July 3, 2018: I've been struggling since then with a decision. Should I, or should I not keep my health journey private. Typically I put my cards on the table but this has been different. I grow, cook and teach other people about food for a living. Have you ever heard the saying, "Never trust a skinny cook"? This has been on my mind.
A bit of background is helpful here. I have struggled most of my life with my weight. I've always loved food. Exercise, not so much. Between 1995 and 2000 were the healthiest years of my adult life. I was recently married and pre-babies. I was working in the restaurant industry, but wasn't working super late nights. I was starting to garden and life was pretty fun. Fast forward 20 years and an easy 100 pounds later: I knew I needed to make some changes.
Looking back its easy to see how I stacked the deck against myself (sorry for taking this card analogy all the way). I bought a restaurant in 2001, promptly required major back surgery and followed that up with two beautiful babies in three years. The baby weight never left and the rigors of restaurant and bar life took hold. It was rare that I ate dinner before 10 p.m., I never went to be prior to 2 a.m. and those babies, well let's just say that I rarely slept more that 5-6 hours. My husband also worked in the industry and we found our struggles multiplied by two. Oh, and the stress. For those of you who haven't worked in the hospitality industry and skip Gordon Ramsay on TV, restaurant work is stressful. Kitchen folk work hard and play hard. All these pieces came together for me in a nasty way.
Over the years I'd tried just about every diet out there with little success. I sold my restaurant in March of 2018 and after a few months of decompressing and enjoying circadian rhythms, I was ready to get to the root of the problem: Why was my relationship with food so toxic? I certainly had the technical skills to create healthy dishes that didn't skimp on the delish. Yet, I didn't. So I started a journey last summer. I spent almost 8 months in a medically supervised weight-loss program in preparation for gastric bypass surgery. Yes, I know. That's pretty drastic. What I learned over the course of eight months was that I needed to do a ton of "mind work" about food. (If you need resources on this topic- drop me a line as I've got mad suggestions.)
That work has been done and I finally felt prepared for surgery at the end of February. I'm pleased that I decided to add this powerful tool to my arsenal. I'm having great success with my weight goals, but the best part is that I can love food in a healthy way again. I was truly conflicted about ditching the livelihood that has been so good to me & felt as though I'd be some sort of culinary Judas. Not so. I'm striking a balance.
Why am I sharing all this? First, I think many of us battle issues with food and I wanted to be transparent about my own challenges. Food addiction is a crazy thing. No other addicts in the world HAVE to indulge in their obsession to live, except those with food addictions. Everyone has to eat to live and this makes a food struggle unique.
I also want to be clear that I'm much more cognizant of nutritional value than I have ever been. Always a proponent of whole foods and growing what we eat, I will present a subtle shift in my work that stresses health. I often share Pro Tips with my recipes and you will start to see some Bari Life Hacks for those on a @bariatricjourney. I pinkie-promise that every recipe I share will still be a triumph.
For those who use my Private Cheffing, I will be working with clients to address and accommodate dietary challenges. Collaborating with your doctors, allergists, trainers and homeopathic consultants is becoming a focus. More on those home services will be added in the upcoming days.
#privatechefindy #gethealthy #eatfreshcookfresh
When I was in high school, most of my friends and I worked at a hip gourmet pizza place called Some Guy’s Pizza Pasta Grill. If you find yourself in Indy, Some Guy’s is still around and I highly recommend it. A few years into business, the owners of the restaurant decided to build a traditional wood fired pizza oven and developed a kick-ass menu to go along with it. Correct me if I’m wrong, Charley Sterne, but I believe it was the first of its kind in Indianapolis. A hulking brick behemoth, it became the restaurant’s showpiece: visible to the entire dining room.
My careeer at SG was multifaceted. I started out as as a hostess and buser, before begging to work in the kitchen (almost exclusively male back then). In the kitchen, I began as a dough roller before mastering salads. After what seemed like eternity, I was trained on the regular pizza line before I finally moved to the wood oven. I learned to make delicious appetizers, pizzas and baked pasta dishes. Not only was making the food fun, but keeping the oven and fire at appropriate cooking temps and learning to rotate the food so it cooked evenly and never burned was a challenge. Once I had the hang of it, I was hooked. For perspective, I left SG to open my own place in 2000 and haven’t cooked in that oven since. In all the world and out of all the ovens I’ve cooked in, that one is still my favorite.
I’ve always made pizza at home and dreamed of having my own wood oven one day. Well, friends, that day is coming. Last summer, I extended and expanded my back patio. I added a dining area that’s covered by a pergola. I added tons of landscaping and even a permanent brick barbecue. My elder son, Franky is a champion charcoal barbecuer and had been dying for one. We researched, watched a bunch of how-to videos and did it. The grill and prep areas exceeded our expectations and Franky barbecued all summer.
As our confidence as budding brick-layers increased, we decided that we’d make plans for a pizza oven. Alas, by the time we started, summer had turned to fall and it quickly got too cold for us to complete BUT we did get half the base built. Our midwestern forecast shows some 60 degree weather in the upcoming days and we’ll be back at it. Stay tuned for progress photos.
Not only am I psyched to make some old favorites, but I’m looking forward to new challenges like baking bread. That’ll be a blast to experiment with and I’m sure my neighbors will enjoy the extras. What excites me the very most? Being able to pull veggies from the garden, rinse them under the hose, toss them with handfuls of fresh herbs and chuck them in the new oven to roast. The produce won’t even make it into the house. Can’t get much fresher fare than that.
Some Guy’s famous lasagna nestled near the fire in their wood burning oven (below). Photo Credit: Charley Sterne.
@someguyspizza @nancycarey @charleysterne #woodfiredovens #brickpizzaovens #cookingalfresco
I’ve had great fun playing with bread recently. I thought I’d share a tiny triumph today. You know, one of those wee victories that comes about when you take a chance?
One of my go-to boule recipes calls for a decent amount of salt. I was running low on regular so I took a look at my fancy (aka finishing) salts to see if something could sub.
I decided on one that wasn’t subtle and crossed my fingers. In full disclosure I picked it because I had a ton: @SanFranciscoSaltCompany Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.
The result is a lovely rustic bread with a subtle smokiness. This is THE perfect bread to play off the bacon on your BLT. It also would be amazing as grilled ham and cheddar. My family will enjoy warm slices tonight with their pot roast.
Dont be afraid to experiment! Sometimes you’ll end up with a winner.
My kids are huge fans of banana bread. I’m fairly certain they always leave a few bananas to over-ripen on purpose. While I’ve had a tried and true recipe for years, I’ve recently developed this version for my eldest son, Franky. He’s one of those Nutella freaks!
This recipe is chocolate-hazelnut banana bread. Not too sweet, but full of flavor.
CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT BANANA BREAD
1/2 pound coconut oil or 2 sticks unsalted butter
11/ps cane sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3 ripe bananas
1 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
4-6 oz Dark Chocolate Bar, chopped
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.