Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fancy Food For Fun – Mediterannean Diet!

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This month I’ve been following the Mediterranean Diet.  I’m not going to go into any great deal on the specifics of the diet in this post (I’ll save that for the next one).  In short, the MedDiet is the traditional diet followed by the people that live along the Mediterannean Sea (go figure).  It is characterized by LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies, poultry and fish, whole grains, lots of olive oil, nuts and seeds, a little bit of dairy, and very little red meat.  And WINE!
I’ve had so much fun cooking over the last couple weeks, and I wanted to share some of my new recipes with you.  As a reminder, please apply the term “recipe” loosely.  I estimated the amounts of everything I used – I don’t measure. If you try something and don’t like it, it’s because I estimated incorrectly or because your tastebuds are broken.  You can choose the culprit.

From Brussels, With Love

Brussels Sprouts are my favorite vegetable.  If you just cringed, it’s because a) you’ve never actually had Brussels Sprouts or b) you haven’t had them made right.  Brussels Sprouts have a really nice bitter, but subtle flavor and they marry well with both savory ands sweet flavors.  The best combination out there is bacon and Brussels sprouts, but I like to add something sweet to balance it all out – typically dried cranberries or honey.
Here are a couple of my favorite ways to prepare B Sprouts.  Try them out if you hate (or think you hate) them or if you just want a new way to prepare these delicious little cruciferous veggies!

Triple B’s: Brussels Sprouts, Barley, and Bacon

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12-15 medium sprouts, ends and outer leaves removed, sliced in half along long axis
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 T honey
2 T olive oil
1.5 T balsamic vinegar
2 T dried cranberries
1 apple, diced
¼ cup  crumbled feta
3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
½ cup barley (I used 10 Minute Barley from Trader Joe’s)

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Whisk together honey, oil, and vinegar in a small bowl.
Combine sprouts and walnuts in a bowl and coat with sauce.  Spread  onto a roasting pan with all ingredients except bacon and barley.  Roast in over for 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook and chop bacon and cook barley according to package directions.
When fruits, veggies, and nuts are soft, take out of oven, mix in barley and bacon, and eat up!

Toasted SooFoo with Brussels Sprouts and Baked Salmon

SooFoo can be found in the health food section of many grocery stores (I got mine at Safeway).  It is a blend of brown rice; green, black, and brown lentils; rye and wheat berries; oats; barley; and buckwheat, making it a really tasty and great source of whole wheat grains.  I’ve also seen something similar to this at Trader Joe’s – I think it’s called Harvest Medley, and it takes less time to cook, making this a very easy dish to throw together when you don’t have a ton of time.
I’ve already given my spiel about my love for Brussels Sprouts, so I won’t go into that again.  Lastly, salmon is by far my favorite animal protein source.  It’s such a diverse, mellow flavored fish, and I never tire of cooking it.
So here was my attempt at combining this strange mix of grains along with my favorite veggie and protein.  I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

Serves 2-3

½ cup SooFoo
1 cup water
1 large salmon filet
~1-2 T olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
7-8 brussels sprouts, outside leaves and stems discarded and cut into ribbons
~2 T pine nuts
~3 T dried cranberries
4-5 dried apricots, roughly chopped
~2 T parsley, roughly chopped

In a small/medium saucepan, bring water and SooFoo to a boil, reduce to simmer for 40-50 minutes. You know how it goes :).
Meanwhile, drizzle salmon filet with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze lemon juice on top.  Place in a cold oven, heat to 400°F, and take out in 25 minutes.  This is the best way I know to cook salmon.
When SooFoo is nearly done, start sautéing Brussels Sprouts and pine nuts in just a bit of olive oil (you don’t want them to be soaking, just enough so they don’t burn). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. After about 3-4 minutes, add in the SooFoo and a little more oil in order to toast the grains. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Mix in apricots, cranberries, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste
Serve salmon over veggie, fruit, and grain mixture.  Add parsley for garnish.
I ate this dish with a nice big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’m not going to pretend to know how to pair wine with food.  Whatever makes you happy! J

My oh my, the Pizza Pie!

Everyone loves pizza! And what’s better than pizza? Homemade pizza, that’s what! It’s so easy (and cheap) to make at home, and I don’t take advantage of it nearly enough. If you don’t want to make the dough, you can buy it in the freezer section at some grocery stores (Sprouts definitely has it; I haven’t checked elsewhere).  I really like making it, though, because it’s fun to see the whole thing come together from scratch.  Here are a couple of my most recent concoctions.
Use this recipe for Whole Wheat-ish Pizza Dough.  This will make enough dough for two pies.  You can easily halve it or you can just save the dough in a Ziploc bag – just make sure to squeeze all the air out of the bag.  I kept mine for 3 days in between pies; I don’t know how much longer it would last.

Pesto Mediterranean Pizza

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Whole wheat pizza dough (see above link)
Pesto (make from scratch by blending together some basil and olive oil until you get the consistency you want, add pine nuts/walnuts, salt and pepper to taste.)
Marinated artichoke hearts, sliced into ribbons
Marinated garlic stuffed olives, roasted red peppers, diced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese (I use 2% milk fat)
½ cup feta cheese
basil chiffonade

Preheat oven to 425°C.
This is pretty much a free for all.  Roll out the dough on a countertop covered in flour.  If you’re feeling adventurous, do some tosses to make the pie.  I didn’t do that.
Transfer the dough to a pizza stone or pan.
Spread pesto (however much you want) onto dough.  Cover pesto with veggies (the veggies I bought were just marinated in jars. I got them from Safeway, but use whatever you want.  There are no rules here).
Top veggies with mozzarella and feta cheeses and chiffonade basil leaves
Bake for ~15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned.

Pumpkin, Spicy Sausage, Fried Sage, and Smoked Gouda Pizza

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Whole wheat pizza dough (see above link)
~1 cup pureed pumpkin
nutmeg and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 spicy turkey sausage, fried and crumbled
2 T olive oil, separated
1 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese (I use 2% milk fat)
6-7 large leaves of sage, torn apart roughly
2-3 T pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425°C.
Start by rolling out the dough as before and transferring to pizza stone/pan.
Brush ~1 T olive oil onto dough. Spread pumpkin puree over the dough.  Sprinkle a little nutmeg and pepper over pumpkin.
Spread the cooked sausage over the pumpkin and top with cheeses.  I actually used only gouda in my pizza, but it’s not a very “melty” cheese.  I would recommend mixing with mozzarella in order to get more melt.
Sautee the sage and pine nuts in remaining oil over medium-high heat until sage is crispy and pine nuts are slightly browned.  Sprinkle them over the cheese.
Bake for ~15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned.

Hope you enjoy these! Please let me know if you have any questions! Cheers 🙂

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Fast Metabolism Diet- Where Normal People Go To Develop A Food Complex

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My month of September was spent obsessing over food, as well as hating it.  Both are things I’ve never experienced.  I spent the month following the Fast Metabolism Diet (FMD), a diet developed by Haylie Pomroy, a Hollywood nutritionist with a background in animal science and holistic health.

The Gist of FMD
The purpose of FMD is to “reset your metabolism.” Pomroy explains that many people who have tried and failed countless times at diets and weight loss may be stuck in a rut because their metabolism is out of whack.  Additionally, she believes that counting calories, carbs, and fat grams are the wrong approach to dieting.  These are ideas I generally support. As you’ll see, I don’t believe her approach is the answer either.
Pomroy’s theory is that you can coax your body into metabolizing nutrients more efficiently if you keep it guessing as to what it will be metabolizing next.  This, in theory, makes it run more efficiently.  The idea is to follow this very specific plan for 4 weeks, each week split into three phases.  Doing this will supposedly teach your body how to digest, absorb, and utilize nutrients more efficiently and effectively so that you don’t have to be afraid of ice cream sundaes and so forth.  She recommends doing the full four weeks and then repeating a week at a time here and there if you feel the need.  So before we get started, make sure it’s clear in your mind that this is NOT a long term diet.  It’s the only “phase” diet that I’ve tried thus far.

The Three Phases
I was sort of on board when I had read about as much as you just have (though, being the forever skeptic that I am, I needed more information).  I do believe that we all process nutrients differently, so while a calorie from bread may be burned quickly and effectively in one person, that same calorie may be processed differently for someone else.  Pomroy also does a pretty thorough job of describing the organs involved in metabolism (liver, adrenals, thyroid, pituitary), how they become dysregulated, many of the myths about metabolism and weight loss, etc.  I think this is how people become interested in the diet – I’ve heard some say that they tried it because it was the only diet they had ever heard of that described the physiology of weight loss.
Next, I read about the three phases and they sounded great!

How You Get Roped In
Phase 1 – Days 1 & 2: Lots of carbs and fruits
Purpose: Flood the body with nutrients, calm the adrenals with natural sugars so that it reduces its cortisol production, a stress hormone that is linked to weight gain. Pair these foods with some kind of cardio exercise.  What I didn’t realize until later is that this phase really means NO fat. No cooking with fat, no nuts, no fatty veggies, only very lean meat, etc.

Phase 2 – Days 3 & 4: Lots of protein and veggies
Purpose: These foods push your body to lay down muscle and scavenge fat. Do some kind of heavy weight lifting on these days to ramp up the protein production in muscles.  What I soon realized was that this literally only means meat and vegetables, and nothing starchy.  No fruit, no cooking with fat, no eating nuts, no eating anything fun.

Phase 3– Days 5-7: All of the above plus healthy fats and oils
Purpose: After eating low fat for four days, your digestive enzymes are firing, your muscles are pumped up, and your body has been thriving on nutrient dense foods, so now it’s ready to start using fuel for fat! (These are obviously not my words.  And this phase is where I started to really question things. I don’t know how the previous days have made your digestive enzymes “fire.” They “fire” when you eat anything. Why would your body be suddenly ready to burn fat for fuel? The plot thickens…)

The Reality

Pomroy lays it out all very simply and beautifully in the beginning.  “You’ll eat delicious food, and you’ll be eating more than you ever thought possible on a diet!” she touts.  You GET to eat so much food.  It’s so different from any other diet you’ve ever tried! Just follow these rules:

  1. You must eat 5 times per day, 35 times per week (Not hard for me. I eat throughout the day, every day).
  2. You must eat every three to four hours, except when you’re sleeping. (I’m still on board. I eat more often than that.)
  3. You must eat within 30 minutes of waking. Every day. (Mine’s more like 45-60 minutes, but still not a huge issue).
  4. You must stay on the plan for the full 28 days. (Fine.)
  5. You must stick to the foods allowed in your phase. (OK.)
  6. You must follow the phases in order. (I get it.)
  7. You must drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. (Not a bad plan. For me, this means ~60 ounces per day).
  8. Eat organic whenever possible. (Get real. I just spent a fortune on organic for a month. Not going to happen.)
  9. Meats must be nitrate free.  (These meats are more expensive, but the rationale here is that if your liver is processing all kinds of other chemicals, it can’t work on burning fat. This is the rationale for the organic thing, and many of the other items in the list below.)

But there are these few “minor” details written in fine print that really change the whole game. Here are all the things you CAN’T eat.

  1. No wheat, unless it is sprouted (Sprouted is supposedly easier for your intestines to absorb.  I’ve never seen the evidence, but sure. Whatever.)
  2. No corn. (Too many GMO’s, apparently.  See my previous post for my take on GMO’s.)
  3. No dairy. (Most cheeses and the like are high fat. Nonfat or lowfat? Pomroy says no because they’re too processed. I don’t agree.)
  4. No soy.  (GMO story again.)
  5. No refined sugar. (This includes all white sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar. Pretty much everything.  You can use stevia if you need to sweeten something.)
  6. No caffeine. (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  7. No alcohol. (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  8. No dried fruit (Dumb) or fruit juices (Meh – whatever).
  9. No artificial sweeteners
  10. No fat free diet foods
  11. Miscellaneous: no peanuts or peanut butter, no rice wine vinegar (I have no idea why not).

I suddenly realized I would spend the next month hating my life.  And so the story goes….

Week One – I HATE EVERYTHING
Below is an excerpt from my journal.
“Huge struggle, feeling deprived, hungry ALL THE TIME.  Joy has been completely sucked out of eating.  Sneaking little cheats everyday.  Phase II is the hardest – I’ve never been so hungry.  Similar to how I felt on Paleo, but so much worse because I can’t eat ANY fruit, starches, nuts, etc.  Brain function is slow on Phase II – exhausted, my head hurts constantly, I used to look forward to eating. Not anymore.”
The caffeine thing was hard in the beginning, but honestly, it only took 3 days to get off it and then I was fine.  The problem that I saw during week one that remained for the rest of the month was that I realized how much I legitimately enjoy drinking coffee – it’s warm and creamy and tastes good and makes me happy.  “How about some decaf,” you propose.  Nope. Decaf still has some caffeine in it (about 15-35% of caffeinated coffee).

Week two – SUCK IT UP. DON’T BE A QUITTER.
These week involved a little bit of soul searching and digging in deep.  I felt so discouraged and unhappy after week one.  Everyone thought I was weird/crazy for continuing on when it 1) appeared to be a stupid diet and 2) I felt so crappy. I thought about it – there was no longer joy in cooking or eating.  It literally felt like a chore to do either.  I didn’t feel any different in that I hadn’t lost any weight and my body seemed to be functioning the same, or worse, than it always had.
Then I realized I needed an attitude adjustment.  I saw a quote that said “Explore what you avoid – it’s important to challenge yourself and take yourself out of your comfort zone.” So I decided that I need to do just that and push myself.  I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t believe that the diet would lead to weight loss and repair a person’s metabolic issues.  But I decided that I would make this a test of my will power, and if I experienced any of the purported benefits, so be it.  After all, one of the main reasons I embarked on this “experiment” was to test my will power.
I did make some adjustments, though, to prevent myself from completely cracking.  For example, I didn’t eat the serving sizes outlined, and I allowed myself to eat some starchy veggies (i.e. carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini) on Phase II days. I also ate greek yogurt with some blueberries on Phase II days a couple of times.  It is amazing how hard it is to eat JUST meat and veggies. That’s all. Nothing else.

Week 3 – Acceptance and Comfort (And how happy hour ruins diets)

I had started to feel better and get a hang of the diet at this point.  I wasn’t STARVING during Phase II, and while I still didn’t really enjoy cooking or eating, I had come to accept that fact.  So, as comfortable as I was, I was equally bored. I still wasn’t seeing any benefit, so I kind of had a “screw this” moment.  I went to happy hour with some friends. I drank a margarita. Sweet, delicious nectar of the gods. I ate pork green chile nachos! I ate guacamole with chips! And it felt great. I didn’t feel guilty or mad or hungry.  I just felt happy.

Week 4 – Who Gives a S**t?
At this point, I was pretty much in the same place, mentally, as week 3, but I no longer felt any kind of investment or loyalty in FMD.  It wasn’t even about will power anymore, I just didn’t care.  I didn’t feel different physically, with the exception of my lack of dependence on caffeine and being extremely hydrated, which were good things.  I didn’t have high energy levels, such as were promised, and I definitely didn’t lose weight.

Final Thoughts
This was the first time that I think I got a glimpse into what it feels like to really be on a diet.  I’d say that I have a whole new respect for people who diet, but I don’t.  No one should ever make themselves feel that sad over food.  Pomroy writes that people need to lose the demons that they have created with food, but her diet does exactly the opposite.  I’ve never had issues with food, but I developed real ones with this.  The feeling of cheating on the diet was exhilarating and made me happy initially, but I would end up feeling like a failure later on.  And this happened literally every day for a month.  10 days into October, and I still feel like I have an unhealthy relationship with food.  While doing FMD, I would cheat on the diet, but practically gorge myself on my cheat foods. I didn’t really savor the food – I felt more of a sense of panic.  And this is never what food should be for anyone.  Portion control is important.  Making healthy choices is important.  But developing a longing that is never truly satiated because of the guilt that you feel for eating “unhealthy” foods is never okay.  Overall, I hated this month, but at least it gave me an idea of what people put themselves through.  And I can now tell from experience, there are so many better ways.

In other news, the first time I drank coffee was pretty much the happiest moment of my recent life.  Happier than when I got my job in CO or got my PhD or even got my dog.  I had reached the point where I was fine without caffeine.  I was functioning just great. But then I drank coffee, and the world came alive! I couldn’t believe I’d tricked myself into thinking I was okay! I could get so many things done! I was nicer! I was funnier! My brain and body worked better! Colors were brighter! The birds sang prettier! … and I think this is what drug addicts say about their respective vices…

Anyways, take a gander at the table below to see what days on FMD looked like for me.  These were really the best of the best days, where I didn’t cheat (much).  In particular, make note of the calorie counts.  Yeah, you’ll be eating “so much delicious food.” What a crock!
You’ll also see that I did not lose weight, my blood pressure looks pretty good (I think we can thank the lack of caffeine for that), and I spent way too much money. Thanks for nothin’, FMD!

Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
Recommended What I ate Recommended What I ate Recommended What I ate
Breakfast Oatmeal fruit smoothie 1 c Oatmeal w/strawberries, sweetened with stevia; herbal tea Spanish egg white scramble Egg white scramble w/green chiles, bell peppers, red onions, Sriracha; herbal tea Toast, egg, tomato, red onion, 1/2 avocado Sprouted grain toast + 1 T almond butter + cinnamon; jicama spears; herbal tea
Snack Asian Pear Apple Smoked salmon w/cucumbers 1 C celery, 1 C carrots; 3 pieces nitrate free turkey meat 1/3 cup hummus and cucumbers Peach + raspberries
Lunch Open faced turkey sandwich (1 slice bread) Nitrate free turkey sandwich on sprouted wheat bread (2 slices) w/mustard, cucumbers, spinach; 2 small plums Tuna and cucumber salad 1 can tuna, red onion, cucumber, hard boiled egg white, cilantro, lime juice Endive tuna salad 2 C coconut curry chicken
Snack 2 kiwi 2 rice cakes, 1 c carrots, pear 1-2 oz buffalo jerky Turkey jerky, 1 C cucumber spears Celery + 2 T raw almond butter 2 T hummus, 1/2 c carrots, 1/2 c celery
Dinner 2 cups chicken and barley soup 2 cups baby kale + 1/2 c quinoa + 1/2 c black beans + carrots + cucumbers, lime juice Steak and asparagus lettuce wrap Broiled salmon, 1 c steamed broccoli w/garlic and lemon juice, baby kale salad w/cucumber & balsamic vinegar Coconut curry chicken Black bean + avocado + sauteed veggie burrito (sprouted wheat tortilla)
Snack None Rice crackers None Greek yogurt, dozen blueberries, stevia; herbal tea None Handful of mixed nuts
Total Calories 845 1,150 750 925 1,210 1,690
 

Goal/Normal

Baseline Data Vegan Paleo WW Gluten Free Smoothies DASH Low Fat Sustain-
ability
FMD
Anthro
Weight

121-60

127.5

127.5

128.5

124

120

124

123.5

123

123

125.5

BMI

18.5-24.9

20

20

20.1

19.5

19

19.5

19.5

19.25

19.25

19.7

PBF

21-32

21.4

21.2

20.6

21.3

18.5

19

?

?

?

?

WC

<35

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

?

26.5

27

27

HC

38.5

37.5

38

38

38

38

?

36.5

37

37.5

W:H Ratio

<0.8

0.71

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.72

0.72

?

0.73

0.73

0.72

BP

<120/80

113/77

101/69

105/72

110/70

93/65

92/68

91/68

103/66

103/68

95/65

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1975

1809

1965

1900

1850

1980

1865

1780

1905

925-1688

Protein (g)

77.5

57

100

75

78

80

70

89

44-141

Protein (%)

Oct-35

16

12%

20

16

17

17

15

22

19

15-61

CHO (%)

49-52

51

39-50

47

54

52

54

52

60

52

28-77

Fiber (g)

at least 25

26

42

32

27

29

33

30

23

25

30-52

Fat (%)

20-35

29.5

44-54

47

30

31

29

33

18

29

10-46

Sat Fat (%)

<10

7

8

8

7

7

7

8

7

8

3-7

Sodium (mg)

2300

2587

2527

2132

2370

2250

2320

2147

2315

2282

1250-1740

Potassium (mg)

4700

3479

4109

3742

3628

3658

3925

3874

3143

3746

4014-4624

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

3-7

8-12

6-8

5-7

6-8

8-10

7-9

4-6

5-7

8-12

Cost

192.59

206.38

120.97

128.57

135.42

127.32

145.2

254.45

195.14