Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finally, a use for Jerusalem artichokes

Several times over the past few years I've purchased (or dug up) Jerusalem artichokes and attempted to make something edible with them. I've roasted them, tried them raw, and put them in stews, but the end result was always...meh.

Tonight, after finding more than half of the last impulse-purchased bag in the veggie drawer, I figured I'd give them another go in hopes they would make an adequate addition to a blended veggie soup. And whaddya know, they actually did.

I have no real recipe for this soup because it was sort of a make-it-up-as-I-go thing. But here's what I did. I peeled some jerusalem artichokes and cut them up a bit, diced one slice of bacon, some celery, a couple mushrooms and carrots, and threw a small baggie of dried torpedo onions in with some olive oil and cooked it until it all started to brown. I deglazed with a splash of brandy and then added some good chicken stock. I simmered it for half an hour or so until the jerusalem artichokes were soft, then threw it in the blender. Then I gave some chopped leftover chicken and some more bits of mushroom a quick fry in some chicken fat and threw the blended soup over it, stirred it a bit, and yum.

It's really good soup. And jerusalem artichokes may now visit my fridge more frequently.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

cave-person wannabe

Over the past few months I've managed to annoy friends and family by refusing to eat grains & sugar. I understand the annoyance - it's mildly offensive when food is refused, especially if it's handcrafted with care like Corey's pannetone or my mom's shortbread and christmas cake. But the grains and I hadn't been getting along for some time, and back in July I realized that it just wasn't ever going to get better. It wasn't them, it was me, and I had no way to make my guts happier so we were just going to have to split up permanently.

At the same time, I was unhappy with my weight, and recalling the net wisdom of the 500-page tome of dry scientific blatherings that was "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes (which could be summed up with a terse "no starch, no sugar") I decided to drop sugar and any remaining starch (mostly potatoes) from my diet and be slightly more assiduous in the practice of my favourite activity, which is weightlifting.

So, here I am, 6 months later, more than 30 lbs lighter, in much better shape and feeling better than I have since I was a kid. Imagine my surprise when about a month ago, I found that someone had managed to make a living by promoting my own personal health plan. Seriously. I knew that my way of eating had some similarities to "Paleo" eating, which is basically avoiding "Neolithic" foods to which our bodies aren't well adapted - mostly grains, tubers that are inedible raw, refined sugars, and dairy. I was still eating dairy though, and had no philosophical objection to potatoes, so I didn't really identify myself as "Paleo" - although I must say I do wholeheartedly endorse it from a logical perspective. Anyway, I was searching the internet for Paleo recipes in a moment of boredom and came across the book "The Primal Blueprint" and its associated website, Mark's Daily Apple. As I browsed around it, I realized that this Mark dude had taken my idea and run with it, and it's totally his whole business and there's a huge internet community that subscribe to his ideas about health. AND - even his exercise plan looks like mine! It's even simpler: lift heavy things a couple times a week, walk or hike all the time, and once in a while, run fast for short distances, repeatedly. (In my weight training book, it's called "interval training" but whatever, it's the same.) Eat loads of vegetables, meat, eggs, fruit, dairy and a few nuts. Get enough sleep, don't be a stress case and play when you can.

AND HE MAKES MONEY ON THIS. Damnit all. Oh well. In one sense it's validation - I figured it out on my own and he has, like, some kind of master's degree in nutrition or exercise physiology or something. And I don't agree 100% with everything he says, but, if anyone's wondering why I eat and exercise the way I do, I can pretty much refer to the book and that covers it. (Mark Sisson also sells supplements and stuff. I'm sure they're fine supplements but I'm not buying them... I don't take much besides the odd herbal thing for whatever and vitamin D/fish oil.)

Anyway, if you're looking for a relatively sane way to drop some pounds or just feel better, I have to say I thoroughly recommend this method. It does work, with some caveats: you can't binge on the nuts and fruit, you DO need to like and eat lots of vegetables, and it thoroughly sucks if you're trying to be vegetarian. And, calories are still calories, no matter what Gary Taubes thinks, so as a 5' tall woman who doesn't spend all day engaged in heavy farm work or anything, I can't just sit and eat rounds of brie and pate on endive leaves and expect to lose weight. However, if you don't eat starch and sugar, you don't get the blood sugar swings that prompt that sort of behaviour, and meat & veg is pretty filling and satisfying (as long as it's not chicken breast, bleh) so I've been eating a bit less without trying. And no, I don't particularly miss bread or cookies or chocolate or pizza or anything else. I don't feel deprived, and I'm fine with the idea of just eating like this for the rest of my life. There is still a LOT of good food to be had without those things. If you look back over my posts for the last few months you'll note that any grain products in them are either optional or on the side. Over the next little while I'm going to start working more on the recipes and I'll try to post more.