Decoding Salt Lake City

If you’ve spent any time reading this blog previously, you’d know that I’m a Pacific Northwest girl through and through. The lush evergreenery, craggy coastline, and, most importantly, the gastronomical options give even my homeland of sunny SoCal a run for its money. I’ve always referred to places like Seattle and Portland as the “hidden jewels” of the U.S. due to them not sharing the same prominence as New York or LA but actually having just as much to offer. For some people, the only image the PacNW conjures up is “rain”, when in fact climate is only one component of this region. This simplification leads, unfortunately, to a decreased level of interest from people who think that that’s all it has to offer. The same can be said for the city I most recently traveled to: Salt Lake City.

The idea for the trip came because my partner, Steven, wanted to complete the first step of his Gym Jones certification at their Salt Lake City gym. For those as uneducated as I was about Gym Jones, these guys are the ones who train tier 1 special operators for the U.S. military, professional athletes, and the actors in movies like “Man of Steel” and “300”. But the unique selling point of Gym Jones is not necessary its high-profile clientele, but its philosophy. After consulting with Steven, I learned that Gym Jones feels that the gym should be a means for training for a tangible activity outside of the gym like rock-climbing or lacrosse or kayaking – not just “training to train”. The principle component of their philosophy is that the mind is primary, which means that the mind should be trained first. In other words, it’s easy to workout and lift heavy, but if you’re not training the mind mentally, you’ll fail during a competition. An athlete who has more mental toughness through this training will usually beat an athlete who is physically stronger during a competition. I found this fascinating and it gave me so much to think about with regards to my own training regimen, even though I didn’t actually attend the seminar. Check out Gym Jones here for more information about this unique gym.

I felt uncool here. And that's okay.

Warning: You may walk in here and feel out of shape and uncool. But youll come out feeling way more awesome.
Warning: You may walk in here and feel out of shape and uncool. But you’ll come out feeling way more awesome.

(Note: Neither my partner nor myself are affiliated with Gym Jones. We just like them a lot and believe in spreading the word about things we like. Take everything on IC as opinion, not fact – however fabulous and righteous I think these opinions are. 😉 )

Despite being an outdoor and fitness Mecca that’s next door to some of the most beautiful natural parks in the world (Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, to name a few), most people seem to see Salt Lake as a place that is simply “super Mormon”, in their words. Many further make the mistake of assuming a one-dimensionality among members of the LDS church and assume that the presence of the religion has stifled some of the entertainment or beverage options that many non-Mormons like to enjoy. When I arrived, I was not only interested in learning more about the history of the LDS church in Utah for my own education, I was also interested in testing out the “theory” of SLC being this hyperconservative bubble. Are bars, coffee shops, and less-than-conservative merchants really few and far between? Is art or creative expression stifled? Is the city really as demographically homogeneous as others assume?

Briefly seeing the inside of Gym Jones and hearing some of the stories of the other people who traveled to do the seminar was my first indication that there was more to Salt Lake than met the eyes – or ears. As Steven enjoyed his seminar for the majority of our waking hours, I set out on Saturday to visit with dear friends and learn a little about the city. Well, actually, I first decided to bust the myth of Salt Lake as being coffee-dry by enjoying an out-of-this-world cup at Publik, which also happens to be a spectacular study/work spot. Then, after exploring a bit of the trendy, artsy, foodie-centric Sugar House region, my friends and I ventured to the opulent Temple Square in the middle of the city, which allowed for me to augment my Utah history knowledge and learn more about the LDS church. Despite its history with the LDS church, less than 50% of the city’s inhabitants identify as Mormon, though the number climbs into the 60-70% range outside of the Salt Lake metro area. Even more interesting is how diverse the city is, with many of its residents being immigrants from Tonga and Bosnia. There’s even a primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood (Glendale). Admittedly, even I didn’t expect such a mix of different cultures and backgrounds, so this was awesome to learn about.

(I apologize for the lack of city pics, by the way. Sometimes, you just get too into it.)

Sunday was my day to do as much outdoor exploring as weather and my horrible clothing choices permitted. And to actually take pictures like a responsible blogger. See below for my pictures from Big Cottonwood Canyon, Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, and the Red Butte Garden.

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Driving through Big Cottonwood Canyon (note: picture not taken while driving).
Driving through Big Cottonwood Canyon (note: picture not taken while driving).

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Sand rarely looks cool. Here, it looks REALLY cool.
Sand rarely looks cool. Here, it looks REALLY cool.

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Fielding Garr ranch on Antelope Island.
Fielding Garr ranch on Antelope Island.
Entering Antelope Island, which lies approximately 45 minutes north of the city proper.
Entering Antelope Island, which lies approximately 45 minutes north of the city proper.
Red Butte Garden, a popular botanical garden (and musical venue) within the city.
Red Butte Garden, a popular botanical garden (and musical venue) within the city.

The above is just a sliver of what Salt Lake has to offer from an outdoor standpoint. Admittedly, my view of the city is still limited. Oh, and for those still curious about the state of alcohol, bars, and nightlife as a whole in Salt Lake, Sunday ended with my partner eating at one of the many famous breweries the city has to offer (Red Rock). Moreover, liquor consumption rules may be somewhat restrictive, but it’s not necessarily difficult to obtain alcohol. However, alcohol can almost never be purchased after 1:00 am, and “heavy beer” (over 3.5% alc. content) can be difficult to obtain unless you go to a state-owned liquor store or private club. This doesn’t stop Salt Lake from having a fairly thriving night scene with a ton of awesome restaurants and clubs. Nobody that we met who lives there is complaining – and having been there, I wonder who would?

With an up-and-coming art and food scene, a uniquely American history, and an endless supply of beautiful scenery, Salt Lake City should be on the radar of anyone traveling the U.S. If you’ve been to or live in Utah, feel free to add your expertise in the comments below. What do you love about Salt Lake? What other places shouldn’t be missed?

Oh, and one more thing…I’ll be announcing something pretty big in about a week. Stay tuned for the next adventure!

– H

 

Results of the 30-Day No Restaurant Challenge

Spoiler alert: I failed.

What’s that? Don’t you dare call me a Debbie Downer! I’m fine with the fact that I failed. For you detail-oriented types, I bought food for myself at a restaurant four times – three times at Starbucks and once at Carl’s Jr. – during desperate events because ravenous-hunger-and-potentially-anemia. Or stupidity for not planning ahead. I simply wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t mostly the latter.

Nonetheless, the experiment was far more about learning than it was about doing things perfectly. And boy did I learn, perhaps with a bit of regret.

I say this because, to put things into perspective, I spent $261.78 during the challenge compared to over $700 just feeding myself from mid-February to mid-March this year. SEVEN. HUNDRED. FREAKING. DOLLARS. Who does this? Really, does Anthony Bourdain even do this?! Okay, maybe he does, but what about you guys? It’s no surprise that I saved money eating in, but it was absolutely jarring to do those calculations and figure out that I have typically spent a small fortune ($500-700) per month just to enjoy the fruits of the world…literally. Needless to say, this has given me a massive amount of perspective moving forward and I definitely plan to end the cycle of spending more money on food each month that most people spend on a car payment.

A more positive realization, which became evident from the get-go, was the amount of free food I am lucky enough to be exposed to. Given the loopholes in my challenge, my boyfriend’s parents were able to take me out to dinner the day after I began it. My own parents took me out several times this last month. I went on a business trip where all I ingested was graciously covered by the government gift of per diem. At any given time, my firm would be having a “Bagel Friday” or “Motivation Monday” (yeah, motivation to have a heart attack – donuts and pastries galore in that thing) to sweeten the deal (heh) of us working there. These circumstances came far more often that not and made me realize my incredible luck with this being the case.

I also realized that I don’t really pay attention to how much I spend on food normally – which, as proven, is disastrous. But how did this happen? Well, in the grand tradition of Post-Grads with Good Jobs, I saw nothing but dollar signs in my eyes and was dropping indiscriminate amounts of money on eating wherever I wanted, wherever I wanted. Meeting up with friends? Let’s go out to eat. Date night? Let’s try the new and trendy place down the street. If I was walking around town and hungry, into the nearest $5-a-coffee, $13-a-sandwich joint I went, no questions pondered. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but you can imagine my horror when I actually sat down and did the math. Being a foodie is great, but I’m spending all of this just to fuel my body? Yeah, probably not ideal.

Another (vitally important) realization I made was that it’s really not that hard to avoid restaurant eating. People have this notion that life is boring and pallid without constantly going out to dinner or getting to go out for lunch during the workday, but that’s simply not true. My friends and I were able to enjoy a number of home-cooked, delicious brunches and dinners at our houses for a fraction of what a group outing would cost. My boyfriend and I cooked some award-winning, homemade pizza during some of our nightly hangouts. I showed my gratitude to people by bringing them food that we could both cook and share. It wasn’t just about saving money – it was about minimizing distractions and taking on a fun activity with people I cared about. Not a bad deal.

It’s as simple as that. This experiment wasn’t meant to be ground-breaking, just re-calibrating. Even though I slipped a few times, I still feel like I got just as much value out of it, especially when I did the ending calculations. My new goal is to keep my monthly food expenditure under $300, including both grocery visits and restaurant eating. I could probably get it even lower, but this is good for now.

I’m in Salt Lake City for the weekend, tagging along with my boyfriend as he attends a fitness seminar at the acclaimed Gym Jones. The day is young, and I plan to take the weekend to explore the city and its surroundings full-circle. That said, I should probably get off my computer. Stay tuned for my recap after the jump and feel free to shoot me any suggestions along the way!

Keep adventuring,

– H

Adventure of the Month: The 30-Day Restaurant-Free Challenge

I exist in circumstances that make it incredibly easy for me to access food at any time. I can order Domino’s online right now and have it here and filling my tummy within 20 minutes. There’s a taqueria 50 steps away from my house. Maybe even 45! I drive five minutes and pass at least five different fast food chains. Compounded with the fact that I also have the money to purchase food from these establishments, I can’t possibly go hungry. But what if I didn’t have these options?

Continue reading “Adventure of the Month: The 30-Day Restaurant-Free Challenge”

Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition, Part II

Forgive me, reading public, for I have sinned. This article is well over a month late and I am the only one to blame.

Rather than bore you with excuses for my tardiness, allow this second Semi-Solo entry to serve as a condensed guide to experiencing the Islands of Washington state. While there is much more to see than is contained herein, I would highly encourage you to use this as a jumping off point.

Continue reading “Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition, Part II”

My Top 3 “Substitute” Foods and The Power of Habit

I like carbs. I like carbs a lot. When I play the “desert island” game, I’m pretty sure bread’s on my list of things I would require. And cheese, don’t even get me started on cheese. I eat it, and my tongue smiles, my insides beam with light, and my entire well-being is temporarily bursting with euphoria.

So let’s be honest, a part of me is screaming: “PALEOOOOOO!!!!!! I WILL AVENGE THEE!!”

Nonetheless, if I were to honestly evaluate the past 8 days of being strictly on this way of eating (we are no longer using the “d” word here at Chez Haley), I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

1) It’s not THAT hard to go without dairy; I was pretty much using it as a reason to avoid cooking meat and preparing vegetables. It takes two seconds for me to grab a few string cheeses or slop a bunch of cocoa powder in my quart of Fage and call it “dinner”, but that doesn’t make it okay.

2) Just as in everyday life, there is a way around the rules. Enter: substitutes.

You don’t have to be “paleo” to appreciate healthier alternatives to things like pizza, pancakes, and chocolate cake. You just don’t. As much as I espouse this movement in my writing, I do want to make it clear that I am not strictly a “Paleo blog”. My utmost intention is to provide you with good information that will allow you to live life more thoroughly. And as I’ve always stated, my proverbial door is open if you wish to tell me that I am failing at that. I mean that honestly.

Anyway, below are some of my favorite food subsititues of all time, let alone on the paleo protocol, along with links. to recipes I’ve cooked – or will cook very shortly here. Because God knows I don’t yet have the talent to create something this fantastic myself.

 

3. Zucchini pasta noodles

I just love pasta. Who doesn’t? Well, my Mom. But unless you’re my Mom, you are crazy-cray for not loving buttery, saucy carbosity all up in yo’ grill.

…yes. My eccentricity aside, I was so thrilled to have discovered “zoodles” through one of the best-known paleo food blogs, Nom Nom Paleo. While she had me at her blog’s name, Michelle Tam has captured the hearts of thousands of bloggers, journalists, and general food-lovers with her amazing, award-winning recipes that even sugar-fueled carboholics love. I recreated her Zoodles Recipe without meatballs and with goat cheese and it was incredible. I did it a second time with just plain ghee and it was even more incredible! Less is more, sometimes. Once you can nail down cooking time for your preferred firmness, this is the best thing ever.

Wish List (aka, “You WILL see me make this in the future” List)

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce

 

2. Pizza made with cauliflower crust

Oh man, if there’s one thing I love even more than pasta, it’s pizza. I’ve made this recipe before and it was simple, yet fantastic. It’s been over a year since I made this, but images of the tender crust and party of flavors still infiltrates my memory. Pizza, being the paragon of carby-cheesy fantasia, is adored the world over. Now you can enjoy a slice or 7 without capitulating! Yes, this recipe in its entirety only contains about 515 calories. That’s the amount in ONE large piece of Papa John’s cheese pizza. LOLWUT?!

The best recipes made with alternative crusts (lol) are also paired with cheese, though I’ve seen many-a dairy-free pizza online that looked incredible.

Wish List

Paleo Chicken Pesto Pizza

Frittata-za

 

1. Chocolate mug cake

Because chocolate.

Seriously, though. This has to be my number one for multiple reasons. It’s ridiculously easy, it’s fast, and it’s freaking chocolate. I cannot exude enough positivity over having discovered this. Whether I’m in a bind in the morning, need a mid-day boost, or am itching for a pre-workout snack, this recipe has been there for me through thick and thin. I made this recipe from PaleOMG and have been using it regularly for over a year.

Little did I know that there’s even an entire food group dedicated to “mug cake”.

Wish List

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Cinnamon-Apple Mug Cake

I suppose the lesson here is that no matter what way you eat, you can make it fun. And fun is a wonderful thing.

 

On another note, let’s talk about habit.

Ah, yes. Habit. We all have habits – positive and negative alike. Most of us are trying to create positive ones that we will stick with for the duration of our lives. All of us have bad ones that we would like to rid ourselves of. It’s no secret that bad habits die hard and good habits are hard to form, so how do we deal?

15 minutes a day.

15 minutes a day will get you fluent in another language. It will get you in shape. It will help you ace an exam. Commit yourself to 15 minutes of doing something every day and see where it goes. You could even try for 10 if it makes it easier. We all have 10 minutes to spare, right?

Another way to get yourself in the habit of something is to have a sense of accountability. That person or other motivator that keeps you in check. It could be a friend, a family member, a paycheck, an app, or just the CEO of U (aka, yourself, and the most important person in your life). It’s all about motivation and feeling “responsible” in a way. If you don’t feel a sense responsibility to do it, you won’t do it.

Brief as it was, I suppose you can consider that my extended “Thought of the Day”.

Off to my 15 minutes of exercise.

Recipe of the Moment (ROTM): Brussels Chips ‘n’ Bacon Bits

I really, TRULY should be sleeping. I’ve even set a timer for myself for writing this entry: 30 minutes, no más. If I can come within ten minutes of exceeding that, I’ll be impressed with myself. 

Anyway, after a cringe-inducing day (let’s just say: I could definitely improve upon my “wingin’ it” skills), I chose to remedy the overdriven state of my noggin with some gym therapy. I once wrote an essay about the mental health benefits of exercise, and for good reason: it works! I get a little miserable if I don’t move for a while, so this was a much-needed interlude in my evening. What was even better was the nourishment that followed said physical indulgence: enter, the latest and greatest snack craze – BRUSSELS CHIPS!

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These things are so dang good, they’ll erase any memory you had of hating brussels sprouts as a kid, I promise that. The bacon probably helps. As to why I’m eating something so seemingly random, I do feel obligated to jump in and let you guys know that I have returned to the paleo way of things. Except this time, I’m doing the unthinkable. Yes, I’m giving up dairy in addition to everything else that paleo already bans. So no grains, beans, sugar, peanuts, or even cheese, which everyone knows is my favorite food on the planet and planets beyond.

What kind of sadistic person am I, you ask? Why in  the world would I give up my favorite food in existence for a “crazy diet fad?”

I suppose it’s because I’m curious, and not just because of paleo. Paleo isn’t the first “diet” to associate dairy with negative effects. That was a vegan thing before it was a paleo thing. It’s also part of the “GFCF” thing that some circles are talking about for autism prevention. I’ve found, however, that research is difficult to do on food unless you experience food yourself, so I’m taking the initiative and going at least four weeks without dairy to see if I feel any better or different. Today was my first day. 

Audience: “Alright, let’s just get to the brussels chips.” Done deal. Allow me to regale the story of…

Brussels Chips with Bacon

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients: 7-10 minutes (depending on how burnt you like your chips)

Outer leaves from at least 10 large brussels sprouts (for 1 serving…and believe me, you’ll want more than one!)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2-4 strips of bacon

Instructions:

1. Peel the outer leaves from as many brussels sprouts as you have the patience for. I had peeled about 30 smaller ones, which took monumental concentration and perseverance, thank you.

2. Stick ’em in a bag and pour some olive oil, salt, and pepper in there to taste. Even if you have a ton of leaves, do not put more than one tablespoon in there; you don’t want them too oily.

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes – even more if you want them extra crispy.

4. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small strips/bits (I literally cut them, as seen below) and microwave for 2-3 minutes. I know, I’m lazy. If you want to get fancy, simply place the bits in the oven with the sprouts, with the understanding that 1) you need to ensure the bits are actually bits and not strips and 2) the grease will saturate the leaves and might make them soggy.

5. After everything is done cooking, toss the two together in the same bag and – voilà! You’ve created a masterpiece.

I suppose I’ll need to give a formal update tomorrow after I have these as my work snack, but I’m predicting some great snacking power here already. Feel free to try this and let me know your thoughts. 

By the way: 23 minutes. Not bad!

– H

Thought of the Day: If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic! (from “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill)

Oregon 2014: Pigeon party!

My dear amigos, I am tuckered. Exploring the reaches of a city that I’ve never visited is even more of an adventure than I anticipated. However, the events are fresh and I am primed to regale them.

I found myself ready for action around 5:30 pm. I came dangerously close to falling asleep on my bed, but I soon realized that I, the ever-running engine, just needed a little fuel in the tank. I decided that my second dinner in Portland would step it up yet another notch. Enter Le Pigeon, the crown jewel of East Burnside:

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While small and set inconspicuously in the industrial district, this place really is truly top notch. It’s got that fancy Parisian flair sans snob and has incredible food – so much that I will NEED to walk you through each thing I got.

Appetizer: Eel pie – broccoli ice cream, radish, grilled broccoli

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The broccoli ice cream that led to my delectable pie was like a mini scavenger hunt of complimentary tastes. Salty, crunchy broccoli combined with sweet and tender ice cream was a flavor combination unexpected, but powerful. Topped with thin and subtle sheets of radish, I pretty much had all taste types covered. When my fork hit the butter crust, it withered down like a sand hill being stepped on. Perfectly flaky and even more perfectly flavored. The pie has two types of eel in it and with this amazing crust, made the perfect savory culmination. While I normally dispose of everything my mouth touches in its entirety, I HAD to stop 3/4ths of the way through to ensure I saved room for my other courses.

Entree: Duck confit – goat cheese hummus, radish, avocado, cilantro

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I pushed my boundaries a bit for this one. While it’s common knowledge that I LOVE my eel, my octopus, and my bone marrow, the more normal things tend to get me. Avocado? Not a fan. Cilantro? Eh, I’ll pass. But tonight, I went with my server’s recommendation and just launched into this one, despite the disturbing amount of green things on it.

I was pleasantly surprised. The cool tones of the radish, hummus, and cilantro helped balance the strong umami of the duck. The avocado even pitched in a bit by neutralizing the radish spice. Overall, it was scrumptious. I probably would have omitted the cilantro, but hey – I’m not a food snob or anything. 🙂

Dessert: Creme Brûlée – seville orange pot de creme, burnt honey meringue, cinnamon rugelach

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I don’t think I can ever have creme brûlée ever again after this. There’s just no possible way that any other can compare to this one, ever! I don’t know if it was the orangey-marshmallow-esque thing on the side, the mini cornetto it included, or the hot dish of Heaven itself, but MAN, did this thing pack a punch! It was like all of a sudden I was sitting in a fluffy dream world with nothing but my dessert and I, floating in the air…PERFECTION! Needless to say, this dish spoke for itself, and I couldn’t have been happier. Another dessert gone excellently.

Overall, I cannot recommend my friends at LP enough. Is it ridiculously expensive? Yes, it’s easily the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten on my own. But is it good? In my opinion, it’s well-deserving of the praise it gets. Moreover, it’s super cool to see the chefs in action – other than a Japanese teppan restaurant, you’re not going to be able to get that intimate. The staff are also incredibly attentive. Plus points for the exquisite 80s music playing during my meal (Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds, OH MY) That, in my opinion, does a perfect restaurant make.

Now for the rest of the night. This is where it gets interesting. I’m comfortable with admitting that tonight I essentially “bar hopped” alone. Mind you, I’m not a drinker and I frankly know little about drinking and drinking accessories. I do, however, admire the craft involved in beer and wine making. As such, I make it a point to visit breweries and wineries whenever possible. After all, effects aside, it is extremely fascinating.

Stop numero uno was a wine bar in southeast PDX known as ENSO. I have no idea what didn’t possess me to take a picture of the decor, but it was spectacular. Again, a true throwback to the enotecas of Italy, particularly the one that my mother and I went to in Roma. It had a classic feel, with stone walls, dark wood, and dim lights. The front, however, was a large, glass garage door…eh, I’m telling you all this, but you should just Google it.

I spoke with the bartender for a good hour and occasionally got to talk to the other patrons. The most interesting points of our conversation were those around where we grew up. I have a certain perception of Oregon as an incredible outdoor paradise, and Oregonians seem to think of California as largely the same. I reminded my conversation buddy that there is PLENTY more to my SoCal city than meets the eye, good and bad. We may have perfect weather near year round, but we are stockpiled with chain restaurants, have horrible public transport, and have a disjointed social framework. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely adore where I’m from. But like everywhere, it has its minuses. My buddy went on to say that Oregon is removed from things, is rainy way too often, and has high regulation. I’ll take not being able to pump my own gas over cold stares any day, personally.

My next stop was, in a word, “perplexing”. I decided to head to Lightbar nearby for some, er, “ambient electronic music” being performed. If by “ambient” and “electronic” they meant “dissonant” and “pots and pans”, then alright, they nailed it.

Set to the sound of "PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo"
Set to the sound of “PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo”

While the bar was cool to see, and the displays on the walls kept me somewhat awake, I definitely put in my courtesy half hour and bailed thereafter. Weirdo trash music aside: these experiences, my friends, are what make some nights the best nights.

It’s now 1:00 am and good gosh, am I ready to turn in. As I said earlier, tomorrow is the road less urban. And hopefully, less expensive. That being said, I regret NOTHING about today – I have conquered the city and will conquer even more of it tomorrow. Before I get too Alexander the Great, now is the time for rest.

– H

Thought of the day: It’s okay if not everything goes perfectly. What’s funnier: smooth sailing, or a sail breaking and knocking someone clean off the boat?

ROTW: Paleo Honey-Almond Cookies

Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week’s recipe is, admittedly, a bit of a late post. I actually made these cookies a couple weeks ago and am just now posting about it. Amazing how having so much free time can be such a distraction 🙂

Anyway, I decided to make these cookies for my fully-Paleo brother, who has admirably lived by the ways of the hunter-gatherer for a few weeks now. They are SUPER yummy, not too sweet, and the perfect way to satisfy a carb-y craving without the Insulin Police speeding over. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

PALEO HONEY-ALMOND COOKIES (w/vegan version!)

Adapted from Civilized Caveman Cooking

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20ish minutes

Yield: 12 Cookies

Diet Compliance: Paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan (if you tolerate honey, sub coconut oil for butter on the glaze, and use flax eggs)

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

So simple, a caveman can do it!
So simple, a caveman can do it!

Cookies

  • 2 and 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup olive oil (can sub for coconut oil; I didn’t have any at the time)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed + 4 tablespoons warm water (for vegan eggs) or 2 actual eggs

Cinnamon Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons raw honey, melted
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or ghee (or coconut oil for vegan version)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • slivered almonds (to top cookies after glazing)

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine the almond flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and stir well.

3. Add your oil, honey, vanilla extract, and “Veggs” (or eggs) and mix into a soft dough.

4. Roll dough into 1-inch diameter balls and flatten out slightly; place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

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5. Place in the oven and bake for 9 minutes.

6. With cookies in the oven, combine your honey, butter (or oil), and cinnamon for your glaze in a small bowl and mix well.

7. At the 9 minute mark, pull your cookies out of the oven, and using a basting brush, brush your glaze on all of your cookies.

8. Sprinkle pinches of slivered almonds on top of each glazed cookie.

9. Place your cookies back in the oven and bake for 9-11 minutes or until done.

10. Remove from the oven and cool for one minute, then transfer to paper towels.

11. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container. Cookies should last for up to 4 days.

Warning: These cookies will disappear in seconds!
Warning: These cookies will disappear in seconds!

As promised, here is the nutritional information for these cookies. Please remember that the saturated fat and fiber contents are not listed. Also, this amount is for the vegan version; with actual eggs, it will be slightly more caloric. But, it’s always nice to at least know the calories, fat, carbs, and protein per serving!

NutritionLabel

As work-time draws closer, I’m looking forward to designing and cooking up more recipes for everyone. And while I love summer, I’m REALLY looking forward to fall – stews, roasts, pies, oh my! Nonetheless, stay tuned for more summer recipes and have a great rest of the week!

Thought of the Day: Try to take your time more often. Life may be short, but it’s just as bad to move too fast as it is to move too slow.

Lessons in Baking

Hi all! My hope is that a happy Friday is in the works all around. Summer is in full swing, and I hope to hear about ALL of you exploring the infinite corners of life. In fact, I think it’s time I start following more blogs, so that I can hear more about such adventures. Honestly, I am so amazed, inspired and impressed by so many of the bloggers out there. Please, teach me your ways!

Today’s (again, belated) entry is going to discuss something that few of us budding food connoisseurs wanna touch: making mistakes. Oof. I know. But yesterday, a mistake was made, and lessons were learned. I think that part of becoming a better chef – nay, human being – is coming to terms with mistakes and admitting when you’re wrong. I used to be extremely uncomfortable with that, but I’m getting better and finding that it’s even a bit…fun? Is that the right word? Or at least funny. Really, though, you gotta see this.

Well first, here’s some background: I pursue a healthy diet to the best of my ability, especially being mindful of sugar. I never liked sugar much growing up, though I didn’t much care for anything that wasn’t plain pasta or tofu (yes, tofu – as if I weren’t weird enough, I know). Things diversified when I started to playe water polo in high school and made cheeseburgers a regular staple, eating at least 3-5 a week. As I got older, I started to realize that I was headed for the arteries of the Super Size Me guy and needed to slow my roll. The minute I started being healthy was the minute I started to explore and enjoy all types of food and started to learn to cook. The price it came with was loving “all types of food”. Needless to say, sweets are now included in that 🙂

Anyway, I tried to bridge the best of both worlds yesterday by making a decadent muffin that was low-carb and sugar-free. I ended up having the compromise the low-carb part, not having almond flour. No matter, I can still make it sugar free, right?

WRONG.

What resulted was a doughy, tasteless mass that looked like a kid’s Play-Doh sculpture and tasted like one even moreso.
photo 3

If you’re curious, here’s what I did:

Haley’s Radioactive Pumpkin Nuggets (not for human consumption)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 12 unfortunate souls

Difficulty: A blindfolded marmoset could conduct a better meal

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of oatmeal
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree (hey, at least I used BPA-free)
1 tablespoon flax meal
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 can of Light Coconut Milk
1/2 banana
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
More Truvia that you can imagine (at least 10 tablespoons)
Honey to drizzle on top (only to find out that it makes it taste no better)

1. Defeated after finding out I had no almond flour, I reluctantly mixed the regular flour, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. I decided to go for it and put the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar of Truvia into the dry mix. Yeah, I don’t care if my food tastes good, as long as it’s healthy, right? Fatal mistake number one.

3. In a separate bowl, I mixed the flax meal with 2 tablespoons of water water to make an “egg” – yes, I was planning on making the recipe vegan for you veg-folks out there, since I love you all so despite being the opposite.

4. In this fake-egg mix, I dumped the 1/2 mashed banana, coconut milk, and pumpkin puree and mixed them. I was also going to through in 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil. I forgot. Fatal mistake number two.

5. I combined the wet and dry ingredients in my stand mixer and overmixed the life out of them for about 3 minutes. Fatal mistake number three.

6. I put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. Gross. I smothered them with honey and did another 20 minutes at 350. Still gross. 350 was fatal mistake number 4.

Oh, you know, just cooking uranium.
Oh, you know, just cooking uranium.

7. I try one. Within seconds, all 12 are in the trash. Facepalm.

This brings me, at last, to my thoughts for you, that is if you’re interested in cooking. What have we learned today?

1. Do some serious, serious practice and/or research when you are trying to replace sugar in recipes. In some savory recipes, like curry, it’s completely fine, as sugar is totally unnecessary and even contradictory to the traditional way a dish is prepared. In some dishes, however, it’s best to either keep the sugar or simply reduce it. Sometimes, with sweets at least, you just have to go all-out and not try and make it some healthy thing. An indulgence should be an indulgence.

2. Be very careful when baking without fat, as this gets rid of a whole lot of flavor in the dish. Muffins, in particular, will be more “bread-y”, which you may or may not want.

3. Pay VERY close attention to how long you’re mixing! It is usually only necessary to mix cookie or muffin mix for like 10-15 strokes (a few seconds) rather than meticulously circling through it for two minutes like I did. Thank you, Betty Crocker, for correcting me on this. Too much mixing will create an extremely dense muffin that is tough, almost rubbery , on the outside.

4. This may depend on the ingredient list, but maybe try baking muffins for 20-25 at 375 or 400, rather than 350. 40 minutes at 350 does not a good muffin make – I could be wrong, though.

In spite of the demise that my experiment met, I am nonetheless glad I experimented. I know I have a long way to go and MANY years before I become a good chef, but this is all part of the process. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a hankering for pumpkin muffins again come fall-time and give this recipe a rematch. Heavily, heavily modified, of course.

With that, I’ll leave you with a thought of the day that actually goes with the topic:

Never let fear of failure be the reason you don’t do something.

-H

Recipe of the Week: Taralli

Buona serra! Guys, can you tell that I’m trying to extend my recent Italian vacation as long as I possibly can? 😉 In my defense, this truly is a simple, yummy, and extremely versatile recipe, and I’m hoping that you like it.

Before I go any further, I’ll need to address some FAQs/PAQs (potentially askable questions) that I hope are helpful. I was going to make a separate entry, but I’m not exactly rollin’ in the fanmail. Here we go:

Q: How do I make a comment on your blog?

A: Click on the little grey icon in the top right corner of each post that looks like a round speech balloon. It will then take you to the page where you can comment and read others’ comments.

Q: Now that Italy’s over, what’s next for IC?

A: DON’T REMIND ME! :-‘( But to answer your question, IC will still live long and prosper. As traveling is a true passion of mine, I will continue to document the places I travel in the same detail I did Italy. If I’m only there for a short period of time, I will probably do “X in 24 Hours”-type posts, which are always fun! I’m also passionate about food, so in addition, I will try and post at least one recipe and/or restaurant review per week. Who knows, maybe I’ll have an occasional philosophical post here and there. All-in-all, I will never post less than once a week and I will make every effort to make each entry applicable to the populace (rather than just a long-winded, pointless rant).

Q: Can I use your pictures/other material for my own purposes?

A: Sure, why not. It’d be kind weird to take it and pass it off as your own, but otherwise I’m not some artist or remotely well-known person, so go nuts.

OKAY! Now that we’ve gotten that stuff out of the way, let’s take a journey through the wonderful world of taralli.

Readers of IC have become familiar with taralli through reading about my obsession with it. Like most pugliese cusine, the ingredients are simple, but the flavor is strong. These tiny, crunchy, bagel-like biscuits are commonly served with an aperitivo or with bread before dinner. While they are often tinged only with the light flavor of olive oil, they are often made with finocchio (fennel), peperoncino, or even primitivo wine!

Traditional Pugliese Taralli

(Adapted from Italian Connection)

Prep Time: 1 hours, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hours, 40 minutes

Yield: About 25 taralli

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour for crunchy taralli; cut with “00” flour as needed for softer taralli (I used 1/4 cup “00”)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp water (if dough is too dry)
  • 1-2 tsp fennel seeds or cracked black pepper
Look at that fancy salt!
Look at that fancy salt!

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
  2. Add the oil and wine, and mix with a fork until the dough forms into a rough mass.
Does this count as "rough"?
Does this count as “rough”?

3. Dump the dough onto a wooden board and knead it for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth.

TA-DA!
TA-DA!

4. Knead the spices into the dough (or divide the dough and add spice to ½ of the dough) – knead well to distribute the spice.

5. Cover the dough and let it rest, along with your arms, for 15-30 minutes.
6. Pinch walnut-sized pieces of dough, roll first between your hands, and then against the wooden cutting board, so that the dough forms a thin rope, about ½ inch (1 cm) in diameter and 4” long (10 cm).

image-3 image-4

7. Shape each rope into a ring, and seal the edges together by pressing lightly, then set aside the taralli rings on a wooden board and cover with a towel.

image-5

8. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil.

We moved the party over here!
We moved the party over here!

9. Put 6-10 of the taralli into the boiling water, and when they float to the surface – this will only take 30-60 seconds – remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a cloth to dry and cool.

The texture they have after boiling
The texture they have after boiling

Tip: Try not to plop one tarallo on top of another when dropping them into the pot, and if they stick to the bottom, give them a gentle nudge with the slotted spoon.
10. Put the cooled taralli on baking sheets and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (200°C) for about 25 minutes, until golden.

Ahhhh che bello!

11. Remove and cool on racks on racks on racks.

So how did they turn out? Pretty decent, I’d say. They’re a little “airier” than the taralli we bought in Italy, but they are quite flavorful (particularly of fennel) and just as addicting. If I were to redo the recipe again, I’d probably add some other flavors – maybe even go bold with chocolate!

Thought of the day: Before you complain about having to help someone, think about how much better you’ll feel after you do it.