We food bloggers… we all find our way to a love of food in different ways. Some of us learned it from mom and/or dad. Some of us reluctantly signed up for a college course to fulfill a general education requirement. Some of us just dig Rachael Ray that fucking much!
For me, it was a blood-pressure scare.
That’s overly-dramatic. It was more of a warning. My doctor alerted me that my numbers were creeping up and that a diet change would be the fastest way to keeping things under control.
I was closing in on the big 4-0 and was really hoping to keep serious medical issues, and certainly daily medication, at bay for a few more years.
So I reluctantly (at first) lumbered into the kitchen and started learning how to cook for myself. I wanted to be in charge of the ingredients I was consuming, and I wanted to make better food choices for my body.
Now, if you look at a lot of the food I make, you may ask yourself, “Gary, did your doctor actually recommend lots of cheese, sausages and baked goods, or did you come to that conclusion on your own?”
Fair question… if you assume that I eat this kind of food three times a day, seven days a week.
The truth is that I find a lot of satisfaction in working alone in the kitchen, 60s lounge music playing on my iPod Dock and my “manly” apron (I insisted MG make sure it was “manly” before he bought it for me) around my neck.
The process of focusing on a recipe, measurements, temperature, and plain old instincts with no help from anyone and no concern about who might judge the final product aside from myself is very gratifying and more importantly… calming (read: “good for the blood pressure”).
And now that I’ve fallen in love with the building blocks of a recipe, I tend to look for things that challenge my abilities more than things that are good for me. And that’s turned out to be okay, because most of the time for me, the process of creating is so much more interesting than consuming the results.
By the time it’s done, all the fun is over for me.
So… MG eats it instead. My friends eat it. Family members eat it. My co-workers eat it.
And I stay relatively thin, with applaudable systolic and diastolic numbers
So, while you may see a mountain of 800 lemon bars in a photo here, please don’t assume I plopped myself down in a corner and inhaled as many as I could until I was in a sugar coma so extreme I could do nothing more than sing “If I Only Had a Brain” to myself and fish lint out of my navel.
The blood pressure numbers are totally in the green zone, and have been for a number of months now. I still consume too much cheese, vodka, white flour and sugar, but there are a lot more fresh vegetables, healthy spices and fruits in my diet.
There’s also almost a complete elimination of delivery pizza, frozen snack items and anything that is pushed on our culture by a clown named Ronald… though I still have my Hamburgler doll from childhood… not as pristine white as he once was, but I’m afraid he’s too fragile to put into the wash.
And to help make sure I’m keeping myself open to other styles of cooking, I routinely visit blogs that do have an angle of “health appeal” to them. One of my favorites is StephenCooks.com. Stephen has been cooking since his college days, but a diagnosis later in life of Type 2 diabetes forced him to re-consider his exercise regime, his diet and the way he prepared his meals.
Instead of abandoning his love of food altogether, Stephen was smart and went about finding ways to adapt his cooking methods to fall in line with his medical needs. And based on the hundreds of fantastic recipes he has been posting to his blog since 2005, he has proved that it can be done, with not a flavor lost to the tongue.
Having said that, this recipe for tomato basil dipping sauce isn’t exactly the most complicated recipe you’ll find on Stephen’s site, but it’s exactly what I was looking for at the very moment I found it… a simple healthier pre-dinner snack for me and MG. I was hoping to have some leftover for a sandwich spread the following day, but there was nothing left (sorry MG – that’s mostly on you!).
As Stephen notes, this works great not just as a dipping sauce with crudités, as I served it. Its flavor also works great with sandwiches, scrambled eggs or spaghetti squash. I’m sure I’ll find 101 other uses for it as well. It’s so easy to make, I think I’ll always just keep a little of it on hand ready to go in the fridge. Thanks Stephen!
Enjoy the recipe below. And please check out StephenCooks.com for lots more!
Fresh Tomato Basil Dipping Sauce
- 2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut in quarters
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Minced parsley or fresh basil for garnish (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée on high at least 3 minutes. Season to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.