Monthly Archives: June 2015

Whole30 7 Day Meal Plan – Day Five: Devil may care

Breakfast: leftover Salmon, butternut squash

I woke up this morning thinking that I had a more energy than the day before, so I jumped out of bed determined to have a productive energetic day. I promptly stubbed my little toe on the bed leg, and consequently was back in bed with a pack of peas on my sprained toe. I guessed at that point my day might not be as energetic as I had initially planned. I did manage to make it out for a good bike ride though. What a perfect Sydney winter’s day! It’s day’s like this when you wonder why you would even bother with summer?

For the second day in a row I’ve had very little appetite. Consequently I skipped breakfast, other than a bullet proof coffee.

Lunch: Greek Salad with perfect boiled eggs

As tempting as this sounded, I still had no appetite at lunch time. Eventually around 2pm I decided I should eat anyway, especially as I was planning on navigating Sydney’s roads on two wheels, a feat that takes a lot of stomach at the best of times. Thus, I decided to make the scrambled eggs, steamed spinach and berries that were originally prescribed for breakfast yesterday.

The recipe was really no different to anything one would expect, except for the optional use of coconut cream in the eggs. I added 1 tbs to the eggs, and they did have a good creamy taste, and no discernible coconut taste. I  topped the eggs with some of roasted red pepper sauce and pesto which worked well, and the red pepper sauce complimented the spinach nicely. The original recipe called for the eggs to be cooked for 5-7 minutes. I feel this is too long for any scrambled eggs. Mine took less than one minute, and that included taking them off the heat intermittently (so they do not over cook).

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Pros: Easy, coconut cream worked surprisingly well.

Cons: Recipe times would have been incorrect.

Rating: 6/10

Would I cook it again: Yeah

Dinner: Pork chops and spiced apple sauce

Dinner was very quick and easy, pan seared pork chops finished in the oven. This method of cooking pork chops worked very well. They cooked evenly and nice and juicy.

While the pork chops were in the oven, the recipe said to use the same pan the pork had been seared in and add onion, apple, apple juice, ginger and allspice. This was to be cooked for approximately 5 minutes until the apple was tender. After 15 minutes I gave up and blended the apple mix. It was quite dry so I added a little water. The apples tasted great  but the texture was unusual as there was still quite a bit of crunch.

I placed the pork on a bed of Cos as I was unable to locate frisee, and I still had a lot of cos from previous meals. Probably not the best substitution, I’m sure something more peppery like rocket or even bitter like chicory would have provided a little more oompf to the meal. I’m glad I wasn’t too hungry today as it wasn’t the most filling of the meals I’ve had this week.

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Pros: Good method for cooking the pork. Great spice mix ratio for the apple.

Cons: Recipe times for the apple sauce were off.

Rating: 6/10

Would I cook it again: The pork chops yes.

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Whole30 7 Day Meal Plan – Day Four: The Leftovers

Breakfast: Perfect Scrambled Eggs, steamed spinach and a side of berries

Lunch: Leftover brisket, butternut squash and pesto

Dinner: Perfect baked salmon with broccoli, mushrooms,  summer squash and red pepper sauce

Ok let me tell you, today I felt …morose. I’m not even sure what happened to the day. I just sort of floated through it. I floated without hunger. I cooked nothing in accordance with the menu plan. I had so many leftovers in the fridge due to the large portion sizes prescribed in the book. I decided it would be much better to get through them than to make more. Consequently,I ended up eating leftover slaw and tuna for breakfast, mixed salad for lunch, and the left over brisket and pumpkin for dinner. All of which were surprisingly satisfying and I had no cravings for anything else. Unless you count the biltong which I supplemented my lunch with. That was very good!

Whole30 7 Day Meal Plan – Day Three: The sweet beef of success

I have certainly been feeling reclusive today, hence it was perfect that I spent the day in the sole company of a brisket of beef simmering away in my slow cooker.

Breakfast: Leftover chicken and potatoes with drizzle of pesto

I made the pesto fresh this morning which was very easy and quite good. I do prefer mine a little more herby and I think it could do with a little zest. The spinach was a great idea as it added a nice peppery touch to it, as well as providing an economical way to make expensive herbs go further. I will definitely consider adding spinach to my pesto in the future.

I had to change the recipe as the original called for walnuts which I have a reaction to, so I substituted these for cashews which I thought worked really well.

I did not reheat anything as I didn’t want the chicken to dry out any further, and I adore refrigerator cold potatoes (I’d eaten half before they made to the plate).

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The score below is for the pesto only:

Pros: Liked the pepperiness of the spinach

Cons: Needed a little more zing

Rating:7/10

Would I cook it again: I’d play with it.

Lunch: Mexican tuna in romaine (cos) leaves, leftover slaw and side of fruit.

I had almost no appetite at lunch time. Eventually around 3pm I reached for ranch dressing (again) and mixed a tin of tuna into the left over slaw. However it was only a small snack, as I only managed one leaf of tuna slaw. It was delicious though, and is a great thing to make for a lazy snack at home or to take to work. I will make the Mexican tuna in the future and report back to you Dear Reader.

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Pros: Easy and tasty. Lots of possibilities.

Cons:

Rating:8/10

Would I cook it again: Definitely.

Dinner: Braised beef, butternut squash, mixed salad and greek salad dressing

After smelling the most delicious aroma wafting through the house it was finally time to eat. It was extremely good, comfort food of the highest order. I wish I’d made a larger brisket as the leftovers would freeze very well in the gravy (tip: slice left over meat and place in a ziplock bag with gravy so you can take out and reheat quickly. I’m a big fan of brisket, and was elated when it finally made an appearance on the shelves of one of the local supermarkets.

The gravy itself was fantastic, although it never thickened enough to coat a spoon. The gravy was made by blitzing the the juices, onions and garlic from the pot the beef had been cooking in. If you haven’t tried this before, it is a genius way to thicken gravy. I suspect there was just too much liquid in this case.

I slow cooked the beef for 9 hours, adding the jap pumpkin (yes I swapped to pumpkin as it has far less carbohydrates than butternut squash) in the last 2 hours. Then I threw together a salad using cos lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, celery, cucumber, tomato. I then mixed this with the Ranch Dressing (I swear despite being told to double the recipe I am not even half way through the original jar!). The Greek dressing will have to wait for another day.

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Pros: Falling apart meat that can be easily frozen and reheated. The smell in the house as it cooks.

Cons: Waiting for it to cook.

Rating:8/10

Would I cook it again: Definitely.

Whole30 7 Day Meal Plan – Day Two: The Unbearable Lightness of Health Stores

I had a great walk over to Newtown today, which I definitely needed was starting to get the withdrawals expected at this point of a new way of eating. My desire for vice was at an all time high. Walking past endless restaurants and pubs to meet a friend to help me with my CV, something that I’m sure would normally entail a beer garden at some point, was akin to cruel and unusual punishment.

Hilariously, we did go to a health food store on Enmore Road, where I was amused to discover that  I could eat less than 5 percent of the purported health food it was purveying. Most of the shelves were stocked with grains, legumes, nut bars and milks sweetened with a multitude of contraband syrup sweeteners, not to mention that health food stores are a hotbed of soy products.

Breakfast: Leftover Minced Beef and Spaghetti Squash with a perfect egg

I deviated from the set plan as there was far too much frittata from yesterday, and despite the fact both options would freeze well, the frittata just screamed “conventional breakfast” a little louder. It also required zero effort as I could eat it cold. Which meant I could eat it with my eyes closed pretending I was still sleeping. Paired it with a brilliant bullet proof coffee.

Lunch: Protein Salad in hollow red pepper, sliced carrots, celery and Ranch Dressing for dipping

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would, considering it was day two of chicken protein salad. The Ranch Dressing seemed to have even improved even more over the past 24 hours. I really enjoyed all the crunch! Oh, and I adored the simplicity of something that took 2 minutes to throw together.

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Pros: Super super easy, lots of colour and crunch

Cons: None

Rating: 8/10

Would I cook it again: Sure

Dinner: Perfect Seared Chicken Breast, Roasted Pepper Mayo, Perfect Roasted Potatoes, and Green Cabbage Slaw

I’m struggling with the use of the descriptive “perfect” for either the seared chicken breast or the potatoes. The chicken recipe seemed to confuse itself as to whether it was frying a skin-on or skinless breast. The breast was placed skin down (difficult when told to use skinless) in a hot pan of ghee, then finished in the oven. The resulting chicken was a little on the dry side. Hint: marinade people!

Despite all my natural urges, as I am trying to for once in my life to follow instructions to the best of my ability, I followed the roasted potato recipe. The recipe suggested lining the tray in baking paper (I get this with other roast vegetables, but potatoes??), so dutifully I did. It instructed that I should chop the potatoes and drizzle with ghee with no par boiling (WTF??). Dutifully I melted some ghee in the microwave and drizzled over the potatoes with a spoon. I may then have accidentally scraped every side fo the potatoes with a fork and rolled them around in the ghee.

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I then quickly put them in the oven and tried to forget about how these were not going through my 10 step process to real PERFECT ROAST POTATOES. Honestly my potatoes are that good, that friends have named roast potato styles after me. When I have a mid winter Christmas I get asked to do potatoes three ways! Anyway, it was hard to forget what may be happening (or not happening!) in the oven when the baking paper was threatening to catch fire and there was the faint acrid whiff of a burning tyre factory wafting through the apartment. The result was very mediocre. Quelle surprise!

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I decided to use more of the Ranch Dressing on the slaw, as there was still a good 250 mls of it left, and I saw no future use for it in the proposed meal plan (quantities and proportions Mr & Mrs Whole30!!!). It worked out really well with the sesame seeds and cashews. I did worry that I was developing OCD, or if I would by the end of this program, as I found myself picking out the individual ears of corn in the premix cabbage slaw I bought. Insane-O? Do I already need an intervention?

I quickly had to blend up some red pepper sauce, which was far too acidic. I’ll have to try to balance it out tomorrow as there is a heap of it. Promisingly, when I mixed the sauce with the mayo it was relatively edible, I guess the extra salt in the mayo is turning into a condiment with benefits.

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Pros: Coleslaw was good, although not exactly what was prescribed in the meal plan.

Cons: Coerced into committing a tuberous crime. Going to bed tonight knowing that I will be eating that  dull dry chicken again tomorrow morning.

Rating: 5/10

Would I cook it again: Nah (maybe the coleslaw)

Whole30 7 Day Plan – Day One: Today Madam is having..

Today was busy, I felt like I was trying to eat large portions of food, and probably could have got by with two meals and a lot less on each plate. All in all, each dish was tasty and I’d consider making it again.

Breakfast: Spinach Frittata, Fruit, Avocado

Let me say the Spinach Frittata was massive. I ended up halving the spinach which was good because at 250 grams to 6 eggs, it did taste a lot like spinach and a lot less like a frittata. It also included onion and tomatoes. The genius thing that elevated it, and let me forgive the spinach proportions, was the drizzling with lemon juice and scattering of lemon zest before grilling the top. This really imparted a fabulous flavour into the frittata, and helped when eating it cold the next day.

I only used a couple of teaspooons fat to cook (rather than two tablespoons), as I intend to requisition as much of my morning quota of fat for my bullet proof coffees.

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I considered only eating a quarter of it. In the end I managed to eat half. There was certainly no room for avocado or any fruit this morning. It became clear at this early point in the experiment, that I was going to have to deviate form the meal plan and eat the rest of this sucker tomorrow.

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Pros: Loved the lemon zest, Super Easy.

Cons: Portions do not seem correct.

Rating: 8/10

Would I cook it again: Sure

Lunch: Protein Salad on a bed of baby spinach with with Ranch Dressing

The protein salad can be made from either chicken or tuna, as I’m having seared chicken breast for tomorrow’s dinner as well as breakfast the following day, with tuna for lunch, the choice was not easy. First world problems were manifesting  quickly in my grocery basket, but fortunately were solved by the fact I could only buy prepackaged chicken that would have exactly the amount extra for this dish after accounting for what I required for the pan seared breast. Was it really destiny that I should end up poaching chicken with bay leaves, thyme and pepper corns? I’d always imagined something a little more from destiny, but maybe i got her confused with Lady Luck.

This was my first chance to utilize my home made mayo, something the book assured me I’d be whipping up on such a regular basis, I should keep an egg and a lemon out on the kitchen counter at all times, you know… for those mayo emergencies.

Let me start with the mayo, there was a great tip in the making of mayo, to blend the egg with 4 tbs of olive oil, before slowly adding the rest of the olive oil (350 ml). This worked really well with a stick blender, and I’ll certainly use this trick going forward. I found the amount of salt to be far too much (and I like to ask for extra seasoning on my Oporto chips, in fact I usually tell them not to be shy, keep going!!). The saltiness is slightly alleviated by the fact almost everything else it seems to be added to has vinegar or lemon juice as well.

The ranch dressing was great, I will definitely make this again. The addition of coconut cream (full disclosure I had to use coconut milk as none of the coconut creams in Coles were Whole30 compliant), garlic, onion, paprika, and parsley worked well.

I paired it with a mandarin, that won the show. Is there anything better than when you get a mandarin that actually tastes as good as it smells?

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Pros: Super easy, great to prepare ahead and take to work.

Cons: Raw spinach is not ideal due to high goitrogens with a hypothyroid. In the future I’d put the chicken on rocket.

Rating: 7/10

Would I cook it again: Sure

Dinner: Perfect Minced Meat with Italian Seasoning, Tomato Sauce, Zoodles

The original meal plan called for roasted spaghetti squash, but this is near to impossible to find in Sydney so I improvised with zoodles, which I made using my trusty spiralizer. To make these super tastey I chose to fry them in ghee.

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Then for the tomato sauce which bubbled away for just over an hour.

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Cooked the minced beef with fresh thyme, rosemary,basil and cumin powder (as the only Italian Spice I could find was loaded with sugar). Then added some of the tomato sauce. Although the tomato sauce recipe was for two servings, yet again their was far too much (I’d say 4 servings – on the plus side I have some ready to go for a lazy night in the near future). The mince at 450 grams was also too much for two servings (More for the freezer, this is stocking up quickly!).

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I thought I’d miss the Parmigiano Reggiano i usually inundate my bolognese with, however I guess the use of the ghee really paid off, because I barely missed it at all. This felt incredibly nutritious with the vegetable laden tomato sauce and the zoodles.

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Pros: Lots of left overs that will freeze well.

Cons: Spaghetti squash needs to be more readily available.

Rating: 7/10

Would I cook it again: Sure

Whole30 7 Day Meal Plan – Day One: Clarifying Butter

I thought I was all set for day one of the Whole30 7 day meal plan, having made enough mayo to last a month the previous day as per the instructions in the book. I groggily woke up and reached for the espresso maker, only to realize to my horror that I had overlooked to clarify any butter – my morning bullet proof coffee was in DANGER!

There may have been a smallish amount of panic, which all seemed very rational pre-caffeination – nearest whole foods store? Does it really really matter if the butter is organic? Would it be best to walk/bus/taxi? Should I dress first or is an overcoat and slippers OK in an emergency AKA fire evacuation?

Then it dawned like the new day it was, that I could make some clarified butter using the half pound of supposedly grass fed butter I already had, which luckily was unsalted. This day was starting to improve.

So bravely, considering my coordination at this time of day, I set about lighting the stove, setting up pots and lining strainers.

The result was wonderful, as was my bullet proof coffee! Which was ready within fifteen minutes including both the clarifying of the butter, and the percolating of my stove top espresso maker.

Here are the simple steps for clarifying butter. To make ghee simply leave the solids in longer until the butter begins to brown, imparting a richer flavour.

Step One: Melt cubed butter in a sauce pan, simmering on a very low heat.

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Step Two: Wait until the milk solids have reached the surface(do not stir), and it appears that no more are rising to the top, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

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Step Three: Skim off as much of the milk solids as possible from the top the butter and discard.

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Step Four (Optional): For best results line  a sieve with muslin or cheesecloth and strain the remaining butter the sieve.

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In the end you will be left with wonderful butter to use for everything, because butter really does go with everything!

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Infused Water Ideas

When things we adore such as pinot gris, pinot noir, or even a humble coffee with milk are denied to us..what can we turn to? I love infused waters as they encourage me to keep drinking my two litres a day, especially when the idea of drinking yet another glass of water fills me with something akin to contempt.

My favourites are watermelon and mint; strawberry and mint; cucumber; celery; and lemon and ginger. What are yours?

Chicken Schawarma with Eggplant and Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Chicken
  • 500 gms Free Range Chicken
  • 4 tbs Shish Tawook
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tbs olive oil + 2tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
Dressing
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 tbs tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Coriander and/or parsley
Eggplant
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients for the tahini sauce, except for the coriander and/or parsley, in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk together and taste adding more tahini or garlic as required to suit taste. Set aside to meld together
  2. Cut chicken thighs into 4 to 6 pieces per thigh depending on size (so they are all even) and marinate with the shish tawook spice (see spice list below if making own), garlic, lemon, and 3 tbs of olive oil for two hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
  4. Cut eggplants in half long ways and deeply score the open side in a crisscross pattern. Peel or cut a strip on the underside to make a flat bottom (optional). Brush with olive oil. Place on a tin foil lined baking tray and Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Once cooked wrap in the tin foil they were cooked in too keep warm and further moisten the eggplant.
  5. Reduce oven to 200 degrees.
  6. Line a tray with foil, lightly spray with oil, and bake chicken for 15 minutes (or cooked through).
  7. Once cooked, cool until easy to handle, transfer to a chopping board and slice into thin schwarma-style pieces.
  8. Preheat a large fry pan on medium-high heat, add 2 tsp of olive oil (butter or ghee gives an awesome result, although not as awesome on a reheat).
  9. Cook chicken in pan for approximately 5 minutes, stirring, until slightly golden with lekker crispy bits (don’t over crowd fry pan, if not large enough you will want to work in batches).
  10. Place cooked chicken on top of eggplant, cover with dressing and add fresh parsley and coriander.

I like to serve this with a simple middle eastern style diced tomato and cucumber salad.

Tips

Instead of using shish tawook you could use your favorite middle eastern spices, or you could try the mix posted on Tory Avey’s wonderful site that inspired my version of schwarma.

If using diced lamb, then omit step 8 and step 9.

Cooking for one options: 1) Halve the recipe and take left overs for work the next day, it does not require a reheat and tastes great at room temperature. 2) Cook the full recipe and make a sala. The eggplant and chicken make a great foundation to add your favorite salad ingredients to (I like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, red peppers, spring onions, and a little chili). Add some water or more lemon juice to the tahini dressing to thin it and add toss through your salad.

Nutritional information can be found here

Grocery Shopping for the Whole30

In the end I only shopped for the first 2 and a half days, which came to approximately $90!!!! (hell that is a lot!!!!!!) The reason I only shopped for the first few days, you cynical people, was not because I thought it was doubtful I’d last much longer, but because 1) as a car-less single lady I am reliant on what I can get to a taxi using my own upper body strength, and 2) the Whole30 book on my kindle app has terrible links that don’t work properly so it was long and tedious process to even get that far! (I will be writing a review on the amazon site!).

What did amuse me was that I only required items from the first two isles of the supermarket (fresh vegetables and meat being in the first isle, and everything else I required in the second isle) not bad out of 14 isles! I guess things get junkier,  carbier, and generally unhealthier the further you progress towards toilet cleaner?

Whole30 – Let the experiment begin

I’ve decided (bravely, naively, insanely?) to go onto the Whole30 program, in a effort to better understand if there are any foods that should be limited/eliminated from my diet increase overall well being. This is quite radical as unlike banting, it expressly forbids alcohol (and I am ashamed to admit it tobacco). Please expect my moods to fluctuate, or potentially deteriorate for the next 30 days!

I was going to start today, however I’ve decided to follow the book to the T as part of the experiment, and it recommends that one should begin with a 7 day meal plan, after which you can make it up as you go along providing you follow their basic Whole30 Program Rules. The 7 day meal plan requires some preparation the day before you start, hence the totally explainable delay tactics, honest! I’ve decided over the next 30 days to work on my general organisational skills, which the book seems to think is quite important for mental well being (de-cluttered mind). Thus, I have decided to embark on a new tact each week as I adjust to (survive) the program.

Week One: 7 day plan, follow the meal plan to a the lettter

This will include preparing food as suggested. I have to be honest I’ve never been one for following instructions, I prefer to wing it and when in doubt (usually at the point of trouble bordering on catastrophe) refer to instructions.

7 day meal plan

Week Two: Use Recipes from Whole30 and create own meal plan

Week Three: Create Own Recipes and Entertain

Week Four: Eat Out on Whole30

It is probably important to note that it is in fact a 30 day program, not a 4 week program. After the initial 30 days there are protocols about reintroducing the verboten foods and assessing how they impact on your body and whether you should continue to eat them, limit them, or restrict them from your diet all together.