Foodie Sunday: Foodie Alchemy!
Happy Foodie Sunday! The first and best news is that since we were last together is that I’ve lost 7 pounds! Yes you heard me! 7 glorious pounds! I’m learning so much about the way that I eat and I will admit that it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. I woke up in the middle of the night just now realizing that I’d been hiding from the world for the last 9 years under all of this belly fat. I haven’t accomplished yet many of the things that I want to in this lifetime and I’m 52. Peeling away this layer of armor is exposing all of the tender places and I’m scared, but I’m definitely ready. I’m definitely trying to figure out who and what I’m going to be when I grow up! Any thoughts? I'm willing to listen to all suggestions!
Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I’m not using any particular cleanse. For years I’ve tried everything, but not with any lasting results. I’ve decided to create my own lifestyle, using a combination of the French techniques that I love, Asian foodie wisdom and a bit of alchemy. Alcohol is definitely on my mostly avoid list because I’ve discovered that it actually holds my weight in place. We’re using one night to splurge, which is a tremendous amount of fun! One night doesn’t destroy the diet but I must admit that I’m always happy the next morning to go back to the plan because now that my body is used to eating smaller portions of really good food I always feel a bit bloated. Thank goodness for my amazing husband. I just don’t know that I’d keep this up without his support. He’s convinced me though that I’ll like the end result even more than he will which keeps me going even when I’m this terrified. Did I mention that I even worked out by myself last week? That’s huge for me! Jim had the flu and I went anyhow. I can’t believe how hard that was to do, but my reward was a soak in the whirlpool and some time in the steam room and that was heaven.
Herbs and spices play a huge role in this diet and this particular way of cooking serves them well. I use herbs and spices not just for flavor, but for their healing properties and actually one little known part of my life is that I trained for over 10 years with one of the most amazing herbalists I’ve ever known, the classic “good witch with the cottage in the woods” , a wise woman named LaWanna Rine.
La Wanna taught me that food IS medicine, long before it became chic to think that way! Everything brewing in her kitchen had a purpose and she wildcrafted most of it, just as do I to this day except when the snow is flying. In the heart of winter, that’s what Penzeys herbs and spices are for and if you’ve never tried them, they’re absolutely wonderful. Their spice and herb blends can make a decent cook out of anyone, even those who thinks that they can’t cook. A trip to the Penzeys store is a fantastic experience and I take people there to teach them about herbs and flavor. Everything is incredibly fresh and just like the glass cloches that are currently so popular in fine fragrance or candle stores, when you lift the lid on a Penzeys jar you’ll get the pure , fresh perfume ofperfectly stored herbs.
I do use supplements but my tastes prefer my herbs as close to the origins as possible so when I can get them that way that’s all I’ll use. Real food is live food and that’s what I believe that you need to create real wellness. Right now I get up every morning and pretend that I’m at a lovely spa. I make my cup of Earl Grey tea and flavor it with a delicious and creamy raw honey. Sometimes I have juice and sometimes I have fresh oatmeal that I prepare with almond milk, cinnamon and fresh berries. My husband was the every day bowl of cereal type and now I’m experimenting with all kinds of foods for breakfast, like smoked salmon with fresh dill instead of bacon or vegan breakfast burritos with fresh citrus salsas and guacamole. It not only has to taste good, but it needs to look and smell wonderful or we all know that I’m not going to eat it and instead start binging once again on bacon and brie!
I’ve discovered that the key to success here is to cook our food myself. Going out is always lovely, but there are several things that I’ve discovered. For starters it’s true, unless you have someone to share it with the portions in this countryARE way too big. Secondly and even more important to the success of this program is the fact that even good restaurants accentuate flavor with all sorts of added naughtiness like too much butter, cream and a bit of sugar here and there. That’s fine for splurge night but not for everyday fare. I’m enjoying the challenge of preparing good food, with great ingredients and fabulous natural flavors. For me cooking is alchemical, much in the same way that many of the natural perfumers that we love create their fragrances. A bit of sage, a pinch of fresh rosemary and a few lavender buds stewed with a bit of white potato and leek turn a simple chicken breast into a fragrant and soothing dish that settles my stomach easily.
That same chicken breast, piece of tofu or fish when it’s quickly stir fried in my Le Creuset Wok with a bit of bok choy, sweet potato, onion, minced garlic, chopped peanuts , cayenne, cinnamon, ginger and allspice turns into a very warming dish that doesn’t need anything extra in the way of carbs and is completely satisfying on a really cold evening without any of the bloating side effects. For anyone allergic to peanuts I’ve discovered spicy tamari pumpkin seeds; these are so satisfying for anyone with a groundnut allergy.
Fresh butternut squash baked with fresh sage, ginger, a bit of Earth Balance “butter” and a bit of maple syrup relaxes me completely and makes me feel like I’m eating dessert! You can take that same squash recipe and puree it with some coconut milk and pour the whole thing into an ice cream maker. Serve it with crystallized ginger sprinkled on top and if you can find it, some fresh mochi. If you can’t find fresh mocha, whole foods has a terrific prepared mochi (a pounded rice paste) that comes in a pack and is ready to use. Just slice into bite size pieces and bake according to the directions. Dust it with a bit of Chinese 5 spice powder and a bit of “Butter “ and some honey. This is one of my sweet secrets, absolutely delicious, fragrant and so good for you!
For me, the final piece of the puzzle is presentation. Make it beautiful , make sitting down at the table a feast for the senses! Make sure you sit down to eat, put everything on a pretty plate, use a cloth napkin (so much better for the environment) and treat yourself well because you’re worth it! Buy a crystal goblet or two and use them for everything, even water! Turn on somemusic. Chew and breathe ; as my mother used to say "relax and make every day into a day for candles and wine"! Dress up a bit and dab on some fabulous perfume, today I'm wearing Tom Fords utterly luscious Tobacco Vanille which is the equivalent of dessert in a flacon. This is about having a real relationship with your food and allowing it to nurture and love you back. If you’re joining me on this journey, please leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing! It’s great to have such good friends to share this with and I’m thankful for you all!
Eat Well, Be Well, Live and Love well!
Penzey's can be found at penzeys.com