What do you eat…

…when the list of things you can’t eat is longer than the list of things you can eat?

As I mentioned awhile back, I’ve been on an elimination diet. My elimination diet lasted for a good 11 weeks and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a long time. Kind of up there as when I wore braces in my teenage years. This elimination/provocation diet is based on a strict meal plan that my nutritionist devised for me, based on my blood work. It’s really difficult and it means that there’s very little chance of eating out or even eating a piece of cake. 90% of the food I eat is all made at home in my own kitchen. The rest of it is purchased either from health food stores or bakeries that specialise in this sort of food.

For my elimination diet, I can’t eat the following: dairy products, fruit (except for berries), wheat, gluten, yeast, sugar, corn, potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles, and oats. This cuts out a major chunk of my meals so the husband and I have had to be very creative with what we eat. Of course it helps that there are thousands of recipes on the Internet with ingredients that I *am* allowed to eat. Here are some photos of what I’ve been eating…

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Low carb toast spread with pesto then topped with parma, julienned carrots, alfalfa sprouts and dried cranberries.

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Omelette with capsicum and onions served with fried sausages and half an avocado.

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Thai style red curry with chicken and asparagus.

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Tandoori chicken salad with yoghurt dressing.

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Curried roasted butternut squash soup with coconut milk. Served with a slice of low carb bread.

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Fish Korma inspired by Jamie Oliver with Salmon. Served with Cauliflower rice seasoned with lime juice and coriander.

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Green Chili inspired by Jamie Oliver. This is similar to regular Chili con Carne but it has a fresher taste.

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Mushroom soup with soya cream

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Eggplant and chickpea curry with cauliflower rice

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A very green meal: Pesto coated baked chicken with steamed broccoli and asparagus

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Tandoori spiced baked chicken on a bed of greens with alfalfa, sesame seeds and spiced yoghurt dressing.

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Chickpea pancakes with picco de gallo and Greek yoghurt

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Tandoori spice marinated salmon fillet on a bed of greens with sliced raddichio, carrots and a handful of dried cranberries. Served with a yoghurt dressing.

About 3 weeks ago, I started my provocation diet. According to my nutritionist, the provocation diet is done when your system is in a more stable state. For me this was after ~11 weeks of being on the elimination diet. I’ve actually gotten very used to the elimination diet, though the provocation diet puts me on an edge. This is because the provocation diet is done for 5 days by including 1 ingredient that is possibly a trigger and then switching back to elimination for 2 days before going on another 5 days with the next ingredient.

My skin is slowly healing. But so far I have discovered some reactions to certain food. I’m not 100% sure if what I observed were indeed reactions; it depends on what my nutritionist says next, when I see her again. But it’s been an interesting experiment. “You are what you eat” has never been more true to me lately, than ever. I haven’t really sat in a proper restaurant and eaten regular food lately. There’s the odd cafe here and there where I only order 0.5% of the menu 🙂 My taste buds are so out of whack it’s like nothing really tastes good anymore. Everything is bland and uninteresting. I no longer look forward to food any more, which is very strange for a foodie (or ex-foodie) like myself. It’s a bit embarrassing when people ask me “Hey have you tried that new restaurant” because I no longer have that luxury.

It’s also eye opening how much of sugar, wheat, gluten, rice syrup, lactose, etc. is in our food. Even regular ham slices have sugar in them. Bottled crushed tomatoes that you use to make pasta sauce has sugar in it.

I’ve lost about 8.0 kg so far which doesn’t seem like much but is actually a bit depressing for me. I feel like my features look a little strange. I know, how can anybody be sad about weight loss, you ask? It’s my clothing 😦 I love my clothes. I won’t lie, I have a lot of clothes because I love dressing up everyday. When we travel, I always try to buy something unique. I’m also not a huge fan of the clothing that they sell here in Oslo because I feel they’re not unique enough. You either shop in Zara, Mango, H&M or you buy really expensive designer items. My taste is somewhere in the middle and unfortunately the shops in Oslo don’t really cater for that. I usually shop in Gap, J Crew, Madewell, and Levi’s when we travel. I love simplistic, basic clothing with the perfect cutting. Nothing excites me more than a pair of perfectly fitting jeans. I actually live in jeans 🙂

My nutritionist explained that the mind has to get used to how the body looks – since it now looks different. I think I’m taking a long time here for my mind to adjust.

I don’t have a supermodel figure – never did – but I guess I’m on the path to becoming a better version of myself. A lot of very positive minded people say that you should think of yourself as “work in progress”. I guess I should probably start thinking of myself that way 🙂

When I started the elimination diet in October, I couldn’t workout at all. I tried to run for 40 minutes but had to stop 15 minutes into the workout as I thought I was going to die. I was gasping for breath and so, so tired. It turns out that the body takes some time to learn how to get energy from fat instead of carbs.  However, recently, I started working out again and it’s been going much better. I now have more energy than I used to. I also don’t really get much aches and pains any more. According to my doctor, previously I had a high level of inflammation in my body but now we have managed to reduce it. The other thing she mentioned was that the skin heals last. For now, I’m just waiting for that to happen *Fingers crossed* …

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Aubergine and Chickpea Curry

The bf cooks from time to time, because we’re both foodies and cooking is something we have in common. Recently, he made this Aubergine and Chickpea Curry and I have to say it was delicious. He has since made it again, twice, actually and I have to say – it just keeps getting better and better.

Now I know many people are not fans of the Aubergine, but when cooked well, it can be delicious. Just don’t think about its texture – there, I’ve said it.

Aubergine and Chickpea curry

Aubergine and Chickpea curry

He got the recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine, but I’ve found it on their official website, here.

This recipe uses coconut milk and I have noticed that it’s tricky to boil coconut milk because if the heat is too high, the coconut milk can separate, so I’d suggest reducing the heat a little bit and then only adding the coconut milk.

Replicating Mrs Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some of you lucky people probably have Mrs Fields shops in your country where you can eat a chocolate brownie or a chocolate chip cookie whenever you feel like it.

Some unlucky people like me, will have to either:

  • Yearn for them but not find them
  • Make them ourselves

In case it wasn’t obvious enough, I’m jealous of those of you who do have Mrs Fields nearby.

I chose option #2 recently because I had seen a Mrs Fields when I was in Seattle for work but I didn’t get around to getting a cookie. I did mentally kick myself for that, really. Sometimes you see something and you think “Ahh, later..there’s so much time left.” Next thing you know, you’re on a flight home and you feel like screaming “Stop! I did not get to eat my favourite chocolate brownie!”

Alas, it’s too late. Now, here’s the best part. YumSugar, a site I read from time to time, recently interviewed a Mrs Fields employee who shared the recipe for their chocolate chip cookie.

Here’s a link to the recipe.

I did make some minor changes: I reduced the sugar from 1.5 cups to 1 cup (only white sugar as I was out of brown sugar) and I accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda. So my cookies did not expand as much, but they tasted amazing – if I may say so myself. *Beams proudly* If you watch the video, they do say that you should refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before shaping the cookies and baking them. But, in the recipe it does not say so. I would suggest refrigerating the dough though because it’s a lot easier to shape them, then.

I placed my dough on a piece of foil and then used a spatula to shape it into a log. Then I wrapped the foil around the log and placed it in the fridge. Later, it was a lot easier to take small amounts with a butter knife, and roll it in my palms and place it on a baking sheet. I did press it down a bit to shape a cookie.

Here’s what my batch of cookies looked like:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Having devoured quite a few Mrs Fields chocolate chip cookies during my teenage years, I have to say these do taste quite similar. I do think they would have tasted even better if I had a KitchenAid *hint* *hint* 🙂

Gnocchi with Garlic Cream Sauce

The bf and I normally don’t cook much with cream sauce as I’m somewhat lactose intolerant. Somewhat meaning that it doesn’t always annoy me; there’s a mysterious quota that I don’t know about, but my tummy does.

However, the bf and I love garlic so we just had to cook this. The best part about this recipe is that it takes 20 minutes to make this delicious dish, provided that you have all the ingredients and they’ve been chopped/prepared.

This is what our final dish looked like:

Gnocchi with Garlic Cream Sauce

This is the original recipe. We skipped the garlic powder, replaced cooking sherry with red wine vinegar and added some basil plus Italian spices.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s what you need:

  1. 1 medium onion sliced into thin strips
  2. 3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  3. 14 champignon mushrooms chopped into thin slices – the size of mushrooms is tricky to gauge so just enough mushrooms
  4. 2 tablespoons salted butter – I used unsalted French butter as I added salt later (I also added some olive oil to prevent the butter from burning)
  5. 1 quart heavy cream – I didn’t feel like measuring how much a quart was (lazy) so I guestimated
  6. Salt and pepper as needed
  7. Some chopped basil and Italian spices (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Cook your gnocchi as per instructions on the packet.
  • In a frying pan, fry mushrooms, onions, butter and minced garlic. Add in red wine vinegar.
  • Cook until the ingredients are soft and the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Add in basil and Italian spices.
  • Add in enough cream according to your taste and let it simmer. (Cream must not boil as it may separate.)
  • Serve gnocchi with the sauce.

 

Dishes I Have Cooked Lately

Fried Behoon with Chicken and Tofu

This is a quick recipe of regular beehoon fried with chicken and tofu. It takes barely 30 minutes to make and is delicious even for lunch the next day. The bf usually gets a doggy bag of the remaining food as his canteen at work does not serve food as good as my canteen at work.

Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup

I have written about this soup before. It’s a delicious soup for days when you feel like eating a delicious soup that is not too creamy and not too light. The mix of parmesan and sweet potato as well as fennel gives this soup a round taste. I served it with sesame crackers.

Salmon with Asparagus and Bulgur

This recipe is actually from one of the Real Simple magazine issues. It takes about 30 minutes to make. Here’s what I remember: In a baking dish, simply place bulgur at the bottom, with asparagus in the middle and finally salmon fillets on top. Pour enough stock (I used chicken stock) to cover the bulgur and squeeze some lime juice on the salmon along with some ground black pepper. Cover the whole backing dish with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. This is the only tricky part as you have to keep removing the foil wrapping to check if the salmon is done or not.

Thai Style Prawn Curry

Regular Thai curry made with Panang curry paste, prawns and some vegetables. Served with Jasmin rice.

Oatmeal Porridge with Fresh Strawberries and Maple Syrup

This was for breakfast last Sunday. I made oatmeal porridge with a dash of maple syrup and threw in a handful of sliced fresh strawberries.

Ah sweet potato fries. *DROOL* I’m also a big fan of Heidi Swanson. If she tells me brussels sprouts are good, I will eat them. Of course it helps that she has some wonderful recipes on her blog. The brussels sprouts in this photo are cooked based on her Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts recipe. The salmon is seasoned with lemon juice and pepper and baked alongside the sweet potato fries, that are seasoned with paprika, olive oil and some Italian spices.

Baked Salmon with Honey, Olive Oil and Lemon served on a bed of Salad

I tossed fresh salmon fillets with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and honey. I then baked the fillets and served them on top a salad made with tomatoes, lettuce, some spinach and pine nuts. Served with fat free Mango and Chilli vinaigrette.

Quick Version of Jamie Oliver's Prawn and Pea Risotto

In Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef book, he has this Pea and Prawn Risotto recipe which basically builds on top of his Risotto Bianco recipe. The bf is utterly in love with Jamie’s Risotto Bianco. Now the Pea and Prawn Risotto is a little bit more difficult to make than the Risotto Bianco and I was kind of hungry so I skimmed through the recipe, then played it by ear as I didn’t have any celery stalks at home. I made the Risotto Bianco without celery and then tossed in the peas, prawns, mint and basil towards the end. I did skip the parmesan that the Risotto Bianco uses as Jamie mentioned parmesan does not go well with seafood. ThinkingAboutFood.com has the full Pea and Prawn Risotto recipe here.

Chicken with Jamie Oliver's Rosemary, Chili and Garlic Herb Crust served on a bed of Salad

Jamie Oliver is really famous in Germany. He is so famous that even the bf’s mother talks about him. In German supermarkets (not in Norway, unfortunately), you can get these plastic jars of crust that taste delicious when pressed on to chicken and then baked for 15 to 20 minutes. I served the crusted chicken on a bed of salad made with chopped cubes of mango, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and capsicum. Served with French Vinaigrette.

Attempting to make the Momofuku Pork Buns

When we were in New York, the bf and I got a glimpse of heaven – food heaven, that is – when we visited the Momofuku Noodle bar and had an order of their famous pork buns.

What exactly is a Momofuku pork bun anyway? Well, it’s somewhat similar to a char siew bao except for three things:

  • The bao is not closed, it’s open like a burger.
  • The pork belly is not minced and cooked with char siu sauce but just roasted.
  • There’s added flavour with sugar pickled cucumber – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

I’ll be honest. This recipe does take awhile, especially if you live in this tiny corner of the world where the white buns are not available pre-made. So, the bf was tasked with the dough kneading work since he’s got more dough kneading training than I have. (The bf’s Dad bakes bread every week, they don’t buy bread at all…unless a certain guest feels like having croissants for breakfast *cough* *clears throat*)

You might need some motivation before you embark on this culinary adventure so here’s a photograph of what I’m talking about:

My attempt at making Momofuku Pork Buns

So this is the only photograph I have as I misplaced my SD Card along with the Card reader and hunted high low, but alas…it was permanently gone. I have a feeling I threw it away by accident. I know! How could you do that Fieran? *facepalm*

There are three steps to making these extremely delicious buns.

  1. Marinate and roast your pork belly.
  2. Make the buns.
  3. Pickle the cucumber.

None of these recipes are mine. I used this recipe to make the bun and roast the pork; this recipe to pickle the cucumber.

Trust me, the effort is worth it. We spent about 4 hours trying to make this dish (the pork was marinated overnight) and it was definitely a success. We ate it as an evening pre-gym snack on Sunday, then dinner that Sunday and also dinner the next day, Monday. It was a dish that kept on feeding [..like a gift that keeps on giving] 🙂

Reference: Exerpt from the Momofuku Cookbook

The Weekend Diaries — 1

I’ve been meaning to write posts summing up what I did each weekend as that’s when I really live my life. LOL, I can’t help it 🙂 Most of my weekdays are spent at work or at the gym. Some days the bf and I barely have time to sit down and chat as we’re always rushing around getting things done.

So, here’s the first volume of my weekend diary!

Last weekend we were invited to a friend’s 30th birthday on Saturday. It was not an adult party but a small gathering of some friends together with couples who have children. It did feel a little bit like a daycare, but in a good way. Some kids are so well behaved, you don’t even realize they are there. I was a bit of a brat as a child, so I’m always in awe when I come across well behaved kids 🙂

I baked an orange butter cake for the event. It’s always nice to arrive at a friend’s place with something to give. I really feel very uncomfortable if I arrive with nothing to contribute. It’s not really a rule per se, just that it’s how Malaysian people visit each other. We always bring what is known as “buah tangan” (which literally translates to ‘hand fruits’…but no, that’s not what I mean). I used this recipe but doubled it up and then added the juice and zest of one whole orange along with 3 extra tablespoons of flour. The cake was awesome. So awesome I have no photographs of it. Heh 😉

On Sunday we went to the gym. I’ve been trying to start running again – treadmill only – and I am happy to say it’s been going well. I love that exhilaration I get when I’m running in a particular rhythm and my mind is clear and I have a slight smile on my face thanks to the endorphins. *Happy sigh* At that moment, there is nothing else I could ask for.

I always love making noodle stir fries but I usually mess up a bit when it comes to cooking the noodles “al-dente”. This time I was trying to make Chicken Chow Mein for dinner on Sunday and went all tyrant at the kitchen. I insisted that we cut every ingredient properly before hand and like a quartet (if we include the frying pan and little bowls as two other members who worked with us) we managed to make a yummy Chicken Chow Mein. The recipe is from BBC (they make wonderful TV Series like Sherlock, but they also have some really good recipes on their site) and the noodles are organic but very flavourful.

Chicken Chow Mein with Organic Egg Noodles