Monday, June 15, 2009

The Whole Food Challenge

In one of my last posts I talked about how I want to try to eat more "whole foods". And this has nothing to do with the grocery store of the same name. The idea is to eat more foods that come to your kitchen the way they were grown- i.e. as a tomato rather than a premade and packaged sauce. At first glance this sounds pretty easy. There are lots of whole foods that we already eat. Its common to eat whole veggies or fruits, and cuts of meat count as "whole" too (even if you don't have the whole cow!). But when I sat down with a recipe for macaroni salad today I realized that this might be more difficult than I expected. My usual macaroni salad recipe calls for elbow macaroni, mayonaise, vinegar, mustard, sweet relish, carrots, peas and cheddar cheese. Only two things on that list are whole foods-- carrots and peas. I decided that I'm going to allow pasta on my whole foods diet. Yes, I CAN make pasta myself. And if I'm doing a lasagna casserole maybe I will. But I don't have the time, equipment or skills to make my own elbow macaroni for a casual pasta salad. And I read the ingredients list and its basically just a couple types of flour and egg whites with some added iron, riboflavin, thiamin and folic acid (these last things all being added nutrients). So we'll let the pasta slide. I'm not really sure what to think about the vinegar and mustard. Can those be made at home? It might be worth trying sometime. For this recipe though there were only a few tablespoons of each so I wasn't too concerned.

Other than the pasta, the other main ingredients are the mayo and the relish. I'd like to eventually make my own pickles to be used for homemade sweet relish but thats not something I'm ready to try today, so I picked a jar of sweet relish with the fewest ingredients I could find, and most importantly one without any added corn syrup. I think that the dish would be improved a lot by using homemade relish-- whether its made by me or by someone local. I think I'll see if I can find some at the farmer's market. I know we have a couple of booths that sell canned/jarred things.

The mayo was the one thing that I simply could not justify. I don't think there is anything natural about commercial mayo. Especially not the low-fat miracle whip I normally use. So I decided to try something I've never done before. I made my own mayonnaise. Maybe this is something that you have done before or that you've known of people doing but it seemed very odd to me. I've never thought about making condiments before (and of course now I want to try making my own ketchup and mustard too!). But I found an easy recipe, gathered together the few ingredients needed (I found some pasturized eggs at the grocery store thankfully-- I'm a bit nervous about raw eggs) and pluggedin my Magic Bullet. The magic bullet is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. Its basically a mini food processor/blender and I use it for everything from making butter to blending smoothies to grinding chocolate, to, well, making mayonnaise. At first I thought it was a failure. It tasted weird-- oily and eggy. But I put it in the fridge to chill and the flavors blended a bit better. And then I realized what the real problem was-- I haven't had REAL mayonnaise in years! We always buy miracle whip which, of course, tastes nothing like actual mayonnaise. I'm not sure that I'd like the stuff I made smeared on a sandwich. For one thing its much too liquidy (though longer in the fridge may have helped with that). But once I mixed it in with the rest of the ingredients it makes a great pasta salad!

I also decided to add a couple of hardboiled eggs and skip the cheddar cheese for now. I'd say this one turned out successful! Now I just need to figure out how to make my own relish, vinegar and mustard...

Laura's Macaroni Salad Recipe

  • one box (aprox 14oz) of elbow macaroni pasta (I use a multigrain pasta that is in between a regular pasta and a wholegrain pasta)
  • one recipe's worth of Homemade Mayonnaise using this recipe
  • two hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • a cup of sweet relish (more or less to taste)
  • 2 carrots
  • about 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • a couple pinches of salt (i use one big pinch in the water when I cook the pasta and another smaller pinch mixed into the salad)
  • champagne vinegar to taste- a couple of tablespoons (other types of vinegar would probably be fine, this is just what I had in the pantry)
  • I often add peas but forgot this time-- just throw a few handfulls of frozen peas in with the pasta for the last few minutes of cooking time
  • optional: cheddar cheese grated on top

1 comment:

Chelsea the Yarngeek said...

Looks delicious! Alton Brown does a really good episode of Good Eats on mayonnaise. I've been thinking about making my own for some time...

Also, if you can find it... Buy zucchini relish. It's so yummy!