You just discovered your diet needs an overhaul if you are to be healthier and feel good again. You go into mourning immediately with the thought of losing the food you’ve loved and eaten forever. No worries — you’ll go through these 8 stages of grief:
- Deprivation: Someone stole my cheese. All I can think about is cheese. I’m miserable.
- Panic: What the hell CAN I eat, then? All food choices seem to have vanished.
- Denial: I don’t eat much sweets or bread. Maybe if I have just one cookie, I’ll be OK.
- Resignation: Uh oh…I’m bloated (or constipated). Not OK. Misery is assured.
- Fear: Will I ever be invited out to dinner again? Where will I find something to eat? I’m doomed to eat bland, medicinal food.
- The Quest: I need help, answers, hope, or a big fat cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun.
- Re-education: I need a moment to digest the restrictions. The real work is in figuring out the food possibilities.
- Joy: There’s a lot of great stuff out there. I’m re-training myself to eat mindfully, and, hey, the results are surprisingly yummy!
As a gluten-sensitive person, I experienced every one of these stages. I’m also lucky enough to be an inveterate researcher and cookbook collector; so, when I reached Stage 7, I gathered my curiosity, energy, and tools to make myself food-happy again.
Eliminating much-loved foods and ingredients from your diet is unsettling. You lose your balance. So, I’ve road-tested a summer comfort food meal for you, guided by delicious recipes in Well Fed – Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan. Check out Clothes Make the Girl for more recipes and information on her cookbooks. Joulwan follows a Paleo regime. I have found Paleo to be most compatible with my love of meat and need to be gluten-free. It is not the only solution for a healthy diet, but we will visit others as time goes on.
SUMMER COMFORT FOOD MENU:
Grilled Chicken Thighs
Coconut Almond Green Beans
Jicama “Potato Salad”
Dessert (Optional) – Easy fruit crisp recipe from an earlier post found here.
Grilled Chicken Thighs
Summertime is about The Grill. The key to richly-flavored, moist and juicy thighs is to smoke them. First, season the thighs with salt, pepper, and paprika.
To smoke the thighs, I use Woodstock Lump Hardwood Charcoal. You can help this along with 4-5 fast-starting briquets. When the briquets start to get that ashy color, check the wood charcoal. When there are no more flames, you’re ready to go. There should be a lot of smoke, but no fire. Put your chicken on the grill. Cover and smoke the meat for an hour.
Coconut-Almond Green Beans
These green beans are a riff on the ol’ green bean casserole, but without the canned beans, canned soup, frozen onion rings, and outrageous amount of sodium. All I can say about these green beans is WOW!! I followed this easy recipe to a tee. If you love Indian food, these beans will resonate with you. If you aren’t familiar with Indian food, these beans are a real flavor festival. Truly, cool beans.
Jicama “Potato” Salad
I adapted this recipe from Well Fed. Don’t be intimidated by this 3-part recipe — it’s easier than you think. Jicama is a large root vegetable from Mexico. It is a great substitute for potatoes because its texture and flavor is similar to a raw potato, with one caveat — start preparing the jicama early, really early—like 48 hours before you serve the meal!
2 pounds jicama
1 teaspoon salt
4 strips sugar-free, nitrate-free bacon
4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1 medium stalk celery, diced (about ½ cup)
About 1/2 cup of diced medium yellow or (and) red onion
½ cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons dried chives
¾ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¾ cup olive oil mayo (see recipe below)
Dice the jicama into ½ inch cubes. (It’s up to you whether or not to peel it.) When you’re done chopping, you should have about 6 cups of cubes. Place the jicama and salt in a slow cooker and add enough water to cover the jicama by about 2 inches. Cover and cook on high for 12-24 hours. The longer the jicama simmers, the more tender it becomes.
[Note: The recipe says to cook in a slow cooker for 12-24 hours. I suggest 18 hours, as a baseline, and check every 6 hours after. My jicama was fork tender at 23 hours.]
When the jicama has cooked, drain, pat dry, and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
Cut the bacon crosswise into ¼ inch wide pieces. Place the chopped bacon in a cold skillet, turn the heat to medium-high, and fry the bacon until it’s crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan with a wooden spoon and drain on a paper towel.
Place bacon, eggs, celery, onion, parsley, chives, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Blend with a rubber scraper, then add jicama and mix again. Add mayo (recipe below) and gently fold until combined. Chill for 20-30 minutes before eating to allow flavors to meld.
Olive Oil Mayo Recipe
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
¼ cup + 1 cup light-tasting olive oil (not extra virgin!)
1/2 teaspoon wasabi
½ teaspoon salt
Bring all ingredients to room temperature (including the egg).
1. In a blender or food processor, break the egg and add the lemon juice. Put the lid on your appliance and allow the egg and lemon juice to sit and come to room temperature together, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
2. When the egg and lemon juice are room temperature, add the mustard, salt, and ¼ cup oil to the canister. Blend on medium until the ingredients are combined. Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil by pouring very, very slowly. You want the skinniest drizzle you can manage; this takes about 2-3 minutes.
3. If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid begins to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will resemble traditional mayonnaise, only far more beautiful. (Do not lose your nerve and consider dumping!) Continue to drizzle slowly.
4. When all of the oil is incorporated, revel in your triumph and transfer the mayo to a container with a lid. (Mark a calendar with your egg expiration date—that’s when your mayo expires, too.)
5. Mix 3/4 cup of olive oil mayo with the assembled salad.
This meal is satisfying, filling, and beautiful to look at. The ingredients, for the most part, are familiar and comforting. Does this menu make you food-happy again?