traditional breakfast

I read something on NPR recently that there was a study that claimed certain health outcomes based on what people ate, even though the people in this study were asked to remember and report what they’d eaten as far back as high school. The researchers said that most people don’t change their eating habits very much, so they felt confident in their data (i.e. the participants could remember what they ate 20 years ago because it was the nearly the same as what they ate yesterday).

Uh, no. I couldn’t create an exact menu, but I know my diet today is NOTHING like it was back in the day when I thought fruit snacks were a reasonable substitute for fruit
(they have vitamin C!) or when I’d have a bagel with cream cheese and a Coke for lunch.

I’ve changed. And given how stubborn I was – (ok, am) – I’m pretty sure what I ate for breakfast today would give both of my parents heart attacks.

  1. Vegetables. I was the kid who ate nothing green, who ate nearly nothing period. I ate, but only a very few foods. Sugar was a staple. My mom wouldn’t buy sugary cereals, so I’d pour a good quarter-inch layer of granulated white sugar on my bowl of Cheerios.
  2. Bacon and eggs. My father eats fried eggs and some type of processed breakfast meat, along with potatoes or toast, every day. My mom, more of an oatmeal fan, decided early on that, although she did all the rest of the cooking and housework, dad was in charge of preparing his own breakfast. I grew up rather grossed out by all the grease his cooking created.

So now, so many years later, an adult who buys groceries and cooks, I fed myself this.

traditional-breakfast

Bacon and eggs.

They are there. Under all the squash and asparagus.

Is this a healthy breakfast? Depends on who you ask. About half the world (of nutrition experts, that is) is convinced that bacon is deadly. The other half is sure that it is the answer to everything. I don’t really trust either side. My guide is how I feel. And I feel pretty darn good.

So there.

 

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Cindy’s Special – Spinach, bacon & egg tacos with avocado

My latest breakfast of champions.

2 slices of bacon

1/4 c red onion, diced

3 cups baby spinach

2 eggs, scrambled with a little cream and salt & pepper

2 corn tortillas

1/4 avocado

Fry the bacon. Remove from skillet and cook the spinach and red onion in the bacon fat. Add eggs and stir until cooked through.

Split between two tortillas, add avocado and chow down tacos for breakfast.

cindys-special-breakfast

so many veggies – not so easy

yellow-squash

The benefit of my new eating strategy is clear. But it takes work.

The other night I made basil chicken – one of my favs. It is easy and fast. Throw some rice in the rice cooker and dinner is ready in under 30 minutes.

But rice isn’t on the menu right now. So instead, I made roasted bok choy (super easy) and eggplant in brown sauce. Eggplant – I will write a separate story about the economics of eggplant. Let’s just say it took WAY longer than I’m normally willing to invest in a side dish.

But the result was a plate loaded with veggies:

veggie-lode-asian-dinner

And since there were no convenient grains available to fill me up, in total that day I ate:

1 cup squash

1 cup brussels sprouts

2 cups bok choy

1 1/2 cups eggplant

1/2 cup onion

1/2 cup (I think?) of avocado

=

6+ cups of vegetables. A veggie lode. Plus a ton of basil. That should count. YUM. Just shy of SEVEN cups total.

yellow-squash

For comparison:

The USDA says a woman my age needs 2 1/2 cups per day, or five 1/2 cup servings…but it gets suspicious when you breakout the weekly totals. There’s a lot of starch servings that my adult self doesn’t believe should count (as a teenager I totally tried to claim french fries as a vegetable, but c’mon, we know better now).

Dr. Terry Wahls – who reversed her M.S. through diet, advocates 9 cups a day (although I’ve seen updates that say for smaller types like me, 6 cups is adequate). I can’t fathom why her talk is flagged as “personal narrative” – so many TED Talks are personal narratives! Hers just happens to involve nutrition.

Someone … someone must not like that.

 

 

 

Chicken soup with bok choy, ginger & wild rice

I’m not a huge soup fan, but I had a cold, was avoiding noodles, and love ginger. This turned out better than expected. Before I made it, I Googled soup recipes…there is something about seeing that at some point, someone, somewhere has put the same general ingredients together with edible results that gives me courage in the kitchen, even if I almost always tweak what I find. I wasn’t sure about bok choy in soup, but it is really quite nice…and unlike the standard celery, is something I actually buy!

Ingredients

1 qt chicken broth

2 cups water

1 lb chicken breast, diced (I had boneless, skinless…must easier to cut up when mostly frozen.)

1/2 cup wild rice (whoa – I know! carbs! I’m going low, not no)

Baby bok choy, sliced crosswise (I used one package from Trader Joe’s, but could easily have added more)

Fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into little sticks (to taste – a couple inches?)

Garlic, sliced thin (3-5 cloves, again to taste)

—-

Fish sauce – a few splashes for a little more salty/unami flavor.

Rice vinegar – a few splashes. Lime juice would have worked too.

Sesame oil – a drizzle to finish.

chicken-bok-choy-soup

Method:

Heat up the broth in a medium to large pot. Add all the ingredients (except the last 3 – save those till the end to season to taste) and simmer until the rice is done. Flavor it up with the fish sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil as desired.

*On my first attempt, I cooked just the rice in the broth before adding the chicken and bok choy stems, etc., saving the bok choy leaves for last – but after making it again I really don’t think those extra steps added anything.

Notes for next time: add more bok choy and maybe some mushrooms. Shiitake!

new math

I’ve never counted calories.

I’m just putting that out there because I’ve spent so much of my life defending against one of two assumptions:

  • One – I must not eat enough. This is a comfortable assumption for many because, in a comparison-based world, it takes me out of the league of normal and into the world of eating disorders.
  • Two – I’m a runner/dancer/vegetarian/vegan something to the extreme. In other words, I work very hard to be skinny.

Neither of these is true. In fact, I’ve eaten way more junk than I should have in order to deflect the first (no, look! I can eat the whole thing myself!). I’ve attempted vegetarianism – it hasn’t worked out for me to date. I hate running. I hate gyms. I’m active – I do yoga, I love to hike and bike and paddle – but I don’t “exercise.” And I’m skinny when I’m inactive, too. I’m stronger and I feel better when I move a lot, but it doesn’t make an appreciable difference on my weight – but then, I don’t weigh myself either.

So, my new project of figuring out how to shift my main calorie source from carbs (grain/starch/sugar) to fat is interesting. I’m still not counting calories with the goal of only eating so many. But I am trying to at least get a ballpark idea of my macro nutrient intake.

I’m using the USDA’s Supertracker website to figure out the numbers. It is seriously flawed in many ways, but it does help create the ballpark.

Today’s breakfast starts with veggies:

1 c yellow squash – 36 calories

1 c Brussels sprouts – 38 calories

pan-of-veggiesThat’s discouraging. 2 cups of food and only 74 calories.

So I add fat:

1/2 tbsp olive oil – 60 calories

Woohoo. 134.  Now protein:

1 TJ’s garlic herb chicken sausage – 130 calories

Now we’re still only at 264. Fuck.

So more fat:

Some shredded Monterrey Jack cheese – 60 calories

veggie-sausage-cheeseAlright. I can’t add more fat without it being a greasy gross mess, or more food without it just being too much for me. Although I am adding (lots) of heavy cream to my coffee, so that adds an extra 150 fat cals.

Grand total: about 475 calories. carb: 16 g  fat: 36 g  protein: 26 g  fiber: 6 g

My goal is to not go “no carb crazy” – just switch the proportions. Thanks to the cream in my coffee, I’ve done that this morning. But the overall goal of 100+ grams of fat per day is daunting. Luckily, there are coconuts.

On the other end of the “eat a rainbow” spectrum from my skillet of veggies is this nonsense: rainbow bagels with cake-batter frosting. (“It looks like Play-doh!” And “It’s like having cake for breakfast!” are selling points. I admire the artistry involved – but my eyes are the only sense I want to use here. Gag.)

fwx-kitchen-trash-rainbow-bagels

 

Veggie Scramble #1

veggie-scramble-1Serves 1.

Ingredients

One small yellow squash, diced

Five Brussels sprouts, ends cut off then sliced thinly

1/4 c red onion, diced small

1 tbsp olive oil

two large eggs

1 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1/2 tbsp butter

1/4 avocado, sliced

Chili sauce (optional)

Process

Saute squash, sprouts and onion in olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until desired doneness, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with a little salt. I like the veggies to brown and caramelize a bit. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the cream and a bit of salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium low, scoot the veggies to one side of the pan and add the butter to the empty side. When the butter melts, pour in the eggs. Tilt the pan slightly so the eggs stay on their side. Stir slowly to form lumps. When the eggs are almost cooked through (still a tad shiny) stir the vegetables into them.

Serve with avocado and chili sauce on top. Green + red = Christmas everyday. It is a beautiful yummy mess.

Striking gold

A few months ago, I visited a new acupuncturist, searching for help with my breakouts. She examined my face and asked how long it has been a problem.

“My entire adult life.”

She made a sympathetic face and poked me full of needles. I returned a few times, but didn’t see real results, although I had an acupuncturist years ago who did help.

I’ve also thought that eating less sugar, eliminating dairy, avoiding fried foods, and basically every non-prescription topical cleanser or medication under the sun might help. But they didn’t. I felt both guilty and hopeless. Nothing I tried worked, but it HAD to be caused by something I was doing wrong. (That’s the downfall of believing in personal responsibility for health.)

Then a few weeks ago, I read Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. And for the first time, I understood what nutritionists mean when they say the body treats all carbohydrates the same way: like sugar. I’d always thought this was nonsense, since I felt way different if I ate brown rice vs. a brownie. Carbohydrates are energy, right? They are important!

Maybe not so much.

mother lode: the place where the largest amount of gold, silver, etc., in a particular area can be found

Quoting Phil Maffetone, McDougall explains that at any time, even skinny minnies like me, have approximately 160,000 calories available – 140,000 of them as fat. 87%. The rest are protein (25,000) and sugar (2,000). All carbs – “slow burning” whole grains and Skittles alike – have to be dealt with quickly because too much sugar in the blood is toxic. Insulin, hormones, yada-yada-yada…

For whatever reason, I’ve never experienced the most common result of eating excessive carbs (weight gain), but in reading this book, I realized overall carbohydrate consumption was the one thing I’ve never looked at in my own diet. And when I looked at the numbers, it was kind of shocking. I’d ditched Coke and white bread years ago, but organic juices, sweet potatoes and flax seed crackers are all still carbs, and I was eating a ton of them.

The “Maffetone Method” suggests a two-week test to determine if you are sensitive to carbohydrates. Simply eliminate all sugar and starch, outside of what occurs naturally in vegetables (potatoes and corn don’t count as vegetables), and see what happens. His system finally helped me figure out how to implement the advice my helpful Chinese acupuncturist gave me years ago (“eat less carbs” – he was a man of few words and no explanations) without losing weight. Just three more little words.

Eat. More. Fat.

Not more protein – although protein is important. More. Fat. Good fat, not hydrogenated fake fat.

One day into my experiment, I knew the only way I could get even close to the amount of fat needed without feeling grossed out was to eat way more vegetables as well.

veggie lode: the place where the largest amount of nutritional content in a particular diet can be found.

I began cruising the Internet, looking for recipes to help me figure out what to eat. But whether the site was low carb, ketogenic, paleo, vegan or pretty much any other dietary rule, I kept running into the same problem.

It seems most people – even those preaching the value of a healthy diet – would rather come up with ways to make their favorite junk foods fit the mold of their new diet than to actual change their habits. From sweet potatoes to tapioca starch, Stevia to agave to buckets of fruit, most all the beautiful recipe blogs predominately featured crap. Pretty, carbohydrate (or chemical) laden crap. I followed a link from one non-crappy site that promotes a very restrictive whole foods diet to the guest blogger’s natural foods blog, only to find a recipe for homemade marshmallows.

Sugar addiction dies hard.

I’m not into any rules or labels. And also? I hate scrolling down a page of 20 nearly identical pictures with a bunch of repetitive drivel. Just give me the fucking recipe.

I was honestly so excited by my breakfast of scrambled eggs with yellow squash, Brussels sprouts, onion, avocado and chili sauce (plus butter and heavy cream, and coffee with heavy cream) that I decided to catalog my recipe creation on a blog. The Internet is still free, real food rocks and my skin is clearing up. I’ve hit the veggie lode!