Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Recipes Inside My Head

The smell of woodsmoke drifted through the open window tonight, carried on the chill of the air gone cold in the absence of the sun’s warmth.  Even in Texas, autumn has arrived.  The trees are still as green as can be, and the afternoon heat was enough to make me reconsider my choice of pants today—a skirt and flip-flops would not have been inappropriate for running errands.  But tonight, cozy purple pajamas, worn while reading “Song of the Open Road,” will be enough to set the stage for a weekend’s slumber.

I have not been sleeping well, probably because writing blog posts late at night leaves me wired and antsy for more.  Today was my final day of following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  I survived seven days without cereal, but today at the grocery store, I bought a new box of Nature’s Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal.  I am looking forward to breaking the fast by returning to some old habits.

My best cooking today happened when I used the recipes inside my head, that process where I cross-reference my mental databases of the ingredients I have on hand and the ways that I could cook them to create something nourishing and delicious.  This skill was critical for my week of SCD eating.  I can only follow someone else’s recipes for so long before I start feeling boxed in by another person’s tastes.  In fact, strangely enough, when I did follow a recipe today, the result was too salty and unpalatable without an intervention.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let us begin at the beginning.

This morning I woke up feeling tired and slightly ill, like my body was busy trying to fix itself and forgot to let me get a good night’s sleep.  After a week of almond flour baked goods, eggs, and yogurt parfaits, I wanted something more familiar and comforting.  I decided that since Lydia, my adorable niece, was adding bananas back into her diet this week, I could have a banana in my breakfast this morning.  I made my favorite buttermilk smoothie: equal parts buttermilk and orange juice blended to drinkable smoothness with a banana.  Alongside my smoothie I ate two celery sticks’ worth of ants on a log, which was unexpectedly delightful with the smoothie.  It was a great breakfast, but despite the peanut butter, my belly started demanding food just two hours later.  I, however, was too busy playing on my computer and ignored my belly for another hour.  By then, I’d finally figured out what to make for lunch.

Still in my pajamas but feeling marginally better, I made lunch out of pantry staples: a delicious, Italian-herbed red lentil soup, toasted pecans smooshed into two slices of Organic Valley cheese, and a sweet little dessert of homemade applesauce and a spice cookie.  The soup was wonderfully filling and seasoned nicely, a perfect recipe for a moment when the solitary cook wants a great bowl of soup without making leftovers that will last for a week.  I’m going to share my recipe below, as this is the sort of thing I’ll want to make again because it was easy, delicious, and serves just one or two people.

After a shower and some grocery shopping, I felt fine.  The warm Texas sunshine helped.  So did the soup and the applesauce.  I wanted to make the most of my Saturday evening in the kitchen, so I started a batch of SCD yogurt, made with two cups of 1% milk and two tablespoons of whole milk yogurt.  That batch is now sitting on my kitchen bar, culturing itself until tomorrow evening, at which point I’ll transfer it to the refrigerator.  I also made a batch of Peanut Butter Ice Box Truffles, which taste a lot like my old peanut butter bars, but made with the SCD guidelines in mind.  They were sweeter than I expected them to be, sweet enough to be deserving of the name truffles.  I ate two of them, and a sliced apple, as a post-cooking snack.

For dinner, I wanted to make something more elaborate than my quickie at-home lunch.  I was still craving soup and I had two leeks getting lonely in the fridge, so I decided to dip back into the archives of this site to make Greek Avgolemono Soup, one of my all-time favorites!  To accommodate the SCD rules, I omitted the orzo pasta and used just four cups of homemade vegetable broth.  It was a little strange to eat an old favorite without the pasta that makes it so thick and satisfying, but it was fabulous nonetheless.  To eat alongside the soup, I baked a half batch of Spinach and Cheese Triangles from Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet.  I’d had these scrumptious little bites once before, at Lydia’s third birthday party, and they were amazing.  But my batch tonight was too salty.  I’m not sure what went wrong—maybe my cheeses were saltier than Amanda’s or maybe she omitted one of them?  Maybe she sprinkled some of her magic mama dust on the party food and that’s what made them taste so good?  At any rate, I’m going to use my leftover triangles as a topping for crackers or a sandwich filling—something to help neutralize all that salt!  Yikes.

Now that I’ve reached the end of my SCD experiment, I’m tempted to wax poetic about how it has changed my life in wonderful, mind-blowing ways.  The truth is that it was a fun week of cooking!  It was a lot of work, but I discovered some new recipes and goodies (O Organics frozen mango, anyone?) that may have otherwise stayed hidden in the shadows of the unknown.  I’m going to rest on my thoughts for a little while, long enough to collect them into something coherent and comprehensive.  For now, I leave you with two new recipes, one for my buttermilk smoothie and the other for my red lentil soup.  Both are easy and delicious and could even show up on your table tomorrow without much work.  Happy cooking, friends.  I’ll see you back here soon.

Banana-Buttermilk Smoothie

Adapted from Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread by Crescent Dragonwagon

Serves 1

This smoothie is my favorite way to use up buttermilk that’s left over from baking cornbread.  It’s good enough, though, to buy some buttermilk just to make a smoothie.  It’s sweet but a little tart and very refreshing.  I often have it for a dessert, but it’s healthy enough to drink for breakfast or a snack.

1/2 cup buttermilk (preferably not non-fat)

1/2 cup orange juice

1 banana, frozen or not (as you like)

1)  Place all ingredients in a blender and buzz them to smoothness.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Quick Italian-ish Red Lentil Soup

Serves 1-2

One thing that I never mentioned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is the guidelines about legumes, specifically beans and lentils.  Many of them are off-limits because of the complex carbohydrates they contain, but red lentils are an exception.

I love red lentils.  Those pretty, coral-shaded discs cook quickly into a thick yellow mush, and you can season them in any manner you like.  Here, I combined them with some classic Italian herbs and a few handfuls of vegetables to make a nice soup.  This soup is a good one to keep in mind if you often crave soup but don’t want to wait an hour to make it and you don’t want a lot of leftovers.  It makes a great weeknight dinner or a quickie weekend lunch.

1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

1 celery stick, diced

1 carrot, ends trimmed, peeled, and diced

2 c. water

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried sage

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 c. red lentils, rinsed and picked through to remove any non-lentil debris

1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, optional

1)  Pour the olive oil in a large sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and saute for 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and the onion has begun to brown.

2)  Add the water, spices, lentils, and sea salt to the pan.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook for ten minutes.

3)  Check the lentils to see that they’ve turned yellow and softened into mush.  Taste the soup and add salt and/or pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

13 comments:

Jim Purdy said...

"magic mama dust?"

LOL!

Rosiecat said...

Hi Jim! Amanda's definitely got something that makes her food taste amazing...I think I might be onto something here with this magic mama dust! ;-)

Brian said...

Mmmmm, that smoothie sounds good right about now. As the farmers' markets come to a close, we're entering the fall/winter/spring (curse you Zone 5 weather!) grocery store season, so citrus and tropical fruits are back on the menu. We make a similar smoothie with 3/4 milk, 1/4 buttermilk and honey and vanilla to taste. I never thought to put in OJ, but I'll give it a try in place of the latter ingredients :)

Laurie said...

What a week you've had! Thanks for sharing. Love the single/couple serving of lentil soup. I enjoy lentil soup, but not every day. Yours looks just right.

Rosiecat said...

Brian, you crack me up. I love the reappearance of really good fresh citrus fruits in the wintertime markets.

By the way, you MUST try my buttermilk smoothie. It is a revelation in tastes. And think of all the good bacteria you're drinking with every sip! Mmm, probiotics...

Laurie, I feel the same way about lentil soup. I hope you feel inspired to try a small-batch recipe soon! I think lentil soup season has begun, here and all the way up and over where you live :-)

Anonymous said...

RA,

Your first paragraph makes me Texas-sick (that's homesick for Texas).

I have a multitude of thoughts about your SCD experiement, but I don't think I'll post them here . . . we need to chat soon. :)

AMPD

Rosiecat said...

AMPD, you can count on me to be your Texas sorceress. I'll conjure up as much Texas love as I can around here! My affection for this state grows every day.

I'd love to talk soon! Maybe this weekend we can have a phone date?

Shannon said...

love small serving size soups :) glad things went well! i'm also intrigued by the buttermilk smoothie, as i just picked some up for an undefined reason... just felt like it!

Rosiecat said...

Me too, Shannon. I'll keep the recipes and I'm thinking about trying to eat one grain-free meal most days, primarily because I think my grain consumption is a bit over the top. I'll discuss this more soon...

Work that buttermilk, lady! I expect to see something delicious on Tri to Cook very soon--maybe some buttermilk muffins or a buttermilk pancake? Of course you could always make a smoothie to finish off your jug ;-)

JD said...

I love that soup...it is AMAZING! We have it every once in a while and it is amazing how satisfying it is.

Rosiecat said...

JD, you must be talking about the Greek Avgolemono Soup, right? I loved our little conversation in the comments of that post! And the soup...well, the soup is one of those hidden gems that has no right to be as good as it is. Slurp slurp!

Lo said...

mmm. LOVE red lentils, so this soup would be right up my alley. And bringing an Italian spin to it is pretty different -- gotta try it sometime.

Glad to hear your cooking week was an adventure! As it should be!

Rosiecat said...

Lo, red lentils are pretty awesome, aren't they? I don't cook with them nearly as much as I should.

And now that my SCD adventure is over, I feel itchy for a new project. Anyone have any suggestions? I'm returning to Project Olive Oil on Sunday!