Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

You Ruined Me

 

Our pizza finally arrived at the restaurant’s table, a short, squat number whittled by craftsman from freshly rescued wood. We were sitting just across the kitchen in our favorite bricked-out, tricked-out neighborhood pizza place, a hip joint that serves stuff like blistered shishito peppers with aioli (aka: garlic mayo) for an appetizer and tops pies with ramps and brussel sprouts and hen of the woods (it’s a mushroom). We’d chosen our standby spicy soppressata with drizzled honey (burns like heaven) and the one with frizzled kale, burnt lemon and grana padano (sounds fancy, tastes like parm).

“You know you’ve ruined me, right?” my husband says while lifting a hot slice of gourmet pizza to his lips.

“How’s that now? I’ve ruined you?” I’d always heard you couldn’t change a man, but apparently I’d done the impossible. Perhaps this pizza was God’s reward.

“Yeah, you’ve ruined me. I’m a huge snob now because of you. Before you I didn’t care about food and now look at me. You think I can go back to Domino’s after stuff like this?”

milkflower pizza

Milkflower Pizza, Astoria 

 

When I met Vinny 15 years ago his skinny ass was barely surviving on a diet of boiled hot dogs and Entenman’s crumb cakes. He used to bring a dozen donuts to the office, plop them on his desk in the morning and nibble his way through the pink box all afternoon. He did this once a week, and called it “Donut Day”. He still eats a shit-ton of donuts, but now they’re from places where they cost $4 each and come in flavors like Hibiscus, Lemon-Poppy and Dulce de Leche with a smattering of sea salt.

“A couple people at work were talking about their favorite sandwiches and I totally laid into a guy who said he loved Subway,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? I see that “bread” baking but that’s not bread! It smells like chemicals and crumbles when you touch it! Ugh, and those meats that have been sitting out all day? You call that a sandwich?!’

“You ruined me. I’m a snob.”

I’d always wondered if he cared about the efforts I made through the years to provide him with sustenance that not only covered his basic nutritional needs but also titillated his palate in a unique and surprising way. I sometimes worried I’d embarrassed him by sending him to work with little tubs filled with quinoa and herbed pestos or kale salads topped with toasted nuts and tiny currants. Turns out, I had broadened his horizons.

food market in montreal

I felt kind of bad that his personal brand of snobbery hadn’t rubbed off on me at all. I still couldn’t tell the difference between digital and film and I continued to watch romantic comedies he’d pass off as pure drivel. Still, I considered it a personal victory and a testament to our relationship that I’d made it through The Tree of Life without falling asleep. That was his influence, for sure. I didn’t understand half that existential shit, but maybe I’ll give it another crack.

Dessert came and we tucked two shiny spoons into three perfect mounds of rich gelato– chocolate-chocolate chip, fresh strawberry and for a little dose of food snobbery– an extra creamy ricotta.

“Which one’s your favorite?” I asked with a wink.

“Well, what do you think, Jenn? The ricotta. God damn, that’s good.”

 

 

 

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Man and Wife Making a Pizza

 

I once made one of those big lists where I wrote down everything I want to achieve in this lifetime. Chief among my goals were things like buy a house, write a book, and touch soil on every continent. Also on the list:  Master pizza crust. Dreams come in all sizes. Sometimes they’re even gluten-free.

The truth is, when you live in New York City, there’s no real need to master pizza crust because you can buy the best possible version of it on your street corner.

So last Friday night we did. Sorta.

sopp pizza

I really wanted to recreate a pizza from our favorite place–the Spicy Soppressata from Milkflower–because it was way too cold to schlep across town and order it in the restaurant. Plus, I was already in my pajama pants, and once those are on there’s no turning back. You know what I’m talking about.

I was all prepared to make my own dough, but the idea of getting out the stand mixer and waiting for yeast to rise sounded like more work than I was willing to put in. When Vin offered to pick up some dough from the pizza shop around the corner, I thought it was a grand idea. If you’ve never done this before DO IT NOW. Call your local pizza parlor and ask if you can buy some of their uncooked dough. It’s the best three bucks you’ll ever spend. And while I’m living in this area, it’s safe to say that “master pizza crust” is no longer on the big bucket list, freeing up some hours to work on the book and travel the world. Time is money, people.

Amazingly, even with someone else’s homemade dough, I struggled while transforming it into a worthy crust. I have this great pizza stone and I still don’t know the best way to use it. Do you preheat it? Coat it with oil? Sprinkle it with cornmeal? I posed all these questions to my husband, not because he’s a native New Yorker and is thus expected to understand the seminal rules of pizza-making, but because I’m weird and stubborn about looking things up on the internet and wanted to talk it out instead. One other thing you should know about me– I’m terrible with following instructions and prefer to “wing it”, almost always to my own detriment.

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J: “Hey Vin, are we supposed to preheat this stone, or what?”

V: “Why are you asking me this? Look it up online.”

I skimmed something quickly and learned that the stone should be pre-heated for 30 minutes at the highest possible temperature. But once that phase was complete, I still felt confused about how to get the dough and the sauce and all the toppings on without burning ourselves silly on the hot pan. At the pizza shop they have one of those wooden planks to transfer the pan from the oven to the counter. I don’t have that kind of set-up.

J: “Hey Vin, how are we supposed to get this dough on the pan? Do we take the pan out of the oven? What happens if the pan cools– will the whole thing not work right? Do we put oil on it?”

V: “I have no idea.”

J: “Too late.”

V: “What do you mean too late?”

J” It’s too late. I already put oil on it.  I sorta dropped a piece of cheese on it too.”

V: “On purpose?”

J: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Impulsively, I’d opened the oven door and drizzled olive oil on the pizza stone. But then I was left with the dilemma of how to spread the oil evenly on a pan that was already screaming hot. I couldn’t use a spatula or a paper towel– plastic and paper would surely melt. And so, for reasons I still can’t explain or justify, I picked up a thick piece of mozzarella and used it to spread the oil around the pan. It obviously started to melt immediately after I touched it to the pan, so in a moment of panic and (in my opinion) quick reflexes– I flung the molten cheese onto the kitchen counter.

My husband looked at me like our whole life together was a huge mistake.

Okay, so coating the pan with oil and cheese was not the way to go. Got it. So I took the pan out of the oven and wiped down the grease with a paper towel. Then I rolled the dough onto the stone, loaded up the toppings and popped the pizza in the oven. We were back in business.

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Ten minutes later, I had more questions.

J: “How do I know when this thing is done? Isn’t the crust supposed to be brown and kind of crusty?”

V: “From now on, I’m going to consider all of your cooking questions rhetorical.”

J: “That’s just rude.”

V: “Hey, when it comes to food, I can tell you how much mayo to put on a mayo sandwich, and I can tell you if the filling in a Twinkie is still fresh, but that’s about it. You asking me cooking questions is like me asking you how to move midi regions over as entire blocks and not in individual notes.”

J: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

V: “Exactly.”

 

Anyway, this delicious pizza is brought to you by Vinny’s sarcasm and my poor judgment.  Mangia.

 

Hot Soppressata, Smoked Mozzarella and Sweet Honey Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza crust (homemade, frozen or bought uncooked from pizza shop)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 hot soppressata sausage (sliced very thin)
  • 1 cup smoked mozzarella
  • cup mozzarella or parmesan
  • 1 cup caramelized shallots or onions
  • honey, basil, oregano, red chili flakes

Directions

Slice shallots or onions thin, then cook them over low heat with butter or olive oil to caramelize. Season with a bit of kosher or sea salt.
Once pizza stone is hot, roll dough onto the pan and layer with tomato sauce, soppressata, cheese and shallots. If you can’t find hot soppressata, sprinkle red chili flakes on pie to add heat.
Bake until crust is brown and cheese is melted. Drizzle with honey, oregano and a little sea salt.

Vin: “Do you want to save this piece of cheese on the counter? Put it in some kind of museum?”

 

 

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The End of the Whole 30: What Happens Now

 

We did it! We made it a full 30 days of whole foods with no cheating. I’m really glad I stuck it through to the end so I could share some genuine results.

My last whole30 update included a lot of whining and bitching. I was NOT feeling this program toward the end of it, and was having a really hard time seeing the point in doing it.

I have no idea what changed. Oh wait– yes I do. Vinny came home.

Here comes some Valentine’s week sap for you, but a big source of my moodiness that third week of the Whole 30 was not so much about what I was or wasn’t eating, but the fact that my husband was out of town and I missed him terribly. He came back from his trip, and suddenly my mood wasn’t so edgy anymore. Funny how that works.

Anyway, last Tuesday wrapped up the Whole 30 for us, and we were both hesitant about what came on Day 31. Well, not me. I knew exactly what came on Day 31. COFFFFFFEEEEEEEEEE. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la YAY!!!!

me and big tea

The next morning I was so excited I woke up early, before my alarm. I whirred up some beans in the grinder– good stuff from Dean & Deluca Vin had put in my Christmas stocking– and mentally prepared myself for one of the greatest mornings of my life. I added the flourishes that had been banned during the Whole30– half & half and some turbinado sugar– consciously using less than I usually do.

And then I sat down, turned on the Today Show, and started drinking.

And I felt NUTS.

Not good nuts. Bad nuts- like those weird Brazil nuts everyone purposely leaves in the bottom of the can after all the cashews and almonds have been picked out. The caffeine and the sugar rushed through me and I felt an intense, almost immediate high. It was 6:30 in the morning and I was bouncing off the walls. I was singing in the shower like Mariah Carey. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing. I’d had plenty of caffeine in the form of black tea throughout the Whole30, but I’d had no sugar in 30 days, so the minute it hit my blood stream it felt like my circulatory system was hosting a rave. I’d eaten a protein-rich breakfast in hopes of preventing a feeling like this, but to no avail.

Predictably, hours later at work, I crashed. Really, really hard. Around 11 am I felt absolutely starved, and the first thing that hit my brain was that I really wanted carbs. I hadn’t felt that way in a month, and it felt awful. Later into the work day, I was more sluggish and fatigued than I remember ever feeling before. My eyes were so heavy I could barely keep them open. I had a mild headache too. Coffee with light sugar and milk was the only non-compliant thing I’d had all day, and the result was terrible. I have to say, this was the most eye-opening experience of the whole thing. Now I understood why I was doing it in the first place.

For the record, this is totally not how you’re supposed to reintroduce foods following a whole 30. You’re supposed to do it very slowly, and very methodically, adding different foods one at a time so that you can see which of them you’re sensitive to. Clearly, like everyone else, I have a strong reaction to sugar. And that’s what will change the most in our diets following this experience. The way we incorporate sweets into our lives.

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First of all–and we’ll see how long this actually lasts– but we’re going to start treating desserts like real treats as opposed to nightly habits. I’m knocking out white sugar, and replacing it with unrefined sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup and sucanat. Same goes with flour. Out goes the white stuff, and in its place will be ground oats and nuts. I baked something this weekend from the Oh She Glows cookbook, replacing all refined stuff with healthier alternatives, and they were terrific, so this isn’t something I see being difficult.

I will also make a real conscious effort to make all lunches an equal balance of carbs, fat and protein. The lunches I made throughout the whole 30 (usually a combination of baked, boiled or grilled chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, kale or avocado) kept us satisfied and full until dinner, without bloating or fatigue in the afternoon. Lunches will be pretty plain, but they’ll do their job and get us through without crashing in the afternoons.

At the end of the day, this will probably be my last Whole30 experience. I think I’ve learned enough from it that I don’t need to do it again. In fact, we had our first meal out after Whole 30 on Saturday night, and we both ordered meals that were totally compliant, so something must have stuck. Vin would probably eat this way for the rest of his life if I kept up with the cooking (PS: not happening). He really loves it, and notes feeling physically awesome. Aside from the coffee with milk and sugar (which I now drink decaf, with coconut sugar and soy milk), I can see a lot of our meals still being clean. At the same time, life is short and doughnuts are spectacular.

Let’s not get crazy– I still love to cook and eat, and I have no plans to eliminate any food permanently from my diet. Except for capers and olives, but trust me…that’s no sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

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My husband is out of town, and I’m REALLY tempted to cheat.

 

I am really not feeling like myself this week. I feel edgy and irritable, and like I’m about to jump out of my skin. Vinny has been in L.A. since last Thursday and while I’ve never cheated before, I fear I am growing dangerously close. The temptation is killing me, and I’m dying to take this edge off.

Seriously, this Whole 30 crap is getting on my last nerve, and I really want to throw in the towel.

What did you think I was talking about?

So, I already knew this about myself, but extremes are not for me. I am pretty good at moderating myself, and I’m not enjoying the hard fast rules of the whole 30 program. I’ve noticed a real spike in moodiness, crankiness and even mild depression over this past week, and it’s not physiological. The psychological effects of being told everyday that I can’t do something I want to do are very real for me. Sometimes I want just a little piece of chocolate after dinner. I can eat tons of avocados, but I have nothing crunchy to scoop them up with, which just feels like a crime against Tex-Mex. And of course, I am longing for a cup of coffee with cream and light sugar in the morning. To be honest, I don’t wake up as enthusiastically or easily as I usually do because I don’t have coffee to look forward to. Is that pathetic?

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Last night, while waiting for the “historic” blizzard to actually touch base in New York City (spoiler alert- it never did), I made a pot of pulled pork and butternut squash chili, and it was bangin’. BUT I couldn’t stick any Fritos in it or grate my own snowstorm of sharp cheddar over the top, and it truly felt like less of a comfort. Afterward I whined to my mother on the phone, “THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE!”

So why am I still doing this to myself? If I’m just gonna bitch and whine about it, why finish?

There are two key reasons why I won’t quit. The first one is the promise I made to Vinny, who actually has it much harder than me this week, as he’s out of town and hanging out with a friend he enjoys sharing large boxes of donuts with. If you’re going to travel anywhere on this diet, I imagine L.A. is probably a really good one, but I know it’s still really, really tough to eat this way away from home, so if he’s going to stick to it, so am I.

The second reason is to prove to myself that I actually can do it. It’s quite rare that I set a deadline for myself and make it, so having a bit of determination and sticking to a goal I set for myself is important to me. Plus, I mean, sheesh. If avoiding sugar and dairy and carbs for a few weeks is my biggest hurdle in life, I’ve got it pretty effing good. Plus we’re so close! A week from today, we’ll be totally done.

So today, because I already called all my clients and cancelled their appointments in anticipation of an EPIC and HISTORIC blizzard, I will stay home and indulge myself in things I love to do. I will play records and write. I’ll take a long stroll through the snowy neighborhood. I’ll probably eat another bowl of chili and softly weep because I cannot pair it with cornbread.

And I’m going to bake some cookies.

Because that’s what the human brain tells you to do to feel cozy on a snow day. You bake. So I will.

I won’t eat them, of course. I’ll roll the dough into a ball and pop it into my freezer so Vin and I can share hot, fresh, sweet, delicious cookies at the end of Day 30.

Sometimes we celebrate with food.

So shoot me.

I told you I was edgy this week.

cookie

 

 

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Another Whole30 Update: How I Feel About Food

So, you know how everyone’s always complaining that time is moving too fast and their life is just passing them by? Well, I did it. I cracked the code. I have solved this existential crisis.

All you have to do is go on an eating plan that eliminates two dozen of your very favorite things in life.  TIME WILL CRAWL. I guarantee it.

I’m writing this on Day 17, and I swear the last two weeks have been the slowest in my life. People say December flies by because of all the frenzied holiday shopping, socializing and traveling. I say it’s the cookies. Cookies are fun, and time flies when you’re having fun.

And that’s my complaint  about the Whole30 Challenge. It’s not fun. Sure, I get a few jollies cranking out zucchini ribbons with my spiralizer, and it’s a bit of a tickle creating something new with somewhat limited ingredients, but overall, it’s made the art of eating completely perfunctory. Eating this way is exactly is what it’s supposed to be– it’s eating for fuel, for energy, for sustenance.

whole 30

 Dude…cauliflower can be made into pasta sauce!

whole 30

But I love eating for joy. I love cooking with joy. I love sitting around on my couch, drinking coffee with milk and sugar in it while reading cookbooks, dreaming of recipes I will create with joy.

So, that’s why eating “clean” 100% of the time is tough for me. It’s turned something that I often feel creative and inspired about into something that sometimes feels like drudgery (ie: endless food prepping) and occasionally makes me feel like I’m missing out on life’s best experiences. Sharing meals with others is wonderful, and right now I’m a pain in the ass to eat with.

This weekend, my friend Bridget and I went to the Bronx, simply because neither of us has spent a lot of time in the Bronx. We made our way over to Tremont Avenue, the Little Italy section of the borough. It was cold, so stopping into a cafe for hot drinks and pastries was a given. I sat there and had a plain black tea, and that’s it. I was proud of my ability to resist, but now I was that annoying person who sits across from someone enjoying their pastry while drinking black tea.  I almost jumped a waitress who floated by with a tray of cappuccinos, and when the kitchen door opened and the smells of fresh cream and sugar blew into the cafe I have never inhaled so deeply. I’m surprised I didn’t pass out.

In better news, Vin and I discovered Hu Kitchen, one of the only restaurants around here that is completely paleo. It felt like a hip, healthy adult cafeteria but instead of greasy pizza and milk cartons, everyone had organic chicken and a head of broccoli on their tray. We even saw a post-yoga Olsen twin walk in as we were heading out. I have no idea which one it was, but I was under the impression that they both survived on cigarettes and Starbuck’s, so I was surprised to see her there.

Anyway, for all my complaining, I’ll also say that my stomach and my skin look better than they did two weeks ago. I’m writing this while wearing a pair of jeans that haven’t fit comfortably in about a year, so there’s that too.

Truth be told, I’d rather be drinking coffee with milk and sugar in my slightly bigger pants.

But I’m sticking this thing out, no matter what. I’ll check back in again next week. Off to unsubscribe from the 25 instagram accounts that keep torturing me with pictures of doughnuts…

 

 

 

 

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Whole 30, Week One

As all good post-holiday cliches go, Vin and I decided to do the Whole30 at the turn of the year. We waited until the Monday after New Year’s, and let me tell you, I hit the cheese spreads hard in the days leading up to our descent into clean eating. Sometimes I can still hear the goat cheese crying.

If you haven’t heard of the Whole30, here’s a quick summary: It’s not a diet or a cleanse, it’s considered a “nutritional reset” where you eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet for 30 days, then reintroduce them slowly to see what might be problematic for you. You basically eat whole foods only — organic sources of protein like beef, eggs, chicken and fish, all vegetables, avocados, nuts, and fruits. On the no-can-do list are all processed foods, any type of sugar or sweetener, alcohol, all grains, all dairy, all soy, all unrefined oils. It takes a lot of planning, mindfulness and determination. We’ve done them before– Vin has actually completed two without me– and it was time for another. Here’s why.

DSC_2569Hey! Look at me all dressed up for Christmas dinner at Dad’s house. I swear we weren’t super-imposed.

central texas

Somewhere in Central Texas…

We spent nine days in Texas over the holidays, basically eating ourselves silly as we drove from town to town. Something happens to me when I go back to Texas; it’s almost like I forget what a vegetable is or that there’s virtue and purpose in eating one. Allow me to reminisce and give you some samples of the meals we ate there. You’ll notice one recurring color. That color is brown.

catfish and okra

breakfast burrito

 

texas pecan pie

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We did go bike riding one evening in Austin, but even that was part of a food tour. And the bikes were electric so if you were too full from tacos and mini-donuts all you had to do was push a little button and the bike would yank you on up the hill.

Now do you see why we’re doing this?

At this writing, it’s day six and if I saw you walking down the street with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar I’d probably yank it right out of your hand and never look back. Vin would wrestle a bear to to the ground if the reward was a box of donuts. We dream about sugar the way some people aspire for fame or large amounts of money. I would also really like to jump inside a bag of sour cream and onion chips and eat my way out of it. But other than that–we’re doing great!

Here’s a breakdown of what the past few days have been like:

 

Results so far: Noticeably flatter stomach, reduced sugar spikes and crashes, great energy during workouts, reduced bloating, solid sleep

Complaints: Pretty nasty withdrawal headache on day two, cravings, difficulty managing social activities (I find eating out to be less pleasurable eating this way), constantly planning and prepping for the next meal

Favorite Meals:

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Ginger-garlic broth with shredded chicken and spiralized zucchini noodles

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A typical Whole30 lunch for us: organic chicken breast cooked in coconut oil, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, 1/2 avocado and a quick sauce of cilantro, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

 

I’ll check in with a weekly update until we complete this sucker. I was a Whole30 dropout the only other time I did it, and only last 20 days. This time I intend to complete all 30. I love all those posts people write with their results at the end and I would like to be one of those people.

Have you ever done a Whole 30? What were your results like? Did you change any of your eating habits as a result?

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The Whole 30 Wrap-Up

The Whole 30 Wrap-Up

My “Whole 30″ (okay, whole 20) experience is over, and I’ve been reintroducing stuff back into my diet that I had cut out for three weeks. Nothing has occurred that would cause me to eliminate a whole food group altogether, but I will say I have had at least a mild reaction to everything I’ve introduced back.

But I did this reintroduction thing all wrong. I started off strong and just brought back dairy on its own, but it was downhill from there. Word to the wise:  If you’re looking to do a through investigation on what your body will react to, don’t be like me and have a party where you enjoy cheese, cookies, bread, pasta, pastries and booze all in one night. Don’t treat your belly like a science experiment.

As far as I can tell, I’ve had mild reactions to gluten, corn products (boo) and dairy. The stomach aches and mild discomfort after eating have definitely returned. I think a visit to the doc might be on tap, and a return to cleaner eating is imminent. The difference in how I felt after eating clean was very noticeable, and I’d like to continue feeling that way.

I’m still curious how the results would have been different if I’d gone the full 30 days instead of 20, but I just didn’t want to risk having bad reactions on vacation. Still, here are the results I noticed after 20 days of eating like a cavewoman on the Whole 30 plan.

whole 30 challengeEating like a cavewoman is not so bad!!

RESULTS:

Weight Loss:  I lost about 3 pounds in 20 days without a real change in the amount of exercise I’ve been routinely doing. Vinny, who really has no weight to lose, complained about losing a few pounds too.

Improved Skin:  I got a few compliments on my skin “glowing” while eating clean. Hard to determine the true culprit as the temperature shot up to 90 degrees that week, but two days into reintroducing dairy, I had a breakout.

Reduced Bloating:  This was the biggest plus for me. For months, I have looked and felt bloated after meals. When eating clean…no bloat! My pants fit more comfortably and I was able to wear tighter shirts without feeling self-conscious. I also noticed more definition in my arms, despite doing very little strength training!

Stable Blood Sugar Levels:  This was a great change too. Without the carbs and sugar, Vin and I both noticed that we weren’t experiencing any spikes and dips throughout the day. I never experienced the “incredible energy boost” a lot of people who did the Whole 30 wrote about, but I definitely felt better in general, and Vin said he did too. Once bringing coffee back in, I noticed feeling much more sensitive to the caffeine, sugar and milk.

Decreased desire for sugar, carbs and dairy:  I wasn’t looking forward to day 21 so I could finally! eat a piece of cheese or bread. The only thing I felt that way about was coffee. I was actually kind of nervous about what I’d feel like after eating these foods again. The best benefit of eating clean (even for a short period of time) is that it has redefined my taste buds and cravings. Vegetables taste so fresh and flavorful. Pineapple is just incredibly juicy and sweet. Salads with healthy fats and protein are really, really satisfying. Avocados are still the creamiest and the dreamiest.

 

TIPS: 

 Choose two days a week as food prep/cook days. I did the bulk of my prepping and cooking on Sundays and Wednesdays, which kept a constant flow of ready-to-grab-and-eat meals at our fingertips. Chopping broccoli into tiny pieces and taking all the stems off of kale early in the week made throwing them into various dishes a cinch.

whole 30 challenge

Whole (organic) chickens are a lifesaver!  I buy a whole chicken every week (and have for a long time) and boil it for both the broth and the meat. The shredded chicken is perfect for quick lunches for work. Top it with avocado or herb sauce. Throw it on top of salads and in stir-fries. It’s such an easy way to pack in lean protein. Then you can use the broth for soups, curries and other recipes.

Cauliflower rice and zucchini pasta are the greatest things since sliced bread. Trim your cauliflower into florets, pulse a few times in your food processor, and you have “riced” cauliflower. Make long skinny strips of zucchini with a julienne slicer and you have zucchini pasta. It’s like tricking your brain when you’re craving a carby side dish.

Find a few recipes for homemade Larabars.  I’d never had a Larabar before the Whole 30, and I’m a fan for life. But dang! They’re expensive! The makers of that product should never have revealed just how clean they are…they’re so easy to make at home! Pulverize dates in a food processor, then mash in nuts, coconut, and dried fruit. Great snack that really satisfies a sweet tooth.

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Peel and roast 4-5 sweet potatoes to have on hand throughout the week.  God bless the sweet potato. These things are magic. And good with everything.

If you can get whomever is living with you on board, it’ll make things a whole lot easier.  Eating clean and being consistent would have been far more difficult if my husband had been bringing Twinkies and Pringles into the house. We were a great influence on one another, and I was surprised by both of our willpower.

 

FAVORITE RECIPES: 

Roasted butternut squash boats stuffed with beef and caramelized balsamic onions

Eggplant curry over cauliflower rice (I adapted the recipe, swapping out shrimp for diced eggplant and replacing curry powder with thai red curry paste and lots of turmeric)

indian caulfilower

Indian spiced cauliflower

Big salads with shredded chicken, avocado, carrots, radishes, nuts and garlicky dressing

Pork, pineapple and basil stir-fried cauliflower rice

zucchini pasta

Zucchini “pasta” sauteed with garlic, shrimp, cherry tomatoes and onion (use a julienne slicer to cut zucchini into long strands, then saute with olive oil)

Roasted root veggies (parnsips, sweet potatoes and onions) with a fried egg on top

Mashed plantains sauteed with onion and garlic, served with fried egg and avocado

Kale sauteed with olive oil, garlic, dried cranberries and pecans

Homemade larabars with dates, unsweetened coconut, pecans, almonds and sea salt

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Neither one of us was expecting this 20-day experiment to be a life-changing experience, but I have to say that it really was. At least where food is concerned.

Vin and I both learned a lot about what feels good for our bodies (and our bellies) from doing this challenge, and will be using that information to influence what we buy, how we cook and what we eat from now on.  It’s already much easier for me to imagine cooking this way, and we’ve both been hesitant to eat grains, dairy and any processed foods. Vin continues to snack on whole fruit instead of chips at night, and he didn’t even participate in National Doughnut Day last Friday. If you know my husband, you know that his abstention from this festivity warrants the declaration of a whole other holiday.

We will probably stick with a clean, paleo-ish diet, 75-80% of the time. I’m too much of an experience junkie to give up any food group, especially when eating with friends, hosting parties or traveling. But yes– we are believers!

Here’s to eating and feeling good, no matter what path to eating you choose!

 

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The “Whole 30″ Diary: Week 3

The “Whole 30″ Diary: Week 3

We successfully completed another week on the Whole 30 plan, but in an effort to not bury the lede, let me announce up front: We will not be going the entire 30 days. Wop-wop.

The more I read about the “reintroduction” phase of this challenge–where we reincorporate the foods that have been eliminated to see what are inflammatory to our systems– the more freaked out I have become about the aftermath. We go on vacation in two weeks, and if we did the whole 30 days, we’d start the reintroduction while in Paris. I started this thing on a whim without really considering the timing overall. Oops. Now I don’t know about you, but having gastrointestinal issues while chowing down on a baguette with brie sounds like a real buzzkill. So, we end on day 21 instead and try to sidestep le distress de gastro while on vacation. Tres magnifique!

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Here’s how the week shaped up for us:

Day 15- 16:  If we stick to anything after this challenge is up, it will be packing lunches the way I have for the past two weeks.  This sounds weird to say, but I may never boil a bag of pasta again (the horror!). I often used pasta or quinoa as the “filling” component of packed lunches, with the result of feeling sluggish and heavy in the afternoon. After this, I’ll definitely be sticking with some of the easy lunches I’ve made this month because we definitely feel better throughout the day. Examples of great meals were salad topped with grilled chicken, avocado, radish, carrot and almonds and shredded chicken topped with an easy chimichurri sauce, sweet potatoes and garlicky broccoli.

DSC_9520Lunch days of yore: Lotsa pasta with veggies on top.

lunch time mango salsa

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Lunch days of the future: Veggies and fruits with protein and healthy fats on top

Day 17:  It is a rainy, crummy, chilly day and on days like this, curling up with a mug of coffee sounds like the only thing in life that’s important. Vin and I do a few errands during the day, including a trip to the grocery store, where we lap the perimeter and avoid the middle.  I find myself looking in other peoples’ carts out of curiousity. I have to point out that stuff in boxes is far more prevalent than stuff with leaves, and I can certainly understand why. Eating the whole 30/paleo way is not cheap, and because everything is perishable, shopping must be done every few days.

Tonight we are having dinner with one of our favorite couples, Jen and Jackie, at their lovely apartment in Brooklyn. They are two of the healthiest whole-food eaters I know, so dining at their house will not be a problem. Jen tops her adorable polka plates with yummy rosemary sweet potatoes, beets with horseradish and absolutely perfect shiitakes. I brought kale sauteed with pecans and cranberries to help contribute to the most colorful meal ever! For dessert, Jen whips up banana soft-serve ice cream and I made coconut-pecan larabars. We are feeling smugly healthy.

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Day 18: I made a good Sunday breakfast, based on a meal I had in Hawaii last year. Roasted root vegetables served with a fried egg on top! I seriously can’t make an attractive egg to save my life, but this is something I plan to be making a lot during the week. Just roast some parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions with rosemary, salt and sage, then top with the eggs. Holla!

egg and roaste veggie

Had short ribs for dinner. Methinks red meat will definitely not be as prevalent in my life from here on. I’ve eaten it a few times and have never felt stellar afterward.

Day 19: Memorial Day, so we open up the grill for the first time this season. We both wonder what we’d been waiting for (I don’t know… maybe some consistently sunny warm weather?). I wish we’d been grilling earlier in this challenge, as having grilled chicken on hand to throw on top of veggies makes meal-planning a cinch. By the way, have I mentioned that I’m pretty bored of eating this way?

Day 20: Tomorrow I start reintroducing foods back in. I want to give myself enough time to bring back dairy, grains, etc. one by one so I can get a clear idea of what’s been causing my stomach aches and bloating. I’m starting with dairy. Hello coffee with milk and salad with goat cheese!!

Next up: I’ll post a summary of our results, including my favorite recipes from the last 20 days, and tips for surviving a Whole 30 should you choose to do one!

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The “Whole 30″ Diary– Week 2

The “Whole 30″ Diary– Week 2

We have just finished week 2 of our Whole 30 challenge, and we’re still very committed to staying the course! No cheats, and we’re seeing nice results–we always feel full, we never feel sluggish, and our bellies feel less bloated. Here’s a day by day look:

Day 8:  I am good at many things. Making eggs is not one of them. Since I have spent the majority of my breakfast eating years nibbling on toast, english muffins, oatmeal and other sweet and bready breakfasts, I find the egg to be a bit of a foreigner to me, at least on busy weekdays. But now I’m cracking ‘em up all the time, and while they taste pretty good, I have a knack for making fried eggs look absolutely dreadful.

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I hate to admit this, and it saddens me to say it, but…I feel better without my morning coffee(s) than with it. Ugh. I didn’t want that to be true. But no, I don’t need coffee to wake up and I have felt more consistently energetic throughout the day during the last 8 days than I have in a long time. Still, I miss coffee more than anything else– far more than cheese and carbs, surprisingly.

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I miss it not only for its terrific taste, but also for the sheer ritual of it. I miss waking up and holding that hot little mug in my eager hands. I miss stepping out for a quick break with a co-worker to indulge in a little late afternoon liquid love. I miss my friend. Java will be returning to my life on June 8th, just with a lot less sugar and milk. Right before filling my cavity last week, my dentist asked if I’d considered switching to black coffee. I looked at him and in all seriousness asked, “What do I look like? Some kind of an animal?” I’m thinking (hoping, rather) that after being off sugar for a month, I’ll need less to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’ll probably switch to a good decaf too.

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Just as we settle in for a nice dinner of beef and broccoli stir-fry over spaghetti squash (instead of noodles) and coconut aminos (instead of soy sauce), I ask Vin to share how he’s feeling a week into this thing. Rather than complain about withdrawal from baked goods and missing the staff at Dunkin’, he says that he feels great and really likes eating this way. He mentions that he always feels satisfied, but never uncomfortably full like we did when eating meals like pasta or other carby dishes with cheese. He also mentions that it feels easier to wake up in the morning and his sleep has improved. He actually said, and I quote, “I can really tell that there is a connection between eating well and feeling good.” Somebody call a tow truck. My big ass jaw is on the floor.

Day 9:  Today is Saturday and we’d like to go out to eat. I’m finding going out to restaurants to be a big drag on this Whole 30 program, because so much of the menu is off limits and I’m used to choosing my dishes based on desire rather than practicality. We go to Bare Burger, one of the places in our neighborhood where we know we can get multiple offerings of organic meats. Vin gets the elk burger and I get bison; we have them wrapped up in lettuce leaves instead of buns and leave off the cheese.  WHO ARE WE?  My very lean burger is tasty, but I’m pretty sure the order of onion rings at the next table just winked at me.

We meet up with Vin’s friend, who is in the process of cooking a huge, delicious meal for his girlfriend’s birthday dinner, and is out in the hood food shopping. We foolishly accompany him to a local beer and cheese shop where pretty much every single item is off limits to us for the next few weeks. The beer holds little appeal, but I stare at the cheese counter with the type of longing reserved for someone who’s recently left for war. We make the rounds through the neighborhood, picking up massive amounts of kale, parsnips and broccoli rabe at the produce market, two juicy steaks and a whole chicken at the butcher and a bouquet of pretty flowers from the outside stand. I always feel like I live on Sesame Street when we do our shopping this way. I kinda love it.

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Day 10:  Sunday morning is when I want coffee the most. It’s not uncommon for me to make a pot of coffee and sip on that until noon instead of eating. Terrible, I know. I do tons of food prep today. That’s what I like least about this way of eating. I am always cooking. But truthfully, it’s not really that different than the way I usually cook. Lots and lots of veggies with a side of protein. Except two weeks ago I would have thrown it all on top of  a batch of grains and topped it with cheese. I find that it’s just as satisfying without both of those extras.

We make steak, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe for dinner. Vinny is in heaven. I think this way of eating is pretty easy for him, as burgers and steaks are his comfort foods. My comfort foods are things that come wrapped in or stacked on tortillas, filled with refried beans, melty cheddar and roasted poblanos. You can take the girl outta Texas, but you can’t take the plate of Tex-Mex out of her grubby, coffee-bean stained paws. Until she goes on the Whole 30, that is.

Day 11:  I woke up this morning and ambled into the living room to see that Vin made a run to the grocery store last night for snacks. This usually involves a seriously delicious-looking bag of potato chips or cookies. You know what he bought last night? Three oranges and a box of cherry tomatoes. It’s like living with a stranger.

My stomach is definitely flatter. I like the way it’s looking, and I haven’t said that about my stomach in a little while. I think my jeans are looser too, but it could just be because they’re from the Gap and Gap jeans stretch out ten minutes after you put them on. I’m not sure if I’ve actually lost weight or not because you’re not supposed to weigh yourself through the 30-day period. I don’t have a scale anyway, so that rule sort of worked itself out.

Day 12:  Vin and I start fantasizing about what we’ll eat when this is over. We both agree that we’re going to take ourselves out for milkshakes. I’m a little concerned about what it will feel like when we start reintroducing foods back. Will it be worth it?

Day 13:  I miss some stuff, but my cravings aren’t terrible. Plus, we’ve been eating really well and we’re never left feeling hungry. I don’t get the shakes anymore from my blood sugar dropping in the afternoon. My body tells me that I’m hungry, but not in that desperate, manic, “If I don’t eat something right now I’m going to lose my shiz” kind of way. Here’s a little peek into what I’ve been cooking:

cauliflower fried rice

Cauliflower fried “rice” with stir-fried broccoli, green onion, cilantro, garlic, red peppers,

shrimp and chicken

(*Cauliflower is riced by shredding it in the food processor; there’s no actual rice in this dish)

kale chicken stirfry

 Chicken, sweet potato, onion and kale stir-fry with crushed pecans and dried cherries

big salad

Mixed salad with organic shredded chicken, carrots, radishes, avocado, toasted almonds in

lemon-olive oil dressing.

salmon and tons of kale

Broiled salmon with raw kale salad with radishes, almonds, avocados, lemon and olive oil

lunch time mango salsa

To-go lunch: grilled chicken topped with mango/pineapple salsa, avocado, and roasted sweet potatoes

tortilla soup

Tortilla soup (sans tortillas) with a big scoop of guacamole!

Alright! I’m off to cook some more! More homemade Larabars and  butternut squash boats stuffed with ground turkey and caramelized onions.

Anybody else ever do a Whole 30? Would you? (I swear…it’s not that bad!!) PS: They have meal plans for vegetarians too!

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The “Whole 30″ Diary- Week 1

The “Whole 30″ Diary- Week 1

 

Have you heard of the Whole 30? It’s not a diet, it’s considered a “nutritional reset” that helps people rethink their food choices in 30 days. I am currently on day 7, and it’s been an interesting journey so far. I hesitated posting about it because I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested, but I figure it’s a good way to track my progress and how I feel throughout.

For the last several months, I’ve been reacting differently to food. Maybe it’s just a result of getting older (sniff, sniff), but I just can’t eat the way I used to. I feel puffy and bloated much of the time, and I’ve been getting minor stomach aches after most meals. It’s become clear that I have at least a minor intolerance or sensitivity to something, but because I eat pretty much everything, it’s been difficult for me to put my finger on the culprit.

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Enter the Whole 30. The goal is to eat “clean” for 30 days– organic and grass-fed protein sources, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and avocados (oh, so many avocados!) and cut out the stuff that causes inflammation (dairy, gluten, sugar, soy) in many people. Once the 30 days are up, I plan to slowly reintroduce the foods excluded from this list so I can identify what’s been causing me to feel less than stellar and make appropriate adjustments in my diet.

That means no dairy. No wheat. No gluten. No soy products. No alcohol. No processed foods. No sugar or sweet substitutes including honey. No legumes. No beloved coffee with cream and sugar.

For 30 days.

And my husband Vin, who loves Dunkin’ Donuts only slightly less than he loves me,  actually agreed to do it with me. What a guy.

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Okay, here we go.

 

Day 1: So, not to be dramatic or anything, but I’m pretty sure that I’m dying. I feel awful. I can’t believe how poorly my body is reacting to not having coffee or carbs this morning. My body is a big whiny baby. Apparently I really am a junkie. Symptoms include an unbearable headache that won’t go away with Advil, nausea, and unbelievable fatigue. I am actually grateful that not many clients have shown up to see me today, because I’m pretty sure I would be useless to everyone. I look online–apparently this is typical in the first few days and is known as “carb flu”. I wish there was a shot for this. Of whipped cream. Or chocolate. Or goat cheese. Oh man, this is going to be rough.

A work colleague I barely know stops in the doorway of my office and says, “You don’t sleep well, do you?”. I laugh politely but really want to tell him never to say that to anyone again. Isn’t “you look tired” just a slightly more polite way of saying “you look like shit.”?

This sucks. All I want to do is sprawl on the floor and take a nap. Then I want to wake up and start the day over while standing underneath a rippling waterfall of sweet, creamy coffee. I’m day-dreaming about it.

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I get home at 7, eat dinner at 7:20 (thank God I made some chicken soup yesterday–it’s the absolute perfect meal right now) and now I’m headed for bed. It’s 8:10. The sun is still out. So am I.

Day 2: I survived! Headache is subtle, but not nearly as severe as yesterday.  Pack lunches for me and Vin; leftover shredded organic chicken topped with chimichurri sauce, a bit of broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes and avocado slices. I also throw some almonds in baggies for each of us. I can already tell that planning ahead will be absolutely critical to our success. I’m also realizing there’s a lot of really good stuff to eat this month…

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My first client of the day tells me I look like I’ve lost weight. This can’t possibly be true after a day, but I like whatever she’s seeing. I’m not doing this to lose weight, but if five pounds magically fall off in the process I wouldn’t be mad at ‘em. My second client of the day offers my first temptation– a big gorgeous tub of rice pudding from a well-known rice pudding spot called Rice to Riches that I’ve always wanted to try. It is basically everything I’m not supposed to eat all wrapped up into one sweet-smelling package– white rice, whole milk, tons of sugar. I kiss it goodbye and hand it off to a co-worker friend. Not the dude who said I looked tired. He gets bupkis.

Day 3:  It’s Saturday, which presents the weekend challenge of eating with people who are eating differently than me. My friend calls while I’m en route to meet her, and asks if I want  her to pick up a coffee for me. It pains me to say no, but I do it. Then I meet up with some gal pals, and we head out for brunch. I’ve never put any restrictions on my food choices before, so this was different for me. I’ll have the chicken sandwich, without the cheese, and on a bed of arugula instead of a bun.  I felt like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. My meal was pretty boring, and it was kind of a bummer having to drink black tea while everyone else had fun French Martinis, but turning down alcohol is not a big deal for me. I’m way more envious of things like english muffins and melty cheese.

Vin picks me up later and has a goody bag filled with Whole-30 friendly items, including Larabars which I’d never had before. What a fool I’ve been! These things are delicious!

Day 4:  I’m gonna give coffee with coconut milk (and no sweetener) a shot. I’m excited about this. This is gonna be good. And then I drink it. Blech. Yuck. I hate it. Not happening.

Today is Mother’s Day, so we’re headed to Vin’s parents’ house. We’re grilling meats and I’ve been assigned to bring some veggie sides, so this is perfect. We can probably slide under the radar without having to explain our new weird eating habits. We eat dinner, and no one even questions us when we don’t reach for the bread basket, the macaroni salad or the delicious looking chocolate cake. I’m shocked, frankly, and pretty impressed with Vin for sticking to the plan despite plenty of temptation.

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Day 5:  They’re imperceptible to anyone else, but I’m noticing some changes. My belly isn’t bloated, and my face looks less puffy. No stomach aches either. I doubt I could eat paleo forever– it’s really too much meat for my taste– but I definitely see some changes in my diet coming down the pike.

Day 6:  I miss crunchy things. Tortillas baked in the oven. Crackers. Popcorn. Sigh. It’s only 30 days. And at least I can eat bacon.

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Day 7:  Today’s Wednesday. I don’t work on Wednesdays so this is officially my errand-running, food-prep day. After having a cavity filled (and sharing the good news with my dentist that I’m off sugar at least temporarily), I head to the organic shops in my neighborhood and pick up some goodies, including dates, which I’ve never really used before in cooking or baking. I find a recipe online for homemade Larabars, and know Vin will be one happy guy when he sees what I’ve created! Homemade “pecan pie” Larabars made with pulverized dates, crushed pecans, a splash of vanilla and unsweetened shredded coconut. Delicious! I also whip up a batch of frozen banana-coconut milk soft serve and pop that in the fridge. 

The thing that’s hard about eating this way is all the planning that’s involved. I feel like I’m constantly cooking or prepping food, and I have to think two meals ahead. But week one is done, and neither one of us fell off the wagon and we both feel good. I’m pretty sure Vin goes to bed every night dreaming of Entenmann’s cakes though.

 

 

 

 

Has anyone else tried a Whole 30? What did you think of it, and how did it change your eating habits? 

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