Sunday, May 12, 2013

How things happen

What a week!

Our Bauman kitchen (housed in the beautiful downtown First Congregational Church) buzzed with excitement as we moved into the Animal Protein portion of the curriculum, but what we were learning was only tangentially related to the noteworthy events.

On Monday, after a lesson on fish, we celebrated two birthdays with an extracurricular dessert that blew me away: Sublime Pie, made without sugar, dairy or wheat!

Let me add here that this program has consistently amazed me with the flavors of foods I thought I didn't like, From an early kale dish to a cilantro-based salad dressing to seaweed, I have opened my mouth and mind in so many ways. This pie was just the latest taste-bud-expanding experiences. Here is the ultra-simple recipe our lead teacher, Chef Matt Morrow, adapted from (as he put it) some Australian guy's cookbook on raw food:

Photo by birthday girl Brandi MacKenzie

Sublime Pie


3/4 cup macadamia nuts
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup dates, pitted and quartered
1 vanilla bean pod, ground
1 tsp. salt

Grind all ingredients together in a food processor, then press into a springform pan. (This super-simple crust could be used in any dessert application.)


5 to 6 ripe avocados (yes, I meant avocados)
1 to 1.5 cups dessicated coconut
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup

Mix all ingredients together in the food processor, tasting for flavor balance. Pour into the prepared crust and freeze for several hours.

Two days later, after a flight of fancy with chicken, we encountered the irresistible opportunity to hear foodie hero Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, etc.), who was promoting his new book, Cooked, at the Boulder Bookstore just a few steps away. The question of whether to interrupt our class schedule to hear him was really no dilemma.

The choice became even easier when the local bookstore provided free tickets to the event, which popularity prompted to move to... yes, indeed, the First Congregational Church, just upstairs from our kitchen. We had suggested that we cook him lunch, but the handlers thought there would not be enough time, so we continued with class -- it was lamb day -- and adjusted the schedule to fit the lesson and get the stews cooking before heading upstairs for the lecture.

Pollan is, quite simply, who I wish I could be. He investigates a subject thoroughly, no, exhaustively, visiting places and people that know about the subject and generally immersing himself in all there is to know about it. Then he writes approachable, readable, engaging prose that conveys all that he learned.

And he seems to be a genuinely nice guy. We learned this when he came downstairs to visit with us in the kitchen. Having been told his schedule was tight, we hurriedly prepared a "to-go" container of our lamb stews that had been simmering. No, he wanted to sit and enjoy his meal (a habit that seems to be fading into history). While the class confronted The Lamb Chop (and seven people on a siz-burner stove), Pollan chatted with staff and enjoyed our stews before popping into the kitchen for a photo op. (Sorry you had to run off, Michael, the lamb chops were delish.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Moving On Up

Moving On Up I've been idle on this forum for the past four years and am now moving in a new direction, both professionally and bloggingly. Quite honestly, I felt that sending my random thoughts into the blogosphere for various friends, relatives and spammers to enjoy was at best irrelevant and somewhat like masturbation, pleasuring only oneself. Now that I have decided what I want to be when I grow up, I see more purpose in sharing my "wisdom" with the world. I cannot take full credit for this inspiration. Dave Carson, a noted Boulder architect and member of my beloved Community UCC, suggested that I share the process of going back to school to learn a new trade. That still seemed like the above-mentioned self-pleasure, but many others have asked how I am enjoying the classes. My standard reply is that, even after nearly 40 years of playing in the kitchen, I did not know how much I didn't know about food. And so, after having people clamor for the recipes of two things I made for said church, I decided to revive my dormant blog and share some of my journey of becoming a Natural Chef through Baumann College. The program is focused on nutrition and eating well, that is, the way nature intended us to eat. The basis is SOUL food: Seasonal, Organic, Unrefined, Local. (I got 1 point off my homework on that question because I said the S was for Sustainable, which I think it also needs to be.) The program is about 5 months of thrice-weekly classes, and we are about six weeks into it, having learned some foundations like knife skills, sanitation measures and tons of other useful stuff. What has impressed me so far is how little we know about what we put into our bodies. In the name of efficiency and good ol' American capitalism, food has strayed far from being something to nourish and truly feed us. So often now, we look for the fastest way to get something into our mouths/stomachs, not paying much attention to where it came from and how it got here. The processes and additives turn what we think is good food in something akin to poison. The best example is a yummy, seemingly healthful protein bar I used to enjoy. The second ingredient is something called soy isolates, which I recently learned in class is created by a process so lethal that the factory workers are allowed to spend only a few hours in its presence, and then in full hazmat-type garb. And this is from a company called Nature Valley! I could (and probably will at some point) fill these columns with the horrors the food industry is literally shoving down our throats, but the good news is that it is not so hard to go back to our roots (really!) and make food that does nourish, not poison. Here are two examples from class: Olive Tapenade 1 cup mixed olives 1/2 Tablespoon capers 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 Tablespoons parsley 2 Tablespoons olive oil Put everything except olive oil in a food processor or blender. Pulse it a few time until everything is finely chopped. Add the oil and whir it around a bit. Serve with whole-grain crackers or veggie slices. You can doctor it up to fit your tastes and what's in the pantry. In my last batch, I also used some olives and artichoke hearts from the grocery olive bar, sun-dried tomato pieces and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It disappeared in a flash! Even faster on the hoovered scale was the trail mix balls I adapted from the school's Vital Snack Bar recipe. I think I used too many nuts so they just would not become bars, so I rolled them up and pressed in the nuts that fell out. Feel free to play around with these ingredients, using different nuts, seeds, spices, or dried fruit. The original called for Maca powder, which I couldn't find; protein powder, which I don't usually care for; and coconut, which some don't like. 1 cup lightly toasted nuts 1/2 cup medjool dates, quartered 1/4 cup dried cherries 1/4 cup dried figs 2 Tablespoons cocoa or carob powder 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp. ground cloves 1 Tablespoon orange zest Water as needed In a food processor, grind nuts to finely chopped. Set aside in a separate bowl. Put dates, cherries and figs into food processor with the cocoa/carob powder, spices and zest. Pulse to blend into a thick paste, adding tablespoons of water as needed to make it come together. Add nuts back in and process until it forms a ball. Press mixture into a 9x13 pan (use a smaller pan if a thicker bar if desired). Allow to chill for about an hour, then cut into bars. I am excited to share my love of food and talent for writing with my friends and random folks who happen upon this. I'd love to hear your comments!