Category Archives: IN THE KITCHEN

DETOX UPDATE

I felt reluctant to continue writing about my detox after the first post as I thought that it could be, frankly, a bit boring. Each of us has visited a site where the writer has a fondness to overshare about their eating habits and diet: each morsel eaten, photos of unmentionable detox attributes, things that we really don’t want to know – way too much information. I don’t want to be that person.

However, I was surprised over the last week to receive emails, phone calls and questions from friends, and friends of friends asking about my progress. What I found was that there are people who genuinely want to know how it is going, how I feel, and if I have made progress.

If you are one of those people who really does NOT want to know, please look the other way, skip this post and forgive me. I won’t be offended.

I think that the crux of the matter is this:  we all have things about ourselves that we want to change.  And however difficult those changes might prove, they are harder in the “thinking about them” than they are in the doing. So we get inspiration for making our own changes where we can and sometimes look to others for inspiration on our own path. Hopefully, this update inspires courage to change and not just a bit of eye-rolling!

My uncle George used to say that the hardest part of running each morning was “tying his shoes.” On detox day seventeen, I have to agree. I put off a detox for years (literally).  There are myriad excuses:  can’t live without my morning coffee, my evening beer, wine, cocktail, my bread and olive oil, my _____ (fill in the blank).  Today, I am strangely elated to report that I don’t really miss any of those things.  The hardest part was actually starting and the withdrawal from those luscious, delicious, beautiful things.

I did continue to document my progress in short snippets – which you find below.  I want to say upfront that I would urge anyone attempting a similar cleanse to taper off and go slowly into the process rather that taking my lead to go cold turkey.

All the books present it, doctors sternly recommend it, and everyone you talk to is in agreement: phase out toxins, phase in the detox.  Why I chose to approach it this way, I cannot say – perhaps I threw caution to the wind?  I am stubborn?  I didn’t have time? (I chose a time when my daughter would be out-of-town.) Perhaps it was the only way I could have done it? Whatever the excuse, I don’t recommend it! Don’t do it… employ moderation.  (A theme I have spent my life trying to learn.)

All this being said, I am happy to report that I did survive (regardless of the pain of Day 6).  I am still here and I am still at it.

We left off at Day 5:

Day 6 – If I hit the wall on day three, the wall fell today.  More like the dam broke.  Sick. Sick. Sick.  I see myself as a healthy person, I grow our food, I cook at home, I eat organic. How could my body be so sick? Complete breakdown after the dam broke, I go to bed and start to feel better. I am alive. I sit very still.  I meditate.

Day 7 – Feeling better this morning.  And I mean better than before I started the detox. I write lunch on my calendar and pledge to take the time to prepare, sit and eat each day (well, at least three days a week). I breathe. Pilates feels good.

Day 8 – I tell my friend Angie that I am actually beginning to enjoy cooking in this new way.  Trying new combinations of smoothies. Meals without wheat.  A week ago I thought I could never live without coffee, wine, bread and cheese – today a quinoa salad with baked chicken for lunch is delicious. (These recipes helped so much.)

Day 9 – High energy.  First day since I started detox that I am not hungry. I feel energized and want to smile at the whole world. No one really notices the new me – except me. Sigh.

Day 10 – Ditto.

Day 11 – Ditto – High energy seems to be becoming a way of life…

Day 12 – I break down, break out and have a “wild” day:  A few pita chips with my salad, and a frozen yoghurt at night. I feel great and I am not ashamed. My girlfriend laughs that my “wild day” has certainly evolved (can’t imagine what she might be referring to).

Day 13 – I wake up and feel like I want to make a plan for life. I have lost 8 more pounds.

Day 14 – Finally, friends start to notice that I am standing up straighter, feeling better, and have more energy.  They ask what I have been doing and I explain my detox/acupuncture/Pilates combo.  I haven’t had a headache since the third day and three girlfriends commit to joining me in detox.  I urge them to taper off and ease in. We make a plan to go “hard core” in two weeks.

Day 15 – I ease off the detox “program” and feel like a whole new world and way to look at food is beginning. I have a plan.  I will continue to ease off the detox for the next two weeks but, I want do the full three-week detox with friends – partners.  So, I am easing off but starting again – from the beginning.  However, this time without the withdrawal symptoms – at least they will not be as severe.

I have a good day that includes a visit to my favorite Mexican restaurant in celebration of my daughter’s first day at kindergarten – it includes a salad and a margarita. Two weeks ahead to learn what feels good to my body and what doesn’t. I make the “Natalie Plan” which is a mixture of eating from my garden, the farmers market, Clean, Fat Flush and “The Maggie” (my daughter’s plan).

Day 16 – I wake up each morning energized – without my morning latte (or 3).  I head to the farmers market and buy a load of fruit to freeze for my morning smoothies – seems to make it easier for me and the smoothies become like ice cream.  I will work in the studio for a while and then head home for my planned, healthy and relaxing lunch. There will always be a few “treats” included in my day, but they feel like just that – “treats.”  I will savor each and every one.

I purchase Canyon Ranch: Nourish which my friend Kay recommends.

I vow to cook more. I will celebrate.

Thank you for all the well-wishes, emails, phone calls, recipes, ideas, and support along the way,
xoNatalie

CUT-UP WATERMELON SALAD

When our good friend Kristy brought this amazing dish to our last weekend workshop, I instantly knew it would become a summer staple in my kitchen. The sweetness of the watermelon  balances perfectly with the acidity of the tomatoes, and the hint of mint makes it extra refreshing on hot day.

Everyone was asking for the recipe. Not very much to it:

Cut-up watermelon, remove seeds (I used about a quarter of a watermelon)
Diced tomato, seeds removed (I used two medium tomatoes)
Spinach or other green
Feta (as much as you’d like)
Mint (4 sprigs, stems removed and leaves chopped)
A drizzle of olive oil
Pepper

Let everything reach room temperature (to bring out the flavors) except for the watermelon and added the chilled watermelon at the end just before serving.

(And leave out the feta cheese if you are – like me – in a “cleansing” phase – still delicious. Day 9 and going strong!)

DETOX DAY 5

The book Clean, by Alejandro Junger, has been sitting on my nightstand since December of last year. Over the last months, I have read parts of it and “toyed” with some of the recommended practices (eliminating aluminum pans from the kitchen, drinking clean water, etc.), but it has taken some time for me to actually embrace the full-on detox program.  I started last Wednesday.  And when I say “started,” I mean hard core:  no coffee, no dairy, no wheat, no red meat, no sugar, no alcohol, and as much organic as possible.

Cold turkey.

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LEFTOVER BISCUIT + TOMATO PIE

This recipe was the lucky culmination of a recent visit to the Lodge Factory Store in Scottsboro, Alabama, the abundance of cherry tomatoes in my garden, and leftover biscuits from this morning’s breakfast. It features the biscuit recipe from page 80 of the Alabama Stitch Book and is a riff on the Put-Up Tomato Pie on page 89 of Alabama Studio Style.

Maggie woke up clambering for biscuits this morning and I was one cup short of the white flour that she loves best.  So, I substituted one cup of wheat flour on the board and used that for rolling.  It made a light but hearty biscuit that was the start to a great day; we finished our evening with this hearty dish that was a hit with my family (i.e. no leftovers).

Add some Benton’s Bacon for meat lovers.

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CHICKENS + EGGS

Chicken and Egg has been lying on my kitchen work table now for weeks. I pick it up, put it down, then pick it up again and have been trying to decide just why I like so much. The beautiful photographs by Alex Farnum certainly take my breath away and the stories of backyard chickens and homesteading by Janice Cole are inspiring but it is the selection of simple recipes that keeps me coming back.

A guest at our studio recently told a story about how she has an ongoing competition with friends on who can find the most difficult recipe. She laughingly says, “When the recipe starts with ‘Visit your local Fishmonger,’ she knows that she is in trouble. “Do I have one of those?” she asks.

The recipes in Chicken and Egg seem deceptively simple but inspire me to go out to my garden to pick some basil and mint (bumper crops this year) and prepare the Baked Eggs with Basil-Mint Pesto (page 83) for dinner.


Some of my favorites include (in no particular order): Creamy Deviled Egg-Stuffed Chicken Breasts (page 65), Golden Spinach Strata (page 145), Toasted Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Apples and Smoked Gouda (page 228), Paprika Chicken with Hummus (page 235). (Try substituting field peas for your hummus if you live in the south.)

Desserts are deliciousness like Key Lime Cream Pie with Billowy Meringue (page 47), a Bittersweet Fudge Pound Cake (page 49), and the Blueberry Sour Cream Tart (page 99).

From the introduction:

“The chapters are arranged seasonally because chickens are seasonal in their behavior. In the fall and winter, the number of eggs that chickens produce decreases, sometimes so dramatically that they don’t lay at all for days or even weeks at a time. As a result, each egg is more precious, and we’re more careful about how many we use. In the spring and summer, the increased daylight stimulates the chickens to produce lots of eggs, which we use with abandon.”

Since we are also having a bumper year for blueberries in North Alabama, I am off to make the Blueberry Sour Cream Tart with abandon.

Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes

P.S.  Janice suggests the Eglu to get started.

AVEC ERIC

I wrote about Eric Ripert back in 2008 when friend and colleague Angie Mosier was documenting the PBS television show Avec Eric and working on the companion book.  (By the way, individual episodes of Avec Eric are now available for download as  podcasts at the iTunes store.)

I finally have the Avec Eric book in my hands and am totally in awe.  I can attest that it is a difficult thing to write a book.  You have to get so many, many things right: the text, the photos, the technical details (in this case the recipes), the design, the printing and all the myriad of details in between.

(Read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird should you ever want to be a published author.)

Avec Eric is a forthright, relaxed, joyous celebration of food that is neither too heady nor too difficult for the lay-chef.  Eric Ripert is a stunning story teller and the book is infused with the beautiful photos, prose and spirit of our friend Angie.  Star Chef named it one of the Top 10 cookbooks of 2010. Wiley hits a 100% as it is graced with lovely paper, printing, trim size, photos, stories and is simply a beautiful collection of recipes.

As I refuse to part with my copy of Avec Eric, I have purchased a copy of for my son who has opened his own catering company called MAGPIE + Ruth (after my Maggie and his sweet girlfriend Ashley).  I am hoping that he will be preparing Crab-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers and Cornmeal Biscuits for us all this summer.

Visit Zach’s Facebook page MAGPIE + Ruth and get your copy of Avec Eric.

You will not be disappointed on either count.

I love what Anthony Bourdain writes about the Avec Eric television show in the introduction:  “Remarkably, the TV show, Avec Eric, for which this volume is a companion, does NOT suck!”

Indeed.

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS TODAY (+ SNOW CREAM)

From Taste of the South (amazing again!) at Blackberry Farm to home… let it snow (again)!

The Alabama Chanin office we will be closed for business today.

Everyone is now very busy in preparation for important snowball fights, snow men and snow cream.

Enjoy the moment.

MAGGIE’S SNOW CREAM

Mix together, tasting often:

1 cup fresh whipped cream
1 cup fresh snow
Sugar and vanilla to taste

CAST IRON COOKING

This is what I want for the holidays: the largest cast iron skillet that can be had for oven-roasting vegetables.

I am no recent convert to the joys of cast iron cooking as the pans pictured above have traveled the world with me for 30+ years. However, I was reminded of the detriments of aluminum while reading Clean last week and want an alternative to parchment paper and the large “roasting” pans in my kitchen cabinets.

In terms of sustainability, reasonably priced cast iron lasts forever and, with a bit of care, provides a stick-free surface for life. Use kosher salt and water to clean and your “seasoned” pan will thank you.

When I was pregnant with Zach, my doctor was shocked that my iron levels kept getting better and better as I had a tendency towards anemia… of course the answer was cast iron cooking.

I am planning a family outing to the Lodge Factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and have been dreaming of designing my own pans.  Imagine “Alabama Chanin for Lodge”… mmmm.

Any great recipes for cast iron that I need to try over the holidays? Please comment! Continue reading

CANNING AS GIVING

And in speaking of happiness…

Nothing like giving – and receiving, hint, hint – the bounty of summer.

Canning-Jar Covers – pictured here – from page 137 of Alabama Studio Style.  Made with scraps of our 100% organic cotton jersey, Small Medallion stencil pull-out from Alabama Studio Style and an extra-fine permanent marker.

Prepare to be loved.

Have you ever baked in canning-jars? Angie Mosier did this when we were in New York City last year and I have been wanting to try it… seems like a perfect way to wrap up some holiday joy for friends.

Got recipes for me to try out with Maggie on these cold and icy days?