Giving Up On Guilt [Pickle-Patty Melts]

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The New Year. A speckless slate untarnished by bad decisions and weighing feelings. Our chance to start fresh and make the changes we didn’t get around to last year. Or maybe the new ones we’ve only just taken back to the drawing board. 

I’ve decided, not that it’s a far stretch from years before, that I’m dropping food-related guilt off at the door this year. I don’t like hearing the term “guilty pleasure” when we’re talking about food. Food and guilt don’t belong together. It shouldn’t be your first reaction upon biting into a greasy slice of pizza. YOU SHOULD BE THRILLED. Relishing that delicious moment in time and letting yourself be fully there while you do. Not thinking about how many miles you’re going to have to run to make up for it, or how many meals you’ll have to skip because of it. Indulging should feel good and if it doesn’t, it’s not worth it. Be wise when spoiling yourself. If you’re going to indulge, make sure it’s something real. Real chocolate, real butter, real meat, REAL ingredients. Don’t waste your time on these 100-calorie snacks you don’t really want. Have that slice of chocolate cake…but make it yourself and make it with wholesome ingredients. 

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I know that I have to eat well to feel good. And I do just that. So when the occasional (or often, as of late) indulgence comes up, I don’t feel the slightest tinge of anxiety. I’m going to relish that moment knowing that I eat real, whole food and while I may not be 130 pounds to my 5”8, I’m healthy. And happy. And kind (to myself, most importantly). I know that I put 80% whole food in my body; that’s what I’m choosing to put my focus on this year. If I feel good, I look good. Depriving myself of what I want makes me an irritable, miserable asshole. That’s not who I want to be. 

This sloppy, greasy-looking patty melt was the first dish I made this year. It wasn’t the healthiest option and it was heavy and rich, but it was real. Made from ingredients in their purest form. Locally made rye bread, gifted pickles from a friend, local beef (freshly ground), caramelized onions, high quality Swiss cheese and a good, spicy mustard. That’s it. No 40 what-the-F-is-that ingredients that promise to make you thin. Six ingredients that taste amazing and feel good in your body. 

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I hope you’ll join me in a guilt-free year of real food. Eat what feels good, eat what’s real and be happy with the choices you’re making.

Pickle-Patty Melts 
makes 4 sandwiches

I used Swiss cheese here and it melted wonderfully. You can use any type that melts well, but the flavour of the Swiss is what really makes this melt taste as wonderful as it does. 

I love pickles with my patty melt so I just added them to the beef. The sweet, briny kick helps cut the fat/richness of the sandwich. If you prefer it without, simply leave them out. 

vegetable oil
2 lbs freshly ground beef 
1/4 cup - 1/3 cup diced sweet pickle (bread and butter)
salt and pepper
2 large yellow/brown onions, thinly sliced
8 slices good rye bread (light or dark)
10-12 slices Swiss cheese
4 tbsp spicy yellow mustard (Keen’s is my choice)

Using your hands, mix together the beef, pickles and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper and mix gently until combined. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and shape to the size of your rye bread. It will shrink slightly making it the perfect size for a meat-in-every-bite sandwich. When you’re ready to cook them, sprinkle each patty with a little more salt and pepper on each side. 

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over med-high heat. When sizzling, add the patties, 2 at a time depending on pan size, and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a deep golden crust forms. Flip and cook the other side. Remove to paper towels to absorb excess fat. 

In the same pan, add a few more tablespoons of oil and add the onions. Cook, stirring up any brown bits left behind from the meat, until deep golden brown, 15 minutes. 

To assemble: 

Preheat oven to 400. 

Toast all the bread in a dry skillet until charred slightly, 4-5 minutes over med-high heat. You can toast in a toaster if you’d like, but I love the flavour a skillet-toasted rye gets. 

Place 4 slices of the rye bread down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Coat each slice with 1 tbsp of mustard. Top with the patty, then the onions and finally with the Swiss cheese.  Place pan in the oven (without the second slice of toasted rye on top) for 10 minutes or until cheese is melting and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with second slice of bread. Cut on the diagonal and enjoy! 

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A Cleansing Journey

I took a journey today.
Into some of the darkest depths, through vast cold spaces and sparse dry-lands. At times I feared I would return home empty handed…but I emerged unscathed and with something beautiful to share with you all.

I’m speaking, of course, about cleaning out the fridge and pantry. Not always the most elegant of tasks but a) it feels so good once it’s done and b) you often come out of it with some good pieces to use for a meal.
I came out with a bunch of bits and bobs that had only days before I would have to lay them to rest. In order to not let them pass through life untouched, and unfulfilled - I decided to have a salad and invite them all to join.

The guest of honour was a little produce bag full of red quinoa, which I had bought when I was feeling a little adventurous a while back but never used [surprise, surprise!]. The other attendees included - toasted pecans, caramelized onions, chunks of bright green, surprisingly ripe [given they had been there for about 5 days] avocados, ever-so-slightly roasted asparagus spears, and some crumbled feta. The flavours/textures/colours couldn’t have been more perfect for each other. They all brought something great to the table, like any good party guests should.

I don’t have a recipe for this, per se, since it’s pretty self explanatory but a few instructions should help you along the way.

For the caramelized onions:
Dice two small onions. In a medium, heavy bottomed saute pan put 2 tbsp butter/olive oil and let melt over medium-high heat. Add onions. Stir every so often until well browned [+/- 30 minutes].

For the asparagus:
Preheat oven to 400. Slice asparagus diagonally into 1 or 2 inch [or whatever you would prefer] pieces. Toss with a pinch of salt and pepper and enough olive oil to just coat your spears. Roast for 5-7 minutes until bright green, and still slightly crunchy.

For the pecans:
In a saute pan over medium heat, pour in your pecans [or pine nuts, walnuts, almonds etc etc. I just happened to have pecans.] and toss ever few minutes until you can smell them. They should only be on for about 6-7 minutes.

It looks especially lovely when it’s all seperated into it’s specific ingredients but I won’t hold it against you if you smoosh, smoosh, mix, mash it all together. It tastes best that way, anyhow.

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