Monday, March 17, 2008
Day 30: Feast
A feast on the feast: Irish corned beef and cabbage for the "Feast of St. Patrick."
Our 30 days are up. The experiment, or "potion" as Patrick dubbed it, ended as dinner closed. And what did we do to celebrate? Did we tear open a bag of hydrogenated Oreo darkness? Did we scoop out some ice cream laden with gums and dyes? Heck no, folks, we ate big chunks of cabbage, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and corned beef. We did have small dishes of berries and vanilla Haagen Dazs, too, but Fresh Mouth is a new way of life for us. This American family survived just fine, and quite happily, without McNuggets, Cheerios and even organic cookies.
There are flaws in the experiment for sure. Examining the diet in hindsight reveals progress, but room for many improvements. We still need more veggies and less "Western" whiteness in all its forms. More plants basically.
So, we're a work in progress. We'll continue Fresh Mouth for the future, forever hopefully. We'll expand and enhance what we've started. We'll update the blog weekly or more if possible and include as many recipes, tips, resources and info so it makes it worth your while to stop by. We're so happy and grateful for the support and feedback. What inspiration and useful info we received. It really shaped and enhanced the experience to be public with a family diet. Oh, did you keep me on my toes ... and in my dish-washin' rubber gloves.
What are the final insights?
Here are our "Top-Ten Takeaways:"
10. It's about volume. We ate fresh, and we ate more. We weren't as full on fillers.
9. The Big "O"rganic doesn't necessarily mean better. Label reading is the name of the game if it's processed. Go organic if it's produce, meat or dairy when possible.
8. The kids were the Gastronomical Gestapo - they were keen to be active, included participants in the experiment. They loved trying new things as a family, and they were the real rule enforcers. (Most of the time ...) Get the kids actively involved in eating better. Our kids ate asparagus. That's a miracle.
7. Cooking at home is not convenient. We know that. I did a sick number of dishes. But it's not that hard either. A little effort and thought can trump the lure of convenience every time.
6. It does cost more to eat better. We spent a grand total of $1,323.57 for the month to feed a family of five. That equates to $8.82 per person, per day or just over $44 a day to feed the family. That's a lot. But we didn't shell out a single dollar for doctor co-pays or prescriptions either which had become a monthly mainstay.
5. We feel better. It wasn't about weight, but after the initial thrill of home-baked everything, we hit an eating stride. Dirk lost five pounds. After cooling it on the almond butter, I stayed the same. And the two boys are within a pound of where they started. The baby still has chubby little wrists like he should.
4. Supermarkets reward you with high-end coupons when you buy more produce. Think $2.00 of Ghirardelli chocolates or half-off good cheese. Forget them Cheez-its and Coke.
3. February and March are hard months to buy local or good-looking produce in general.
2. People love to talk about what they eat or what they buy and why. Fresh Mouth is an equalizer. Everyone from baggers at the supermarket to moms in the parking lot and doctors in the hospital to bloggers want to understand how to eat better. We're all trying to find more nutritious, healthier and better.
1. Eating better isn't hard. It's a habit. And that does take some work, but it's so possible. Even for a crazy American family who had a penchant for all-things Pepperidge Farm.
Breakfast: Bananas, yogurt with toasted almonds and berries, toast and OJ with fish oil.
Lunch: Almond butter sandwiches on whole wheat, green lettuce salad with homemade vinaigrette, oranges and milk. Aidan took the usual.
Dinner: Corned beef and cabbage with roasted vegetables (recipe below), milk and a bottle of McManis Pinot Grigio. We're Irish and this was a happy occasion. We were obligated to open a good bottle with a Celtic name no less. Vanilla ice cream with raspberries and blackberries.
Nugget o' the Day: "It's not really over though?" - Aidan. He had to confirm that this was really the beginning for us. He's been so happy to be free of runny nose, earache and cough this month. He's in it for his health and the long haul. We all are.
Corned Beef and Cabbage - this was days of work, but worth it!
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons whole coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons whole allspice
4 sprigs fresh marjoram
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves 2 bay leaves
1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) brisket
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, halved
6 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 head celery including leaves, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic, halved
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
2 bay leaves
1 small cabbage cut into 6 to 8 wedges
Herbed Root Vegetables, recipe follows
Combine all the brine ingredients, except the brisket, in a large non-reactive bowl. Add the brisket (you may have to cut it into 2 pieces) and rub the spice mix into the meat. Pour cold water over until the meat is covered. Weight the brisket down with a small plate so that it is completely submerged; cover and refrigerate. The meat can be brined overnight or as long as 10 days. The longer the brining the more pickled the meat.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, marjoram, and bay leaves and cook until starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the brine and rinse it well. Set the meat on top of the vegetables and add water to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil skimming any foam that surfaces. Reduce the heat to a simmer, place the lid on the pot, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage pieces, cover, and put it into the oven; cook for 3 hours.
Remove the meat, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes. Cut the fat off the corned beef, slice the meat against the grain, and serve it in shallow bowls with the cabbage wedges, some cooking liquid, and the Herbed Root Vegetables.
Herbed Root Vegetables:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound baby carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
1 pound baby turnips, trimmed and scrubbed
1 pound baby parsnips, trimmed and scrubbed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs like thyme, mint, chives, parsley, or chervil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the olive oil and butter into a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and toss to coat them well with the fat; season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the Herb Butter by combining the soft butter and herbs together; season with some salt and pepper.
To serve, spread some Herb Butter in the bottom of a bowl. Add the hot vegetables and dot with more Herb Butter. Moisten with some of the cooking liquid and serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
- from Tyler Florence on the Food Network