Throwing some chicken on the grill, over seasoning with a store-bought seasoning mix, then checking that it is cooked enough to avoid salmonella poisoning is cooking of a sort. Throwing everything into a pot and cooking until done is also technically cooking, but ‘cooking’ is a discipline that extends across a continuum from the ham-fisted, knuckle-dragging cooking that I do, through an inspired craft, ending at fine artistry in edibles.
I think cooking is a big part of any success I have had over the years in maintaining my (at the moment) 65 pound weight loss – and I’ve made a number of inspired dishes, though a true gastronomic devotee would be generous in saying that it least there was some creativity and enthusiasm.
But then there’s technique – knowing what your ingredients can do, understanding their properties and the proportions that yield something special – something unexpected. Something rising above mere cooking.
I have discovered probably the most flavorful olive oil I have ever tasted – Trader Joe’s California Estate Unfiltered Olive Oil. If you have a Trader Joe’s in your vicinity – go buy a bottle and see what I mean – this is totally unlike any olive oil I have ever tasted. [Please note: they didn’t pay me to write this and I paid for it myself.]
A fridge clean-out inspired me to swing for the fences in terms of mixing together leftovers and forgottens to make an edible and low carb meal for myself one evening. I needed to cook up some ground beef I had bought last weekend – but how? I decided to make ‘Whatevs’ – whatever I found in the fridge with ground beef. Because of what I found, I decided to do a scary experiment: just how far can I go out-of-bounds of what foods go with what? My ingredients were as follows:
1 pound ground beef, browned in 3 tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 cups of chopped tomatoes loitering in the fridge
1 can of black olives
1 cup of bok choy
2 jalapeno peppers with seeds left in for heat
1 slice chopped Virginia ham
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup fresh Asian-style mushrooms, chopped
4 ageing cherry tomatoes
1 large onion
Despite the odd inclusion of bok choy and jalapeno, I seasoned it with oregano, parsley and basil. I let this simmer for a half hour after browning the beef then putting in the rest of the ingredients.
The verdict? Pretty damn good if you ask me. I had a quarter-pan of the stuff. I used the Loseit! calorie-counting app on my iPhone to determine the calories for the entire pot, called it ‘1 serving’, then had a 1/4 of the pot, for a total of 543 calories. I added freshly grated parm cheese and enjoyed every bite. There are 3 servings left that I assure you I will eat, though I might not detail to coworkers and causal acquaintances just what is in my lunch.
While I ate it I was reminded of how our food prejudices prevent low carbers from eating perfectly acceptable foods simply because the combinations are unusual. Why!?! Is it really all that bad to put bok choy, asian-style mushrooms, ham, bacon and jalapeno peppers in a dish together with Italian seasonings? Somebody had to be the first to think that a lemon – a tropical fruit, went well with sea creatures. We don’t question this just because we’re used to it.
Fact of the matter is: if you enjoy the combination, you can eat anything paired with anything else, and if you are willing to experiment, you can come up with plenty of variety for health and enjoyment that might fall out of the mainstream, but can make your life more enjoyable while on low carb.
I omitted a detailed nutrient profile for this stuff – forgive me:
Net carbs: 10g