so what the heck have we been eating?

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So, in my last post I mentioned that Whole 30 (ish) had inspired a radical change in our diet. Jon and I have both been researching why we’re feeling so good, and are pretty committed to eating a more paleo-ish diet, or as Dr. Mark Hyman described it, a “pegan” diet that takes the best of paleo and veganism and combines them. Lots of good protein, healthy fats, and veggies, with little sugar or grains.

Breakfasts pretty much always involve eggs. I learned the perfect hack for awesome scrambled eggs: crack eggs into blender, blend them until frothy, and bam, you’ve got perfect fluffy scrambled eggs. We’re also into fried eggs with sauteed greens or veggies plus a side of sugar-free bacon or some breakfast sausage. I’ve made breakfast casseroles full of veggies, and also omelets full of veggies. A particularly decadent topping for scrambled eggs? Crisped proscuitto! Sometimes we have hash browns, because we’ve been sort of using potatoes as a crutch to get away from grains, but we’d like to eat those less often, too.

Coffee-wise, we’ve discovered we love black coffee. I also made cashew milk for the first time, and have been loving it in coffee as well.

Lunches are almost always giant salads. Mine always involve arugula and maybe some romaine for crunch, or some “cruciferous crunch” mix from Trader Joe’s that has kale, shaved brussels sprouts, and radiccio. I throw in tomatoes or cucumbers or peppers, add avocado, and then some chicken breast, leftover steak, or canned salmon or tuna. Usually I put almonds or pumpkin seeds on too. Dressings are usually homemade vinaigrettes. I truly love salads with lots of vinegary dressing, and don’t really see myself getting tired of them anytime soon. This is also basically what I did for lunch before all our big changes. Leafy, crunchy, bitter, salty things are my fave. If I don’t have a salad, I warm up some leftovers.

Kid lunch note: I still pack sandwiches on Dave’s Killer Bread. Sometimes they get chicken noodle soup in thermoses. We’re not making the kids be completely grain free.

Snacks! I’ve discovered I like a simple smoothie made of frozen berries, kale, coconut milk, almond milk, flax seeds, and almond butter. Berries are super good for you, and I don’t eat them (or fruit really) very often. We’re also into beef sticks, these little fruit and nut rounds from Trader Joe’s that are either just apricots and cashews or dates/cashews/cacao. Homemade kale chips are a fave, but I will eat an entire massive bag of kale turned into kale chips in one sitting. Jon loves to snack on plain nuts. My late night love is just a giant bowl of arugula with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and I’m also obsessed with pickles and olives. We’ve also been going through honeycrisp apples, with or without almond or cashew butter, like whoa. Guacamole with plantain chips or gluten free tortilla chips is a forever fave.

Dinners! Here I’ll share some recipes we’ve really liked. I must say, the kiddos have really enjoyed this change and have been eating more dinner than they usually do. Very rarely I make them a side of rice or pasta to round out their meals. Below are embedded pins from Pinterest, so if you don’t see them in your RSS reader, click through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a zillion more recipes if you click through to that “What the Heck Should I Eat” pinboard. Any questions?

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I can see now why people get so evangelical about diets

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Back in January, I was crying in my doctor’s office. I’ve been exhausted for the past 6 years. At first, I thought it was called “having baby twins” and expected things would get better as they started sleeping better. But they’re turning 6 this month, and they’ve been sleeping great for actual years, and I was still falling-down-exhausted all of the time. This was something I felt great guilt and shame about. I took multiple-hour naps most days while getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night and I still felt exhausted all of the time. I had no energy to do anything beyond basically existing, and I felt like a lazy slob. I had also figured out by then that this wasn’t about having twins, but about the hardcore medicines I have to stay on because my heart failed that one time and we found out I have a congenital defect.

As I cried to my doctor, she wondered briefly if I had sleep apnea or thyroid problems (no and no, it turns out), but concluded that yeah, feeling the way I felt was pretty normal with the doses of medication I was on. This didn’t make me feel better, because I’m never allowed to stop taking this stuff. I am on it forever, because I like the whole “having a heartbeat thing.” When I pictured years and years of the future feeling that way, I just felt depressed and hopeless.

Jon and I like to try different diets around Lent, not always as a Lenten discipline, but because it’s a good time for us to make those sort of changes, and having a finite time period works well for us. I have, like you, a zillion friends who are rather…enthusiastic about the Whole 30 program. I have argued with them about it, even. Expressed my disinterest in ever trying it. Freaked out because I read that article about the woman who did Whole 30 and lost her ability to eat dairy, my favorite food and one of my great joys in life, no exaggeration.

I did not read the book, or anything, but I actually suggested to Jon that we try it…. for him. He has some gut/digestive issues and is lactose intolerant, and we thought maybe trying an elimination-type diet might help us figure out something to make him feel better. We decided to try it for Lent, making it more of a Whole 40. We also decided not to be super rigid about it, me especially– I didn’t want to lose my ability to eat cheese, and wasn’t super keen on giving up dairy, grains, sugar AND booze, so I decided to let myself have wine on the weekends and some cheese here and there. (Yes, I know, Whole 30 purists would love to start yelling at me about how it’s not really Whole 30, then, and frankly I do not give a flying flip.)

We’re now past the 30 day mark and I really might keep going forever. Really.

First, I would like to pause and say that I truly believe every body is different and that I think different bodies need different things and may find optimal wellness on very different eating plans. What works for me may not work for you. Maybe you feel your best as a vegan or whatever, and I totally absolutely support you in that. There is no single right way to eat for every single body and I am only sharing what works for me. Also: I am not into dieting for weight loss, and I’m not into fat-shaming or food-shaming. Eating is a great source of joy for me. I think food is a gift. “Taste and see that the Lord is Good” is literally my favorite Bible verse. Rigidity annoys me. Making something forbidden or bad always makes me want to do it more. Rules are made to be broken Moderation in all things. ETC. Just so we’re clear.

Anyway, we decided to try this thing. And at first it was annoying and we felt like we were starving all the time and wondered if we were going to make it. I may have suggested to a friend that I was contemplating holding up a McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin (another of my great joys in life). A glass of bourbon in the evenings sounded REALLY GOOD to me most of the time. I spent one week entirely too caffeinated because I discovered that I actually really love black coffee, and it was entirely too easy to just keep topping off my cup to keep it warm without having to tweak cream and sugar ratios.

But after I stopped drinking too much coffee and feeling very Jessie Spano SO EXCITED AND SO SCARED, one day Jon pointed something out: I hadn’t been napping in many days. And I was like, “Yeah, and you know what? I feel amazing. I have the energy to do more than just exist.” I STARTED TAKING AFTERNOON WALKS. I do not wake up tired, and I also do not wake up feeling stiff or sore. When Jon suggested taking the girls to a Mexican Circus he discovered on Groupon, my first thought wasn’t “how will I find the energy to do that” but “sounds interesting and fun!”

I have so much energy now that I actually feel something like my old pre-heart-failure self. The girl who was known for being a little bit hyper, if anything. The girl who often practically bounced through life. A way I haven’t felt in 6 or 7 years, to be honest, because twin pregnancy was also mostly just a year of napping for me (makes sense, my defective heart was struggling to keep us all alive). I am also taking less anxiety medication because this all happened around the time that something got screwed up with my prescription that led to me taking a lower dose. I feel so much better than I was feeling before that I actually get choked up talking about it.

So now I’m trying to figure out what it is about all these changes have made me feel so much better. Before this experiment, we were mostly vegetarian, and our meals involved a lot of beans, vegetables, and whole grains, plus seafood, dairy, and once-a-week meat. I read Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman, founder of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, a guy who literally treats people like me who have chronic illnesses by using food as medicine. After reading the book, I definitely think that my body (my body! not necessarily yours!) needed a LOT more protein and (good) fat than I was eating before. I think drastically reducing sugar and grains, which my body thinks of as basically sugar, as well as not drinking (sugar and grains!) nearly as much as I was, have contributed to my improved energy levels.

So, now I’m going to start experimenting, keeping the main framework of the diet the same as it has been. I want to add legumes back in. I want to try eating a little brown rice, or other grains like farro, quinoa, and barley. I might gingerly add in some gluten. I’m going to keep my drinking drastically lower than it has been. I’m going to keep up on the protein and fat. And I’ll let you know how it goes!

I promise not to become a missionary for my new way of eating. This is all just about MY body, after all. But this change has been so revolutionary for me that I just had to write about it. And I might keep writing about it too.

 

we tried hello fresh and blue apron. the winner is?

I mentioned a while back that we were considering trying some meal delivery services so Jon could cook dinner once a week or so. He’s a good cook, but busy ER docs don’t have a ton of time to research recipes, grocery shop, and prep. Services that send all the ingredients and recipe all ready to go sounded really ideal. I got a Hello Fresh coupon included in a box of stuff I ordered from Zulily, and a friend sent me a code for a free box of Blue Apron, so we decided to give them each a shot and see which one we preferred. I should note that this is not a sponsored post– Zulily frequently includes coupons and samples when they ship orders, and both services let users send friends discounts and free meals to try the services.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh was up first. One thing I didn’t like right off the bat was there was no plan that fit our diet preferences perfectly. We’re mostly vegetarian, but not entirely– we eat meat about once a week, and also enjoy eating seafood. Hello Fresh offers a Classic Box, a Veggie Box, and a Family Box. My ideal box would have a pescatarian option to get vegetarian and seafood recipes, but that’s not an option. So we did one week with a Family Box and one week with a Veggie Box. With a Veggie Box, you HAVE to get 3 meals per week, but the Family Box lets you choose 2 or 3 meals a week.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Things we liked about Hello Fresh:

  • The recipes were delicious, easy to execute, and full of variety. Out of six meals, there was only one dish I didn’t care for, a portobello and orechiette primavera that kind of had a muddy flavor to this not-exactly-a-mushroom lover (I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them either).
  • The organization of the boxes. Each meal’s ingredients, minus meat or seafood, comes in its own individual box within the shipping box. It’s super easy to just stash the meal boxes in the fridge, and pull one out at mealtime. This prevents having to hunt for the various ingredients and gather them together. You just pull out the box and get cooking.
  • Jamie Oliver contributes some of the recipes. One of his recipes, a Brazillian black bean and rice bowl, was one of my favorites out of the six meals we tried.
  • All of the meals were balanced, healthy, fresh, and about 550-800 calories per plate. Every meal was enough for our family of 4, plus leftovers.
  • They sent us locally-raised meat!

Things we didn’t like about Hello Fresh:

  • Lack of a great option for our family’s diet, which is somewhere in between Veggie Box and Family Box. The Family Box was too meat-heavy for us, and we’d like to get vegetarian and seafood recipes.
  • Lack of a 2-meals-per-week option on the Veggie Box. I am a proficient cook, read a lot of food blogs and cookbooks, and enjoy cooking. I would prefer to just get 2 meals per week, one for Jon to cook, and one for me to cook, and leave me to my own devices the rest of the week.
  • Most of the recipes seemed to dirty a lot more dishes than our average meals. Multiple pans and bowls were often required, which makes cleanup a bummer.
  • Most meals take longer to cook than the estimated time.

Overall, our experience with Hello Fresh was super positive, and we enjoyed the meals we got from them.

Blue Apron

Next we tried Blue Apron. Blue Apron offers 2 basic plans, the Two Person Plan and the Family Plan. With each plan, you can choose 2 or 4 meals per week. Pricing is the same as Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh’s Family Box meals are $8.75 per serving, Blue Apron’s are $8.74. Also: we had leftovers with both services, lowering the actual price per serving further. One major perk to both of Blue Apron’s plans is the ability to choose your actual meals from a set of options. Another perk is the ability to input dietary preferences. I was able to select no beef, pork, or lamb, so our default options are vegetarian, seafood, or poultry, and I am able to further choose from among a few of those options for the 2 we are delivered. This way, we’ve managed to get entirely vegetarian or seafood meals, with no poultry.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

If I were basing my opinion solely on the first meal we cooked from Blue Apron, it would have been a total failure. We were sent a Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice, Bell Pepper, and Cucumber. How was it? I don’t know, because we ended up getting fast food after a failure. To start with, a small bottle of sesame oil had leaked all over our box, and I was missing the bell pepper somehow. Then, they expected me to somehow cook brown rice on the stovetop in 30 minutes. After that allotted time, the rice was still crunchy and I was wishing I had thrown it into my Instant Pot instead of dutifully following the recipe. Finally, I was cooking the salmon in a skillet at medium-high heat as directed, added the teriyaki sauce as directed, and immediately the sauce smoked up to the point that my smoke alarm went off. And that’s when we decided to give up on that meal. I emailed customer service about the leaky sesame oil and missing pepper, and they gave me $10 off my next box to make up for it.

All of the other 5 meals we tried, however, went off without a hitch, so I’m ready to call our first meal-fail a fluke.

Things we liked about Blue Apron:

  • Customization of the plans to suit our family’s diet, as well as to choose recipes from among several choices each week.
  • The option of 2 meals per week on every plan.
  • The meals were all delicious, and with one exception, easy to execute.
  • The meals were all balanced and healthy, mostly in the 500-600 calories per serving range, with one pizza night in the 800 calories per serving range.
  • Every meal was enough food for all four of us with some leftovers.
  • Jon and I enjoyed cooking some of the meals together, which was really fun.
  • All of the seafood they send is certified sustainable by Seafood Watch.
  • Responsive customer service when we had an issue.

Things we didn’t like about Blue Apron:

  • One meal was a total failure, though I’m willing to call it a fluke.
  • The packaging is slightly less convenient than Hello Fresh’s system– you have to hunt for all the ingredients that you’ve put away and gather them together to cook instead of just pulling one box out of the fridge.
  • Most of the time the meals take slightly longer to cook than estimated.

You may be able to guess that Blue Apron was the winner for our family, and we are continuing with their service. It just suits our individual needs the best. However, if you don’t have specific dietary needs, I don’t think you could go wrong with Hello Fresh, either.

Have you tried a meal delivery service, or are you interested in trying one? Is there another one you love that you think I might like better?

menu planning monday

Well, after last week’s big announcement about our upcoming move to Denver, we have worked our butts off to spruce up our house and it is officially on the market! So far we’ve had five showings in two days, so we’re hoping things go smoothly. If you know anyone looking for a great house in one of Little Rock’s cutest neighborhoods, let us know!

Also last week, I made one of our favorite dishes that I first fell in love with on our 5th anniversary trip to Costa Rica, gallo pinto, and I must say it was totally worth ordering Salsa Lizano on the internet, because it totally scratched my pura vida itch.

Also last week, I had a rare dinner flop. The Tandoori Quinoa. I think it turned out fine, I just didn’t like it. I admit I pitched the leftovers because I couldn’t face eating it again. It’s ok to have a cooking flop once in a while– comes with the territory if you’re trying new things.

It’s also nice to diverge from the meal plan once in a while. I had planned on tuna cakes with sides of grits and zucchini, but we ended up having salmon with baked potatoes and zucchini instead, because I had some potatoes I needed to use:

This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.

This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.

As far as what we’ll be eating this week, here’s what we have planned:

We haven’t had a pizza night in a while, and this one from Annie’s Eats looks particularly veggieriffic:

I have sweet potatoes and tortillas chilling in the pantry, and 3/4 of us are obsessed with fried eggs, so these sweet potato huevos rancheros sound amazing:

I love a one-pot pasta meal, so this one-pot zucchini mushroom pasta sounds great:

My one upgrade to these spinach and bean burritos is to grill them in my panini pan:

And for a seafood meal, this lemony shrimp and couscous sounds good (and is a recipe from the binder of recipes I made for Jon):

What’s cooking with you lately? Got any Easter treats planned? I’m going to be making these little nests for my girls:

 

menu planning monday

I promise eventually my life will slow down enough (more on that eventually) to do more than post menu plans, but today is not that day. We spent the week getting our den ready for new carpet to be installed (thanks, tax refund!), and spring cleaning in general, so not many deep thoughts were thought, which isn’t very conducive to writing. Even when I’m not writing, though, we gotta eat. Thus, Menu Planning Monday.

Meal Planning Monday | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Last week’s meals.

While spring cleaning, I found under our guest bed four giant binders of recipes I had torn out of magazines in the pre-Pinterest era. Now that my husband wants to get into cooking, I realized the hardest part for him will be deciding what to cook. He’s not a Pinterest-er, and he doesn’t read food blogs or peruse cookbooks. When I found those binders, though, I realized I could basically make him/us an analog Pinterest binder of vegetarian and seafood recipes that take less than 30 minutes. And since most of the recipes were from my old Real Simple and Rachael Ray subscriptions, they’re all pretty fast/healthy/easy, too. I went through all the binders and pulled out all the best-looking recipes, and now we can flip through them anytime. I can see it being useful to have the girls flip through and pick out some things they would like to eat every now and then, too.

Here’s what we’ll be making this week (reminder: if you’re reading via an RSS feed, you may need to click through to see the embedded pins):

The first recipe Jon picked out of the recipe binder:

One pot always wins me over:

Will likely serve these tuna cakes with cheesy grits and sautéed zucchini:

I have a bunch of kale that needs to be used before it disintegrates, so this tried-and-true recipe will take care of it, and it’s another one pot recipe:

And because I have a craving for some Costa Rican deliciousness, gallo pinto:

What about you? What’s on your menu this week? Made anything tasty lately?

menu planning monday

Back by popular demand, our next few dinners on deck. My favorite thing we ate last week? The spinach and mushroom lasagna. I even made my own noodles with the pasta maker I got for my birthday, and they turned out amazing. The spring vegetable paella also turned out fabulous, even though I didn’t remember to get pimientos and threw in some saffron for extra flavor. We ate it with fried eggs, and Claire had like 3 helpings! We still haven’t eaten all the meals I planned last week, so we’ll be having the cauliflower and chickpea tacos this week for sure.

Other things we’ll be eating this week (note, if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader, you may need to click through to see embedded images and be able to click through to recipes):

We’ll likely have this potato tortilla with a side of salad and some olives and cheese, pretend we’re in Spain:

Recently our girls have been liking roasted brussels sprouts, so I think this is worth a try:

Might make a bean and corn salad to serve on the side with these tostadas:

We’re also hosting a Friday Night Meatballs this week (with eggplant based “meatballs” since we gave up meat for Lent–I may even try to write up my recipe for these, so look for it next week) and planning to go to our friends’ house for dinner another night, so that’s it for this week’s plans!

In other food news, my love for Michael Pollan is well-documented, so you won’t be shocked to learn that I love his docu-series “Cooked” on Netflix. On the night we watched the third episode, I immediately got up and mixed up some bread dough because I was so inspired! Check it out, for sure!

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menu planning now that we’re mostly vegetarian

Since I’m home alone on a rainy day luxuriously planning meals and making my grocery list while my husband has the kids at the science museum, I thought I’d follow up my post about our recent diet change with a post about how this has affected our meal planning and eating.

Spoiler alert: it actually hasn’t affected it all that much. You may remember from my “meal planning for the easily bored” post that I rely heavily on hyper-organized Pinterest boards to plan our meals. When we decided to commit to being mostly vegetarian (really, we’re pescatarian), I went through my pinboards and micro-organized them further. Instead of just a pasta board, I now have a vegetarian pasta board, and it’s up top. I did the same with soups and stews, Tex/Mex/Tacos, and veg+grain meals. Now all the boards that are compliant with how we’re eating are right up top and easy to find.

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Today, I checked out what we already have on hand and what’s on sale at our local store and then opened up Pinterest. I picked out one vegetarian pasta, one vegetarian soup, one vegetarian tacos, one veggie+grain, and one seafood recipe. I mostly eat leftovers for lunch, and the kids eat sandwiches/soups/cheese and crackers/fruit, so I really only plan dinner recipes and keep basics on hand for breakfasts and lunches: bread, yogurt, eggs, fruit, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Planning dinners is really the bulk of my menu-planning.

If you’re curious about what we’re having for dinner this week, here’s what’s on deck:

In other family food news, Jon and I went on a marriage retreat over the weekend, and one thing we discussed was having him cook more. I happily do most of the cooking because, if you haven’t guessed, I love cooking and see it as a creative outlet. He usually takes the kids to the park in the afternoons, so I really enjoy my me-time in the kitchen, listening to podcasts and making good food. However. we’ve realized that our girls may not realize that I cook because I love it, and might get the idea that cooking is a woman’s job. Since he has a flexible schedule that often has him home in the evenings, he could totally cook– I just haven’t offered him the opportunity. We want the girls to see that their dad is also competent in the kitchen, and that it is reasonable for them to expect a partner who shares cooking duties. Since I kind of usurped the kitchen years ago, I will likely at first set him up for success by doing some of the prep work, almost like a Blue Apron sort of thing, but I am going to try to stay out of his hair and let him do his thing.

You can often check out our meals on Instagram, where I often use the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner to document what we’re eating. I’ll let you know when a meal was prepared by my better half, too!

#bigdinnerlittledinner

How do you plan your meals? Would it be helpful if I start sharing our weekly meal plans on a regular basis?