Tag Archives: food

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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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.

The Curse of A&W

Last Thursday, the host one of my regular writing groups said he would provide ice cream as a snack. Wanting to contribute, but not wanting to compete with my host, I brought something I felt would go with the ice cream – root beer for root beer floats. One guest and I had root beer. I was the only one that put my root beer together with ice cream to make a float, and it wasn’t very good. I wondered whether I had ever really thought it would be good. The root beer guest declined to take the root beer home with him.

So, I took the root beer home. Naturally, I have options besides throwing something away and eating it straight – I can cook with it. Yes, even A&W root beer has recipes dedicated to it online. It’s also a reasonable shot to try substituting it for another popular dark soda – the ubiquitous Coca-Cola. This was my first experiment.

This experiment was cut short when, moments after my root beer sauce began to bubble, Alice fled from her room coughing. In addition to being unappetizing and unhealthful, A&W contained compounds to render the atmosphere of our apartment unbreathable.

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A&W root beer is specially cursed, even among soft drinks. It has 45 grams of sugar per serving.

After we spent some time eating supper on the porch and venting the house, Alice glanced at the oven burner and pointed out some egg that had fallen under and generated the deadly, invisible smoke. My experiments could continue! Nevertheless, I had soured on making a root beer sauce. Instead, I took advantage of the sheer quantity of the root beer to make a tofu marinade.

I added the same ingredients as for the coca-cola sauce, but proportional to the extra root beer. I added a generous helping of sesame seeds and left the tofu to marinate overnight. Then I cooked it for 20 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees. IMG_20170819_115442928 The result was delicious. Alice said she could taste the root beer. The best part? It nearly used it all up!

The remaining root beer went into a root beer chicken recipe. This used substantially less root beer, but made up for it with a full bottle of barbecue sauce. It’s no New York Times recipe, but it tastes a lot better than swigging the stuff straight.

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Now there’s only dredges of root beer left, and I have food for the weekend. Thus, the curse of A&W was broken.

Vancouver

This was the first image that greeted me upon leaving Vancouver airport. Indigenous totem poles rising behind a food cart selling Japanese style hot dogs.

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As it turns out, this was representative. Vancouver is an international city, and the staple foods are not maple syrup and poutine, but sushi and ramen.

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IMG_20170802_125948120_HDR.jpgThe restaurants for these and other foods will commonly have lines out the front. They’ll happily tell you the wait is fifteen minutes, and then let you stand around for thirty. One of my colleagues abandoned the group so that she could get a seat without having to wait another thirty minutes for a table of five. I can’t judge too much, since it was two seats she nabbed, and when she pressured me to take the other one, leaving me with the choice of abandoning the rest of the group or her herself, I acquiesced. Fortunately, the others simply wandered on and found food elsewhere.

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At one noodle bar, there were Canadian flags everywhere. I commented how I had thought that Canada would not engage in such displays of nationalism.

Our Canadian friend replied, “well, I guess recently we’ve been feeling rather proud here in Canada.”

“How recently?” I asked.

“Well,” he mused, “I guess ever since the American election.”

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At the #1 restaurant in Vancouver according to Tripadvisor, Jam Cafe, the line started at 7:35 AM, twenty five minutes before opening. I was at the front of the line since I arrived at 7:00.

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My reward for my wait was not the chicken and waffles prominently advertised, which I can find anywhere around home, but rather pulled pork and pancakes. It was heavy and wasn’t as good as its poultry counterpart, but I was glad to have tried it.

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Other interesting bits of the unusual culture include the absence in my apartment building of a fourth floor. In Chinese, the character for four is the character for death. In fact, there’s no floor with a four as any digit. Alice pointed out that there is also no thirteenth floor. Equal opportunity superstition.

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My best find of all, though, was this set of billboards. Look closely at them and try to figure out what they’re intended to communicate.

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I spoke to a native who said that these billboards had been on that wall for ten years, but that he still hadn’t figured it out. My theory is based on the colors. Red means “don’t say this” and green means “do say this.” It is a public service announcement about how to speak to your child.

Alice hates when I don’t include some kind of concluding statement, so in conclusion, don’t expect Vancouver to be all lumberjacks, beavers, and moose. I didn’t see any of those things. Expect lines, crowds, and delicious Asian food.

(cover image is from outside the Vancouver Aquarium)

Bah Hahbah

As I write this entry, I am sitting in a breakfast joint, possibly the only one in Bar Harbor, Maine (as the locals call it, “Bah Hahbah”). It is 6:15 AM, and the establishment is packed. A woman in a shirt depicting welsh corgies floating through space emitting comically bastardized dog sounds (e.g. “bork bork.”). Her accent seems out of place. Mostly Eastern European, although not without a flair of upper New England. I have ordered the wild blueberry pancakes, which I am told are the best in Bar Harbor.

The waiter stops by with my food. She is from Kiev. The pancakes are thick and goopy, soaking the chunky wild blueberry sauce that came with them. Butter, served as a scoop in a plastic cup, melts and sinks into the surface of the pastries until they become saturated with the purple sauce, at which point it sits on top in a white and purple swirl.

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As a savvy reader may have guessed, food has been one of the main attractions of my trip to the harbor so far. My first experience with the area was a Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed rather standard Americanized Japanese fare in an atmosphere juxtaposing faux traditional affectations with color-shifting neon lighting. Our waters were served with what were described as “hand-twirled” drinking straws, and the tea included traditional style cups, except that they were four times the size. The water had a subtle spicy taste, and my aunts, with whom I was traveling, assured me that this was due to high heavy metal content.

IMG_20170708_135517814.jpgWhen we arrived at our rental house, supper was salad with grilled cheese in a much more literal form than one might expect. Halloumi is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that holds up under heat, and thus can be sautéed in a pan, giving it a beautiful browned appearance and a taste that lives up to what one might imagine if you fried cheese in a pan.

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Dessert was s’mores. On the theory that every dessert can be improved with judicious application of alcohol, I tried drizzling whiskey on my s’more. The first bite, I only added a drop and couldn’t taste it. The second one, I poured on half a capful, and the s’more burned my mouth and throat. Thus I have eliminated “pour straight whisky on top” from the list of ways alcohol could improve s’mores.

Murder, chocolate pudding, and ponies

I was playing a game this week in which you play a little rabbit creature with magic powers. The unstated goal was to murder everything in sight, for which you were rewarded with experience that made you stronger in interesting and fun ways. At one point my little serial killer came upon a creature she had been chasing, who was now stuck under some rubble. The protagonist rescued it and the narrator of the game informed me that she had reminded this creature that there is still kindness and mercy in the forest. After accepting the stolen artifact for her inspiring love, the protagonist blew up an owl with two magic missiles and used its soul to empower her to do so again in the future using only one magic missile.

 

dark chocolate orange pudding recipe

On Friday, I made orange dark chocolate pudding for a party. I’m not sure it was the right snack for that venue. I didn’t put as much effort into the presentation as the above picture. People liked the dish for not being excessively sweet, and even though only three people out of eight (including me) ate any, one person may have had three bowls of it. I still have an awful lot left over, so I’ll take some to my co-workers who expressed interest on Friday when I mentioned I was going to make it.

But the crowning story of this week, if we include the prior weekend, is that Alice got to go visit the wild ponies of Virginia.

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Enraged, a wild pony viciously attacks Alice’s hip.

It is illegal to pet these ponies. Please witness in this picture, Alice is not petting the pony. To my knowledge, there are no laws in the state of Virginia against being eaten by ponies.