I love food. Friends often comment to me “you love food so much, how do you do that crazy diet?”. I still keep close tabs on all the hottest San Francisco restaurants and eat out regularly. I do not eat out as much as I have in the past, but I am truly a food lover. I dream about recipes, and spend days in my kitchen to relax. For me a very big breakthrough in my life came when I realized food is spiritual for me. I was struggling against some big pieces of grief after my husband and I split up, and I was pondering the idea that somehow the key to life was outside of myself in an attempt to escape from the pain. I am lucky that I have very loving and graceful teachers that have helped me remember that life manifests out of being, not out of doing. So food is my being. And that is why every day when I wake up, I feel incredibly blessed that I get to help inspire others to approach their health issues differently.
One of the things I love about AIP is that the choices are limited. That means I get to keep re-inventing the wheel. How many ways are there to make meatloaf? Salads? Kale dishes? A limited artist’s palate means I try a lot of different approaches to come up with varied menu ideas and choices.
Here are a few things I follow to keep me inspired to create new recipes:
1. I embrace non-AIP food blog sites. In essence I let others inspiration be mine too. One of my favorites is Food52. A crowd sourced recipe site that has amazing photography and includes everyone who wants to contribute. I visit the site at least once a week to see what they are cooking up, and then I modify the recipes I love the most that can easily fit into AIP.
2. I re-formulate the best love recipes out of my own kitchen. Could I possible love and miss truffle mac and cheese any more than I do right at this moment? My mouth waters when I think of mac and cheese or pots de creme, pizza or french onion dip. I have a genetic coding for ranch dip (just kidding, but it seems like it!). So, I go back to my own recipe boxes and reformulate. My new truffle mac and cheese is cauliflower puree with olive oil and truffle salt. Or homemade coconut ice cream with olive oil and smoked salt. Cauliflower crust pizza with sausage, olive and onions. I still am working on a replacement for ranch dressing. I will share that as soon as something brilliant comes through from recipe heaven.
3. I learn from the Masters. Every famous chef and cookbook author has techniques that can change your cooking habits. Heidi Swanson, a friend and author of 101Cookbooks has fantastic vegetarian cookbooks. I pay attention very carefully to her tips and tricks on her blog and in her cookbooks. Rose petals for example is something I see her cooking with on occasion. With the lack of so much I can eat on AIP, I look for interesting ideas to liven dishes up, let others help me think of something I had not thought of. Her Rosewater Plum Compote is stunning and brilliant and oh-so-easy to make AIP friendly. No matter the expertise level, you can learn from others. My very good friend Wendy Van Wagner from In The Kitchen Cooking School introduced me to preserved lemons, which I use a few times a week! Doborah Madison’s Greens Cookbook also was very instrumental for me and how I view vegetables and cooking. My very first cookbook however, was Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. I was 21 when I bought that cookbook and I almost cried when I realized that there were other people in the world who loved food as much as I did. Of course back then (oy- it was 1993!) there was no food blogging or internet to speak of, so bookstores where the place to go. I was a poor college student, so magazine subscriptions would come later when I could afford that which is Gourmet Magazine and the grand dame that it was to the culinary world.
4. Invest in key cooking tools. A zester, a good peeler, a food processor, some baking pans, a braiser, very good olive oil. Having a sharp, sturdy peeler for example can make the difference between enjoying peeling carrots and the rough skins of squash and hating it.
5. Fresh Everything. This is really important to me. I grow my own herbs in the summer and find ways to use those preserved all winter long, or I spend the money in the winter for fresh herbs from the store. I also buy pasture chicken, turkey and beef. I make my own stocks, but I don’t sweat it when I don’t , and have to buy the aseptic cartons. I have relationships with the farmers in my town. I buy local. I eat in the seasons and cook that way for the most part. I know there are political and philosophical reasonings behind “fresh everything” but the bottom line for me is taste. Fresh tastes better. And if something tastes better, than I choose that first. For everyone who may be reading this in the depth of winter and there is not a fresh piece of kale or chard in sight, then log onto Local Harvest and find a local farm you can call or email and support. The food tastes better, a family will get your hard earned dollars and you will be eating the nutrients of the season. There is a reason why winter squash is a winter vegetable. High in fiber and vitamin A, they help support your immune system in the winter, a feed your eyes that vitamin A when the days are more dim. I like to follow nature’s lead in that way, embrace its wisdom and trust it to lead the way.