QCT: Round Two.
It’s been a delicious summer. Perhaps a little too delicious. Sounds like a good reason to revisit The Rules, and what better day to do it than at the start of a month. The #1 on a calendar is a chance for a fresh start, and since I appear to have gained back a few of the pounds that I lost in the first half of the year, I think it’s time to hunker down (or something equivalent to hunkering down) and take QCT to the next level.
OK, that’s extreme, I just want to get it back to the previous level. That level was OK.
Some quick stats for my first round of QCT: In the first six weeks of the year, I dropped between 12-15 lbs. I started the year somewhere between 142-145 lbs, and dropped and held a weight between 130-133 through June. I accomplished this by following a few simple rules that I outlined in the first post in this blog.
Part of my motivation was to drop a bit of weight to improve my race times, and in particular, to fulfil my quest for a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Mission accomplished: In late May I ran a PR for the 5k in 19:50. On June 6th I ran a 3:15:22 marathon and qualified for Boston. On July 4th I ran a sub-26 minute four miler. None of these numbers are going to impress the Olympic committee, but they’re all breakthroughs for me, and validation of the efforts I put in.
Unfortunately, I think I got a little to relaxed after the qualifying marathon, and especialy after the July 4th weekend. I lost a bit of focus on the QCT approach and I started gaining weight back. So before it gets out of hand, I am going to take control back.
My goal for August is to drop lose the weight I have gained back but also start gaining a bit more muscle. My ultimate goal is a sub 3:10 marathon in September, which would break my marathon PR.
My long term goal is to continue the good habits that I have picked up in the first half of the year. I wanted to summarize a few of these habits, which I think were the keys to my health success, in addition to my original Rules:
- Cereal - I have not had a bowl of cereal all year. I miss the crap out of it sometimes, but I think it was one of the most important changes I made.
- Soda - Not an ounce all year. I never really drank regular soda anyway, and I doubt the diet soda had a huge metabolic impact, but it sure feels good not to have that junk in my stomach.
- Subway - I used to LIVE on Subway sandwiches, at least twice a week I’d eat there. How can something that made Jared lose all that weight be unhealthy? What’s wrong with cold cuts? Nothing, on the surface, but its a gateway to unhealthy eating. Portion size is thrown off. Plus, you stop thinking about ingredients when someone hands you a prepared meal.
- Salad - The more leafy greens you’re eating, the less of something else is going in your stomach.
- Herbal Tea - Herbal tea completely curbed my late night cravings in the beginning, and also became a part of a decompression routine that I need to get back into.
- Quinoa - Great subsitute for rice
- Yams- Filling, healthy, colorful, versitile, and packed with nutrients (kinda like healthy, I guess). I can eat a yam with nothing on it.
- Cooking - I am convinced that the ingredients themselves are less important than the commitment to preparing them. Part of the QCT experiment was to take part in preparing the meal, and sharing the results at a table with good company.
- Wine - I am not going to argue with results. Plus, I love a small glass of red when I am cooking. It’s basically a vitamin.
Tomorrow night, I’m kicking off again with a repeat offering of my version of Pho. I’ll probably have a yam or some quinoa for lunch. But for now, I’ll just finish my herbal tea and go to bed…
I Made Sorbet with Beets… details inside!
This evening, I rescued several items from my fridge and counter from certain death and ended up making a pretty impressive menu in the process… Some of my best creations have come about by just working with the stuff that is on its last night of freshness before becoming ‘questionable…
The ingredients for this impromptu dinner spread included yams, leftover quinoa, fresh strawberries, sliced mini-cucumbers, some fresh beets that needed roasting, a hunk of roquefort that I thought I’d eat more of. To this, I added a few spices, some frozen raspberries, and a few good guesses. The resulting menu never made items doomed for the trash sound so good:
- Chilled Cucumber and Strawberry Salad
- Warm Sweet Potatoes and Quinoa with Roasted Beets and Roquefort
- Berry and Beet Sorbet. (Damn right I did!)
For the salad, I mixed sliced of cucumber and strawberry with some white wine vinegar, red wine, basil, a dash of chimayo chili, and I think that’s it… toss it, throw it in the fridge, and wait until it gets cold. Or as the gourmets say, ‘chilled’… Overall, it was OK, but not impressive. I’d prefer to use balsamic vinegar next time, and would consider making a sweeter balsamic reduction as a dressing.
For the main course, I boiled diced sweet potatoes until tender, then threw them in cold water for a minute to stop them from cooking further and mixed with the leftover quinoa, some thyme, and a bit of cinnamon.
Three beets were washed and wrapped together loosely in foil, with a tbsp of water added before sealing. I roasted this for about 30 minutes at 425. When they were done, I peeled them with my hands (wearing latex gloves) and diced. Two were set aside for the main course, the last for dessert. I then spooned out the potatoes, topped with diced beets, and then topped with crumbled roquefort.
This is not a dish that should be mixed together; the beets will make everything turn red and it will not look nearly as appetizing. The contrasting flavors of the beet, roquefort and sweet potato were interesting no matter what combination was on the fork.
For dessert, I cooled the remaining beet, then blended it with frozen raspberries, fresh strawberries, a little lemon juice, and some cilantro. It was a little more ‘smoothie consistency’ than I wanted so I threw it back in the freezer until dinner was over… The sorbet was very sweet because of the raspberries, but you can still taste the contrast with the beet. Next time, I’d back off on the raspberry and add more strawberry, and might freeze the beet once it is roasted to add thickness.
The results, starting with the salad…
On to the Main Course…
and finally, dessert…
Iron Chef at Home: Battle Squid
Several months ago, I bought a 2.5 lb block of frozen, cleaned squid to use as a new ingredient. I opted to go with the whole squids, since precut rings seemed to limit what I could do with the ingredient. I finally decided to defrost the batch and get creative.
After starting the defrosting process in the fridge a day or two before, I started thinking about creative recipes. However, when I decided to finally get cooking, I had not gotten a chance to gather ingredients at a store, so I was limited to what I had in the house.
After we put our son down to sleep, my wife stepped out to run an errand. My challenge: One hour to get the squid cooked, plated, and ready to serve the moment she returned. Also, I had to make three dishes and use the entire 2.5 lb block of squid.
Since I am trying to eat healthy, frying the squid as a traditional calamari appetizer was not an option. I’ve always been partial to calamari marinara, a tender stewed squid in tomato sauce, anyway, so immediately added that as a dish to the menu. I also wanted to use some of the veggies we recenlty bought to make a bean salad, so I started listing out ingredients for a chilled salad that contained calimari rings. Finally, I decided to reserve two whole squids to be marindated and broiled.
I immediately began boiling two pots of water and began washing and dicing veggies. I think a key to a cooking an improv meal is to get a pot of water going right up front. You’ll use it to blanche some vegetables, boil pasta or rice or quinoa, or quick thaw a frozen meat. Plus, if you don’t use it, its a pot of water… you can dump it, or if you’re environmentally concious, just let it cool and then water some plants with it.
Once the basic prep was done, I got started on the the marinara. I sauteed diced up squid for a few minutes with onions, garlic and basil, added the tomatoes, and let the sauce simmer the entire time I focused on the other dishes.
I then marinated the while squids in a mixture of garlic, soy sauce, balsamic, red wine, worchestershire sauce and hot sauce, and set into the fridge for the next 30 or so minutes. This left me the majority of the rest of the time to focus on the chilled salad.
It was easy to prepare squid for a salad. Squid should either be cooked for a very short or very long period of time. The marinara is a good example of long…. it will simmer for quite some time and will end up being quite tender… however for a salad, a quick boil is the way to go. I dropped sliced up squid into boiling water for no more than about a minute, then threw it into ice water to stop the cooking process. I then combined it with diced veggies, sea salt, quinoa, and chick peas, and marindated in a dressing of EVOO, hot sauce (lots of it), and white wine vinegar. That was then put into the fridge, and while I was in there, I pulled out the marinating whole squid…
I transferred the marinated squid to a pan for broiling, and then took the marinate and began heating in a small sauce pan. I broiled the squid for about two minutes on each side untl the meat was firm but not tough. I continued to bring the marinade to a boil and then reduced to a nice thick syrup that I used as a sauce for the finished, sliced broiled squid.
After plating the broiled squid, the salad had a nice chill to it, and the sauce was done. I had used the remaining pot of boiling water to make some pasta for the calamari sauce. Ideally, I would have premade the quinoa for a cold salad, but since I made it fresh at the top of the hour, it was still warm and thus made the salad a bit more ‘room temp’ than I would have liked (but it was amazing the next day for lunch!)
The ingredients (Sorry, no mixing ratios…. choose your own!):
Chilled Calamari and Chick Pea Salad
- Serrano Chili
- Sea Salt
- Chick Peas
- White wine vinegar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Hot Sauce
Broiled Marinated Calamari
- Soy Sauce*
- Balsamic Vinegar*
- Red Wine*
- Worchestershire sauce
- Hot Sauce
*Roughly equal parts of these ingredients, less of the worchester and hot sauces…
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 diced onion
- White wine
Non-Dairy New England Clam Chowder! Seriously!
A few weeks ago, my wife found a vegan recipe for potato leek soup that we really liked a lot. I was surprised that such a creamy soup can be made without any actual cream. When I posted about it, I mentioned that I thought it might make a great base for a no-cream New England Clam Chowder, so I gave it a try. I am going to go ahead and call this one a winner.
I modified the potato leek recipe, mainly by removing the leeks and garlic and upping the potato content. I added extra potatoes because I wanted to keep some in reserve so they can add texture to the soup. The original recipe requires that you blend 100%, in my version, I probably only blended about 50-60%.
I then added some select ingredients common to clam chowder. For example, clams. I also added spices like dill and bay, black pepper and a dash of hot sauce. When all was said and done, I think this was as satisfying a bowl of New England Clam Chowder as I’ve ever had. I didn’t miss the cream at all!
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups onion, chopped
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 4-5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2” cubes
- 4 cups chicken stock (I used the light version w/ 50% less sodium)
- 3 6.5 oz cans of minced clams, with juice retained
- 2-3 stalks of celery, whole but trimmed of leaves
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2-3 tsp rosemary leaves
- 1 tsp dill
- black pepper to taste
- dash (or three) hot sauce
- Heat the oil in a medium pot (large enough to hold all of the above); Sautee the onion and salt about five minutes
- Add the potatoes, chicken stock, celery stalks, spices, and the juice from the three cans of clams. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, cooking potatoes through.
- Remove the celery stalks and set aside. Using a blender (or in my case, my Magic Bullet), blend a bit more than half of the potatoes and broth, about one cup at a time until smooth, and collect in a separate, heatproof bowl. Take care not to blend the bay leaves!
- Recombine the blended broth with the unblended broth, and add the clams.
- Dice the celery stalks and add to the soup.
- Add the dash of the hot sauce, and grind in a bit of black pepper.
- Heat another five minutes or so, and serve.
Oyster crackers optional. Enjoy!
Oven-Steamed Pollack with Spinach and Salsa
Another easy to prepare, delicious meal… I love making “tin-foil fish” as my wife calls it, because it is easy to throw together. It is also usually is easy to clean up, provided you keep the tin foil intact on the baking pan… We didn’t serve this with a starch b/c we were not that hungry (or maybe it was because I ate a piece of sprouted grain toast afterwards…), but this would pair with anything simple, like a baked potato or some rice or quinoa…
For each foil packet:
- A large mound of baby spinach
- 1-2 pieces of frozen pollack, thawed
- 2-3 tbsp fresh salsa
- Olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- In a large piece of foil, make a mound of spinach, and lay on the pollack. Season with salt and pepper, and top with salsa. Finally, drizzle a little olive oil and the lemon juice.
- Wrap the foil so that all edges are sealed but there is still space for steam to build up. I usually bring the edges up and then roll them together, then roll the edges in… leaving lots of space for steam.
- Bake the packet(s) on a baking sheet, about 20 minutes.
A meal put together with creatively used healthy leftovers is the perfect ‘poster child’ for the Quit Cold Turkey diet. So on Monday night when I came home to a fridge full of weekend leftovers and unused ingredients, I had all that I needed to pull together a spontaneous creation.
In the fridge, cabinet, and freezer, I found:
- About two cups cooked brown rice
- An Aneheim chili
- 1/2 of a bunch of Scallions
- Most of a can of pinto beans, drained
- olive oil
- 8-10 frozen shrimp, thawed and diced into large pieces
- Crushed garlic
- olive oil
- Pre-mixed Cajun seasoning (I whip up a batch of this every few months from fresh spices)
- Dice the chili and scallions, and sautee in the olive oil with a tsp of the garlic.
- Add the shrimp and sautee another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rice, beans, and seasoning (to taste) and sautee another few minutes.
My wife said adding a bit of tomato sauce might make it a little less dry, but I liked it as it was. I think the tomato sauce would be a good variation though.
Irish Oats with Prunes, Almonds and Flax
Don’t you love when a recipe is basically just everything that appears in the name of the thing you’re making?
Oatmeal is a great addition to the QCT diet plan. It is filling, slow-burning carbs, it is easy to make, and it keeps in your cabinet for a while. Irish oats take much longer to cook but they make for a nice alternative to the traditional quick oats.
I prepared these according to package directions, but added a few diced up prunes halfway through cooking. The prunes sweetened the oats and covered the need for additional flavoring. Once they were cooked up, I mixed in some ground flax seed, and topped with diced almonds and sliced bananas.
WikiLeeks! (Broiled Leaks with Sea Salt and Pepper)
Last week we made some delicious Potato Leek soup, so had a bunch of leeks leftover. I whipped up a side with them that was easier than falling out of a chair.
- Slice the leeks lengthwise and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- On a baking pan, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper (not sea pepper) to taste.
- Turn on the broiler and place the leeks into the oven away from the heat source, letting them warm up for about 10 minutes.
- Move the pan under the heat source and broil about 5-6 minutes, until the edges of the leeks begin to char.
Sometimes all you need is a salad…
We had a pretty full day and just wanted a light dinner, so I whipped up a great salad with some fresh and leftover ingredients. This is not a groundbreaking concoction by any means, but I’m posting it because I think the picture came pretty good and might make you want to eat a salad… My salad included:
- Baby arugula
- Baby carrots, diced
- Cucumber, diced
- Celery, diced
- Grape tomatoes
- Chick peas
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Sesame Seeds
- If I need to explain how to make a salad…
Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks
I picked up some frozen albacore tuna steaks from Trader Joe’s and prepared them with a simple marindade of olive oil, salt and pepper. Once defrosted, these were simple to make:
- Coat the steaks in the salt/pepper/oo mixture and set in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight if you want)…
- Heat a little additional olive oil in a pan. Add the tuna steaks to the hot pan and sear on high heat for about two minutes on each side. The middles should still be pink. The package said this was OK, in case you don’t believe me.
These were sliced up and served with mixed veggies… yes, that’s the same mixed veggies as the previous post with the spiced-ribs. That was my lunch, this was my dinner ;)