Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Year Later

It is December 30, and since it looks like we'll be on the road all day tomorrow, I'm sending out my final post today.  It's hard to believe my one whole year of only whole foods is almost at an end, and because I'm all about the honesty, I have to announce to you that I'm going out with a whimper rather than a bang.  For one thing, I took too many "exception meals" over the holidays (...mmm toffee and cookies and Nana's hashed brown potato casserole...) For another, I then got seriously laid out with a vicious stomach flu.

So after a year of conscientious eating, and two years completely off soda pop, I spent the last week of December subsisting entirely on Coca-Cola.

And, stomach flu be damned, it tasted GOOD.

In any case, I've had a lot of questions about how this year has gone and what will happen next, so I thought I'd take some time to reflect by answering them...

What will you eat first?

This one is easy.  OMG A HUGE HEAPING BOWL OF BREAKFAST CEREAL.  Cereal, even the "healthy" kind, is sort of the ultimate processed food: when you think about it, it is basically a box full of machine-made flakes, often spiced with added vitamins, plenty of sugars, and (in the less "healthy" kinds) fun food colorings.  

It is not, on the other hand, the sort of exciting meal that I was willing to waste an exception meal on ... So it really has been a full year since I ate any.  And I'm pretty pumped for that first big bowl.  

For those who like specifics:  I'm leaning toward Raisin Bran.  

Will you keep it up? 

Yes, but not so stringently. 

We've honestly loved all the fantastic foods we've been eating, and because we enjoy cooking and genuinely believe in the importance of going fresh and local (for reasons of health and politics) I can't imagine ever going back from this.  Moreover, apart from the occasional urgent craving (usually during my period, go fig) I don't miss fast food at all.  The things we eat are so much more delicious. 

That being said, I'm looking forward to not having to monitor every single bite, thinking about what's in it.  When we're out at parties, or at restaurants, I'll take a chill pill and just eat whatever appeals, not worrying about what might be in it.  And for some homemade recipes that really require something with a complex man-made ingredient in it, I'll be able to say c'est la vie and just go for it.  

What lessons about food are you taking away from this? 

Ultimately, that food really does taste better when you've thought about it, taken time with it, put your own elbow grease into it, and sat down together with loved ones to enjoy it.  

Also: YOU CAN ACTUALLY COOK ANYTHING if you are willing to take a stab at it.  See, e.g., pot stickers ... they were better than actual Chinese take-out. 

What meals were your favorites? 

Oh, man, there were so many.  But a sampling: 

The cider-braised pork shoulder feast Matt created.

Pounded chicken breasts with lemon vinaigrette salad and shaved parmesana reggiano.

Lamb burgers and big beers as Duke won the championship last March.

Chocolate pot de creme for breakfast.

Lamb rogan josh and basmati rice.

... And, of course, the croissants!! 

What book was it again that inspired you? 

Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma."  Please go buy it.  It will change your life. 

Final thoughts:

I just wanted to briefly say thank you to everyone who made accommodations for my crazy diet this year.  

To Katie and Greg, whose farm was a major source of both food and inspiration.  

To my friends and anyone else I may have cooked for, who put up with a steady stream of half-cocked whole foods recipe ideas.  

To those who read this blog, and all the support you gave me over the last twelve months. 

To my family, for switching to Whole Foods, joining CSAs, purchasing ridiculously expensive bottles of whole milk, allowing me full choice of the garden, free range in the kitchen, and everything else.  

And to Matt, who jumped on this bandwagon with me.  

I love you all!  

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

A recipe we stole from an incredible dinner we had at Mado (thank you again, Groupon):

First, we fried slices of deli-fresh pancetta in a saucepan.

We took the pancetta out, dried it on a towel and chopped it.  Meanwhile, we sautéed a couple chopped shallots and a clove of garlic in the pan, adding a tiny bit of olive oil to the pancetta drippings.

As the shallots cooked, we pulled leaves off the sprouts, leaving out the hard (more bitter) cabagey innards.

Once the shallots were translucent, we tossed in the sprout leaves, cooking only a minute or two until they were at that sweet spot between crunchy and tender.

Added in the chopped pancetta, and voila:

I'm not sure how brussels sprouts got the "grossest vegetable" reputation, because I think they're phenomenal.  I love their meaty flavor and firm texture, and the pairing here with the salty pancetta and sweet shallots is just fantastic.  This is a dish that is spectacular as a side dish, but hearty enough to stand on its own for dinner.

And THAT, my friends, is what I call "mostly plants."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thanksgiving, Part Two

After spending Thanksgiving Thursday with my family in Omaha (see below), we set off the next day for Wisconsin, to enjoy another feast, this time with Matt's fam...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weight Watchers Goes Unprocessed

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Thanks, Part One

Between the two of us, Matt and I have more family than you can shake a stick at (what does that even mean?) and holidays are, as a consequence, pretty stick-shakingly full of love and laughter.  And food.  Always food.

I love this time of year, with first snowfalls and Christmas around the bend.  Thanksgiving has always been a big joyous feast in our house, complete with cornucopia centerpieces, heaping plates of turkey, pints of fresh whipped cream over multiple pies, after-dinner games of Apples to Apples.  Sharing my family's celebration with Matt, having our close friends Kim and David with us in Omaha, and joining Matt's family on Katie and Greg's farm two days later for a second feast ... We had some terrific reasons to give thanks.

And for someone eating whole foods, there was a great, great deal for which to be grateful... I could tell you all about it, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much are a THOUSAND pictures worth?

A million.

Warning: gratuitous naked turkey flesh ahead!

Ohhhh, Thanksgiving.  Let me count the ways I love you: happy turkeys from the farm, sourdough stuffing seasoned with sage from the garden, simmered gravy from the innards and fresh-cut turkey neck, home-baked apple and pumpkin pie with home-rolled crust ...

We always say grace before dining, and the version from my mother's side of the family goes like this:

Father, we thank thee for this food.  Bless it to our use, and give us grateful hearts.