Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Whole 30

One of the things I have been experimenting with over these months (years?) of not blogging has been my way of eating. I hate that phrase, "way of eating," but I hate the word "diet" even more.

In February of this year I did the 21 Day Sugar Detox, and it was fantastic... for the three weeks that it lasted. I wrote two-thirds of a (highly enthusiastic) blog post all about it. Then I got distracted, felt there was far too much for me to explain, and never bothered to post about it. But if you are interested in this carb-and-sugar-addiction-busting elimination diet, catch me offline or just visit the website for the 21DSD. I do love to talk about it. You can also read the wonderful book and companion cookbook.

Since February, I have attempted to recreate the happiness I felt on the detox, hoping to do so without having to go into full-blown detox mode again. I have "gone paleo," come back from paleo, been gluten-free, been gluten-ful, flirted again with paleo, and around and around we go.

In August of this year, I joined my neighbor and a few other new friends, on the Whole30. You can read all about it here. Or you can read about it in the Hartwigs' book, It Starts With Food. But in a nutshell, it is a commitment to 30 days of slavish adherence to squeaky-clean paleo eating. It is very similar to the 21 DSD, but it is both more permissive (all fruits are allowed) and more restrictive (no attempting to recreate baked goods or treats using paleo ingredients).

It meant that for a month, I did not have a bite, lick, or sip of:
- Grain or flour of any kind (no rice, corn, wheat, oat, quinoa, etc)
- Legumes of any kind (no soy, peanuts, chickpeas or any other beans)
- Dairy (no milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)
- Sugar of any kind
- Natural sweeteners of any kind (honey, maple syrup, etc)
- Artificial sweetener of any kind (yes, not even stevia)
- Artificial additives (colors, flavors, unpronounceables)
- Alcohol

What did I eat?
- a lot of vegetables (you name it, I ate it)
- a fair amount of lean protein in the forms of meat, poultry, and eggs, and also a bit of "unlean" protein
- healthy sources of fat (avocados, olive oil, butter from grass-fed cows, ghee, coconut oil, some nuts)

What were the results?
I felt great physically. I slept very soundly, falling asleep quickly and waking up feeling well-rested. I did not often wake in the middle of the night. I did not often feel the afternoon slump I'd grown so accustomed to. I felt much less bloated, and did not really have any gastric or digestive issues. My asthma was well-controled. I improved times on my running (shaving 90 seconds off my mile pace) and I lifted heavier and heavier throughout the month.

I felt great mentally. I was able to resist all non-compliant foods. Even at parties. Even at parties with delicious foods staring me in the face. Even at parties at which I normally would've had at least one glass of wine. I really took to heart the idea that no one, other than me, is going to make me eat--or not eat--anything. Every bite was my choice. I felt I was in great control for once. I did crave non-compliant foods, especially at the beginning, but I did not crave, indulge, and crash. I did not suffer mood swings and guilt/shame cycles. I just ate healthy food. That's all, and that's everything. This was incredibly powerful. I'm saying it again: This was incredibly powerful. Anyone who is (or was) as carb- and sugar-addicted as I was (and am?) knows that it is easy to feel powerless in front of food.

No really, what were the results?
I won't lie. I was dearly hoping that in addition to all of the above awesomeness I would also lose some weight. And I did. I lost about 4.5 pounds. This is almost exactly one pound per week, which is fabulous for sustainable, healthy weight loss. But I will be honest and say that I was pretty disappointed I hadn't lost more weight than that. I mean, I worked my tail off staying on the Whole30, and I had been hoping for far greater losses in the poundage department. (Please note: it has now been long enough since the Whole30 that I can replace my disappointment with happy acceptance, but sheesh it was hard not to see more movement on the scale.)

I did lose inches. Eight of 'em. Yay! One inch off my chest measurement, a half inch off my thigh measurement, a half inch off my arm measurement, two beautiful inches off my hip measurement, and four--four!--inches off my waist measurement.

For the record, my workouts during this time were as follows: weightlifting 2-3 times per week, running 2-3 times per week, and step aerobics 1-3 times per week.

I also learned...
- I can spend every available spare moment cooking, reading about cooking, preparing to cook, shopping to cook, thinking about cooking, and cleaning up from cooking.
- The amount of time I spend dealing with making so much food meant I had to spend less time on other things. Housecleaning and writing took the hit.
- It is possible, though pretty depressing sometimes, to eat out on the Whole30. Subway and Chipotle were the easiest places for me to find compliant, satisfying foods. All other eateries involved ignoring delicious foods (hello, Oklahoma Joe's BBQ with no sauce), usually opting for the salad, and almost always needing to bring my own dressing from home so as to avoid added sugars and icky refined oils.
- I have an addiction to Penzey's Spices.
- My cast iron skillet is my best friend. I used it every single day.
- Chopping food makes my FitBit go into sleep mode. I must chop hard!
- Hunger is not an emergency. I do not need to respond to it in panic mode. (Thank you, Dr. Beck.)
- Treating yourself as if you already are the best version of yourself you can be, makes you become her already. (Thanks, Melissa.)

What I Cooked
This should give you an idea of just how much freaking food I prepared during the month. I made each of these recipes at least once during either the 21DSD or the Whole30 or both. I also cooked recipes from numerous websites, too numerous to list here.

A lot of the recipes listed below can be found online by googling the recipe title and cookbook title together, or the recipe title and cookbook author together.

I highly recommend each of these books.

Well Fed
- Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Garlic-Browned Ground Meat
- Mayonnaise (This is amazing and always in my fridge. Never again with the store-bought.)
- Sunshine Sauce
- Ras El Hanout
- Best Stir-Fry Sauce Ever
- Moroccan Dipping Sauce (I put this on everything.)
- Pad Thai
- Cinnamon Beef Stew with Orange Gremolata
- The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat
- Moroccan Meatballs
- Chocolate Chili
- Egg Foo Yong
- Czech Meatballs
- Char Siu
- Shepherd's Pie
- Bora Bora Fireballs (I also call these Amazeballs.)
- Blue Ribbon Country Captain Chicken
- Mashed Cauliflower
- Velvety Butternut Squash
- Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
- Basic Cauli Rice
- Confetti Rice
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash
- Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio
- Roni's Creamy Cucumbers

Well Fed 2
- Awesome Sauce (addictive; love it with roasted sweet potato fries)
- Gyro/Kebab Sauce
- Hoisin Sauce
- Kickass Ketchup
- Lebanese Seven-Spice Blend
- Lebanese Meatballs
- Chicken Nanking
- Deconstructed Gyro
- Moo Shu Pork (better than takeout)

Practical Paleo
- Italian Sausage Spice Blend
- Swirly Crustless Quiche
- Bacon-wrapped Smoky Chicken Thighs
- Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs (my oldest daughter LOVES these)
- Spaghetti Squash Bolognese (I want to eat this right now.)
- Lemony Lamb Dolmas
- Sautéed Red Cabbage with Onions and Apples
- Acorn Squash with Cinnamon & Coconut Butter
- Bacon-wrapped Pecan Dates
- Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce

The 21 Day Sugar Detox
- Almond Milk Smoothie
- Green Apple Breakfast Sausage
- Pumpkin Pancakes
- Perfectly Grilled Chicken Breast
- Mini Mexi-Meatloaves
- Italian-style Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Greek-style Meatballs
- Ginger-Garlic Beef & Broccoli
- Crunchy Curried Beef Lettuce Cups
- Shepherd's Pie
- Asian-Style Meatballs
- Double Pork Tenderloin
- Cinnamon Grilled Pork Chops
- Chicken Salad with Capers & Tomato
- Broccoli & Bacon Salad with Creamy Balsamic Dressing (I also want to eat this right now.)
- Golden Beets with Crispy Herbs
- Simple Beef Jerky
- Basic 4 Guacamole

The 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook
- Apple Pie Smoothie
- Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
- Worth the Wait Crustless Quiche
- Tandoori Chicken Skewers
- Curried Chicken Salad with Apples
- Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Capers & Bacon
- Asian Sautéed Greens
- Roasted Butternut Squash Mash
- Caramelized Brussels Sprouts & Onions
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Simple Marinara

Against All Grain
- Curried Chicken Salad
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Leeks, and Pomegranate Seeds

Nom Nom Paleo
- Slow Cooker Kalua Pig (You can use this simple and DELICIOUS pulled pork as the basis for almost anything.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cocktail of the Month -- Glory Blossom Bourbon Slushies

September is almost over, and soon October will be here, and I will have to admit that it is Fall. But until that time, I am still pretending it's summer, and I am still enjoying this summery drink. Perfect for a porch party. Or just because.

I came across this awesome grown-up slurpy back in April 2013, when I was randomly selected as one of two people to join the Deen Brothers in judging a cooking contest. This marvelous concoction, created by one Kristi Forbes, was the unanimous winner in the beverage category.

Here I am with the guys after we enjoyed our Glory Blossoms. (Jamie may or may not have gone back for seconds. I may or may not have done that also.)


1 (12 oz) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 (12 oz) cans frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 cups strong tea
2 cups bourbon
2 cups peach schnapps
1 1/2 cups sugar
7 cups water
1 (2 liter) bottle 7-Up, optional
1 jar maraschino cherries, optional

Mix everything together (minus the optional ingredients), stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Freeze.  (I freeze it in two 13x9 pans. The shallower your liquid, the faster it will freeze.  Mix it up in the morning; it will be ready mid-afternoon.) Don't worry if it seems frozen solid. It melts into a drinkable, slurpable consistency fairly quickly. 

When ready to serve, scrape the slush out into a large bowl or pitcher. Allow guests (or self) to fill individual glasses with slush, topping with 7-Up and a cherry, if desired. Leftovers can be frozen in individual mason jars, which make for great impromptu cocktails.

Just be careful--these can pack a punch! But it's a pretty punch.

In fact, I just might have to try some while making my daughter's birthday dinner...

Yup, still good.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

So much of our world's best literature is set during our world's wars. It's just the way it is. We heal from our biggest errors with our best offerings of art, and because of this, the most monumental events in our history are always the crucibles for our best stories. 

No one should shy away from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr simply because it is set during World War II. Though nothing that happens here could have happened without the war, this is not a book about the war.*

The novel is about truths that are much, much smaller than wars. It is about the quietest kinds of bravery you can imagine. It is about the barest bones of human compassion, and how much each of these gestures can mean. It is about the extraordinary things we can do when we realize we have no other choice. It is about saving people.

The writing in this thing is perfect. Seriously. I can't remember the last time I've finished a book and wanted to start over from the beginning right away. I need to re-read this novel just to marvel at Anthony Doerr's wordcraft.

My neighbor (the marvelous one who recommended this book to me) said, "You can't remove a single sentence from this book." And she is right. If I were still teaching writing classes, I would challenge my students to pick a page and pick one sentence on it that was unnecessary. Then I'd have the rest of the class clamoring to tell us why Doerr kept it.

But I wasn't thinking of these things while reading, because the story itself was so beautiful. I couldn't bear to stop (too often) to marvel at the writing, though I was aware of it glittering all around me.

Have you ever admired a gorgeous work of art, a painting, say, or a mosaic, or an heirloom quilt or tapestry, and been blown away by the beautiful picture before you? And then have you been blown away all over again by the intricate handiwork, the attention to detail, that you notice only when you step close enough to see what makes up that picture? Have you marveled at the incredible skill it must take to see how every single stitch or stroke or stone or word will fit into place amongst the many other thousands beside it to create the breathtaking whole?

That's this.

The Gutsy Mom

 *Okay, okay. It's inevitably about the war. But there's very little shoot-'em-up, bang-'em-up, atrocity after atrocity after atrocity numbing you to the horror-of-it-all going on here.