Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho!

I spent a couple hours yesterday with the grill fired up, cooking up all those veggies I'd bought. I tend to use the two-level fire technique, where all the charcoal is piled up on one side of the grill, and my food is on the other side, where it can roast more slowly instead of charring over the flame. Putting the lid on with the vent holes over the food directs the flavorful smoke over the food on its way out of the grill. (Again--I acknowledge there may be hazards to eating smoked, grilled, or charred food. I hope I only do it in moderation.)

First was the yellow and green squash; then the green and purple green beans (purple green beans turn...green...when cooked); cremini mushrooms; red onions; a fennel bulb; red bell pepper; poblano pepper; asparagus spears; grape tomatoes.

Wow: grape tomatoes are magical on the grill: they wilt and soften, and their flavor concentrates stunningly, like something between a sun-dried tomato and fresh ripe one. It was all I could do to stop myself from eating the whole batch like candy. I think April has this problem with grape tomatoes from time to time....

A note about the poblano peppers: I used a technique of blackening them on the grill, putting then in a paper bag to steam, then peeling the waxy skin off and removing the crown and seeds inside (see the picture for an example of a blackened pepper ready to be peeled). What you are left with is a lovely, soft roasted dark-green pepper with mild heat and great smoky flavor, but no bitter skin. You can do this over the flame on your stove too, but the grill made super-quick work of it. Grind up one of these into your next fresh salsa--it's your new secret salsa weapon.

Now on to the soup:

To me, standard gazpacho is wonderful, featuring all the flavors of vegetables fresh from the garden. But I was dreaming of a deeply red, smoky, slightly sweet tomato-based gazpacho with assertively developed flavors from the grill--flavors that would remain prominent even in a soup served cold.

The grill flavor was done: I would use all those vegetables I'd just roasted last night. I didn't just want those rich, concentrated grilled vegetable bits to float listlessly in canned tomato juice. But I did want the bright acidity of tomato juice--and not, as per my usual gazpacho base--V8, which includes vegetal flavors I didn't envision in this recipe.

I borrowed the standard technique for making hot pureed soups, starting with 2 cups of room-temperature tomato juice in the blender. In went the smokiest--and sweetest--grilled vegetables: poblano peppers, red bell peppers, onions, fennel, and those amazing reduced grape tomatoes.

The resulting puree was a gorgeous, burnished red with tiny flecks of black from the grilled vegetables. The flavor was smoky, sweet, and rich--exactly what I wanted, but too concentrated. And it still wanted a little something more...

I took care of the concentrated flavor simply by adding two more cups of tomato juice. I decided on a tablespoon each of Worcestershire and soy sauce. The soy added complex salt, and together with the Worcestershire, provided a hit of umami that really brought out the depth of the smoke flavors. I had my base soup!

All that remained was the addition of the veggies that would provide something to chew on. I added diced yellow and green grilled squash, diced grilled fennel, and a fresh cucumber for a bright hit of green among all the burnished dark flavors. I just love sweet corn, so I tossed in a cup of frozen grilled corn from Trader Joe's, adding crunchy sweet nuggets and a bit of carbohydrate that, if you wanted fewer calories, you could leave out without sacrificing much flavor. Perfection!

And at just 100 calories a cup, I could afford to eat the whole 7-cup batch if I wanted too and still have more than half my day's calories left! (But I think I'll savor this masterpiece in smaller more frequent servings!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

So far so good...

Well, it's awfully nice to still be noticed after my long absence. MoMR commented, April noted my reappearance in her blog today. I half worried that I'd fallen off everyone's radar because of my long silence.

I'm sure my initial posts will be a bit dull, since I'm basically working to psyche myself up to vigorous CRON practice, so I'll be focusing a lot on my food, and less on my Gratuitous Musings. Beside, I can't write those on demand--they are the result of something hitting me in a certain way that I simply must write about it.

So if you are in the mood to be bored, here's how my Re-CRON-ized life is starting out today:

I had my usual favorite breakfast, which I'm not sure if I've ever listed, so here it is:

Chris's Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 cup egg whites (pasteurized, from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 cup fat-free yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla Spiru-Tein (more on this below)
  • 1 tbsp flax seed oil
  • 2 rounded tbsp Lewis Labs brewer's yeast
  • 2 tbsp psyllium husks

Nutrient Info for Smoothie

General (33%)
Energy620.7 kcal 34% 
Protein65.4 g 48% 
Carbs64.7 g 30% 
  Fiber18.4 g 48% 
Fat15.3 g 25% 
Water461.2 g 12% 
Vitamins (91%)
Vitamin A5080.7 IU 169% 
Folate496.7 µg 124% 
B1 (Thiamine)2.8 mg 235% 
B2 (Riboflavin)4.7 mg 359% 
B3 (Niacin)31.2 mg 195% 
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)12.1 mg 242% 
B6 (Pyridoxine)3.0 mg 229% 
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)7.3 µg 306% 
Vitamin C66.3 mg 74% 
Vitamin D400.0 IU 200% 
Vitamin E33.1 mg 221% 
Vitamin K25.7 µg 21% 
Minerals (74%)
Calcium629.4 mg 63% 
Copper1.1 mg 125% 
Iron6.9 mg 86% 
Magnesium171.9 mg 41% 
Manganese5.3 mg 229% 
Phosphorus463.9 mg 66% 
Potassium1564.5 mg 33% 
Selenium138.0 µg 251% 
Sodium714.6 mg 48% 
Zinc18.0 mg 163% 
Lipids (30%)
Saturated1.5 g 8% 
  Omega-37.4 g 464% 
  Omega-62.0 g 12% 
Cholesterol2.7 mg 1% 

Some notes about this meal: yes, it's pretty high in calories, and the Spiru-Tein ups the carbs more than I'd like, but it also ups the protein, vitamins, and minerals. I've also used whey protein in the past--or just left it out altogether. It also functions as a supplement for vitamins and minerals, which if I'm supplementing, I prefer to take with food and an oil (the flax oil here), for better absorption.

I should be more sophisticated in my supplementation approach, and somewhere I have notes from Michael Rae on how to do this better, but right now I just don't have the time nor energy for it, and it's more important for me to get started and ease my way back into CRON.

Also, I am never hungry in the morning. This is a meal I can get down, because it's a liquid and mildly sweet tasting. I'm no good for chewable food until late mid-morning. I think coffee is somewhat responsible for my a.m. "anorexia" since it's an appetite suppressant, but I am unwilling to give it up--and it has niacin!

For the rest of my day: I'm eating more fruit right now than usual. Why? Because about half the time, I work outside in the sun all day, and my appetite is not good in these circumstances, while dehydration is a real risk. So today's food, which I've been grazing on all day is: an apple, a grapefruit, 400 g of wonderful cantaloupe from my local farmer's market, some almonds, some white-meat chicken, and 10 g of 85% cacao chocolate.

It's 2:45 pm, I've been munching all day and still have the melon left to devour, and then a whole dinner still tonight! It's amazing how much food you can cram into a calorie-restricted diet. I can't imagine why people eat low-volume, calorie-dense foods when they are on a weight-loss diet. No wonder they are hungry all the time. I bet 90% of my food is 90% water--and I'd say that's a good approach. Granted, CRON is not necessarily intended as a weight-loss diet, but still, if you DO want/need to lose weight, is there a better way?

Tonight I'm cooking up a bunch of veggies on the grill that I will eat on all week long (yes, I'm aware there are some unfriendly compounds produced on the grill...I'm willing to risk it for the taste, at least this week when I'm craving barbecued pulled pork and worse nasties!). And I can hardly wait for tonight's dinner! I'll make wraps with the grilled veggies and my previously mentioned whole sprouted multigrain Fat-Flush tortillas, a Quorn Naked Cutlet (jauntily sliced on the bias), a couple tablespoons of guacamole, and just a smidgeon of Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue sauce. Delicious!

All of this will get me very close to my 1800 calorie goal, but I'll be short on protein. This seems ever to be the case for me--I have a hard time getting enough protein, and I don't like egg whites much (except uncooked in my smoothie). A calorie goal of 1800 might be too low for someone my size, but that was my target before and I was hardly withering away. I have proven to be resistant to weight loss in the past. I will be all too happy to increase my caloric load in a few days if I start melting away. I can hardly wait to eat dried figs with goat cheese...but I'm gonna wait until need 'em! I'll check in again later.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I'm back(ish)

I've been on a CRON hiatus for a bunch of months now, but decided to give it another shot. As I've pointed out here on my blog previously, the probability of success increases with each attempt! I recalled how helpful it was for me to blog about my experience, so my first move is this post.

To be honest, I'm very motivated at the moment to lose some weight. I'm going on a trip at the end of August, and wouldn't mind slimming down a bit between now and then. Going back to CRON seems the best and easiest way for me to do that and remain healthy. I'm getting tons of exercise now because I spend 20 hours a week doing field work on my bike for my job. All that exercise plus CRON should help me lose weight pretty easily. Hopefully I can resist the urge to lose too fast!

I've taken the old CRON-o-Meter out of mothballs, dusted it off, and started building a diet up. It's funny, I've been out of touch with this healthy way of eating for quite awhile now, but playing with CRON-o-Meter reminds me that I already have a very good repertoire of CR-friendly foods I really like that instantly come to mind. Getting back to CRON is in many ways easier than first starting it. However, missing in this next attempt is that mad energy and enthusiasm that accompanies any sort of turning over of a new leaf. I hope to talk myself into that enthusiasm between now and tomorrow morning!

I've been to the farmer's market today, and loaded up on summer squashes, green beans (including a variety that is deep purple), and melons--my favorite summer dessert. I've already got my favorite flourless low-carbish sprouted grain tortillas that I like to make veggie/quorn wraps with. Later today I'll be grocery shopping at regular markets to pick up the stuff not available at the farmer's market.

I'll weigh in and take measurements tonight to see where I'm starting from, and begin in earnest tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!