Friday, March 20, 2015

Whole 30 Wrap-Up

On February 16, I started Whole30. I gave up all sugar (except that naturally occurring in fruit), all grains, all legumes – of course, I was already dairy-free. Basically I’ve be eating fruits, vegetables, meat and nuts. The first two weeks I ate eggs too, but they were making me congested, so I gave those up too. I also haven’t eaten food from any restaurant since February 15 either. It was intended to be a 30-day challenge, then see what direction I wanted to go from there with my eating. Here's what I've learned: 

1. I don’t think I could do the Paleo diet full-time. I’m tired of meat. Without eating eggs or beans, its pretty hard to eat meat-free and still get enough protein. *Note: Eggs are allowed on Whole30, but I am sensitive to egg whites. 

2. I don't miss sugar that much. Carrots taste sweeter now. Apples and clementines are great. A bowl full of berries with nuts make a good "dessert." I wish cantaloupe was in season.

3. It’s also been tough to enjoy social events with friends not eating out at restaurants. Physically I can handle this kind of restrictive eating plan, but mentally it is a challenge. I got a little depressed towards the end after turning down several invitations to go out with friends. I did go out with family a couple times and just drank water, but that was also hard. Especially when they want to linger and chat and all I can think about is the fact that I haven't eaten and my food is elsewhere.

4. Planning ahead is integral. Optimal eating requires setting aside time every single day to plan and/or prepare meals. Weekend prep helps a lot - bags of cut veggies, shredded, cooked chicken, browned ground beef/turkey/bison in the fridge ready to go and an assortment of nuts in the pantry helps a lot, but every day I still had to plan the next day out and make sure I had plenty of options. It is tough to find quick options at a convenience store - nuts are about the only option. I found keeping serving size bags of almonds in the car to be very helpful on long days out running my daughter around. Fruit would be good too, but that wasn't an option for me because it was below freezing for much of the last month. Half frozen produce isn't very appetizing.

5. Whole, clean eating is not cheap. Organic produce is expensive. Quality, grass-fed meat is expensive. My grocery budget was blown out this past month - good thing I wasn't spending anything at restaurants! I also had to shop a lot more frequently because I used fresh produce almost exclusively and had to go to the store at least once a week.

6. Reading labels is harder than you may think. This wasn't really new information for me. I've fallen into the trap of making sure something was dairy and/or egg free and completely missing the gluten. One day a couple weeks ago, I wanted some trail mix. Several kinds had added sugar and I got so caught up in looking for sugar that I didn't realize it had peanuts until I opened it. Fail.

My future plans are to continue to eat as much whole food as possible – cooking from scratch – and continue to try to eat less sugar, especially refined. But I will not be as restrictive with the ingredients I use in meals. I will be adding legumes, brown rice and quinoa back into my diet, in a little more moderation though, limiting these foods to one meal a day. 

 It’s been an education in willpower and food planning and how I choose the foods I eat.

One last note, I did lose 7 lbs over the 30 days as well, but I doubt I'll start weighing myself often enough to really track this.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Whole 30...and so it begins

I started Whole 30 on Monday and finding foods to eat hasn’t been as hard as I thought it might be. I don’t really miss my morning shakes (yet) and I’m still having fun with finding new recipes. I have had a headache everyday so far, but it sounds like that’s pretty normal. Today was the first day I didn’t feel too hungry though.
Here’s what I’ve eaten so far:
Breakfast – Diced chicken breast and avocado; banana
Lunch – meatloaf muffin, baked red potato with coconut spread, steamed broccoli
Dinner – Taco salad with ground turkey

Breakfast – Potato, steamed spinach + kale, scrambled egg, mixed berries
Lunch – Taco salad
Dinner – Stir fry with steak, baby bok choy, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, snap peas and garlic.

Breakfast – Hard-boiled egg with dried dill, cashews, blueberries, ½ banana and clementine
Lunch – baked sweet potato with coconut oil, steamed broccoli, raw bell pepper and about 3 oz of leftover steak
Dinner – Chicken breast, tomato soup

Breakfast – scrambled egg, potato, steamed spinach and kale
Lunch – tuna & avocado salad lettuce boats, orange
Dinner – Sauteed cabbage with mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, and ground turkey.
I also discovered the wonderfulness that is a banana with almond butter and coconut flakes (and a sprinkle of cinnamon).

Friday’s plan:
Breakfast – leftover cabbage and ground beef + hard boiled egg
Lunch – chicken breast and artichoke tomato salad

Dinner – meatloaf, roasted red potatoes and green beans

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chilly outside, Chili inside

Have I mentioned I love soup? It doesn’t have to be winter, but warm, brothy soup on a cold day is pretty nice. It’s snowing and windy out tonight, so some chicken soup was perfect. I’ve had chicken chili on the menu for awhile, but ran out of chicken (great planning, huh?). I finally bought some chicken breasts yesterday so I was able to make the soup I’ve been craving. 

This is a quick soup that uses some prepared items, but it could easily be made from scratch too if you want. I got four chicken breasts yesterday and I decided to go ahead and baked them last night to use for multiple meals – lunches and dinners.

Easy Chicken Chili
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar mild salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1 15 oz can white beans
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
Olive oil

Heat about a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and stir until onions are transparent. Add cumin, coriander and oregano. Stir about another minute. 
Add remaining ingredients: cooked chicken, salsa, beans, tomatoes and broth. Bring to low boil. Lower heat to simmer. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Serve with tortilla chips. You can garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream or avocado if desired. About 6 servings.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Curry, curry everywhere

I love me some curry. Any kind. I’ve had Thai curries, Indian curries, Caribbean curries…and some combination of spices that may or may not have been a “curry” in some Egyptian and Pakistani feasts that coworkers used to bring in to break their fasts during Ramadan.

I traveled to Jamaica last fall and stayed in an apartment where we made most of our meals. The grocery stores weren’t as robust as the ones I’m accustomed to at home, so I had to get somewhat creative with some of our meals. I ended up with several rice and bean dishes that I’ve been continuing to make back at home. Here’s one of my favorites that can be made with a few items quickly. It can be made thicker to serve over rice, or add a little chicken broth to thin it out, mix the rice in and serve it as a soup.

Curried Chickpeas
1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can coconut milk
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (one is sufficient, but I really like garlic)
Diced bell peppers
Diced onions
Curry powder, about 2 Tbsp (I used Jamaican curry, but any curry would work)
1 tsp coconut oil (or other oil of your choice)
Prepared rice  - I like baked brown rice

Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add bell peppers, onions and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and heat until fragrant (about a minute). Add tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. I like to let it cook down a little and thicken. Usually about 20-30 minutes on low heat. Serve over rice, or stir rice in. If desired, add about a cup of chicken broth to make it more like a soup.

I can think of other ways to improve this, but it would also require more ingredients and I like that this is a really easy recipe with ingredients many people have on hand. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

G-free at Aldi

A few months ago, I gleefully discovered Aldi's Live G-Free in a store. I wasn't sure if this was overstock that would only be there during that one visit, so I bought several items - three different varieties of granola, four baking mixes, crackers and wraps (aka tortillas).  I've since found out that stocking up and hoarding the products is not necessary; it sounds like they'll be regulars at Aldi now. 

Quick reviews, then I’ll get to the real point here:

Granola: 2.5/5 stars. I don’t like the texture. I’m not sure which ingredient it is I don’t like, but it doesn’t seem to soften at all in milk (almond, of course) and it left a weird residue in my mouth. I’ll pay a little more for my favorite kinds from other stores.
Baking mixes: 3.5-4/5 stars. I’ve used the yellow cake mix in a few recipes (but not as an actual cake) and it worked great. I’ve also used the cornbread mix twice. It is delicious, but very sweet – sugar is one of the first ingredients. I have brownie mix, cookie mix and pizza crust mix that I have used yet.
Crackers: 4 / 5 stars. Love them. The texure is thinner and lighter than Crunchmaster, but I really like them. The Rosemary and Garlic is kind of salty. I prefer the Sea Salt – great with nut butter and fruit for a quick snack.

The real point of is blog is the wraps. I freaking love them. I’d been using Toufayan and like them okay, but they don’t seem to travel well and get crunchy/chewy too quickly. I give the Live G-free wraps 5 / 5 stars. They taste like the wraps I used to know and love. They are thin enough to easily wrap, but don’t fall apart too easily. They do not need to be refrigerated. I’ve rediscovered my love of burritos and wraps again.

This week I’ve had chicken, black bean and avocado wraps twice and today it was a regular old burrito with ground turkey, black beans, salsa, and lettuce. Here’s my tricks to a good lunch-time wrap:

  1. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil about 12”x12” and set it aside.
  1. Get ingredients ready for wrap – meat, beans, veggies, avocado, hummus, greek yogurt…whatever you want. I’ve found that it tends to work best if the filling is room temperature or warmer. I heat up the meat and beans. I also mix everything up at this point so it is well-distributed in the wrap.
  1. Place wrap on plate and cover with microwave-safe plastic or another plate. (you could also heat it on the stove in a pan over a low temperature – you don’t want it to get toasted, but soft). Microwave for about 20 seconds.
  1. Immediately slide wrap onto center of foil square and dump ingredients in middle of wrap.
  1. Fold up one side of the wrap to make an end. Then fold one side over, then the other side. As you fold up the wrap, keep the aluminum foil tight around the wrap, starting with folding over the bottom so the wrap stays together. Once you have the entire wrap folded up in foil, tuck the top over to close the foil and keep everything inside.
  1. When you eat, start at the top (Mark the “top” with a marker if you need to so you can make sure this is the end you start from) and slowly remove the foil as you eat so nothing falls out.  
This method has kept my wraps nice and soft even when stored in the fridge until time to eat.

Chicken Avocado Wrap
3 oz shredded chicken
1/3 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 avocado, diced
1 green onion, chopped
Dash of cumin
Dash of salt
Sriracha, to taste (optional)
1 gluten-free wrap

Mix chicken and black beans in a small bowl. Microwave on high about 1 minute. Mix in other ingredients except wrap.

Following instructions above, place ingredients in wrap and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Eat it. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lemon update

I succeeded with both the dishes I made this weekend. Although it did take two rounds to get the rice right. Lemon juice in the water when steaming rice, makes the rice stickier than I would like.

Lemon Rice Salad
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
¼ cup green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup craisins

½ tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Using rice cooker, stove top or microwave steamer; cook rice according to directions, but add 1 tsp of lemon zest to water before steaming.
  2. While rice is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients.
  3. Once rice is done, fluff with fork.
  4. Combine rice, spinach, onions, walnuts and dried cranberries. Toss with dressing.
  5. Serve at room temperature.

Gluten-Free Lemon Sugar Cookies
1 box gluten free yellow cake mix
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup (1 stick) of butter or your favorite butter substitute, softened
1 egg or 1 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3-4 Tbsp water (if using flax “egg,” let sit for 5-10 minutes to gel)
1 tsp vanilla
Yellow food coloring, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare two cookie sheets for cookies – I like to use parchment paper on my cookie sheets to prevent sticking.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg, butter and vanilla with electric mix. If using food coloring, add it now. 
  4. Add cake mix and lemon juice. Mix until forms a dough.
  5. Roll rounded spoonfuls of dough into balls and place onto cookie sheets.
  6. Bake 11-12 minutes in preheated oven.
  7. Let cool a couple minutes after removing from oven.

Yields about 2 dozen cookies. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lemony inspiration

I'm sorry I'm not a daily or even weekly blogger anymore. I really do enjoy what I do at work, but working every evening in addition to all day AND continuing to work out or run everyday doesn't leave a lot of extra time. And did I mention I've got a pretty active 9-year-old to chauffer around as well? This year we're trying swimming twice a week and eventually if she enjoys it, that will progress to four days a week. sigh.

But this weekend is Labor Day and I'm taking a four-day minimal work. But I have a family cookout on Sunday so I have to come up with dishes. Lemons are inspiring me right now. We had a pretty mild summer here in Indiana and just recently in the past two weeks it's finally gotten hot and humid so I want that light taste of lemon. My plan is lemon sugar cookies (gluten-free, of course and possibly vegan - I haven't decided if I'm going to get all crazy and include *gasp* butter in them - sometimes I'll eat a little dairy and cross my fingers) and a rice salad.

For the lemon sugar cookies, I plan one of two recipes I've found online - one uses a gluten free baking mix + sugar and lemon juice and zest. The other uses gluten-free cake mix with lemon. Not sure which I'll go with. It might depend on whether or not any of the GF cake mixes are on sale!

For the rice salad, it's just a concept right now. I have the wild rice salad recipe that I like. I want something similar to that. Also, I've had lemon rice at my favorite Indian restaurant (which unfortunately is located in California) and I want to something that will taste similar. The ingredients so far are black rice, jasmine rice, lemon juice and zest, spinach, green onions and walnuts. I'll probably cook the rice in some lemon juice and add the zest to a dressing I'll make with olive oil and a little rice vinegar. We'll see how it goes. I'll be back to update, assuming it all works out, later this weekend!