back to the grind

Things have been so busy around here, but it’s hard to believe I haven’t had time to write even one short post. Considering that I’ve spent on average 10-12 hours per day working since last Thursday, I guess it’s not such a surprise. And taking pictures has been pushed even farther down my list of priorities. Mostly this is because at the end of a long day I just don’t even think about taking shots of my food – I just want to eat. But also we don’t have a very camera-ready set up where we live now, and I’m hoping that when we move we’ll be able to fix that.

Meantime I don’t think I’ll give an accounting of what all I’ve eaten since last I posted. This weekend I wasn’t very assiduous because finding places to work outside the house that also offer food I considered acceptable on the diet was pretty difficult. And at the end of the day, I started to get a little tired of salad. But I’m back at it now, and I think Monday was a pretty good day.

Day 15 (of 42)

  • Breakfast: skipped
  • Lunch: some trail mix (made it myself, with: mixed nuts, pistachios, coconut shavings, goji berries, dried mango, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, sprouted watermelon seeds, date pieces), and an apple
  • Dinner: portobello mushroom pizzas, 1/2 c pineapple
  • Late Night Snack: peach crisp with topping of pumpkin spice granola (with pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, and coconut instead of oats)

Day 16 (of 42)

  • Breakfast: 1 c. pineapple, an ounce or so of aged cheddar cheese
  • Lunch: salad (chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, corn, carrots, cheese, hard-boiled egg, spring mix, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, ranch dressing)
  • Afternoon Snack: hot chocolate made with whole milk, cocoa powder, and coconut sugar
  • Dinner: mushroom-chard enchiladas
  • Late Night Snack: chocolate chia pudding (coconut milk, cocoa powder, a spoonful of coconut sugar, and chia seeds)

 

Portobello Pizzas

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 c. pizza sauce
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. pepperoni

Directions:

  1. Scrape gills from portobello caps and remove stems. Drizzle each with olive oil, and broil for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add onions and cook several minutes, or until fragrant and beginning to become translucent. Add garlic and bell peppers and cook, stirring frequently, about five minutes or until vegetables have softened.
  3. Divide pizza sauce between portobellos, then divide onion and bell pepper mixture between them, and finally top with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni.
  4. Broil until cheese has melted and pepperoni is crisp around the edges.

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five pounds down…maybe

It might not come as much of a surprise, but I don’t like to put a lot of stock in the bathroom scale. Partly this is because I often don’t like what I see on it (so I pretend it’s wrong), partly because my scale and my brother’s scale measure me at ten pounds different (so I pretend the heavier scale is wrong), but mostly because I don’t think weight is a complete measurement of a person’s health. As numerous experts have noted, health is about far more than a single number, or even two numbers (if you’re including BMI).

Health is about how far you can walk and bike, how many stairs you can climb, how well your pants fit, and whether you like what you see in the mirror (mental health). These are all far more important measures, in my mind, than your weight itself. If you are happy with where you are, maybe you don’t really need to change. And if you aren’t happy, I understand that sometimes facing the reality of feeling like you need to change so much can be depressing enough that nothing changes at all. In fact it might get worse. Believe me, I understand.

So I’ve mostly given up the scale. But ever since having read that one vegetarian blogger unintentionally lost 18 pounds in one month by going paleo, and having seen a number of different people claim to lose weight AND feel much healthier after giving up grain, I thought it might be worthwhile to break out the scale, say once a week, and just see what it tells me. This week it told me that I’ve lost five pounds since the last time I’ve weighed myself. Is that accurate? Maybe. I don’t weigh myself often enough to know how often I fluctuate on a normal basis, and by how much.

But it didn’t show growth, and I have to admit it’s encouraging, even though I want to not care. Since I didn’t cook dinner on Thursday (usually don’t) and haven’t felt well much of the last two days, I’ll just give a triple accounting of what I ate at the end of this week.

Day Four (of 42)

Breakfast: skipped

Lunch: giant salad: romaine with caesar dressing, hard-boiled egg, avocado, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, crunchy chickpeas, feta cheese, parmesan cheese, toasted corn, balsamic red onions, watermelon radish  –  side note: this salad cost me around $13 in san francisco, which is a pretty good price for a filling, healthy lunch. blue barn (marina or polk st), I recommend it…

Dinner: whole-milk latte, three falafel with hummus, a couple kale-nut chip things, a few handfuls of freeze-dried vegetables, unsweetened hibiscus tea… oh yes, and a bite of my brother’s mozzarella/salami log (he’s NOT doing my diet. he’s doing keto)

Day Five (of 42)

Breakfast: skipped

Lunch: five remaining falafel with hummus

Dinner: kelp noodles with ricotta and peas, some goat cheese and cheddar cheese with two quinoa crisp crackers (pain des fleurs)

Day Six (of 42)

Breakfast: skipped

Lunch: another giant salad! romaine and baby greens with ranch dressing and creme fraiche, beets, carrots, corn, parmesan cheese, chickpeas, kidney beans, green onions, radish

Dinner: 1/2 c poached chicken in garlic broth – I wasn’t feeling too well last night, and my nutritional profile indicated I might be a little low on protein so I thought this might make me feel better, and it did!

Dessert (yes, dessert): a few spoonfuls of lemon-coconut chia pudding, which I’ll put in a later post – although those familiar with chia puddings can probably figure out what I did…

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our rationale, and mushroom cabbage wraps

2014-08-27 19.32.42

Honestly, any diet that allows me to serve a fruit swimming in a shallow lake of butter and maple syrup or honey is a diet that I can on board with. And I realized that on Tuesday I didn’t really describe WHY we are doing what we’re doing. At the risk of offending anyone, I’ll admit that we aren’t doing what is referred to as the “paleo” or “ancestral” diet, primarily because the science doesn’t convince me, but secondarily because I think the entire thing is pretty illogical. However, the fact is that our diet–like, I think, most Americans’–has revolved around grains and meat. This is natural, considering that grains are a “staple” food–they make up a fairly large percent of, I think, most diets worldwide. But while some people may not have a problem healthily integrating their grains with large amounts of vegetation, we are not those people.

We, like many, can make entire meals out of macaroni and cheese, or bread and a roast chicken. This isn’t because we don’t enjoy vegetables, though. On the contrary, when prepared properly they can be just as enjoyable as grains, and sometimes even more enjoyable on their own. I guess it’s because grains are easy and we’re so habituated to them being a staple, and because preparing grains, meats, and vegetables all deliciously without restoring always to one-pot meals can get exhausting. And finally, we eat far too much refined sugar.

I wanted to make this a change of habits, not just a change of ingredients. If I just swapped out the ingredients, we would no doubt be eating copious amounts of cauliflower “rice,” almond flour, and coconut flour. And let’s be honest, even if those options are healthier, would it really be healthy to have a diet comprised heavily of those items? I doubt it.

As I suggested, there may be a few exceptions to the “no-substitute foods” as time goes on. One is granola, which we are using to top our fruit crisp in the mornings, and which has been made of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pineapple, dates, and coconut flakes. Another is crackers, which I will be making out of lentil and/or chickpea flour. Another is our homemade “Larabars,” since my husband was making a meal out of his Clif bars until now anyway and it’s what works for him. And finally, at some point I will probably dip into the vast pool of grain-free, nut-free bread options, choosing something with as few ingredients as possible (I’m looking at you, sweet potato buns or butternut squash flatbread) to help me conquer those insistent bread snack cravings without messing up what I’m trying to do here…

Which is ultimately to see. Just…to see. If it does anything. If it changes anything.

For day three (of 42):
Breakfast: cup of garlic soup with poached veggies and egg; “baked” apple with maple syrup and butter

Lunch: skipped

Snack: a little of my parents’ leftover chinese food (mostly onions, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms); a half-portion of our leftover pumpkin chipotle chili from last night

Dinner: mushroom cabbage wraps

 

Mushroom Cabbage Wraps

(serves 2, with some leftover mushroom mixture. might perhaps serve 3 or 4 with additional cabbage leaves. if you don’t have any pre-cooked vegetables, mince or process the same amount of raw veggies, and cook with the onion mixture until softened before adding the mushrooms.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, grated
  • ~20 mushrooms (enough to fill a 10-c food processor bowl)
  • 2 c cooked vegetables (we used carrots, celery, radishes, turnip)
  • 1/4 c teriyaki sauce
  • 2 T chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 T soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 2 t rice vinegar
  • 2 t lime juice
  • 1 small cabbage, leafed
  • carrot and daikon pickles, if desired
  • fresh green onion, if desired

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook several minutes, until softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, add mushrooms to food processor and pulse until chopped finely, about 10-15 one-second pulses. You may have a few mushrooms that stay stubbornly whole–if that happens, remove the chopped mushrooms and re-process the whole ones.
  3. Add mushrooms to saute pan. Stir frequently, cooking until the mushrooms have released their liquid and cooked it off, and are beginning to brown and crisp again.
  4. Meanwhile, add cooked vegetables to the food processor and pulse until chopped, about 2-3 one-second pulses. Add to mushrooms and stir until well combined.
  5. Add remaining ingredients (to taste) into the mushroom vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it has reached the taste and texture you desire. It should be wet enough to hold together on a spoon, almost like sloppy joes.
  6. Serve with cabbage leaves for rolling, as well as the carrot and daikon pickles, green onion, or any other garnishes you desire. In the picture I snapped, you can see my husband has helpfully added chicken to his, which you can certainly do (although I prefer pork).

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the crust goes… crustless

Here at The Crust life has been going through a lot of ups and downs. Jobs found, jobs quit, jobs found again. We’ve moved three times. It’s no wonder my poor little journal here fell by the wayside. And in the meantime our eating habits haven’t exactly been wonderful. Just four or five posts ago I promised to take my diet in a different direction, but life got in the way again. This time the hubs and I are in it together, and we’re trying it on for six weeks.

The Plan:

  • vegetarian 6 days per week
  • grain-free, refined-sugar-free
  • no soy protein replacements
  • no (well, few) “replacement” baked goods using alternative flour
  • Breakfast: fruit crumble with granola topping of coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. OR soup (miso or broth base with vegetables and poached egg)
  • Lunch: nut-free energy bars for hubs, fruit and nut butters for me
  • Dinner: lettuce wraps, stuffed vegetables, chili, stews, roasted veggie bowls, etc.
  • Snacks: cheeses and lentil/chickpea flour crackers, fruits, nuts

Yesterday was our first day. For me:

  • Breakfast: garlic broth with poached vegetables and stirred in egg (like egg drop)
  • Lunch: apple with peanut butter
  • Dinner: roasted broccoli and sweet potato bowl with beet greens and miso dressing
  • Late Night Snack: pineapple; leftover half-poblano stuffed with corn, goat cheese, and chickpeas

And today:

  • Breakfast: skipped – I still fast when I can
  • Lunch: grapes, apple, peanuts
  • Dinner: pumpkin chipotle chili
  • Late Night Snack: roasted pumpkin with maple syrup and tahini

No pictures tonight, I’m afraid, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things gradually. To make up for it, double recipes!

 

Stuffed Poblanos with Grilled Corn, Goat Cheese, and Chickpeas

(serves 4 as a light meal; add a salad or, if you like, some roasted chicken. if you are sensitive to spicy foods, feel free to use bell peppers or even tomatoes or zucchini)

Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano or anaheim peppers
  • 2 ears corn
  • 5 oz. goat cheese (herbed or peppercorn work nicely here)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 c. creme fraiche or yogurt
  • 1/2 red onion, minced

Directions:

  1. Grill corn directly over the heat, turning every few minutes, until well browned–even slightly charred. Let cool and shuck into the bowl of a food processor. Add goat cheese and chickpeas, and pulse several times until it resembles a chunky paste.
  2. Stir creme fraiche and red onion into goat cheese mixture.
  3. Halve peppers and remove seeds. Fill pepper halves with goat cheese mixture.
  4. Grill 10-20 minutes, or until peppers have softened and charred slightly.

 

Pumpkin Chipotle Chili

(serves 4; in order to make this meal quicker, I “cheated” a little and added a can of refried beans–or in my case a package of delicious seasoned red beans–in order to get a thicker texture and richer taste without an hour of simmering)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sugar pumpkin
  • olive oil
  • ancho chile powder
  • smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small bell peppers, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • chili powder
  • 1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 green onions, diced
  • 2 avocados, diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Peel the pumpkin, cut in half, and remove the seeds and pulp. Set aside half of the pumpkin for another use (I roasted them along with the seeds to eat later). Dice the other half of the pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the pulp, toss with a little olive oil, sprinkle with ancho chile powder and smoked paprika, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake about ten minutes, watching to see that they don’t burn.
  2. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin and cook, tossing often, until lightly browned on all sides. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook a few minutes, until softened, and then sprinkle with chili powder to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan over high heat. When hot, add cherry tomatoes and cook, shaking the pan often, until blistered and some have popped open.
  4. Add chipotle peppers, chicken broth, refried beans, black beans, and cherry tomatoes to the pot. Stir until well combined. Heat to boiling, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for about ten minutes, until pumpkin is cooked through.
  5. Divide into four bowls and top with avocado, shredded cheese, green onions, and pumpkin seeds.

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Three-Pea Chicken Salad

Image

 

For the third (or fourth, or fifth…) time, I’d like to attempt restarting this blog. I took a long hiatus from cooking most anything interesting, partly because of my repeated attempts to fast (more and less successful over the past year) and partly because of my increasingly busy schedule. Still, cooking remains a big passion of mine, bigger than almost anything else. So now, when I can, I’d like to go back to posting some things I made long ago, as well as whatever I make when I can manage something interesting.

The other night, it was this salad. See, neither my husband nor I are big salad eaters. I don’t mind it when it’s well composed, but I can almost never manage to make one at home that measures up to the ones you can get at a restaurant. My husband’s issue is that he just really hates lettuce, because it doesn’t taste like anything and he sees it as a foil for salad dressing, which he doesn’t much like either. So the few salads I’ve made at home have been those with little to no lettuce, and those seem to be well-received. This particular night, I really wanted something with plenty of fresh, crunchy vegetables and a little chicken for texture and protein.

It takes a little longer than usual to make if you do chop and shred everything as indicated, but if you’re feeling lazy I imagine you can just use all of the vegetables whole or in larger pieces.

Image

 

Three-Pea Chicken Salad

(serves 2-3 as a main course; 3-4 as an appetizer; the amount of dressing is enough to dress the salad very heavily. I suggest tossing the salad with a few spoonfuls at a time until you reach the amount of dressing you prefer.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. string peas
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 c. green peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 lb. chicken thighs
  • 3/4 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp. fresh minced)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place chicken thighs in a small pot and cover them with water. Sprinkle in some salt, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Take the pot off the heat and let the chicken thighs cook in the hot water 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. When cooked, take out of the water and let cool.
  2. Heat a separate pot of water to boiling, and salt it. Add string peas, snap peas, and green peas, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until vegetables have turned bright green. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. When vegetables are done, drain and add to bowl of ice water to rapidly cool them.
  3. Drain the vegetables. Pick out the string peas and snap peas and shred them with a knife. Add shredded peas, green peas, and red bell pepper to a bowl. When chicken is cool, shred it as well and add it to the bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon zest (and juice, if using), garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss with vegetables and chicken.

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day 4

My major realization from Day 4 is that the things I picked to eliminate from my diet are things that make it extremely difficult to eat any food not strictly prepared at home. Now, this theoretically shouldn’t be a problem since I am home a lot of the time and can cook all my own meals. But things happen. Some days I’m out when I need to be eating dinner, or like a lot of people there are some days I just can’t face the thought of standing over a stove.

Then I was reminded that if I was really interested in determining the potential effects of gluten on my body, it would probably be best to eliminate it separately from sugar, etc. Maybe it’s an excuse, I don’t know. But the fact is that if I manage to be sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan on any given day, I’ll be lucky. I don’t know if it’s just a lack of willpower and I should try to be stronger, or if it’s not a really big deal. The main point of keeping them out of my diet, after all, is to decrease the amount that I reach for those foods on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s leading to more reaching for potato chips and french fries. Oops.

Really, I think all I can do is just get up each morning and try to do better.

Food Diary, 9/6/12

  • 6pm, 3 oz. potato chips – 375 cal
  • 11pm, 2 slices veggie pizza – 420 cal
  • 11pm, 5 jalapeno poppers – 385 cal
  • 1pm, 4 dates – 95 cal
  • Total ~ 1275 cal

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day 3

Yesterday was definitely not a success on many levels. I ended up eating a little bit of something I shouldn’t have on all three counts: macaroni + cheese, definitely a not-vegan, wheat pasta, with some sugar in the mix. Yikes. That’s what happens when I’m not prepared and am making a snack for someone else, I guess. Was the addition of broccoli a redeeming factor? I think yes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Other than that, I did definitely feel a little bit spacey and woozy. Possibly that’s because I went on a bike ride when I hadn’t eaten anything all day long, but it wasn’t a very long bike ride after all – only about 4 miles one way, and 3 miles when I came back a few hours later. But then it was crazy – after I ate the mac and cheese I felt hugely energized. I ate again – something better for me – a couple of hours later and then ended up walking 4 miles and staying up until 6AM. So I’m not totally sure what the effects of food on me were versus just having interesting conversations or whatnot, because it’s certainly not the only time I’ve eaten that late.

Food Diary, 9/5/12

  • 6pm, Bolthouse 100% green smoothie – 90 cal
  • 10:30pm, Pirate’s Booty – 65 cal
  • 10:30pm, organic mac + cheese w/broccoli – 200 cal
  • 12am, potato salad (recipe below) – 460 cal
  • 3am, PBJ oat crackers – 470 cal
  • Total ~1285 cal

 

Warm Tuna + Potato Salad

This salad is sort of a way simplified version of a French Niçoise-style salad, but you could jazz it up any number of ways – such as adding capers, olives, or other vegetables or garnishes. Or, you could reserve the tuna oil and whip up a vinaigrette, pouring it over all of the salad components – and you could chill it! Basically, endless variations. But for a quick, easy meal, here’s how I did it – serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1 c. frozen green beans
  • 6-8 oz. jar of tuna packed in oil

Directions:

  1. Cook potatoes in salted water until nearly done – about 8-15 minutes depending on the size of your potato pieces. Add the green beans about a minute or two before you take the potatoes off the heat. Drain potatoes and green beans.
  2. In the same pan, add the tuna and oil, breaking up the tuna a bit with the back of a fork if necessary. Heat over medium heat and add in potatoes and green beans when the oil is hot. Cook another 5 minutes, or until potatoes are completely cooked. Salt to taste.

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