The Blue and Black Salad, A Paradigm Shift

The first time I experienced a blue and black burger I was at an alumni magazine editor conference (yes, such a thing exists) in Boston. Because the travel gods were against me, my true fun and adventurous self was buried beneath a head cold. Still, I rallied as best I could to see the city with my boyfriend and travel partner. After a long day of conferencing, which peaked with the unbelievably big name speaker Susan Orlean, whom I still consider to be the ultimate profile writer and a pioneer of creative nonfiction journalism, we tried to find a restaurant close to our hotel.

Near the campus of MIT, we discovered the Boston Burger Company. I really never considered myself a burger person, as meat in general is not a large staple in my diet. At the time, my favorite hamburger came from McDonald’s, and I do not mean the Quarter Pounder or double patty Big Mac, but the 99 cent one with the thin slab of barely detectable meat. Mostly because I am a big fan of those partially dehydrated onions that are sold in vats at Gordon Foods, which are generously doled on every McDonalds burger. I know, as I spent a year of my adolescence working underneath the golden arches. Nothing helps teenage acne like steam from the deep fryers.

Despite my health and hesitations, I looked for a new culinary experience at every Boston stop. The best part of travel is food discoveries: salmon in Seattle, gumbo in New Orleans, deep dish pizza in Chicago, etc. Two of the criteria of a good trip are a good meal and a new experience. Often, they go hand and hand.

I initially chose the black and blue burger because I associated the term “blackened” with well done, which is the only way I like my beef. Any sign of red, reminding me that this was once blood-filled animal flesh, causes me to immediately gag. Again, not a meat person. However, that night I became a burger person. The sheer quantity of seasonings penetrated my plugged sinuses and actually made an impression on my dulled taste buds. I especially enjoyed the combination of sharp flavors as the seasonings melded with the blue cheese. The burger, which included an eight ounce patty, was dauntingly large. And I ate the whole thing. Every crumb.

Since that trip, I’ve ordered many blue and black burgers: some with a blue cheese sauce instead of crumbles, some with bacon, some with caramelized onions, some with turkey instead of beef. I loved them all. For 30 days I am saying goodbye to brioche and pretzel buns, which means I am saying good-bye to burgers.

Tonight, as I adjust to this new diet paradigm, I attempted to make a blue and black salad. I took my burger meat and instead of making patties fried it into crumbles. As it cooked I dosed it with a black and blue seasoning recipe I found online (minus the thyme, which tastes like how musty smells). I softened some onions in the microwave, as sautéed onions are my favorite burger topping. Then I sprinkled this over baby lettuce and blue cheese crumbles. I drizzle the whole concoction with a yogurt based blue cheese dressing. It was tasty, but I found the blue cheese a bit overpowering in this format.

The challenge is still a challenge. While I felt full after eating my blue and black salad, I still felt a craving for something. I don’t necessarily crave bread — it’s more of an intangible yearning. What can fill the gluten void?

Going Nuts: Making My Own Almond Butter

As I was gorging myself on breadless peanut butter and banana sandwiches yesterday morning, I already knew that while this was gluten-free, it was not healthy. Despite or perhaps because of it’s reduced fat peanut butter status, my JIF contains a lot of ingredients besides peanuts, such as the number 2 ingredient corn syrup solids. So I decided to make my first DIY jar of nut butter.

At the start of my Google search, all the recipes I found recommended I first soak the nuts and then go through a drying process. Way too much fuss and way too much time! Then I found the Detoxinista, who listed a simpler process—roast raw almonds for 10-12 minutes in a 325 degree oven and then throw in the food processor. Sold!

20150612_130816

If you try this at home, be prepared for the blast of sound as your processor tries to break down the hard shells of a pound of almonds. I seriously stopped and put on headphones, but I am unusually noise sensitive. No one is allowed to watch TV in my house over volume 8. Luckily, it soon died down to a normal processing whir. Get comfortable with this sound, as the process from nut to nut butter is a LONG one. It took me a full 20 minutes of starting and stopping to scrape the sides.

To enhance the flavor, which was a little blasé, I added a tablespoon of coconut butter and a tablespoon of pure maple syrup. The end result was heavenly, especially when it was still warm from the roasting process. I added some dark chocolate chips and grabbed a spoon. Let the dieting begin J

Pinning My Ideal Self

We all know that through social media we create a veneer we want the world to see. Here is the gorgeous sunset from my last vacation, here is the perfectly plated dinner I made, and here are my stylish, well-mannered kids smiling with their arms around each other. We take fifty selfies in order to pick one we like. And even that it is not good enough—we then need to apply most flattering Instagram filter before presenting this “based-on reality” version of ourselves to the world.

Social media is also how we pursue our ideal or future self. For me, this is done most notably through Pinterest. I am convinced that one day I will make my own soap, become an accomplished chef, and travel to Japanese gardens. I even have a board for my ideal husband called “honey to-do list.” It has little resemblance to the scribbled Post-It notes or random texts I actually send my real life husband.

Today, though, I briefly lived my Pinned life. I found myself with a rare gift this morning, a spare 10 minutes, and I completed the recipe I have meant to try for the past two weeks, a Greek Chickpea Salad. Of course, by this point, red onions I bought had already gone bad and my children ate all the cucumbers. I discovered the Kalamata olives I bought had pits. Still, I soldiered on with sweet onions, green olives, and celery in place of cucumbers. I stared at the can of chickapeas unsure whether or not they were recipe ready. To be safe, I rinsed and microwaved them.

Overall I was pleased with the end result, though I will lower the amount of salt and tahini the next time I make it.

20150521_132854