Monthly Archives: October 2012

cooked stew

Hurricane Hungarian Beef Stew

In case no one’s heard yet, there’s a bit of weather coming our way. A little thing everyone’s calling “Frankenstorm.” The predictions are that, a) it will all pass us by and we’ll hardly notice a thing, or b) it will strike like the hammer of Thor and plummet the entire state into a week without power.

The number one worry on my mind? Not fallen branches, or flooding, or any of the things most people would worry about: I worry about my freezer. I have a ton of food in my chest freezer, and I would just cry if I lost it all. So, thinking ahead, I decided I should use up some of my frozen meat yesterday, just in case the “hammer of Thor” option is the one that’s coming.

I had some stew meat in the freezer, so I immediately thought about my mother’s Hungarian Goulash. Only that’s served over noodles, and I can’t have noodles. I could do brown rice, maybe, but I wasn’t in the mood. I did have some gorgeous red new potatoes from our CSA share, though, so decided to incorporate them. And add some red wine. And other things. So, the end result was something between Hungarian Goulash, and my Irish Beef Stew. If those two got together and had a baby, this is what it would be. It’s richly flavorful with tastes of paprika and red wine and meat that simply falls apart.

Pure deliciousness.

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Changing Tastebuds

So, here’s an unexpected side effect of completely cutting sugar from your diet: your tastebuds start to change.

Or, at least mine seem to have. I taste things differently from what I used to. When I eat, I really taste the food. I had some potato salad today and really tasted the potatoes much more than I did before. And they tasted sweet to me! Strange, huh? I notice the natural sweetness of foods now incredibly more than I ever did before. When I have fruit, it tastes so surprisingly sweet. It kind of bursts on my tongue. My daily smoothies are perfectly sweet to me now without any honey. And I’m immediately aware when something has sugar in it. We got some pork barbecue the other day, and when I bit in I instantly tasted the sugar. The meat tasted weird and sweet to me. I’m sure that before it would have tasted just fine, but now, after having successfully detoxed from sugar, it just tasted strange.

All of this makes it much easier for me to avoid foods that I know will make me feel bad, and to enjoy the foods that don’t! So, if you’re starting out, or are wondering if you could make it if you tried, I hope that encourages you. After a while, regular, non-sweetened food becomes much more satisfying than you thought it could be.

I’ve also started to tolerate the taste of Stevia more. I used to think it tasted plain weird and wouldn’t use it, but now the “sweet” of the Stevia is just fine to me. In small doses, at least – in large doses it still tastes weird to me. I realized this had changed this morning when I had my husband try some of my Homemade “Nutella.” He was very aware of the Stevia taste, where I didn’t notice it at all. To me it just tasted good. (So, if you want to try it, you’ll have to taste it for yourself and see. If you find you can’t tolerate the Stevia, you can use honey instead.)

Here’s the problem: How can I create recipes for people who are currently hooked on sugar, or just coming off, when I don’t taste things the way they do anymore?! It might taste good to me, but maybe it wouldn’t to sugar-eaters. I guess I’ll just have to use my family as guinea pigs.

I find all this very interesting. It reminds me of models of people’s brains on drugs, where their pleasure receptors don’t react to normal pleasure anymore because they’re always overwhelmed from the drug. Maybe our normal tastebuds get similarly corrupted by sugar? Maybe we don’t realize that food is a lot more naturally sweet and flavorful than we think because we’ve gotten so used to the overwhelming taste of sugar? 

All this has made me start to think of sugar as a scary sort of menace more than a temptation. It ravages our bodies, corrupts our tastebuds, prevents us from enjoying ordinary food as much, and hooks us on it to the point where we feel like we’re going crazy when we don’t eat it! It’s scary stuff, man. Now, I don’t know that I’ll never cheat again. But I think that when I do cheat, I’ll do it with non-sugar alternatives – palm sugar, honey, maple syrup. Because it’s just not worth it to do that to my body.

 

cookie closeup

Nutty Carob Chip Cookies (gluten free!)

So, you’ve gotten past the crazy stage of cravings that crop up in the first week or two. You’re no longer terrorizing your family. At least not on a regular basis. You’ve bought into this whole new lifestyle of eating, and are feeling better. And, while the Special Occasion Chocolate Chip Cookies were something of a lifesaver late that one Saturday night when it was either that or an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, now you’re a little afraid to make them too often. You’re ready for the next stage.

Think of it like a 12 step program for cookie withdrawal. And now you’re on step 2. I don’t know what the other 10 steps may be…I’ll have to see. Maybe there are only like 2 steps total. At any rate, this is the next step.

In that case, I bring you Nutty Carob Chip Cookies. I bought carob chips from the bulk bins at my last visit to Whole Foods because I knew they were naturally sweet, with no added sweeteners at all, and are commonly used as a substitute for chocolate. I tasted them and they taste very familiar to me. There’s a childhood memory attached with that flavor for me, but I don’t remember what it is. It’s not really like chocolate, but I can see how it’s a good substitute for it. So I decided to try them out, with a new, less inflammatory version of my chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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honey mints

Shopping Goodies

I went shopping today. Shopping anymore is adventuresome, and usually involves stops at places I didn’t used to go to as often as I search for alternate food ideas. Today’s visits to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (which is conveniently across the street from TJs) yielded a couple promising finds!

DARK CHOCOLATE HONEY MINTS 

I found these Dark Chocolate Honey Mint gems at Trader Joe’s. There’s just three ingredients: honey, chocolate liquor, and peppermint extract. Honey is on the list of no-no foods for anti-inflammation, so these aren’t things I can eat a lot of, but it is at least a whole, natural food, unlike sugar, so is easier on the body. And they’re delicious! With no refined sugar in these they might be a good occasional treat!

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IMG_1350

Homemade “Nutella” Banana Yumminess

(EDIT: I now have a new and improved Homemade Nutella recipe that is much sweeter and creamier!)

Yes, I know the title of this post is something less than specific. I mean…yumminess? What is that supposed to mean? I admit, I just copped out and settled on “yumminess” after pondering for 10 minutes what to call it. It’s not a sandwich. Not a cookie or cake or anything like that. So what is it? It’s something that I like to eat for lunch, a quick sandwich substitute, but what to call it?

Yumminess it is!

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butternut squash soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Is this the perfect Autumn soup or what? I saw a recipe for a soup similar to this on a vegan food blog I followPeas and Thank You, and decided it looked good and that I should try it out. (The fact that I had 2 butternut squashes from my CSA pick-up just begging to have SOMETHING done to them other than sit on the kitchen table for 3 weeks had a lot to do with this decision.)

But, being me, I couldn’t just leave the recipe as it was. It started simply, with just subbing in homemade chicken stock for the vegetable broth. Then I thought that it could use a little sweetness, so added a little maple syrup. And apple cider. And then I decided that a little cream would really finish up the soup nicely. And maybe also some red pepper for a little more kick.

Really, I just started tossing things in from around my kitchen. Sometimes, this is a dangerous thing. But this time, it turned out great!

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Life Lessons: EAT!!!

So, I didn’t follow my own advice.

You know, the one about eating all the time? About not letting yourself get hungry, ever? The one I repeat over and over again? That one.

I didn’t do it intentionally. I just sort of forgot. I woke up early for a Saturday, and ate at around 8:00, and then just…got busy. I was writing a recipe post, my son had a baseball game, I was getting ready for a visit from my mother.

And then it was 3:00 and I was headachy and dizzy and CRANKY.

I mean, really cranky. I was all stressed and emotional inside and kept snapping at the kids who still-hadn’t-cleaned-their-rooms-after-telling-them- for-15-times-to-get-it-done and WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DO THINGS THE FIRST TIME NOW WE’LL BE LATE FOR BASEBALL HURRY UP!!! Yeah. It was ugly.

And then I had to go to the grocery store to pick up some things, and I saw the rolls.

ROLLS. White and soft and yeasty rolls.

And soda. Sweet, tasty, liquid sugar in a can.

And donuts. Oh, sweet Lord, DONUTS!!!

And every cell in my body called out for those things. I was hyper-aware of where they were in the store. And it seemed like they were everywhere. I totally felt my addict persona come out as it seemed like sugary carb-laden foods rose up in front of me everywhere, begging to be consumed.

I resisted, because I know from past experience what happens to me if I cheat. I’d feel happy while I ate it, but afterwards I’d be even worse off than before. So I got my cream and apples and safety pins and kitchen soap (yeah, I know, it was a random list of things….) and bought them and went home. When I got home, I ate some leftover curried butternut squash soup with chicken and fontina cheese, and then, suddenly….

I wasn’t headachy. Or tired. Or cranky. I felt like a whole new person.

I never before was so sensitive to missed meals. I might have gotten hungry, but I wouldn’t crash like I did on Saturday. I can only assume that not having sugar or as many grains in my diet means that I need to fuel up more regularly. There is probably a scientific, medical reason for this that I don’t know about. All I know is my experience. And it kind of sucked.

So, let my experience be your experience! Eating regularly keeps you from being a terror to your family. And it is the number one way of keeping intense cravings at bay. So, don’t do what I did. Eat!