Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sometimes, food is all the inspiration I need

I use this space to record all kinds of things, but they are share a common thread.  They are the things that inspire me. That motivate me.  That make me appreciate the life I live.  This blog is all about getting healthy. Happiness, and noticing the good things in life, are a big part of that.

But what about food?  It's often cast as the antagonist in stories about getting well.  But for me, preparing and eating great food is a source of joy.  If I were to start down a path of deprivation - of building a diet around the avoidance of foods - it wouldn't last.  I'd tire of it quickly, and grow depressed.

Yes, there are certain things I need to eat less of.  But I focus on those amazing foods that I should eat more of.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are at the top of that list.  The food part of my journey is about adjusting what I eat to focus on healthy, fresh, quality ingredients, grown or made with care, and prepared simply and well.

I'll give you an example, from this week's household menu.  Some months ago, my wife found a wonderful cookbook: "Vegetable Soups, from Deborah Madison's Kitchen."  We've tried a number of Deborah's recipes, and haven't found a bummer yet.  Our favorite so far is "Passato of Vegetables, with chard and croutons."  It's chock full of great veggies, and couldn't be simpler to make.

The recipe starts with some olive oil warming in the bottom of a large pot.  We use a cast iron dutch oven.  Into the hot oil goes a large pile of swiss chard, an onion, a carrot, a couple of celery ribs, a potato, a tomato and a garlic clove, all chopped into pieces.  On goes the lid, and it simmers and bubbles for half an hour.  Open the pot, enjoy the smell until you come out of your aroma coma, then puree in a blender with a little hot water.  Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.  Put it in bowls, add toasted bread croutons and parmesan cheese, then try not to eat it all before you reach the table.

We use fresh organic veggies, and my wife's homemade table bread for the croutons.  Most of the time that goes into this recipe is spent chopping veggies.  There's something very therapeutic about knifework.  I think it comes from the dire consequences should you lose focus.  There's no time to think about any of the stressors in your life while you're making sure it's only veggies getting diced.

So, great ingredients.  They make me feel good about what we're feeding our kids and ourselves.  Simple preparation.  The soup tastes amazing, and it's all due to the ingredients themselves.  No fancy sauces or tricky techniques.  Dead simple.  Take great ingredients and treat them with respect, and they'll reward you.  It's what makes Italian, Greek, and many others cuisines amazing.  It gives me great peace and a lot of satisfaction to eat such food.

There are some foods that give me pause, however.  For instance, I can't tell whether I should be feeling guilty and worried, or happy and content about my dark chocolate snack habit.  On the one hand, it dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is good for high blood pressure and is high in antioxidants.  And it's just a little bit.  Two squares is about 140 calories, 8g fat, and 2g fiber.  On the other hand, that's 140 calories I don't NEED to eat.  And my weight is holding steady right now instead of falling.  I'm not sure why that is, but I think I'll finish the bar (three more days at this rate), then drop it and we'll see what happens for a while.

I believe in setting goals.  In writing them down, as a contract with yourself.  I've set myself a three-month fitness goal of losing sixteen more pounds by the end of July.  That's a healthy rate of 1.5 pounds per week.  I've created a little spreadsheet to track my progress with.  I'll keep you posted.

Food log:

Breakfast:  1c pumpkin and flax seed granola, 1% milk, 1T ground flax seeds, about six strawberries

Lunch:  1c passato of chard (it's a yummy chard soup, similar to split pea in consistency, and SUPER easy to make...I'll post the recipe here soon) with croutons from my wife's amazing bread, and grated parmesan.  An apple.  Half a dozen whole grain crackers with cheddar cheese.

Dinner: 6-8 ravioli with herbed tomato sauce, about 1.5c of sauteed squash, onions and shiitake mushrooms.  Two little round cookies made by the grandmother of one of the Girl Scouts...yummy!

Snacks:  two squares of dark chocolate, three (really) small carrots

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