Happy Friday, everyone! Terez from The Classical Girl is taking over this week's "5 Things." Hope you're hungry for some cool stuff. Enjoy! ~Jenn
I love food. I love even thinking about it. After ballet, classical music and musings about life, food is my next favorite obsession and writing topic. A few months ago I wrote a piece about “What do ballet dancers eat?” The interest in the subject has proven tremendous; the article draws over 100 new readers each day. Whew – so I’m not the only one to be obsessing about food! And not just any food, but the right kind: food that nourishes you, mind, body and spirit. Food that makes you glad to be alive. Food that makes you look and feel like a dancer.
When Jenn invited me to share five things with readers here at The Ajennda, any subject, any direction, well, musings on food won, hands down.
So, here you go, readers. Classical Girl’s Five (Foodie) Things.
1) Classical Girl’s signature grilled cheese sandwich. My favorite lunch in the world starts with local, sliced sourdough bread, which is chewy, tangy, very satisfying. Years back, always watching my weight, I’d thought “no way” to this sandwich, even though the taste was so good, utilizing an extra-sharp aged cheddar. I’d gain weight, I thought. But I prepared it, once or twice a week, then three and four times. Keeping it small: a half-sandwich, which still is a lot when you buy those round loaf sourdough breads and use the middle slice. I’d pair it up with a small bowl of homemade soup. (Pea soup – my fave!) Anyway, after a month, my weight had dropped from eating this at lunch. I love this sandwich so much and never tire of it. I’ve elaborated on the simple sandwich idea, using cracked wheat sourdough now, spreading red pepper coulis on one side of the melted cheese and sprinkling some fresh basil on top of that, just before closing it up. It tastes like a fancy restaurant’s grilled cheese. Better. Because you can make a half-sandwich sing with just a half-ounce of that super-flavored aged cheddar, whereas the restaurants will load on two or more ounces of mild cheddar and, frankly, that’s when the calories become excessive. I feel queasy eating a lunchtime grilled cheese that oozes with too much cheese. And a half-sandwich is a dieter’s best friend. All the satisfaction (face it, those first few bites are the best) and much less guilt.
2) Steel-cut oatmeal… for dinner! This is a once-a-week tradition in our household, usually following the “be a glutton” night, where we’ll indulge in local Mexican food with their house-made chile relleno and dangerously caloric homemade tortilla chips (another YUM meal, however). Steel-cut means the oat groats have been coarsely chopped, not rolled and processed. It cooks up nubbly, less soupy. Atop a bowlful, I’ll add a dollop of butter, chopped apples, toasted walnut pieces, a sprinkle of brown sugar. Minced apricots. Banana slices. You name it. What’s great about this meal is that you can throw in the fruit you forgot to eat during the day, and the dish is hot with just a touch of savory, so it still feels like something dinner-ish, only low-calorie and super nutritious. I also like to steam a little milk to top it all off. Steamed, foamy milk feels decadent, like it’s cream or something (oh, wow, what an idea), but it’s not. I eat this meal slowly, mindfully, enjoying the unusual textures, and darned if it isn’t as satisfying as a dinner. Further, the sugars within the fruits sort of calm the “must have dessert” gremlin that resides inside me. It’s also the easiest dinner in the world to make.
3) Homemade beef stock. Okay, so maybe it takes a day and a half to prepare. But if you dedicate the time, the smell permeating the house will make it all so worthwhile. I blogged about the recipe already here so I won’t duplicate my words. But trust me when I say this recipe produces the kind of flavors you get from restaurant food that seems impossible to imitate at home. You can use homemade beef stock for soups (beef and barley, French onion, lentil) and stews. You can reduce it to a single cup and turn it into the most astonishing demi-glaze to pour over steaks. Cabernet reduction, port and cherries reduction, mushroom, onion, you name it. Using the reduced stock as the base, you will have your guests weeping with pleasure, on their knees begging for the secret recipe.
4) Nuts and fruit. Pistachio nuts seem like a luxury to me. They’re high in fat, they’re tasty as anything, and rather costly. Another one of those things that you think “nope” to, for your diet. But nuts and fruit, particularly dried fruit, are nutrition super-foods and so convenient to store. So I buy pistachios, prunes, apricots, golden raisins, dried blueberries and cherries. I buy premium Fuji apples (from my local farmers’ market when available) which I cut up in the morning and have on hand for later. Prepping fresh fruit in this way, cutting/peeling beforehand, guarantees I’ll eat it without complaint. And apples alongside a handful of pistachios in the afternoon? With a few of those plump Turkish apricots? Tell you what. You have those kind of snacks in your bag, it’s ten times easier to avoid what Starbucks or a vending machine offer you as a mid afternoon snack. In comparison, those nut calories won’t make a dent. And they are soooooo good for you, in so many ways.
5) Chocolate. Yup, that needs to make this list. One exciting thing these days is the rise of artisanal chocolate-making and its easier availability. In the past I’ve preferred milk chocolate, but I understand that dark chocolate has more healthful properties. And, like red wine versus white wine, I tend to feel satiated by a lesser amount. Which is something of great merit. I’d rather eat a few bites of dessert every night than alternating between overindulgence and abstinence. So, I’ve been indulging in dark chocolate more lately, particularly the caramel and sea salt combinations available. Yum! Trader Joe’s in particular, sells a bar that’s sensationally good and easy on the budget. But if you want the premium version of “a bite of chocolate,” shop at Cocoabella, which features products from some of the finest chocolatiers in France, Switzerland, Belgium, the U.S. and Italy. Astonishing. Like art meets chocolate. A symphony for the mouth. A culinary triple pirouette.
In the end, here’s my biggest Classical Girl food tip: eat what you love, love what nourishes you. Dance, sing and embrace life through it all. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.