Labneh

I finally got around to making some yoghurt cheese or labneh! I don’t know why it has taken me this long to do something that simple–it’s practically effortless. After reading David Lebovitz’s post on Labneh I finally did it. Now that the weather is getting warmer I’ll be looking for lighter things to eat with fresh vegetables.

After googling “labneh recipes”, I had a plethora from which to choose. Variations include some calling for full-fat plain yoghurt, some for Greek, one for adding lemon juice, and others for herbs. All called for some salt.

Greek yoghurt cheese

Labneh

For my first trial, I used full-fat plain that was lingering in the fridge since I’ve found that I really prefer skyr (even to Greek yoghurt). I added a healthy pinch of salt, then set the yoghurt to drain for 15 hours.

Tasting the labneh I discovered that it wasn’t quite as tangy as I had hoped–I’ll try adding lemon juice next time.

I suspect that this is going to become a “fixture” in my fridge instead of the usual cream cheese. I am a fan of radishes so adding those and other vegetables to labneh sounds like a great summer treat, and I’ve many other interesting recipes for using it. Some found its way into my omelette with sautéed kale as an improvised breakfast with the Always Hungry? meal plan inside the omelette, rather than as a topping, or have berries without the skyr  or yoghurt.

It’s such fun to discover new foods!

omelette with labneh and kale

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Always Hungry? Another improvisation

Pork is one of my favorite meats, and it is not on the list of approved protein sources, although I assume it is in the category of “game and other meats” so I’m improvising a Phase 1 meal with a pork chop this evening. After reading a recipe from The Kitchn for 20160322_163300“Sweet and Spicy Braised Cabbage” my mouth was set for pork. The sweet part is going to prevent me from having that to go with my pork chop this evening (save this one for Phase 2 or 3).

I thought about taking  the lazy way out for vegetables and carbohydrate–use some of the mixed greens and borlotti beans that I had with my tuna steak, with  an addition of a little extra seasoning for the second time around, but that just did not tingle my taste buds today. So, sautéed kale this evening. I have a large bag of kale that I’m first going to sauté  simply with olive oil and then add seasonings to what I’m going to have with the pork chop–leaving the “extra” for later use to season differently  for later use. (I do quite often to avoid wasting food because I’m a picky eater who doesn’t want the same thing over and over.)

Supper this evening was part of this pork chop cooked on my cast iron griddle as described for pork neck steak–smoking hot griddle, first two minutes on each side, then turned at minute intervals until it reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees to allow for continued cooking while resting. Kale sautéed with black-eyed peas, and a side of sautéed apple (not good enough to eat out of hand, but fine when cooked). The sautéed apple replaced dessert with this meal. The contrasts of the slight bitterness of the kale, the earthiness of the black-eyed peas, and the sweetness of the apple with the pork did make my taste buds sit up and take notice.

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Always Hungry? An improvised meal

One of the problems I have with rigorous meal plans is that I refuse to shop for my food according to a menu! Even though I’m shopping in the supermarket, I want the freedom to buy what looks good–not what I need for a menu. When I find lovely ahi tuna for a measly &7.99 per pound, you be I’m having that for a meal. That was what I found on Friday, so I had an ad lib meal constructed from the simplified meal plan (page 152).

My high-quality protein was the tuna–pan seared to medium rare. The carbohydrate and vegetable were spicy mixed greens (a mix of radicchio, shredded broccoli stems, kale, and a few other robust greens) steam-sautéed with borlotti beans, seasoned with just a dab of bacon fat and red pepper flakes. Since tuna is not as oily/fatty as sardines, salmon, or mackerel, I followed the “pour on the fat” instruction by adding with a dollop of the lemon dill sauce.  YUM! Dessert? Raspberries and heavy cream (though these were not on the menu for today  either but I used the quantities suggested in the meal plan elsewhere.

(The dill sauce thins and spreads quickly when it hits something hot–next time it will go on the side!) The tuna steak that I had was close to a half pound, so there will be some for a lettuce wrap or salad tomorrow.

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Always Hungry? Mediterranean Chicken

And the weight loss is back on track, and meals still really tasty. From the Always Hungry? today I picked the Mediterranean Chicken recipe to try. The recipe struck me as  lacking oomph that I needed today, but a meal plan is a meal plan. This was, at least, a one-pot meal, and easy.

Refrigerator tidying was in progress at the same time as I started preparing the chicken. Some of the things that I found lurking in the back of the fridge ended up in the  Mediterranean chicken–though I played with it a bit, the final dish contained all the ingredients called for in the recipe–well, except one. That recipe called for putting green beans in near the end of the cooking time. I didn’t do that. Just didn’t trip my trigger, and since I made the whole four servings I’ll need to reheat and that wouldn’t work well with the green beans. (The haricots verts that I had in the fridge turned into a side that has always been a favorite: room temperature with sweet marjoram infused olive oil, and a sprinkle of Maldon salt–keeping with the spirit of the meal plan.)

The basic recipe is simple: chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces, sautéed with onion, then simmered with canned tomatoes with garlic, olives–salt and pepper, of course. The recipe called for kalamata olives–not what I had so I used a mix of green (that had been marinated in garlic and red pepper flakes), and oil-cured black olives to make up the 3/4 cup called for in the recipe. I was surprised that there were no herbs called for here–but I remedied that!

Ingredients

NOTE: The pickled garlic cloves were from tidying the fridge and I thought the bit of tartness would be nice since the tomatoes were very sweet smelling. The garlic cloves and the green olives both had hot red pepper flakes, so I didn’t need to add. If I were doing this without these, I’d likely add about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic sliced thin, a dash of red pepper flakes, and a splash of vinegar–likely white wine.

  • 1 pound of skinless, boneless  chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup of pitted oil-cured black olives and green olives, halved
  • 1-1/2 cups of chopped onions (I cheated and used frozen ones)
  • a 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand-crushed into the pan,  the thick juice added as well
  • 1/2 cup of pickled garlic cloves, sliced
  • one 14-ounce can of garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried Turkish oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (olives were salty)
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3  tablespoons olive oil
  • feta cheese for garnish

Preparation

  • In a large skillet or brasier  heat the olive oil
  • Sauté the onion until translucent, add the sliced garlic a continue to sauté until fragrant
  • Add the chicken, salt, and olives a sauté until the chicken is opaque
  • Add the tomatoes, black pepper, and garbanzo beans
  • Simmer uncovered for about 35 minutes until the sauce thickens nicely
  • Garnish with feta cheese and serve with vegetable or salad

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In my tidying of kitchen and fridge, there were a small handful of cherry and grape tomatoes on the counter, so I pitched those in as well. I think that my modifications were in keeping with the spirit of the meal plan–even though the green beans migrated to a side dish. Those were a nice contrast to the dish–and now I can put part of it into the freezer for later use. This nice spicy, garlicky combination of chicken, tomatoes, and garbanzos would have been lovely accompanied by a glass of red wine, but–that will come later; meanwhile, I’m eating healthy, tasty food and losing weight.

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Always Hungry? NOT!

The Always Hungry? plan is back effect, with a few modifications.  I’ll  admit to my “oops” which was not because I was hungry! I just wasn’t thinking–good food, good company, open mouth, insert food.

My continued  issue is that there’s too much food on the meal plans for what I usually eat and my usual level of activity–I typically don’t “do” snacks”. Perhaps now that the weather is improving, but not yet sweltering, I can get more active.

The other difficulty for me is breakfast. Not only am I not at my peak function first thing in the morning, I just don’t want food.  I love breakfast food–eggs, omelettes, and the like–but just not in the morning. Perhaps as I manage to get off by butt and increase my activity I’ll eat more from the meal plan set out for this program.

For right now, brunch is a concept that fits well with my desire for foods. But, brunch interferes with snacks, so I’m using the snacks as “lunch” and having brunch, or I’m using the Power Shake for Phase 1 as breakfast, and lunch and dinner from the meal plan.

It sounds as if I’m really mucking this around, but I’m being very conscious of the appropriate balance of macronutrients for this phase: protein 25%, carbohydrates 25%, and fat 50%.  Despite my changes and that “slip”, it’s working!

tomato, mozzarella, and garbanzo bean salad, with lemon tahini dressing

tomato, mozzarella, and garbanzo bean salad, with lemon tahini dressing

 

Always Hungry? Cabbage Casserole

white cabbage cropped IMG_6018One of the recipes from Always Hungry?  that I wanted to try was the Cabbage Casserole (pages 236-237) since I feel that cabbage is an underappreciated vegetable that should be (at least) a winter staple. I suspect that when many people hear cabbage mentioned as an edible thing, they think “coleslaw”, or the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, or, perhaps, stuffed cabbage.

The other advantages to me were that it was an “all phases” dish, and I didn’t see anything that would make it impossible to freeze for later use. So, the Cabbage Casserole happened today. When I’m trying a new recipe, I like to make it as directed, except for seasonings that I thought needed adjustment for my taste. As usual, I found one thing that I felt could be modified without changing the results, but would make the recipe easier.

The directions call for blanching the cabbage in boiling water. I assumed (yes, I do know what “assume” does to you and me) that the blanching was to soften the cabbage a bit so that the texture wouldn’t be crunchy in the finished dish–just as you soften the leaves when making stuffed cabbage with whole leaves. Instead of blanching, I put the cabbage, with a splash–maybe a tablespoon–of water into the microwave until it had softened–about 5 minutes, then proceeded with the layering of the meat mixture, the cabbage, and the apple-tomato mixture as instructed in the recipe. Then, into the oven.

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cabbage casserole and serving on blue plate

cabbage casserole

The casserole is out of the oven, and I’ve enjoyed a serving. It’s another keeper. I’m surprised and pleased. The seasoning as in the recipe is good as is, though for my taste, I may add a little more garlic next time. The amount of cinnamon is perfect.  It’s another keeper even though it’s associated with a weight-loss program. The final result has a bit more liquid than I hoped, even though I baked it uncovered a little longer than the recipe called for. The recipe did not call for draining the tomatoes, but I’ll do that next time.

The microwave was apparently a good substitute for the blanching: the cabbage is tender, and not at all crunchy. I’ll happily eat this again, looking forward to having a glass of a hearty red wine to accompany it.

cabbage casserole up close

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Always Hungry? Oops!

I hate to have to admit this, but I fell off the meal plan, not because I was hungry, but just because I wasn’t thinking.

The Always Hungry? plan cautions you to be strict about following in the first fourteen days. Well, that is serious advice that should be heeded. I tried–really I did, but being away from home at a meeting in Alexandria, VA,  lead to a couple of deviations in the balance. Frist was a snack of cheese and crackers during a break in our meeting. The second was a glass of wine with dinner; the third was eating a small quantity of pasta with the entree I ordered, and finally that sandwich I had when I stopped to eat on my drive home.

The cheese was not the problem–it was the crackers as they are carbohydrates in a form not allowed on this plan. The second big problem was the pasta. This plan is doable in a restaurant, with just a bit of though. My problem was that I wasn’t thinking. I was enjoying good conversation with colleagues and good food.

After out meeting we had a delicious meal at Vaso’s Mediterranean Bistro. The entrée that I ordered had clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and scallops in a tomato sauce. There is nothing there that would “undo” the Always Hungry? meal plan–except for the pasta that was buried under all that lovely seafood. Just because it was there, didn’t mean I had to eat it–with the cup of avgolemono and the side salad, the seafood would have been a generous serving. But, I was just enjoying the meal and the company and ate some of the pasta! That alone was probably not a huge issue, except in conjunction with the crackers that I’d eaten with the cheese (St. Andre and Cambazola) earlier, and the added “insult” of the sandwich–yes, with white bread.

The result of these infractions? Well, I had not realized how good I felt for past week until I woke today. Until this morning, I had posted 7 pounds off my weight–now back up to 5 pounds off the weight. That wasn’t the real problem, though–I’m sure most of that was fluid and will go away quickly. It was how I felt–it’s hard to describe, but that week of no starchy things, except for legumes, made a huge difference in energy and well-being. It will be interesting to see how long it will take to recover from this lapse. This interlude has certainly impressed me with the effect of what I eat with how I feel–and not just hunger (or not), or satiety.

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