Saturday, July 20, 2013

Evening out: Moerlein Lager House

My social life has evolved to include mostly outings involving children: birthday parties, sprinkler parks, the zoo, children's museum, any place with a train or live farm animals, etc.  You get the picture. Much energy is expended Entertaining Little Sweetpea.

So it's always nice to have an adult evening out.

Last night, the Husband headed to the Reds game and I hung out at the Moerlein Lager House.  Awesomely they have all the veg and GF items marked on their menu.  Only one was marked with both icons, the Crispy Balsamic Tofu.  The tofu was accompanied by spinach risotto with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and some shave asparagus.  It was pretty delicious.  The risotto had great flavor and the tofu lived up the menu's promise.  It was crispy and not at all as offensive as I sometimes find tofu when it is flaccid and soggy.  (Blecht.)  I wish there had been more vegetables, the roasted tomatoes were yummy.

Check out that crispy tofu!
The meal was a pleasant surprise.  I hadn't been to the Moerlein House for dinner for awhile and I did not think it was very good last time I was there.  In all fairness that was when they first opened.  Recently I was there for a private party and the server we had was amazing.  He was very accommodating of the various food restrictions at our table and did it all with a smile.  One of my coworkers has been diagnosed with a nickel allergy, which means she can't eat anything grown in the ground.  So no fruit, no vegetables, no nuts, no beer or wine.  Any produce needs to be hydroponically grown.  Basically she can eat meat and dairy, the total opposite of my diet.  We were a pretty high maintenance table and the server handled it beautifully.

I digress.  Last night after the guys got tired of sweating it out at the game they came to join us.  They proceeded to give us crap because we were at a beer place but enjoying a bright, citrusy Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.  But the Moerlein House's wine list is just as long as the beer list with a lot of great options.

Mmm.  Wine.

Then something strange happened as we were leaving.  There was an exodus from the game as it was drawing to a close.  And people were toting cases of Hamburger Helper.  I have no explanation for this phenomenon.  Friend with a Smoker snagged some boxes.  Which he discarded in a trash receptacle after reading the ingredients.
Then this happened.
Moerlein Lager House on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 8, 2013

Coming together

I was struggling a lot to get organized for the week and keep that commitment to healthy eating.  I do have to say, I have fallen into more of a routine and I am getting to be a much better multi-tasking cook.  But by far the most successful tactic I have developed is this: a food partnership.

This is a very obvious approach which I can't believe I didn't think of earlier.  I was noticing that as I followed various recipes, massive amounts of food were produced.  We would eat it for dinner and then I would eat it for lunch.  And then lunch again.  Maybe breakfast depending on what it was.  The Husband does not eat leftovers for some reason beyond my comprehension, and he only minimally consumes vegetables to begin with.  Therefore, the bulk of eating any one dish fell to me.  Serious burnout occurs after days of lentils and radishes.  A lot of food was being thrown away.  I HATE to waste food (for a history of my neurosis, look here) so this was not an optimal situation.

The solution? I buddied up with my friend, who I will call the Vegetarian (she's super dedicated and way less...flexible...than me).  Over the weekend we each cook a few dishes, split them in half, and trade.  Voila!  We each have a variety of things to eat for the week, nominal weeknight cooking, and reduced waste.  Plus, lots of experimenting.  "Falafel??? Not giving up, will try another recipe sometime" is exchanged for "Herbed potato rosti - greasy!"  It's kind of exciting to see what the other person makes for the week.

One month in, and so far it is working great.  Having someone with whom to share recipes and cooking responsibilities has really made the quest for a healthier life easier.

I may have said this before, but I am amazed at how much breaking free of meat and bread has expanded my palate.  Amanda Cohen, owner/author of Dirt Candy (possibly the most awesome title for a veg restaurant/cookbook ever), is quoted as saying "Too often people think that eating vegetarian food is about saying no to meat, when in reality it needs to be more about saying yes to vegetables."  I love that.  It has really been a growing experience.  Lots of stuff I've tried I've liked (aduki beans, millet, roasted cauliflower, spicy chickpeas) and other stuff not so much (just can't get into the sea vegetables).  Looking forward to more culinary research.  Currently I am trying to convince someone I'll christen the Friend with a Smoker that we need to smoke some vegetables.  Maybe eggplant?  Cauliflower?  Totally open to suggestions.  Although Friend with a Smoker may take more persuasion.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Now I'm Eating Hemp: What in the Hell is Wrong with Me?

I reached a point this week when I was a little disturbed with myself.  I was standing at Whole Foods, ladling hulled hemp seeds into a container for purchase, and I began to question who/what I had become.  I looked in my cart.  Among the fruits and vegetables were things like nutritional yeast and agar.

What in the hell am I doing?

Michael Pollan wrote in In Defense of Food some rules for eating.  His first rule, page 148, is "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food".  My great grandmother was a lovely woman and a tremendous cook.  I am 100% certain she never picked up agar flakes at Whole Foods and said "Yum, this will really just be perfection in my berry tart".  I know what Mr. Pollan meant, avoid processed foods with weird ingredients and ridiculous health claims on the package.  But when I look at anything trending as a "superfood" it seems like that is a ridiculous health claim as well.  And I am especially suspicious of unfamiliar ingredients, which I guess I have decided that I am going to purchase now and research later.

I read the description of how the agar flakes are produced on Eden Foods website and it is completely silly, talking about spreading the bars of seaweed on bamboo mats over the snow-covered rice fields.  Sorry, I just don't believe it.  That doesn't seem very cost effective for a product sold nationwide.    Vegetable gelatin and animal gelatin both seem to have their own pros.  Vegetable has more vitamins and minerals, animal more protein.  Like so many food items that I previously had no concept evoked such passionate emotions, I have found opinions on both sides purporting their gelatin of choice is the superior.

It makes my head hurt.

Back to my great grandmother.  Hemp History Week offers a hemp timeline which outlines hemp as a major crop in the US until it was outlawed in the late 1950s due to the psychoactive effects of the marijuana variety of Cannabis saliva.  (Apparently hemp licensed for use in the EU and Canada must contain <0.3% THC (interesting article here)).  The timeline doesn't mention the hemp being consumed historically, more in using it for products like paper and rope.  There was even a "Hemp for Victory" campaign during WWII.  So I guess my great grandmother would not have recognized hemp as a food source, but rather a material for industry.


Well, I still ate it.  My great grandmother called a green pepper a mango and never ate Indian food, which is pretty much as delicious as it gets.  We do live in a global economy and the food options and flavors have widely expanded since great grandma's time.  Hemp seed has nutritional value like any seed.  The hemp-and-herb stuffed potatoes I made were flavorful and uniquely textured, although a bit dry (probably my fault, I didn't follow the recipe exactly).  It was kind of like the healthy version of a baked potato with sour cream and chives.

I'm still not sure how I got so weird about food.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wakame what?

When I am busy in my kitchen preparing food, my dogs have learned to hover near my feet.  My somewhat sloppy knife technique often results in bits of carrot, potato, apple, etc being flung to the floor, where it is immediately snorfed up by one of the two pugs after a spirited tussle.  Sometimes the pugs find the tidbit rewarding, other times it's an onion.

Today was no exception.  I was working at the counter, pugs wedged between my ankles and the cabinetry.  The experiment was wakame, a sea vegetable commonly used in Asian cuisine.  I decided to give it a try since it is a good source of iodine, calcium, niacin, and other vitamins.  While preparing wakame salad with cucumber and carrots, a bowl transfer led to some spillage of the rehydrated wakame onto the floor.  Francie turned up her nose, but Crosley gobbled it right up.  Fifteen minutes later he was puking.

Interesting, possibly foreboding.

Wakame, or Undaria pinnatifida, is an edible brown sea algae.  It is considered an invasive species (most recently invading SF Bay) and can pick up toxins from polluted water, so it is important to choose wakame from a reputable source.  Recommended by multiple sources: Eden and Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (which is actually alaria, a similar algae).  It's usually sold dried in strips or flakes, and typically soaked in warm water to rehydrate before adding to a dish.  Although I did read the flakes can be added to scrambled eggs, pizza, baked potatoes, and cooked grains.

So how did it taste?  While it did not make me vomit, I can't say as it is my favorite.  It was slightly rubbery and smelled really fishy, something I associate with seafood gone bad.  Maybe it is my lack of experience with this vegetable that made something in the preparation go awry.  I will have to research some other uses.  I have half a package left so I need to find some use for it.  Hopefully more enjoyable than the salad I am totally passing on to my mom ("I thought you might like it, it's different")

The other thing I learned about during my wakame experiment was gomashio seasoning.  This is a combination of sea salt and sesame seeds.  Delicious!  I think I will find more uses for this than the wakame.
The finished product

Monday, April 1, 2013

got calcium?

The biggest question I have gotten from people (mostly my mom) is about calcium.  If I don't eat dairy, from where am I getting calcium?  There are a lot of sources of calcium besides dairy, it's just that dairy products have the highest content and best absorption at a cost effect price.  Options include tofu, oatmeal, sesame seeds, figs, broccoli, almonds, and sardines.  Oxalic acid can inhibit calcium absorption, so a food like spinach doesn't turn out to be the best source despite high elemental calcium content.

According to the North American Menopause Society's 2010 position paper, the recommended daily intake of elemental calcium for my age is 1000mg.  Calcium, along with vitamin d (necessary for regulation and absorption of calcium) are a part of bone health despite recent bad press.  As women get older, we need to increase our calcium intake for a variety of reasons involving estrogen and vitamin d deficiencies.  Unfortunately, even for women who consume dairy, the average daily calcium intake of a postmenopausal woman is around 700mg from dietary sources (1200mg recommended).  Dietary sources are preferred to supplements.

I was curious how much calcium I consume in a day, so I did some wild estimating and a quick calculation on today's meals.
Almond milk: 100 (I didn't realize until I looked at it that it is calcium fortified)
Cereal: 0
Sardines (on top of spinach - fail on my part!): 370 (maybe the spinach just canceled itself out)
Broccoli: 100
Brown rice: 50
Coconut milk: 10
Pumpkin seeds: 30
Total: 660mg

So I came in under my goal, right close to the average.  The thing is I don't think I would have made it even if I was eating dairy.

On a side note, I have to mention the brilliance of the dairy industry's marketing campaign (discussion of a launch here).  What I did not realize is that farmers, under the Dairy Promotion and Research Program, have to contribute for the cost of those ads.  Some dairy producers have tried to separate themselves from the promotions of the Dairy Program, arguing not all milk is created equal and should therefore not be marketed generically.  Apparently federally subsidized milk advertising began during the time of the New Deal (history of milk here)...makes you wonder how our dietary landscape would differ if an alternative source of calcium had been chosen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The First Foray into Gluten Free Baking

My Kitchen Aid mixer has been gathering dust since my venture to the healthy side.  It has not creamed butter and sugar for about two months.  I don't want any kitchen appliance to feel neglected, so Thursday evening I set to baking.

I had to make a treat for Little Sweetpea's school Easter party Friday, and I had to make dessert for dinner with some friends Friday night.  I originally had this grand plan of bunny shaped petit fours with pastel colored glaze, but guess what didn't happen.  I was tired, I got started after 7pm, and frankly 2 year olds don't fully appreciate labor intensive baked goods.

So, for Little Sweetpea: traditional oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (no nuts for daycare!).  For friends: gluten, egg, and (mostly) dairy free oatmeal cookies with walnuts and dark chocolate chips.

In the interest of full disclosure, my cookies cannot technically be considered GF because I did not purchase GF oats.  Apparently oats cannot be assumed to be GF unless specifically noted due to potential cross contamination.

First thing I noticed, mixing the dough for the GF cookies was faster and ostracized the mixer.  As I poured 3/4 cup of maple syrup into the bowl, I was thinking 2 things.  1) this is expensive and 2) does it really matter what kind of sugar I use?  Doesn't the body treat all sugar like sugar?  To address the questions in thing 2, I started off with Google, or "Dr. Google" as we like to refer to him at work.  There is various information out there on refined sugar vs. natural sugars, but I am always very apprehensive at anything floating in the interwebs.  Who knows if it's written by some uninformed quack just like me?  So I turned to my favorite source of information: PubMed.  First I entered "maple syrup" as my search term, which returned over 1100 references to articles on maple syrup urine disease.  A search using "refined sugar" yielded more relevant results with riveting titles such as "Intake of Whole-Grain and Fiber-Rich Rye Bread Versus Refined Wheat Bread Does Not Differentiate Intestinal Microbiota Composition in Finnish Adults with Metabolic Syndrome".

I found articles stating the antioxidant properties of different sweeteners varied, articles discussing the impact of refined carbohydrates on non-verbal intelligence, publications on using nutritional therapy in mental health, and implications of sugar intake on hippocampal function.  There is a lot of info out there.  It seems that regardless of sugar source, moderation is the best policy.  Added sweetness increases calories and excessive calorie intake (whether as carbohydrates or fats) contributes to the American epidemic of obesity. The data on whether our bodies process the sugars differently is conflicting, but many sources agree sugar sources have the same nutritional value. (A very complete review of fructose was particularly interesting, as well as a comparison of sucrose and HFCS)

Anyway, back to the cookies.  After completing both batches, GF and non-GF, I had my sister do a blind taste test.  She preferred the GF, stating it had more flavor.  I think that might have been the tablespoon of cinnamon.  The texture of the two was very different, as I would have expected.  The GF were more like granola bars than cookies.  I would consider them a success.  A lot of the other GF recipes for baked goods I have looked at are much more complex so texturally they may be more similar to traditional baked goods.
Traditional oatmeal cookies

GF version

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some news items of interest

First, I saw this on wine me, dine me and I thought it was very interesting.  A new book, Pandora's Lunchbox, examines how processed food has infiltrated the American diet and the products' resiliency.  It will hopefully answer my burning question: will guacamole survive the zombie apocalypse?  Plus I will read this book simply because the name is awesome.  It will be a great addition to my bookshelf, right next to Twinkie, Deconstructed.

Southwest Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association is hosting State of the Plate on April 13th at Gorman Heritage Farm.  There will be a variety of workshops on eating local, gardening, and CSAs. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Incline Public House

Last night we went to Incline Public House  to celebrate the Husband's birthday.  Named for the Price Hill Incline, one of Cincinnati's former five inclines.  Once at the top of the incline was the Price Hill House, an entertainment resort and restaurant.  The Incline Public House now stands in that location and offers the same incomparable view of the cityscape.
Can't wait to enjoy this deck in the summer

It was packed.  We were quoted an hour and 45 min wait, but we were seated in less than 45.  Our server was busy but we never felt neglected.  She explained that the kitchen and bar were from scratch.  They make all their dressings from scratch, squeeze their own juices for mixed drinks, smoke meats on site for their sandwiches.  The menu is straightforward and composed of sandwiches, pizzas, and salads, all of which sounded delicious.

The signature drink menu was enticing, especially knowing all the effort behind it.  The gin rickey went down easy, like lemonade.  I foresee myself enjoying more of these on a sumer night.
Gin Rickey
So I never really thought about how limiting trying to be gluten-free would be.  I wonder how someone with a true allergy to gluten ever eats out.  Two-thirds of the menu was eliminated immediately.

I opted for the portobello mushroom salad with lemon vinaigrette, hold the cheese.  The dressing was great, light and not oily.

Portobello Mushroom Salad
I also snagged little bites of some of the other dishes.  Everything was well-prepared and tasty.  The Grippo's BBQ chips on the top of the mac and cheese were a creative touch and a lovely nod to Cincinnati history.
Spicy Pickle Fries
Mac and Cheese topped with Grippo's Chips
The Husband raved over the pizza.  Pesto, prosciutto, arugula, and egg.  A unique combination that I was a bit apprehensive about, but the Husband assured me it was yummy.
Green Eggs and Ham Pizza
Looking forward to a return trip.
Incline Public House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans

So the 21 day cleanse is drawing to a close.  At this point I intend to continue to minimize my exposure to dairy and gluten.  The Husband pretty much abandoned the cleanse last Saturday, although he has said he is going to make an effort to eat in a more healthy way.  Maybe a piece of fruit once in awhile.  Translation - he doesn't want to cook his own food and will cheerfully consume whatever I set in front of him.

This week I didn't really make many of the recipes from the cleanse.  Instead I prepared recipes from various sources, including Clean Food by Terry Walters.  One of the recipes I am crazy about - crispy roasted chickpeas.  I am a big hummus fan, so I figured roasted chickpeas would be delicious.  However, I entirely underestimated their addictive properties.  I ate almost an entire can of chickpeas in one sitting.

The recipe is super simple:
3 cups cooked chickpeas (I used 1 can since this was a trial run)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Seasonings of your choice (I used cumin and chili powder)

Preheat oven to 400.

Rinse chickpeas and drain well.  Pat dry with a towel and spread evenly over parchment lined baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil and make sure they are all coated.  Sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt and seasoning.  Roast for about 30 minutes or until golden crisp.  Devour.

There you have it, the reason chickpeas became my new favorite snack food.  Looking forward to finding more ways to enjoy the chickpea.

Interestingly, some recent studies have shown that domesticated chickpeas contain twice the tryptophan as the wild form.  Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, so maybe they are elevating my mood after all.

As for nomenclature, chickpeas having two names can be a source of confusion.  Once I sent the Husband to the store for chickpeas, and he can back with a can of spring peas because he couldn't locate anything called chickpeas.

The name chickpeas is actually derived from the Latin cicer, whereas "garbanzo" comes from Basque through Spanish.  It does make me wonder, though, what the previous name for these legumes was, as it was originally cultivated in the Middle East (history here).  The domesticated chickpea has been found in archeological sites such as Akarcay Tepe in Turkey and Jericho in the West Bank.  The earliest discovery to date, though, was in Tell el-Kerkh in the late 10th millennium BC.  Wow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm confused about tofu

This week on the cleanse eggs and soy have been added back.  I've found I'm a bit confused about tofu.  Diets that focus on whole or clean foods incorporate tofu.  As far as I can tell, tofu is just taking an inedible food and processing it to make it edible.

Chinese writings mention the soya plant as far back as 2838 BC, and considered the soybean one of their essential Five Sacred Grains, along with rice, wheat, barley, and millet.  I guess if I think of it like processing grain into flour it makes more sense.  The traditional process involves sea water precipitate,  known as nigari.  Some manufacturers use calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride instead as a coagulant.

There is a lot of opinions out there on soy.  Some hate it and some love it.  It may depend on how it's processed.  Cultures that have a larger percentage of soy in their diets have less heart disease and (I remember discussing in pharmacy school) less postmenopausal issues, but then phytoestrogens get a bad rap.  I found an article that discusses the research behind the various purported health benefits and harms of soy.  It is totally speaking my language and was a great review of some of the published studies.  And, I have to admit, as much as Dr. Oz frequently irritates me (pop medicine can be very frustrating for someone working in healthcare), there is a good overview of soy on his site.

I think my overall opinion is, as with anything, moderation is key and eat the least processed version available.

I also had to google how to press tofu.  Important to learn something new everyday.  It really reduces that mushy pillow texture I've experienced before.  I had some of the baked tofu I prepared last night for lunch today and it was pretty good.  Although I think it may have caused some stomach discomfort. The soy issue may become a non-issue for me if a rechallenge later this week indicates a sensitivity.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Before Friday, I had never eaten a sardine.

Now I love them.

I was a bit apprehensive.  For some reason I was thinking I would open the tin and see cold, dead, fish eyes staring at me.  But actually there were no heads or tails with which to contend.  Thank God.  I made Lemon-Herb Sardine Salad and it was absolutely phenomenal.  The recipe made two servings and I finished both of them.  From now on I think I'm going to make this salad instead of tuna salad.

I also did not know all the nutrition sardines bring to the table.  As with most fish, they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.  They also have a decent amount of calcium (I read mostly from the bones), iron, vitamin D, and selenium.  Apparently because they are low on the food chain they are also low in mercury.

There seems to be some controversy about the sustainability of the Gulf of California fishery.  The sardines I bought by Wild Planet said they were considered to be sustainable (I don't know what area they came from), but this interesting article says the sardine fishery in Mexico has collapsed several times, stating that is was declared sustainable in 2010 despite a lack of a management plan.  Natural Numbers discusses the issue of sardines in a youtube video.

FishWatch indicates the American sardine fishery is directed by the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan.  While there is not an international management agreement, there is an annual Trinational Sardine Forum to share ideas and information about this "transboundary resource".

Sardines are serious business.  In 2010, about 146,000 metric tons of Pacific sardines were harvested between the US, Mexican, and Canadian fisheries.  That's a lot of tiny fish.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cleanse Day 11: Yeah, we cheated

Sort of.  Totally had Chipotle for dinner.  It had been a long day for me, very busy at the hospital.  When I called to let the Husband know I was leaving work, he said "I'll bet you don't feel much like cooking tonight."  Dammit.  He so knows how to manipulate me.  I think it was more he didn't feel like doing any more dishes.

There have been tidal waves of dishes around the sink.  I don't think I have used my food processor or blender in the last 5 years as much as I have used them in the last 2 weeks.  It's a lot of work to clean all those appliances.

Anyway, Chipotle.  We both had the vegetarian black bean burrito bowl with brown rice.  I had the peppers and onions and two tomato based salsas, guc, lettuce.  The Husband opted for heaps of corn (which really isn't a vegetable in my book) but whatever.  So it kind of stuck to the plan.

I know I have been trying to be anti-takeout but that was a better version than Frisch's.

Is it sad that today I took one of my calcium gummy vitamins just because I wanted the sugar?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cleanse Day 10

We are at the halfway point.  Today was pretty hard for me.  This winter weather makes me crave gooey food - cheesy, fatty, starchy.  The Husband mentioned that he really wanted pizza, and I was feeling the same way.  Even toast with a nice blanket of butter sounded incredibly inviting.  So I ate some extra roasted pumpkin seeds to try to ward off that fat and salt craving.  Dinner was roasted vegetables with brown rice.  The dressing was a bit bitter so I added a little honey.  The rich, warm sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts really hit the spot.  I'm glad I didn't give in to the cheese temptation.

Tonight I am attempting some baba ghanoush.  Awhile ago I had an eggplant that I ended up freezing.  It was kind of an experiment.  It defrosted overnight in the fridge.  The result was the Dorian Gray of eggplants.

Left: Fresh
Right: Eggplant raisin

Gross.  So only the fresh eggplant made the cut.  Per the recipe (courtesy Serving Up the Harvest), normally grilling would be in order, however the snow warranted an alternate plan.  I roasted the eggplant for about 30min at 425.  I made sure to poke it with a fork several times (did you know they can explode?!).
After the eggplant had collapsed, I removed it from the oven and sliced it open.  Into the colander to drain and cool.
In the food processor I combined the flesh from the eggplant, 2 cloves of garlic, about 1/4 cup italian parsley leaves, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp tahini, and 2 tbsp evoo.  Blended until smooth and added salt and pepper to taste.  It is my first attempt and it seemed tasty, but I stuck it in the fridge to give the flavors time to blend.

Interestingly I learned that the first eggplants grown in North America were white and looked like eggs, hence the name.  Explains a lot, I've wondered why we didn't use the European term aubergine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cleanse Day 9

This week so far breakfast has been cardamom quinoa porridge.  I hadn't really had much exposure to cardamom until I recently tried the Turkish coffee at Abigail Street.  AMAZING.  It was the perfect complement to an evening of delicious food, wine, and enjoyable company.  Efforts to duplicate the coffee by a coworker of mine were futile.  It tasted burnt and bitter.  Unsalvageable.  So I was a little apprehensive.  The porridge is actually not bad.  The cardamom, almonds, and pears meld well.

Tonight dinner was the black bean pancakes, which I topped with avocado, tomatoes, and a bit of fresh cilantro.  I served it with a modified version of a winter salad from Vegetarian Times.  It involved getting familiar with a previously unknown quantity - celery root.

Quite possibly the ickiest looking vegetable ever
Which reminded me uncomfortably of...

Creepy guy from Pan's Labyrinth

and this...
Creepy root baby thing from Pan's Labyrinth
 The celery root didn't taste too bad after being washed, peeled, roasted and salted.  But mine wasn't pretty and white like the picture in the magazine.  It looked kind of gray and dirty.  I wonder if that's normal.

Also have to say as far as the effects of the dietary changes, my mood is still great and I believe I have increased focus at work.  I definitely feel more in control of my day.  My habits have been changing in a good way.  When I come from work is my most dangerous time of day, because I am always hungry and dinner is always at least an hour or two away.  I used to grab some bread and cheese, maybe pretzels or crackers.  By having healthier snacks readily prepared, now I am reaching for carrots or fennel and some beet hummus.  A few pistachios or roasted pumpkin seeds.  This Friday (home by myself, the Husband is working late) preparing beet chips and sweet potato hummus is on the agenda to keep up the supply of healthful snacks.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What a week

The wife is right in her post.  I told her I was going to be crabby during this thing and I have been a bit of a shithead.  I'm not a fruit and vegetable person.  I wanted to give it a shot and used this cleanse to start to eat better.  I was difficult because I knew my mind wouldn't be right.  My head tells me that I'm not going to like a food so I don't eat it.  However, I wanted to do this anyway to support the wife and use the cleanse as a starting point toward a healthier lifestyle.  K did do everything to try to get me to eat something and I respect everything that she has done and all the time she has put in with the planning and cooking.

I did ask for fish today (a day early) and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  The cleanse has made me respect food even more and to not take advantage of it.  After not having anything other than what we had last week, the salmon felt like it was the best I ever ate.

K and I differ on many things, but manage to make it work.  I can be very picky about food and other things like clothes, shoes and organization.  This week has been challenging for me.  It was a tough week at work and I made it worse by not eating or being very cooperative.

A long week came to an end today.  Tomorrow is a new day and I got to eat fish tonight.  More importantly, I made it through the first week even if I didn't eat much.  I know because I lost 5 pounds.

Cleanse Day 7: Tempers Flare

Not such a good morning in our household.  For some reason I was feeling hungry and a little edgy.  The Little Sweetpea was in a rare state, throwing toys and chasing the dogs with a whiffle bat.  And the  Husband.  He started to irritate me yesterday when he wouldn't eat anything for lunch but a banana.  Then when Little Sweetpea got up this morning at 5:30am, the Husband just kept sleeping.  Wouldn't get up even with Sweetpea screaming "get up!  get up!".  I am a morning person, while the Husband is a night owl.  I do not recommend this combination in a marriage if it can be avoided.  Causes tension at inopportune times.

All this erupted into a very heated "discussion" about the cleanse.  I'm annoyed because I tried to make it as easy on him as I could, buying special things, adjusting the menu, etc.  I just wanted him to tell me what kind of fruits and vegetables he would like so I had something to work with, but all he did through the week was pout, make faces and generally act like a crabass.  He feels that I don't understand how hard this is for him.


The end result was we jumped ahead for dinner and had salmon.  It was pretty delicious.  Actually all the recipes for this week look delicious.  They were developed by Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen and I'm excited to try all of them.

Did a lot of prep work today.  It was like a circus in the kitchen, three rings of controlled chaos.  To save time I used vegetable broth in the recipes instead of making the cleansing broth, and love the peeled and cut butternut squash.

Fantastic product
The black bean and rice patties did not turn out as I expected.  They spread into very large, very thin black bean and rice pancakes.  Not sure where I went wrong.  When the Husband saw them, he said, "I never thought I'd be so happy to see beans."
Bean pancakes

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cleanse Day 5/6: All it takes is a plan

We had a bit of a breakthrough last night.  The Husband was working late.  Unfortunately his retail management career makes this necessary when important events like the midnight release of Twilight Breaking Dawn: Part 2 transpire.  I called him around 8:30 and asked him how he was feeling.  His reply - "good"!  The exclamation point was my addition, not indicative of his actual level of emotion.  However, I think he has hit a turning point.

As for myself, yesterday I went to happy hour without imbibing.  I substituted with about 10 glasses of water, which I suppose I am glad were't margaritas this morning.  Luckily Cactus Pear is vegetarian friendly, so there were a few options that fit into the cleanse.  I had the Pear Salad topped with portobello mushrooms, hold the cheese and dressing.  It was loaded with mushrooms and very satisfying.

When I started this cleanse, I thought the most difficult part would be the lack of baked goods and chocolate.  But the amount of fruit I'm eating seems to have appeased my sweet tooth, even though the aroma is quite enticing when I open the desk drawer containing my chocolate stash.  Temptation actually came in the form of alcohol.  Normally I would say I'd much rather have a piece of cake than a glass of wine, but that wasn't the case yesterday.  Everyone was enjoying an adult beverage, being social, and there is an association for me with drinking in those scenarios.  Hence the reason I consumed 10 glasses of water.  Interesting.

I am starting to prepare for next week, when fish (not shellfish), legumes, and gluten-free grains are back on the menu.  The Husband will be pretty excited about the salmon dishes.  I think he is struggling because, besides the fact he doesn't like many fruits, vegetables, or nuts, he views the plan as restrictive.  On the other hand, I have been really pleased at how much it has changed my approach to fruits and vegetables.  Previously I felt like when I cooked I had to serve a grain, protein, vegetable at every meal.  It has been eye-opening that my stomach is content with meals made entirely of fruits and vegetables.  The food is so colorful and appealing.  No heavy feeling after eating, no food hangovers.

I hope that after the cleanse is over I can keep up with preparing healthy meals daily.  I would like to avoid the chinese and pizza delivery trap.  All it takes is a plan, right?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Husband Wants Meat

Today really sucked.  I wanted to cheat so badly today.  I called K to tell her and she talked me out of it.  In retrospect, I shouldn't have called her at all and just cheated.  I have never really stopped to think about what I was going to eat for lunch; I would just get what I wanted.  Today, I craved something other than this week's offerings.  Anything would have worked, I was salivating at eating bacon or pizza.  It didn't matter, I was struggling.  I'm not really sure what I was going to do to get passed today. So I went to my office, shut the door and ate some more fruit and tried not to think about anything and relaxed for 20 minutes.

I'm very grumpy today and found my patience tested today.  I'm usually pretty upbeat and positive, but not only is this cleansing program different from a food perspective; it is mentally exhausting for me.  I fell asleep on the couch with our son sitting next to me as we were awaiting dinner.  Physically and mentally exhausted.

In other words, not having fun.  Can't wait until next week when I can have eggs and fish.

Here's to staying the course.

P.S.  I'm supposed to be funny on these posts.  I'll work on that; just not feeling overly humorous today.

Cleanse Day 4: Dichotomy

Here's where we stand on day 4.  I feel AWESOME.  Is this how other people feel all the time?  Cause it's pretty fantastic.  I have energy past 7pm.  I don't feel as stressed.  I'm actually in a great mood.  Maybe I do have some sort of dairy or gluten sensitivity.

The Husband, on the other hand, feels like shit.  He is hungry, short-tempered, fatigued, and generally unpleasant.  The only thing making him happy is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  He hasn't been eating because he doesn't like the food.  He called me at work today saying he was ready to pass out.  When I asked what he ate, the answer was an apple, an orange, and some carrots.  His exact quote was "I just can't gnaw on vegetables all day like you can."

He is trying really hard.  This is a big adjustment.  To try to make it easier on him, I bought stuff to make guacamole.  I deviated from the action plan and made a citrus spaghetti squash salad from Serving Up the Bounty.  I made a bevy of snacks this evening to try to entice him.  The roasted spiced pumpkin seeds are delicious, as are the sweet potato chips.

He is still quite grumpy.  Ah, first world problems.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Husband's Third Day

Today was the toughest day so far.  My team at work is supportive, but they are also taking time to give me a hard time during the day about what I'm eating and what I'm watching them eat.  Most of them eat fairly well, but today I was salivating at the food they had compared to what I had.  Not that what I had was bad, but it certainly wasn't what they had.

I called K this morning to tell her something and I told her she was going to be mad at me.  The first words out of her mouth were, "did you cheat."  I said no and we went on with our conversation.  I was really tired today and I spend most of my day on my feet and I noticed just how wiped out I was after I got up from my desk after an hour long conference call.

The word on the street is that the third and fourth day are the worst as far as fatigue is concerned.  I hope that changes quick because my body is telling me that I need to eat more which is tough when you are only eating fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and lentils.  What makes it especially challenging for me is that I have never been a big fan of what I'm eating this week, but I'm getting through it.

Tonight for dinner we had a portobello mushroom covered with chard.  I must say I successfully ate everything and followed it up with a pineapple, strawberry, mango, and banana smoothie.  At this time, my favorite thing to have has been the smoothies.  I do have to say that adding so much fruit has allowed me to find a greater appreciation for it and I will continue to keep fruit as a part of my diet when we are finished.

Although today was the most difficult; I know, its only been three days.  I didn't cheat and I am eating foods that I thought I would never eat.  Score one for me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cleanse Day 2: In which we meet the juicer

For a large part of my life, I have suffered from insomnia.  It comes and goes but I remember roaming the halls at night as young as eight.  Last night, I slept wonderfully.  Today at work I felt less stressed and more clear headed.  It may just be the power of suggestion, but I genuinely feel like I have more energy.  There was a little bit of bloat this morning, but it wasn't anything some control-top pantyhose couldn't contain, and the feeling is gone tonight.

Today we were introduced to the most trendy health appliance I am trendy enough to know about: the juicer.  While not listed with other stuff white people like, I am pretty certain the juicer is the must have health conscience hipster accessory.  I purchased the Breville Juice Fountain Multi-Speed as featured in Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  The decision was made not on its notoriety but on the fact that we have the Breville tea maker and have been very happy with it.  It is one intense piece of equipment.

 Please note: The theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey should be playing in  your head.
So I prepared cucumber-pear juice, when all this...
became this.
Pretty, green, and frothy
What part is missing from the movie?  As Joe is driving around the country, dealing juice out of his trunk, they never show how he deals with the resulting pulp.  There isn't a scene of him in a rest stop bathroom struggling to clean all 7 pieces.
The pulp seems a bit wasteful, but according to Michael Murray, ND, the pulp can be used to make stock or muffins.  I don't have any immediate plans for the sludge.  Somehow celery ginger muffins don't sound enticing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Husband's Big Change

I've always appreciated K's outlook on food and how she takes extra care to make sure that our son eats the right food, but a few months back when she wanted to be a vegetarian; I was a little shocked.  She had been contemplating it for some time.  My first thought was how is this going to change what I eat.  I haven't been a particular healthy eater throughout my life, but K has made me eat more healthy food and less junk food.

I have worked in retail for a long time and with that comes a certain lifestyle.  Grab what you can and eat fast or you don't eat is that lifestyle.  I have always fallen back on having a good metabolism and a fairly active lifestyle to make myself feel better about my eating habits.  I didn't really eat that many fruits and vegetables or fish outside of lent and I rather enjoyed some fast foods especially Skyline.

So one day, I came into our study after putting our son in bed and K is watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix and I found myself interested in what was going on.  One of my team members did the juicing thing a couple weeks back and really talked about the benefits of it and how much better she felt after doing it.  Being the smart guy that I am put two and two together and realized that she must have gotten the idea from the documentary.

After watching the show, K and I started talking about doing something similar.  She really wanted me to do the cleanse diet with her.  It wouldn't be straight juice, but a variation of that diet.  Regardless of what it is, I couldn't say that I was overly excited about giving up meat and my guilty pleasures for three weeks.  I know that three weeks isn't much time, but I can't even have a beer which is another post altogether.

So yesterday, I stopped at McDonalds on my way to work for one last meal before we started and had a beer when I came home after a long day......and we fast forward to today.

For breakfast, a tropical fruit and tahini smoothy.  It was pretty good.  Lunch, not so much.  K replaced my usually fast food or not so fast, but still not good for you food with some kind of lentil salad with a side of almonds, pea pods, and an orange.  Didn't do so well with the lentil salad, but got the rest down and remembered how much I like oranges in the process.

Needless to say, I came home from work famished.  When I got home, there was a bowl of broccoli soup with avocado.  Ideally, not what I would eat when I got home, but it was good and it filled me up which was a nice surprise after a long day.  I washed it down with a banana/strawberry smoothie.

First day down; 20 to go.  K doesn't think I'll hang with it, but I plan on it.  Then maybe she'll stop making fun of my slightly enlarged gut.

Cleanse Day 1

First, I would like to say something obvious.  People are fat because being healthy is hard.  I spent a number of hours yesterday planning and shopping and prepping and cooking.  At one point I had beets in the oven, 2 simmering concoctions on the stove, the blender whirring, and broccoli on the cutting board.  Every pot I own eventually landed in the sink.  I was working so diligently I even forgot to watch the Oscars.

It's so much easier to order pizza.

Normally I *try* to plan meals for the week.  Then life happens - I get home from work late, I'm really tired, and I make pasta and jarred sauce.  Sometimes if I'm fancy I throw in shredded carrots.  Or we eat carry-out.  It's easy to fall into the trap of the convenience food.

As for the cleanse, so far so good.  Mango tahini smoothie for breakfast, lentils and cabbage for lunch, and broccoli soup for dinner.  Supplemented with snacks.  A little hungry right now but not unbearable.  I am waiting for the Husband to cheat.  It's only a matter of time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reason number 3

Ok, so detox reason number 3.  I woke up this morning and my jeans don't fit.  Time for some changes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Starting Monday the Husband and I are embarking on a 21-day cleanse.  I predict this is going to be much easier for me than him, but I anticipate we will both be hungry.

The Husband is very much a meat and potatoes guy, although he has been slowly integrating fruits and vegetables into his diet over the 7 years we have been married.  His gateway vegetable was asparagus, oddly enough.  He is a product of his environment - no one else in his family eats vegetables, either.

I have a couple of goals for this cleanse.  First, I want to eliminate my sweet tooth.  I am hoping the dietary changes for the next few weeks will clear my body of those cravings.  Awhile back I read The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler, which discusses the evolutionary reasons for why we eat the way we eat.  Basically, our bodies are built to hypereat in certain circumstances.  When we encounter a calorie-dense food source, high in fat and/or sugar, our bodies drive us to eat more and more.  This is a remnant from a time when high calorie food sources were few and far between.  Our ancestors needed to eat as much as possible when they encountered these food sources.  Who knew when they would eat again?  Unfortunately now foods high in fat and sugar are plentiful, so we are driven to hypereat frequently.  We also don't have to do any work to get our food.  This adds up to all those extra pounds.  Dr. Kessler argues the food industry preys on this predisposition to hypereat by creating foods layered with fat, sugar, and salt.  But that's a whole other discussion.

Secondly, I want to determine if dairy or gluten contribute to my ongoing struggle with fatigue.  The cleanse starts out eliminating everything from the diet except fruits, vegetables, lentils, seeds, nuts, and oils.  By week three, eggs, fish, and soy are added back in, but dairy and gluten are still absent.  I am hoping my energy will be increased.  Even though a life without cheese seems dismal.

I am preparing by stocking the fridge with lots of fruits and vegetables and totally gorging myself this weekend.  After my Little Sweetpea goes to bed, I will settling down with some wine and Girl Scout cookies.  Kind of against the point, I know.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

I finally gave in and watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  I had put it off for a long time because dismissive attitudes towards health upset me.  And there were definitely some parts when I was feeling a little dismayed, like the guy who said if he dies at 55 at least he ate the way he wanted.  His son looks on as he shoves forkfuls of beef and mashed potatoes with gravy into his mouth.

Back in the day, external things were responsible for a person's demise.  Infection.  Tigers.  The inconveniently placed cliff.  Now it seems we have a large share in the responsibility department.  Heart disease.  Type II diabetes.  Hypertension.

Anyway, I'm not completely convinced about the whole juicing approach, but I can certainly appreciate the philosophy behind it.  Taking control of your health and reprogramming to rid your body of those cravings for the toxic trio of sugar, fat, and salt is fantastic.  But an extreme approach can set people up to fail.  I personally believe one of the ways to maintain healthy eating is developing a positive relationship with food, and this includes enjoying it.

I was completely impressed with the way Joe and Phil changed their lives around.  The second half of the movie was very inspiring.

As I type this, my son is starting to throw a tantrum because I told him he couldn't have m & m's before dinner.  Oh, irony.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Enlightened Soul?

My sister was in town this past weekend.  I invited all the family over for dinner.  I rarely do this.  Here's why.
Me: Do you want to come for dinner Sunday?
Dad: What are you making?
Me: Soul food.
Dad: ....
Me: What's the problem?
Dad: I just find the things you choose to make amusing.
Me: I don't know what that is supposed to mean.

The reason why I chose soul food is, not because it is black history month as my mom later suggested, but because this month's Vegetarian Times contained some delicious sounding recipes.  One of the articles "Enlightened soul food" had a spread I *thought* I could make and no one would notice the lack of meat.  Spoiler - I was wrong.

I stopped eating meat a few months ago.  I still eat fish, so I guess I am technically a pescetarian (who knew I could be so trendy?).  It has been a bigger adjustment for my family than it has been for me.  They act somewhat as though I made the decision to become a cannibal.

Do I crave hamburgers and goetta and bacon?  Sometimes, but usually only after I've been drinking.

Anyway, back to dinner.  I made black-eyed pea and stewed tomato salad, baked hush puppies, and corn grits with swiss chard and caramelized onions.  For dessert was banana pudding made from scratch (well mostly, not the vanilla wafers).  I paired it with a semi-sweet white table wine because of the vinegar.  Everyone sits down at the table and Stepmother asks what everything is.  I explain, and she says "Oh, so I guess when we eat at the vegetarian's house we don't get meat.  Even when we make her dishes without meat at our house."

This is not a good start.  I mention that I have said there is no need to make me special food when we come over, and then I get up to make my 2 yr old a PB&J.  From the dining room I hear commentary from Stepmother "I don't like black-eyed peas","I don't like corn","what is that" and similar.  So I lean my head in and ask if she wants me to make her a peanut butter sandwich, too.  The response is a withering glare.

Ok, I was being pretty snarky but I don't understand what the big deal is.  Where is it written that meat has to be served at every meal?  The food was good (all the recipes definitely keepers), there was plenty to go around, and no one left hungry.  Isn't it ok to not have meat on the table?  I guess I am struggling with the proper etiquette for hosting a dinner party with different dietary desires. My sister pointed out that even though a person eats meat, that doesn't mean they can't eat vegetarian food.  But maybe they shouldn't be expected to forgo meat just because they are dining at the home of someone who choses not to?

Next time I eat at their house I expect all that will be on the table is half a deer carcass and some mead.  Not even plates.  Those barbarians.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


It has been over 2 years since I last wrote on Westside Foodie Wannabes.  A lot has changed in that time.  I am still food-obsessed, but my perspective is different.  This is my healthy reboot.  Unfortunately, unlike JJ Abrams, genius does not come so easily.  It's a process.