Two Vegetarian Picnics…. one with Fairy Bread!

So we’re 12 days into our Vegetarian Challenge and we have been doing really well.  Truthfully, I don’t crave or miss meat like I thought I would.  We had a lovely dinner with friends on Friday night, it was a veritable feast!  (It was also one of the only non-alcohol, non-meat dinner parties I’ve ever been to but it was LOADS of fun and the food was delish!) 

Last night and today we had picnics!  The Runner and I went to see Chaka Khan in The Domain and today I caught up with my best friend in Sydney for a picnic for her birthday.  Amazingly (because I LOVE prosciutto in the sunshine) both picnics were vegetarian and almost completely gluten free and 80% dairy free too!  I have to say, overall, it wasn’t that hard to make a yummy, vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free picnic that was relatively kid friendly! 

The Runner and I had olives (he did, I hate olives!), dips, insalata caprese (a fancy name for tomato, bocconcini and basil), rice paper rolls, rainbow rice salad, and vanilla vodka strawberries for dessert.  It was lovely! 

This morning’s picnic featured potato cakes with sage, corn fritters and avocado, rainbow rice salad, rice paper rolls, dips, crackers,  fairy bread (because it’s not a birthday party without it!), and vanilla strawberries (no vodka before 12!).  Again, it was lovely and as much as I would have loved a couple of prawns in the rice paper rolls, I didn’t miss them.

I’m adjusting to this meat free life and I’m loving it!

So, what are we eating this week??

Baked polenta pie

Artichoke, Red Onion and Rosemary Risotto

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Tomato

Jerk Sweet Potato and Black Bean Curry

Lentil Burgers (The Runner is making them, from Scott Jurek’s recipe- what a treat to have The Runner in the kitchen!!!!)  

 

Hooray!  Have a great week!

 

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Dairy Free Day 10

Whoa……… We’re 1/3 of the way there!  Woh- oh, living dairy free!  (It makes more sense if you hum Bon Jovi’s Living on A Prayer in your head when you read it)

I did have a cheat day at a fabulous wedding but other than that I’ve been totally on the wagon.  And it hasn’t been that hard.   Also, I’m not working right now so it’s quite easy to avoid the temptation of birthday cakes and morning teas.  Granted I haven’t really been eating out very much (except for Japanese)  because butter, cheese, cream, and milk as it turns out are quite popular food ingredients for MANY MANY cuisines.

I haven’t been completely anal about it but I have tried to use common sense- risotto- and many Italian dishes often have cheese sprinkled on top or through it so that’s out unless I make it at home, dessert is out– because well, chocolate has milk in it, even some Mexican is out because- well cheese and sour cream.  But — don’t despair!  All is not lost.

As I mentioned earlier, Japanese food is MADE for this challenge!  Actually, unlike the gluten free challenge (most soy sauce has gluten in it) Asian food is absolutely perfect for dairy free living.   I asked Uncle Google ‘why there is no cheese in Chinese cuisine ?’ and as it turns out, I’m not the first person to notice the trend.  Believe it or not, there are entire forums and over 10 pages of Google Search results on exactly ‘why there is no cheese in Chinese cuisine?’ If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to one of them!

Apparently the answer is that in some Asian countries- especially China and Southeast Asia, the climate wasn’t suitable to cattle herding or farming thus they didn’t do it.  Over time, because they didn’t have dairy and cow based products in their diet, they developed lactose intolerance.  Since they didn’t enjoy eating milk based products, they didn’t cook with dairy based products (seems pretty obvious to me!) and so, naturally traditional Asian foods don’t include a lot of milk, cheese, or yoghurt based products.    Even today, cheese apparently isn’t widely eaten or popular in China- this article from Slate tells the story of a Westerner doing a cheese tasting in China.

There’s only one flaw that I have in this whole theory of traditional Asian Cuisine not including dairy or herding cattle–  why is their Beef in most Asian Cuisines????

 

Challenge 1: Done! Bring on Challenge 2!

Phew!  I have exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes left of my 30 day Gluten Free challenge and to be honest, it hasn’t been that bad.  I’ve had two cheat days- one was for charity and one was a hens day high tea.  Yes, I made the most of it and had high tea, pizza and McDonald’s all in the same day because well, if you’re going to fall off the wagon, why bother drinking light beer.  I’m not missing any foods really and I feel pretty good and am feeling slimmer and trimmer.  It could be my imagination but I’m pretty sure it’s true.  Lots of athletes- Novak Djokovic for one-  have switched to a gluten free diet because they swear it’s made them fitter, healthier and a better athlete.  (See here for an article) Well, I probably won’t win Wimbledon or the US Open any time soon, but I’m glad I’ve given the gluten free thing a go (again!)  because I do feel pretty good.  It’s surprisingly easy to follow and hasn’t really affected my daily eating habits- especially since I’m not a big toast eater and at home we’ve subbed gluten free pasta for normal pasta.  It’s definitely something that I may continue with longer term– although I may have a chicken schnitzel sandwich or bowl of pasta tomorrow– just because I can!

Sadly, October’s challenge is not going to be as easy.  For October (drumroll please!) I’m giving up dairy foods.   Yep, that’s right, no milk, cream, cheese, custard, gomme, yoghurt (frozen or not), gelato, kefir, lassi, etc for the next 30 days.   I’m going to avoid butter where possible but without being the crazy lady who interrogates the waiter in a restaurant to find out whether the chicken, fish, beef, etc is cooked in butter.   I’m not going OTT, but I’m challenging myself to avoid it as much as possible.  Two things I’m worried about the most:

1) My daily breakfast of yoghurt and berries

2)  My coffee.  Sometimes soy just doesn’t cut it.  

3)  Cheese.  I LOVE CHEESE!

I’ve cut out cow’s milk in the past and it wasn’t too bad– mainly because I was having sheep’s milk yoghurt and lots of goats cheese when the craving set in.  This time I’m going all the way.   And cutting out everything…. see the list here.  If Wikipedia says it’s a dairy product, I’m going to do my best not to eat it.  Sigh……  tempted to have one last cheese and ice cream binge in the next 69 minutes but I don’t think that’s the best idea ever.  

The Runner is doing a 30 day green smoothie challenge which I’m not officially doing but all the recipes make enough for two so… am having mini smoothies as well.  I’m also starting to run- which I hate.  But that’s a different topic all together.

For now, I’m going to go and spend the next 62 minutes foraging for a milky treat before I kiss it all goodbye for the next 30 days! 

No, Sorry for the next 30 days, I don’t.

7 days to go!

So, I’m nearly done with my 30 day Gluten free challenge and to be honest I haven’t done THAT badly!  I’ve had one full on cheat day (for Charity) and other than discovering that the muesli I ate had gluten in it, I really haven’t had to change my diet too much.  Yes, there have been the occasional cravings for sourdough toast, and yes, there have been a few restaurant meals where I’ve had food envy– but overall it hasn’t been that bad!

My tips for gluten free eating– not that I’m an expert after 23 days but- here’s what I’ve learned:

1)  Mexican Mexican Mexican- Ok, yes, it’s my favourite food but as long as you stick to corn tortillas it’s pretty much all gluten free!  Last night I made a fajita extravaganza- grilled skirt steak, pico de gallo, refried black beans, black and white rice, corn chips, corn tortillas, and grilled veggies- all without gluten!

2)  When in doubt, ask-– I’m amazed by how many restaurants will make alterations if you tell them you’re gluten free- I went to The Grounds in Alexandria (LOVE that place!) and really wanted a burger- because they look amazing– and they were able to do them on gluten free bread.  Ok, the gluten free bread wasn’t as amazing as the brioche looked, but it was pretty good!  Nearly everywhere in Sydney can accommodate – I’ve even had a cafe serve me polenta instead of toast with my breakfast.

3)  Read labels.  Wheat and gluten pop up in the most bizarre places- soy sauce, muesli, some but not all chocolates.  Read the label before ruling it out or shoving it in your face!

4)  Don’t be a pain in the a$$ but don’t feel bad about it either.  Everyone these days is on some sort of diet, special eating plan or just doesn’t like things– so many people are paleo, dairy free, gluten free, vegan, sugar free, organic, pregnant, detoxing, etc that it’s totally normal (at least in my group of friends) to have a “special” diet.  Actually there’s a great essay doing the rounds at the moment on how “special diets” diets are a First World Problem.  Click here to read it.
Everyone is on a diet of some sort but to be honest, no one wants to hear about it.  It’s not that interesting.  No one wants to go out to dinner or to eat with someone who either lectures them about the virtues of their diet or who turns up their nose and can’t eat anything and makes a big song and dance of it.  Ok, so you can’t have carbs, that’s fine, but if I’m shoveling rice and pasta and potatoes in my mouth and enjoying it, I don’t want to hear about how evil carbs are.   And, if you’re vegetarian and we’re in a steakhouse don’t be surprised when there’s only one option for you to eat– you’re the one who agreed to go, don’t make everyone else miserable trying to make you happy.  Which leads me to tip 5….

5) Research– it kind of follows on from point 4 but if I’m going out to eat, I have to do some legwork before I go.  What’s on the menu? Is there an option for me there?  Is it a pasta and pizza deal with nothing else on the menu?  If so, it could be a challenge and it’s best to know that ahead of time!

So, with only 1 week to go, I’m giving this challenge a 2/10 on the difficulty scale.  I’ve only used one of my official cheat days so far– and the second one I’m using on Saturday for a hens day (it’s high tea during the day and pizza at night).   So it’s not too bad…. next month’s challenge– 30 days No dairy…. I’m anticipating this could be a bit more difficult!

Gluten Free Challenge- Day 3

“This is easy so far,” she says with a slightly overly optimistic laugh.  And it is– or has been easy so far.  I always knew that going Gluten Free would be one of the easier 30 days of this set of challenges.  I’ve been trying to stick with a low level of  gluten diet for the better part of the last 12 months so cutting out all together isn’t too bad.  Tonight is salmon with steamed veg and brown rice and amaranth, sunday night was beef and salad, I may have skipped dinner last night because the power was out– long story.

I’m beginning to talk about my 30 day challenge– because it’s a real thing now and not just something I’m talking to The Runner about maybe doing.  And it’s good, it’s keeping me honest and people have suggestions and ideas for what I can do.  

My trainer—who hopefully knew I was on an endorphin high after my Dance, Tone and Burn class when I spoke to him tonight and that I didn’t really mean it when I said, “let’s try kettlebells on Thursday morning, I want to feel the burn”, #thingsI’llregretsaying– separate story.  Anyway, I told my trainer about my 30 day challenge plan and my revitalised 11 month fitness kick, and he had some suggestions.  

One– I try 30 days of no carbs which just sounds horrible, and so I’m going to semi-dismiss for now.

And two, and this one is intriguing– “Nothing with a label”.  I’ll give you a moment to mull it over for a second and wrap your head around it.  Nothing packaged, nothing from a supermarket, he said not even an apple with a sticker on it (ok, he may have been joking with that one but maybe not.  But basically not eating anything wrapped, packaged, pre-made or bought.  Only proteins from the butcher and only fruit and veg.  I’m not sure whether you would be able to bake things or make things from scratch with flour or sugar– I need to investigate the rules for that one.  But I thought it was pretty interesting.  I might need some lead time on that one to get the veggie patch going but I could be up for it.  The best thing is,  I’m pretty sure you could still drink wine– but only if it’s cleanskin…  Hmmmm, maybe not but I’m happy to bend the rules!

Wish me luck for the next  27 gluten free days!

Happy Spring!

So today is the first day of Spring here in Sydney and not only was the weather amazing today but I was reminded in my yoga class this morning that Spring is a time of new beginnings and a time to remember the past but move forward into the future.  Quite a fitting statement for my first Australian Fathers Day since my Dad died.   Spring is a time of rejuvenation and rebirth and Father’s Day- whether your father is here or not is a time of recognition and reflection on memories and love that you share.

It’s been quite a good day- surprisingly no tears.  I’ve been quite reflective but also recharging my batteries and getting ready for the year ahead.   A few weeks ago I started mulling over the idea of doing 30 day challenges between now and the wedding next year.  It’s a pretty stupid idea really considering I have the willpower of a… (I’m not really sure what analogy to use)..let’s just say I can relate to Oscar Wilde’s quote, “I can resist anything except temptation”.   Since we’ve moved to our new apartment, temptation has pretty much come in the form of cakes from Kurtosh, ice cream from Cold Rock and Banofee Pie Tarts from The Sweet Spot Patisserie– basically, The Spot  I love you but your delicious food is ruining my hopes of being a size 2 ever again!  No matter how much yoga I do in a week, it’s not really counteracting the cookies and cream cheesecake that you can order by weight….seriously, it’s a thing and it’s yum!

So, I’ve decided today is also the start of my beginning a series of 30 day challenges! For the next 11 months (give or take), I’m going to undertake a different challenge for 30 days.  I will allow myself to have a cheat day (or two) here and there but I’m going to try to be on the straight and narrow and stick to my 30 days of depriving myself of something.  (I wish I could say I came up with this totally on my own, but  I didn’t.  30 day challenges are a thing- read here– and a website!)

I’m starting today with 30 days of Gluten Free eating.  I’ve done it before so I know I can do it again, but still, it’s hard to think about 30 days of no pasta, no bread, no cookies, no cake, etc.  It sounds easy, but resistance is futile in the face of Kurtosh– but I’m going to be strong and make it 30 days.  

Some of the other challenges will be 30 days dairy free, 30 days no alcohol (the toughest one ever), 30 days vegan before 6 (apparently its Mark Bittman’s new thing- see article here), 30 days no dessert (not even ice cream), and more.  I’m open to any suggestions as well!

So here we go, the first day of spring, the first day of a new me!   Let’s do this!  And on the bright side only 29 days to go before I can tuck into a big bowl of pasta and garlic bread and cake!

Detox Week 1: Will someone please get me some chocolate ice cream?????

So I’m done with my first week of detoxing, and to be honest I haven’t done that badly.  Only three glasses of wine (I’m allowed four) and pretty much no wheat or cow’s milk consumed by yours truly which is pretty good.

I’ve been exercising and feeling really good, I’ve taken up yoga– well the Runner and I both have really as part of a 4 week Yoga Challenge with his Triathlon club.  We’ve been to two sessions this weekend and we’re both loving it– especially nap time at the end.

The food side has been pretty easy, it’s one of those things where the thought of going wheat and dairy free is really worse than the reality of it.  It takes a bit of willpower and a bit of planning, but really it’s not so bad. I’ve eaten out– and that hasn’t been too bad, Japanese, Mexican and Vietnamese.  Ten, the Japanese place we go to in Randwick, actually has gluten free options including soy and teriyaki sauce which was a bonus! I will admit to having Mad Mex’s Naked Burrito twice this week!  It’s pretty good, and totally on my detox plan especially if you skip the cheese and the rice!    Mexican’s my favourite cuisine anyway, so even if it wasn’t on my plan, I’d find a way to put it there.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right??

Most definitely!  The one thing I have been struggling with is my other favourite cuisine- Ice Cream…. and shut up, Ice Cream does count as a cuisine.  It’s almost impossible to find dairy free, gluten free, no extra sugar ice cream.  Wait, I said ALMOST.  Last weekend, in Jervis Bay, I found the Holy Grail. Ice Cream that’s on my detox! It’s a brand called So Delicious from the States (http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/) and they make Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Sugar Free Ice Cream.  What the what????  I know!  It was actually pretty good, because of course I had to get a tub when I saw it in Jervis Bay.  Even at $11 a pint, I couldn’t resist.  Cookies and Cream Almond Milk Ice Cream.  Ok, so they won’t put Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s out of business any time soon, but it was pretty tasty and given my present detoxified state, it was just what the doctor ordered.   Any port in a storm right???   Except for one thing, I want more.  I’ve been craving Ice Cream all week, literally salivating at the thought of it.  Ideally, it would be a big bowl of Ben and Jerry’s mint cookie (my absolute favourite) or even a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, and I can’t have it…. and I don’t know where to find more So Delicious.  It’s nowhere in Coogee.  And the store finder on their website, only works in the States. If I were in DC, I’d go to Whole Foods in Silver Spring, or Yes Organic on Georgia Ave, but it’s a bit tougher to nail it down in Sydney.  Even Uncle Google is letting me down in terms of finding a place to buy it in Sydney.

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“Why don’t I just go back and get it where I did last weekend?”  I hear you ask….well, there’s a pretty good reason.  It’s nearly a three hour drive away.  Fail. Big Fat Fail.  

I’ve been looking for somewhere to order it from online but it’s ice cream….not exactly practical to home deliver ice cream when it’s the middle of summer in Sydney.  So I’m stuck with a conundrum, do I cheat on my detox and give into temptation or do I stay strong and stay the course????

Who was it that said, “I can resist anything, except temptation”?  Oh yes, Oscar Wilde, you were a VERY wise man!

 

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