Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thinking about Eating Differently

From the first week in Futaleufu, Greg and I began to eat differently. This was not a conscious effort, but simply because there aren't supermarkets, or fast food restaurants in Futa. Aside from the invading stands of snack foods such as strange corn-based cheetos-like food bites and hideously colored candies in bags, Futa offers basic ingredients, and what they don't have, you don't need. Little home storefronts are also devoid of good fresh fruits and vegatables, noteably because most folks grow their own in front, back or side-yard gardens. There is one nice produce store and the wise rule is "get-it-while-they-got-it".

So...by beginning to cook and eat unprocessed foods (even the meats are mostly local, grass-grazed, and non-hormone, antibiotic-free fare) we unwittingly began eating healthier. But we were still in that old-mode of feeling the need to have one meat meal a day and butter, real cream, eggs, home-made bread with local jam, or honey were also in our diet. Then Greg's blood-tests and his leg issue slapped me right in the old cookbook and I realized that we had to ramp it up a notch, or ten, and truly think differently about cooking. No-fat milk, unrefined sugar, or just honey instead. No butter, no oil other than olive oil (until I find other healthy substitutes), for a while no eggs, cheese, whipping cream. No bacon, ribs, or fried chicken. Go light - real light - on the salt, have lots of beans, greens and also for a while, no meats except deep-sea fish. Lots of lemon and lime and garlic and ginger and avocados. That said, here are two nice meals/and or snacks with the only processed food being whole wheat tortillas.

Shopping list:
One bag or porotos (frijoles, beans) preferrably white or brown -garbanzo beans are excellent too.
A very large bunch of spinach
fresh garlic bulbs...at least three
five nice tomatoes
green onion - at least 6 or 7
limes - 6 or 7
whole wheat tortillas
olive oil
5 avocados
three large Portabello mushrooms
honey
pint of low-fat yogurt
coursely prepared mustard, regular, or dijon (though dijon has tons of salt)
Crushed dried peppers, or finely diced jalpeonos - depending on your palate.

Initially, buy a bag or porotos - fresh is better, but the dried white, or brown beans and garbanzo are good too. Put them in a pot and cook them with just a dash of salt until very soft. Take a bean from the pot, cool it, and if you can mash it with your tongue on the roof of your mouth, they are done.

First snack or meal-Baked whole wheat tortilla chips with bean dip, guacamole, salsa and yogurt. Any non-salt spice you enjoy - you can add to taste.

Drain (save a little liquid to thin the bean dip) and mash the cooked, soft soft beans, add in minced garlic and keep mashing as you add drizzles of olive oil and the juice of one lime and a litle cooking liquid from the beans until it is a soft creamy consistency.

Cut the tortillas into quarters and bake/toast in the oven until crisp.

Mash up two or three avocados, add juice of one lime, minced garlic, and a pinch of crushed dried peppers or minced jalapeonos.

Finely dice tomatos saving the juice. Add a little lime juice and a pinch of crushed peppers. This would be complimented by cilantro, but the King hates cilantro. No cilantro enters the kingdom.

Cut up one more lime into wedges. Snip off the ends of the green onions, chop the hollow green stalks. Assemble small bowls of the bean dip (best if warm) , guacamole, salsa, yogurt, green onion and chips with lime wedges on the King's Snack Tray and serve.

Portabello-Spinach Salad -

This is a great simple salad which is adapted from a steak salad recipe I saw on TV. Instead of a nice rare thinly sliced steak heaped on the salad, I used portabello mushrooms. It's simple...

Sautee the mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil and let cool slightly. Wash the spinach and snip off the stems. Cut more green onions, slice tomatos, mince a couple cloves of garlic, another avocado scooped out and sliced. For the dressing, reserve the liquid from the mushrooms (in fact, just use the pan you cooked them in. Stir in a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of mustard, minced garlic, and a big squeeze of lime. The mushroom juice gives the dressing a meaty flavor. Whisk it while drizzling in olive oil. Slice the mushrooms into long, thick slices. Through the spinach in the center of a serving plate, arrange the salad ingredients around the spinich. Lay the mushroom slices on top of the spinach and drizzle the dressing over top. You can add any kind of fresh greens...I love buying one head of fancy red lettuce to use to decorate the plate, and eat. You can make this an oriental salad by adding freshly grated ginger to the dressing and a dash of soy sauce to cook the mushrooms.

No matter how much bean dip I make, there is never any left. I also sweat finely chopped spinach and add it to tomato sauce for pasta.

So far these past two weeks we have had NO meat. We had salmon steaks once. No eggs, no cheese, no fat, no butter, almost no salt, no processed foods except the tortillas ...lowfat yogurt substituted for my beloved sour cream. I found whole-wheat linguini, fat-free powdered milk (we'll switch to regular milk later in el campo where there are no antibiotics or hormones in the milk) and we haven't felt cheated or starved. I have not ripped open a package of any processed foods except the tortillas and yogurt.

Greg has my home-made granola with low-fat yogurt and bananas for breakfast. I toast raw rolled oats, wheat, walnuts, sunflower seeds and some other odd nuts which I don't know the names of in English, raisins, fresh grated coconut, puffed barley all drizzled with honey and dusted with fresh grated cinnamin and nutmeg. I toast it, mix in honey, then bake it low for several hours then let it cool and break it up into containers.

I hope my trusty home-boys (mother and father) will be sending me yogurt, kefir and butternilk starter soon. That way I can just make my own and not have to buy it. And, I hope to have my little window pots of spinach and lettuce go throughout the winter, and nurse a cherry tomato plant too. I will continue to dry and toast garlic along the way...it may diminish a bit of the medicinal properties, but the taste is unreal. Armed with my big box of other spices, and a big ginger root which I will put in dirt and grow, I'm ready to get back to the Twilight Zone which is my little homestead outside of Futa and snuggle up for the winter with good food, good company, and if I'm lucky, a little electric to fire up some music while we watch the snow fall.

We have the pig dilema to deal with. What to do with the fattened hog? I may butcher and trade the bacon, ribs and lard for other things. I also thought of selling it live, or keeping it and breeding it to sell the piglets. Hhhmmm. Things to think about. but I do know we won't be having bacon. Maybe just lean chops. It would be more convenient for me to not deal with butchering, but I will think about it and talk with Nono.

Eating better and differently isn't hard. It just takes a catalyst to shove you forward....as in, "We simply cannot eat these things, or this way anymore" and here I find myself making "choices", learning a different way, and having a good time with it. I cannot help but "present" Greg's meals to him!

"Tonight I am serving a Wonderful Spinach Salad with sauteed Portabello mushroom and a Ginger, Honey Mustard Dressing. " Oooh! Ahhh!

or

"Our Saturday evening meal is a Baked Salmon Steak with a Yogurt Dill Sauce and a Watercress Salad with a Olive Oil Lime dressing and toasted garlic." Watercress, he says...isn't that rabbit food? Shut up and eat, I say. And he does.

(I will edit this post and add photos of the meals later.)