Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Primal Plate 5/31/11

Welcome back fruit! Oh, how I've missed you. For the last two and a half weeks, I've been trying to eat a very low-carb "induction" menu to move the scale those last few pounds, so therefore almost no fruit. Or first few pounds, since that's all I have to lose anyway. Regardless, I'm only about 5-8 lbs from my goal weight and I wanted to ditch the tummy flab before the roadtrip tomorrow. It does seem flatter, even though the scale and tape measure haven't budged.

Roadtrip time, woohoo! Okay, I'm not really that excited about the roadtrip part, but I'm very psyched about the destinations. Family reunion and then a week visiting close friends and exploring some beautiful scenery. For the roadtrip, I'm not going to worry too much about the low-carb bit and just eat as Primally as possible. Fruit is such a great snack for the car anyway, and I don't know how much Primal food will be available; excluding fruit when it might be the healthiest snack just seems dumb. All the food for the reunion is included and I know there will be plenty of options in the meat and salad arena. Eggs, bacon, and sausage will probably be featured prominently at breakfast, and most likely still be available to me and Jeremiah on days when everyone else is adding pancakes to their plates. Nevertheless, I'm coming prepared, plus we need food for the 10 hour car ride. We're breaking it up over two days because 10 hours would be torture for my back. We're bringing fresh jerky from the butcher, deli meat and cheese roll-ups I'll make up before we leave, apple slices, apricots, grapes, blueberries, almond butter, cashews, carrots, celery, and red pepper slices, and a few Kind fruit and nut bars and Larabars. Whoa.

So I started off very well this morning, and have a very healthy, but busy, day planned.

Breakfast 11am:
1 cup coffee
1 cup Irish breakfast tea
1 fried egg
1/2 grapefruit
2 apricots
1/2 cup cottage cheese

More leftover pulled pork
Greek yogurt with honey
1/2 cup blueberries

I spent the afternoon running around doing last-minute vacation chores, so I had a key lime Larabar for a late afternoon snack. Ingredients: dates, cashews, almonds, unsweetened coconut, and lime juice concentrate.

Grilled chicken
More frozen veggie medley

Sorry for the poor picture quality. I'm still working out some of the lighting kinks and learning how to edit in Lightroom.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Primal Plate 5/30/11

Happy Memorial Day. Thank you to the veterans in my family: Dad (Vietnam), paternal grandfather (WWI), maternal grandmother (WWII), maternal great-grandfather (WWI), & maternal great-uncle (WWII).

Grilling lunch sounds like a great way to start Memorial Day (after saying a quiet thank-you to the vets in my family and everywhere else). We skipped breakfast so Jer and I fired up the grill before noon. We had some filets from Chicago Steak Company (sadly not grass-finished) that we ordered with a Groupon and threw them on the grill with some sweet potato spears, and cooked up some frozen veggie medley on the grill's side burner. The steak and veg are covered in copious amounts of butter!

Eating outside on the bistro table

Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon, and blueberries; apple with almond butter

Dinner: Leftover pulled pork from Whole Foods; steamed broccoli; wine

Had a few small squares of chocolate in there too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chocolate Mint Green Smoothie

Green smoothies have become an internet phenomenon. Frequently touted by raw foodists, vegans, raw vegans, and even fruititarians, they claim green smoothies are the key to healthy skin and hair, perfect digestion and elimination, and of course, weight loss. Weight loss, drinking over 500 calories of pure sugar? Right.

Even so, I find that smoothies are a great way to start my day. The only claim the raw foodists have right is the benefit to digestion. I was first turned on to smoothies as a way to heal my IBS. It didn't, but I fell in love with them anyway. The main difference between mine and one that is primarily fructose is fat. I add in as much protein as possible, sometimes including a raw egg or two, but it's the fat that really matters. Most smoothies rely on bananas for texture and body. Avocado contains healthy fat and, surprisingly, fiber. With avocado, you won't miss bananas for a second. The second source of fat has to come from an oil. Sometimes I use flax oil to increase the omega-3 content, but I just discovered the tastiest smoothie ingredient of all time: coconut cream. If you open a can of low-fat coconut milk, it will be a thin but slightly creamy white liquid. But if you open a can of regular coconut milk, the way nature intended, all the cream will coagulate at one end of the can, leaving some thinner, almost transparent coconut water swishing around. For a Thai coconut curry, you should mix this together to form a lovely thick, creamy coconut milk. But you can drain the watery liquid and just use the cream if you want. Not wanting to waste, I usually mix it up and use it all. It's as creamy as butter.

Our society is still afraid of fat, but it's essential to vital functions like keeping cell membranes functioning properly, keeping body temperature stable, and to maintain healthy skin and hair. In addition to drastically rethinking my fat intake once I started eating Primally, I've been struggling to eat enough protein. Luckily, this smoothie contains plenty of both.

  • 3 large frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2 cups raw spinach
  • 2 TBS coconut cream/very thick full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 scoops (1 serving) Trader Joe's chocolate flavored whey protein powder
  • ~ 12 oz unsweetened chocolate almond milk
  • 2 sprigs mint leaves
  • 1 TBS dutched cocoa
  • stevia to taste
  • Ice (optional)

Add ingredients to blender. Pour in enough almond milk to reach about the 12 oz line in the blender. Blend. Enjoy.

Nutritional Info:
Calories: 379
Fat: 21
Protein: 23
Carbs: 32
Fiber: 9

Pictured with my afternoon snack - yum!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Primal Plate: A Healthy Start

Are you a voyeur? Do you try to sneak peeks into the neighbor's living room when you're walking past? Don't lie, we all do. But more tempting to me than peeking through your living room drapes is ogling your plate. But do you also crane your neck checking out other diners' selections as the waiter serves the table next to you? If so, then here I am, leaving my kitchen blinds up for you to peek.

Particularly interesting to observe are those who buck the system and reject the standard American diet (SAD). I have committed to eating by the principles of the Primal Blueprint: a version of the Paleo diet developed and popularized by Mark Sisson at Mark's Daily Apple. I was first introduced to this diet by the book The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, first published more than 15 years ago. My background in anthropology and curiosity first lead me to the subject, and after reading the book I found many other wonderful resources. I immediately implemented some changes in my diet, and after reading Mark Sisson's seminal book The Primal Blueprint, I knew that this could be solution I have been searching for and a fundamental change to the way I eat for a lifetime. But before I turn this into a manifesto on why I chose a Primal way of life, let's move on to the healthy start I wanted to share with you.

This morning, I decided to start documenting my meals and I'm calling it "Primal Plate." My intention is to post my meals almost every day, with as many pictures as possible. I enjoy seeing what other people eat in a day: what their routines are, how tasty their meals look, how clean their kitchen is, what they snack on, and of course, if they're a better cook. I will try to document as many days in food as I can, especially now since Jeremiah and I have decided to go 100% Primal. While it was interesting to see the before and after of my breakfast, and to take some extra time measuring the ingredients, I'm not sure I can keep up this level of detail every day, especially the photos. This is Jeremiah telling me to "hurry up and eat already" last night at dinner. He was not amused.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with tomato, cheese, scallions, and avocado; sauteed kale with onions; bacon; cantaloup; coffee

Starting with the onions

Adding in the kale - TOO much kale

Yum! I did choke down that much kale, but next time I will only make half that.

Snack: 1 oz cheese; celery with almond butter

Dinner: salad with simple EVOO and white balsamic vinegar dressing; assorted veggies (those are radishes and tomatoes on either side of the peeled cuc); grilled chicken breast marinated in Italian dressing; sunflower seeds; wine


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Monday, May 23, 2011

Coming Soon...

After a period of self-doubt, stunning writer's block, and the death of Photoshop on my computer, I am finally working on getting The Overflowing Pantry online. I have decided to make it more of a well-rounded "lifestyle" blog instead of just a cooking blog, but with heavy emphasis on cooking (of course), gardening, the Primal/Paleo lifestyle, and healthy living.

I hope to see you very soon!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fougasse: Crispy, Salty Olive Bread (a farewell ode)

Television cooking programs can be a great inspiration for the home cook, but as we all know the results can vary substantially from what is shown by the celebrity chefs. I was recently such inspired by an episode of French Cooking at Home on Cooking Channel. The show opened with a delicious looking loaf of fougasse, a Provençal version of focaccia with niçoise or oil-cured olives that is formed and slashed into an interesting leaf shape. But woe! The recipe was nowhere to be found on Cooking Channel’s website. Laura Calder, the show’s hostess and cook, prepared three or four other dishes on the episode which were easy to find under the show’s title, but the fougasse was bewilderingly left out.

Focaccia is extremely popular in the US, prevalent everywhere from café menus to Panera Bread paninis; but the related fougasse is relatively unknown. One of the main attractions of fougasse is instead of topping the bread with herbs and olives, they were contained inside the bread. A long-time lover of olive bread, I set off in a search for a suitable recipe immediately. My first stop was to review the fococcia recipe in my bread bible, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. A quick Google search revealed very similar recipes, and so I fixed upon this Provencal Olive Fougasse on Serious Eats, originally from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan (soon to be added to my own library).

I made a few other changes to use up my pantry stash and modify it for taste. Instead of the 5 ½ TBS of olive oil, I used 4 TBS of herb oil from a large container of marinated fresh mozzarella bocconcini and the remaining 1 ½ TBS of extra virgin olive oil. I didn’t have oil-cured black olives, but I had tons of kalamata olives. I thought a mix of olives would be good, so I also threw in some green olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s that I had sitting around for a while. Overall I put in about 1 ½ cups of chopped kalamatas and tapenade combined. I doubled the rosemary and added some dried Herbs de Provence. Jeremiah and I prefer strong, bold flavors, and we have also been cutting down on our bread and other simple carb consumption (it’s a pity, I know. But there are just too many compelling reasons). This gave me incentive to really pack as much scrumptiousness as possible with really intense flavors into the dough. If you prefer more subtle flavors, you can cut down on the herbs and olives a little bit, but don’t sacrifice too much.

Another great advantage of this type of bread, in addition to using lots of items squirreled away in my refrigerator, is that it doesn’t require a starter to make. Most breads in my repertoire require a pâte fermentée, poolish, or biga; pre-ferments made ahead of time or from a leftover piece of dough to develop the flavor and structure of the dough as the yeast ferments. These pre-ferments, also known as sponge, are nice to have on hand but only last in the fridge for about 3 days, so some planning ahead is required. This recipe also requires some planning ahead, but the dough itself ferments overnight, requiring no pre-ferment, so in the end it eliminates the extra step of making the dough twice.

Shaping the dough was surprisingly easy and the dough was wonderful to handle. The flavor was fantastic and the texture was unlike any other bread I’ve tasted. Because of the slashes to make the leaf shape, when we tore the bread into pieces it was more like a crust of chewy pizza or breadstick with a crispy, salty exterior. This one's definitely a keeper for my 20% and special occasions.

And with this, I now say good-bye to all things bready. I have been moving closer and closer to a Primal or Paleo way of living, but I am now embracing it all the way. It's been a hard transition in some ways, and dead simple in others. I am doing this for my health and healing, Jeremiah's health, and our future. Non-Primal readers, please don't jump ship just yet. I will still be posting amazingly yummy recipes and you may not even notice the lack of grains or legumes.

Herbs de Provence & Olive Fougasse
Days to make: 2
Serves: 2 loaves that serve 6 each

1 2/3 cups warm water (water should be very warm but not hot, ideally 110° F)
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup herb oil (recipe below)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup prepared green olive tapenade
1-2 TBS minced fresh rosemary (about 5 short sprigs)
1 TBS dried Herbs de Provence
Zest of one whole lemon or half of one orange


Proof the yeast by sprinkling the sugar and yeast into a measuring cup filled with 2/3 cup warm water and let sit until yeast is frothy and creamy in appearance, about 5 minutes.

Combine flour and salt in stand mixer fitted with flat paddle and stir to combine. Add yeast, 1 cup warm water, olive oil and herb oil add mix until combined. Switch to bread hook and beat for 10 minutes, or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very stick and my pool at the bottom of the mixing bowl, but that's fine.

Add the olives, herbs, and zest and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Don't worry if all the olives aren't completely incorporated.

Lightly oil a large bowl and scrape the dough into it. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, 1 to 2 hours, depending upon the warmth of your kitchen.

Stir the dough, cover it again, and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours, or for as long as 3 days. (I prefer to let the dough rest overnight.) If you’re keeping it in the fridge for a while, it will probably rise to the top of the bowl again, in which case you can stir it down, or not—it’s not crucial.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, stir it down, and divide it in half. Turn 1 piece of dough out onto a floured surface and flour the top of the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s about 12 inches long and 7 to 9 inches wide. Precision isn’t important here. As you’re working, lift the dough and flour the counter again if the dough is sticking. Transfer the dough to a large nonstick baking sheet or one lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Using a pizza cutter, a single-edged razor blade, or an X-Acto knife, cut about 4 slashes, about 2 inches long, at an angle down each long side of the rectangle, rather like the veins on a leaf. If you’d like, make another 2-inch vertical slash near the top of the rectangle. Again, don’t worry about precision. With your fingers, gently push and pull the slashes open, tugging the dough a little as you go. Try to get the holes to open to about an inch wide. As you cajole the dough, you might want to tug a little more at the base than at the top, so you end up with a bread that’s flat at the bottom and tapers toward the top, like a leaf.

Repeat with the second piece of dough on a second baking sheet (or cover that portion and return it to the refrigerator to bake later).

Cover the dough with a dish towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 450°F. (If you’re baking just 1 bread, bake it on the lower or middle rack.)

Mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the remaining 2 teaspoons water in a small cup. Prick the dough all over with a fork and, with a pastry brush, lightly coat the fougasse with the oil and water mixture. Sprinkle the bread all over with kosher or other coarse salt.

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bread is golden—it won’t get too dark. Transfer the fougasse to a cooling rack and let rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Storing: You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but once baked, the bread should be eaten the same day.

*Apologies to my Paleo/Primal readers. I began this post in February and then got stalled. It was a great recipe to cook at the time, but Jeremiah and I are thoroughly Primal from now on.