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Blog — "food"

Food Frustrations

Heidi Shenk "food"

Food is obviously one of the most important aspects in our daily lives. Without it, we cannot sustain life. For me, food has become not only something of importance for living, but for for other aspects of life as well. Food is what everything pivots around-- conversation and company of good friends and family, exploration in travel, and just enjoying the basic element of life. Savoring food slows us down and brings us away from the daily grind. Enjoying time in the kitchen at the end of the day is something that Andrew and I do together almost daily. There is a joy in that companionship, over discovering new flavors, and challenging ourselves to new and innovative recipes.

My love for not just food, but good food comes directly from my mother, without a doubt. I think back to time with my mom's side of the family sitting at the dinner table for hours, eating, drinking, laughing, conversing, and just enjoying. I remember coming home from elementary school to a house filled with the smell of fresh French bread, ripping off a piece of bread from a baguette, and devouring it just as is because it was just that good. I think of hours over time spent sitting with my dad at my mom's bakery enjoying a flavorful afternoon cup of coffee along with one of my favorite cookies or pastries.

Food is not just food.

via Old English Company

In the past years, I have begun to see a startling trend. Food becomes restricted, becomes the enemy. Clearly, to be healthy individuals it becomes necessary to restrict the amount of food that we consume. It does no one any good to overeat. However, restricting food in other ways by excluding things from your diet is a trend that I will understand the least. Every few years it seems that we're "supposed" to exclude yet another thing from our diets or we will be deemed as unhealthy or simply not caring about what we put into our bodies. And then, the next year, it's fine again to eat that, but we need to exclude something else.

These food trends sadden and frustrate me. After all, we only live once, so why not enjoy all that there is to offer, but eat with moderation to remain healthy? Recently, the trend that has cropped up is the gluten-free diet. It is very possible that I'll get myself in trouble for posting my opinions on food trends, but it seems that these days no one can share their opinion without being considered offensive. Sure, there are benefits for some people in which a gluten-free diet makes most sense. However, studies show these benefits are not proven to make any difference for the majority of people's health. (Yes, I'm sure that there are articles that would say the opposite, but isn't that how the media always dictates food trends? I mean last year coffee was bad for you, and this year it's good for you!) In addition, most people who have gone gluten-free are self-diagnosed which in itself can be dangerous. In the majority of cases, when we exclude things from our diets, we lose out on important vitamins, fibers, fats, sugars, nutrients, etc.

Some of the recent arguments that I hear for a gluten-free diet have to do with digestive issues. Certainly there is a connection here, as we know that gluten affects those with Celiac disease. However, we seem to have forgotten that indigestion can be caused by other aspects-- processed foods, stress and anxiety, and an unbalanced diet-- all things that seem to plague the American society as a whole. As a nation, we eat a lot of junk, we don't slow down to eat, we cram too much to do into the day, and we teach our children that good food and water is gross as we feed them McDonald's and soft drinks. However, at the end of the day, each person can choose what they want to put into their bodies-- that is a personal choice that we all make.

via Hero Design Studio
I choose to eat gluten. I would be lost without bread (among many other things such as beer), and bread has flour which contains gluten. And you know what? I feel healthy. I also feel healthy because I eat in moderation, make sure to eat fruits and veggies along with my grains, dairy, and protein, and try to maintain an active lifestyle. It just works for me. However, if that doesn't work for you, I wish you would stop making my choice in gluten sound as though I am choosing a death sentence. Recently I've heard and read the terms nasty, horrible, bad, unhealthy, poisonous, harmful, and toxic as descriptors of bread or wheat. I feel as if those who have made the choice to go gluten-free continue to hammer on the idea that if I chose to eat gluten I am damaging my body. Not so here. I am perfectly fine and healthy when I eat gluten and would attest to that fact by divulging that in the past at least 10 years, I've only had to go to the doctor twice due to illness.

Often, I liken this trend to any other trend. The way I feel a bit awkward wearing boot cut jeans in a crowd of skinny jeans. The way Wegmans made me feel dirty for purchasing regular yogurt instead of Chobani after they demoted the regular yogurt to the bottom corner of a shelf and filled the rest of it with Greek yogurt. The way people looked at me as if I was crazy when I declared that I hated Lady Gaga when she was first all the rage.

The point is that we all make our own choices, and eating ALL foods is one that I've made. Let me enjoy my food. Don't make me feel bad about that when I shouldn't have to feel that way.

What do you think about food trends? Are they really as healthy as the media makes them out to be? Do you follow food trends?

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A Family Weekend

Heidi Shenk "food" "weekend"

This past weekend, Andrew and I drove up to the Pittsburgh area to stay with my aunt and uncle and visit my grandparents. It had been a while since I had been able to spend time with my dad's side of the family. My parents drove from Indiana to meet up with everyone, my great aunt also drove in to visit, and my cousins visited along with their daughters. We spent Saturday afternoon and evening relaxing outside in the backyard and enjoying a delicious lasagna for dinner. No meal would be complete without my uncle's wine. He has his own wine cellar at their house and we were able to enjoy some incredibly tasty chardonnay and Chianti.

Sunday morning was spent on the deck outside, enjoying some of my mom's pastries that she had brought with her from her bakery in Indiana, while my uncle began firing up his outdoor wood-fired oven. For those of you who may remember, my parents have a wood-fired oven in their backyard which inspired my aunt and uncle to do the same. We enjoyed wood-fired pizza for lunch and a relaxing afternoon on the screened in porch before heading back to Baltimore. For those of you that have never tried wood-fired pizza (or wood-fired food for that matter) I highly recommend that you consider building an over like this in your back yard if you have the space. As my dad always says, "You put the food in the oven and it automatically turns out good."

All around, it was a very relaxing weekend. Not only was it great to see family, it was pretty fabulous to have absolutely nothing on the agenda for the entire weekend.

How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting over the holiday weekend?

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Summer Beer

Heidi Shenk "food"

In the winter I love wine and I shared some of my favorite bottles of wine with you. However, once summer arrives, I'm a beer drinker. I love mojitos and sangria and all of those tasty things too, but I would be lying if I weren't to say that Andrew and I drink a lot of beer. It's hard to go wrong with a night on the roof deck and a pint of beer while listening to the Orioles game.

It is sometimes hard for me to find a good summer beer that doesn't taste like lysol when some of the best intentions for a citrus beer end up being too much for me. (Yes, I'm going out on a limb here and saying that Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy is gross.) Over the past few summers, I have found a couple favorites and more recently, I have found a few new beers that I find perfect for summer. Here's a look.

1// Magic Hat Blind Faith  2// Heavy Seas Riptide  3// Sixpoint Brewery The Crisp  4// Victory Brewing Summer Love

These just happen to be a few that I have found extremely crisp and refreshing for the summer. I'm usually an IPA kind of girl, hence the Magic Hat IPA on Tour pick as well as the Heavy Seas White IPA. Though these seem to be much more summery than others-- a definite crisp factor. The others are super crisp as well, which ultimately makes a great summer beer. I will be honest though, some of you on the west coast may have a harder time finding these in your parts. That's ok though because I'm extremely jealous of all of you and your west coast beer.

And of course, nothing wrong with a good old Natty Boh either! (That's National Bohemian for all you non-Baltimore people.) While it's not the first thing I'm running out to buy, it's an ever so slightly tastier version of Budweiser. Being the original Baltimore beer, I'd much rather be sipping one of those at an O's game. So we can at least say cheers to that!

Are you a summer beer drinker? What are some of your favorite summer brews?

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Wine. Yes, It Is Good.

Heidi Shenk "cuisine" "food"

I like wine. I drink a lot of it. Andrew told me that if I quit my day job and did design full time that I might have to cut back on my wine consumption. I told him that I'd figure it out and that I would still enjoy my wine, thank you very much. Either way, I thought it'd be fun to share with you all what I've been drinking lately.

1 // Bonterra Cabernet Sauvigon 2009    2 // La Posta Cocina Malbec 2009     3 // D'Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz 2010
I'm definitely no wine expert. Ask me about aroma, tannins, legs, or all that other crap and I'll probably look at you like you're crazy. I honestly have not a clue. However, I do know that these bottles of wine are pretty damn good and will end up in my cart every time I stock up again. The Bonterra is on the pricier end for me at $15. I try to go for anything between $8 and $12. That being said, I've had a lot of bad wines at that price, but I've also had a lot of good ones and these have definitely stood the test for tasty. 
The La Posta is the one I will always have on hand. When we stock up, I usually snag a few bottles in case we're headed to a friend's house and we need to bring a bottle of wine. The Stump Jump has become a new favorite that is reasonably priced-- not bad and nothing super extraordinary, but you can't really go wrong. It's a no-brainer. 
Do you enjoy drinking wine? I like to grab a glass to drink while I'm cooking and then enjoy a little more with my meal. Hope you're able to find these at one of your local wine sellers. And if you do, let me know what you think!

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I Have a Problem

Heidi Shenk "food"

I have a problem. Some of you may know about this already, and others may not. I am addicted to tacos. This is not something that just recently developed. This is a lifetime addiction. When I was little I would ask to go to Don Pablos for my birthday. Now I can happily say I have upgraded my personal taste in tacos and prefer local joints instead of the chains.

A few summers ago, one of my college roommates came to visit. We decided that we needed to have a taco party. The next summer, her wedding rehearsal dinner was a taco party at her favorite restaurant. I am pretty glad I got to attend that dinner for more than one reason, I have to admit.

My favorite restaurants in college both served tacos. The Mission and Alto Cinco. We made special trips to these places on the regular because we needed tacos or something similar to tacos. And I still need to go to one or the other when we go back to Syracuse (which we're actually doing this weekend!).

Let me be clear here. I love tacos very much, but when I say tacos, I allow all of those other amazing things like enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, and such to be encompassed within the same group. I love it all! And guacamole? Yes, please!

I'm so obsessed, I even made a card about tacos.

Still don't believe me? Here's how last week panned out:

Wednesday-- soft tacos were what we made for dinner.

Thursday (Valentine's Day)-- I gave Andrew a card that said, "I love you more than tacos." (Though that may be questionable..... just kidding, Andrew). Then I contemplated telling Andrew I wanted to go out for tacos. Just as I was about to tell him, he started making spring rolls instead-- the Asian taco? Maybe. You be the judge.

Friday-- we went to one of our favorite local places, Geckos, since going out for tacos failed the night before. I got fajitas.

Saturday-- ok, no tacos. You win.

Sunday-- no tacos either, but while having friends over for a dinner party, we discussed meeting up at Holy Frijoles for tacos-- my fave!

Monday-- we talked all day about making tacos and then decided to go with nachos instead. Nachos for us = tortilla chips covered in a black bean, ground beef, cheese, tomato, green pepper, sour cream, guacamole concoction. Basically tacos.

Tuesday-- while at school late, Andrew and I texted each other about making tacos for dinner. We ended up eating leftover pizza from the school event.

Last night-- we planned on tacos, but realized we were out of salsa (again) and decided to make black beans and rice instead. Basically taco filling on top of rice.

Tonight-- Andrew says we should have some sort of vacation-y meal since we are officially on a three day vacation weekend what with heading up to Syracuse tomorrow. I don't know about you, but that translates into tacos if you ask me.

And now, my friends, you fully understand. I truly am obsessed. I've got tacos on the brain big time.

What about you? Do you love tacos as much as I do, or is there another food that is after your heart?

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