Happy Birthday, ME!!!
Today, my little blog turns one year old! Brace yourself, because ... while I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, I'm about to toot it ... A LOT!
At a year of life, I should be able to stand alone, eat with my fingers, and maybe even practice holding a spoon!
In all seriousness, several years ago I had this vision of putting my story out on the internet, share a few recipes, write cookbooks, help millions and make hundreds! At least ... that was the basic plan. One year ago, today ... I executed!
First, I'd like to share that little post. I like it, even to this today, in large part because it was exactly as effective as it claims to be. It was without structure, or even much of a message, short of stating that ... THIS IS THE BEGINNING! Here, right now, today ... I start. And, I did!
How do you drain a lake? (and other inspiration thoughts!)
Sometimes ... you just gotta start. There are times where ... you need to begin. Get rolling. Do it. Get started! There's always a reason not to do something. Sometimes, you've just got to throw a stake in the ground and say, "NOW!"
One of my many talents is making excuses. I make a mean bowl of soup, but I'm even better at rationalizing why doing something important might be better served for another day. I excel at procrastination, waiting, delaying and ... convincing myself it's for the best. I've got other stuff going on!
I mention this for a few reasons ...
I worked with a BRILLIANT Pastry Chef, a few years back. His name is Aaron Lindgren. Last I heard, he was in Chicago, making tasty deliciousness. Probably it's best that us low carbers avoid Aaron like the plague, but ... the guy could do things with chocolate, that I'd never even heard of. He was always making these beautiful shapes with it, then painting it, dusting it, twirling it, etc. He was a young, thin, intense man with long fiery red hair and a tight, narrow strangely shaped beard. He was incredibly well read and disciplined. He gave the best and expected the best. I listened to this man often (and boy could he talk!).
Anywhoo ... I was struggling with a project. If memory serves, I needed to do inventory, it was New Year's Eve, and my mind was elsewhere. Aaron looked at me and said, "DJ, how do you drain a lake?"
"How do you drain a lake?" he asked again, tapping his fingers, waiting for my dull response.
"Um ... with a hose and a really steep hill?"
"One drop at a time, " he said, with a twinkle in his piercing red eyes.
I don't know why exactly, but that line hit me hard. I've carried it with me, ever since.
This blog, my diet, going to the gym, learning to surf, completing my growing list of personal tasks that need done, etc. Each of these things could benefit by that simple wisdom.
I interpret this line as, "Get started! It doesn't matter where. It doesn't matter how well you do it, but ... get started. Do it! Pick a drop ... any drop ... and remove it. Then, another. And, another!"
I tried to lose weight for years. I would always delay getting serious about it. I knew the answer, but I just didn't want to face it. Eat less ... exercise more. I know, I know. I would half heartedly start parking my car at the far end of the McDonald's parking lot ... you know ... to force myself to walk a little further. I'd switch to diet drinks. I would go on the "Subway Diet" and pound sandwich after sandwich. I never really stuck with any of it. I never really threw my all into it.
I'd remove a drop, but ... would struggle with the rest of them.
After the first drop, comes another.
Once you get started, you've got to focus on that second drop!
Then, a third!
One drop at a time ...
It's been my experience that continually removing the drops, in time, will drain the lake. It's really just a matter of removing that first drop, then ... continuing to do so.
This blog post is ... my first drop. Next Friday, I will take another. The following Friday, I will take a third. Each drop will include 7 new recipes and a new blog post!
Each drop should find more clarity and focus, just as my weight loss did. I got better at it, and more serious. My diet evolved into a new way of eating. My health improved. I could go further, faster. I honed in on my goals and worked to achieve them and WANTED to achieve them. My desire grew, from seemingly nothing.
This blog and website is something I've been thinking about for years. I've been tinkering with the idea for months, and have been photographing my meals. I've been slowly absorbing some web geek coding skills. I've been talking a lot of talk and walking "a little" walk, but ... haven't thrown my stake in the ground ... until now.
This first post, in several years, is ... my imperfect, fuzzy, out of focus first drop. This is my stake in the ground. With time, this blog, this website, my recipes and my vision will take shape, with your help, your feedback and your guidance.
Let's talk drops!
Back to the present day ...
With only the knowledge that I was going to start and trust my skills, knowledge and intuition to take me down the right paths, I've gone from nothing, zero, not a lick of HTML, zero followers, no recipes and nothing written, to a website with 340 recipes and about 8000 dedicated followers. HELLO, OUT THERE!!!
Sure, I didn't hit my target of 365 recipes, but ... it's not for a lack of effort. The fact of the matter is, blogging is A LOT harder than you might think! And, it takes TIME! I look at other bloggers that just blog about celebrity nonsense, or politics, or most any other topic and find I get a little jealous. They're ALSO working hard, but ... they don't have to do dishes! They don't MAKE anything. They don't have to sit and pour over nutritional data, all the time. Thankfully, I LOVE what I blog about! (minus the dishes ... I won't lie ... dishes and greasy floors are ... bleh.)
There are also the clunkers. Sure, I may have been short by about 25 recipes, but ... those were the days I burned brownies that went into the trash, or I fried lotus chips, only to decide they weren't appropriate for my blog. A good 10 to 15% of everything I cook never sees the light of day. It's either uninteresting, nutritionally outside my goals, or ... it just wasn't very good! There's also the fact that I've put a lot of effort into get AHEAD of the game. While I've got 340 recipes on the website, I've actually COOKED close to 600 of them! As mentioned, some simply didn't make the cut, but most are for the future ... to be doled out over the NEXT year, where I'm hoping to actually write a cookbook or three! At some point, I need to pocket those hundreds of dollars!
It's been an incredibly interesting, scary, strange, fascinating and enlightening year. I want to share some of the things I've done in this past year, which I'm really proud of.
Guest posting is a great thing for everyone! It's a good way for a blogger to take a break for a moment, while someone else steps in with some interesting words. On the flipside, it's a good way for bloggers to find a new audience! Guest posting is a wonderful thing and appears to be a big part of the blogging culture. I'd love to do it more often ... and will likely seek out more opportunities, this year.
In year one, I did 3, but I truly love them all and feel they are each excellent and some of my best work. Give 'em a read, or bookmark them for the future. I'm genuinely proud of each of these!
Hidden Carbs: Deceptive, Lurking, Invisible Little Carb Goblins
Brown Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and Pecan Crust (part 1)
This recipe is quite a lot of fun! It utilizes some interesting techniques, which allow us to get a caramel flavor, without any sugar! ...
Brown Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and Pecan Crust (part 2)
We're going to use the gelatin to firm up a brown butter custard emulsion that we're about to make! This is done by "blooming" the gelatin in cold liquid, while heating the rest. ...
Not Your Average Ordinary Everyday Fat Bomb
The USDA states that upwards of 65% of total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. It is my personal opinion, that this stance is total bunk-poppycock. ...
There are a few things which have happened that REALLY make me feel I'm doing a few things right!
1. Invitation to join the Low Carbing Amongst Friends cookbook team. This was HUGE! I can't even begin to express the respect I hold for the other, FAR more proven members of the team. Most of them are succesful cookbook authors on their own! At the time I was invited to join, I'd only been around for about 6 months. To date, I'm still the smallest and least known member of that team, but ... I AM ON IT! It's such an honor. Check out their Facebook page to receive tons of daily updates, recipes and ideas related to low carb living!
2. Mark Sisson is one of the leading authorities in the Primal lifestyle, and the blogger behind Mark's Daily Apple. He's acknowledged me in his blog, SEVERAL times! That's another huge feather in my cap! To have an authority such as him sharing my recipes ... much less even acknowledging me ... really just means the world to me. I even thanked him in a previous blog post. Being a classy guy, he responded ... on MY blog, "You're welcome!" Mark follows my blog! Hi Mark!!! :D
3. My story appearing in The Huffington Post! This was another big feather in my cap.
10 Recipes Worth Mentioning
Out of 340 recipes, there are a few that stand out. It was actually tough to pick just 10, as there are easily 330 others deserving attention, for one reason or another. Most of these are based purely on popularity and ... distance travelled across the internet, but a few are just my favorites, because ... well ... you'll see!
All Purpose Crepes
These a grain free, easy to make and are about as versatile a low-carb creation as there is. With these you can obviously make desserts, but I've used them in sandwich wraps, in casseroles, as enchilada wrappers, as pasta noodles, as savory crepes, etc. People always ask if they taste like eggs or ricotta. I'm here to say ... NOPE! They actually don't taste like much of anything, to be honest. It's all function and texture, and in that regard ... they are PERFECT!
Meat Lovers' Lasagna
While the recipe is EXCELLENT, bakes solid, tastes amazing and hits all the right notes, it's also an excellent example of using the crepes ... outside a normal "crepey" context!
I have several one-minute-muffin recipes on my website, with my personal favorite being the cinnamon roll version, but ... the CHOCOLATE one continues to rear its head, time and time again! It's almost got a life of its own. Some days I'll be sitting, looking at traffic, all dejected, wondering where its all gone wrong and then I'll see a huge spike ... for no apparent reason. Someone, somewhere, on some social network ... has decided to share THIS quick and dirty little recipe! BOOM! Thank you!
Bacon Wrapped "Meat Lovers Pizza" Stuffed Chicken Breast
This one doesn't need much of an explanation. I'm mean ... it's pizza toppings stuffed into a chicken breast and then wrapped with bacon. If there were ever a perfect single recipe ... this might just be it!
Miniature Crab Cakes
While this one is somewhat popular, it's more here because it's one where I felt I'd actually flexed a little molecular gastronomy muscle and showcased emulsions in a way that gave a full flavored crab cake, without grains, no breadcrumbs and they're weren't flat as pancakes. They were spectacular little golden pucks of yummy goodness ... and I was proud ...
Crispity Hazelnut-Parmesan Crackers
I've tried lots of Low-Carb This and Paleo That and Primal Whatevers and ... they're often excellent (for what they are). It's funny in that a lot of what I do is try to make something that tastes great, for what it is, but ... is like the worst version of the real thing! When it's close to as good as a mediocre version of the real thing, I'm super stoked! On rare occasions ... there's something that SURPASSES the taste and texture sensation of the real thing and ... these crackers, done right, really exceeded expectations. Oh, and they're quite popular, too!
Coconut Cream Pie
This is another one which was only semi-popular, but is one that I was personally INCREDIBLY proud of. This was a case of pure serendipity. I'd just gotten a free bag of mashed potato flakes from LC-Foods, and had a recipe that wasn't working right. In front of me was nothing short of a frustrating puddle of doom. Suddenly ... a light bulb moment! I mixed the two ... to FANTASTIC results! These little ricotta and potato dumplings were everything I could've ever wanted from a gnocchi ... and then some!
ChupaChorueso (suck the cheese)
This is here because it's another personal favorite. It's just a fun back story and sheds some light on the ridiculous decadent opulence which can be attained within a low-carb landscape. Aside from being about a million (irrelevant) calories, it was unbelievably yum!
Poorly Cooked Eggs
Last, but not least, we have my personal favorite recipe. I love this recipe because it really exemplifies what I'm all about. Sharing stories with a sense of fun, while talking about food and techniques. This recipe is almost an anti-recipe or ... seen another way ... a recipe for 100 different recipes. It's about taking a few tricks you've learned, combining it in a variety of new and interesting ways and being totally at ease with whatever results. While it's not a great recipe on its own, it is my favorite ...
... I love you, Poorly Cooked Eggs!
Needless to say, it's been an AMAZING year! Here's to hoping the next one will be just as amazing ... if not ... EVEN BETTER!!!
Don't forget to check out a few new recipes at the bottom of this post ...
Thank you for your huge support, everyone! YOU ARE WHAT KEEPS ME GOING!!!
My pickle of a pursuit for the perfect pizza proxy persists!
I'm always looking for ways to fill that empty leg of mine. One of the many ways in which I look to satisfy my desires is in pursuing pizza and pizza-like substitutes. To date, I've yet to enjoy a pizza as satisfying as those from my darker days. As fantastic as the food is that I eat, a perfect low-carb pizza to me, is like the Great Pumpkin is to Linus. I believe it's out there and I spread that message far and wide, and while I am a true believer ... I've never actually seen one.
So, on occasion, rather than try and duplicate a perfect pizza, I swerve and ... make pizza fusions!
In this case, I've taken two of my favorite things ... a pizza and ... a frittata and I've made them one. A perfect pizzattata!
At it's core, it's little more than a crust-less quiche topped with tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese, but when you bite into the warm soft custard, topped with the crunchy browned cheese and streams of bright orange oil ... your mind will think of pizza ... and feel satisfaction ... if even only for a minute.
Other Pizza Pursuits:
[ VIEW RECIPE ]
Double-Double: Animal & Protein Style
There are those of you reading this that ... are in the know. You KNOW what a "Double-Double" is. You've heard the term "Animal Style" and you know what it means to be served "Protein Style". If you're you, and you're in the know ... chances are ... you're grinning, right now.
To In-N-Out Purists ... this is "inspired" by ... not a direct copycat.
To those scratching your noggins, there is a restaurant chain based out of Southern California, called "In-N-Out Burger". There are near 300 of them scattered around California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Texas ... with most being in California. It's little more than a burger joint starting as California's first drive-through in 1948, but ... it has grown and it's got a somewhat fanatical (dare I say "cult-like"?) following! As a kid, I remember ALWAYS wanting an In-N-Out Burger, whenever we'd go near Southern California. The burgers aren't particularly mind blowing, but they ARE very good, ESPECIALLY for a fast food burger. It's a clean and happy burger, served from a well treated staff. Their mission, unchanged in 65 years, "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment."
Chefs even love the place! Julia Child was fan and could name ALL the locations between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Gordon Ramsay? Thomas Keller? Tony Bourdain? Mario Batali? All fans!
To walk into one, you would immediately note the sparking clean and very white interior, with clean white uniforms, red aprons and paper hats. Look up and see a clean uncluttered menu, with barely more than 3 hamburger varieties, French fries, soda and 3 tasty milkshake varieties. Simple. Those "outside the know" ... order a burger and fries and enjoy it for what it is ... They MIGHT notice that their cup reads, "John 3:16" or that their burger wrapper reads, "Revelation 3:20" ... reflections of the Christian beliefs of the family that founded and runs it ... the Snyder family.
Probably the most interesting thing about In-N-Out is ... its secret menu. As stated, the actual menu presented to walk-ins is brief and uncluttered. However, there's a secret lingo that goes into ordering at an In-N-Out, involving terms like "Wish Burger" (bleh), "Four-by-Four", "Animal-Style" and the "Flying Dutchman". A true Atkins die-hard could walk into an In-N-Out burger, straight to the counter and confidently ask for a "Four-by-Four, Flying Dutchman, Animal-Style" and ... LOVE what they get! (four medium-well burgers, fried in onions and mustard, alternated with 4 slices of melted American cheese, and a side of pickles and thousand island dressing ... no bun, no lettuce, just a sloppy pile of glorious goodness)
What we have here is a "Double-Double, Cold Cheese" (two slices of meat, with two slices of American Cheese, unmelted), served "Protein Style" (lettuce replacing the buns) and cooked "Animal Style" (meat is fried in onions and mustard, and served with extra thousand island dressing, and extra pickles), and served with whole grilled onions. YUM!
There is one clear and major flaw with In-N-Outs otherwise sterling reputation and near perfect formula. With all the available secret options (from grilled cheese, to hot chilies) ... each and every one store is strictly BYOB (Bring Your Own Bacon).
"What's That?" Note: The photo is taken with fried lotus root and sweet potatoes, which have been tossed with a bit of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Pretend they're not there. The crunchy mixture comes in at about 15 net carbs per "small, yet reasonable" serving. As a result, I've opted not to make them their own recipe ... even though they were super awesome! (I know ... I'm mean) :(
[ VIEW RECIPE ]
Sweet Thai Cucumber Salad
Several months ago, I wrote a recipe for Thai Fish Cakes, which turned out to be surprisingly popular! There are times when I'm fairly sure I know a recipe will do well and times I feel a recipe will not be very popular, but … still loved by a small select few. I expected the Fish Cakes to be the latter. However, when I posted it, it soared across Facebook, apparently landing in front of Mark Sisson who decided to share it on his blog! That day was the most traffic I had on my website, in the first year. WHOO HOO!
At the base of that recipe was a small little note suggesting that people serve this with a Thai Cucumber Salad, followed by brief instructions. Interestingly, I received a few comments on that note, with people actually trying it and suggesting it was, indeed, a perfect pairing! Here's where my old age shows and I have some fuzzy recall … At the time, I remembered getting an email, or a Facebook comment, or … a comment on Pinterest or … SOMETHING. The person appeared to be doing back flips over the cucumber salad idea at the base of the fish cakes. When I read that, I made a mental note to bring forth a full recipe.
Here is that recipe!
Variations: I've seen many variations on this. Fun additions are toasted peanuts, red Thai chilies, shredded carrots, slivered red bell peppers, green mango, lime juice, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, etc.
Delicious served with:
[ VIEW RECIPE ]