The Home of Daniel's Challenge
Okay! For the past two weeks Colleen and I have been playing in the kitchen trying to create some new recipes that further enable a healthful diet. We have experienced quite a few hits and misses, more misses than usual. In fact, before this week's Chia Ranch Dressing came into being, we also learned to make chia ranch mortar and chia ranch brick, and ranch rocks; you get the idea and we can share that with you if you are interested:) This week's forays into the kitchen reminded me of a humorous, yet painful experience of the past.
Years ago a sweet girl whom I dated was invited to a family dinner. Like any thoughtful guest, she brought a little culinary something to brighten the table. It was one of her first attempts at a particular recipe for banana bread. Well, my brother greeted us at the door and impolitely grabbed a piece of the bread and tossed it into his mouth. He then recoiled an spit it out on the ground outside the door. Our little pooch came up to it and licked it, but then promptly turned and walked away. My then tactless kid brother says, "Yuck, that is the worst divinity I've ever tasted; the dog won't even eat it."
Well, that was the last dinner my girlfriend had with me before I left to spend two years in a foreign country. I'm not sure she was too impressed with family tact because she didn't wait until I came home. Needless to say, not all culinary attempts come out right the first time. One of the reasons Colleen and I experiment first with each other and then with our children, before presenting any new recipe publicly, is because children don't lie; like my kid brother, they can sometimes be brutally tactless and harshly truthful. If your recipes first pass the personal palette test, and then the family test, it's probable that others will also enjoy them! If we can get all ten of our children to eat something, generally anyone else will too.
I'm going to blog today more about our recipe creative process because I think you might enjoy discovering some fun ways to up your own culinary creativity. And, there is a selfish underlying motive. I'm hoping this blog might even provide a few insights that will help other passionate people learn a pattern for creating healthful recipes that will benefit each of us. This site should be filling up with tons more healthful recipes, and not all of my own creation. The site exists to share and help each other; that is why we've not turned it into a fee-based membership site and hope you will catch the spirit and pay it forward by sharing the culinary genius and experience that is within you with others.
I have been recently flattered to see so many of my recipes ending up in the books of other authors. I remember when I used to review tons of recipes of other's creations as I attempted creating good recipes of my own. I would look for patterns in good-tasing but unhealthful recipes and then I would invent a healthful edition of the recipe, based upon sound dietary principles.
Recently I saw a video someone else made of one of my recipes. It took me back a few years to a walk I had with Colleen through a grocery store during a date night. We stopped to buy our favorite "college" ice cream. Before I got to the checkout counter, that ice cream inspired the making of our Unbutternut Pecan ice cream that later became a favorite of many of our readers. The inspiration to make this ice cream came after first having attempted making ice cream from two other chefs. One made a "high fat" ice cream and another a super light ice cream. Unbutternut Pecan combined the two techniques with a little additional creativity on our part to create one of our favorite ice cream flavors and in new all-raw texture.
Now you know in part how we brand our recipes so that we always recognize them, no matter which book they may show up in. Let me share how the recipe creative process works for us and hopefully it might serve to enable the creative juices in you more fully. Let's say I've been researching and writing about chia seeds, or sweeteners, or omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based ALA omega-3s versus the EPA or DHA forms of omega-3s. It seems that whenever I get my mind wrapped around important dietary principles, it isn't long before new recipes begin to flow into my mind, which support the truths I've been studying.
Well, such a study might lead me to determine that I want to include my healthful fats in my dressings, sauces, and dips, to better enjoy more raw-food intake, rather than to enjoy required fats in some other manner. Once the underpinning principles are straight in my head, then I go to work on creating a supportive set of recipes, which often simply flow into my mind. For example, during the last two weeks Colleen and I have taken various dressing recipes from Original Fast Foods, which were created according to sound rhyme and reason to begin with; then I add more reason by taking out some of one fluid and one fat, to add more healthful options. The pattern that made the original recipe is maintained, but more healthful solutions are enabled.
So lets say I want my fairly runny salsa to become a bit thicker and sweeter. I make my salsa and add just a touch of maple syrup, my preferred sweetener because its glucose to fructose ratio is 4:1, compared to a very poor ratio in agave. Now if I'm going to use any concentrated sweeteners, which I seldom use, in the very least I want way more glucose than fructose in my sweetener. Why? Because I can store up to 1600 calories of glucose in my muscles as glycogen before added glucose begins turning to fat. I cannot store any fructose as glycogen in my muscles because my muscles lack the enzyme required to convert fructose to glycogen. In fact, the very most glycogen I can store from fructose is up to 400 calories within the liver where such an enzyme exists. However, even the 400 calorie sugar-storage capacity in my live is shared by glycogen that has been converted from glucose. In reality, very little fructose can be stored as glycogen before it will store as fat. Well, I don't like to add fat in the way of sweeteners. So, I replace agave nectar with maple syrup wherever I can, and as I improve my salsa I add only a touch of maple syrup in order to retain the authentic Mexican flavors.
Now, to thicken my fairly runny salsa, I want a natural thickener and if possible I also want it to provide a healthful source of omega-3s. If I can do that, my salsa will become gourmet-ishly healthful. I've tried flaxseed before, but it too often leaves an undesirable aftertaste. Voila, enter the chia seed, which expands to nine times its initial size as it absorbs fluid, and which also is perhaps the best source of plant-based omega-3s known today, even better than flaxseed; and, it adds no strange aftertaste. Now my runny salsa develops a wonderful richness and viscosity. The following mathematical formula best describes my culinary creative process:
A good recipe pattern + healthful ingredient substitutions + creativity and passion = Gourmet Health Food
Just a little creativity and common sense, and voila, Colleen and I turned out a rich salsa that is packed with all the Mexican flair, yet is as thick and rich as Pace Picante Sauce--and is enhanced with just the right touch of sweetness!
Alright, I'm giving away my trade secrets, but I cannot think of a better crowd that I would rather share them with. During the past two weeks we've perfected several dressings that we will be sharing with you. The actual finished ingredient list and instructions for each new recipe will show up in the recipe forum discussions. In addition to dressings and dips, we've also been goofing with healthful stir-fry sauces. When those are perfected, we may get around to sharing them with you, but you have got to start reciprocating the efforts!
As you come to wrap your mind around important dietary principles, I expect and hope that you will also become very creative and that you will share your creativity with us and others. There is no reason why healthful cannot also become exquisitely gourmet! Whenever a recipe comes together in such a manner for me, I can always remember exactly the inspiration and even how the name of the recipe as came to me and the precise process we went through to make the recipe enjoyable, simple, healthful, and worthwhile for others. As you become creative, your recipes will soon carry your own unique creative brand that will warm hearts and delight palettes. You may even see them in a number of books!
I am grateful for the many fine chefs who have influenced my recipe creations and honor their creative efforts. I expect and hope to see your amazing dietary creations show up in the recipe forums or in recipe videos as you combine love, passion, creativity, and correct principles. Help to show your family and the world that healthful can be quick, simple, and wonderful.
To Living Young,