Love-Hate Relationship with Whole30 Diet

I’m just wrapping up the Whole30, a diet/elimination/paleo/lifestyle plan. I’d apparently been under a rock for the past couple of years and missed this one. Probably because I don’t do diet plans any more.  I’ve done them, namely Weight Watchers. But all that counting, etc., just taught me a lot of bad habits, like trying to eat food that isn’t food – bread made with wood pulp, cream cheese that could do double duty as spackling, and other products that aren’t really food.

But the Whole30 caught my eye because it eliminates foods that are troubling to your gut. You go clean for 30 days. Then you reintroduce foods – one category at a time – and see how you feel. You do eat real foods. You eat vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Fats include olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and some canola oil. What you don’t eat are: soy, of any kind; dairy, of any kind and that includes cheese; grains, of any kind; sugar, of any kind, real or artificial; legumes (which include peanuts); or alcohol.

If you cheat, you start over at Day 1, which is a powerful incentive not to cheat. It’s like AA that way. You don’t get to pick up on Day 16 if you had a bad Day 15.

So why did I want to do this?

The main reason is I needed to slay the “Sugar Dragon.” I’d quit drinking alcohol nearly 6 years ago. Gradually sugar had been creeping into my diet as a substitution. My doctor had warned me. Alcohol is processed as sugar in the body (which is what leads to fatty liver disease). The alcohol cravings passed, but he said the sugar would be a hard one to defeat. And sugar substitutes (see below) aren’t the answer.

If you have food sensitivities, which I do, you can manage by feeling a little bit crappy all the time. I know, for example, dairy and soy are triggers for me. But I never knew just how much they contributed to my malaise until I spent a month without them. I will probably risk the issues with dairy here and there because I adore cheese and ice cream. But it eating it will have to be for something special. As for soy. I’m happy to eliminate it, minus the occasional dip for sushi. I think having both of these things out of my day-to-day diet has been very helpful.

I started the program at the beginning of August. I’m glad I did it when produce season is in high swing. Here are a few things you can expect:

  1. You are going to be gassy. Yep. Unless you are used to eating a lot of fruits, veggies, and meats, your digestive tract is going to take some time to adjust. Take walks. Alone. Or with a dog, who can take a lot of blame on this one.  And this means your pants are going to be tight for a bit as the bloat works itself out, literally. My favorite trick, roasting vegetables. It adds to their sweetness. Roast tomatoes and then puree for a delicious sauce with sausage.IMG_4402
  2. You are going to have to read labels. I was surprised at how much sugar is used in items that aren’t sweet, like Wegmans Italian sausage or Hellman’s mayonnaise or many hot sauces. The same goes for soybean oil (your plain vegetable oil is soybean oil). Farm stands and your butcher are your friends here. Urbaniak Bros. does not use sugar in its sausage, except for those labeled with maple and one smoked variety.
  3. Eating out is a nightmare due to the sugar and soy issue. This is when I had to start over. I realized after taking a bite of an absolutely delicious mussel dish that the sauce had sugar in it. Since I had to start over, I had dessert too. If you eat out, stick to grilled meats and roasted vegetables potatoes (ideally with canola or olive oil). Stay away from sautéed, which typically involves butter. Oil and vinegar are best bets for salad.
  4. You are going to be a bit cranky. Lots of people report feeling like a million bucks – Tiger Blood – at some point after 2 weeks. Can’t say that I experienced that. What I did experience was a steady level of energy throughout the day. I was no longer crashing at 3 p.m. after the first two weeks.
  5. Sugar substitutes seem to be as bad as sugar. I read numerous studies, independent of the Whole30 literature, about how sugar substitutes alter your gut health the same way as sugar, eliminating some healthy bacteria, which results in metabolic changes. The science is pretty clear on sucralose, saccharine and aspartame, but not so much about stevia.
  6. This isn’t about losing weight. Some people do. My pants fit better, probably because I haven’t had bread or any sweets for 30 days.IMG_4403
  7. Beverages. This has been a tough one. I usually start my day with a cuppa Joe with cream and sweetener, or my fave, Italian Sweet Cream (sugar free), which has so many bad ingredients I couldn’t even look at it.  Or a Diet Coke. Neither was going to work on this plan. So far my best cup of coffee has been a Starbuck’s Cold Brew with coconut milk. Starting my day off relying on an occasional Starbucks may have contributed to cranky. Water gets boring. So does sparking water. My fave concoction is V8 VFusion juice mixed with kombucha and La Croix sparking water. Not exactly something you can order out.
  8. On day 29 I found a chocolate and sea salt RX bar at Wegmans on Peach Street. The ingredient list is nuts, dates, cacao and egg whites. This was my first chocolate in 29 days. You are allowed cacao powder, but you must be a genius to make it taste like chocolate. I dropped it in the parking lot. And, yes, I applied the 5-second rule. I picked it up, dusted it off, and ate it. I was THAT DESPERATE. I am not proud. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  9.  Halfway through, I bought bananas. I hate bananas except in banana bread. But some blogger told me to make a slit in the middle, stuff it with a tablespoon of almond butter, top it with some raisins and baked it for 15 minutes. I would like to say it tasted good. I did in a pinch.
  10. This is sort of like paleo, but you can’t eat paleo things like honey. Nor are you supposed to make things like pancakes and muffins by using coconut flour (allowed) because this is basically a cheater version of giving in. I liked this part of the diet because it had principles, unlike that nonfat cream cheese and “lite” bread that some diets encourage you to eat.

Since diet is 80 percent of what contributes to our body (the rest is exercise, rest, water, etc), I think this is a valuable exercise to go through and I will continue parts of it as I reintroduce foods back. Bread is going to return to being a rare item on my plate. I think I just eat it because it is on the table. I like the emphasis on three meals, which you will find very important because you return to being hungry. I realize I was snacking a lot during the day, which will stop.

Yours in veggie delight

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Market Monday: Cool off with Peach Raspberry Cake

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This year was a bountiful one for peach growers in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

When the air conditioning decided not to work last night, I decided I was so over summer. Despite having been paddling on a beautiful summer night. Despite having watched my daughter and her friends go swimming at dusk – laughter and giggles lighting up the night air. Despite loving summer with all my heart.

So, clearly, I was just a little grumpy to come home and find the house 80 degrees inside. I don’t live on Lake Erie; my parents do. When the wind is out of the north, they have natural air conditioning. I live up by Interstate 90, about five miles south, where breezes don’t cool my house unless the wind comes out of the south. I grew up without AC, but got complacent working at home with the AC on when it is 89 degrees outside.

And I was really dreading what the AC guy was going to tell me when he got here on Monday. Certainly I debated putting this off until next year. There can’t be that many hot days left. And the nights are starting to cool down. But knowing me, it will be 95 on some June day before I remember again. So I called. He came. It was a 5 Benjamin job.

So the grocery budget isn’t going to see any splurges soon. Good thing fruits and vegetables are plentiful at the moment. The peaches, which have been hard hit the prior two years, are plentiful now. I just rub them with a towel to get the fuzz off and stand over the sink, to catch the juices, while eating them. Sometimes I can’t keep up with a basket of ripe fruit, so it is time to turn them into a sweeter treat. Given the heat, I wanted to keep the oven work to a minimum.

For this Peach and Raspberry Ice Cream Cake, you make a light sponge cake. You could easily substitute an angel food cake and skip turning the oven on at all. The ice cream isn’t churned. It’s a simple concoction of peach jam, whipping cream and evaporated milk. If you not feeling up to whipping cream, just buy the pre-made stuff, I won’t tell anyone.

Stay cool. Enjoy summer.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Peach Raspberry Ice Cream Cake
Easy summer dessert, best when peaches are ripe.
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 6 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 6 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Small dice peaches and mix with 1 tablespoon sugar.
  2. Mix raspberries with remaining sugar.
  3. Combine peach jam with evaporated milk and 1/2 of the peaches. Whip cream. Fold whipped cream into peach mixture.
  4. If you are using a prepared angel food cake, cut about 1/2 the cake into 1/2 inch slices. If using a homemade cake, cut the 9x13-inch cake into 3 slices. Line a loaf pan with parchment or plastic wrap.
  5. Add 1/3 of the cream mixture to the bottom of the pan. Top with 1 layer of cake. Top with 1 cup of the raspberries. Repeat with cream, cake, rapsberries. Finish with cream and cake. Freeze overnight, or at least 6 hours.
  6. Mix remaining peaches and raspberries.
  7. Remove cake from freezer. Slice. Serve with peaches and rapsberries.
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Birthday Celebration

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Nicole’s first birthday, celebrated with carrot cake made by her Didi.

My daughter is celebrating her 14th birthday today. I’m celebrating, too, because it marks the day she officially came into my life.

Some parents become all somber at the thought of their little darlings growing up. I treasure each birthday as a reminder of each day we have spent together and the many more to come. She’s priceless.

So I’m a bit over the top when it comes to birthdays. For her first birthday, I asked my mother to bake a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I was doing the whole no chocolate thing for the birthday. Plus I love carrot cake. It is a long and involved recipe not suited for hot, August days. My mother was a real trooper.

 

Her birthdays after that grew more complex. Aside from cake and ice cream, I had birthdays with magicians who levitated the birthday girl, a party at the Erie Zoo, a party where a zoo came to our house, a hula-hooping party, pirate parties … My mother thinks I’m nuts. But it really is all about celebrating the wonderful day she came into my life. Each year both my mother and my daughter roll their eyes at me.

nicole birthday with llama
Nicole’s birthday with Granny’s Animal Ark. Nicole’s grandmother, Didi, is with in the center. There was also a pig, ponies, bunnies, chickens, donkey, turtle, and more.

This year my daughter didn’t want a party. At 14, she’s old enough to tell me she doesn’t want a party anymore. It makes me a little sad, but I’m also very proud to raise a daughter who can speak up for herself. She wanted a punching bag for her birthday, along with clothes and jewelry. I picked out a book by an author she hadn’t tried yet.

I surprised her with a bathroom full of balloons with notes tied to them. I even wrapped the punching bag. Then she was off to orientation for her freshman year of high school. She wanted a cake, so thanks to Pinterest, I made a Kit-Kat cake. It’s not particularly complicated. You make any kind of cake and frost it. Then ring it with Kit-Kats and fill the top with candy. Tie a ribbon around it so it looks like a box of candy.

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Nicole at 14.

 

I think all girls should celebrate with friends, so she invited her gang of gal pals to dinner out tomorrow night with a promise of a beach bonfire with s’mores if it doesn’t rain.

Will she share the cake tomorrow?

Not on your life, she said.

Print Recipe
Kit-Kat Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25-40 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25-40 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Instructions
  1. Bake cake according to package directions, or your own favorite cake. Allow to cool.
  2. I used 1 square cake pan, so I cut it into three layers. If you are using 2 round cake pans, there is no need to cut.
  3. Frost cake.
  4. Place Kit-Kats around the edge. The should be broken into singles or 2s, so you can slice through the cake using the break in the candy. Top with candy or decorations of your choice. Tie a bow around to make it look like a present.
Chocolate Buttercream
  1. In a microwave safe large measuring cup, melt chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of the butter for 60 seconds. Stir. If not melted, microwave for 30 seconds more. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
  2. In the meantime, in a second large bowl, beat remaining butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in powdered sugar. When combined, gradually beat in the chocolate by pouring in from the measuring cup while the mixer is running.
  3. If you are not frosting right away, you can refrigerate this. Take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes (unless it is blazing hot in your kitchen) before frosting so that it comes to room temperature and is spreadable.
Recipe Notes

You can make the cake a day ahead of time and wrap in plastic wrap once it is cool enough.

 

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Market Monday: Can’t Beet It

 

Let me open this post by acknowledging that some people just don’t like beets. I get it. Especially if your only experience with beets comes out of a can or jar. But fresh, oven roasted beets, especially served with contrasting flavors and textures, such as nuts and cheese, are really delish.

My own first experience with beets involved my father making borscht, which is a clear beet soup popular in Eastern Europe. It was a lot of work on his part, served to a largely unappreciative audience. More recently, I tried several beet salads at restaurants, which convinced me that I could like beets if they were prepared a certain way.

My all-out favorite is simply roasted beets, sliced thinly and served with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with some crumbled Bulgarian (or other sheep’s milk) feta cheese. But I’m doing a no-dairy stint at the moment, so the cheese was out.

A beet and apple salad at Whole Foods inspired me to try this recipe, which has a citrus dressing. It is topped with roasted nuts – walnuts, cashews, pecans or pine nuts all will serve well.

Here are three tips I learned about working with beets:

  1. Roasting is great. Just chop off the tops, which can be used in something else, and wash. Place several (depends on the size, but try to find like sizes) in a packet of foil with a drizzle of olive oil. Leave the skin on. Seal. Place in a pan in case your foil leaks. Roast at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes. It may be 90 minutes depending on how big your beets are. Allow to cool.
  2. To remove the skin, take a paper towel and just rub. This will remove the skin and keep your hands from turning pink in the process.
  3. Use a plastic cutting board that you can clean with bleach or be prepared to have a stained cutting board.

Print Recipe
Beet and Apple Salad
Easy summer salad. You can substitute pear for the apple, or add both. Be sure the pear is firm fleshed.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60-90 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Dressing
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60-90 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Dressing
Instructions
  1. To roast the beets, wash and chop off the tops. Create a foil packet. With it open, add beets and drizzle with a splash (about 1-2 teaspoons) olive oil. Seal. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.
  2. Remove from oven and allow to cool in sealed packet. When cool enough to handle, take a paper towel and rub off the skin.
  3. Slice beets into matchsticks.
  4. Core and slice an apple into matchsticks.
  5. Add beets, apple and greens to a salad bowl. Toss with juice, olive oil and vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Top with nuts and serve.
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