"A little help from faeries,
and kitchen haiku."
For the past 9 months, I have spent periods of 6-8 consecutive weeks during which my eating and cooking have been contained to a very narrow set of parameters. Portions of foods from a very short list are carefully measured, and administered twice daily.
Each meal consists of
- 100 grams of lean beef, chicken, shrimp, crab, white fish, or lobster, weighed before cooking.
- One generous serving of ONE of the following vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, asparagus, chard, radishes, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, celery, cucumber.
- One serving of fruit: 1 orange, 1 apple, 1/2 grapefruit or a "handful" of strawberries (I weigh out about 6-7 oz of hulled strawberries).
- One Melba toast or grissino breadstick (about 5 grams or 20 calories)
I can also use seasonings like garlic, herbs, mustard, vinegar, no-sugar dry rubs, horseradish, the juice of 1 lemon per day, and up to 1 cup of no-sugar broth or stock. In addition, I drink water, black coffee, tea, and seltzer, often with the aid of a noncaloric sweetener.
I may use no oils or fats of any kind, nor sugars.
I may break up the elements so as to be able to eat more frequently throughout the day. I normally eat a piece of fruit and one of the breads for breakfast, along with at least 2 cups of coffee. Lunch is a serving of protein and vegetable. Dinner usually is all four elements in one meal. I may not combine two fruits, two veggies, two proteins, or two breads in the same meal.
You can see how it is a challenge to my culinary creativity, to combine so few elements in such limited quantities, and still produce meals that are appealing enough for a person to comply with the plan. There will be the times when slapping a piece of chicken in the George Foreman Grill and slicing half a cucumber will get me by. But, more often than not, I make the effort to turn these meager supplies into meals worth eating. Having the Husband following the program with me is also a motivator to make food that not only follows the rules, but that is satisfying to the senses.
And yet, part of the balancing act for me is to respect the simplicity of the plan. I try to keep my recipes as uncomplicated as possible. Minimal ingredients, maximum effect.
We have several favorites, which make the rotation often around here. Chili, French onion soup, chicken "Fake 'N Bake," curried chicken salad, shrimp cocktail, chicken Greek salad.
Since I will be in this mode over the next several weeks, I will be posting pictures of some of my mainstays, along with the recipes.
The first installment:
CHILI CON CARNE:
- 100 grams lean ground beef. I use either 94/6% ground beef from Trader Joe's, or grind my own lean top round or eye of round in the grinder attachment for the KitchenAid mixer.
- 1 cup POMI ITALIAN CHOPPED TOMATOES
- Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
In a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, brown the beef. Add the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder, and mix well. Stir over the heat for a minute, to let the spice flavors develop. Add the tomatoes, and let them come to a high simmer. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover the pan, and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a breadstick (if you haven't already eaten it earlier in the day).