I’ve heard the stereotype before: Switzerland is the land of all things healthy and clean and hygienic or something. I imagined a place of pristine water and a people glowing in good health, probably with thick Heidi braids twined around their head. I was kind of interested to see how I would fare here. When we arrived, over a month ago (!!), I was not at my best in health. The previous months had been hectic, and stressful. My hair was both lank and frizzy, I had put on some weight from constant travel and eating junk, and my skin was breaking out (okay, that last one had nothing to do with the past few months. I have not gone more than a few days without a zit since I turned 12. Guys, that’s getting close to two-thirds of my life with a zit. Gah!)
So. Here we are. A month in, and how things have changed. I don’t know if it’s the water, or the air, or the food, or some magical combination of everything, but I feel really healthy. My hair is more luscious than it’s ever been. I’ve trimmed down by a pants size at least. I fall heavily asleep at night and usually get a solid eight hours. That hasn’t happened since before I was pregnant. And for the first time since becoming a teenager, my skin has cleared up.
I think a lot of what’s working for me is some changes I’ve made to our diet. And, I can’t stress this enough, I am not dieting. For like, the first time ever. I am the queen of trying every fad diet to come along. Oh, juicing, that sound fun and easy! Nothing but grapefruit, I’m in! And my old standard – the disgusting vegetable soup week. Coming to Switzerland, I decided to give the dieting a break.
I suppose the quality of the food certainly helps, but my principles when it come to eating has been: eat real foods. The less ingredients in a recipe, the better. I’m also fairly certain that there is way less crap put into food in Europe. Less preservatives, hormones, pesticides. On one hand, things go bad way quicker over here. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I used to hate it when I’d find something in the back of the fridge and think: how have you not gone bad yet? That’s gross in a whole other way. I know what I’m eating here is pretty fresh, which is a good thing.
I also refuse to not enjoy some of the amazing culinary delights they have here. I joke that my main four food groups are now bread, cheese, chocolate and wine, and it’s not that far from the truth. In moderation, sure, but back when I was obsessed with dieting, I would have never let myself eat a chocolate eclair. Now it’s like, bring it on. Thing is, when you let yourself enjoy the really good stuff, no guilt allowed, you’re satisfied with less. My advice to everyone everywhere is to throw out any food that’s been designed for “dieting.” It leaves you craving more and never satisfied.
The other thing is I have given up skim milk. I have drunk skim milk since I was a kid, and recently had been hearing some not great things about it. My plan already was to give it up in Switzerland, and thank goodness I was prepared for it, because they don’t have skim milk here. Or rather, I did see some ridiculously expensive skim milk under the Weight Watcher’s brand, but that just goes to show how uncommon it is. It has to be branded as a “diet” food. Anyway, the only milk we have is whole milk, which X drinks. I don’t drink it in large glassfuls like I used to, but enjoy it in my coffee and cereal in the morning. Instead of milk with dinner, we have water or wine. I think this is actually making a big difference in my weight. Even the wine seems to be healthier here. I’ve heard before that there are less additives in European wine, and I’ll believe it. I’ve yet to have even a mild hangover yet, even when Z and I split a bottle together.
All in all, I am overwhelmingly happy with the lifestyle in Switzerland so far. I’ll leave you with a great recipe I made the other day. I did say I would attempt crepes, now that I have a for-real non-stick frying pan, and it worked out so well. This holds to my principles of eating: real food, and simplicity.
Banana Nutella Crepes
I had heard that Europe was Nutella crazy, but I wasn’t prepared for by how much. The stuff is everywhere. So might as well join them, right? This recipe is modified from one I found on the Food Network, by Michael Chiarello. I am certain his crepes are beyond delicious, but the recipe was a little intense from what I wanted, with added sugar. Instead, I just used the base crepe recipe, leaving out the stuffing and topping, and just used ripe bananas and Nutella. Results: amazing.
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (I had to eyeball this, because no measuring tools still)
1 cup flour
2 tbsp butter
The original recipe calls for you to whisk this in a non-reactive bowl. Snort. I was happy that there was any bowl at all I could use to whisk stuff in, so don’t get too precious about your bowls. Whisk together eggs and milk. In separate bowl, mix flour with salt and cinnamon. Over low heat, melt butter in a pan.
Add the egg and milk mix to the flour and salt and mix well so that there are no large clumps. Add the browned butter and mix to incorporate, being careful not to overwork batter. The batter should just coat the back of a spoon. If seems too thick, thin it out with a little more milk or water. Let the batter rest for 1 hour prior to cooking crepes.
After the crepe batter has rested for 1 hour, heat 1 nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 ounces of the crepe batter to the pan, remove pan from heat and tilt slightly to spread the batter over the entire pan. Return to heat. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom side is lightly browned. With your fingertips and a spatula, carefully flip crepe and cook the second side for about 15 seconds. Set the cooked crepe on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used all of the batter. You should be able to produce 8 crepes, but I started to get lazy and made them thicker, so we got about five.
All you have to do then is spread some Nutella down the centre, and lay down some bananas. I tried to drizzle more Nutella over them, but I couldn’t get the spread to a liquid consistency, so I just sort of tried to artistically add some more on top. They were so delicious, just melt in your mouth. Perhaps my new favourite Sunday morning breakfast.