Not The Same Old……..

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

It’s always a little disconcerting, but change is hard.  I did things a certain way for so long that when the need arose to upend my culinary avenues, I experienced a certain sense of loss.  When this feeling would raise its ugly little head, I would repeat the following mantra, “Don’t cling to the past, embrace the new!”   I needed to set my “Curious George” free.  So I did.  Similar to learning a new instrument, a new sport, a new hobby; cooking within certain parameters didn’t have to be boring.

I also recognized that my personality and sensibilities also needed to be acknowledged.  For example, my addiction to snacking (particularly crunchy, salty) would have to be addressed.  I found that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach worked well after I got through the first 2 weeks.  I also had healthy choices on hand, like apples with almond butter, when I needed a snack.  I have always chaffed under restrictions, so I didn’t want to follow some plan like a religion.  This requires that I honestly evaluate how I feel after each meal.  Even the new can lead to healthy habits over time.  I would need to befriend: patience and persistence.

The past week here in southwest Michigan, has been bitter cold.  With wind chills as low as -25 degrees, our wood-burner has been working overtime. Soups and stews were definitely on the docket. We stocked up on winter squash in late fall at the farmer’s market: butternut, spaghetti and acorn.  I’m particularly fond of butternut.  Its so versatile.  When it comes to soup, butternut is my go to squash.  Typically made with Granny Smith apple to accentuate its inherent sweetness; I always lean toward the savory.  I also prefer to roast the butternut, rather than boil it.  It takes a little longer, but the depth it creates is worth it.  I nestle in some Bosch pear slices while I’m at it as an unexpected garnish; and the oven helps keep our kitchen warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or gluten-free in a carton)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped, fried until crisp, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Bosch pear, cored and cut into sixths,
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
Roasted Bosch pears

Roasted Bosch pears

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1.  Cut two butternut squash in half from top to bottom, remove seeds, rub cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft when pierce with fork.  Let cool.  Scoop out flesh from each half and puree in blender or food processor in batches with chicken broth. Set aside.
  2. Roast Bosch pear on parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Set aside.
  3. Heat small dry skillet on medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Grind in mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  If mortar and pestle is not available, use ground cumin.
  4. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and saute an additional 2 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add pureed squash, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar to pot.  Simmer on medium-low until heated through.
  6. Serve in individual bowls.  Garnish each bowl with a slice of roasted pear, sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Serves 4-6

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”     —–Albert Einstein

Free Radicals

Sweet, salty and savory!

Food.  Humans have been obsessed with it since the beginning of time.  It defines us geographically, ethnically, culturally and economically. It has been a focus in my life since I made my first pie at age 10.  It is my vocation, entertainment, art form and passion.  As a vegetable farmer, I felt I was eating a balanced diet of the recommended vegetables, whole grains and proteins. Needless to say I was shocked when I had a life-threatening intestinal bleed-out in June of 2014 the repercussions I’m still sorting out.  What should I avoid?  How do I prevent it from happening again? When I discussed the food connection with my gastroenterologist, he was unconcerned since my tests proved inconclusive.

One thing I have learned since my health crisis, is that the medical profession for all of its wisdom, does not largely advocate diets that address the symptoms of the diseases they treat.  They adhere to their protocols using prescription medication to treat symptoms of disease, rather than the possible genesis of the disease through diet.

It was clear, that my partner Val and I would need to be proactive with our own research to help determine how I could avoid future frightening episodes.  We started reading in earnest, books such as Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.  The mere word ‘diet’ can sometimes freak me out.  Would I have to do this forever?  No artisan bread?  None the less, we decided to go gluten-free. Then came the shocker:  within 48 hours, my brain fog disappeared!   I had learned to live with its slowness for well over a decade, chalking it up to menopause or the aging process; but it was gone and has not returned.  Really?  My thinking was so clear that I became an evangelist for the gluten-free lifestyle. Although at one time I thought gluten-free was an over blown food fad, here I was subscribing to its tenants.  As we continued to connect the dots, our investigating lead to the Paleo Diet.  Now mind you, for a foodie like myself, I was nervous that I would not find enough variety to sustain this approach.  And could we just stop calling these approaches diets?

Paelo….my god is there material here!  Dozens and dozens of cookbooks, plans, pod-casts and blogs.  Still…I have, and continue to have reservations about its restrictions: no grains, no legumes, no dairy.  But like most things in my life; I jumped in with both feet.  Rather than focus on what I couldn’t have, I focus on the variety I do have.  When I consider the abundant approaches of ethnic food, I knew I would put my creativity to the test!  To that end my first recipe is a take on a Cuban Beef Picadillo.  I used our own roasted tomatoes, but you can use Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with almost equal success.  It’s great over roasted spaghetti squash or as a lettuce roll-up.  My food future certainly seems less bleak.   Bon Appetite!

Sweet, salty and savory.

Sweet, salty and savory.

Perfect as a filling for tacos or a wrap.

Perfect as a filling for tacos or a wrap.

CUBAN BEEF PICADILLO

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. pasture raised ground beef
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 farm fresh hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rub olive oil on cut sides of squash.  Place on jelly-roll pan, covered with parchment paper, cut side down.  Roast for 50 minutes.  Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with the edge of a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, onion and garlic; cook stirring occasionally, until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and raisins and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped eggs, olives, and cilantro.
  5. With a fork, scrape some of the spaghetti squash into individual bowls. Top with sauce.

Serves: 4-6

“Ethnic diversity adds richness to society.”

—Gary Loche

Ringing in the New……….

 2166

“You can’t know what you don’t know.  On the other hand, if your sense of denial is stronger than your desire to change, knowledge will elude you.”

In June of 2014, 2 weeks prior to my 60th birthday, I experienced a life threatening bleed-out of my small intestine.  After 2 days in the hospital, a CAT scan and four units of blood, I was released with several out-patient tests scheduled.  My gastroenterologist said, “Do you realize how lucky you are?  How serious this  was?”  No I didn’t.

My diagnosis was acute Anemia, brought on by chronic GI blood loss. I was given a prescription for 325 mg Ferrous Sulfate (oral iron) for the anemia, along with Prilosec to reduce my stomach acid.  My hemoglobin had risen to 9.6 after the blood transfusion, but was by no means my normal 13.9 prior to this episode.

After having an upper GI and a colonoscopy, the results proved inconclusive.  I was tested for celiac disease and for a wheat allergy; these tests were negative.  We did not know the reason for my bleed-out.  It was suspected that it was more seepage over time, since I had not noticed any continual discoloration in my stool.  Yet, I wanted to know….why?  How could I prevent a reoccurrence of a frightening episode?  Questioning lead me down unexpected paths, which fostered this blog and the sequel to Basics with a Twist.  Walk with me on this journey of discovery as we see theTwisted Basics in our food-system and our health.  Within my lifethreatening crisis, is also a life-giving answer.  When you ask hard questions, be prepared to have many of your common beliefs turned upside down, paradigms challenged and an invitation to accept responsibility for your own health.  As my physician said, “A test is a snap shot in time.  Listen to your body and it will inform you if you are on the right track.”  I realize how I have been taking my body for granted.  The time has come to take responsibility for its health.  This is a story of that journey.

“There is no diet that will do what eating healthy does.”

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