Things I like to cook over the fire

Sometimes I think I was supposed to be alive in the 19th century…in the wild west…and as a cowgirl. Okay, well the cowgirl part is just because I really like horses. But the 19th century part – that’s really true. And it’s because I really like to cook with cast iron pans over the fire. Just like (I believe) they used to do in the 19th century. Turning on your stove meant stoking your fire or wood-fire stove. If you want to add primal to your cooking, that’s it. Cooking over the fire adds a whole new element of intellect and attention to cooking. You’re constantly having to move the pan to a different spot on the grate to get more or less heat. How’s the fire? Add another log. Yikes – too hot! Spread the logs out and get some airflow going. And when you get that perfect combination of wind ventilation and hot, hot coals. Holy Smokes. MAGIC.

Every time we go camping, one of the things I look forward to the most, is what kind of magic meal I get to try to perfect over the fire. It’s me, my cast iron pan(s), and the fire. That’s it. Pure Joy. I’ve recently increased my collection of campfire cast iron pans. I started out with my dad’s (who knows who it belonged to before him) ginormous daddy-sized fry pan. It might be something like 25′ in diameter. Then I found another one just like it, teenager size: maybe 10′ in diameter. Then we got the momma-sized 5 quart dutch oven. And that’s all that I’ll likely ever need (that said, I just checked my mom’s pot collection and found a toddler and infant sized cast iron pan all buried and dusty in the way back bottom shelf. I’ll likely be busting those out next season. I will have a Chad Morris approved cast iron pan system!).

Fire cooking

Fire cooking

Here’s a few dishes I’ve created over the past few years, that I am now perfecting.

Chili: preferences – beef or deer meat. Chop the veggies. Render the fat out of the bacon. Add the veggies. Sit back and enjoy the scenery for a bit. Add the meat. Once the meat is browned and everything is bubbling together nicely, add the tomatoes and spices (emphasis on spice!). Check the fire. Stir the pot. Give it an hour…or three. Get your bowl ready for some hot, smoky goodness! Obviously, chili is perfect with tortilla chips and cheddar cheese, if those are included in your dietary options. If not, try it with some raw goat cheese and plantain chips. Dish up and enjoy!

Deer chili prep

Deer chili prep

getting our sizzle on

getting our sizzle on

The magic of heat and fat

The magic of heat and fat

meat, heat, eat

meat, heat, eat

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner – left over chili; eggs and bacon. This chili is a version of the same thing above. One thing that is a morning staple, every time we camp, is bacon and eggs for breakfast. Bacon and eggs takes such a diligent watch over the fire: too hot – your bacon gets way too crispy; not hot enough…well, that rarely happens. Then, once you’ve got all that delicious bacon fat rendered, move the pan too the coolest part of the fire grate and add those eggies! Careful though, you don’t want to cremate them – they are delicate containers of deliciousness. Have some leftover veggies from last night’s dinner? Maybe some little fingerlings (before my paleo days) or zucchini? Add ’em to the pan!

Mt Rainer Chili and Eggs

Mt Rainer Chili and Eggs

Indulge – bacon wrapped hotdogs…and some bacon fat, sauteed zucchini. And cheese. Of Course (if that floats your paleo boat). And the funny thing about being in the woods is that you can always find a stick to make skewer or “toothpick”. How else are you going to keep the bacon wrapped around the hotdog?

Mt Rainer Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

Mt Rainer Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

Berry Compote. It was originally going to be a berry crumble cooked over the fire. But then I got lazy and decided not to make the crumble. So then I thought I’d make berry tapioca pudding (the white balls in the first picture). But I didn’t have enough, so I just let it cook down to a compote. So then I put that over my sweet potato paleo waffles the next morning! Taa-DAAA! I have to say, done right with enough gelatin, this filling will make a killer berry pie! The best part – I picked these berries myself at their peak ripeness so I didn’t have to add any sugar. Cool beans…errr…berries.

Berry Compote that was supposed to be berry pudding that was supposed to be berry pie

Berry Compote that was supposed to be berry pudding that was supposed to be berry pie

Paleo Challenge DAY #1

One thing that helped me when I did the last Paleo challenge was realizing that if I were to really eat like a cave man, I wouldn’t be eating 6 times a day. I would be eating small “meals” that may not consist of all ideal components like fat, protein and carbs. When I started to focus on making it sustainable for me and my life it became much easier. I didn’t freak out about only being able to eat a handful of nuts or a boiled egg. I wasn’t stressed when I was hungry because I looked at it as an opportunity to focus on something other than food knowing that I wasn’t going to starve.

I made sure that I knew what I had to eat, how I was going to prepare it and what the easiest method was for me to get in the kitchen and get my self focused on this challenge. I picked the foods I knew I liked and that I could eat without thinking or getting tired of them. For me that was chicken, eggs, tuna, spinach, zucchini, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, yams (not really 100% Paleo but like Coach Em says, “Make it sustainable” ), strawberries, mushrooms and onions. My favorite thing to do was make chicken (my mom really makes it the best) at night and then save some for the next day for breakfast and lunch. This was incredibly helpful because chicken takes a while. At night I would mix it with mushrooms and yams and then in the morning I would mix it with some scrambled eggs and spinach with 2-3 strawberries sliced and on top.Image

This was my first attempt at Paleo biscuits/pancakes. Everything is sauteed in coconut oil with various seasoning. The yams are sliced with a grater. The pancakes were basically just almond and coconut flour mixed in with some eggs and almond milk. Once you’re doing Paleo you will take ANY opportunity to make something “bread” like. But you will learn really quick that bread is bread for a reason. It’s not natural. You can’t replicate it and when you try, it takes FOREVER and you will drive yourself batshit.

So, basically I wanted to touch on making anything you do as far as diet goes, sustainable for YOU! Don’t worry that your best friend is Rachel Ray’s twin and loves cooking or that she has the time. Do what you can do.

DAY # 1 LUNCH :

Tuna salad from the Community Food Co-Op in Bellingham, WA. Quite possibly my favorite lunch choice because it’s Paleo friendly (minus the mayo which is miniscule) and I don’t have to make it.

Moroccan Orange Walnut Salad also from the Community Food Co-OP. This salad had mandarin oranges, lime juice, kale, chard, spinach, celery (gross), walnuts, honey, cinnamon, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt in it. IT WAS AMAZING.

DAY #1 FAIL:

There is a bowl of candy on the desk in my pod at work. I ate 3 Starburst yesterday before I realized it. My redemption? When my boss came around with a package of Chewy Chips’A’hoy and I reached for one I immediately remembered..

DAY #1 DINNER:

2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites cooked in coconut oil with some sea salt.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a lot of food. And you’re right it’s not. I’m not a big eater, remember my first post? I have a hard time eating A LOT unless I’m eating A LOT of garbage. The quantity will get larger as I get more in tune with changing my diet again. I do not support eating this little and as I sit here my stomach is angry with me. But like I said, looking at it as a fasting moment for a day is part of how I make this sustainable for me. This is a link that I found when I started to realize that I was actually going a day or more without eating anything but I wasn’t hungry because I was actually fueling my body with WHOLE CLEAN foods.

http://paleodietlifestyle.com/intermittent-fasting-paleo-diet/

ONWARDS and UPWARDS!!

Paleo Challenge

About a year ago, Andrea and I started a 30 day Paleo challenge. I was skeptical. Much like I thought I knew more than I did about what it meant to be fit; I thought that I’d tried everything and there was nothing that was going to change the way that I felt or the way that I looked. I was still trying to avoid food all together instead of just finding something that worked. Like many other people I was tired of picking up a new trend diet only to watch it work for a week then fail. But I gave Paleo a try anyways.

At first I struggled. I thought for sure that within the first week I was going to break and wad slices of bread into little doughy balls and stuff my cheeks like a chipmunk. But I soldiered on. Andrea and I got together once a week and went grocery shopping and thus began our “Cooking WODS” (she even let me push the cart). We cooked mainly out of “Well Fed” by Melissa Joulwan. A culinary genius and a fellow derby girl.

I started to notice that I didn’t fatigue during workouts as easily, I recovered faster and I slept waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better. I didn’t wake up at 4am and do what I call “sleep eat”. That’s when you wake up and forage for food then wake up 3 hours later and the kitchen is destroyed like Fievel Mouskowitz and friends invaded, but you don’t remember exactly what happened. That was always my story anyway.
 

About a month after the Paleo challenge I went in and met with our Coach, Emilie Hester of Jogo Crossfit and had a body comp test done. I had one in June and I was at 26% body fat. I thought for sure that I’d see no change in that number so I was a little nervous to see the results. I lost 10.5% body fat. Now, not all of it was just Paleo. I had been training consistently for 2 months. The last month was when I did the Paleo challenge. And I am so glad I did. Why am I telling you all of this? Because today, I start another one. Except this time I’m really planning on continuing the challenge past 30 days. Which means a couple of things: a) it means that everything I eat has to be self prepared because NO ONE else in my house will eat this way. This is going to prove difficult because I really don’t like to cook.. b) I’m going to have to hold MYSELF accountable by keeping record of body changes and food logs.. I will be 100 % honest with you and I will not omit any deviation. I must find the Cave Woman within and dial in my hunter gatherer scope. I’ll have nuts in my pockets and figs in the bottom of my backpack. I’ll snub my nose at white fluffy flours and the decadence of sweets..I might cry about it, but I’ll get over it when I get back to where I was a year ago and keep it going.

Here’s to another challenge. Me hungry.

Put the food down. ALL OF IT!

If you had told me 17 years ago that I one day would be contributing to a blog about food I’d probably have laughed at you, farted and then asked “What the heck is a blog?” If you’d told me what a blog was I would have thought you were some distant relative of Marty McFly and wondered where your hover board was as well.

But, here I am. Here we are. Food…

I wish I could say that I’ve always loved food. The fact of the matter is, I’ve been terrified of it since I was 12. The early part of my life I just remember being poor and not eating much other than Top Ramen and Oatmeal. I remember once; when I was very little; the power being out, the house being very cold. I was sitting on the couch with my dad while my mother sat on the other side and I was hungry. My mom was crying and my dad was silent. I remember watching my mom get up and walk into the kitchen to the cupboard where she opened it up and pulled out a bag of beans. As a child I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. I had no idea that there wasn’t anything else to eat or that my parents silence and emotions were fear and anger. I don’t remember if we ate those beans or not.

When my mom remarried when I was 9 there was plenty of food. She would cook home style meals every night. Pack amazing lunches and on the weekends make me waffles, pancakes, french toast and crepes. I would come home from school and eat Doritos, Fruit Roll Ups, Oreos and drink soda. Then we’d sit around the table and eat meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy and I’d dip my butter smothered white bread in it and stuff my mouth leaving just enough room for some milk. I’d go to sleep with heavy eyes and a full stomach and wake up in the morning ravenous! I could never eat enough.
When I would go to my dads on the weekends it was 180 degrees. We ate pasta and red sauce ; grilled chicken (if we were lucky) or top ramen with some green beans or peas in it. For breakfast it was one egg and one piece of toast or paper thin pancakes with 1% milk. This was the beginning of my terrible eating habits. The beginning of my binge eating.

When I was 13 I went out for the wrestling team. My dad was adamant that if I was going to be wrestling I had to start lifting weights and exercising. My dad had always been very fit. As a little girl we would do sit ups and push ups during commercials. I got my first black eye in his home made gym; inspired by Joe Weider and Arnold; by picking up a barbell and cracking myself in the face with it.
Along with this new routine also came diet. I was suddenly eating chicken and broccoli; rice and rigatoni noodles. Egg whites and bagels for breakfast and protein shakes after practice. Then I would go to my moms and all concern for nutrition went out the window. Partly because I wanted it and partly because if I mentioned anything about my dads plan to turn me into a fierce wrestler , my mom would get upset..so I kept my mouth shut and I ate the meatloaf (which was always my favorite).

Wrestling required that I wear a singlet. Which required that I suck it in. Which didn’t matter when I had to weigh in.

I was suddenly worried about cellulite and the fact that I couldn’t put a ruler on my hip bones when I laid down. I was reading my dads Muscle magazines and my moms Cosmo wondering why I didn’t look like the women in the pictures and believing that EVERYONE I knew expected me to look that way even though they didn’t.
I became incredibly self conscious. My two best friends at the time were both rail thin. The main writer of this blog, Andrea, was tall and lanky and Laurilee who also had eating issues was model thin. I would watch them both and wish desperately for skinny, knobby legs. I wanted ribs that stuck out and arms you could wrap your fingers around. I started to eat saltines and diet coke and fruit medleys from the grocery store. Then a few days later I would find myself gorging on cafeteria pizza and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies..

When I got into high school it only got worse. I was now going to the gym every morning, getting up @ 4:30 am and doing 60 minutes of cardio plus all the ridiculous movements any gym member does: leg extensions, bicep curls, tri-cep kickbacks, cable rows and flys; I’d do a hundred sit ups then jump on the ab/dip station and lift my knees to my chest until the only thing that hurt was my hip flexors. For most of high school my first class of the day was PE so I would lift or do an hour of Fonda legs or abs with Mrs. Ayers and if I was lucky she would tell me how fat I was and then take my flab and pinch it with her calipers and prove it to me.

When I got out of high school I made some pretty terrible life choices. I would say that I “Failed” at life but I realize that would be a little harsh. I started using drugs and living a pretty risky day to day existence. When all was said and done I was emotionally wrecked, severely chemically imbalanced and I was finally skinny. 104lbs skinny to be exact. Now mind you, growing up I wasn’t ever fat but I was generally bigger than most every other girl I knew. I was in a size 9 in 8th grade and most of high school. I had what everyone called a “ghetto booty” and I was a 34D. Now, I was in a size 1 and I couldn’t find bras that fit anymore. My step mom told me years later that she thought I had AIDS I was so skinny.

For years, and I mean YEARS I was terrified of gaining weight. Which I absolutely did the minute I started eating again. I would pump myself full of coffee and nicotine trying to curb my appetite. I’d politely decline food saying I was full. I would make rude comments to people who were eating, judging them for the fact that what they were eating would make ME fat if I ate it..

About 5 years after, I discovered Mt. Baker Crossfit. I made it through the warm up and I left. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die.

Then it hit me.
I thought all this time, all those years, that I was fit and that I knew everything there was to know about fitness. After all, my room in high school was covered with posters from Muscle&Fitness. I ate egg whites and weighed myself multiple times a day.
I went back the next day and to my surprise, no one ignored me. I didn’t just walk in and swipe a card through a reader and hit the elliptical. I was met with a high five and a smile. Needless to say, I was in. I started to look good and feel good. I was getting compliments on my body and guys at work were always making fun of how big my biceps were like I was some kind of freak. Except now, I knew it was because I WAS fit! I had muscles and I looked healthy and I felt good and suddenly I didn’t care how much I weighed.

I hated my body growing up. I still struggle with it. But I suppose the whole purpose of sharing this information and scattering my fears like seed upon fresh ground is to discover that from those insecurities I’ve been able to find peace for the most part with the fact that I can’t change my body type. I can’t change my structure. I can change the way that I eat and the way that I train.
I’m not perfect. I remind myself of that every time I pick something up to eat it that I shouldn’t and I have an internal conversation with myself.

You are better than this.
You’ve overcome bigger obstacles than this.
This will make you feel worse.
Put the food down.

And sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But I’m learning to be ok with that. I’m sure that Julie Foucher and Lindsey Valenzuela didn’t start their journeys without making mistakes. I know that the athletes I look up to aren’t immune to a really big slice of pizza or a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy. I wouldn’t want them to be either. I want them to be honest and human and I want them to be able to share with me their triumphs and tribulations so that I can be inspired and in turn, inspire someone else.

Here’s to my first ever blog entry ( I feel so grownsup); to sharing and being ok with it and to the knowledge that if we don’t teach we can’t learn and we only learn from others who weren’t afraid to share.