After eight short weeks without sugar (ish), I’ve decided it’s time to bring this little experiment to a close (ish).
To read more about the sugar reset, read my introductory post.
This is all very anticlimactic, and quite a bit wishy-washy, and not particularly news-worthy, if you ask me. You see, I’m “ending” the sugar reset, but it’s not like I’m going out for breakfast this morning to get an ice cream sundae, or anything. I really don’t have any immediate plans to eat sugar in any obvious way at all. Also, I’ve totally eaten small amounts of sugar here and there over the past two weeks. Sometimes accidentally, and sometimes because my options were either “eat this thing with 0g sugar but sugar in the ingredients list” or “not eat the dinner that L prepared for me and didn’t realize happened to have sugar until I double checked the label,” to list one example. So the experiment has kind of been trickling off as I go, and I think this is a good thing. I don’t actually think of it as an end to the experiment at all, but rather a new phase. Phase One< ?a> was crazy strict, no sugar in anything, no fruit, for realz, you know? And then phase two was, ok, let’s bring fruit back, and not hyperventilate if I happen to eat something with a trace amount of sugar.
So this phase, phase three, is like…ok, I don’t have a particularly strong desire to eat very sweet things, but I’m pretty sure I’ll want cake for my birthday next month, and making my very favorite huge roasted veggie salad that calls for just a touch of honey in the dressing needs to happen…like a-sap. Mostly, though, I’m just so excited to not have to explain to everyone who offers me food that I’m not eating sugar. I try my best to be all nonchalant about it, but is there any way to not come off like a total a-hole when saying something like that? It leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time.
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It’s late July and there is no escaping the suffocating heat any longer. My phone buzzes every two minutes with a new heat advisory. My top floor apartment traps the heavy air and, without the luxury of a ceiling fan, we can only hold off on the a/c unit for so long. In such a small space, there is no closing off one room from another, and the heat from the stove or oven seeps out and hangs heavy around us for the rest of the day. I am desperate for cold, raw meals – salads and almond butter sandwiches and a giant disk of frozen pureed watermelon that was perfection this morning for the ten minutes it took to eat.
My favorite summer breakfast is a jar of overnight oats, prepped the day or days before and ready for me in the morning, cool and creamy. If we’re being honest, I turn to them more often than not in colder weather, too. I have quite a few recipes on the blog already, including a favorite find from my soon-to-be-ending sugar reset (more on than later!) posted not long ago. They all involve milk, yogurt, or some such non-dairy alternative to allow the oats to soak and swell just a little overnight. Muesli, being any mixture of oats, nuts, and fruit, is unique in that it doesn’t use any additional liquid. The chopped or grated fruit helps soften the oats just enough, leaving them with a satisfying chew come breakfast time.
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these chocolate chunk granola bars
this garlic olive oil bread dip <-- L is all about that bread + olive oil combo.
this grape & white peach bulgur salad.
these late night snacksicles, like, omg. !! Good thing I’m still not eating sugar. Better thing I don’t own popsicle molds.
these very blueberry scones.
this lime-cilantro cauliflower salad, only with steamed cauliflower florets rather than boiled. So good!
these summer stuffed peppers, unfortunately roasted instead of grilled because…apartment life.
stop buying in bulk [slate]
everything is yours, everything is not yours [medium]
the way women talk, devil’s advocate style [ny mag]
I remember the first time I had a veggie burger that hadn’t first been frozen and lazily, unenthusiastically, robotic-ally heated, either by my own hands or those belonging to some underpaid, overworked line cook at a lackluster chain. It was during college at a restaurant in town, and they described their veggie burger as being house-made. I ordered it, and what they set before me was a total. game changer. It was soft and messy, spilling out every which way with every bite. I dared not put it down, partly because I feared it would fall entirely to pieces without my hands as anchors, and partly because it tasted too good. It’s funny, the flavors I don’t remember distinctly — only that I was immediately enamored, and ordered it the very next time I went to that restaurant [something I rarely do, always looking for some new plate to explore].
Too often, we think of veggie burgers as these flat, sponge-like UFO’s [I would use the term “puck-like” but I fear even a hockey puck’s thickness is too generous a comparison] with little going for them aside from a few grams of protein and a shape reminiscent of a fast food quarter pounder. They are the narrow view of vegetarianism that most people encounter, justification for the pitying of meat-eschewers. Surely you must be deprived, subsisting solely on these sad replacements for meat. If that’s all vegetarianism was, I don’t think I would blame them.
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After a surprisingly quick five weeks, I have started the second “phase” of this sugar reset, which means I have reintroduced certain sweet foods – namely fruit and allllll the veggies. (Hello, sweet potatoes!) There have also, in the past few days, been some rogue refined grains, like white lasagna noodles in a dish prepared by L’s family; questionable ingredients in the veggie burger wrap at my niece’s catered naming ceremony over which I refused to agonize; and the package of yellow rice I looked at 3 bites too late to prevent a trace amount of sugar (zero grams in one serving but still listed in the ingredients) from entering my system oops. In other words, I am loosening the reigns enough to make living beyond the confines of my 800 square foot apartment a surmountable feat.
I wrote a bit more of an explanation for my decision to have this additional four week transition in my week two recap, and if you are wondering why I even attempted this reset at all you will want to read my original post. Today, though is a big day – did the reset “work?” Has my life changed?
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this chocolate chip cookies and milk cake [stumbled upon approximately 5 seconds after thinking to myself, you know, I’m really not feeling intensely drawn to dessert foods during this sugar reset! Ha. Hahahaha. And also :( ]
this summer garden white bean dip.
this grilled apricot, corn & arugula salad.
this jerk-style grilled tempeh & veggies with mango ginger sauce.
this gorgeous super-food salad.
these white & dark chocolate peanut butter cookie dough bonbons, I mean…
ashley from edible perspective’s view on physical activity & balance [a couple cooks]
look, I’m no Cheerios cheerleader, but this is spot on.
Sometimes, I thaw an entire bag of frozen vegetables and call it a meal.
I mean, ok, there’s a little more to it than that. But…not really all that much. This is easy, almost too easy. It also doesn’t require heating up your oven, forgetting to turn your oven off, and wondering 15 minutes later why your entire apartment is even more of a sauna than usual. Because that’s happened. More than once. This week. Hashtag master chef.
Fair warning: this is probably going to be the longest post ever devoted to frozen veg.
Here’s what we do: we thaw a bag of frozen vegetables — I vote for broccoli & cauliflower. I know, I know, I just told you about broccoli & cauliflower. But this is way different. Ish. Anyway! Frozen veg, I chose the cruciferous florets but go with what you like. Bonus points if you remember ahead of time and just set it in your fridge overnight, but microwaves work in a pinch. Add your favorite vinegar (balsamic is rockin’ but during the sugar reset I’ve been using red wine vinegar, go figure it has less sugar?), half of a lemon’s worth of zest, and a near ton of chopped walnuts (I kid, 1/4 cup is plenty). If you’re feeling crazy, add a dollop of your favorite hummus. Homemade is heavenly, but truth time: I have a container of Sabra Lemon Twist in my fridge and it’s working for me right now. Eat it with some bread, or throw in some quinoa or chickpeas, or have some whole grain crackers on the side, or boiled potatoes like an infinitely-better-than-gloppy-mayo-potato-salad, or beautifully plump fruit if you’re not still in the midst of this crazy sugar reset like I am. What I mean to say is, add some carbs, or you’ll be starving approximately three nanoseconds after finishing the bowl, even with the mega-load of fiber from the veggies.
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This is it — this is what it all amounts to. This recipe is the reason for my revelation last month about chicken wings (and our overall connection with our food); it is the natural partner to Monday’s roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and the reason I hope hope hope you saved some leftover mango yogurt dipping sauce. It is Summer cookout food, raised to the next level. And though it may be bordering on blasphemy for a true chicken wing purist, I hope that you can find room in your heart for this particular spin on the classic.
In thinking back, I mark my adolescence not solely by the memories I created, but by the sign posts of my food journey, as well. I stood on a now-foreign path of savory preferences then, my affinity for sweets and rich desserts only just beginning to take form beneath a heavy blanket of salt and umami, though it would be several years before I had the vocabulary to classify it as such. Maybe it was coincidence or maybe not, but it seemed to be these foods that brought me closer to my dad. For whatever reason and certainly no fault of his, I was a mama’s girl for most of my life (and still, to some extent, probably am). No one in the world compared to my mom, which by default left my relationships with literally every other person on the planet just a little bit removed, a bizarre dynamic when I reflect back on it all. But then, these quintessentially unhealthy foods came into my life, and as superficial as it feels to put into words, I think they, and really food in general, gave my dad and me something to share.
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“I hate vegetables.” Slays me. me. And being a dietitian, I hear it all the time. I don’t keep my love of vegetables much of a secret; they are, without a doubt, my favorite food group. I may eat my weight in peanut butter on a regular basis. I may swoon over chocolate. But in the end, it’s always the vegetables: their vibrancy, their variety, their complexity; how light and alive I feel when they are a large part of my diet; the way they transform into new and exciting flavors and textures depending on how and how long you cook them. I suppose I should understand these people (perhaps you are one of them?) who is convinced they “hate vegetables,” as there was a solid 10+ years of my life where I probably would have said the same…but I don’t. I don’t understand it at all. The phrase creeps and crawls up under my skin and festers there, and for two reasons.
Reason number one: it’s absolutely ridiculous! There’s no one on this planet who hates all vegetables, in all quantities, in all forms. (I’d wager, anyway; I suppose there are a great number of people on this planet!) Nobody hates an entire food group. Choosing not to eat a food group for ethical, health, or environmental reasons is not the same as hating it. Let’s play a game. Let’s replace “vegetables” with a different food group — how about grains? Who do you know who hates all grains? That would mean hating wheat, barley, oats, rye, amaranth, teff, farro, millet, rice, freekeh, and I could go on; it would mean hating whole grains and refined ones; all forms of bread, pasta, couscous, oatmeal, grits, and every single box of cereal on the market. Every single one! Oh and do you know what else is a grain? Corn! So you’d also have to hate cornmeal, corn on the cob, popcorn, and polenta, too. There may be people who choose not to eat these foods for one reason or another, but I have yet to come across someone who actively dislikes the taste of every single grain, prepared and processed in every single, conceivable way. And yet people make this claim about vegetables all the time.
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Truth time: I’ve eaten these oats I think 14 out of the past 17 days of the challenge, and I’m not even close to being over them yet.
The recipe had to evolve, though. My breakfasts, especially in the beginning, were pure sustenance. I ate them, they kept me full until lunch time, and they didn’t make me want to gagcacao nibs and decided they belonged among that long list of overnight oat add-ins that I found my sugar reset breakfast nirvana.
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