This is the second half of my clean eating challenge journal. You can read the first part here.
This morning’s Asparagus with Poached Eggs was tasty enough, considering my aversion to asparagus and recent encounters with eggs. Even so, by 11AM I was hungry again and already craving my mid-day snack. Fortunately my boyfriend and my better judgement intervened and told me if I ate my snack early I’d be kicking myself come 3PM. They were right.
Dinner was Turkey-Basil Meatballs with Tomato Sauce with Sautéed Collard Greens. The name is the recipe, and the writer in me cringes to see the word ‘with’ used twice. But the food was good, and an interesting look at life without gluten (using greens where I would normally use noodles).
One problem with recipes that simply say “one bunch” of collard greens as a measurement is that they don’t consider the possibility that you’ve never bought collard greens before and you have no idea that your local store sells double-sized bunches. There’s a lot of collared greens in my freezer.
Lunch today was Shakshuka: two eggs poached in asparagus and tomato sauce. The eggs took much longer than the specified seven minutes, which led me to overconfidently walk away from the pan and overcook them. It was still good, though it’s weird to eat a dish made of mostly sauce.
Snack was six strawberries with a tablespoon of almond butter and holy cow was it delicious. I’ve been missing peanut butter and while almond butter isn’t quite the same, it was a reasonable substitute. I was worried that I had eaten my snack too late and too close to dinner, but those worries vanished when I realized what a herculean task dinner was going to be.
There’s no real oven in my apartment, just a little toaster oven. This evening’s dinner involved roasting large batches of three different things for different lengths of time. This recipe would be unreasonable even if I had a real oven. If you do it right you have to use three full-sized baking sheets and be able to fit them all in the oven at once. Unfortunately the meal was delicious. It even looked fancy. For as long as it took to prepare and as cold as my cauliflower got by the time I was ready to eat, it may have been worth it. I’ll have to play around with this one more in the future.
Snack was blackberries with yogurt. The second bin of yogurt I bought was a different brand than the first, and I can really taste the difference. It’s creamier, smoother, and seems to have more flavor. I hesitate to point out that the better yogurt also happened to be organic, since the organic label has grown meaningless with over-use. But in the interest of experimentation, I’ll try out some other yogurt brands (both organic and non) in the coming months.
Last night I was hit by a monster cold, which had turned into something truly atrocious by the time I woke up at 5AM to cancel my meetings and tell work I wouldn’t be coming in. I took some generic NyQuil and managed to get a solid 5 hours of sleep before sickness pulled me up again a 10AM.
Breakfast for today was supposed to be Cauliflower Hash with Fried Eggs, but I couldn’t fathom trying to eat such a thing. Instead I opted to switch it with tomorrow’s breakfast, a Kale and Banana Smoothie. The smoothie was awful and I don’t think it was the sickness. The flavor and texture of kale are too overwhelming for a smoothie. I’ll take a spinach-based drink any day.
I took another nap and managed to get myself out of bed with enough energy to fix my lunch – Arugula Salad with Eggplant, Avocado, and Chickpeas. It was actually pretty good, and I didn’t get that bad taste from the arugula that I had last time. Perhaps several days in the fridge toned down the sharpness, or the flavors of the salad were able to offset it. Or maybe I was so stuffed up I couldn’t taste things properly.
I was still in recovery mode today, so breakfast didn’t happen until almost 11AM. I had the Cauliflower Hash with Fried Eggs that I was supposed to have yesterday, and it was pretty good. It’s a hash made of onions instead of potatoes, and it turned out nice and sweet. I did opt to include just half an onion though, since eating a whole onion the day after a bad cold seemed unseemly.
My snack was fantastic. They call it Banana Avocado Pudding. I’m not sure what distinguishes a pudding from a smoothie in their eyes, but I loved it. The avocado makes for a really smooth texture and adds a lot of tasty fat to the banana. This is definitely a recipe I’m going to be keeping around.
Dinner was Snap Pea Salad with Feta, Radish, and Hard-Boiled Egg. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But I ate it, because that’s what the plan told me to eat. It’s the primary benefit of this food challenge. For as much work as it’s been to make my food, I haven’t been thinking about it at all. There’s no question of snacking, no indecision about dinner. There’s no guilt about how many handfuls of chocolate chips is too many, or concern about skipping breakfast in favor of a sizable morning snack. I know exactly what I’m going to eat all day, every day. It’s made having a food restriction easier. I’m never wondering if there will be something I can eat at the party, because I won’t eat anything at the party. I’m not eating anything I didn’t make and bring. There’s freedom in that level of restriction.
We don’t often think of how stressful choosing our own food can be. Each choice you make is a little taxing, no matter how small a choice it is. It’s been a lot of work to stick with this challenge, but it’s never been a drain on my decision muscles. Today one of my co-workers brought me one of the new pumpkin-flavored chocolates she got for the reception desk. I didn’t eat it. I didn’t even think of eating it. During this challenge, there’s no such thing as temptation.
My snack was a pear with two tablespoons of raw, unsalted peanuts. Fun Fact: It is close to impossible to find raw, unsalted nuts in the modern supermarket. With last week’s pistachios I had to settle for roasted but unsalted, and for this week’s peanuts I had to get Spanish peanuts instead of the regular ones.
Second fun fact: Spanish peanuts aren’t very good. They’re a little “green” as my boyfriend put it. It’s like you picked the peanuts before they were ripe, and now they taste like leaves.
My dinner of Asian-Style Cod in Parchment with Bok Choy had a couple of problems. The recipe has you cutting a piece of parchment paper in the shape of a heart for absolutely no reason (I kept mine a solid, honest rectangle). It also has you putting raw bok choy and shallots under a piece of fish and then cooking it for only 12 minutes. This makes for some very raw and severe veggies, especially the shallot. The fish itself was nothing to write home about. I forgot to add the chopped peanuts, but that’s probably for the best.
Tomorrow’s snack is carrot sticks with hummus again, a combination I’ve discovered I only really like as an appetizer served at someone else’s house. There’s something truly unfulfilling about it, like I’m just eating to keep myself busy. I have a problem with eating out of boredom, but I’d rather get rid of the habit than replace it with carrots.
Breakfast was Overnight Oats with Strawberries and Chia Seeds. It was good and flavorful enough, but it’s hard to overcome the basic feature of being soggy and cold. I think I’d prefer to ditch the oats and milk in favor of granola.
For lunch I had Snap Pea and Radish Salad with Quinoa and Arugula. This challenge has been a real tour of salads, and I’m discovering that I only find salads tolerable when they include something filling. Today that was the quinoa, which made the whole salad a lot more satisfying and cut the strength of the oil/vinegar dressing. The other thing I’m finding is that I don’t like oil/vinegar dressing.
I forgot to add the tamari sauce to my Spicy Tamari Shrimp Lettuce Cups, but shrimp and garlic is such a good combination I didn’t notice. Eating was a royal mess. Perhaps next time I can cut up the lettuce into little bite-sized pieces and eat it with a fork. Lettuce cups are interesting in theory, but in practice they just aren’t worth it. I’m fine ordering lettuce cups when I’m out at a nice restaurant with friends, but does every meal need to feel like an experience?
I ate a Chive and Feta Omelet this morning as my last meal. Technically I should have finished the challenge at the end of the day, but ending early was one of the scheduling concessions I had to make. Like all the omelets I made during the challenge, the Chive and Feta turned out well. But I’m sick of eggs for breakfast. I’m glad I can go back to smoothies now.
For lunch I ate out with friends and managed to stay unintentionally gluten-free. For dinner I celebrated my new culinary freedom with chocolate milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was nice to throw together something simple. It was nice to make a meal without measuring spoons. Most of all, it was nice to have bread again. Maybe I am gluten-dependent.
I’ve got one more post coming about what I learned from my food challenge, plus a bonus post on which recipes I recommend.