A Survey

I’ve been given the go-ahead to replace some of our more battered cookware…and now I don’t know what to buy!  We have the following, in descending order of use:

Lodge Cast Iron 12″ skillet with lid, a gift from Kevin and Jill, our cast iron gurus

Calphalon Contemporary 8 quart stockpot with steamer and pasta inserts

An absolutely indestructible Magnalite 10″ skillet, handed down from my parents

All-Clad 2 qt sauce pan

Martha Stewart 3.5 quart enameled cast iron casserole which, oh hey! has been recalled!

Lodge Cast Iron grill pan

IKEA 5 quart cast iron casserole

We also have – and very rarely use – a square non-stick griddle and an All-Clad 2 burner non-stick griddle.

The items I want to toss and/or replace include:

– 4.5 quart, scratched to hell sauce pan with wooden handles held on by screws so stripped that they can’t be tightened down any longer. When I pour anything out of this pot, I have to rotate my hands in opposite directions to keep it from wobbling. Imagine that with 4 quarts of boiling water or bubbly peach butter!

– 3 quart saucepan that has been similarly abused

– 12″ non-stick skillet that I bought for about $10 at Target at least 5 years ago and is more like ‘stick’ than ‘non-stick’ at this point

So I ask you: what the essentials in your cookware stable? I want to hear your case for specific sizes, brands, and coatings. If you read this site, you probably have a decent idea of what we cook – lots of meat, soups, and the occasional pasta, most of which can be accommodated by what we already have – but also jams, jellies, and tomato sauces that require non-reactive cookware. Canning necessitates at least two saucepans plus the giant pressure cooker. I’m ready to spend the money. I just need you to tell me what to get. So help!

Chickpea “Tuna” Salad

Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no tuna in that there tuna salad? No? Honestly, you might not have believed me if you had tasted it either.

Chickpea "Tuna" Salad

For years, I’ve avoided beans because they’re calorically dense. This has been a big dietary change for me, as the slow carb diet recommends including a hearty helping of beans with each meal. Beans are a good source of protein, and they also contribute to satiety in a very substantial way. This is important when you’re trying to avoid sweets and snacks – you know, the sorts of things that easily sneak in between meals when you weren’t really full and just want a bite of something. It is hard to not be full if you’re eating lots of beans.

I originally came across the idea of chickpea “tuna” salad in the context of sandwiches – oh, how I miss you – but it made a perfectly filling and delicious lunch when scooped out with celery or a spoon. Below I’ve shared my preferred “tuna” additions, but you can take this in any way you’d like. Shane likes finely chopped onion in his real tuna, so I would add that here for him. If you like Miracle Whip, I suppose you could add it in place of the mayonnaise, though I think that’s kind of an abomination. If you’re vegan, you can use Vegenaise or your favorite non-mayo equivalent. It’s your lunch. Hvae at it.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:2]

1. And because I know you’re thinking it, no, we haven’t had much of a problem with “the musical fruit”. You might, though, so avail yourself of Beano or another enzymatic supplement for digestive health.

2. When I made this the first time, Shane asked why I was swapping out the tuna, since it would be a better source of protein. While that’s true, the idea here was to make a delicious bean-centric meal, not replace another staple of our diet. Tuna and chickpeas can coexist happily! I swear it!

3. Perhaps you’re scratching your head and saying to yourself, “Don’t beans have a lot of carbohydrates?” The answer is yes, and it’s one of the sort of head-scratching components of the slow carb diet (as differentiated from low carb, where you would definitely not eat beans ever. This blog post is a good read and thoughtfully and exhaustively runs down the pros and cons of bean eating. As with all things, YMMV.

Fauxtatoes

If you’ll pardon my language, let me just tell you that fauxtatoes are the shit.

Fauxtatoes

If you recall, potatoes and all white foods are off-limits on this (s)low carb plan. We don’t eat potatoes all that often, but their absence is all the more pronounced when we’re ALSO not eating bread, rice, or pasta.

And this, this is why fauxtatoes are the shit. They’re made from cauliflower, steamed and pureed, then convincingly disguised with enough butter and cream cheese to almost convince you that they’re the real deal. Because they’re made from cauliflower, they aren’t absorbent – so you wouldn’t want to top them with gravy – but they do make a damned good side. We’ve been switching up the amount of cream cheese and butter, but you might as well start with the deluxe version and scale back – or scale up! – to your taste.

Trust me: if you’re trying to reduce carbs at all, fauxtatoes are your friend.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:1]

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – September 21, 2011

I like the sound of this, though not of the hornet saliva.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In Japan you can buy Vaam, a sports energy drink that contains hornet saliva. It acquired a legendary reputation after Japanese marathon runner Naoko Takahashi said she used it to propel herself to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. Vaam’s creator, biochemist Takashi Abe, claims there is scientific evidence that it works as well for humans as it does for wasps, which fly as much as 70 miles a day. According to my reading of the astrological omens, the cosmos will be infusing you with a metaphorical version of hornet saliva in the coming weeks, Capricorn. You’ll have the power to go further and be stronger for longer periods of time.
– Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – September 27, 2011

Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.

Ten on Tuesday: Headlines From the Year You Were Born

All news shamelessly sourced from Wikipedia.

  1. January 1: Changes to the Swedish Act of Succession make Princess Victoria of Sweden Crown Princess and therefore next in line to the throne, ahead of her younger brother.
  2. January 11: Nigel Short, 14, becomes the youngest chess player to be awarded the degree of International Master.
  3. March 22: The Georgia Guidestones are erected in Elbert County, Georgia.
  4. April 24-25: Operation Eagle Claw, a commando mission in Iran to rescue American embassy hostages, is aborted after mechanical problems ground the rescue helicopters. Eight United States troops are killed in a mid-air collision during the failed operation.
  5. May 18: Ian Curtis, singer/songwriter of acclaimed post punk band Joy Division, is found hanged.
  6. May 18: Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington, killing 57 and causing US$3 billion in damage.
  7. July 16: Former California Governor and actor Ronald Reagan is nominated for U.S. President, at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Influenced by the Religious Right, the convention also drops its long standing support for the Equal Rights Amendment, dismaying moderate Republicans.
  8. August 17: In Australia, baby Azaria Chamberlain disappears from a campsite at Ayers Rock (Uluru), reportedly taken by a dingo.
  9. November 21: A then-record number of viewers (for an entertainment program) tune into the U.S. TV soap opera Dallas to learn who shot lead character J.R. Ewing. The “Who shot J.R.?” event is an international obsession.
  10. December 8: John Lennon, an English musician and peace activist, is murdered in New York City.

Please note that there were no Wikipedia-worthy news items from my actual date of birth, which I share with Albert Pujols.

Where Have We Been?

I suppose a better question would be: what have we been doing?

The short answer is: making some changes.

In July, we both read The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, Timothy Ferriss’s guide to hacking the human condition.  In the book, he presents a series of self-experiments whose results have been successfully replicated by a team of testers.  None of these testers are professional scientists, though Ferriss consulted with a whole slew of professionals in a variety of related fields in order to form theories and verify subsequent results.  Having spent the first half of the summer trying to hack our own bodies through lower carb eating (Shane) and P90X (both of us), we decided to give some of the experiments a try.

Let me tell you, it’s difficult to know how to approach a food blog when you’re actively trying to change your diet and restrict the sorts of foods you used to write about in lavish detail.  The diet recommended by 4HB is as follows:

  1. Avoid white or starchy carbohydrates – so no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, pastries, baked goods, crackers, cereals, corn, chips, tortillas, fried things with breading, etc.
  2. Don’t drink your calories (with the exception of protein shakes).
  3. No fruit and minimal dairy.
  4. Eat the same few meals repeatedly.  These meals should include lots of protein, non-starchy vegetables, and a hearty helping of legumes.
  5. Once a week, eat whatever the hell you want.

So we tried that for a few weeks, and it was mostly really good.  We both felt great and were satiated by our meals.  On the weekends, we Ate All The Food: toast, ice cream, sushi, baked goods, etc.  The only problem for me? My running was very negatively affected – as in: I couldn’t do more than a mile or two without bonking.  And Shane was starting to feel crazy about all the counting, tracking, etc.

So we switched it up again.  I’m now ignoring rule #3 and trying to focus on post-workout nutrition, eating more carbohydrates after a run or the night before a long run.  Shane has been trying the LeanGains approach to eating, and has been adjusting his meals based on whether/not he’ll be lifting that night.

Since our vacation, I’ve lost 3% body fat and he’s lost at least 10 pounds.  We’re both pulling down or putting up more weight, and last night I did my very first push-up ever.  My runs have gotten faster, and my endurance better.  We’re drinking less during the week, and trying to curb cravings with healthy alternatives.  And on the weekends, we eat whatever the hell we want.

A couple of years ago, we made a fairly dramatic shift in our eating to favor local and sustainably grown food.  This is nearly as dramatic a shift, especially as we try to strike a balance between our nutritional requirements, our values, and our checking account.  In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some of the ways we’re managing these things – while also talking about the delicious foods we’re eating on (and off) this new plan.  Stay tuned for more!