The Whole30 Pt. III: The Bread is Nigh!

It’s the LAST DAY OF THE Whole30 EXPERIMENT! YES, ALREADY! I’ve come a long way from trying to huff cake and hoping to taste tiger blood (whether it’s on the plan or not)! At the end of it all, this was an experiment, and while I could yell about how excited I am about eating peanut butter for an entire post, but there’s information here and ready… So let’s get to the juicy stuff.

Some of the good things I’ve experienced on the plan:

• I stopped counting calories. Some years back, I was a fastidious (obsessive) calorie counter. That’s not the case anymore, but I still usually take mental tallies over the course of any day—like a weird hobby. This all but stopped the deeper I got into the Whole30. Even richer foods such as coconut oil, nut butters, dried fruits, or sausage, no longer have me reaching for a calculator.

• I started reading MORE labels. Label checking during my vegan experiment was small-time compared to the ingredient-scanning terminator I’ve turned into now. I can spot sugar almost in an instant. Soybean oil? Forget it! Corn? Back to the shelf with you! As a result, I’ve eaten less food with ingredient lists, and more dishes with ingredients

• My tastebuds have changed.  I won’t be able to confirm this until I eat something with refined sugar in it (something I’ll be putting off as much and as long as I can), but I think I’m currently experiencing natural sugars as the peak of sweetness. Yesterday I had few dried medjool dates, and I stood in my kitchen, chewing and marvelling over the the fact that I was sure they tasted EXACTLY caramels. Insane, I know.

My boss also says my skin has been looking amazing, but I still have some blemishes on my jaw, a recent problem area of mine… So either she’s biased and pro-program, or the rest of my skin looks good?

Some other observations about the body & mind:

Body stuff: Program protocol says you’re not supposed to weigh yourself at all, which I understand, and actually agree with (despite hating a lot of the Whole30’s website with a passion). I think the less people stare at the scale, the better.
HOW. EV. VER. This was an experiment and so weigh-ins became part of the data. I’ve been losing at a steady, healthy pace of about 1lb a week, so not all that different from my regular routine.

I didn’t use a tape measure, but it’s totally possible I smoked an inch or two off, between the leafy greens and ramping up my running mileage. My clothes do seem to be fitting better, but I’m not certain if that’s a by-product of the work or the diet changes?

Mind stuff: The Whole30 didn’t give me an endless wellspring of energy, but that could also be because I usually don’t get enough hours of sleep during the week anyway (and the one day that I drank egg coffee). To be fair to the program, I’m in the middle of tapering off of anti-depressants, so any lows could be linked to that.

It DID get me to examine lots of the food systems that exist in my immediate surroundings. The fact that sugar is everywhere, in everything, or that buying sustainable free-range, antibiotic-free meat is privilege. It opened conversations with friends about food—friends who I didn’t now would be interested in the topic in the first place.

Lastly, it showed me that temptation is basically nothing, and I’m capable of maintaining whatever food decisions I choose to abide in the future. That’s a great feeling, powerful feeling. While I wouldn’t say the Whole30 changed my life, that’s a bit too assertive and sweeping. I would say that it changed my mind—for the better.

Plus, now that first bite of off-plan pizza is going to be A-MAZ-ING. I can’t WAIT to start cooking with more variety again!

Whole30 Primal Egg Coffee

Egg Coffee. Invented by the Paleo/Primal crowd, (the people who also put butter and coconut oil in their java, surprise!), it’s exactly what it claims to be: eggs in your morning brew. Separately, the two words are innocent, but side-by-side they can sound wrong—like “nipple waxing” or “President Trump.” They summon images of steaming black liquid with curdled scrambled egg drifting on the surface—gross.

I HATED the idea of this recipe—it felt strange, pretentious, and downright unnecessary… That was why I had to try it! I was an old man sitting on a dilapidated front porch scowling—back in my day, the only place the two mixed was in our bellies! However, in the spirit of having an open mind and an innovative breakfast, I broke out my stovetop brewer and got cracking. And…despite my fear, I took a big whisk and went for it.

…It was actually pretty good! Slightly creamy, smooth, with a hint of cinnamon and an impulsive half teaspoon of coconut oil adding to the velvet of it. Not only THAT, but the stuff was basically rocket fuel. In the time I usually drink two coffees at work, I only finished half. I went back for a cup of coffee in the afternoon, and found my energy level was actually TOO high and had to have chamomile tea to settle my anxiety. Those Paleos might just be on to something…

Am I about to start doing this on the regular? Probably not, but I’m definitely trying it least once more to see if the rocket fuel is real…

Whole30 Primal Egg Coffee
(Adapted from Mark’s Daily Apple)
Serves 1
EggCoffee

2 c. brewed dark roast coffee or espresso, hot
2 eggs, free range if you can get them, room temperature*, **
Pinch sea salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. coconut oil (optional)
Cinnamon (optional)

1. Crack two eggs in a small mixing bowl, whisking vigorously until slightly frothy. In the meantime, brew the coffee.

2. When the coffee is finished, slowly pour the finished brew into the eggs, whisking as you go so the eggs don’t cook. Pour and whisk simultaneously (go! go! go!) until the coffee is fully incorporated and the mixture is frothy.

3. Add the pinch of salt, as well as the coconut oil and cinnamon, if including. Whisk again to incorporate.

4. Pour into your favourite mug, have no fear, and take a sip!

*Note: if you decide to go nuts like me and try this, it’s one of the few times I’m going to recommend “free range” or organic anything. It’s a privilege we can’t all afford, but when a recipe only has four or five ingredients, I like to think the way to ensure its success within that simplicity is getting the best ingredients—but only if they’re within your budget!

**To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes before you crack them!

The Whole30 Pt. 2: Tiger Blood!

According to the Whole30 timeline, from days 16-27, many people sticking to the plan begin to experience something they call “Tiger Blood.”

TIGER’S BLOOD! It sounds like something a colonel with a handlebar moustache would yell in a Rudyard Kipling novel when he sees something astonishing.

It’s actually a state of being in which Whole30-ians experience boundless power, deeper sleep, and a general natural high. Whether this is because you HAVE the blood of the tiger in your veins, or you DRANK said blood (is that technically Whole30 compliant?), you should be a wellspring of vigour.

…So it figures day 16 has felt like the hardest yet.

At the grocery store there was sugar or soy or dairy in E V E R Y T H IN G. I tried to make Paleo Mayo (palayo!) and it backfired and refused to emulsify. I melted a piece of tupperware by accident by leaving it on the stove. Ruh roh.

Despite all of this, I now am over the half way point, with only two weeks left. The hardest part of the program is NOT the restrictions to what you can eat—it’s the restrictions that THOSE restrictions can put on your life.

Last weekend, my friends and I went to the flea market. One of them proposed grabbing a bite after, and then the issue was raised that I’m still on the plan. I insisted that I could have a coffee or find something to feed myself, but we skipped going out for food. I appreciated them not eating something in front of me (likely at the risk of me asking if I can smell it), I also felt pretty self conscious about the fuss, especially when talk of their hunger started. Everyone in the situation chose for themselves, but still, being the instigator created friction with my anxious desire to be selectively invisible.

Another example? I’m going away for a weekend to visit friends out of town. Immediately after making the plans, I began to stew over what I was going to eat, or even how to bring up the subject with my hosts. I didn’t want to offend by bringing my own stuff… But I also did not want anyone to go out of their way just for me. This is the sort of lifestyle change that is big enough that it draws attention to itself. I’m hating that aspect.

I am, however, lucky to have friends who support me. Both of the above stories above have resulted in preparations of special menus, shared Whole30 friendly dinners, and open dialogue about what I’m doing, and why.

That feels pretty big and important and awesome to know you can count on your people, even while you’re counting down the days.

Simple Mexican Shakshuka

Day 15. I’m officially half way through the Whole30 challenge. I’m going strong, and while I’m not missing too many foods, I am missing certain meals… specifically brunch. So rather than mourning the pancakes or waffles I’m not eating right now, I kicked up my breakfast game at home this weekend.

This dish is quick, simple, and it looks fancy if you carry it to the table while it’s all hot and bubbly, like delicious tomato lava. The hardest part of this shakshuka might be all of the chopping prep you have to do, but a few minutes of work will render a fragrant, saucy dish that is comforting and tasty with familiar flavours.

It’s also easy to freestyle and remix. Seriously, this is not a recipe so much as a guideline. Try subbing  crushed tomatoes for diced, substitute half for salsa, top with cheese (let me nosh vicariously), or add more veggies of your choice (corn? black beans? delicious!) into the starting sautee and really make if your own.

Simple Mexican Shakshuka
(Adapted from FoodFaithFitness)
Serves 2-4
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1 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 whole Vidalia onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4-6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 to 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (I like this homemade one from Budget Bytes), to taste
3-4 c. crushed tomatoes
1-4 large eggs
Salt and Pepper
Chili flakes
For garnish: green onions, avocados, cilantro, lime, hot sauce, cheese. whatever you want!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On the stove top, melt coconut oil in a medium ovenproof frying pan. Add garlic and onions, stirring over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add in bell peppers, stirring until slightly softened, then add the fresh chopped tomatoes.

2. Sprinkle the vegetables with taco seasoning and stir to distribute. Add the crushed tomatoes, stirring, and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste the seasonings and add more salt, pepper, or spices to your taste.

3. Turn off the heat. Making wells in the sauce, crack 1-4 eggs into the tomato mixture making wells to hold them* (see note). 

4. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until mixture is bubbly and eggs are baked, about 10-15 minutes. (You can also cook the eggs stove top by covering the pan with a lid, with a shorter cooking time.)

5. When eggs are baked, remove from oven, spoon into dishes and garnish with your toppings of choice. Enjoy the shakshuka alone, or served with tasty sides like refried beans, rice, or tortillas.

*Note:
 if cooking for one, decide on the number of eggs you want and crack those in. After baking, carefully remove the cooked eggs with half of the tomato mixture into your bowl. Reserve the second half of the mixture for round two! Ta da, delicious leftovers. Just add fresh eggs and bake away—the reheated kind ain’t no fun.

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Creamy Vegan Garlic Pasta Sauce

This week’s motto: wash your blender. 

Sometimes, you take your first crack at homemade almond milk, and after two days of soaking the almonds, and then blending and straining them to perfection,  you detect a slight garlicky undertone at first sip. You realize the last thing you made in that blender was delicious potato hummus and maybe missed a spot in the scrubbing afterwards. So smoothie dreams take a back seat to sauce dreams… I don’t hate it.

Still, wash your blender.

It’s probably narrow-minded to resign this simple, warming, garlic sauce to pasta—especially since re: the rules of this month’s Whole30 challenge, I’m not technically eating pasta at all. You could put it on LOTS of stuff. I served it up with roasted spaghetti squash and broccoli, and homemade, ethically raised, hormone-free pork meatballs… My lunches this week are THE BOMB.

Yes I understand the ridiculousness of vegan pasta sauce with meatballs. IT’S MY LIFE OKAY? The Whole30 made me do it.

Creamy Vegan Garlic Pasta Sauce
(Adapted from The Minimalist Baker)
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups sauce
20170508_130141
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2-3 tbsp arrowroot flour (use something else, but this makes it Whole30 compliant)
1 1/4 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk

1. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic in a medium saucepan, and sautee over medium-low heat until soft and fragrant.

2. Whisk in 2 tbsp. arrowroot flour. It will get clumpy, but don’t worry, just keep whisking!

3. Over low heat, slowly stream in the almond milk, whisking until the flour is no longer clumpy. Turn up the heat to medium, whisking the sauce until it begins to thicken to your desired consistency.

Note: If it doesn’t feel thick enough, whisk in the last tablespoon of arrowroot. If sauce becomes too *thick*, add in a splash of almond milk, veggie stock, or water to loosen the texture.

4. Arrowroot has a tendency to turn things into a bit of a gelatinous mass (yum!) so when you’re happy with the thickness, remove the sauce from heat, scrape into a blender, and let it run until the sauce has reached a velvety smoothness. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend again.

5. Serve over spaghetti squash or your noodle of choice, with roasted vegetables and maybe a little vegan parm on top if you want to get fancy! Recipe easily doubles for company or for when you want extra.

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your blender after this, yes, AGAIN.

“Wait, What?” Potato Hummus

Yes, you read me correctly—potato hummus! Hummus of potatoes!

Easy to make, easy to eat, and kinda fun to say—it has something of a rhythm to it don’t you think?

I vented in my last post that the Whole30’s stringent “No Sex With Your Pants On” rule feels like an unnecessary layer of misery that I won’t be strictly abiding because it restricts kitchen play. Upon deeper reading, I think this rule mostly applies to baked goods. So on one hand, this is either totally above board and Whole30 compliant…

Or I’m a culinary rebel, doing things my own way! I ain’t here to judge, I’m here to eat.

This creamy, savoury, legume-free hummus functions everywhere its chickpea cousin hangs out—served with raw vegetables, used as a spread, it’s multi-purpose, velvety, AND delicious.

“Wait, What?” Potato Hummus
(Adapted from A Calculated Whisk)
Makes approximately 2 cups hummus

potatohummus

1 lb. potatoes (something like a Yukon Gold)
Sea salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon tahini
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, plus more for serving
1/4 c. plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the potatoes into small pieces and put them in the bottom of a pot, covering with water. No need to peel them! Salt the water as though you’re cooking pasta. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook until spuds are fork tender.

2. Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Add them to blender or food processor. If you’re using a blender, like I did, mashing the potatoes before hand might help the motor run a little easier. Blend them up and taste the puree—add salt to your desire!

3. Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and paprika, blending again until smooth. If texture is too thick and your blender is struggling, add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid or water to help.

4. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil until desired texture is achieved. scoop out and top with extra paprika, olive oil, and whatever else you want!

Whole-y Grail or Wholly Crap?

This month, I’m taking on the Whole30 Challenge with my friend and fellow blogger, McMaymie (check her out, she’s dope)!

This is out of my wheelhouse.  I generally think plans or diets that eliminate healthy staples like legumes or whole grains are less likely to be effective in the long term. However, in addition to the above, the Whole30 also slashes the usual suspects when it comes to better health: alcohol, added sugar, soy, and dairy.

My boss, who is in the middle of the program with her husband, calls it the “zero happiness” diet.

So, why would anyone in hell do this?

#1. I’M COMPETITIVE. Everyone calls it extreme. At first I thought that was funny and ridiculous, and then I wanted to experience it for myself.

#2.  I’M CURIOUS.  It’s an experiment to see how I fare, physically and mentally, in a kitchen full of restrictions. During my two-week vegan experiment in April, I noticed I eat a lot of breads with a lot of additives. I’m curious how my body feels without them. Many of the things the plan eliminates (lactose, gluten, soy) are irritants that cause inflammation to the system.

#3. PEOPLE ARE LOVING IT. So… I wanna know why. Can it really give me more energy? Balance my digestion? Find me a unicorn?

#3. I KIND OF HATE IT. At the very least I hate the voice they use on their website, and that resentment is fueling me to attempt to succeed for the full. 30. days.  Here’s an example of their slightly passive aggressive, humble-braggery: if you slip up, they say you should start the entire thing over again.

“If you want to do the Whole30, then do it, and either start after the special occasion or figure out how to enjoy your life without mojitos and cheese. We recommend the latter, because we haven’t had a mojito or cheese in ages, and we’re still happy and fun.”

Really? Because you sound smug and condescending. This isn’t making me like you any more. And sure, you don’t CARE that I like you, but if I’m following someone into the trenches and I don’t get to bring my cheese pizza as a shield, you had better find a BETTER way to lead me. So… let’s try this again. If there’s a slip SHOULD I start over again?

Answer #5: Do whatever you want, because you’re a grown-up.”

…Okay, you’re trying to shame me, and it’s not working. As an adult, any choice I make is an adult decision.

I’ve read lots of articles FOR and AGAINST this eating plan, and in the first week, it’s too early to judge which side I’ll fall on. Some of the rules of this regimen make sense to me. Some of them make me roll my eyes.

An episode of Food 52’s podcast Burnt Toast titled “Fat Is Not Bad, Stupid Is Bad” pinpointed something that usually irks me about these fad diets. The guest on the episode said a key part of eating nutritiously is “think for yourself.” With meal plans like this, many follow the rules to the letter. Sure, that’s the point, to go all in, to put in your faith and effort…. But I really think a healthy lifestyle cannot be one-size-fits-all, and the rules should be modified.

Here are some of the rules I’ll be bending/challenging/scoffing loudly at:

1. “No Sex With Pants On.” I think this rule, for certain people, is more damaging than it is useful. It’s when you make something that would be “off limits,” using ingredients that are technically approved by the plan—think coconut flour pancakes or zucchini pasta.  The Whole30 is fond of ‘nos.’ I think playing within ingredient constraints turns those negatives into positives.

“I can’t have this food,” turns into “I CAN cook with all of these other ones!” if you just loosen your grip a little. I’m not going to make meat bagels,  or even pancakes, but I refuse to strictly adhere to anything which doesn’t allow room for culinary play. It just ain’t gonna happen.  If you’re frustrated and bored with your food, you’ll be frustrated, and the plan won’t stick.

2. “No snacking.” L-O-L. It’s almost like this plan was made generically for a bunch of people without any flexibility as to their current state or their histories! (They do make exceptions for pre- or post-workout snacks.) I spent a long time as a binge eater. I’m still in recovery from that, and I remember the days when the feeling of hunger was an exciting novelty to be embraced and nurtured. When I am hungry, I am going to eat a rule-abiding snack. If my body is talking, I will be listening.

3. “No weighing yourself.” I get this one. I really do. As someone who has occasional scale struggle, I understand. And I could, when I break it down, go without a scale for a full month. But I don’t have to, and I don’t want to. Apparently it’s because if you’re in the middle of the plan and you don’t get results you want, you’ll feel discouraged. I have zero expectations of results. I want some gosh darn data during an experiment. Will I be cutting down on the frequency of my weigh ins? Absolutely.

So that’s it, my brief summary of my reasons for foraying into the cult-like eating experience that is sure to be the Whole30…

More to come unless I die very soon from the lack of cheddar in my system.