This will be the last Wednesday-Friday “What We Ate” post. Starting next week, I’m switching to a 1 workweek and 1 weekend post schedule. This period was a weird one in which I unintentionally underfed us, partially because I was sick the whole time. See what the two DASh diet followers ate this past 3 days:
I couldn’t believe it’d already been a week since the last Thai work lunch, but it was! I had stir-fried vegetables over jasmine rice and a cabbage-stuffed spring roll. Loading up on vegetables for free, woo hoo!
I spent the whole day sneezing and blowing my nose. Whatever I caught decided to stick around and today was the snot party, apparently. With my brain in a fog, I wasn’t productive on any front. Hubby and I spent some time in an outdoor cafe before heading home, because it was such a warm (one could argue it was even hot, at close to 80F in February) evening. For dinner, I made yakiudon, a stir-fried udon dish, with thinly sliced beef and leftover Thai veggie stir-fry. Nothing fancy, but it did the job.
I cut up some apple slices for dessert, which mystified Hubby. I told him I wanted something cold and soothing; he said “ice cream would work, too” with a big grin. Yeeeeah, right. I stood my ground.
Still under the weather with fog-wrapped brain, I slogged through the day. I packed some leftover yakiudon for lunch. I found it rather heavy, though I’m not sure if that’s the cold talking or me talking…
I was planning to stop by the library to pick up the two DASH diet books I’d put on hold after work, but I didn’t make it; by the time 5 pm rolled around, my cold was at full strength and I had to get home stat. Instead I checked out and started reading an ebook version of Marla Heller’s “DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution.” I’d been curious to see what offline resources are available for people interested in this way of eating, given the dearth of information online. This book wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was available right away and it was by the evangelist of DASH, so I figured I’d see what it’s like. It was definitely thought-provoking, but at the end of the day, I just don’t think I’m her intended audience. (Well, I suppose I knew that.) More on that in a full review post!
Hubby made a chicken and orzo dish from Blue Apron for dinner. Thank goodness we had the box arrive on Wednesday; otherwise it’d have been a takeout dinner!
Fever had subsided by the time I woke up, but I was pretty exhausted. I took the day off and just sat in a comfy chair all day. The fact that I managed to just sit around (almost) all day in itself is proof that I was sick, considering how jittery I am usually! 😛 I had a leftover salmon filet in the fridge, so I made that into lunch with a side salad (watercress, celery and cilantro with lime juice, sesame oil and soy sauce) and jasmine rice.
I was craving something cool and sweet all day, but we were out of fruits. Toward the end of the day, I regained enough energy to mosey over to the grocery store to pick up some strawberries (my go-to when I’m sick). Alas, my sense of taste was wrecked, and I didn’t taste much of anything. 🙁 My fruit trick did work in terms of keeping me away from sugar, though.
Since I had some Russian-spiced meatballs thawed in the fridge, I made a quick egg noodle dish with tomato sauce scented with Georgian curry spice mix (khmeli suneli) and topped that with the meatballs (and some asparagus). It was a little low on veggies, but oh boy, the curried tomato sauce was fantastic. I love this Georgian spice mix! I’m pretty sure I wasn’t detecting some of the flavors, but it was still quite delicious. Definitely a keeper recipe.
DASH Diet Goals & Reality
I’m rather underfed. This is a little concerning, actually, since I know getting enough nutrients and calories is super-important for my energy level and life overall. (And I must say, as people get older, getting enough nutrition becomes more important in a perhaps weird reversal. I’m not quite there yet, but still!) This is mostly due to me being sick and uninspired, but I guess I should pay a bit more attention to whether I’m actually preparing us enough food… Happy to report, though, that I didn’t eat too much sugar, despite craving soothing, chilled, creamy, fruity desserts pretty much the whole time… Maybe I should just listen to Marla and get my paws on some sugar-free Jell-O (not)?
In addition to unintentionally underfeeding myself, I must have sweated a lot Thursday night, as I’d lost 2 lb overnight. It was odd to see the scale showing the weight I used to be 5-6 years ago! I think it’s too low for the late-30’s me now, but I’m sure it’ll go back to where it’s been as I get better.
Next Few Days
It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend. Seriously, this is like the 5th or 6th weekend in a row with crappy weather. If it’s not, it sure feels like it is. It doesn’t matter too much this time around since I probably won’t be up for a serious hike anyway, but it suuuuucks. This is the only situation I wish I kept my gym membership (but I know it’s not worth it)! When we stay home, I get jittery and sometimes I end up baking sweet stuff–which makes Hubby happy (which in turn makes me happy), but ultimately not great for DASH diet or our health. Urgh. #rantover
Anyhow. Though we do have two Blue Apron meals left, we are out of meal components, so I might use the rainy weekend to cook up some. I like having one or two meal components handy for the week for quick homemade dinners. Things like roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes and pumpkin in winter, zucchini and eggplant in summer, for example) and grilled chicken breast and meatballs are really handy. They can fancify an otherwise boring salad (like in this curry roasted root veggie salad); they can be the basis of an entree. Since I started keeping these meal components around, the frequency of us resorting to restaurants and takeout for weeknight dinners has plummeted. DASH diet is the easiest to follow when we cook most meals at home, so this has been an integral part of my strategy.
Other than that, I guess I should focus on getting over the cold, not sharing the gift with Hubby and not picking up yet another cold. Oh, and spending some quality time with my cats. 🙂
I don’t have a problem with daily limits for many of the DASH diet food categories, while a few are more difficult to adhere to. My suspicion is that everyone struggles with different food categories of the DASH diet, since everyone lives and eats differently. The most difficult challenge for me in the DASH diet framework is reducing sugar in my diet.
(And to clarify, I’m talking about added sugar, not carbohydrates, or sugar that occurs naturally in things like fruits, milk, vegetables and grains.)
Thankfully, I dislike sweet beverages, so avoiding sugary sodas and juices aren’t a problem at all, which is great, since a 12-oz bottle of Sprite contains 38 grams of sugar, about 4-5 days’ worth of sugar for DASH diet adherents. However, sweet foods are a different story: I love them all. Ice cream, cakes, cookies, chocolate–you name it, I love it. Good-quality sweets make me happy, and I can’t imagine giving them up entirely. So, in order to stay under the “5 servings per week” limit, I really have to be strategic about maximizing my happiness quotient from the sugar I consume.
I’m still figuring out how to consistently stay below the DASH diet’s sugar guidelines without developing a void in my gluttonous heart, but I’ve found some tactics that work. (Well, most of the time). If you need a refresher on the DASH diet daily sugar intake guidelines or how to figure out how many DASH diet servings of sugar/sweets a particular item is, here‘s a handy guide.
If you look at the tips to reduce sugar intake below, you might notice some of them are about knowing what makes me happy. To me, knowing what works for me is just as important in reducing sugar intake as knowing where sugar tends to hide and how many servings of sugar a slice of cake, say, contains.
Tips for Reducing Sugar in Your Diet (Without Feeling Too Deprived)
Know where sugars tend to hide. Nutrition fact labels are your friend. Check the nutrition fact label and get a sense of how many servings of sugar a particular item might have.
Don’t do a sweet breakfast if you want to have anything sweet the rest of the day. I’d rather have a piece of chocolate at work or ice cream after dinner, so most days I don’t have anything sweet for breakfast. When I do, it’s with the understanding that that’ll be it for the day.
Instead of buying flavored yogurt, get a plain yogurt and add your own flavoring at home, like fresh fruits, jam, maple syrup, grape molasses, dried fruits in honey, etc. This lets you control how sweet you make your yogurt and how much of it you eat in one sitting. I usually find store-bought yogurts too sweet anyway, so this works well for me.
If you snack at work (like I do) bring non-sugary snacks. Some that I’ve tried and liked: Roasted nuts, peanut butter crackers, string cheese and pre-sliced cheese, dried fruits, pretzels, hummus with celery and fresh fruits.
Dried fruits are your friend. They do still have fructose, so it’s probably not a good idea to gorge on them especially if blood sugar is a concern, but they satisfy my sweet tooth and keep me from reaching for cookies and chocolate.
Fresh fruits are also great when you want something cool and sweet (like ice cream!).
Go for quality over quantity. Better-quality stuff satisfies you with less. I find it to be especially true for chocolates and cakes. (This applies to significant others, too. :P)
Share a slice of cake with someone else. I do this with Hubby unless it’s a special occasion (or unless we are being particularly bad). While it doesn’t completely eliminate sugar (which is not my goal anyway with DASH diet), it does help us reduce it.
Drink an interesting beverage instead. At home, I brew high-quality loose-leaf tea after dinner. At work, I have a stash of different tea bags that I rotate through. We also keep a stash of flavored sparkling water. And ah, yeah, we drink beer and wine, too.
Use a smaller bowl for ice cream and other scoopable desserts. We use small ramekins from IKEA. They don’t sell the exact same one anymore, it appears, but these VARDAGEN ones might be the replacement.
Don’t be bored. This is really true for me. When I have nothing to do, or I’m not in the “deep work” mode with whatever I’m doing, I tend to mindlessly snack on sweet stuff. (This blog is quite helpful here. It’s been a lot of engaging work!)
Make sure your meals are satisfying. This is also an important point for me. When I’m not satisfied with dinner, whether because it wasn’t quite tasty enough or just wasn’t enough food, chances are, I’ll want something sweet to get my food happiness gauge up.
Spending the “Sugar Budget” My Way
The beauty of DASH diet is that there is room for tasty desserts and cookies, unlike some restrictive diets that tell you those things are evil and absolutely off-limits. With DASH diet, it’s a bit like budgeting. I sometimes ask myself “Is this really what I want to spend today’s sugar budget on?” I can answer yes and go ahead and eat a crappy candy because I’m stressed out at work and need a quick pick-me-up. That’s certainly a suboptimal way to spend my sugar budget, but I’ll have made a conscious decision, rather than mindlessly–or unknowingly–blow through my day’s limit and regret it later, when I want an ice cream but don’t have room left for it. But the decision is still mine, and I like that. A lot.
How About You?
Do you have a hard time limiting your added sugar intake? What tricks have worked for you in reducing sugar in your diet?
We did really well on reining in the sugar intake this period, but our vegetable intake took a nose dive. Read on to take a peek at our DASH diet meals for the last four days, and see what I’ve learned!
As planned, we drove out to PA to visit family. We wanted to make sure we got home before the forecasted snow storm hit, so we left bright and early at 7:15. These visits are always super-sedentary with lots of driving and sitting around, chatting. Since I’m one of those annoying people who can’t sit still (apparently), I really dislike this aspect, but seeing family was great!
For lunch, we grabbed an obligatory Philly cheesesteak and a turkey club sandwich, and everyone shared in. By the time we were done eating, the blue sky had given way to fuzzy gray clouds. It was time to rush home. We barely managed to make it back before the main part of the storm hit; Manhattan fading away behind sheets of falling snow was a fantastic sight from the elevated parts of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I do love snow! 🙂
I was planning to cook something Japanese and low-fat for dinner to balance out the oil-heavy meals this week. What with the late lunch and low activity level, though, we weren’t hungry enough for a full meal, so I opted for a quick pizza toast. I just piled roasted red peppers, red onion, sliced sausage, parsley and cheese on two pieces of sourdough, and baked the whole thing for about 12 minutes in the toaster oven. It wasn’t the healthiest meal on the planet, but it was quick and tasty. We had those on the couch, watching a movie, as the snow kept on falling outside. It was a beautifully relaxing evening.
I didn’t have a post-dinner dessert, either. A big DASH diet win. Hooray!
My legs were itching for a walk, and the day was beautiful–sunny and warm, with the last night’s snow melting quickly. Before we went for a long walk, though, we cleaned the apartment a bit, and I started working on decluttering a bit–since I know we’ll be moving out in the not so distant future, I wanted to start getting rid of the stuff that we’ve accumulated over the years. Hopefully this will mean that we’ll have less to deal with when the time comes.
I was in the mood for something “nice” for lunch. Something I couldn’t make at home, in a setting that would transport me to a world just a tiny bit away. We went to a bustling French bistro on Upper East Side, and it totally fit the bill. I had an omelette stuffed with crab meat, cream cheese, avocado and corn. It came with some butter-drenched, rosemary-scented roasted potatoes (ooooooh) and a classic French frisee salad. The star of the show, though, may have been the gougeres–the slightly sweet, airy, eggy and savory French-style popovers. Their version had a few slivers of toasted almonds on top, and they were just heavenly. (Seriously, just writing this has turned on my saliva gland.)
It was a big lunch, and kept us going strong for a 20K-step day. I decided that this splurge was alright because we didn’t have to pay for lunch yesterday (thanks, family!), so we had room in our weekend eat-out budget. I made a similar calculation on the DASH diet front.
Glutinous Barley & Japanese Dinner
I was starting to feel as though I’d caught yet another cold (ugh) by the time we got home, but managed to cook up a quick Japanese dinner. I’d purchased a bag of glutinous barley from Japan a while ago and tried it tonight. It’s supposed to be a fiber-rich addition to normal Japanese rice that people eat for health reasons, but I’d seen so many Japanese food bloggers rave about this stuff from the “OMG, this is delicious!” standpoint that I’d been curious about its culinary merits. And, yeah, it’s was pretty good. This glutinous barley is somewhat similar to sticky rice, but it also has a nice “pop” when you bite on the grain. I was somewhat apprehensive that it may have an unpleasant odor (that I remember from a “healthy rice” my mom sometimes made when I was a kid), but that turned out to be an unfounded concern.
The rest of the meal were veggie-loaded miso soup, broiled sardines stuffed with spicy cod roe, and a quick cabbage salad with shiso. It was a deeply satisfying meal with a nice glass of white wine. I also managed to avoid dessert. Yessss!
I woke up with a definite feeling that yes, I do have a cold. Sigh. I did have some meal components in the fridge, but didn’t have enough mental energy to assemble a lunch to take into work. Oh well… I went to a cafe near work and got a cup of corn chowder (meh) and a dainty little ham sandwich on baguette (tasty but tiny). I need veggies. Oy. I also had some dried prunes and nuts.
I was thinking about making a quick vegetable korma with a sauce mix that comes in a jar. I had all the vegetable ingredients in the fridge–sweet potato, cauliflower, carrot, onion; all I had to do was pick up a jar of korma sauce. Easy! Except that I couldn’t find the korma sauce at the three stores I stopped by on the way home. Defeated, I resorted to the leftover Greek beans in tomato dill sauce. We had that over basmati rice (yum), with a quick side of garlic oregano cauliflower and asparagus. The korma veggies found their way onto our dinner plates somehow. 😉 The bean-based meal ended up being a meatless Monday dinner, which I’m happy about!
The subway was having a fun morning. Our subway sat at our stop for 40 minutes before moseying to the next stop, where we were told that there’s a bus downstairs. WTFF!? I gave up at that point, walked home, and worked from home the rest of the day. Luckily, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to make it into work with the stewing cold, so I’d emailed myself some work files on Monday evening. Being sick turned out to be a blessing!
It was such a nice day out, too. Even when I’m just working, it’s so nice to be able to see the blue sky out the window and breath in the fresh air. I was planning to fix something quick and easy for lunch, but Hubby (who was also working from home) got lured outside by the beautiful spring day. We had lunch at a Brazilian buffet in the neighborhood. The pinto beans were so earthy and flavorful–they totally inspired me to try cooking them up at home. It was a nicely balanced meal with rice, beans, veggies and pork, but I got fooled by the giant platter (yet again), so I decided to just go light on dinner to balance it out for our DASH diet goals.
We took a walk over to Astoria Park after work. Even though I started working later than usual due to the morning subway debacle, since I didn’t have the commute back home, so I had more free time in the evening. That felt great (and so did the 11K steps). The sunset over the two bridges turned out to be beautiful, too. We came home and had a quick salad I made with what we had on hand. I added a couple of strips of shabu shabu pork and drizzled the whole thing with homemade Japanese onion dressing. Yum! We watched a few episodes of Expanse and had ice cream for dessert. This was a planned dessert rather than a habitual thing, and I feel good about that! 🙂
DASH Diet Goals & Reality
Heeeey, look at that! We managed to push the sugar/sweets category way under control this period. Beautiful. Knowing just how much sugar is in a small serving of certain ice cream helped; being extra conscious about after-dinner desserts being a “special” treat rather than an everyday thing also helped.
What Happened to the Veggies & Fruits?
In other categories, we didn’t do as well on vegetables and fruits. Looking at what we ate in this period, this is definitely due to us eating out more frequently than the recent norm:
Saturday’s family visit had us eating sandwiches for lunch with not a lot of veggies. We had a very small dinner that night (as lunch was huge), which further reduced the veggie count.
On Monday, because I didn’t bring in lunch, I ended up with a soup-sandwich combo from a nearby cafe that sorely lacked veggies. I focused on vegetables for dinner that day, but it wasn’t enough to compensate fully.
Then, our Brazilian buffet lunch on Tuesday was also on the low side for vegetable intake. Though Tuesday dinner was a salad, it wasn’t a lot, as (again) we weren’t too hungry after a large lunch.
I think there are two, maybe three, lessons here.
One is that eating out really does lower our fruits and vegetable intake.
The second, related lesson, is that bringing in lunch has been a lot more helpful on this front than I’d realized. It’s a lot easier to ensure that I get enough vegetables when I control what I eat for lunch. It’s a bit of a “duh” realization, but I guess I just didn’t realize how big of a difference it’s been making.
The third and the last: I usually try to crowd out the meat, fat and sugar categories with grains, fruits and vegetables. What happened this period was the exact opposite: On some days, we were too full from big meals that we didn’t have room for veggies and fruits. Crowd-out is real!
Next Few Days
Avoid eating out for a bit, and definitely bring in lunch the rest of the week! That’s what I’ll focus on.
I’ve been hitting a bit of a blog bleh lately. I think I’m going to switch up the posting schedule a bit so that a) more of the recipes are already posted when the “what we ate” posts go up, and b) I post 4 days a week rather than 5 days most weeks. Like the DASH diet, sustainability is important; for that, I think a bit of simplification will do some good.
This week, I managed to spice up our breakfast routine quite a bit with a breakfast quesadilla, Greek-style eggs with lemon potato and dill and a Spanish rice breakfast bowl. I have a simmering hatred of breakfast doldrums, so it’s been good! 🙂 See what else we ate for DASH diet breakfasts this week:
Coffee milk, fried or scrambled egg quesadilla with scallion, broccoli & grape tomatoes with crema de aji, apple & strawberries, coffee
I can’t remember how I did the eggs for this breakfast quesadilla. #seniormoment
Coffee milk, lemon potato, dill & roasted red pepper eggs, sourdough toast with butter, apple & strawberries, coffee
Leftover roasted lemon potato went into this morning’s scrambled eggs with dill and chopped-up roasted red pepper. These vaguely Greek eggs were really good with the hearty, crusty sourdough. I’d have loved some crumbled feta on top, too.
Using the leftover Spanish rice from the tavern we went to over the weekend, I made a breakfast bowl. This was a nice change of pace! Since the rice and tortilla were both pretty salty, I didn’t season the eggs. They balanced things out perfectly.
Coffee milk, yakiniku scrambled eggs with roasted red pepper, broccoli & scallion, multigrain bread with butter, apple, coffee
Coffee milk, okonomiyaki eggswith cabbage, sausage and pickled ginger, multigrain bread with butter, apple & strawberries, coffee
I went back to my trusty old friend: Okonomiyaki eggs, or fauxkonomiyaki. It has all the flavors of the junky-good savory Japanese pancakes, without the batter that can get a little heavy and oily. It was yummy!
Coffee milk, fajita eggs with beef, onion & peppers, multigrain toast with butter, apple, coffee
I managed to squeeze in a normal breakfast before heading out the door bright and early at 7:15. I feel quite accomplished! 😛
The same ol’ work meeting lunch: Thai vegetable stir-fry, jasmine rice, vegetable spring rolls. Nothing new there, though I was happy to get my fill of vegetables this week!
It was a nice evening with the temperature still in the 50s when I left work. I was tempted to put in another nice walk, but I wanted to get back on schedule on the blog front, so I took the subway home. For dinner, I made a tasty substantial salad, loosely based on a recipe in the cookbook “Plenty.” On a bed of lettuce, I piled on roasted sweet potato and parsnip chunks, as well as sauteed chicken breast and blistered grape tomatoes (blistered in the same pan as the chicken). Then, I drizzled the whole thing with the caper vinaigrette Ottolenghi created for the roasted veggie dish. It was quite tasty! The dressing, made with capers, mustard, sherry vinegar, olive oil and a little bit of maple syrup, might become one of my staples.
Then again, I’m not sure–I have a feeling that I’ll have many more dressing recipes to try from this pretty amazing cookbook. I’m still leafing through it, and finding myself sticking post-its on so many recipes it’s kind of crazy. At the end of the day, maybe this caper vinaigrette won’t make it on the keeper list just because there are even better ones in this book. We shall see.
This week’s been feeling looooooong. I might be a bit more stressed out than usual, what with the need to move out of the apartment we’ve lived for almost 8 years, and the general work frustrations (mostly with myself). Ugh. Anyway, just like the DASH diet, there’s only one way, and that’s forward.
We had a catered work lunch again. We’re being very well-fed lately. It was Mexican, a first for me here. The newness was nice, but oh boy, everything was so salty, though nicely spiced. I didn’t/couldn’t finish the beef part of the fajita because of the saltiness. I had some strawberries from home for dessert to get the edge off. (I wonder if I’m becoming more sensitive to salt as I’ve been eating out less frequently and trying to use a tiny bit less salt in my own cooking.)
We had another beautiful, springlike evening. I met up with Hubby at the beer garden, where we had the giant outdoor space almost to ourselves, save for just a few other groups. We had a mug of dunkel each, under the gradually darkening blue sky. For an easy dinner, I made quesadillas with leftover beef fajita from lunch and flour tortillas I had on hand. To up the veggie content, I tossed some lettuce, celery, radish and grape tomatoes in lime juice and a dash of smoky taco sauce (also from lunch). It was almost free, easy and quick, but not great from the sodium standpoint…
On the way home from the beer garden, Hubby lured me into Artopolis, a truly world-class Greek bakery. We’d been talking about bakery madness on Valentine’s Day, and somehow, yes, somehow, we ended up with two different types of chocolate cake slices. (I’m blaming all of this on him, haha.) These turned out to be absolutely amazing chocolate cakes–especially the “truffle” one. It had all the characteristics of an excellent chocolate truffle–tart, fruity cacao notes, cooling mouthfeel and deeply chocolatey complexity. I’m sure these filled up our DASH diet sugar buckets for the next couple of days,
but they were SO worth it. It was one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of good chocolate cakes over the years. 😉
It was the first time in 4 days without a catered work lunch. I could have brought anything I wanted, but somehow I ended up with the leftover Italian food from Tuesday’s catered lunch. Because, uh, cheap won out. 😛 Since the tomato cream sauce penne and chicken Parmigiano didn’t have much in the way of vegetables, I brought sauteed peppers and squash from home to supplement my lunch. Unexciting, but they were fine.
I spotted a couple of goodie bags of Valentine’s Day treats lying around at work, but I stayed away. Mediocre chocolate is just not worth it, even when it’s free! (See Thursday, above. :P)
After work, I walked over to the library (that iconic one on 5th Avenue with white marble lions…) to pick up a DASH diet cookbook I had put on hold. Or rather, I attempted. Except I realized, midway over there that they were closing at 6 pm and there was no way I was going to make it in 3 minutes. I veered over to a nearby subway stop and went home. Oh well, at least that added to my step count!
Still feeling laden with oily, heavy lunch, I wanted something light and refreshing for dinner. Since I had cans and cans of chickpeas (a long-lasting Costco haul), I made a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern salad with those. The garlicky chickpea salad with cumin and lime was just what I needed, and Hubby was happy with the falafel addition from the food truck as well. They are super tasty and only $2 for 4 sizable ones! An easy win, if a little high on the fat/oil category.
DASH Diet Goals & Reality
I knew that the sugar/sweet category was literally off the chart this week.
While I’m totally, completely, 100% okay with the chocolate cake (because its tastiness to sugar ratio was off the charts), if I’m being completely honest, I do think we’ve gotten a bit slack on the after-dinner dessert front. I don’t want it to be an everyday thing, but it’s becoming one again. It’s time to rein that back in, given that we’ve been over the DASH diet’s daily sugar intake limit pretty frequently, and sometimes by a lot, lately. It’s hard to form a new habit for sure!
Next Few Days
I must admit, I’m pretty tired of the recent pattern of weekend bad weather. My legs have been itching for a good winter hike for something like a month now! On Saturday, we are leaving home bright and early to visit family before the snow hits. The good thing is, we’ll be home for dinner, so I have more control over what we eat. Since the Friday meals were oily, I’ll probably go Japanese to manage that category.
I do hope to put some urban walk in on Sunday, depending on how much snow we’ll get overnight–and how much of that will still be around in the morning. I still have some roasted root veggies and leftover Greek beans in the fridge, so I don’t think I’ll be making any meal components over the weekend.
Oh boy, this leftover salad was delicious! With so many flavors going on, it’s a feast of a salad. Let’s see: A savory sautéed chicken breast. A sweet and aromatic roasted rutabaga and carrots with currants, maple syrup and ras el hanout (a mild, fragrant North African curry powder). A reliable bed of lettuce, baby kale, grape tomatoes and scallion. Then everything gets a coat of bright, earthy, garlicky lime garlic tahini dressing. The combination was 100% spot-on and satisfying.
I made the salad using the curry-spiced rutabaga and carrots that I already had roasted, but you can of course start from roasting the root vegetables. Recipe for roasting is right here. You can save time by using pre-sauteed (or even better, pre-grilled) chicken breast as well. Then it’ll be a matter of assembling everything–perfect for a weeknight DASH diet dinner.
DASH diet considerations: This curry roasted root vegetable salad with lime garlic tahini dressing is an all-A student of the DASH diet realm. It packs about 4 servings of different vegetables (full of fiber and potassium); tahini helps it go light on oil while providing an incredibly earthy depth to the dressing; and simply cooked chicken breast provides lean protein.
The wide range of flavors, from bright, earthy tahini dressing to sweetly aromatic curry roasted vegetables, as well as the different textures really jazzes up the salad without a lot of sodium or oil. Give it a try! We skipped grains, but a pita would go perfectly with this Middle Eastern-inspired salad.
DASH diet servings:
4 vegetables & fruits
2 meats & fish
½ fat & oil
¼ nuts & beans
In a saute pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium high and add the chicken breast. Saute until the chicken is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes, flipping once to brown both sides. Set aside in a wam place.
While the chicken breast cooks, make the dressing. Mix the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice and grated garlic in a bowl large enough to toss the lettuce and kale comfortably. Add water, 1 tsp at a time, to thin the dressing to a pourable consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
To the bowl of the dressing, add the lettuce, baby kale, grape tomatoes and scallion. Toss to coat evenly.
Slice the chicken breast into strips.
Place the lettuce-kale mixture in two plates or bowls. Top with the roasted rutabaga and carrots, as well as the chicken breast strips.
Sprinkle some za’atar on top, if you like, before serving.
Get inspired. I need some cooking inspiration to keep me (and this blog) going.
Get back to the routine with tasty and DASH diet-compatible eating, plus my blogging schedule.
Let’s see how we did on those!
I was really hoping for a good long hike for both my mental and physical well-being, but the rain in the forecast was pushed earlier into the day. We decided to stay in the city and wander around instead. As usual, I didn’t have a destination in mind, so we just started walking. We somehow ended up on Randall’s and Ward Islands, where we discovered that the western side along the Hudson has been spiffed up quite a bit since the last time we were there–at least a couple of years ago. The riverside walkway had a beautiful planting beds on the side, which sported all kinds of grass and hardy plants. I even spotted a big patch of rosemary! Between the gray weather and isolated location, the path was more or less deserted save for a couple of dog walkers and a birding group. As the path wound north, it sort of devolved into a no man’s land with a semi-industrial construction site feel, but still it was a fun discovery.
By then, it’d started spitting. Somehow I managed to leave my umbrella at home (how!?), but had a rain jacket on, which helped me get through the drizzle. We went to the Gun Hill Tavern just north of the islands for lunch–or what we thought was the Gun Hill Tavern. Apparently it had been turned into a different tavern recently. It still had a good local beer selection and a wider range of food items than I’d remembered, with a fun sprinkling of Hispanic-inspired items like hangover sancocho. Hubby had a (very good) burger with fries; I had arroz con pollo, which was basically a HUGE bowl of yellow rice with a pretty well-executed grilled chicken breast with a bit of pico de gallo on top. It was way salty with barely a hint of veggies, but it was pretty tasty. I had plenty to take home (which provided a lunch and two breakfasts).
It wasn’t an epic walk I was hoping for, but I did manage to put in around 18,000 steps. I can’t say I checked off Goal #1, but I guess it’s good enough given the weather. 🙁
Cooking up an Inspiration
When we got home, there was a note from our landlord that she needed to talk to us about the lease. Uh oh. I kind of knew what that’d be, but being kept in the limbo was mildly annoying–we both felt the uncertainty looming in the back of our minds as we went through the rest of Saturday.
I spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetable-centric cookbook, “Plenty.” I’d bought it many moons ago, probably when it came out, and marked some recipes with post-its. Seeing what recipes appealed to me 8 years ago versus what appeals to me now was pretty interesting! I think the culinary world has finally caught up with where Ottolenghi was when the book came out. Now that I’m more familiar with the flavors and combinations from what I’ve had at restaurants fancy and casual, I’m finding more of his recipes easier to imagine the taste of, hence more droolworthy and intriguing.
As I oohed and aahed over the cookbook, I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes and parsnips. This will be a component of a few meals this week, one of which will be along the lines of one of Ottolenghi’s recipes. For dinner, I made two kinds of poke–tuna with sesame soy sauce and yellowtail with dill, onion, red pepper and lemon salt. These were mighty tasty with white wine, as well as a bowl of rice. Since lunch was almost devoid of vegetables, I made a big miso soup with vegetables, and a quick ponzu-based salad with celery and red pepper. Hom nom nom.
We had to talk to the landlord at 11, so we wrote the morning off to errands: Farmer’s market, laundry, grocery store. Totally mundane, but it was gray and rainy anyway… The apartment situation turned out to be exactly what we’d expected, so we’ll be moving! This made me annoyed and excited at the same time–annoyed because I’m pretty sure the move would be a downgrade for a higher rent (our rent has been way below market), but excited for the opportunity for change, as our low rent has been somewhat of a golden anchor that prevented us from living anywhere else in the city. I’m not looking forward to the extra expense, but I do feel a change might be a good thing. We’ll see.
For lunch, Hubby wanted to go to an excellent Greek seafood spot in the neighborhood. The choice was either that, or the leftover feijoada before I froze the rest for later, and he went for the eat-out option. I was okay with that; I think we sort of needed the fresh air and “not home” atmosphere after the conversation.
We tend to order the same few favorites over and over at this restaurant, but this time I put my foot down and went for something new: Greek Lima beans in tomato sauce. This, my friends, was the bomb. All the flavors–acidity of the tomatoes, the sweet fragrance of the dill, the earthy and sweet carrots, the silky beans–were perfectly balanced! Everything was understated yet oddly satisfying. I’m so glad we tried it! The rest of the meal: Olive-studded bread, grilled whiting (which is absolutely amazing–simple, elegant and perfect) and roasted lemon potatoes. Oh, and a complimentary slice of galaktoboureko (Greek custard pie in phyllo), which is to die for. Of course, it probably filled up a couple of days’ worth of my DASH diet sugar budget.
Another Walk (Soggy!)
I braved the torrential rain in the afternoon for a walk. While the foggy East River was beautiful, this is the one situation I wish I still had a gym membership. With 10,000 steps under my belt, I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon working on the blog, mostly figuring out how to organize the sugar intake guides.
I reheated the sukiyaki tofu and vegetables for dinner. Two salads on the side: A sesame miso broccoli salad (loosely inspired by a recipe in, you guessed it, “Plenty”) and the leftover ponzu-based salad/pickle of celery and red pepper. I added a bowl of rice, and called it dinner.
Another work week! I didn’t feel like I had a real weekend (thanks, rain!), but I gotta earn my paychecks… Anyway, I had some of the leftover arroz con pollo and sesame miso broccoli salad for lunch. The usual snack of peanut butter crackers and dried prunes rounded up the work food.
Dinner was a sesame shiso salmon poke, a stir-fry of shishito, bean sprouts and pork belly, and a bowl of rice. I tried a stir-fry sauce that a friend recently told me about: A mix of sambal oelek and soy sauce koji. It was pretty tasty but not the transcendence I was imagining. 😛 Maybe the ingredients weren’t quite right for that sauce. I might try it with cauliflower or broccoli sometime… We had a small bit of ice cream for dessert, which we probably shouldn’t have, considering the galaktoboureko yesterday!
It was another catered work lunch day. It was Italian. I had a standard lettuce-cukes-tomatoes salad, eggplant pasta and chicken piccata in lemon sauce. They were all rather oily… #firstworldproblem I was glad I’d brought a small apple; cold, crisp and just slightly tart, it was a perfect counterbalance to the heavy lunch.
More Walk, on a Work Day!
We walked up along Central Park after work. It was just to squeeze in some extra physical activity on a workday, but it turned out to be a beautiful sunset walk. The buildings along 5th Avenue were drenched in that gorgeous orange-gold light of the dusk as we briskly walked up. It was a tad windy, but all in all, a fantastic, invigorating walk. I need to do this on a regular basis!
I was able to take the time for the walk because I had leftover feijoada ready to go in the fridge. I reheated it when we got home, chopped up some cabbage and celery to go on the side, made basmati rice, and had dinner in about 30 minutes. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out: About 12,000 steps on a regular workday with a decently DASH-friendly dinner at home! Just a few months ago, I’d have resorted to picking up takeout on our way home or stopping by a restaurant for a sit-down dinner. Not now; having a ready-to-go meal in the fridge works so well in keeping us on track for our DASH diet goals. (And, importantly, for our budget also.)
DASH Diet Goals & Reality
The Three Goals
Goal #1 was a struggle–crappy weekend weather didn’t help, but I think I need to do something about my weekday activity level. Since I moved into my current office that’s closer to the subway station than my previous one, I’ve been feeling really sedentary and stale. Balancing cooking at home and weaving exercise time into my workday has been a real challenge. Though my Tuesday plan worked out perfectly, I’m not sure what the permanent answer is here–something I have to figure out. (My brilliant idea: Treadmill installed in the kitchen. That’d win me an Ig Noble Prize!)
I feel alright about Goal #2, the cooking inspiration. I have one meal component in the fridge (roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips) and a few things I want to cook. So, yay!
Goal #3 is hard to tell, since it’s about a long-term routine than what I do in the course of a few days. But I think I’m back on track.
DASH Diet Goals
Now to the DASH diet radar graph.
The train wreck of the sweets/sugar category owes it to chubby hubby. Not my own, but the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I just discovered that the sucker has almost double the amount of sugar, compared to many other ice cream. I thought it tasted a lot sweeter than Breyer’s, which is why I looked at the nutrition facts panel. And oh, horror! At 26 grams in a half-cup serving, it’s more than 3 day’s worth of sugar! Ugh. I think this brand will be off my grocery list from now on!
Even our go-to ice cream, the Breyer’s, I realized, contains about 2 day’s worth of sugar in half a cup (14 grams). Apparently I’ve been counting ice cream way too low on the sugar scale. (Then again, I’m getting confused: Sorbet, NIH’s DASH dessert of choice, seems to have generally higher sugar content than ice cream, with some of them in the Ben & Jerry’s range and others way higher, at over 30 grams. A half cup of that is considered one serving of sugar/sweets, while a straight-up sugar is one serving at 12 grams. What gives? I need to research this a bit.)
Next Few Days
Anyway, the takeaway here is that I’m still too high when it comes to my sugar intake. I’m doing better overall compared to a year ago, but I still have ways to go. I also want to figure out a way to incorporate what we did on Tuesday into our weekday routine: Walking more, preferably in different neighborhoods, and coming home for a more or less heat-and-eat dinner. I might be able to do that on Thursday or Friday with the pan of roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips, if I prepare a protein to go with them on Wednesday.
And this is more like the next few weeks/months: We need to get serious on eating through our pantry and freezer. We’ did it toward the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, but it’s built itself back up somewhat. Now that we know we’ll be moving out in a not so distant future, cleaning out our food cache is another necessary dimension of our healthy, tasty eating!
Sukiyaki is one of the better known Japanese dishes. Yet, despite its name recognition, sukiyaki doesn’t seem to be a regular on US Japanese restaurant menus these days. Which is kind of a shame, because it’s really tasty, easy and versatile. This sweet and savory sukiyaki with tofu and vegetables makes a tasty Japanese comfort dinner on cold, drizzly winter night.
Sukiyaki in its original form is a hot pot dish. You gather around a simmering shallow cast iron pot on the table, where thinly sliced beef, onions, mushrooms, tofu and other goodies are cooked right there. It’s a fun party dish when you have a group or just for the family. In Japanese homes, sukiyaki is sometimes made in the kitchen and brought out in individual bowls to the table, just like other non-hot pot foods, which is what I’m doing here.
The “soup” base is pretty simple, just a mix of soy sauce, sugar and mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine, which can be substituted with sugar). The beef can be, and often is, made the star of the show, but sukiyaki can also be made with just a couple of ounces of beef and a ton of vegetables. To make sure that a rich, beefy essence permeates all the other ingredients, use a cut of beef with a good layer of fat, or nice marbling throughout. I think mine was a brisket.
Other possible items you can use: Various mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, beech/shimeji, enoki, king trumpet, etc.), leeks, shirataki, napa cabbage, komatsuna, chrysanthemum leaves, carrots, turnips and even potatoes. Sukiyaki can also be made with pork or chicken. If going vegetarian, I’d use kombu (kelp) to boost the umami in the broth and maybe swap the broiled tofu with a fried tofu to give it a bit more of a bite.
One yellow flag in this sukiyaki dish for DASH diet followers is that it can fill up your daily sugar intake limit . The trick is to not drink the broth. Without the broth, the amount of sugar absorbed in the tofu, vegetables and beef is probably half of what’s used, which makes it a much more reasonable 1/4 serving or so of sugar.
Sweet and Savory Sukiyaki with Tofu and Vegetables
DASH diet considerations: This sukiyaki tofu and vegetables leverages the typical Asian approach of using meat as seasoning to cut down on the DASH diet servings of meat. The bulk of the protein comes from the tofu, rather than the beef. The dish can be loaded up with a lot of different vegetables, and the sweet, savory and rich broth makes everything taste addictively delicious and comforting.
One yellow flag in this sukiyaki dish for DASH diet followers is its impact on your daily sugar intake. Sukiyaki broth is on the sweet side, and one serving of the sukiyaki does come with ¼-½ serving of sugar. All is not lost, though: You can stay on the low side of the spectrum by not drinking the broth. (This is hard to do--it’s so yummy! Lol.) For this reason, it’s probably better to serve the sukiyaki and rice separately, rather than make it into a sukiyaki don (sukiyaki rice bowl).
It was a week of solid scrambled eggs! I tried to introduce variation through mix-ins and the bread/pastry component, but it was still a bit on the “same thing every day” side. I need to mix things up a bit more on the protein part of our DASH diet breakfasts!
Coffee milk, grape tomato tikka scrambled eggs w/ scallion, baguette with butter & apple butter, pear, coffee
I used the leftover gravy from chicken tikka masala to season the eggs. The cream in the tikka masala made the eggs extra rich and moist. Yum!
Being under the weather, I wanted something sweet and soothing on my baguette, so I topped it with cinnamon-spiced apple butter. Not something I do all the time, but it was pretty tasty.
Coffee milk, scrambled eggs with Ecuadorian cheese, spring onion & gray squash, oat toast with PB, apple, coffee
Coffee milk, scrambled eggs with shishito, ground beef & ginger, multigrain raisin bread w/ butter, apple & strawberries, coffee
I was shifting my work hours by an hour on Thursday and needed a quick, “put it on the plate and eat it” breakfast. I picked up quiche slices the night before. That worked out well.
Hubby had a mushroom goat cheese quiche and reported that mine was better. Oh well.
Coffee milk, very green eggs (gray squash, baby kale, dill), sourdough toast with butter, apple, coffee
I saw someone’s photo of a scrambled egg that was far more green mix-ins than yellow egg, and wanted to try making it. My version with the green veggies I found in the fridge was alright, but not quite right. Maybe a bit of garlic–just something to liven it up–might improve it…
Coffee milk, sweet potato pastry, scrambled eggs with spinach & red pepper, apple, coffee
This was a now-rare breakfast with a sweet pastry. The sweet potato pastry comes from Paris Baguette, a Korean bakery chain in NYC. I used to be head over heels with this pastry, but the last couple I had have been not as stellar. 🙁 I still enjoyed it, though!
Another Wednesday, another Thai lunch. I had pad thai with chicken, roasted salmon with broccoli and mushroom, a small veggie spring roll and a fried shrimp dumpling. It was tasty but oh man, I’m tired of them! #firstworldproblem I also snacked on dried prunes and had a granola bar, which was totally not worth the sugar expenditure! I mean, it was tasty, but I can’t justify it considering that eating the granola bar basically filled up my entire day’s worth of sugar allotment and I don’t love granola bars all that much to begin with. #dashdietfail
I didn’t leave work until past 6, and I was sorely tempted to pick up a fancy salad to share with Hubby. I was feeling lazy and craving fresh veggies… However, I knew there was a bunch of spinach in the fridge desperately waiting to be used up. I came home and dutifully made what I’d planned: Spinach and mushroom gnocchi with dill sour cream, and threw in some Russian-spiced meatballs for protein. This was a mighty delicious DASH diet dinner–rich, complex and satisfying without a ton of meat or devastating amount of heavy cream. I thanked the weekend me for making the meatballs ahead of time.
There was yet another catered lunch planned at work. I brought in a small apple as a snack, but didn’t eat it because… there were paczki! I try to stay away from free sweets at work, but I make exception to paczki that a Polish colleague brings in almost every year around this time of year. They are amazing!
I went somewhat lighter on the soup & sandwich lunch, having half a soup (some sort of lime-spiked chicken orzo soup) and half a chicken sandwich. I probably did okay on the overall amount, but by the time dinner rolled around, I was craving fresh veggies badly.
We didn’t get home until 7 pm or so, as we stopped for a pint after an after-work meeting. I was tempted to get sucked into one of the easy takeout options near us. (This is the frequent equation around here: Tiring work + beer buzz + cooking doldrums = temptation for takeout.) My cravings for a home-cooked meal with veggies won out, though. I made a quick sukiyaki-style stew and a ponzu-based cabbage and red pepper salad, and had those with a bowl of rice. Yum! It was a good thing I managed to cook at home, as we’d be having dinner out with a friend on Friday.
For lunch, I’d stashed away some of the Italian fare from a couple of days ago in the work fridge. To add fresh crunch to the penne a la vodka and a giant meatball, I brought a tupperware of grape tomatoes, red pepper and celery. I was very happy about the veggie addition! I wasn’t sure if I’d eat them all, but I polished them off with no problem.
I worked a part of the day in an open area, and had a chocolate truffle that a colleague offered me. I didn’t really want it, but I had it for being the sociable coworker (or whatever). It’s a good thing I don’t usually work in that open area; otherwise I’d have to come up with ways to vow out of those constant offerings of food without damaging my relationship with my well-meaning colleagues.
We met up with a friend in Williamsburg after work. My subway ride over the bridge was awesome–a dreamlike view of the Lower East Side and the river. I wished the subway car had the lights off so I could see the cityscape without the reflection! For dinner, we went to an excellent Japanese restaurant with a great bang for the buck. What we had: Fried chicken with watercress, wasabi-spiked scallop ceviche, braised pork belly and a bunch of sushi. SO good. (SO lacking in vegetables–but that’s okay. We’ll catch up later.)
DASH Diet Goals & Reality
Quite aside from whether we did well on the DASH diet goals, I felt heavy and unenergetic this whole period. Uninspired. Clearly, a part of that is just the effect of the cold I had over the weekend. Another is the inadvertently high frequency of restaurant meals, mostly due to catered work lunches, but also from the Indian delivery we resorted to last Friday when I was sick. I don’t think the popular “carbs should be avoided, as they make you feel heavy and bloated” line of thinking applies to me, but the combination of too much salt, lots of starch and not enough simply cooked veggies is most likely a part of this sluggish feel.
But of course, physical is just one side of the coin. I also suspect a psychological aspect: There’s a dose of blog fatigue somewhere in there, as well as work stress. I can’t change those psychological aspects as easily, but the physical side is easier to manage. Which brings me to the goals for the next few days:
Next Few Days
I have three goals for the next period, which includes the weekend.
Get physical. Preferably a long hike on Saturday before the weather gets clammy into Sunday, but if not, I need a good, solid flaneuring in the city.
Get inspired. I need some cooking inspiration to keep me going. When I’m not excited about cooking up something tasty and interesting, either of the two things happen, and both are bad for DASH diet:
I refuse to cook and we end up with a restaurant or takeout meal more often than I’d like. Bad for budget, bad for health.
I’m not completely satisfied with dinner, and reach for dessert. Not where I want to be, either.
Get back to the routine. This past week, mostly due to being under the weather, I let a bunch of routine go, including our typical way of eating and some of the blogging schedule. I want to reestablish my routine.