How to f-up the simplest recipe

Want to f-up a recipe? Simple: Add too much salt.

I managed to totally fuck up a batch of coconut sticky rice with mango yesterday, and make myself sick in the process.

I’ve made coconut sticky rice before – it is so easy and so good. But yesterday, I did it in the middle of 10 other projects. I took the first recipe Google found from The Kitchn (a great site). Which now that I’m looking for a link, I can’t find. Instead I’m finding this coconut rice pudding recipe which is way closer to the version I’ve made in the past.

Ok, had to search for Thai mango sticky rice

My coconut milk started out uniform, so I couldn’t follow the (seemingly extra-complicated) Kitchn instructions. The amount of salt seemed excessive, but my previous batches lacked the addictive saltiness of the restaurant version, I decided to throw caution to the wind.

Don’t do that.

I followed the first part of their instructions. I didn’t measure the rice since my husband was cooking a big batch, but I heated 3/4 tsp salt, the sugar and 2/3 can coconut milk and poured it over cooked rice.

I had the amount of rice I wanted and still had some coconut milk left in the saucepan, so I thought, what the hell, instead of using the (nonexistent) coconut cream from the coconut milk, I’d just add some more sugar to make the sweet coconut sauce you serve over the top.

Oh, and more salt. I wasn’t thinking. The recipe divides 1 tsp. of salt between two coconut milk preparations. I instead multiplied it. Don’t do that.

The rice itself was ok. On the salty side, but edible. I’d recommend using about 1/2 as much salt as the Kitchn recipe lists. But then I poured a bunch of the extra-salty-sweet stuff on top and chowed down. It was gross. I should have stopped eating. But I was hungry and in a hurry and mad that the perfectly ripe mango that inspired making the rice in the first place was actually not ripe at ALL. So I choked down my salty rice and suffered the consequences.

Hey, all you people with acid reflux – do yourself a fucking favor and cut back on salt, ok? The TV wants you to believe feel ill is just a mysterious thing you’ll never understand, but fortunately there’s a pill for that ill. It’s a lie. Listen to your body! good-mango

 

Almost Martha’s Chocolate Beet Cake Cup Cakes

Well. I got it into my head that I need to eat beets. They are supposed to be good for anemia. But I really don’t know what to do with beets. Pickled beets gross me out, and other than that, I just don’t see them cooked that often. Somehow I came across a beet cake recipe that claimed it was like zucchini bread, but with beets. This intrigued me, but then in the comments I read that the taste of beets was obvious. Which brought me to Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Beet Cake recipe. Since the beets are pureed instead of grated, and disguised further with sugar and cocoa powder, it seemed like I’d be less likely to notice them.

beets-rawI roasted the beets instead of boiling them. It only took two, so now I have a whole roasted beet to eat in a respectable, non-cake method. Fuck. I’m glad I didn’t blend it up, though – wtf does one do with extra pureed beets, Martha? Pray tell.

Here’s how I f-d up Martha Stewart’s recipe:

*Roasted instead of boiled the beets (it sounded easier, but have no proof that it was).

*Used avocado oil instead of safflower oil, because that’s what I had. Might be healthier?

*Added chocolate chips – because damn, the beets smelled really kinda gross and dirt-like when they were roasted, and I didn’t want gross dirt cake. CHOCOLATE CHIPS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER.

beet-cake-batter*Skipped the glaze. FASTER.

*Baked the cake batter as cupcakes. I don’t have a 9″ round cake pan, and even if I did, I wasn’t going to fucking cut a perfect parchment paper circle to fit the pan, then trim the cake to make it flat. Fuck that. Cupcakes bake twice as fast, too! FASTER.

The results were delicious. Basically, chocolate cake with a slight difference. Next time, I think I’ll use coffee or almond milk instead of water. And yes, I know eating cupcakes doesn’t count as eating vegetables. I’m just hoping whatever beet-ness I ingest suggests to my system to seek out more beets.

It could happen.

 

Massaman curry recipe hack

Last night, I wanted massaman curry and I wanted it bad. I love making Thai curries, but I do it the fast way, using curry paste. I love red curry with chicken and pineapple, or green with zucchini and tofu. My local grocery doesn’t stock massaman. My local Thai restaurant is run by great people, but I feel they don’t cook their curries long enough – crunchy potatoes or pumpkins kind of ruin the experience. Homemade is better. Especially since curries take under 30 minutes to make!

So, armed with red curry paste, Google, and blind faith, I hacked a massaman curry recipe that turned out shockingly well. The leap of faith was adding the spices listed in massaman recipes. It didn’t seem like they could be combined in a way that would taste good. Cardamom and cinnamon are for desserts, right? I associate cumin with Mexican food, although it is key to most Indian dishes. Massaman means Muslim, did you know? Massaman curry comes from Muslim people moving from India into Thailand and bringing their tastes in food with them. Turns out you can’t confine a spice to one type of cooking without missing out on some true deliciousness. America, there’s a lesson here.

The picture isn’t pretty (get used to it). But the taste was fucking awesome.

massaman-curry-homemadeMassaman Curry Made with Red Curry Paste and Extra Spices

I wrote in measurements, but really, I just eyeball amounts. Use your judgement and taste!

Thai curry basics:

Red curry paste – store bought. 1 tablespoon.

Coconut milk –  1 can. full fat, always

Broth or water (cooking the potatoes reduces the liquid, otherwise I don’t normally add extra liquid to my curries)

 

Additions to make the red curry taste like massuman:

Cinnamon – 1/2 tsp

Cardamom – 1/4 tsp

Tumeric – 1 tsp, or more

Cumin – 1/4 tsp

 

Peanut butter – 1 tablespoon. natural chunky.

 

The main ingredients:

1/2 sweet onion, sliced

Waxy potatoes – the smaller the pieces, the faster they cook. About a cup and a half, total.

A carrot, sliced thin

Protein of choice – I used pre-cut stew meat. 1/2 pound or so.

 

 

Finishing touches:

Lime juice – half a lime

Brown sugar – teaspoon

Fish sauce – tablespoon

 

Process:

Cook the curry paste, onion and additional spices over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet till the aroma is released and the onions are coated with spices. Add coconut milk a bit at a time and simmer, stirring to mix well. Add the peanut butter. When it is all stirred together, add the potatoes and a little broth or water. The potatoes should be submerged. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked – 5-10 min, depending on size – and add carrot and protein. Simmer until everything is cooked through. Stir and sip some wine. Add a little brown sugar, fish sauce and a squeeze of lime. Stir.

Serve with Thai jasmine rice. YUM.

 

traditional breakfast

I read something on NPR recently that there was a study that claimed certain health outcomes based on what people ate, even though the people in this study were asked to remember and report what they’d eaten as far back as high school. The researchers said that most people don’t change their eating habits very much, so they felt confident in their data (i.e. the participants could remember what they ate 20 years ago because it was the nearly the same as what they ate yesterday).

Uh, no. I couldn’t create an exact menu, but I know my diet today is NOTHING like it was back in the day when I thought fruit snacks were a reasonable substitute for fruit
(they have vitamin C!) or when I’d have a bagel with cream cheese and a Coke for lunch.

I’ve changed. And given how stubborn I was – (ok, am) – I’m pretty sure what I ate for breakfast today would give both of my parents heart attacks.

  1. Vegetables. I was the kid who ate nothing green, who ate nearly nothing period. I ate, but only a very few foods. Sugar was a staple. My mom wouldn’t buy sugary cereals, so I’d pour a good quarter-inch layer of granulated white sugar on my bowl of Cheerios.
  2. Bacon and eggs. My father eats fried eggs and some type of processed breakfast meat, along with potatoes or toast, every day. My mom, more of an oatmeal fan, decided early on that, although she did all the rest of the cooking and housework, dad was in charge of preparing his own breakfast. I grew up rather grossed out by all the grease his cooking created.

So now, so many years later, an adult who buys groceries and cooks, I fed myself this.

traditional-breakfast

Bacon and eggs.

They are there. Under all the squash and asparagus.

Is this a healthy breakfast? Depends on who you ask. About half the world (of nutrition experts, that is) is convinced that bacon is deadly. The other half is sure that it is the answer to everything. I don’t really trust either side. My guide is how I feel. And I feel pretty darn good.

So there.

 

so many veggies – not so easy

yellow-squash

The benefit of my new eating strategy is clear. But it takes work.

The other night I made basil chicken – one of my favs. It is easy and fast. Throw some rice in the rice cooker and dinner is ready in under 30 minutes.

But rice isn’t on the menu right now. So instead, I made roasted bok choy (super easy) and eggplant in brown sauce. Eggplant – I will write a separate story about the economics of eggplant. Let’s just say it took WAY longer than I’m normally willing to invest in a side dish.

But the result was a plate loaded with veggies:

veggie-lode-asian-dinner

And since there were no convenient grains available to fill me up, in total that day I ate:

1 cup squash

1 cup brussels sprouts

2 cups bok choy

1 1/2 cups eggplant

1/2 cup onion

1/2 cup (I think?) of avocado

=

6+ cups of vegetables. A veggie lode. Plus a ton of basil. That should count. YUM. Just shy of SEVEN cups total.

yellow-squash

For comparison:

The USDA says a woman my age needs 2 1/2 cups per day, or five 1/2 cup servings…but it gets suspicious when you breakout the weekly totals. There’s a lot of starch servings that my adult self doesn’t believe should count (as a teenager I totally tried to claim french fries as a vegetable, but c’mon, we know better now).

Dr. Terry Wahls – who reversed her M.S. through diet, advocates 9 cups a day (although I’ve seen updates that say for smaller types like me, 6 cups is adequate). I can’t fathom why her talk is flagged as “personal narrative” – so many TED Talks are personal narratives! Hers just happens to involve nutrition.

Someone … someone must not like that.

 

 

 

new math

I’ve never counted calories.

I’m just putting that out there because I’ve spent so much of my life defending against one of two assumptions:

  • One – I must not eat enough. This is a comfortable assumption for many because, in a comparison-based world, it takes me out of the league of normal and into the world of eating disorders.
  • Two – I’m a runner/dancer/vegetarian/vegan something to the extreme. In other words, I work very hard to be skinny.

Neither of these is true. In fact, I’ve eaten way more junk than I should have in order to deflect the first (no, look! I can eat the whole thing myself!). I’ve attempted vegetarianism – it hasn’t worked out for me to date. I hate running. I hate gyms. I’m active – I do yoga, I love to hike and bike and paddle – but I don’t “exercise.” And I’m skinny when I’m inactive, too. I’m stronger and I feel better when I move a lot, but it doesn’t make an appreciable difference on my weight – but then, I don’t weigh myself either.

So, my new project of figuring out how to shift my main calorie source from carbs (grain/starch/sugar) to fat is interesting. I’m still not counting calories with the goal of only eating so many. But I am trying to at least get a ballpark idea of my macro nutrient intake.

I’m using the USDA’s Supertracker website to figure out the numbers. It is seriously flawed in many ways, but it does help create the ballpark.

Today’s breakfast starts with veggies:

1 c yellow squash – 36 calories

1 c Brussels sprouts – 38 calories

pan-of-veggiesThat’s discouraging. 2 cups of food and only 74 calories.

So I add fat:

1/2 tbsp olive oil – 60 calories

Woohoo. 134.  Now protein:

1 TJ’s garlic herb chicken sausage – 130 calories

Now we’re still only at 264. Fuck.

So more fat:

Some shredded Monterrey Jack cheese – 60 calories

veggie-sausage-cheeseAlright. I can’t add more fat without it being a greasy gross mess, or more food without it just being too much for me. Although I am adding (lots) of heavy cream to my coffee, so that adds an extra 150 fat cals.

Grand total: about 475 calories. carb: 16 g  fat: 36 g  protein: 26 g  fiber: 6 g

My goal is to not go “no carb crazy” – just switch the proportions. Thanks to the cream in my coffee, I’ve done that this morning. But the overall goal of 100+ grams of fat per day is daunting. Luckily, there are coconuts.

On the other end of the “eat a rainbow” spectrum from my skillet of veggies is this nonsense: rainbow bagels with cake-batter frosting. (“It looks like Play-doh!” And “It’s like having cake for breakfast!” are selling points. I admire the artistry involved – but my eyes are the only sense I want to use here. Gag.)

fwx-kitchen-trash-rainbow-bagels

 

Striking gold

A few months ago, I visited a new acupuncturist, searching for help with my breakouts. She examined my face and asked how long it has been a problem.

“My entire adult life.”

She made a sympathetic face and poked me full of needles. I returned a few times, but didn’t see real results, although I had an acupuncturist years ago who did help.

I’ve also thought that eating less sugar, eliminating dairy, avoiding fried foods, and basically every non-prescription topical cleanser or medication under the sun might help. But they didn’t. I felt both guilty and hopeless. Nothing I tried worked, but it HAD to be caused by something I was doing wrong. (That’s the downfall of believing in personal responsibility for health.)

Then a few weeks ago, I read Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. And for the first time, I understood what nutritionists mean when they say the body treats all carbohydrates the same way: like sugar. I’d always thought this was nonsense, since I felt way different if I ate brown rice vs. a brownie. Carbohydrates are energy, right? They are important!

Maybe not so much.

mother lode: the place where the largest amount of gold, silver, etc., in a particular area can be found

Quoting Phil Maffetone, McDougall explains that at any time, even skinny minnies like me, have approximately 160,000 calories available – 140,000 of them as fat. 87%. The rest are protein (25,000) and sugar (2,000). All carbs – “slow burning” whole grains and Skittles alike – have to be dealt with quickly because too much sugar in the blood is toxic. Insulin, hormones, yada-yada-yada…

For whatever reason, I’ve never experienced the most common result of eating excessive carbs (weight gain), but in reading this book, I realized overall carbohydrate consumption was the one thing I’ve never looked at in my own diet. And when I looked at the numbers, it was kind of shocking. I’d ditched Coke and white bread years ago, but organic juices, sweet potatoes and flax seed crackers are all still carbs, and I was eating a ton of them.

The “Maffetone Method” suggests a two-week test to determine if you are sensitive to carbohydrates. Simply eliminate all sugar and starch, outside of what occurs naturally in vegetables (potatoes and corn don’t count as vegetables), and see what happens. His system finally helped me figure out how to implement the advice my helpful Chinese acupuncturist gave me years ago (“eat less carbs” – he was a man of few words and no explanations) without losing weight. Just three more little words.

Eat. More. Fat.

Not more protein – although protein is important. More. Fat. Good fat, not hydrogenated fake fat.

One day into my experiment, I knew the only way I could get even close to the amount of fat needed without feeling grossed out was to eat way more vegetables as well.

veggie lode: the place where the largest amount of nutritional content in a particular diet can be found.

I began cruising the Internet, looking for recipes to help me figure out what to eat. But whether the site was low carb, ketogenic, paleo, vegan or pretty much any other dietary rule, I kept running into the same problem.

It seems most people – even those preaching the value of a healthy diet – would rather come up with ways to make their favorite junk foods fit the mold of their new diet than to actual change their habits. From sweet potatoes to tapioca starch, Stevia to agave to buckets of fruit, most all the beautiful recipe blogs predominately featured crap. Pretty, carbohydrate (or chemical) laden crap. I followed a link from one non-crappy site that promotes a very restrictive whole foods diet to the guest blogger’s natural foods blog, only to find a recipe for homemade marshmallows.

Sugar addiction dies hard.

I’m not into any rules or labels. And also? I hate scrolling down a page of 20 nearly identical pictures with a bunch of repetitive drivel. Just give me the fucking recipe.

I was honestly so excited by my breakfast of scrambled eggs with yellow squash, Brussels sprouts, onion, avocado and chili sauce (plus butter and heavy cream, and coffee with heavy cream) that I decided to catalog my recipe creation on a blog. The Internet is still free, real food rocks and my skin is clearing up. I’ve hit the veggie lode!