Whole30 – Day One

I was originally going to start my Whole30 diet on Monday, but when my decadent pre-diet feast turned out to be a horrifying abomination*, I figured maybe I’d be happer if I just got started on the diet right away. The Whole30 diet is based on eliminating the most common complication-causing foods from one’s diet for thirty days, then reintroducing them in a controlled fashion to identify the main candidates for permanent exclusion.

In my opinion, being now a one-day veteran of the Whole30 diet, the secret is planning. This may not be the case for my mother, who is an epic-level chef with the hardcore grit to cook a completely different meal every day and who lives a five minute walk from an organic-friendly grocery store, but us ordinary mortals, we should not just dive into Whole30 head-first. I took a half-Whole30 diet (No, not Whole15, that isn’t anything) last week to get a sense of how far I could go with my meal plan.

I had just bought a box of assorted meats at the farmer’s market, so my plan was to slow-cook a pasture-raised whole chicken on a bed of vegetables. These included carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and onions as well as some diced garlic and ginger. I didn’t get started eating it until Wednesday because I was still finishing off West African peanut stew leftovers (peanuts are not Whole30 compliant). Nevertheless, to my surprise, I don’t burn through the chicken nearly as fast as I thought I would.

What was the secret to my sudden intuitive portion control? Twofold, I believe. One, I think that health concerns are less of a motivation for me than the sheer inconvenience of finding and making food in Whole30. A constant specter haunting me as I ate that chicken was the day it would run out and I would have to cook it all over again, so I portioned it carefully. Second, I did not think of food portions as discrete, but continuous. Rather than eat n meals per day and either finish each or not, I treated everything as a snack to eat until I was satisfied and then put back in the fridge for when I was hungry again.

Besides the chicken and vegetables, I had beet, carrot, kale, lemon juice, banana, water smoothies for breakfast. Yeah, water. No milk, soymilk, or yogurt on Whole30. It works better than you’d think. My other snack is hard-boiled eggs. This week I have several snacks. I’m so excited about the prosciutto and the smoked salmon that I have to remind myself they’re really there to rescue me when I run out of or realize I suddenly can’t stand my usual items. I mustn’t eat them all up on the first day. I still haven’t opened any of them. Just a little earlier tonight I was worried when I ate two hard-boiled eggs that seemed to do nothing for my hunger, but the effect was just delayed and soon I felt great. Fist pump for me!

This coming week I’m going to see if I can get through on two pork chops. I’ll have lots of veggies and hard-boiled eggs plus my smoothies so I think I’ll be in good shape. These thirty days are going to fly by!

*Think macaroni and cheese with two pounds of chorizo sausage. Or don’t. Yeah, probably you shouldn’t think about it too hard.

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When you’re feelin’ dull

Rather than post an actual blog entry, let me put this up. This is for my “utopia knife” that my father got me for my birthday. It think this manual may have been written by an actual knife.

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There are a lot of good lines here, but in particular let me point out

Due to knife steel need hardness, then the steel must be including carbon element which decide it rust resistant. It is very professional filed. More information, please check in google about knife material.

I think what this is saying is that Utopia knife is a knife, and has a knife’s needs. I understand. Knives are people, too. Also, some carbon element somewhere just up and decided it was rust resistant. Or something. We here at Utopia knives don’t actually understand knives very well, and suggest you look on the Internet for someone who knows what they’re talking about. If you can figure out what the deal is with this knife stuff, please let us know.

Due to different customer with different use habit. When you feel dull, please use the knife sharpening tool to make it sharp again in a right sharp way.

I never feel dull. My life is a mile-a-minute thrill ride of which my Utopia knife should be honored to be a part. I just can’t figure out why my knife won’t cut things.

Customer Service:
If you have any question for the knife. Please contact our customer service Utopia will keep improve.

I have so many questions for my knife. What do you think about during a long day of chopping? Do you get lonely when I leave you in your drawer for a long time? Would you say you’re more into chopping meat, or are you a vegetable kind of knife? How do you feel about my blender? Utopia knife, do you love me?

If I can be honest, I asked these questions of my old knife every night and it never answered. I’m not sure I’m ready to trust again, but maybe someday soon I’ll contact customer service.

 

Getting the shakes

After another kitchen accident, this time involving the immersion blender instead of the mandolin, I decided to get something better for the heavy-duty blending and food processing I wanted to do. Basically, I hate to chop vegetables, so I wanted something that could chop them for me. The Ninja Master Prep set is a blender motor that sits on top of any of three blender pitchers of different sizes. The smallest is known as the “chopper” and is good for chopping vegetables.

If, that is, you don’t mind having to already chop the vegetables into small enough pieces to fit in the chopper. It’s good for dicing, and that’s something. When chopping onions, I just cut them into quarters and throw them into the biggest pitcher where they become onion puree. I’m pretty happy with the onion puree. The flavor is great, and it’s easier to cook evenly, although it does bubble in big splashes of onion if you’re not careful.

My onion puree went into an African peanut stew with similarly made tomato puree (use roma tomatoes and you don’t have to chop anything!) and sweet potatoes (chopped into cubes in the normal fashion). After cooking I add tofu, also cubed via conventional methods (please comment if you know of an auto-cuber). I find it surprising how much I like unflavored tofu just tossed into soup.

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What I’m making even more of now, though, is smoothies. Bananas, nuts, chia seeds, soymilk, yogurt, spinach, it’s all good.  As you might have noticed in the featured image, I like them thick. Two shakes a day if I can’t get more. When I don’t have peanut butter I just use my delicious red-skin peanuts. They blend right up and the skins add even more nutrition.

Cooking for myself is so much easier with my soups and shakes, I don’t use my company’s cafeteria hardly any more. My additional control over what I eat lets me maximize my vegetable intake and cut out sugars and saturated fats, so I’m looking forward to the benefits of that if I can keep up with it. Moving as much chopping as possible to chambered blades means fewer frustrating kitchen accidents, so I heartily recommend blender-based (and mostly blender-based) cuisine!

Seed Crackers

Another opportunity to post pictures of food and pass it off as a blog entry! Yesterday I made crackers out of seeds. I got the recipe from an app called 8-fit. I take credit for the brilliant name, though. They just call them “healthy crackers.”

All you have to do to make them is combine sesame seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds with water. The chia seeds soak up the water and become a binding agent, then you cook at 400 degrees for 35, flip and cook for 25.

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The texture is pretty cracker-like, and you can add a little salt and garlic powder for flavor. They’re packed with protein, and sesame seeds even have calcium. They’re so easy I might make them a staple.

Zombie Bloodflies of the Chesapeake Bay

I was on a boat the other day on the Chesapeake Bay.  Water in all directions as far as the eye could see. So where were all the flies coming from? Big black flies flitted from leg to leg, and they bit. These were biting flies.

Fortunately, there was a swatter aboard. I went to work on the flies. Since they were full of our blood, the flies splattered in red goop. If they did not splatter, that was even worse they might return. These bloodflies rise from the dead no problem. We got to the point where we would smack the flies and then stomp on them. If they didn’t end up in stomping range , three or four more smacks to make sure they were in several pieces seemed sufficient to preclude any fly resurrections.

A dead fly, unfortunately, attracted more flies. They continued to arrive from nowhere to feast on the corpses of their comrades, which the smack of the swatter drove into the air to land elsewhere on the boat. The flies’ tricks didn’t end there. The skipper had evidently become enamored with the flies, and suggested that we should respect them instead of killing them. I was tempted to smack this turncoat to see if he himself dissolved into a swarm of carnivorous flies.

Still, the flies kept coming. Soon, we were sure we were under attack by yellow-jackets, but the flies had just gotten bigger and gained yellow and black stripes. We began to worry that in a few hours they would be as big as rats and detonate in showers of smaller flies when swatted, but soon we had made it back to land. We fled into the bathroom and hid until the flies lost interest.

9/10, would recommend.

Opening Lines

The opening line for my novel, the one based on my blog serial of the same name is probably not yet what it should be.

My memory of that day becomes clearer as the events become stranger.

It’s not a bad hook, but I think it’s too vague to serve for the whole novel, which is meant to do more than simply hold a reader’s interest. This line tells the reader (a)  the narrator is remembering things and that her memory is sometimes fuzzy, and (b) the events in the book are strange. (b) is true and worth communicating in an opening line, but probably not sufficient. (a) is utterly worthless, perhaps even misleading. Placing it in the first line suggests that fuzzy memories are a key element of the novel, which they are not.

What is the main theme, though? Robots are becoming as smart as humans, and their motives are as difficult to understand as they are counterintuitively mundane. The protagonist Diane has a dead husband Benjamin of whom she often thinks and whose death is mysteriously intertwined with the world in which Diane now lives.

I should not reveal too much, though. An opening line should not be a spoiler.

How about this?

Despite what people might think to look at me, I personally wasn’t around to see the plains of North Carolina and Kentucky rise into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the wintry glaciers retreat from modern day Wisconsin, the once prolific Montana bison driven to near extinction by a foe it would never understand. It’s the sort of change no one expects to live long enough to witness firsthand.

It all started with a change I may rather have died than live to see. One involving the little library off Old Fayetteville Road.

It’s certainly more epic. It clearly tells the reader “this is about the United States of America,” and I can work in references to the events in this line throughout the book as Diane visits these locations in her journey. It also says “the protagonist is old” and “something big is going to change in the universe of this book.” Also, there’s a library. It is a little odd, though, just how epic it is. I intend my book to describe a historic paradigm shift, but are the behavior of ice sheets, tectonic plates, and large mammals an appropriate allegory?

Despite what people might think to look at me, I personally wasn’t around to see the mule give way to the tractor. I didn’t witness the horse and buggy be replaced by the car, nor did I watch John Henry kill himself in a desperate bid to prove he was better than a drilling machine. A drilling machine that has certainly become ten times more powerful, cheap and efficient since. What I did see starts at a place that I thought would be the end of my story.

This probably has the opposite problem. It may be too on the nose, so to speak. It says “Machines are replacing people.” I don’t want to bash anyone over the head. Let them get into the story, then I can work them towards the more important points.

Probably the best thing to do will be to revisit this several times, especially after I have a first draft written of the whole book. Then I’ll have a clearer sense of how my theme comes together, which will help me craft the opening couple sentences. I also should keep paying attention to opening lines of other books.

Purple Tofu Time

I realize it seems like I talk about tofu sticks a lot, but you see, statistically, one could argue that the apparent proportion of tofu stick mentions is artificially increased by a perception of a proliferation of tofu stick-based posts. So, now that you’re all convinced that it’s fine for me to write another tofu stick post, here goes.

Hot off my big success making root beer tofu, I ran out to Harris Teeter to get ingredients for cheerwine tofu. Once I made it there, I got ahold of myself. Was I really going to deliberately enter the situation I had decried just weeks earlier? Surely cheerwine is better than root beer. Is it, though? I distinctly remember thinking I was going to enjoy that root beer when I bought it. Once I’ve bought cheap soda specifically to make a recipe, I can no longer claim to be the clever DIY’er making the most of the unfortunate circumstance of having such stuff in the fridge. So I classed it up. I bought cheap wine.

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I specifically picked red wine in order to give the tofu some color, and color it it did.IMG_20170909_111439616.jpg

I also added sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce. I should have added more spices, because the sticks turned out a little bland this time. The most tragic part, though, was that the purple cooked away.

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Glossy black is a fine color for tofu sticks, especially dotted with the light sesame seeds, but it’s no vivid purple. Like always, though, in the end the sticks proved to be the convenient, filling snack that I can constantly change the marinade recipe for and safely keep outside a refrigerator for hours. Expect many more posts on this delightful class of dish.

It's about whatever I say it's about