What have I been doing and how is it almost December?

Um...what the hell happened to autumn?

Um…what the hell happened to autumn?

Basically this is my apology in case you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit behind in the world of WordPress. Life has been so hectic it’s kept me from reading and writing as much as I would have liked these past four weeks.

One of the reasons for the madness is because a month ago I decided to embark on the “Whole 30.” If you’re unfamiliar with the program it’s essentially a thirty day eating plan/elimination diet that helps participants rethink their food choices, overcome cravings, heal their digestive track and eat 100% clean for thirty days. (I don’t want to bore you too much with specifics so if you want to read more about the Whole 30, click here.)

Basically from Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 22, I abstained from all sugars (natural or otherwise), grains (even whole grains), legumes (except green beans and peas), alcohol and dairy. That sounds like an overwhelming list of “can’t have’s” but I did eat plenty of meat, seafood, eggs and vegetables with a limited amount of fruits, nuts and seeds added in for good measure.

For someone who eats lots of grains and is known to indulge in a few pints of delicious beer, I was very worried I wasn’t going to complete the challenge. In fact, I vowed not to mention my mission on this blog until it was over — just in case I threw in the towel. Not very confident sounding, I know, but hey, I’m realistic. I work in the food industry, my husband cooks everything with cream, butter and cheese, and the holiday stress level at work usually has me and my co-workers doing mid-morning shots by now.

But I made it and it feels really good to say that. I do eat fairly well in general so my cravings weren’t too bad and I didn’t suffer a lot of the detox pains that many people do the first week. What made it difficult for me was the struggle of time. On this program you have to make every meal — there is no convenience eating on days when you’re feeling overwhelmed. No English muffins for breakfast or ramen for dinner. Instead I would make huge batches of soft-boiled eggs, curries and roasted vegetables just so I wouldn’t be caught hungry and off-guard.

I could talk on and on about the results from the program and how I feel about it (and maybe I will in another post) but this was just to let you know what’s been monopolizing my time lately. I love to cook and I relish time in the kitchen, but I am really  happy to be able to heat up a frozen burrito after a late night at work!

But don’t think I ate in misery for thirty days. Check out all the good things I scarfed down:

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

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Butter Beans with Cauliflower, Farro and Lemon

Butter Bean, Cauliflower and Farro Salad

Butter Bean, Cauliflower and Farro Salad

I am having a little bit of a love affair with Bon Appetit as of late. I usually rotate between quite a few culinary magazines — everything from Food & Wine to Living to Lucky Peach. But I’ve been in a rut recently and it’s seems like every issue of Bon Appetit is chock full of recipes I want to try out.

The most recent issue was no exception. As soon as I saw the picture for their Warm Cauliflower with Herbed Barley Salad, I knew it was destined to be on my plate very soon. The salad consists of three main components, things I generally would not think to mix all together: cauliflower, butter beans and barley. But it sounded like something I would love, so I made it as a side dish for some seared pork chops early last week.

I lucked out of the first step (cooking the barley) because I happened to have some cooked farro on hand already. This sped up the cooking time considerably so if you already have a cooked grain left over, use it here. I’m sure brown rice, quinoa or wheatberries would all be equally at home.

The next step involves cooking the cauliflower, which I actually found fairly interesting. I adore cauliflower and most often I just eat it raw, though I love it roasted, and occasionally I’ll have it steamed. This preparation was a rather ingenious combination of searing and steaming, which gave the cauliflower the flavor of having been roasted with much less oil (win win!).

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Was it Worth it: Can candied orange peel brighten up granola?

Granola with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Candied Orange Peels

  • The Background: It seems silly to do a long post about granola — lots of people make it and it’s so versatile that any recipe you have can be tweaked one way or another depending on your personal taste. And yet, this recipe in particular called out for me to do a post about it. Why? Because of this ingredient: candied orange peel.

I not only love homemade candied citrus peels, but I happen to have some leftover from Christmas and had never thought to use them in granola. It seemed like such a stroke of genius, though I was worried the candied part might make the granola too sweet. Thus, the recipe needed testing!

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Rhizome Roulette: Are sunchokes worth the gamble?

How can something so potentially evil look so innocent?

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled up my sunchoke plant and was greeted with a lovely harvest of the knobby root vegetables. Even though I had been looking forward to that moment all summer, suddenly I felt bewildered. What should I do with them? I haven’t cooked sunchokes in years. So I turned to Google.

Which dropped me down a rabbit hole I had not at all expected — an online journey featuring flatulence and intestinal distress. What I discovered was something I had thankfully been totally unaware of all my sunchoke-eating life. Apparently about 50 percent of people have painful digestive issues fueled by sunchokes — to the point that some of the comments on the recipes I was researching made me cringe. Commenters on some sites cried out that every recipe should come with a written warning that these unassuming tubers could wreck severe havoc on unsuspecting eaters. I was floored.

Some people were so intense that even though I was 99 percent confident in my ability to enjoy sunchokes with no ill effects, I actually became a bit anxious. What if all the times I had eaten them were flukes? What if this time I was part of the wrong half of the population? How would I survive an 8-hour day in a small office with that type of reaction? Finally I set my nerves aside, picked up my knife and got cooking.

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