m not casually feeding my loved ones plain steamed broccoli and a poached chicken breast. For breakfast OR dinner. Frankly, they deserve better and I don’t want to eat that, either.

I have other complaints about Paleo (No salt?!), but generally speaking I dig the concept: lay off the gluten, sugar and dairy, don’t touch anything processed, and feed yourself lean meats, vegetables and fruits as necessary so you feel satiated. (Also: get off your lazy bum and do something active, for crying out loud.) For my jacked-up brain, the whole making-food-appetizing challenge is incredibly seductive. I know I can make some killer dishes following the general Paleo guidelines. Using my noggin in the kitchen AND eating healthy? In business parlance, I believe this is considered a “win-win.”

It takes surprisingly little effort to turn raw materials into a delicious meal, and this is my new challenge with Paleo. I’m going to follow the rules (mostly), but I’m going to take inspiration from- and tweak tried-and-true recipes from Julia Child, Jamie Oliver, America’s Test Kitchen, and the slew of books that sit on my kitchen counter. These people know what tastes good, and I’m going to use them as my guide. This isn’t anything new for me: I regularly take less-than-healthy recipes and transform them into something not-so-bad. I want to be healthy, but I demand to eat well, too.

Salted caramel ice cream

As one of my last sexy, dairy-filled bits of decadence before I go whole-hog into caveman cuisine, here’s a little bit o’ yummy I whipped up a couple of weeks ago. It’s a mash-up of two recipes: Ina Garten’s ice cream with the salted caramel component of another ice cream recipe. (Why two recipes? I’ve had amazing luck with Garten’s recipe and I see no need to deviate from it except for adding awesome flavors to it.) This stuff is boner-inducing, and if yours manages to last for more than two days, you need to get your head checked.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt

For the ice cream:
3 cups half and half
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the delicious, sweet, gooey salted caramel:  Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

Make the ice cream:

Heat the half and half until it forms bubbles around the edge of the pan and steam starts to rise. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt until mixed. Slowly add the hot half and half until combined. Wipe out the pan and pour the mixture back into the clean pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 10 minutes until it’s thickened and the cream coats the back of a spoon. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Stir in cooled caramel. Refrigerate until completely chilled.

Pour the cream into an ice-cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Mix in your flavorings, spoon into a container and allow to freeze for a few hours.

Control yourself. This goes well with any flavor of pie or cobbler. Of course, it’s pretty darn spectacular on its own.

A new chapter

To Every End There is a Beginning by Rich Frederick

To Every End There is a Beginning by Rich Frederick

I’ve neglected this blog pretty miserably lately. Believe it or not, I did publish the results of the Champagne Duel to the Death at Girls Guide to the Galaxy here. (They take out a good portion of my snark, which is probably a good thing.) I’ve just been downright lazy lately. Finding the gumption to write can be a pain in the ass, but I know I have to get back to it. After all, it’s one of the few things I don’t suck at. (I even have the creative license to end a sentence with a preposition, natch.)

In the last several months, a lot has changed in my life, the beginning of which was neatly outlined by this post, and the  pile of words you’re reading now represents the bookend to what I hope is the end of that tumultuous period of my life. I moved twice: out of my home and in with my sister, and again into my own place just a few weeks ago. My divorce — and all the emotional and physical burden that entails for both parties — began and was finalized.  Over those nine months I went through the wringer, but I’m the first to admit my story isn’t anything special; people go through this all the time. But it was my first — and hopefully only — time.

I didn’t have it that bad. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I won the genealogical lottery and I had the luck to wind up in a family full of the kindest, most selfless people I have ever met. I still don’t know how I ended up there, but I did and I thank my lucky stars every day for their support. My sister sacrificed the most, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. People who I didn’t consider particularly close to me came to my aid in ways I hadn’t expected, and I am still blown away by their generosity. My bosses were patient with me and gave me the time necessary to deal with my personal bullshit. I have plenty of friends who fed me, plied me with cocktails and gave me a shoulder to cry on.

The end result? I’m on my own. Again.

Through this process of untangling and starting anew, I’ve learned a bit about myself, some serious, some not so much, but two things have been brought into sharp relief (one involves food, I promise):

  • Quite often my mouth runs away, but I generally mean what I say. I think with my heart much more often than I should, and I am often laden with feelings of regret for being so forward and seemingly unsophisticated, but whatever. If I tell you look like a million bucks in that shirt, it’s the truth as I see it, and I hope you smile and feel good because somebody told you so. I will be honest to a fault, and I just hope my friends (or the random strangers I have a tendency to talk to) don’t hold it against me.
  • I am at my happiest when I’m in the kitchen feeding the people I love. Little did I realize just how true this post was when I originally wrote it shortly after I first moved out, but it captured my relationship with food clearly. My brain is usually the gray-matter equivalent of a colander that retains just about nothing, but I somehow manage to remember every little food-related detail about you, and I will use this to make you happy, in perhaps the only way I can. At heart I am a caretaker, and I have a visceral urge to feed people silly while at the same time making them feel comfortable and relaxed. I like playing in my new kitchen to cook for myself, but it doesn’t make me happy like cooking for my favorite people. Coupled with the fact that I am shamefully verbally inarticulate (I get through the day with a series of grunts and single-syllable words Beavis and Butthead style), food is the one way I can clearly convey my feelings for you. Many think cooking is a chore; I consider it a pleasure and a gift, and I’m glad I have decent enough taste and the remedial reading skills necessary to follow a recipe.

Anyway, I’m starting to food blog for Girls Guide to the Galaxy with some regularity, but I gotta keep up with FMiStL because that’s where I can really be myself: snark, dirty words, juvenile humor and all. Thanks for continuing to read (and encouraging me to write) this tripe.

xo

The ABCs

This is called “lobbing softballs at the blogosphere.” I’ve been lazy as hell about the whole blogging thing as of late, and I thought this piddly exercise that I lifted from another blog might get me in the routine of writing again. It’s stupid and self-indulgent, but, hey, that’s exactly what blogging is if you haven’t figured that out already.

Side note: I’ve been punching out some pretty stellar food lately, but I know my food photography looks like it has been done by Stevie Wonder on a bad day. I’m studying up. I’m embarrassed by them and I don’t want to put any more lousy pictures on here.

Without further ado, the ABCs of me:

Violet with her favorite treat.

A: Age — 34

B: Bed Size — Queen, for obvious reasons.

C: Chore You Hate — Picking up dog poo.

D: Dogs — My sweet, beautiful Violet, the prolific maker of the above-referenced poo.

E: Essential Start Your Day Item — A decent song like this one to get me out of bed. Then coffee, and loads of it. (I don’t get the horse in the video, either.)

F: Favorite Color — Black for clothing; purple for everything else.

G: Gold or Silver — Silver.

H: Height — Driver’s license says 5’9″, so let’s roll with that.

I: Instruments You Play — A teeny weenie bit of piano. If there’s a song I like I’ll buy the music and and try to play it relentlessly until it almost sounds like the real deal.

J: Job Title — Job 1: Assistant Director/Job 2: Personal Assistant/Secretary

K: Kids — None, but I adore them.

L: Live — St. Louis.

M: Mother’s Name — Carol.

N: Nicknames — Shellers, Shel, Elle. I also answer to “Hey lady, put those sparklers down and get off the bar.”

Sis dressed up like Abby from NCIS the weekend before Halloween. She still has a scar on her leg from falling off this lightpost 12 seconds after this shot was taken.

O: Overnight Hospital Stays — Unless you count my birth, zero.

P: Pet Peeve — Lackadaisical drivers, lousy tippers, inappropriate use of quotation marks, and people who are generally not nice.

Q: Quote from a Movie — “He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.”

R: Right or Left-Handed — Right.

S: Siblings — One younger sister, Karen.

T: Time You Wake Up — 6:30….usually.

Brussels sprouts are my favorite, particularly with bacon.

U: Underwear — Optional.

V: Vegetable You Dislike — If cooked properly, I haven’t met one I didn’t like.

W: What Makes You Late — My own general disregard for the time. That and lackadaisical drivers (ref “P” for “Pet Peeve”).

X: X-rays You’ve Had Done — Aside from dental, only a series of them taken of my abdomen.

Y: Yummy Food You Make — Pfft. Everything I make is yummy. Well, most of

Must. Have. One. It can live in the bathtub.

it is anyway. (Recent fail: cauliflower faux-mashed potatoes. Garlic is still fuming from my pores.)

Z: Zoo Animal Favorite — Otters. They’re like dogs in water.

Happy Sunday

Happy sunny beautiful Sunday, everyone.

This is my favorite image of Marilyn Monroe. I want to smile every time I see it, and I hope it does the same for you. Share the good vibes with somebody else today. You never know how much that simple gesture can do.

xo,
s

Cheap Champagne Duel…to the Death

Alas, this will unfortunately NOT be on the menu for the tasting.

It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t done a public service by selflessly testing some useless random food for the good of humanity as of late. (Case in point: donuts, here und here; rutabagas; ill-fated TV-show inspired food, etc. ) Discuss the stupidity of this amongst yourselves…now.

I received an email a few weeks ago that went something like this: “I just drunk a bottle of champagne and I thought of you.” My friend got it right…champagne is, in fact, my decadent go-to drink of choice. But as we all know a decent bottle of the stuff is a little pricey. (Tattinger is my absolute favorite. Keep your crappy Cristal.) However, there are a few good uses for the more moderately-priced labels. This, I thought, would be a worthwhile, relatively cheap — and potentially hilarious — taste-testing.

So, for the sake of luscious Sunday morning mimosas and schlepping through the streets of your ‘hood with your own personal bottle of bubbly happy,  I’ve decided to recruit my yet-innocent mother and sister to subject them to the potentially horrific trials of testing several brands of cheap stuff to see if any of them are even worth opening.

Just like liquor, if you’re mixing it with something, it doesn’t have to be top-shelf. Toasting a bris or a wedding? Go for the gold. But if you’re mixing it with other liquors or OJ, it can be of a lesser quality. Just how lesser? We’re gonna find out. Next Sunday at Easter, we’re going to toast the risen man himself. A few too many times.

Stay tuned for the report and the embarrassing pictures that are sure to follow.

Thanks again for reading this stuff.