I made what I sometimes consider the mistake of reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food in December, and I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted to see what going all organic/non-processed food did for me specifically. So I made a month-long commitment to begin in the new year; hence, Just the Basics January. I can tell you that in the last 20 days, I have spent a LOT of time in the kitchen.
I actually had to start my plan a day late. I hit up the local farmer’s market and scored myself some fresh eggs and bacon (among other things), then stopped at the local health food store (shout-out to Living Earth) for some other items, including organic cheese (which I clearly cannot live without). I turned the mentioned items into a delicious and simple breakfast (while preserving the bacon fat–this will be important later):
That afternoon I got a request from a friend in need for dinner and a drink, which, based on the highly unusual circumstances of the situation, I agreed to, knowing I could return to my plan the following day. I downed a few Yuenglings and some boneless buffalo wings as my “last non-organic meal” (for a month). So I was half-organic on day one, and even more dedicated to the cause after that brief hiatus.
So day 2 rolls around, and I haven’t yet understood exactly what this lifestyle will entail. I go with a quinoa dish, because a cup of quinoa can feed a small country for a week and I have a few things that will blend nicely with it (e.g., spinach, red pepper). I eat this mush for dinner as well as lunch the following day. I then make a chicken, mushrooms & onions dish (but not marsala because marsala wine isn’t organic) that I then pair with the remainder of the quinoa split into two meals (dinner & lunch again).
I begin to realize there are no snacks. Nothing at all. No chips, no chocolate, nothing. I can’t live like that, so I use the second half of my “snow day” (which just means I work from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to make lots of things that I can have as snacks: pickles, granola “bars,” pretzels, and crackers in addition to a vat of lentil soup that I can then eat, reheat & eat, and freeze so that I’m not cooking meal-to-meal every single meal.
I was pleased with all of the results though they were each different than what I would typically make. The lentil soup was flavored differently (but the cumin taste was actually quite good!), the granola bars were absolutely delciously flavorful, the pickles were a little sweeter due to the use of rice vinegar, and the flatbreads-turned-crackers burned a little when I left them in the oven to “fully dry out.” What was probably most challenging in making all of these items was the shopping that preceded it (e.g., thanks to Wegmans, but that place is insane!) and then the time it took to do everything, which was easily five hours.
The next morning I tried my hand at almond meal pancakes. They were…interesting (but not bad)!
At some point, there was bread too. I don’t think I captured a photo of it, probably because it didn’t rise when I had expected, and after it did, my efforts to fit it back on the pan shrunk it back down and then it baked into a bit of a penis-shape. It looked ridiculous, but it tasted okay. I ultimately turned half of that loaf into bread crumbs:
I then used those bread crumbs and some shoots combined with onions and broccoli to make some tots.
By a week into this mess, I was not feeling the dry life (because that’s for February), so I hunted down a few alcoholic beverages touting the “organic” marketing. I found some cider, Crop Vodka, a bottle of red wine from Living Earth, and the absolute best:
I have been stocked with this $9/4 bottles beer the entire month, because it’s delicious.
Every time I used an onion, carrot, or similar veggie, I saved the skins, shavings, etc. and turned it all into a veggie broth with some seasonings, for later use.
That weekend I also visited Coopers Hilltop Farm (in Leicester) where I picked up a chicken and some heavy cream, which I transformed into:
The soup is “purple” because of the purple carrots I used…which I would not do again so as to avoid making gray soup ever again, lol.
SO apparently heavy cream turns into whipped cream and then into butter if you just shake it in a jar for 15 minutes. That shit is INSANE and AWESOME.
So that was the FIRST WEEK. That was more work than I’ve done in the kitchen than the entirety of 2017.
My enthusiasm for photographing my experience began to decline with my energy for continuing this project. I was getting sick, which may have been my body detoxing all of the crap I’ve eaten before the start of the year, or a reaction to no longer having the antibiotics in my meat (that started out as a joke with my friends, but has slowly evolved into a possibility), but I was lucky enough to have some food in the freezer to not have to spend as much time cooking. When I did though, I continued to use what I had, shop A LOT for more, and keep it creative. My supervisor handed me a delicata squash, a giant onion, and two handfuls of garlic as grown by his son, so I turned the squash into this, using some of the leftover bacon. It’s roasted squash & onion with a sweet dijon sauce and bacon.
I wanted to do something different with the butternut squash I’d grabbed from the farmers market, so I found an awesome 5-ingredient recipe for fritters that I quite perfectly fried in the bacon fat I’d been accumulating for the ultimate yum (maybe the best thing I’d made yet).
A few days later I turned some grass-fed beef into meatloaf (which was hard without ketchup or BBQ sauce) and fried/sautéed up some veggies with crushed red pepper and garlic to compliment the meatloaf and dijon squash.
Then I took some chorizo and cooked it in a homemade tomato sauce, then used the immersion blender to blend it into more of a bolognese style sauce and put it over organic wheat pasta.
I also used this excellent seasoning blend from Trader Joe’s to revamp my cracker recipe and make everything bagel crackers which are THE BEST. I’m still working on finding the middle between undercooking the middle and overcooking/burning them.
As I stayed sick for quite some time, when I started to feel better I added some of that Crop Vodka (and a drop of agave syrup) to my freshly juiced orange juice for maybe the best screwdriver I’ve ever drank.
(Note the second loaf of bread sitting to rise in the background.)
I was also missing like easy, everyday foods, so I found some “organic hot dogs” at TJ’s and combined those with a veggie blend (carrots, onions, mushrooms, potatoes) I made in an organic dressing purchased at Sherry’s when I visited my mom’s.
About a week ago I decided my dinky little food processor/immersion blender hybrid wasn’t cutting it anymore for what I was making (it was also starting to smoke at times), so used some Amazon credit from a phone trade-in to score this absolutely wonderful food processor. I don’t even care that I clean it daily or even several times a day.
So I made some pesto–to be saved for later.
I also made more bread crumbs (from that second loaf), and this time experimented with cheesy cauliflower tots, which are way better than the broccoli tots just based on the sheer fact that they are loaded with (organic) cheese.
And thus concludes the first 19 1/2 days of a 31 day project. It has taken a HUGE hit on my wallet, my free time (not that I’d be doing much of anything with that other than studying anyway), and my energy (I’m really still a tiny bit sick).
I absolutely love that I haven’t had any processed food in almost three full weeks. It just feels good in general. My appetite is naturally a lot better (read: I don’t want to eat every 45 minutes all day long), though continuing to drink alcohol changes that to some degree. I only miss food I used to eat when I can smell it (e.g., when one of my work moms gets Chinese food and taunts me with it since she previously gave me the 2nd half of her lunch just about every day). I appreciate this because I can typically look at whatever food people post about on the internet and not only not be appetized by it, but also feel a little pride in the fact that I’m not eating that crap and don’t really have a huge desire to. I won’t be able to afford this lifestyle once my 31 days is up, but I’m certainly going to re-think just how much of the processed crap I put into my body.
Until next time, eat up!