3 Last Days of Glory and 11 Days of Diet

 

I hate New Year’s Eve. I have no idea why, maybe so much pressure on the holiday or maybe because I have only had fun on New Year’s Eve once in my life when I was a freshman in college. So, I do not like the holiday. AT ALL. I discovered that DUTCH’s in Cincy is ranked the #1 place to get a burger and when I went in the fall it was awesome.  The New Year’s burger was NOT as spectacular as the Fall burger but the concept of it was ridiculously good.

An Oscar burger. This means a burger with crabmeat, asparagus, and drizzled bearnaise on top. How can you go wrong? It was good. Not killer, but good. And a good way to spend New Year’s!

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My friend Jennie came to Cincy and she took me to her daughter’s favorite Mexican restaurant in town called MAZUNTE. I was worried about finding something I could eat. I looked at the menu and there was nothing I could eat. I was going to drink a water and go home and eat. I went to hangout with Jennie and her daughter. But, I was happy to discover that there was SO MUCH on their menu that was gluten free.

I ordered the enchilada with chicken, served “verde” (green) with Mexican cheese, crema, fresh spinach, onion and queso fresco (fresh cheese). It was amazing! I was really  impressed! 

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If you know me…before I start, I need one more day to cheat. The best way to do that for me was with a craving for my mom’s Shrimp and Grits.

Mom’s Shrimp and Grits   (Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients

  1. Grits:
    • 1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • Kosher salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • OPTION: Go out for breakfast, order grits and bring them home and use them in this recipe or freeze and use them later. That is what we tend to do. Far easier.
  2. Shrimp:
    • 1/2 cup 1/3″ cubes of andouille sausage AND bacon
    • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
    • 16 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined
    • 1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
    • 4 large eggs
    • For grits:
      1. Bring 3 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Turn heat to low; gently simmer until grits begin to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring often and adding water by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick, until tender, about 1 hour. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
    • For shrimp:
      1. Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add andouille sausage AND bacon; sauté until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Add shrimp and chicken stock. Simmer until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.
      2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoom butter to skillet; swirl to melt and cover bottom of pan. Crack eggs into pan and cook until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.
      3. Divide grits among bowls, forming a well in center. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of grits. Top with egg. If you like!!! This version below is EGG-LESS!!!
    • ENJOY!!!!!! I can’t tell you how much I love my mom’s shrimp and grits. I crave them!!!

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The WHOLE 30 kept me a lot more honest than I would have ever anticipated. The fear of eating gluten products and rendering a puffy face or eating sugar and ending up with achy joints kept me honest a lot more than usual. Sadly, not enough to keep me from some holiday cheating. And then when I go to New York, I’m like a kid in a candy story. So, I gained about 8 lbs., because apparently when you cheat a little it comes back super fast and if I was good and got on that scale regularly it may not have happened. I hate to kill the hard work I did, so I need to fly right again. Especially, since I am going to New York to care of a friend’s dog, visit my friends and EAT. I was once told do diet days in small increments and it is a lot easier than doing LARGE chunks of time. For me, that is true. What I realize when I go back to eating the way I SHOULD…is I forget how much I like the foods on my diet. This is MONUMENTAL. So, what I did is I made enough that I would make enough for dinner the first night and lunch the second day. Here are some of the foods I ate during those 11 Eleven Days.

 

Cauliflower rice

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
Coarse salt and coarsely-ground black pepper to taste

sautéed with the onions

1 garlic glove
Preparation:

Wash, remove core and leaves, trim, and coarsely chop the cauliflower. Also make sure there are no brown or black spots on it. If so, remove with a paring knife. Chop the fresh cauliflower into small florets or pieces small enough to fit into the food processor. Make sure that the cauliflower pieces are completely dried before using. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter. Add onion and sauté approximately 10 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, place cauliflower pieces in a food processor until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice. Then pour into frying pan and cook till you reach consistency you like and serve.

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Pork & Tomatillo

First, I baked a pork chop in the oven in olive oil with a meat thermometer.  While that baked, I made the tomatillo sauce.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. tomatillos

1/2 c. chopped onions

1 garlic clove

1 serrano chile MINCED

1T. oregano

1/2 t. cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

2c. water

DIRECTIONS

Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chile pepper into a saucepan. Add oregano, cumin, salt and pepper Add water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain water and pour into blender. Taste. If you need to add additional cumin, oregano, salt pepper…DO IT!

I cut the pork chop into bite sized bites and place on top of the cauliflower rice. I then drizzled this over my pork. Who am I kidding. I poured it over the pork.

YUM!!!

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Apple & Parsnips in Cinnamon

INGREDIENTS

1 Granny Smith apple, chopped in bite size pieces

1 Large parsnip

1/4 c. chopped onion

1 garlic clove

1/2 t. cinnamon

1 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place butter, olive oil, onion and garlic in skillet and cook till translucent. Add apple and parsnip and cook till desired consistency. Add cinnamon, salt and pepper. And serve.

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My cousin Deb told me about the next recipe and I couldn’t wait to try it. She did her recipe in the Crockpot, but I can’t find mine. So, I cooked the chicken and then made the sauce and then put the two together. I really cheated. I bought a COOKED rotisserie chicken to start.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Cabbage

My friend Jules mother made cabbage with sauteed onions and a WHOLE lot of butter….like a stick of butter. It was delicious and a staple for me in the dead of winter. And it is so easy to make.

Steam the cabbage in a steamer or a pot of water. Chop it up prior to steaming.

Then throw in a pot with chopped onions, garlic, salt, pepper and 1 stick of butter. Cook.

Enjoy!

I ate that with the below recipe.

Rosemary-Lemon Pork Chops

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (bone-in loin) pork chops
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sage, dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, sage, salt, and pepper. Rub both sides of the pork chops in mixture. Place in oven with thermometer and cook till ready.

 

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Creamy Mashed Root Vegetables

You can use any root vegetable for this recipe, but in this instance I used parsnips.

INGREDIENTS

3 parsnips

1 heaping T. butter

salt and pepper

nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Steam the parsnips, cut into chunks

Toss into Cuisinart

Toss in salt, pepper, nutmeg

Add milk to get to consistency you like

Blend. Taste.

I really love this…makes me not miss mashed potatoes….

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Then I tweaked it for the next day. I added the Beet Tahini Dip from a previous blog and I put a sfot boiled egg on top. It was not only pretty, but delicious.

Combo Beet Tahini Dip with Creamy Mashed Root Veggie w. Egg on top

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One of my favorite things to eat is an everything bagel with cream cheese, capers, onions, tomatoes. Now, that I only eat bagels two to three times a year. I don’t want to give up the rest.

Salmon, Cream Cheese, Onions and Capers rolled up

INGREDIENTS

Package salmon

Cream Cheese

Chopped onions

Tomato sliced

Capers

DIRECTIONS

Spread salmon on a plate, spread cream cheese on it, spread and push capers into it. Place slices of onion and tomato on top. Roll. Add chives if you are feeling fancy. Eat.

 

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Grilled Coconut Curry Chicken

INGREDIENTS

3T. butter

1 c. chopped onion

1.5 t. curry

1 c. chopped Granny Smith apples

1/4 c. flour (almond flour if gluten-free)

1/4 t. ground cardamon

1 t. ginger

1 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1/2 can coconut milk

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter. Add onions. Cook until translucent. Add flour. Cook till onions turn light brown. Add remaining ingredients. Then add chopped cooked chicken.

 

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When I was up in Canada, my cousin Debbie made this for dessert one evening. I loved it! It was sugar-free and gluten-free and delicious! I was craving it so I had to make it. The best part is this a guilt free dessert.

If you are like me, you will love the editorializing in my cousin writing this recipe our for me.

Double click the recipe to enlarge it. I used a berry mix when I made it, but there are many alternatives for it.

 

Well-Fed Fruit Crumble

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Iced Capp in Beer Mug

I took my Dean and Deluca Espresso and made a cappuchino and steamed milk. I took one of my beer mugs and added ice and poured the espresso and the steamed milk on top. I could have been back in New York!

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This was a very interesting article about WHOLE 30. It may change the way you view it. The article is below….

 

Eight Things Whole30 Can Teach You About Cooking

Eric Gillin / 12.11.15

Epi’s Executive Director Eric Gillin embarked on the elimination diet du jour completely unprepared for how it would affect his life (and his cooking). Here, he details his travails, so others won’t be as surprised as he was.

For the past thirty days, I’ve been chronically hungry, alienated from my friends, and slowly going broke.

It’s all my own fault. You could blame it on my pride. Or an offhanded comment in the car, when I turned to my wife and said, “We’ve been eating out a lot lately. Maybe we cut back a bit.” A couple days later, my wife said the words that would change our lives for what felt like forever.

“We’re doing Whole30. We both need to detox. My friend at work did it. She said it was hard,” and then she pursed her lips, looked me dead in the eye, and said the fighting words. “I bet you’ll never be able to finish.”

And just like that, my manhood threatened, I was in.

I’ve tried dozens of times to explain Whole30 to slack-jawed friends and family and co-workers, all surprised when I suddenly refused the constant stream of cakes and cocktails that pass through the halls of Epicurious.

“It’s like paleo,” I’d say. “Only harder.”

Which is somewhat true. Whole30 is an elimination diet on a grand scale. No dairy. No sugar. No soy. No peanuts. No bread. No rice. No grains. It’s basically a diet based on Lloyd Dobler’s quote from Say Anything: “I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.”

It’s not a weight loss plan. Whole30 has a rule against weighing yourself. There are lots of rules. Mess up and break one—even if you have a single bite of pizza—and you’ll need to start over.

It’s intense. On one level, Whole30 is a basic detox, vowing to cut out “all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups.” On another, it’s filled with self-righteous therapy-speak, vowing to “change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body.”

Having missed out on a month of apple cider donut testing, three-ingredient icebox cakes, and an epic buche de noel face off, I sure am emotional about food these days.

This is what you’ll discover after 30 days in a food cult.

  1. Salads Are Secretly Evil

You’d think that thirty days of clean eating would turn you into a raving devotee of the salad. You’d be wrong. Despite the existence of high quality oils and vinegars, homemade salad dressings, and bottled varieties from places like Tessamae’s—salads suck. There’s no cheese. Or croutons. Or any of the naughty bits that make salads satisfying. In the end, you’re tucking into a boring bowl of kinda greasy raw vegetables and coming away starving. Bottom line: Salads are just a vehicle for cheese and bread that make you feel good about not picking the sandwich.

Our weeknight dinners followed a pattern. A simple piece of chicken, meat, or fish. Simple vegetable sides. But doing this every single night? Not so simple.

Photo by Sarah Firshein

  1. You’ll Have to Cook Every Single Meal

Some folks claim that you can dine out on Whole30. This is a lie. I ate out maybe three times in four weeks, all of which were at sushi restaurants where I ate like a polar bear. No soy sauce. No rice. No wasabi. Just me and a bowl o’ raw ocean proteins. Sure, I could have attempted to hit a steakhouse or another place offering simpler fare, but after having the waiter explain in detail every molecule of how every dish was prepared, I might as well hop back in the kitchen and cook the damned meal myself. Which I did. At my own house.

  1. Fruit Is the Only Acceptable Dessert

Dessert without sugar is garbage. Time and time again, I tried to make Whole30 friendly desserts. Like these Coconut Almond Butter truffles, which were truly revolting balls of fat coated in bitter cocoa dust. Or this Chocolate Pudding, which were blobs of banana blended with bitter cocoa dust. In the end, my favorite desserts were things like “mango” and “counting the days until this stupid thing was over.”

Bacon could be one of the easiest things to acquire in a supermarket. But Whole30 friendly bacon? Virtually impossible. Nearly every single bacon brand includes sugar in the production process.

Photo by Sarah Firshein

  1. It Helps to Have Tons of Money and Fancy Grocery Stores

When did tree nuts and almond butter start to cost as much as uncut cocaine? Why do the same brand of low-sodium chicken stock and regular chicken stock have wildly different ingredients? And don’t even get me started on high quality organic produce and meats, which Whole30 “strongly” recommends. It’s like switching from regular gasoline to super premium: It costs 20% more, and you have no idea why you’re doing it.

  1. Asian Food Is Your Friend

While soy is verboten, the rest of the pan-Asian pantry can whip up some pretty decent meals. All you really need is Thai green curry paste, coconut milk, Red Boat fish sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, limes, cilantro, and a bottle of coconut aminos, a truly bizarre product that costs fifteen bucks and can pass as soy sauce when you mix it in other stuff. (Please never tell me how they get the aminos out of those poor, innocent coconuts.) With this simple pantry, you’ll be making spicy curry soups, delicious stir-frys, and amazing marinated grilled meats and fish in no time.

Whole30 fajita bar, no corn tortillas required.

 

  1. You’ll Find Out What You Really Need

One night, we were craving Mexican food, so I made fajitas. But instead of tortillas, we used lettuce. Loaded up with salsa and fresh guacamole, I didn’t notice it wasn’t wrapped in corn and covered with a snow shovel of shredded cheese. White rice? Who the hell needs to eat white rice when you discover cauliflower “rice” is just as bland? So after thirty days, what did I miss the most? My morning bowl of cereal. May I never have to choke down chia pudding again.

  1. It’ll Make You a Better Cook

When you’re starving all the time, cooking three meals a day for a month, and working with a limited pantry, you begin to cook in new ways. Over this little adventure, my weeknight dinners have gone way beyond what I’d usually attempt. I made sweet potato and kale soup, fried cauliflower rice, roast chicken, sweet potato steak fries, coconut curry chicken thighs, crispy smashed potatoes, spaghetti squash bolognese, a garden vegetable frittata, collard greens in mustard sauce, and buffalo wings.

Hand’s down one of the best Whole30 meals you can eat: Chinese BBQ pork, cauliflower rice, butter lettuce wraps, and a slightly tweaked version of this amazing ginger scallion sauce.

Photo by Sarah Firshein

  1. It Actually Does Change the Relationship You Have With Food

I’ve taken my coffee the same way for fifteen years. Splash of milk and a couple Splendas. On Whole30, I was forced to drink black coffee all the time—twice a day, actually. And I found I liked black coffee better. So now I drink my coffee black.

Other things have changed. I have a special hate for products that I expect to be simple — a can of beans, say — only to discover the label looks like it belongs on a bag of lawn fertilizer. Hell, I no longer mock the tote bag carrying, wool-clad denizens who look perpetually lost in the natural food aisle.

I’m one of them.

And as you all know…I am one too!!!

Until we meet again…

Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….

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