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!