Whole30: Week 1

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I’ve now officially started my second week of Whole30, and I’m happy to report that it’s going pretty well. There were some definite challenges this week, but I think mostly because I was already eating pretty well before I started the Whole30, I haven’t experienced some of the worse parts of the infamous Whole30 timeline, but just for fun, I’m gonna go through a mental recap using it as a guideline.

“Day 1: So what’s the big deal?” Yup. Felt that exactly. In fact, for breakfast day 1, I made the same thing I’d been eating for the whole week prior: bacon, mushroom, onion, and red pepper scrambled eggs. Breakfast scrambles are the best for using up any bits and pieces of random vegetables you have in the fridge, so that’s what I’ve been doing until I get tired of it. I also had leftover pulled pork and stir-fried veggies from the week before for lunch, and for dinner I ended up throwing some lamb shoulder chops on my grill pan and making a side of theclothesmakesthegirl’s silky zucchini soup. And, it did feel good to be consciously aware that I was making good choices.

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“Days 2-3: The Hangover” Not so much (at least not compared to the one I had the day before I started whole30). My breakfast continued to be my scrambled eggs, my lunch was leftovers of lamb and soup, and for dinner I threw together paprika roasted chicken thighs with pastured chicken we’d picked up at the farmer’s market a few weeks before and a wilted bacon spinach salad.

Not the greatest pic, sorry

Not the greatest pic, sorry

The only real challenge of these two days was  a pre-scheduled Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance happy hour at Sushi Zushi. I contemplated over and over again whether I should just skip it but when I saw that they had riceless rolls, I decided to go.  It was definitely difficult, and more than little disappointing to not be able to eat about 90% of the food they offered, but the shishito peppers and the riceless roll that they special ordered for me were both really really good.

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“Days 4-5: Kill ALL the things!” Again, not really. Or, at least, not sure, because these two days also coincided with a big deadline at work so I was already stressing out about that. My breakfast these days consisted of leftover bacon spinach salad with a fried egg and fruit and more scrambled eggs, this time with Mexican chorizo that made my week. I did, however, get tired of both my zucchini soup and lamb leftovers at this point though, so I used up some leftover sweet potato, cabbage, and bacon and made a sort-of stir fry that was very satisfying. And Friday Mr. Little Fish and I had a small, last-minute dinner party of grilled steak with caramelized mushrooms and onions, crispy salt and vinegar potatoes, and oil and vinegar coleslaw (that I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of). Our friends also brought sausage, cauliflower rice, and spaghetti squash. The whole meal was decadent and fantastic, and no one ever would have guessed that I had a particular “diet.” It did sort of suck not to be able to drink, but waking up without any of the aftereffects was kind of great.

“Days 6-7: I just want a nap….” This is an interesting one, because last night, having forgotten about this timeline, I was trying to theorize with Little Fish about why I was having such a hard time waking up this weekend. I thought it might’ve been because I’d started taking my allergy medication at night and it was knocking me out. But now I’m wondering whether it is indeed because of the Whole30. In any case, the food we made this weekend included a DELICIOUS Mexican chorizo, red potato, and spinach scramble for breakfast with a side of banana drizzled with some homemade cinnamon macadamia nut butter (heavenly).

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It also included some grilled salmon that I marinated in coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, but unfortunately for me, resulted in my only fail of the week when I accidentally burned it. It was still delicious; we just lost some to the pan. We ate it with leftover oil and vinegar coleslaw and cauliflower rice that I drizzled with some homemade ghee (see my instagram for some process photos)! I also made the happy discovery that Applegate grass-fed beef hotdogs are Whole30 compliant, so we rounded out the weekend with hotdogs and grilled onions and, you guessed it, coleslaw. And, of course, at some point I snacked on some apples and macadamia nut butter.

 

Overall thoughts: I know I’m not supposed to weigh myself and count calories and whatnot, but for me this is as much a fitness tool as it is a nutritional reset. So I’m pleased to say I lost at least 2 pounds this week and, even despite all the food I’ve been eating, I’ve continuously clocked in at below my calorie goals. I still get sugar cravings every once in a while, but I’m actually pretty impressed with my willpower, especially at the sushi happy hour. I am sort of preemptively sad that  I won’t be able to enjoy a nice, fun meal out for my birthday next week, but Little Fish and I will be scheduling a birthday dinner for when I get back from Mexico so patience I must have.

1. Read the WHOLE recipe twice. This might seem like overkill to some, but I assure you it’s the safest way to go. You might pick up on things you didn’t see the first time. It’s like that saying from construction: “Measure twice, cut once.” Except in this case we’re most likely measuring a whole bunch of butter and cutting it into a whole mess of flour. No hardhats required. Still, it’s a good rule.

2. Make a checklist of all your ingredients. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a recipe and then had to run to the store halfway through. Make a checklist, go into your pantry and your fridge to double check you have everything and cross off items as you have them. This step is very satisfying to me — I really like crossing things off lists. This also prevents that weird batch of chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips in them.

3. Note the time the recipe is going to take. Do you have time to make what you want to make? More often than not, your recipe is going to be straight with you and tell you exactly how long you’re going to need to complete it.This might be broken into “prep time,” “cooking time” and “inactive time.” As someone who once tried to make an icebox cake with 16 hours of “inactive time” for a party I was supposed to attend in 30 minutes, I can’t stress this point enough.

4. Respect the order of things. It might seem obnoxious that you have to separate your wet and your dry ingredients before mixing everything together.Ugh…I have to whip those egg whites before folding them in? It can all seem like a bunch of pomp and circumstance. However, I assure you that the person who created this recipe has created these steps to aid in your success. Follow along for the best results.

5. Get familiar before getting fancy. You might be a substitution queen like me, and love to sub in things like coconut oil for butter or applesauce for oil. I always suggest making the recipe as it is written first to get familiar with it. Once you see how it cooks up, you will have a better idea of what you can swap out. Also, I always like to point out that substitutions are risky, so sub in at your own risk. Only go off book when you have the time for the recipe to potentially flop.

From The Kitchn. I thought these were truly great tips for scanning through a recipe to prepare to cook. I like to keep my Out of Milk app open with me in the kitchen when I go through the ingredients list and cross-reference it with an actual ingredient so that I can add whatever I’m missing as I go. Then, all I have to take with me to the store is my phone! I am also now a substitution Queen, but when I first started cooking, I definitely always made recipes as-is first and then experimented after!

What about you? Do you follow any of these tips? Do you have tips of your own?

Knife Skills

Do you have all the sharp tools but don’t really know how to use ’em?  Have you been cooking for a long time, but still end up cutting yourself when you’re chopping (Me? Never!)? I came across this short video from Jamie Oliver last night that explains a couple proper ways to slice and dice. I’m a fan of the hand method when mincing. I figured that this video, along with the onion video that I referenced to here, would get every cook well on their way to being confident with sharp objects in the kitchen!

Cooking Cure Day I-don’t-know-anymore

Well, guys, as it happens, sometimes our best-laid plans go awry.  After successfully completing two weeks of the Cooking Cure, I fell off the wagon during dinner week.  Happy hours, rehearsal dinners, and weddings all conspired to make me uninspired to keep up with the Cooking Cure (and eat all the delicious things at these events instead….worth it!). And you know what? It’s OK.

When it comes to dieting, you can’t let guilt consume you.  Dieting/losing weight/maintaining weight loss is a long haul.  You will have ups and downs, and you will have setbacks. It is a very easy thing to think that one mistake ruins the whole process, but it doesn’t.  You are human.  Humans make mistakes.  But, best of all, we also learn from them.  I know this was true for me when I was losing weight, and I know it will continue to be true throughout this whole healthy eating thing.  I will have weekends or vacations or, hell, weeknights, where the last thing I want is to eat healthy, where all I crave is greasy pizza and sweets. And, lucky for me, I’ve never felt terribly guilty about this, because I know I can, and will, pick up again.

Just as I don’t feel particularly guilty about not getting through dinner week on the Cooking Cure. Instead, when this week started again, I just jumped right back into planning my meals for the week.  Thing is, the Cooking Cure for me was never about learning to meal plan or to cook at home all the time–I had already been doing those things for months and months.  It was about reinspiring and motivating me to continue learning and being creative in my meals.  And I think the first two weeks of the Cure were sufficient for me.

In fact, after having such success with the Coconut Carrot Soup during lunch week, I decided to revisit my lunch plan this week and choose another recipe to make: Sriracha Steak Lettuce Wraps. If I’m being honest, the decadence of the weekend actually made me crave some of the lighter, healthier, salad-based recipes I had found during lunch week, so I decided to ride that wave. And boy am I glad I did.

I was very intrigued by the cube steak, which I had never cooked with before.  It’s basically a steak that has been tenderized with a meat mallet so that it looks like ground beef but is actually one piece of meat.  This means that you dice it, and you get bigger chunks of meat than just the little morsels of ground beef, which I actually liked as it felt both more substantial and more manageable. The only things I changed from the original recipe was the amount of honey used, and that I added some sesame oil to the relish to give it that toasted flavor!

The best part of this meal was how easy it is to make! In fact, while the steak was marinating in the delicious Sriracha sauce, I checked the mail, fed my cats, chopped up the cucumber relish, and minced all my aromatics (not bad for weeknight cooking!).  By the time I was done with all that, the steaks were ready to throw in the wok, and once they got in there, they only took about 7 minutes!

Spicy Steak Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Simply Scratch
Serves 4

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Ingredients:

For the steak:
1 lb cube steak, diced
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Sriracha
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp (for the marinade) coconut oil, melted+1 tsp coconut oil (for sauteing)
5 green onions, sliced
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
1 tbsp cornstarch
Lettuce leaves

For the cucumber relish:
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, melted coconut oil, Sriracha, lime juice, and soy sauce.

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2. Add the diced cube steak the bowl, and mix together to coat.  Let marinate, uncovered and on the counter, for at least 30 minutes.

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3. Meanwhile, do any small errands you need to, and then get to making the cucumber relish!  Combine the finely chopped cucumber, red bell pepper, and red onion in a bowl (with a lid so that you can store this later!) with the toasted sesame oil and a dash of salt.

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4.  Slice and mince the green onion, ginger, and garlic, if you haven’t already.  Once the 30 minutes are up, heat the remaining tsp of coconut oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat and add your aromatics to the pan.  Saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

5. Add in the chopped steak, with all the marinated juices and stir fry for 4-5 minutes until there is no more pink visible.  Then, mix in the tbsp of cornstarch and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.  You will notice that the sauce will begin to thicken and darken and will really coat the meat.  That’s what you’re looking for!  Season with some kosher salt!

6.  Put a lettuce leaf or two on a plate, and fill with the steak mixture, making sure not to overfill so that you can pick it up with your hands!  Top with as much or as little of the cucumber relish as you’d like!

Steak wraps and carrot soup!

Steak wraps and carrot soup!

Sriracha Steak Lettuce Wraps
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the steak:
  • 1 lb cube steak, diced
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp (for the marinade) coconut oil, melted+1 tsp coconut oil (for sauteing)
  • 5 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Lettuce leaves
  • For the cucumber relish:
  • ½ cucumber, finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, melted coconut oil, Sriracha, lime juice, and soy sauce.
  2. Add the diced cube steak the bowl, and mix together to coat. Let marinate, uncovered and on the counter, for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, do any small errands you need to, and then get to making the cucumber relish! Combine the finely chopped cucumber, red bell pepper, and red onion in a bowl (with a lid so that you can store this later!) with the toasted sesame oil and a dash of salt.
  4. Slice and mince the green onion, ginger, and garlic, if you haven't already. Once the 30 minutes are up, heat the remaining tsp of coconut oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat and add your aromatics to the pan. Saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add in the chopped steak, with all the marinated juices and stir fry for 4-5 minutes until there is no more pink visible. Then, mix in the tbsp of cornstarch and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. You will notice that the sauce will begin to thicken and darken and will really coat the meat. That's what you're looking for! Season with some kosher salt!
  6. Put a lettuce leaf or two on a plate, and fill with the steak mixture, making sure not to overfill so that you can pick it up with your hands! Top with as much or as little of the cucumber relish as you'd like!
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I am pretty darn proud of myself for actually following this Cooking Cure thing!  It is now Day 10, whose assignment is to shop for and cook your chosen recipe from your list, and I have officially completed every challenge of this Cure so far!  I’m gonna go ahead and unofficially add this to the list of things to celebrate at my super duper fancy birthday dinner tonight (P.S. doesn’t that place look amazing??  I’m probably gonna be That Girl and take pictures of all of my meals tonight, you know, for posterity. And for you guys!)!

Anywho, it’s very convenient for me that the cooking assignments are always on Fridays because I’m always off on Fridays, so that means that I get to choose something from my list that I can leisurely enjoy making.  For the lunch challenge, I choose to make the Carrot Coconut Soup.

And, you guys, this soup has to be one of the best smells that has ever graced my kitchen. And I’ve cooked a lot of delicious smelling things (this, for example).  I’ve never been to Thailand, but I imagine this is what it must smell like everywhere, which totally makes sense.

All you need for this recipe is butter, carrots, coconut milk, chicken broth (or vegetable if you want to make this vegan, in which case you should sub the butter for coconut oil), an onion, and Sriracha sauce (the original recipe called for sambal oelek, which I discovered is made by the same rooster company as Sriracha and supposed to be more simplified, buuuut I’m cheap so I used what I had).  That’s it!  In fact, I didn’t even bother peeling my carrots, since I’ve read a few times that most of the nutrition is in the peel, and I figured it was all gonna be blended anyway.  I did, however, scrub the hell out of them with my vegetable scrubber.

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The steps are even easier!  First, you chop up your carrots and dice your onion.  They don’t have to look pretty because they’re all gonna get blended, but you’ll want to chop everything fairly small so it cooks quickly.  Melt your butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, and throw the veggies in there with some salt and pepper.

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Then, once the carrots are soft enough to be pierced fairly easily with a fork, add in the coconut milk, the chicken broth, and 1 tbsp of Sriracha sauce.  Yummy. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat a little bit, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the veggies are reeeeally soft.

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Remove the soup from the heat (and don’t forget to turn it off!).  If you are using a regular blender, then you’ll want to let the soup cool for a good bit before pouring it in to blend it.  I’m terrible at pouring things, so I used my fancy schmancy immersion blender to blend it right in the pan until there were no more chunks!

Then I topped it with MOAR Sriracha, and I ate it with a leftover cabbage roll.  It was all so delicious and I will definitely be making this soup again!

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