My Kitchen during the first night of my cooking project.
I want to start this post with some background information. I don't believe in diets. I firmly believe that unless you have a true medical reason to do so, cutting certain foods (unless its sugar) from out of your diet completely usually does more harm than good. Obviously I'm not a doctor, but I have had countless friends go on crash diets where they'd cut out carbs or dairy for three months and work out like crazy. They'd wind up losing alot of weight but the second they started eating carbs again they'd not only gain the weight back at a crazy rate they'd also be left with metabolisms that were completely out of wack. So unless you plan on being on Atkins or being gluten free or Paleo for litterally the rest of your life (which lets face it, is nearly impossible) I would never advocate "dieting" this way. This doesn't mean that I don't believe in eating healthy and taking care of your self. Since college I have made huge strides in incorporating more healthy choices into my diet. I still drink alot of alcohol and eat a fair amount of crap but I have become much more aware of the range of benefits a balanced diet can provide.
I, like many young people, have been plagued by anxiety for much of my adult life. This is something I'm usually reluctant to talk about but I feel like I need to bring it up in order to fully illustrate my motivation behind "Cooking 1.01.". About six months ago I went thru a bout of anxiety that was so bad that I actually felt incapable of doing normal things like going to work or getting on an airplane. I have no idea what triggered this sort of nervous breakdown but it was pretty terrible. And as you can imagine, I looked like total and utter shit. It didnt take long before one of my bosses asked me if I was feeling okay. Fearing that he was thinking that I was an alcoholic or drug abuser I decided to be honest and tell him what was up. I explained that I was feeling pretty shitty but that I was reluctant to take any sort of medicine on a regular basis because of the all the risks, side effects, etc. Without any hesitation he simply said "whats your diet like". When he first said this I was pretty taken aback. He is a very holistic person and follows a paleo diet plan and exercises like a nut so I thought he was using my situation as an excuse to pedal his psycho life style. However, as I listened to him alot of what he was saying made alot of sense.
He started telling me about the benefits of "clean" eating. Most people my age simply view dieting or eating healthy as just counting calories. They will buy anything that's "low fat" or "fat free" or they will load up on frozen diet meals without ever bothering to look at the ingredients list. He told me that a very simple way to make myself feel better would be to try and cook things using the most simple and pure ingredients out there and to avoid the chemical shit storms that line the grocery store walls. I had already been dabbling in the idea of starting some sort of cooking project, so Thus, my cooking 1.0.1 project was born.
I decided that in 2013 I would cook one hundred and one new recipes. Out of these 101, I wanted at least 75% of them to be focused on a more clean/pure/natural way of eating. I'll admit, its been more time consuming and expensive than I thought. I spend a good amount of time searching for recipes online and then doctoring the recipes to fit my style of eating (I never, ever follow a recipe directly to the T unless I'm baking. Whats the fun it that?). I also spend alot of time writing out grocery lists and planning ways to maximize my ingredients so I don't waste food. That being said, the benefits of this project have been pretty amazing. Right now I am three months into to my project with 28 dishes cooked and I feel healthier than I have in years. I have alot more energy, my skin has cleared up, I'm sleeping better, and my anxiety levels have gone WAY down. Making this change didn't cause me to lose any weight (I've actually gained about 2-3 lbs) and I still spend about 2/3 of my time eating whatever I want with little or no concern, but simply focusing 1/3 of my diet on the "clean (er)" approach has truly benefited me in ways I would have never imagined. Here are some general guidelines I use when cooking/eating....I don't follow these rules all the time, but I try my best.
Little changes I have made
- I will not eat anything labeled "fat free" and only occasionally will i go with "reduced fat"
- I don't drink any kind of milk. I replaced it with unsweetened almond milk. But I still eat ice cream and eat cheese. Oops.
- Only fresh fruits and vegetables. No frozen.
- No frozen meals
- No Gatorade or ice tea. Only coconut water or Steaze all natural tea
- No splenda. Only Truvia
- Cauliflower "latkes"
- Kale Banana Smoothie
- Sweet and Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Pineapple Angel Food Cake
- Skinny Chicken Parmesean Sandwich
- Corn and Scallion Quiona with Lemon Honey Butter
- Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
- Cauliflower "fried" rice
- Skinny Greek Yogurt Chicken
- Chicken Parmesean Quiona Bake
- Braised Cabbage and Onions
- Crispy Black Bean and Green Chili Tacos
- Vegetable Soup
- Spinach and Parmesean Quiona
- Cheesy Artichoke Bread
- Frito Pie
- Panda Express Style Quiona
- Greek Style Quiona
- "Spanglish" Breakfast Sandwich
- Feta, Corn, and Avocado Dip
- Cauliflower Fajitas
- Fig, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Grilled Cheese
- Summer Vegetable Pasta
- Mango Chicken Salad
- Goat Cheese Almond Chicken Salad
- Cauliflower and Cherry Pepper Salad
- Zesty Lemon Pasta