The first half of the summer I took a 3.5-hour-a-day statistics class at the local community college (hence the lack of blog posts). I’d stay on campus after class to do homework for several hours, which basically meant I was buying my lunch at the campus bookstore—lots of beef jerky, toffee nuts, and protein bars, not to mention the vending-machine candy bars that suddenly came to seem like the “perfect” study aid. By time the class was over (and I passed—yay!—and I can see how I’ll be able to use parts of it at work), my eating habits were shot to hell.
As a result, a big focus the second half of the summer has been restoring sanity to my diet—particularly by balancing carbs and protein to keep my diabetes well-managed and by adding iron rich foods, since I’ve been rejected for low hemoglobin the last three times I’ve tried to give blood. While I am nowhere near perfecting my diet, Melissa and I have made some worthwhile discoveries together.
Discovery #1: Baked Kale Chips. If you haven’t had these, the very idea probably sounds repulsive, but they’re actually delicious. Kale is a great source of iron, which I’m hoping will help out with my mild anemia. We’ve learned to seek out small, fresh kale leaves, which have the best texture when baked. We’ve also played with the recipe, substituting things like lemon pepper, Spike, and various interesting salt and herb blends (one of my greatest grocery shopping weaknesses is interesting salt blends) for the seasoned salt. And we’ve gone the olive oil one step better and are using Tuscan herb olive oil, which brings us to…
Discovery #2: Infused olive oils. We’ve had a new store open up in town, True Olive Connection, that features just these things. When this store opened, Melissa and I sort of rolled our eyes at each other and speculated on how quickly it would go out of business, but we were sorely mistaken. What first seemed like a lot of high-end gourmet silliness came to seem like an everyday essential once we tasted their wares. As I indicated above, their Tuscan herb-infused olive oil is now my standard cooking oil. They have a blood orange olive oil that can turn a store-bought brownie mix into a miracle of flavor. There’s also Persian lime olive oil, cayenne-infused olive oil—you get the picture
Discovery #3: Infused balsamic vinegars. True Olive Connection doesn’t just carry oils; they also carry balsamic vinegars. The range of flavors is mind-boggling: dark chocolate (delicious over fresh fruit), blackberry ginger (throw a tablespoon full into a glass of diet ginger ale and be amazed), wild blueberry (great in sparkling water), grapefruit (best salad dressing base ever). Once you start playing with these, more sugary treats seem much less interesting.
Discovery #4: Hemp seed. This new ingredient is just the thing for adding some dense protein to a dish (which is important when you’re trying to manage diabetes). One tablespoon has four grams of protein. I can throw two tablespoons into my fruit and yogurt and avoid the post-carb crash they’d usually cause. Their flavor is pretty much like any seed: toasty-nutty.
I’m relearning that essential lesson that seems to require relearning once or twice a year (at least for me): if I can remain calm, remember that cooking can be a pleasurable experience and not just a burden, and savor the tastes of fresh ingredients, my entire life becomes happier and much more sane.