Ah! For the love of food!

I will be talking about food again today. Why not! Food takes so much space in our lives. We have to buy it. We have to prepare it. We have to eat it. And we have to clean the mess that is left from preparing it and eating it. Food can be a chore or can be a joy. When I apply the art and practice of mindfulness to preparing and eating food, it becomes a joy. Without mindfulness, it can be a real drag and definitely a chore.

I’m hosting a small dinner at our place on Sunday. It was my brother’s birthday this week and Monday is our Canadian Thanksgiving. My brother, my son and his partner, my husband and I will be enjoying a nice dinner together. I love having people over for dinner, but I don’t know what it is with me but it is so hard to come up with a menu plan for my dinners. It doesn’t matter whether I’m aiming for a simple dinner or a more festive and elaborate dinner. It’s frustrating! Part of it, I think, is that I really enjoy variety. I don’t like making the same thing over and over again. I like trying new things, whether it is in preparing it or eating it. The other part is that I don’t like spending a huge amount of time in food preparation and I don’t like recipes that have mile-long ingredient lists. Anyway, it is what it is! I’m learning to relax more about this.

Over a year or so ago, my son and his girlfriend came back from a long trip. For a month, they stayed with my husband and me. Julie, my son’s girlfriend, was fresh off the plane and is originally from Nice, France. It was great having her living with us and getting to know her. It could have been a bad situation since we live in a two-bedroom apartment. But it wasn’t. In fact, it was really, really nice! I cooked. She cooked. My husband cooked. My son cooked. But mostly, Julie and I cooked. It was interesting to watch her whip up things so effortlessly. For a month, we were treated to some really nice French fare. Through this experience, I decided to up my game a bit when it comes to food preparation especially when I have guests. I’m still a million miles away from being a gourmet chef but I’m not too shabby of a cook.

For this meal, I wanted to do everything from scratch. I feel it is such a nurturing and caring thing to do for my guests, especially for the guest of honour in this case. I always prefer doing things from scratch anyway. It is much healthier than processed foods. So on the menu, I have:

  • Garlic Prime Rib – I have never made prime rib before. It is an expensive piece of meat usually but it was on special at almost half of the usual price. I really want this to taste great. So I even bought an instant-read thermometer with probe. I read recently that overcooking beef can toughen up the meat. So this thermometer will help me stick to the recipe. Who said, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

  • Au Jus – What is beef without gravy or au jus? And it is so great on mashed potatoes or to dip fresh bread.

  • Garlic mashed potatoes – No recipe for this. I’ll just wing it. I hope my brother doesn’t have a date after dinner. Garlic! Garlic! Garlic! Yum!

  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts – What is Thanksgiving without Brussel sprouts? I know this isn’t a favourite for some people. I will have a few vegetable options and I believe everyone at the table does like these. I haven’t figured out how I will roast these in the over with my prime rib in there. I might have to do these ahead of time and warm them up at the last minute.

  • Candied Carrots – The green of Brussel sprouts combine with the orange of carrots dresses up a plate of food beautifully. The visual can be as important as taste. At least, it is to me.

  • Marinated Mushrooms – I had a recipe for this but I can’t find it. I was going to say that I will do if from memory but my memory isn’t that great. I will make it with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs. I’ll be doing this today so that it sit in the fridge for a couple of days. It will allow the flavours to mingle.

  • Sauerkraut – I will serve this as a condiment. Just because I have to show up my fermenting skills. Of course!

  • No Knead Dutch Oven Crusty Bread – I think this menu does call for bread. Don’t you think? And there is nothing better than fresh homemade bread! In fact, I think I bought about 5 loaves of bread from the store, top, in the past 2-3 years. For a while, we did the regular bread with oil and sugar and all the kneading. My husband would knead and I would do the rest. We have now switched to no-knead bread which has no oil and sugar. We much prefer this in taste. And for course, much less work! This is thanks to Julie for introducing us to this kind of bread.

And… and… AND… the pièce de résistance. It is a birthday dinner after all!

  • Extreme Chocolate Cake – This is where I’m really stretching myself. It is so much easier to buy an already made cake from the bakery counter at the nearest grocery supermarket. Yes for sure! In fact, Superstore has a really good chocolate cake. I had it once and would love to have it again. BUT, isn’t making a cake from scratch for somebody’s birthday so much better? and I mean really from scratch, not using a packaged cake starter? I don’t know but to me, this some of the ways that I can tell my brother that I love and care about him. There’s such a joy in that for me. And oh! Doesn’t that cake looks absolutely delish?!?!!

I think that will be a really good dinner! However, as I told my husband, I cannot be faulted for not giving it my best. Isn’t that the most we can do at any given time? In the end, what really matters is to be with those I love. And these are definitely my favourite people!

Happy birthday, bro! I love you!

To my Canadian neighbours, what is on your dinner menu for Thanksgiving? Care to share?


Food Fermentation

About a month ago, after doing some research, I started my foray into food fermentation.  I have known about this for a while but it is only recently that I got interested in exploring this for myself. It seems to be the latest food trend these days. Fermented food is supposed to be good for us. Probiotics and all that jazz, you know!

This is what convinced me to explore the art of fermentation: Sandor Katz and the Art of Fermentation. Listen at your own risk. You might find yourself running to the nearest grocery store to get a head of cabbage after listening to this Food Program by BBC! Sandor Katz, also known as Sandorkraut is a self-proclaimed fermentation revivalist. Fermentation is his passion and has been since the first sauerkraut he made over 2 decades ago. His mission is “to encourage home fermentation experimentalists and propel more live-culture foods out into our culture”. You can find out more about Sandorkraut, HERE.

So What is Fermentation?

The Marriam-Webster dictionary defines fermentation as:

  1. a chemical change with effervescence
  2. an enzymatically controlled anaerobic breakdown of an energy-rich compound (such as a carbohydrate to carbon dioxide and alcohol or to an organic acid); broadly: an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.

In the words of the Wellness Mama:

Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.

Why Did I Start Food Fermention?

I love making things from scratch and I love the idea of foods that are nutritious and benefits my body. I have digestive issues and I’m hoping that the addition of fermented food into my daily diet will help with restoring my body to its optimum functioning. Moreover, my husband loves it. I can’t be certain that eating fermented food is as beneficial as it is proclaimed to be. I tend to be skeptical about the newest research reports and discoveries and prefer to trust my own body when it comes to what is beneficial to it or not. So the jury is out on this one. I think this is something I will know over time.

For now, I really enjoy doing it and will continue doing so.

My First Two Batches of Fermented Food

The first batch I did was sauerkraut made with cabbage with ginger and garlic. To 2/3 of it, I added chili pepper flakes as my husband really enjoy spicy food. I didn’t follow a recipe I ended up with 3 1-litre jars. I let this batch ferment for 3 days. Although quite good, this batch had a bit of a bitter aftertaste. My husband loved it. For me, I would have preferred it without the bitter taste. I now know that this was a result of adding the ginger. As you can tell in the picture above, two or the jars have chili pepper flakes. In all honesty, I wasn’t so sure I would like this so I made more of the spicy one as I knew that my husband would like it possibly more than I would. It took us about 2 weeks to go through these 2 jars.

My second batch just completed its fermentation time. My husband and I tasted it after 3 days and we both felt that it needed a bit more time. This could be because I’m now using 1.9-litre jars instead of the initial 2-litre jars or it could be because I packed the jar more. So I let it ferment for another 3 days. This time, I didn’t add ginger and garlic to the sauerkraut. I did add chili pepper flakes to one of the jar and to the other, I added caraway seeds. Yummm! I really like this one! Both are really good. Although the spicy one is too spicy for me. This time I ventured into trying carrots. To the carrots, I added ginger and turmeric. This one is good but has that little bitter taste I didn’t like in the first batch. So obviously, it is the ginger. I also did a fourth jar which ended up in the garbage as I wasn’t sure about it. This one had carrots, apples, ginger and allspice. The top layer of apples had a greyish colour and both my husband and I weren’t sure about the smell. So we decided not to take our chance with that one.

What’s Next?

There are a few more things I would like to try. I would like to make Kimchi. My son loves this stuff and it would be a nice surprise for him. I also want to ferment fruits. However, I will use a recipe next time I do this to make sure that I do it properly. I’m not a big fan of throwing food away. I also would like to do fermented chutney. Here’s a list of some of the recipes I have set aside to try:

  • Fermented honey garlic
  • Fermented salsa
  • Lacto-fermented Crazy Raisin Chutney
  • Lacto-fermented Pineapple Salsa
  • Fermented Apple Salsa

Doesn’t that all sound so good?

If I have peaked your interest and you might be thinking of venturing into making your own fermented food, a good starting point is any videos by Sandor Katz. You will see how easy it really is. YouTube has quite a few videos you can watch. Check them out HERE!


I messed up!

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

I messed up! I’ve let myself down! Last night, I binged. I had not binged for days. I binged. And I lied to myself. I told myself that it didn’t matter. I had been good, right? I was actually hungry. It’s alright to eat. It’s ok, just one bite. Just this time. I binged and I lied to myself. I messed up.

I went to bed bloated. I couldn’t sleep. When I binged, I snore and sometimes very loud. I couldn’t sleep. I was worried I would wake-up my husband, that he would know that I binged. When he left the bed at 2:30 am, I finally went to sleep but I slept poorly. The worry about snoring was replaced with the worry about getting leg or feet cramps. This happens if I ingest too much salt. So I slept poorly. I eventually got up at 9 am. I don’t feel good when I get up late, no matter what time I went to sleep.

Shame. Disappointment in myself. Self-loathing. Feeling sluggish. Tired. Shame.

BUT WHAT IF … messing up was an opportunity to practice self-compassion?

It’s easy to talk about self-compassion and be self-compassionate when I’m doing well. However it seems that when I’m messing up, not doing so well, I’m there with the beating stick! Beating the crap out of myself. Every hit of the stick hammering shame, self-loathing, disappointment, etc. deeper into my being. Every hit of the stick letting me know that it is true. It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.

WHAT IF messing up was an opportunity to practice self-compassion?

This is the path I chose this morning, the path of self-compassion. I stood at the beginning of the path and unclenched my hand and let my beating stick dropped to the ground. I took a step and another and as I did, I was flooded with sadness. Sadness for what I was doing to myself. It does matter. I do matter. I deserve a healthy body. I deserve a good sleep. I deserve fulfilling relationships. But foremost, I deserve my own love and compassion.

I’m human. I’m not perfect. I have a long history with food addiction. But when I beat myself for the poor food choices, the binges, and all the other things I judged myself for, I’m perpetuation the cycle of shame and self-abuse. This is not the path to freedom. To the contrary, it is the path to enslavement. This is not what I want for myself. I deserve so much more. I’m worth so much more. The path of self-compassion is the only path that will lead me there, one step at a time.

I’m incredibly grateful right now for having taken those first few steps.

Food and Groundedness

Today I want to talk about… food. You know? the stuff that nourishes our body? Yes, that stuff! So much time in a day is spend on food, thinking about what to make, preparing what we have decided to make, eating what we made, then cleaning up the mess that was done while we made it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to eat? Yes maybe.

Not really. Not for me. Putting time and effort into preparing foods that nurture my body is very grounding. Of course, it can be something I do because I have to do it, rush through doing it so that I can be done quicker and then move on to better thing. Interestingly, when the food addict part of me has control, nothing is about being grounded or about nurturing my body. It is all about what is readily available, high processed, fat and salty foods and sometime sweet foods and I don’t want to be cooking it! But recently, the healthy eater part of me has taken charge and that is a totally different story.  The healthy eater part of me loves making deliciously nutritious foods filled with goodness. I really love it when my healthy eater is in charge.

As I mentioned earlier, putting effort into preparing foods that nurture my body is very grounding to me. To nurture my body with nutritiously healthy foods requires mindfulness. It is much easier nowadays to go for the not so healthy stuff. The grocery store is full of unhealthy options. The lure of these is strong as it can save me time, time I would rather be doing something else. However, I find that my health is worth the time and effort investment. It is a matter being mindful and setting priorities. When I’m in my healthy mindset, that time and effort is so worth it. I feel good about myself. I feel good about doing something from scratch as opposed to purchasing all ready processed food. Not only it nurtures my body but it nurtures my mind and heart as well. What can be better than that?

I’m cautious though. I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person and that has gotten me in trouble many times. I intent to heal the split in me whereas my healthy eater and my compulsive eater can finally reach a peaceful understanding and join forces. Right now, it feels like I’m on the right path and that feels good, very good! It is a good path to be on. May I remain on this path.