Friday, June 03, 2011
...is better for appetite control.
Interestingly, the sample breakfast offerings are nearly Zone ratios of 40% carbs/30% fat/30% protein.
I say they are right!
Friday, June 03, 2011
I remember watching Julia Child as a kid. She was on the PBS channel after my Saturday morning cartoons. I loved her enthusiasm and passion for French cooking. When she made a mistake, she would just keep right on going! Whenever I make a mistake cooking, I think, "What would Julia do?" Her food looked so decadent and fancy, but she insisted it was easy.
Years later, I discovered she was right! It is decadent, fancy AND easy!
I just recently learned how to make coq au vin. It is so delicious and easy, I make it once a month or so. Cooking with wine sounds expensive, but it's not. We are wine drinkers, and try to drink a glass a night with dinner ($5 bottle, not Dom Perignon!). Sometimes, we open a bottle, we don't finish it, and we accidentally leave it open too long. Wine starts to turn to vinegar pretty rapidly if you leave it open too long and it starts to oxidize. Instead of throwing it out, I make coq au vin with it.
I tried a slightly different technique with my coq au vin this time. I took pieces of chicken with veggies and marinated it in the wine with some herbes de provence. I love marinades. I thought, why can't you marinade coq au vin? It has such a wonderful rich flavor, I thought it would be even better if the chicken marinated and allowed the wine to permeate the meat.
I let it marinade 2 days. I browned the chicken in a large dutch oven, then put all the veggies and the wine marinade in.
It simmered for about 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, I prepared a dessert treat. Poached pears.
I took a pear, peeled it, cut in half, and cut out the core. I put it in a small oven safe pan. Made a mixture of 4 tablespoons lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar, a teaspoon of cognac (optional), and about 4 tablespoons water. I poured it over the top of the pears. Covered with lid, and baked it in the oven at 325F for about 45 minutes until the pears were soft.
Always have a big leafy salad with lots of colorful veggies at every meal. Always.
I served the coq au vin. I should have taken all the pieces out and made a reduction with the juices, but...I was hungry. And lazy. So the sauce is bit more watery than it should be.
I plated the pear with a scoop of homemade dark chocolate gelato and fresh blueberries.
Looks decadent, fatty and rich, doesn't it? It all looks like something we are cheating on, or shouldn't do.
Not so fast. Here's the breakdown
Coq au Vin with salad:
Poached Pears with Dark Chocolate Gelato and Fresh Blueberries:
Net total for the whole meal:
You've got a serving of protein, big pile of veggies, and a serving of fruit for less than 400 calories. It is neither low carbohydrate nor low fat, but it's the right mix of things you need to be healthy. Notice that there are no starches, however. You can add a small piece of bread, if you like. I felt it was unnecessary.
None of it is overwhelming. When we finished our meal, we were satisfied, not stuffed. When was the last time you had a fruit serving at dessert, and for less than 100 calories? Here is apparently the French secret to dessert. The combination of the lemon citrus, the pear, and the chocolate gelato blends together so well, you aren't screaming for more at the end. Less is more. The other trick (metabolically) is the fructose from the fruit, and the small bit of fat from the gelato prevents your insulin from surging. No raging mood swings. No sugar high, then crash. No hunger pains an hour after dinner.
Julia Child was 91 when she died. If any of this is unhealthy, let's just say I'd rather eat this unhealthy with cognac poached pears in my belly.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Wow, after being stuck for so long, I feel like I finally got this plateau thing figured out. All it took was one simple change: I cut back on my grain/cereal/starch consumption.
For too long, I was trying to follow the dietary guidelines saying you need a starch or grain with every meal. Little did I know this was derailing my goals. I now believe that grains/cereal/starches should be enjoyed in moderation, but are not essential in the quantities the USDA food pyramid specifies.
I was following the guidelines and was getting nowhere. My weight held stable. I tried more exercise, but on days when I did more exercise, I ate more food, but calorie total should have still been a deficit. I was trying to keep my deficits at an average of -300 per day. If I exercised more, I ate more, but still roughly -300 than I burned. But I kept my macronutrient ratios the same because I thought that was important. Whether I ate 1200 calories or 1800, I tried very hard to keep my macronutrients at 50% carbs/30% fats/20% protein.
This was my problem. Too many grain carbs. Too little protein.
I had been doing this for years, and was standing still. It was obvious to me that whatever I was doing, it was keeping me in stasis. I was never going to get anywhere if I didn't figure this out.
Well, I figured 2+ years of doing it the ADA way was giving it enough time. There is something more. More exercise wasn't changing things (because I was holding my macronutrient ratios the same). I'm a small person, so the only way I can restrict my calories further was to go below 1200 calories. It is so hard to get my vitamin requirements as is, being a petite person, this isn't a good idea. The only thing left to do is to shift my ratios.
I started digging. I dug up my old copy of "Enter The Zone" and brushed up on insulin response, how it affects fat storage and loss. I was convinced this was my problem. I was eating enough carbohydrates that my body never needed to dip into my fat stores.
While I am not currently diabetic, I pretty sure that my insulin receptors are damaged to some degree because I am not able to lose weight on a calorie restricted diet alone anymore.
As much as I love "Enter the Zone", it is several years old (where is the revised and updated edition, Barry?). I decided to check up on a few new books. "The Paleo Diet" and "Protein Power" (2009 revised edition) were on my list.
"The Paleo Diet" first suggested the idea of eliminating grains and starches, which I balked at. It also suggested eliminating dairy. I do not drink milk, but I eat yogurt and cheese. The premise is that our paleo ancestors did not eat these things, and our bodies are not designed to process them. These were concepts I was not ready to digest (no pun intended!).
Then I read "Protein Power", and I changed my mind. The authors gave very detailed explanation for the metabolic process for insulin/glucagon that comes from every first year medical school textbooks. It seemed to answer what was going on with me perfectly. My carbohydrate intake is exactly the level to maintain my current bodyfat. My body will not let go of my bodyfat because it has no need to. No amount of exercise will change that, as long as I hold my ratios the same.
If I was maintaining bodyfat at 140g carbs, then I figured I should see a response if I cut back to 70g carbs. This is higher than the recommended levels in "Protein Power". I figured the recommendation for 30 and 55g carbs were designed for severely obese patients, and those with who were very badly insulin resistant. I was neither of those.
I only cut back on my grain/cereal/starches. I also increased my protein consumption. Before I was eating about 50-60g protein per day. I increased this to 100g per day. I did not eliminate dairy - I still eat yogurt and cheese. I'm neolithic, not paleolithic.
Cutting back my grain/cereal/starches were pretty easy changes to make. All I did was stopped adding cereal to my morning yogurt and blueberry breakfast. Skipped the bread at lunch. Replaced the potatoes at dinner with more veggies.
I had the benefit of years of good habits eating fruits and vegetables, so this was not a radical change. The mistake people make with low carb diets is eating all meat/fat, and adding little vegetables and fruit. I distress whenever I read the message boards and people say, "I hate vegetables and fruit. How can I lose weight?"
We are omnivores, and we are meant to eat protein and vegetable matter. We have sharp canines and incisor teeth for tearing meat, and flat molars for grinding vegetables. Fruits are biologically adapted to entice us to eat them.
I increased my protein very simply by making sure I ate a protein with every meal, which I was not doing before. Protein doesn't have to mean meat, but we have to eat some kind of protein every day.
Well, cutting back on grains/starches and raising protein was the right combination I needed.
In 4 weeks since I've been doing this, here are my stats:
Weight Change: -4lbs (about 1lb per week)
Body Fat: -1.86% (~3.5 lbs fat)
Lean Mass: +0.5lb (!!! I have actually gained muscle!)
Waist: -1 inch
Hips: 0 inches (Sigh. My booty is stubborn.)
Thigh: -0.5 inch (Yay - at least my thighs are shrinking, if my butt is not)
Calf: 0 inch
Arms: -0.5 inch (Michelle Obama arms - here I come!)
I'm a fat burner! My weight change is burned fat, gained muscle, and a little water loss! My body composition is changing in the way I want! I have also managed to do the all important thing to preserve muscle, and even added a little to it!
If 1.86% bodyfat loss doesn't sound like a lot, look at what the net effect is. I've lost a total of 3 inches off my waist, thighs and arms!
Also, if you're wondering about my heart health. I don't know my lipid status, but my resting heart rate has dropped from 76bpm to 60bpm. I'm feeling confident that I'm clearing out inflammation.
So now that I've been doing this about 4 weeks (even while on vacation!) I am very slowly adding small amounts of my favorite grains. I have decided to eat them in moderation. I am not going to try to eat a grain/starch with every meal like I did before (that was a disaster for me). I am reserving my grain/starch portion for my evening meal, or once per day. Instead of being a "meat and potatoes" girl, I am changing over to a "meat and vegetables" girl.
With the higher protein, I am almost never hungry. It has curbed my appetite like a dream. I used to obsess about my next meal. "When is lunch? What am I going to eat? Is it lunch time yet?" Now I'm like, "Oh, is it time for lunch already?".
My diet is mostly Zone ratios, so it is moderate carb, in between the ADA recommendations and a low carb. I eat a protein with a vegetable serving with every meal. Starch/grain only once per day, and a very small serving.
I have not had any problems meeting my vitamin/minerals, though I did have a slight potassium drop. While The Zone says bananas should be avoided, I think the potassium is too important. I noticed if I eat the banana by itself, a short while later I am ravenously hungry and start obsessing about food. I now eat half a banana with a piece of cheese for a snack, and this doesn't happen. Protein + veg/fruit = win.
Here is an example of my evening dinner. This is an authentic Korean dinner, with authentic Korean proportions. 4oz Korean kalbi, 4 slices of romaine lettuce, Korean sesame cucumber salad, kimchee, and 1/4 cup rice. Here's how Koreans eat it. Slice the meat into bite sized strips. Take a lettuce leaf and put the rice and meat in it. Put a little hot sauce or a slice of kimchee in it, if you want. Roll into a wrap and enjoy!
4 weeks ago, my rice serving might have been twice that size. After dinner, I felt satisfied, but not overstuffed. The protein from the meat, and fiber from the vegetables blunted the glycemic load of the rice, so I never had an insulin spike. (It's amazing how I can recognize when my insulin surges now). I wasn't hungry at all after dinner and went to bed without a snack.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Learning to cook didn't just allow me to make healthier meals than eating out, though that is definitely a factor. It also changed my palate.
When I learned to cook, I used whole, fresh ingredients. No heavy doses of fat, sugar, salt or MSG to make bad food taste better. Cooking with lower measures of each of these components altered my palate. I can spot a cheap meal right away.
If I eat at McDonald's, all I can taste is the salt. McDonald's french fries used to be my favorite, but now I notice there is no potato flavor in the fries. It is all salt, oil, and what should be potato tastes like pure potato starch. I'll take my homemade roast potatoes any day - they taste like potatoes. The new improved chicken nuggets still don't taste like chicken.
We went to a Thai restaurant recently. I couldn't finish my meal, and I didn't bother to get a box. All I could taste was MSG.
Chick-fil-A used to be one of my favorite fast food restaurants. Chicken has to be healthier than McDonald's, right? What is the #1 ingredient in their signature seasoning? Salt. Second ingredient? MSG.
My friend and I went to an Indian restaurant recently. We tried a dish we hadn't had before. I chewed on it a little bit, and identified hints of cardamom and ginger. My friend was impressed, and remarked on my sensitive palate.
When I went back home for a visit, I was surprised my friends and family wanted me to cook for them, rather than going out for a meal. They say I do better than the restaurants. I was very flattered.
On the flip side, it has ruined the experience of dining out somewhat. I turn my nose up at former favorite meals at Applebee's (all I taste is fat, sugar, salt). My British fiance says I am more like the French in my discerning tastes than I am American. The last time we went to a four star restaurant, we had orange balsamic glazed roast brussel sprouts. It was so good, I had to go home and copy it.
Americans have never been well regarded for our cuisine. All our really good food comes from other places. On the one hand, we don't have a deeply rooted culinary tradition like the French. On the other, there is no other place in the world where you can have such a diverse range of menus. It is a blessing and a curse.
The chain restaurant menus are engineered to sell quantity, not quality. The desserts are nearly inedible to me. They are pure sugar, and most of them would take four people to share. I was shocked to discover my favorite Cheesecake Factory dessert was 1,100 calories. It's no wonder I became obese. I can't handle something that rich and sweet anymore. It literally makes me ill.
I made a homemade dark chocolate gelato for dessert last night. It is very chocolately, but not overly sweet. It is the way my fiance and I like it, but I probably would not serve it to my friends. They would probably think it is not sweet enough.
Margaritas are ruined. The standard chain restaurant bar mix tastes like Kool Aid. I can't taste the lime juice. When I get a margarita made with real lime juice, I recognize it immediately. I don't want the calories if it's not the real thing.
Every once in a while, I can find the truly superb. I knew a number of restaurants in Seattle that made real lime margaritas. My favorite Thai restaurant was gourmet at a Chinese take out price - no hint of MSG what so ever. In Savannah, there is an amazing Cuban restaurant with Spanish Caribbean flare.
I used to be baffled how chefs could taste a food and be able to pick out flavors. Now I can do this to some degree, too. My pantry takes the best of the diversity of the immigrant cultures in America. In any given week, I can make food from Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, India, Morocco, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Latin America, etc.
I use so many spices and spice combinations, I can recognize them when I taste other food. On the flip side, I can also taste the cheap imitations.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
You asked, you receive! Here's what I've got cooking! Lots of stuff going on! I'm prepping food for tonight, few days ahead, and for the week. Phew!
1. Shrimp Salad
For lunch, I made a shrimp salad using leftover boiled shrimp from last night. Chopped up the shrimp, mixed with light mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, celery, red onion, and a little pepper. Served over a bed of lettuce and other salad veggies, plus a sliced hard boiled egg.
2. Black Cherry and Chocolate Gelato.
I made a mix for black cherry and chocolate gelato. This is a new recipe I'm experimenting with. I made a chocolate gelato base, and a black cherry syrup reduction. I mixed the two together to chill before putting in the ice cream maker. While making it, I actually had the idea to try this again with vanilla ice cream and swirl the cherry syrup. The red swirls in the white vanilla should be gorgeous. It is washed out in the chocolate, sadly.
3. Cabbage and Leek Soup.
I call this a cabbage and leek soup, but it's really Whatever-veggies-are-left-in-the-fridge soup. I just bought the cabbage and leeks. Everything else was already ready to be tossed in. It's a mish-mash of chicken broth, cabbage, leeks, celery, carrots, spinach, parsnips and onions. It sounds like a lot, but it is good, and good for you! Only 100 calories per bowl, I'll be eating this every day this week.
I added red cabbage because I thought it might give it nice color, but...err...it didn't. I should have stuck with green cabbage. So it looks a little weird...but it does taste good!
4. Lemon Rosemary Chicken Breasts
I buy whole chickens and cut up the parts myself. Saves a ton of money. A package of chicken breasts in my area costs $4.99/lb. I buy a whole free range chicken for $1.39/lb. I've been doing it for years, and can cut up a whole chicken in less than 5 minutes.
With the chicken breasts, I'm marinating in lemon juice, herbes de provence, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. This is tonight's dinner. I'll brown it on the stove, then finish it in the oven.
5. Coq au Vin
With the drumsticks and thighs from the whole chicken, I'm marinating in wine that we accidentally let get too old (tragedy!). Broiler onions, celery, carrot, and a parsnip are getting marinated along with it. I'll let this marinate about 2 days before cooking. It will be incredible.
6. Chicken Wings
With the chicken wings, I'll bake in the oven and eat as a snack tomorrow, along with my own buffalo wing sauce.
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