The Twelve Commandments of Spanish Food

DSCN5356After a surprise weight gain due to stress at the start of last summer, I’m finally taking the initiative to get back in shape. I’m going to a great gym and I’m eating great food. As I try to discipline myself to cook wholesome and healthy meals for our family every night and to plan ahead so that we can pack healthy lunches for work, my thoughts inexplicably travel back to Spain.

I’ve heard it said that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. I don’t know about that (I mean, look at number 1 on the list below), but I do know that we have never had more delicious food than what we ate in Spain, we have never eaten larger quantities of food that what we ate in Spain, and we have never weighed less as adults than we did in Spain. I can’t figure it out.

DSCN5300 DSCN2034 DSCN1663 DSCN1583 DSCN1648I have therefore set out to dissect some of the secrets I have learned about standard Spanish eating habits.

The food moves in mysterious ways.

  1. Thou shalt cook everything in gratuitous amounts of olive oil goddess nectar, as I like to call it.
  2. Thou shalt eat an “introductory” dish, then a meat or fish, then a dessert. In that exact order. Or else you’re weird. And we will laugh at you.
  3. Thou shalt eat fish. Lots of fish.
  4. Thou shalt not forget the power of garlic. Feel the power . . .
  5. Thou shalt pack as much protein as possible into one dish–beans, eggs, cheese, fish, didst I mention fish?
  6. Thou shalt glorify potatoes, especially in fried form.
  7. Thou shalt recall that animals like ducks and rabbits have meat on them, too. What’s so great about chicken and beef, anyway?
  8. Though shalt eat a sissy breakfast of one meager miniature donut or something like that. The coffee is the important thing.
  9. Thou shalt eat bread with everything. One loaf per meal is a good way to start.
  10. Thou shalt not touch thy food with thy hands while eating, rather with thy bread. Seriously, dip that bread up in there!
  11. Thou shalt not bother to remove bones, skin, shells, pits, etc. from thy food before cooking. Thou wasteth time if thou does so.
  12. Thou shalt drink wine and/or beer whenever the heck thou wants.

BONUS: Thou shalt not get fat no matter how much thou eateth!

DSCN1673 DSCN5899 DSCN5357 DSCN1619 DSCN1631 DSCN5754 DSCN5755Okay, so I’m just being silly. A lot of traditional Spanish eating habits like loading up on starchy potatoes & bread and eating an eensy-teensy sugary breakfast are probably not good life choices.

On the other hand, they definitely have some things right:

1) High-protein, 2) low-fat, 3) whole foods.

These principles have actually been sort of the guiding light in my healthy eating journey. You’d be surprised how many opportunities you have throughout the day to swap out unhealthy snacks and meals for high-protein, low-fat, less-processed alternatives.

For example, I just enjoyed a delicious loaded shells and white cheddar mac n’ cheese dinner made with cottage cheese and Greek yogurt instead of butter and milk. I also piled on grilled chicken and chopped kale greens. It tasted way better than if I had just whipped up the boxed macaroni and cheese on its own, and it was full of nutritional content.

IMG_0259If the Muse moves you, these three tips (and not the 12 goofy ones above) have the potentially to help you burn fat and gain muscle. Why not give them a whirl?

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Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Party Empanadas

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Awkward:

  • Kristen, Neme, Josh, and I spent St. Patrick’s Day last weekend with just the four of us, some snacks, and one Guinness each. After experiencing (and in Neme’s case, growing up in) the party culture of Spain and spending last St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, nothing we could do this year seemed incredibly exciting. What we lacked in booze we made up for in food!
  • Those savory pastries in the picture at the top of the post are bacon-date empanadas. Bacon. And date. In an empanada. Sweet and salty paradise.
  • This picture of Neme where he is obviously wiping away tears of joy because my empanadas are so beautifully delicious. Not really . . . but he was close.

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Awesome

  • Okay, so seriously, I completely winged the empanada recipe based on something that Kristen’s host mom Ale (who owned a bakery) had made us in Spain. I was really nervous for Neme to try them because 1) he knew how good the originals were and 2) he is a cook. He had one bite and said the only thing in his limited English that I really wanted to hear . . . “Oh yeah.” Major win!
  • Spanish cheese on baguettes with cranberries and candied nuts. To die for.
  • And they sell them at Aldis. Whaaaaat?
  • A friend offered me a puff on a cigarette one chilly night, and for a split second I was like “Thanks! Wait, what? No!”