8 26 2021

In the pursuit of living better and achieving goals, I’ve been using a food relationship management subscription over the past few months. Noom has a sort of continuing education feel with a supportive chat group structure to share lessons and give each other new ideas on how to creatively work with food to challenge or push back on old beliefs and walk into new rituals and ways of seeing the world. A lot of the most important parts of Noom for me has been creating a calorie budget, where I understand the parameters of how many calories I need to eat each day in order to either sustain or lose weight, and following the budget. The most fun I’ve been having lately is with plant-based substitutions for dairy and highly processed carbohydrates. In place of cheese, I use grated zucchini or summer squash on my eggs; instead of half and half I use Califia Farms coconut almond creamer; I use vegan shreds instead of cheddar on my burritos; I boil a cauliflower and mash it up instead of rice. What it does for me is help me use fun tricks to eat less calorically dense foods. Plant-based foods tend to have more water in them, and do not have as many calories as animal-based ones do. For example, heavy cream has 100 calories per 2 Tbsp. Half and Half has 30 calories per 2 Tbsp. Califia Farms coconut almond creamer has 15 calories per 2 Tbsp. That range gives me more options when I want to spend my calories in certain ways.

My strategy is to eat as many low calorically dense foods (see also: cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, spinach) throughout my day so that I can conserve the higher calorically dense foods (see also: cheeseburger, bread, chips, butter) strategically. I like to plan my day, and I find my calorie budget really helps with planning out foods I’ll eat. Sometimes I have a general idea in mind. Other times I have prepped food for the week and play it by ear on which foods I’m craving. Last weekend I made cauliflower mash, boiled butternut squash, and corn from a local farm stand. I’ve been using these foods interchangeably throughout my week. To be quite candid, I’m nearly sick of eating some of these foods, and I will be glad when this weekend comes so I can food prep some new combination of foods. I picked up beets from a farm stand the other day and so am excited to work with that. I’m not sure if I’ll pickle them or what.

To boost flavor I’ll start out eggs or a burrito base with sautéed white onion and garlic and sprinkle fresh herbs on top. Thyme and basil are two favorites. I have a sage plant but not sure how to prepare the leaves. Do I dry them or just let them be fresh and cook with them? I dunno! I’ve been thinking about taking string and wrapping a sage smudge for the end of the summer. In keeping with new tradition, it would be amazing to burn that smudge through a space and have it cleanse the palate for future seasons. Sage burning is something I have seen used for clearing blocked places, summoning old ancients, and meditation.

*Update** I enjoyed sage sautéed into cauliflower topped with salmon and didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. Sage has this flavor when I close my eyes that mimics meat, but it brought out a flavor when combined with cauliflower and seafood that was lovely. If I can work sage in with vegan chorizo or tofu I’ll probably try that next.

salmon, thyme, mint, carrot, iceberg, red-skinned potato, hard boiled egg, chive
marscapone and marmalade tart, kiwi, blueberry, white nectarine, starfruit, passion fruit, lime

8 1 2021

Welp, this month has a special place in my heart as it’s my birthday month. Though I’m entitled to celebrate the entire month, I don’t limit my gifts to this month. David Sedaris will be appearing at a local theater next month which I have gladly accepted as a late birthday present. Sedaris is one of my favorite authors. When cassette tape players were still in cars, I used to listen to Me Talk Pretty One Day for my 1 hour work commute. There is something lovely about authors who have sonorous voices. It’s not that he could read a phone book and I’d swoon, it is him, his lived experience as read aloud by the author that is a true delight.

Adjacent to my love of good books and birthday months are the occasions I get to eat food with the people in my life. In this picture is asparagus sautéed in two batches: one in rosemary and garlic, and the other in saffron and garlic. I’m not quite sure how to work with saffron, as it came nearly hermetically sealed and I was not sure I tasted its flavor once cooked in with food.

I’m not sure I would refer to it as a spice, and as an herb, I would assume it presents its own flavor without too much unboxing, but the instructions read: for soups, place in boiling water. What is the implication of that very specific guidance? Does its flavoring stay dormant until unlocked by a pre-determined chemical equation? Is saffron then free to be itself, or am I painting saffron in too tight a box, not unlike the tiny, glass tube from whence it came?

That is – a bottle inside a bottle inside which is saffron, that unknowable yet delectable thing. I have had saffron before as prepared in fancy restaurants, and usually it was prepared with scallops sautéed in butter. Although I deeply enjoy its flavor, I was musing the other day on how I would describe the flavor saffron, and I wouldn’t be able to compare it to anything but itself. Saffron is saffron, but isn’t that part of the problem when I couldn’t even taste it in the asparagus?

As pictured from right to left are salad with avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mozzarella balls; fruit salad with passion fruit, mango, blueberries, nectarine, dragon fruit, and kiwi; potato salad with paprika; smoked peppers and onions; smoked meats: kielbasa, cheeseburgers, and Italian sausage.

Not pictured in this photo were chocolate brownies made from protein rich muffin mix, a move I felt was risky as in turning any food instantly into the perfect other food, may not end up to perfect execution unless you tweak the recipe. To quote the one person who sampled the brownies, in a word, dry. I’ll probably work the leftover brownies into a trifle bowl with interspersed layers of chocolate and vanilla sugar-free instant pudding to moisten it up. I’ve found a way to use almond milk whereby you use 1/3 less almond milk or otherwise when whisking in the almond milk, add it spoonful by spoonful until it’s a good consistency.

The good and bad part of regionally and seasonally available foods are its availability when in season and its proximity to your direct experience. Corn on the cob and cherries and passion fruit are in season, but unfortunately when the season wanes or the stock is in short supply, these foods become more and more rare, until they simply do not exist. A day before the weekend, I went to my local grocery store, where a week before they had a passion fruit, I did not see any on the shelves. A kind produce person asked me what I was looking for and she checked stock in the back, but came up empty handed. I thanked her for checking and moved on, but did end up going to a different grocery store the next day to see if they had any passion fruit, and they didn’t either. I may need to wait until next season until it comes around again. Until then, there are always new and different foods to try.