Comfort Food Redemption: How to Beat the Diet Blues

You just discovered your diet needs an overhaul if you are to be healthier and feel good again. You go into mourning immediately with the thought of losing the food you’ve loved and eaten forever.  No worries — you’ll go through these 8 stages of grief:

  1. Deprivation: Someone stole my cheese. All I can think about is cheese.  I’m miserable.
  2. Panic: What the hell CAN I eat, then?  All food choices seem to have vanished.
  3. Denial: I don’t eat much sweets or bread. Maybe if I have just one cookie, I’ll be OK.
  4. Resignation: Uh oh…I’m bloated (or constipated). Not OK.  Misery is assured.
  5. Fear: Will I ever be invited out to dinner again? Where will I find something to eat?  I’m doomed to eat bland, medicinal food.
  6. The Quest: I need help, answers, hope, or a big fat cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun.
  7. Re-education: I need a moment to digest the restrictions. The real work is in figuring out the food possibilities.
  8. Joy: There’s a lot of great stuff out there.  I’m re-training myself to eat mindfully, and, hey, the results are surprisingly yummy!

As a gluten-sensitive person, I experienced every one of these stages.  I’m also lucky enough to be an inveterate researcher and cookbook collector; so, when I reached Stage 7, I gathered my curiosity, energy, and tools to make myself food-happy again.

Eliminating much-loved foods and ingredients from your diet is unsettling.  You lose your balance.  So, I’ve road-tested a summer comfort food meal for you, guided by delicious recipes in Well Fed – Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan.  Check out Clothes Make the Girl for more recipes and information on her cookbooks. Joulwan follows a Paleo regime.  I have found Paleo to be most compatible with my love of meat and need to be gluten-free.  It is not the only solution for a healthy diet, but we will visit others as time goes on.

SUMMER COMFORT FOOD MENU:

Grilled Chicken Thighs

Coconut Almond Green Beans

Jicama “Potato Salad” 

Dessert (Optional) – Easy fruit crisp recipe from an earlier post found here.

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THE RECIPES
Grilled Chicken Thighs

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Summertime is about The Grill. The key to richly-flavored, moist and juicy thighs is to smoke them. First, season the thighs with salt, pepper, and paprika.

To smoke the thighs, I use Woodstock Lump Hardwood Charcoal.  You can help this along with 4-5 fast-starting briquets.  When the briquets start to get that ashy color, check the wood charcoal.  When there are no more flames, you’re ready to go.  There should be a lot of smoke, but no fire. Put your chicken on the grill. Cover and smoke the meat for an hour.

Coconut-Almond Green Beans

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These green beans are a riff on the ol’ green bean casserole, but without the canned beans, canned soup, frozen onion rings, and outrageous amount of sodium. All I can say about these green beans is WOW!!  I followed this easy recipe to a tee.  If you love Indian food, these beans will resonate with you.  If you aren’t familiar with Indian food, these beans are a real flavor festival. Truly, cool beans.

Jicama “Potato” Salad

Jicama

I adapted this recipe from Well Fed. Don’t be intimidated by this 3-part recipe — it’s easier than you think.  Jicama is a large root vegetable from Mexico.  It is a great substitute for potatoes because its texture and flavor is similar to a raw potato,  with one caveat — start preparing the jicama early, really early—like 48 hours before you serve the meal!

Jicama Ingredients:

2 pounds jicama

1 teaspoon salt

Salad Ingredients:

4 strips sugar-free, nitrate-free bacon

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced

1 medium  stalk celery, diced (about ½ cup)

About 1/2 cup of diced medium yellow or (and) red onion

½ cup fresh cilantro, minced

2 tablespoons dried chives

¾ teaspoon dried mustard

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

¾ cup olive oil mayo (see recipe below)

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Instructions:

Jicama

Dice the jicama into ½ inch cubes.  (It’s up to you whether or not to peel it.)  When you’re done chopping, you should have about 6 cups of cubes.  Place the jicama and salt in a slow cooker and add enough water to cover the jicama by about 2 inches.  Cover and cook on high for 12-24 hours.  The longer the jicama simmers, the more tender it becomes.

[Note: The recipe says to cook in a slow cooker for 12-24 hours.  I suggest 18 hours, as a baseline, and check every 6 hours after.  My jicama was fork tender at 23 hours.]

When the jicama has cooked, drain, pat dry, and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

Salad

Cut the bacon crosswise into ¼ inch wide pieces.  Place the chopped bacon in a cold skillet, turn the heat to medium-high, and fry the bacon until it’s crisp, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the pan with a wooden spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Place bacon, eggs, celery, onion, parsley, chives, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with a rubber scraper, then add jicama and mix again.  Add mayo (recipe below) and gently fold until combined.  Chill for 20-30 minutes before eating to allow flavors to meld.

Olive Oil Mayo Recipe

Ingredients:

1 large egg

2 tablespoons Lemon juice

¼ cup + 1 cup light-tasting olive oil (not extra virgin!)

1/2 teaspoon wasabi

½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Bring all ingredients to room temperature (including the egg).

1.  In a blender or food processor, break the egg and add the lemon juice. Put the lid on your appliance and allow the egg and lemon juice to sit and come to room temperature together, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

2.  When the egg and lemon juice are room temperature, add the mustard, salt, and ¼ cup oil to the canister.  Blend on medium until the ingredients are combined.  Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil by pouring very, very slowly.  You want the skinniest drizzle you can manage; this takes about 2-3 minutes.

3.  If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid begins to form the emulsion.  Eventually, the substance inside the blender will resemble traditional mayonnaise, only far more beautiful. (Do not lose your nerve and consider dumping!) Continue to drizzle slowly.

4. When all of the oil is incorporated, revel in your triumph and transfer the mayo to a container with a lid.  (Mark a calendar with your egg expiration date—that’s when your mayo expires, too.)

5. Mix 3/4 cup of olive oil mayo with the assembled salad.

This meal is satisfying, filling, and beautiful to look at. The ingredients, for the most part, are familiar and comforting. Does this menu make you food-happy again?

– Cheryl

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2 Healthy Summer Treats

Did you know Americans consume an average 130 pounds of sugar a year? See this  infographic.

Recognizing that we human beings have an Undeniable Sweet Tooth, I’m sharing two easy recipes for healthy summer treats. I swapped the type of fruit in one recipe and the type of sweetener in both. What I know for sure is that the treats won’t contain crap like artificial coloring and “tastes like” ingredients. My theory is that maybe the treats also have a lower glycemic load than the original recipes, unless, of course, they’re so damn good that your portions are out of control.

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Strawberry and Greek Yogurt Popsicle – adapted from a recipe in thefoodiephysician.com.

STRAWBERRY AND GREEK YOGURT POPSICLE 

The original recipe can be found here. Here it is with my adaptations:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sliced ripe strawberries
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons coconut nectar
  • 1 -1/2cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Place strawberries and 2 tablespoons coconut nectar in a blender.  Puree until mostly smooth, with some small chunks of fruit.
  2. Mix yogurt, vanilla extract, and remaining coconut nectar in a bowl until smooth. (The amount of coconut nectar is a guide; you can adjust amounts to your own sweet tooth, but do so sparingly.)
  3. Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of strawberry puree into bottom of each popsicle mold. Spoon about 1 ½ tablespoons yogurt on top of fruit.  Keep alternating layers of strawberry puree and yogurt.
  4. Place popsicle sticks into popsicle molds. Cover and freeze until solid, about 2-3 hours.

This was a quick and simple recipe that did not involve making a simple syrup with more sugar.  The popsicles were refreshing. The flavor, like the popsicle construction itself, was alternately sweet and tart. Using plain yogurt instead of sweetened vanilla yogurt reduced the overall amount of sugar in this treat.

Next up….

PEACH AND BLUEBERRY CRISP (GLUTEN-FREE)

One fun fact about the fruit used in this crisp … peaches and blueberries are summer season fruits and they have a lower glycemic load. You can find a list of low-glycemic fruits here, along with an explanation of “glycemic load.”

From prepping the fruit in the pan to putting the crisp in the oven took about 20 minutes. That is real fast for me because I am one slow cook. I adapted the original recipe found here.

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Prepped fruit — peaches (white and yellow) and blueberries

Ingredients

Fruit filling

  • 5 organic ripe peaches (mix of yellow and white peaches, cut in bite-sized pieces)
  • Pint of fresh blueberries (or most of a 10 oz. bag of frozen wild blueberries)
  • 1/4 cup coconut nectar
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch (it’s a thickener similar to corn starch)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Topping

  • 1 cup gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed almond meal / flour (If you have a nut allergy, you can substitute the almond meal with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup oats)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw almonds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed organic coconut palm sugar (the color of brown sugar, but doesn’t turn hard as a brick when stored)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (The original recipe called for a 9 by 9-inch square baking dish. I don’t have one so I used an uncoated 2″ deep pan that is about 12.5 x 8.5 inches.)
  2. In the pan, mix together the fruit, coconut nectar, arrowroot starch, lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal/flour, almonds, coconut palm sugar and salt. Mix in the Greek yogurt and melted coconut oil. Stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened throughout. (Add a little more yogurt and oil, if necessary.)
  4. Evenly distribute the oat mixture over the fruit filling. (No need to pack it down.)
  5. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown.
  6. Let the crisp rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Peach and wild blueberry crisp

Peach and blueberry crisp – recipe adapted from a simple gluten-free apple crisp found on cookieandkate.com

Oops!  I meant to take a photo of a full pan of the finished peach and blueberry crisp, but then I scooped out a serving for a friend. He went on and on about it, so I had to have a taste myself. Needless to say, this peach and blueberry crisp didn’t see the next day.  Portions were clearly out of control.  It was insanely delicious!!

Let me know if you try these healthy summer treats. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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