Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bacon Fat, Chard Stems, and Fennel Fronds

What do these three things have in common? They usually end up as food waste. Me, being the thrifty gal I am, I like to try and use everything. Even fennel fronds

I used to pour off my bacon fat and discard it. Then the low-fat craze ended (for most) and I realized that I cook with olive oil. And butter. They are fat. Bacon fat is fat. Why am I throwing it away? Silly me. Save it in a jar in the fridge. I use it to fry eggs, saute veggies, and grease the pan for cornbread. I save my olive oil for salad dressing and my butter for baking.

But wait, you say. Even with fats being allowed in a normal diet, isn't bacon fat too high in saturated fat? I recently read an interesting article about our body's very real need for saturated fats. The link between heart disease and saturated fats has been debunked. The real killer is refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour) and unhealthy oils, such as canola oil and and soy oil. I'm not sure how well I do avoiding sugar, but...

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Mocha

About two years and four months ago, I sat on a slightly reclined bed while an ultra sound tech put jelly on my belly, slid a wand over it, and looked at the screen. "I think I had a miscarriage," I said, "But I still have pregnancy symptoms." Pause. "You're still pregnant," she said. "Listen, you can hear the heartbeat." Wop-wop-wop-wop. On the screen was a little wriggly mass.

How could this be? A week and a half earlier, I had a miscarriage. I knew it. All sorts of emotions of sadness, failure, yearning, and weirdness swirled around in my head. But there was nothing to be done. I started drinking wine and coffee again. I went to NYC with Justin to visit my brother. On the way there, I barfed. I felt gross, exhausted, and everything I had been feeling while pregnant. What was going on? (Come to find out later, I probably miscarried a twin. But I'll never know for sure.)

I could not believe I was still pregnant. It was an unseasonably warm day in March. I biked over to Milk and Honey Market, feeling free as a bird, and sat outside with an iced mocha. I called Justin. Called my mom. Called my sister. Texted the two friends I had already told. That feeling of sitting outside with my iced mocha and sharing the good news (again) with family and friends will never leave me. It's one of those memories that is burned in my mind.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Foraging for Jewel Berries

We camped for a night last week at Greenbrier State Park in western Maryland, close to Virginia and West Virginia. Justin very much wanted to camp just the three of us this summer. We are going later with my family, but that may involve many things to do and a little bit of chaos, in spite of the fun times that are sure to be had. So I cooked and packed, and Justin packed and loaded, and Evelyn flitted around and made messes. We arrived at 10:30 am on Thursday, stayed through the following afternoon, and then visited Harper's Ferry in West Virginia before heading home on Friday evening. It was a quick trip, but so worth the effort. We relaxed, we swam, we hiked, we ran, we built a fire, made s'mores, watched fireflies, and loved every minute of being outside.

A major perk of Greenbrier State Park, and this whole area of Maryland, really, is that in July, there are wild raspberries. Everywhere. I was ecstatic. They were along the pathways, in the woods, at the side of the road. I made it my mission to pick every ripe berry I could find. When I closed my eyes I saw raspberries. I became a little obsessed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Love and Greens

On Saturday, June 28th, Justin and I celebrated our six year anniversary. When I say "celebrated," what comes to mind? Romantic dinner, wine, time alone...nope. We actually forgot to say happy anniversary to each other until about 1 pm that afternoon. Here is how our day went.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Homemade Tortillas

The more I started cooking from scratch, the more I became unsatisfied with many packaged, processed foods. Not all, of course. There are still some good ones out there. But take hamburger rolls. I don't like them very much. They're either too mushy, or too sweet, or too dry, or too bread-y. I would never eat them without something inside of them, and I don't think bread should be that way. So earlier this week when I knew we were having burgers, I found a great burger bun recipe online and made it. It was incredible. I would eat the bun on its own. And it transformed my burger.

I realize that not every meal can be a transcendent experience, and there are times that you just have to eat (real) food to quell your hunger and keep you going. As much as possible, though, I attempt to cook from scratch and enjoy every part of my meal.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Food Thoughts

I have an interesting relationship with food. Not only do I consume it, but sometimes it consumes me. When I finish my coffee in the morning, I think, "I can't wait til my afternoon cup of coffee." If I have dessert, I think, "Just one more bite, and then I'll be satisfied. Just one last cookie, and then I'll be set." If I have a plate of good food, I sometimes finish the whole plate of food, even if my belly was full after only half a plate.  I love to talk about food. It's a safe subject that most people are interested in. I read recipes like a book. I stockpile dessert recipes because I want to eat the finished products.

My late twenties brought about my food renaissance. I learned about real food, bought locally, and memorized the "dirty dozen" and "clean fifteen" lists for organic produce. I signed up for my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and nearly turned vegetarian overnight in order to not let any veggies go to waste. I helped establish a farm in my neighborhood. I ate less meat because the good stuff was too expensive to buy regularly. Reading these last few sentences, I wonder what happened to the girl in college who thought free/cheap food was the most important factor.

I also got into baking. Weekly baking, which produced lovely muffins, bread, cake, cookies. It didn't make a difference on my I'm-still-in-my-twenties body. I exercised regularly, and figured anything extra would just burn off. Then I turned thirty. And had a baby. Even on my awesome 40-60 minutes a day workout plan, I cannot just eat whatever I want anymore, and especially not in whatever quantity I want. Ah, thirties.

It also got me to thinking that eating beyond the feeling of fullness is simply a waste. A waste in my body, a waste in dollars, and a waste in food production. I got used to food having power over me. "That is a cookie. You love cookies. Eat that cookie." Even if I had already eaten three cookies. It's so stupid! I am trying to take back the power by changing my thinking about food. I truly delight in eating good food, but when I give food too much power, it consumes me, and I feel guilty. By changing my thinking, I eat more balanced, and I enjoy it so much more.

This has not come about suddenly. I have been pondering these things for a couple of years. When I start to feel like I'm spinning out of control, I ask myself, "Why do I want to keep eating? What will it accomplish? What void am I trying to fill?" Usually I can identify something that is pushing me to want to snack or keep eating when not hungry. It is often stress or anxiety. Or tiredness.

In light of all of these food thoughts, I typed some one-liners into my phone to refer to when I feel the need. I'd like to share them with you. I showed Justin, too, and he was amused, because he does not have such a complicated relationship with food. Here goes:

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Short List: Brunch and Dessert

Saturday was a beautiful day with clear skies, a gusty warm wind, and everyone and their brother outside. We all three of us went to the playground in the park. Me, Justin, and Evelyn. Evelyn happily kicked her legs as we pushed her in the stroller. She pointed at random things and said, "Hi!" to people way far away. We enjoyed the togetherness and sun. "Isn't it so nice to be together?" I asked Evelyn as we set out on our playground adventure. She looked like she was thinking seriously, and then said, "Yeah." I think she knew what I was asking.

The playground was crawling with kids, to be expected. Evelyn hustled up there with the big kids. She is as tall as most two-year-olds. She got to the top of the biiiiiiig slide. A parent was up there among the taller, older, noisy kids. She pointed to Evelyn, and pointed to me, and I nodded. "She's about to go down the twirly slide. You see her? She's gonna go down." "That's ok!" I yelled. "My husband is at the bottom. He's going to catch her." Down she went, over and over and over again. The look of sheer delight as she came zooming down the slide thrilled me. She literally caught some air off the end as she sailed in my arms and I swooped her high in the air. "Again?" I asked. "Yeah!" she said, her back already to me. 

So what does this have to do with the short list? Nothing. I just wanted to share.

I've been thinking lately about what I would serve someone with just a few hours notice. Which recipe would I take out of my bag of tricks? What dish never fails? I wanted to create a short list of go to recipes that I tend to use weekly. As I browsed through my past blog entries and through my cookbooks, the listed started to get too long. So I broke it down into breakfast and dessert, with a lunch/dinner list to come later.


- Fried Egg Sandwich and Omelets (and omelets and omelets)