My Week on the No-Vegetable Diet

Sometimes I daydream about going on the Whole 30 diet. What would my life be like if I didn’t eat grains and sugars and dairy things and whatever else you’re not supposed to have? I imagine myself, trim and lithe, comfortable in the most restrictive pair of pants. I’d have so much more energy, I’d be able to jog back to my car to get a shovel during Shovel Fit sessions at Joanna’s without feeling like my heart was going to explode. I wouldn’t even miss the sugar because sweet things would suddenly taste too sweet, oppressively sweet, and I’d rather just crunch on an apple with my strong healthy horse teeth. It’s the same nagging wondering that made me want to try meditation (which I’ve done 3 out of 20 days this month, ack.)- I feel okay now, but how much better could I feel if I did things that were good for me? I don’t really want to do Whole 30. I don’t like the idea of eliminating whole huge food groups from my diet. I want to be able to eat fresh bread and good butter without feeling like it’s going to kill me, and I don’t want to have to buy a $14 bottle of avocado oil.  But, I really do need to eat better. This week’s food photos, start to finish, tell the story of someone who is not eating enough/any vegetables. This week will be different, yes it will yes it will.

What I did do well this week was Shovel Fit. I worked at Blue Earth Farm on Wednesday, and used a real shovel this time (and also a broadfork! (you wanted to watch a video about using a broadfork, right?)) to turn soil in the new garden beds, I shoveled compost, I dug holes and planted artichokes. And then I spent all of my free time the rest of the week working to fix up my own vegetable garden, which had become a sprawling hellscape of neglect. I built raised beds out of cedar. I moved mountains of dirt from my failed hugelkultur to a corner of the yard where I’m going to make a new planting bed. I dug out all the weeds and installed metal landscape edging around the garden to keep the bermuda grass from creeping back in. I re-chicken wired the fence to keep out the dastardly chickens. I put down newspaper around the three raised beds to block out the weeds and spread out 20 bags of pea gravel and then went back to the store and bought (and then spread out) 15 more because my gravel-estimation skills are just that bad. I filled my raised beds with compost and planted seeds from my free box of zombie apocalypse seeds. Also, I googled the name of the company printed on the seed packets and the only things that came up were complaints with the Better Business Bureau and bad reviews about none of their seeds germinating. But they were freeee!

Anyway, that night, last night, a big storm rolled in and I got a tornado warning alert on my phone with a message to “take shelter now!” and it seemed likely that we were all gonna die and my last words were going to be about my pants being restrictive.

Here’s what we ate this week.

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Pigs in Blankets, the Cheater’s Way. Canned crescent rolls lovingly wrapped around store-bought sausages. I’m givin’ the people what they want on Valentine’s day- processed foods made quickly and with minimal clean-up. I made a cheesy-ass tablescape the night before too, with our fancy plates and red candles and all the heart-suited cards from a deck of cards and red and pink foil-wrapped chocolates for the boys. Henry woke up and drew a Valentine’s picture for Andy, and then Andy had to leave for work and Henry said, full of melancholy, “I wish Papa were here so I could make him more Valentine’s pictures.” Most people would probably hear that and think their kid was being so sweet. Because I am so petty, I said, “Did you know Valentine’s Day isn’t just a holiday for Papa? It’s to show love for all the people in your life. You know who cares about Valentine’s Day? Me! I do! That’s why I bought you chocolates and why I’m making you risotto tonight!” Henry just blinked at me and then proceeded to not draw me a picture. I think it was an important lesson for both of us.

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Butternut Risotto for Henry. No one else wanted to eat this because everyone else is sick of risotto. No matter though, Henry ate the whole pot of the stuff over the course of the next three days.

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Steak on a Plate for Andy and George. No sides. Andy did the most romantic thing someone could do for me and rescued me from parkour. He came into the active play room like a knight in shining armor and I got to leave! It was glorious. I just went home and cooked risotto and steak, but how I cherished not having to spend another hour at MyGym!

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Coeur a la Creme. This looks like garbage, and the kids hated it. How? Why? It’s whipped cream and cream cheese and white chocolate on raspberry sauce! Andy didn’t eat that much either but claimed to like it. I ate a fair amount of it but I’m not sure how I really felt about it. The white chocolate had a sort of funkiness to it. Is this a thing? Did I stumble into some bad chocolate? Or is this a characteristic of good white chocolate? I bought valrhona in bulk from Central Market, the best stuff I could find. I tried to google ‘white chocolate funk’ but got nowhere because it’s the name of a band. Anyway, now I have a coeur a la creme mold that I’ll never use again.

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Potato and Chorizo Tacos. We’re still eating chorizo over here. I’m ready to be done with it but it has become a thing that both George and Henry will eat with gusto, though not with potatoes of course, because my children don’t like potatoes. Imagine me lowering my brow and pushing air loudly out of my nostrils like a cartoon bull. Anyway, the kids had potato-less tacos and Andy I ate it the real way for some variety.

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Leftover Steak and Green Onion Quesadillas. See, variety! Look at all the things I can put in tortillas and call dinner! I have the time and space for one interest during the course of a regular day with my kids. Usually, it’s cooking. When my focus momentarily shifts to something else, like it did with fixing up the vegetable garden this week, our dinners become whatever shit I can find stuffed into tortillas. We ate some variation of this again on Saturday, but I didn’t take a picture because it looked pretty much like this.

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Pork Shoulder Ragu with Homemade Pappardelle. The one real meal I cooked this week and I forgot to take a picture before I started eating! Bah! I don’t have a pasta maker so I rolled this pasta out by hand with a rolling pin in six little batches. It was marginally successful. I wouldn’t have done it at all except that we didn’t have any store bought pasta in the house and when I weighed the options of asking Andy to go to the store to get some on his way home and therefore leaving me alone with the kids for an extra 20 minutes versus just making it myself and having him be home on time there was a clear winner. The ragu was delicious. And came together with pantry ingredients plus the pork shoulder that I was going to use to make cochinita pibil with but didn’t because I chose to garden instead of sourcing banana leaves.

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Alfajores with Homemade Dulce de Leche. I got to spend a beautiful afternoon with my friend Amanda for her birthday. I asked her what her favorite dessert was and she picked alfajores- so fun! The cookies are a breeze. I went with a more labor-intensive dulce de leche recipe, where you mix milk sweetened with sugar and flavored with a vanilla bean in a pot and cook it down for a couple of hours, instead of the traditional method of boiling a can of condensed milk. My father-in-law has a story about accidentally locking his family out of the house when he was a kid while a can of condensed milk was boiling on the stove. All the water boiled out of the pot and the can exploded, spraying condensed milk all over the walls and ceiling of the kitchen. I feel like this could be me, and that at this juncture boiling cans of molten sugar on the stove is just too risky.

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Cucumber Cream Cheese Sandwiches with Mint, Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Grapes and Walnuts. Along with the alfajores and Christy’s unbelievably delicious cheesecake, we ate a bunch of little sandwiches and this glorious spinach and artichoke dip that I loved and a beautiful kale caesar salad featuring a bounty of lacinto kale grown by Amanda’s little sister Emma- I gotta ask her for that recipe- it was so garlicky and I loved the generous crouton to kale ratio- and some delightful little bites made by my sister, the master of the one-bite snack. She made these little hard boiled egg canapes with red onion and dill on a circle of crustless white bread that rocked my world. So we ate snacks and worked on our own craft projects and this is our model for how to have a successful birthday party.

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Hoecakes with Buttermilk Crema and Pulled Pork, Sausage, Hash Browns, Banana Bread. And the next morning, bright and early, I hosted a surprise double-birthday party 9:30 AM breakfast for Andy’s mom and brother. I called it a brunch and someone said, if it’s at 9:30 it’s not a brunch, and I said, what about if I’m serving pulled pork? About that pulled pork. I put it in the oven before going to Amanda’s the day before and left instructions with Andy for the next steps- remove the lid after four hours and let it cook another hour to let the pork develop a dark crust. When I came home from Amanda’s the house smelled insane. And not in a good way- crazy intense and choking-ly pulled pork-y. I opened up all the windows and looked in the pot. The pork was okay, but the sauce, which should have been sauce-like, had been carbonized. I don’t know what happened. Andy followed the instructions I gave him, and I think I followed the recipe, but it’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who always gets this stuff right, and there weren’t any, “Help! My dutch oven is full of ashes!” comments on his post, so I think this one was on me. The pork was still okay, though, tossed with new sauce, and Mary and Dan had a happy birthday breakfast!

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These kids toasted each other of their own volition! Thanks for capturing the moment, Joanna! Please notice George’s five beverages. Please do not notice Henry and George’s messy room or the bare concrete floors in my house.

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Sparkling Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake, Gluten Free. This handy little cake answered the question of what kind of celebration dessert can be served to a gluten free dairy free crowd at 9:30 in the morning. It’s austere enough to be breakfast-y, but also special-feeling and delicious. You coat the pan with a thick layer of butter and then a heavy sprinkling of coarse sugar, which helps the cake release easily and gives it a wonderful shiny top and a delightful sugary crunch. The recipe in the book is for an espresso swirl bundt cake, which would have been delicious, I’m sure, but which I could not have served to children with a clear conscience. The author gives the option for the cinnamon variation in the book, and it was perfect. Also, I suck at swirling.

So yeah. You’ve seen the damning evidence. More vegetables, any vegetables in my diet starting…now.

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4 thoughts on “My Week on the No-Vegetable Diet

  1. joecab February 21, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    I’ve done the “no grains” thing before off and on and it really has made me feel a lot better after you get over the initial two-week period of the “carb flu.” Giving up dairy was part of that but I *love* cheese, so what’s a boy to do? I gotta get back to really trying that again.

    And avocado oil is a lot cheaper than that if you get it at Trader Joe’s. (Also, their 100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil is really good AND it’s *gasp* actually all made from olives.)

    • arielleclementine February 21, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      This is great information! Here’s my fear about going off grains- I’ve heard that people feel totally sick once they reintroduce them to their diet- did this happen to you? And if so, is it worth doing anyway? I feel ya on the dairy- butter would be the hardest thing for me. Also Parmesan. Both of those.

      And that is so awesome to know about the kalamata oil from TJ! I’m gonna go get that soon! We’re out of inner peas anyway and Henry can’t live long without them!

      • joecab February 22, 2017 / 12:09 am

        That didn’t happen to me but people who are especially sensitive to it can have that. Plenty of people just do an 80-20 diet where 80% of the time you’re strict but you relax that 20%. And you shouldn’t consider it cheating because it’s still all around a lot better for you. Anyway I definitely felt better and was healthier but I’m a big fat lazy slob so I didn’t keep it up. 😛

        But to REALLY find out what you’re sensitive to, for a month you cut out all grain, dairy, sugar, legumes, and anything else potentially bad or allergic (like the nightshades and *gasp* eggs). Then you gradually reintroduce things and monitor how you feel for a few days. That’s where you’ll really find out if something can make you sick.

  2. Laura Barnett February 21, 2017 / 9:27 pm

    I have tried two restrictive diets in my life, vegetarian, vegan, now fully omnivore. I do not have celiac disease, and so gluten to me is magic. Good breads whole grains are usually part of my everyday eating pleasure. And my husband Paul bakes wonderful artisan sourdough bread. As long as one doesn’t overindulge….😉

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