What have I been doing and how is it almost December?

Um...what the hell happened to autumn?

Um…what the hell happened to autumn?

Basically this is my apology in case you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit behind in the world of WordPress. Life has been so hectic it’s kept me from reading and writing as much as I would have liked these past four weeks.

One of the reasons for the madness is because a month ago I decided to embark on the “Whole 30.” If you’re unfamiliar with the program it’s essentially a thirty day eating plan/elimination diet that helps participants rethink their food choices, overcome cravings, heal their digestive track and eat 100% clean for thirty days. (I don’t want to bore you too much with specifics so if you want to read more about the Whole 30, click here.)

Basically from Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 22, I abstained from all sugars (natural or otherwise), grains (even whole grains), legumes (except green beans and peas), alcohol and dairy. That sounds like an overwhelming list of “can’t have’s” but I did eat plenty of meat, seafood, eggs and vegetables with a limited amount of fruits, nuts and seeds added in for good measure.

For someone who eats lots of grains and is known to indulge in a few pints of delicious beer, I was very worried I wasn’t going to complete the challenge. In fact, I vowed not to mention my mission on this blog until it was over — just in case I threw in the towel. Not very confident sounding, I know, but hey, I’m realistic. I work in the food industry, my husband cooks everything with cream, butter and cheese, and the holiday stress level at work usually has me and my co-workers doing mid-morning shots by now.

But I made it and it feels really good to say that. I do eat fairly well in general so my cravings weren’t too bad and I didn’t suffer a lot of the detox pains that many people do the first week. What made it difficult for me was the struggle of time. On this program you have to make every meal — there is no convenience eating on days when you’re feeling overwhelmed. No English muffins for breakfast or ramen for dinner. Instead I would make huge batches of soft-boiled eggs, curries and roasted vegetables just so I wouldn’t be caught hungry and off-guard.

I could talk on and on about the results from the program and how I feel about it (and maybe I will in another post) but this was just to let you know what’s been monopolizing my time lately. I love to cook and I relish time in the kitchen, but I am really¬† happy to be able to heat up a frozen burrito after a late night at work!

But don’t think I ate in misery for thirty days. Check out all the good things I scarfed down:

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

Continue reading

Spicing Up Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

While I’ve made my fair share of mayonnaise, salad dressing and even ketchup over the years, there are quite a few condiments that I have never tried to make myself — things like curry paste, mustard and harissa. While I’ve been curious to try my hand at these, in the end laziness and convenience have always won out.

However, a recent recipe for homemade harissa from my friends of Gourmandistan piqued my interest. It seemed like a fun challenge and I was curious to taste the end result.

The whole process seemed more daunting than it turned out to be and in less than 20 minutes I had a beautifully smokey and spicy spread. I should confess that I have a deep hatred for caraway (something my husband seems to find equally baffling and entertaining) so I’ll straight up admit I omitted it, but the garlicky mixture of cumin, peppers and tomato was still finger-licking good.

Homemade Harissa

Homemade Harissa

Continue reading

Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup & Holder’s Last Hurrah

 

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

My friend Oliver and I have a tradition¬† — every Wednesday we cook dinner and watch TV together. Throughout the years, we have made it through the many seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias. More recently we have veered toward trashier things like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and even went so far as to watch the Real World when it filmed in Portland.

A year or so ago we found ourselves in a lull between episodes of something and decided to check out The Killing, which we had both heard good things about. The show follows two Seattle detectives, Linden and Holder, as they solve the mystery of Rosie, a 17-year-old missing girl.

We were instantly hooked, until we realized the show was only planned to be two seasons long. Cue instant distress and sadness. This show was too good, too engrossing, too suspenseful not to continue!

And then the Netflix Gods, the same ones that brought back the final season of Arrested Development, blessed us with a surprise third season of The Killing. Even better, we were further surprised with an unexpected fourth season. Linden and Holder were coming back to us!

Last week, full of bittersweet excitement, we watched the last three episodes. While our emotions were riding an adrenaline roller coaster, our hunger was being soothed by a bowl of the most delicious sweet potato soup I’ve ever eaten.

Continue reading

Warm-You-Up Thai Curry & Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.

Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.

It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.

Continue reading

A happy {sweet potato} hash worth waking up for

Sweet potato hashbrowns with sausage and egg

It is really easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut — often it’s a “peanut butter toast with honey or jam” rut. I’ll branch out into oatmeal, quinoatmeal or other more hearty things for a while, but, in the end, my old ways win out and it’s back to my trusty favorites.

The only break in my habit tends to be the weekends. Finally I have the time and motivation to create something a little more involved. This breakfast is one I whipped up a few weekends ago. It was so good I’ve brought it back for several encores.

I think the part I love the most is how the flavors in the pork sausage combine with the sweet potato in such a perfect “tastes like fall” type of way. The sausage is actually one I made myself — much easier than it may sound — and contains onions, shredded apples and sage. It seems like pork, apples and sage should be their own holy trinity, especially this time of year. It’s really hard to go wrong with that combination!

The hash doesn’t play second fiddle though — its crispy in parts and slightly sweet from the caramelized sweet potato and onion. Take all that, put an egg on it (in true Portland style) and dig in to a breakfast so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner.

Continue reading

Roasted delicata squash boats bear delicious cargo

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Conversations at my job vary among a few recurring themes: crazy customers, how much we hate chicken, how we’d kill for a glass of wine, and food. While the first three conversations could practically be played on repeat, the fourth is constantly changing.

We talk about what we’re eating, what restaurants we’ve been to lately, what we ate for dinner the night before and what we’re going to eat as soon as we get home. Food talk starts when we open and continues until the office is closed and is often accompanied by photos and/or shared samples.

The two most obsessed eaters seem to be me and my co-worker Breezy. We both used to work in kitchens around town and we spend a lot of time between phone calls chatting about recipes, techniques and ingredients. This is pretty handy because it’s nice to have someone to bounce food ideas off of when I’m in need of inspiration.

Continue reading