My kitchen is, officially, my “office.” Bring me your worries, your appetite and your good manners, and regardless of my personal diet plan, I will be delighted to fix what ails. The hunger, the worries…and perhaps even the grammar! I am my grandmother’s daughter.
I am no chef! Just another messy cook in the kitchen who loves to take what’s around and whip up something delishing, preferably something so comforting, you won’t notice it’s also healthy.
Diet trends both fascinate and baffle me. I’ve read about and tried most of what’s hot in dieting and diet research today. You might have, too. My cousin, after decades of frustrations, has embraced the Paleo diet and it has brought him a new freedom and a chunk of permanent weigh loss and health! Yay!
I, however, have trouble sticking religiously to only one diet plan, (or one religious plan for that matter, being a sort of free-range and open-minded Christian), partly because I am not a well-regimented person, but also because I have not yet found true satisfaction following any one to the T.
Today, I incorporate the principles of those diets that seem to best suit my lifestyle and my health needs. For example, I have to watch my sugar intake and limiting both sugar and grains is part of this. I eat as many vegetables as I can, but I also like meats. Sometimes I eat vegan, but I have more success with what I call Almost Vegan (I love eggs and can’t seem to give up all cheeses. Additionally, I currently live in an area where I don’t have access to many of the vegan or vegetarian substitutes available elsewhere).
Once, I tried creating a diet plan using the key points of all the popular diet themes. It was a complete disaster, unless I wanted to eat, well, mainly… water. The only thing frying was my brain. Here is what happened…
I tried following a vegan diet, after reading The China Study, which would happily have knocked off two birds with one stone (sorry for the non-vegan metaphor), since this would also make me vegetarian. Yay! A cleaner conscience. Things got sticky because I had already discovered that a “grain-free” diet (Going Against The Grain) worked really well for me. But remaining grain-free also meant going legume-free — no lentils, no chick peas, no kidney beans, etc. Not even a peanut. It is not easy to follow a fulfilling vegan or vegetarian diet and eliminate all grains, not to mention the boredom?
I tried going raw, but I felt empty, never satisfied. Well, the Ayurveda Diet and Metabolic tests I took indicated that I needed — and also thrived — on warm foods (this is true!) so, going completely raw neither appealed nor made me feel remotely happy.
If I followed strict Paleo, it would be Ix-Nay on all dairy, and I don’t have issues with dairy except that in my case, I need some. If I went with Dr. Perlmutter’s “Grain Brain” plan, I’d have to largely give up fruits, and I live in Panama where the local fruits probably rival those growing in the Garden of Eden. Still, this plan would allow for a few lentils and garbanzo beans, unless of course I cross-referenced all the above plans with the Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type diet, in which case it’s nix on the lentils, the chick peas, tomatoes and about a hundred things I really loved.
After exhaustive cross referencing and trying to blend not only the best of the above, but marry what they had in common, my gastronomic future looked dim. It boiled down to the truly bleak menu: Leafy Lettuces, topped with steamed Plantains and Non-Starchy Vegetables, tossed in Olive Oil, a capful of vinegar, and sprinkled with a 7 warmed Walnuts. Oh boy, shoot me now.
What about you? Are you Vegan or Vegetarian? Do you adhere to an Ayurveda plan, eat Grain-Free but not quite Paleo? Perhaps you eat strictly Paleo (no dairy and watch those root veggies!), or you include some dairy and potatoes (a great source of posassium)? What about the Blood Type diet?
So here is what I do today. First off, I believe it’s it comes from nature, it can’t be all that bad. I eliminate grains as best as possible from my diet because I have found this is what works for me. I do occasionally eat some kidney beans, lentils and chick peas. And if eating at someone’s house, I never make a fuss so of course, it all goes out the door if I am a guest at someone’s home.(Manners note: If you’re on a special diet and you don’t tell your hostess, show up with a suitable dish. ) When my favroite peeps want a certain dish, I make it for them with the freshest, healthiest ingredients I can, sticking to a few kitchen rules, below.
Eggs: I love eggs, and I make sure the eggs I purchase are in no way factory farmed. I am lucky because presently I live where I have easy access to truly happy eggs from happy hens that roam in my neighbor’s yard. I know many vegans consider any egg a potential life force, but the way I see it, that little lady is going to drop that egg whether or not there is a rooster around. An egg a day. A just a byproduct of her body. (My first hen, Honey Bun, never seemed upset in the least to hand over her daily egg. Oh how we loved each other.)
Meats: I try to eat vegetarian as often as possible, but when I do eat meat, I purchase grass-fed and I do my best to go to sources that have humane slaughtering practices, if that’s not an oxymoron, which I feel certain it is.
Vegetables: Once a week, I purchase as many organically grown veggies as my budget allows at a local Tuesday Market. I fill in the rest with locally grown items, which I soak in water with vinegar and salt. Latin American is notorious for spraying pesticides and this cleansing helps. You can also add a capful of Chlorine Bleach to a gallon of water, and some of my friends also add Baking Soda, which is alkalizing.
Dairy: I’ve already mentioned the eggs from free-roaming hens. I make my own Ricotta, Farmer Cheese and Yogurt from local whole milk, because I can’t get goat’s milk. But that would be my preference. Also, I don’t live in an area where these items are always accessible. But I’m all for saving time and work, so if you live near a Whole Foods or a similar healthy supplier, by all means, pick it up, ready-made! Many people (especially those following vegan diets) make a lovely “milk” or “cream” substitute out of soaked cashews and water.
Sweeteners: I have high blood sugar, so for myself, I try to use Stevia in place of sugar. Everyone has their preferences, but I would suggest that artificial sweeteners are not the best choice for anyone.
Flours: When I need to thicken soups or stews, I use Quinoa flour, if I can get it, as Quinoa is technically a seed. Otherwise, I use brown rice flour or also, Tapioca flour, which comes from the root, Yucca. Gluten-Free flours are pretty accessible, even in rural Panama. And if you don’t have issues with gluten, just use the regular wheat products!
Pasta: I’ve gotten pretty creative with my potato peeler and a good knife, making flat or string “noodles” out of Zucchini.
Rice: I love rice. In it’s place, I cook up Quinoa, since it is a seed and very healthy and filling. But it’s not cheap. Sometimes, since it does cook up the same as rice, I mix them half and half. This way my family gets the benefit of the quinoa but feels like they are getting rice!
Oils: Olive Oil; Earth Balance; Coconut Oil; Sesame Oil.
Nuts: I love to use Walnuts, Pecans and Almonds, sometimes toasted, also with almonds and cashews, soaked.
Salt: I use Celtic or Himalayan, but I do worry about iodine and sometimes I mix table salt in.
Tools: My favorites are these well-worn River Rocks, my Hand Blender & Little Chopper. I use the small rock to pound garlic and the larger, flatter one for pounding meats, or anything that needs a strong smashing. I can’t live without a hand blender or the little chopper, but maybe I could if I ever way my way to obtaining a grown-up food processor! Old habits.
Send me your kitchen tips!
I’ve shared mine … With Love & Butter,