Remember a couple of days ago when I suggested that dining on ethnic food might be a good way to eat in a healthy manner? After three days of not very good dinners, John and I have decided that maybe we should rethink our strategy.
Tonight we had Mexican food at a casino restaurant. I ordered shrimp fajitas. It had some sort of weird sauce on it which did not taste the way fajitas are supposed to. It came with a plate of accompaniments which were lettuce, tomatoes, rice, and refried beans. I rescued the shrimp from the fajita plate and put them on the accompaniments plate. I gave John the guacamole and told the server not to include sour cream or cheese on my entree.
The chips and salsa were good as was the guacamole. It figures that the things I want to avoid are the only items worth eating. It might be better for us to follow what we call Utah rules for the rest of our vacation. The Utah Rule states that one should only order meals with the fewest possible steps. In other words a steak is a better bet than shrimp fajitas.
Today is a day of hard choices. Restaurants along the US 50, the loneliest highway in America, are few and far between. We end up grabbing fast food which is never a good choice. Tonight for dinner we are trying to find something that will be tasty as well as not blow the healthy eating budget. We settle on Mr. Gino’s Italian restaurant in Ely, NV.
When we get there only three other tables are occupied. I am glad of that since we can sit far away from other people. I am still not totally comfortable with being indoors with strangers. The menu is full of traditional type Italian-American food. I choose the shrimp arrabbiata which is one of the few things that does not come in a butter, oil, or cream sauce. I get an enormous portion of linguine with five large shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce. Oddly it has melted cheese on top.
Trying to avoid the cheese, I dig around for the shrimp and eat a little of the pasta. I cannot avoid the breadstick though. I give the food and my effort to eat reasonably both about a C-. Eating on this trip is turning out to be more difficult than I imagined it would be.
My shrimp arrabbiata, lower right and John’s lasagna, upper left
We have planned to go out to dinner and have pho, a Vietnamese soup. It is a clear but hearty broth with vegetables, noodles, and the meat or not meat of your choice. The internet says it is open until 9 PM but when we get there they are not serving anything but take-out after 7 PM.
We switch gears and try to find something nearby that will be open because at this point it is going on 8 PM. We decide to eat at a Chinese restaurant and order our pre-diet usual, moo shu pork and Mongolian beef. I wish I could say I made a better choice or even fought for a better choice but I was tired and hungry and it was obviously not my fault!
Left, Mongolian beef and upper right, moo shu pork
If you are like me you are yearning to get out of the house and into the world of traveling again. We are wetting our toes with a road trip. Trying to eat reasonably is difficult. It takes a combination of choosing well and some amount of will power. I have a number of rules that I follow to help me along.
1. Do some sort of exercise every day. This can be as simple as taking a walk. If you are out sightseeing and walking is involved that counts too!
2. Base your meals around vegetables, seafood, and chicken.
3. Don’t eat anything fried. Crispy means fried.
4. If you enjoy alcohol do not drink at lunch. Save your drink for dinner. And no umbrella drinks!
5. If you must eat a dessert save it for a special time when it can be all alone in its glory, not after you have already eaten a big meal.
I am not saying that these strategies will have you losing weight while you are on vacation but it will keep you close to not gaining a bunch of weight that you will agonize over later. John and I once took a car trip from California to Massachusetts and back again over several weeks eating three meals a day mostly in restaurants and at the end of it, following these rules, I lost 6 lbs! I have been on a cruise for two weeks and managed to stay the same. It can be done!
So, how am I doing today? For lunch we went to a Thai restaurant and had a spicy basil dish with vegetables and tofu. There were a couple of surprises such as complimentary spring rolls (fried) and a fried wonton. I am not perfect. I took one bite of each and then offered it to John. He happily ate it. At over 6’4″ he can eat a lot more than I can. I ate all the vegetables and tofu, a little of the rice, and all the lettuce with its unfortunate dressing.
Thai spicy vegetables and tofu with rice, salad, and some fried surprises
Dining out at ethnic restaurants is often a good choice. There are more vegetarian dishes and often the food is not fried or served in gigantic portions. For dinner we tried a Mexican restaurant. We had perused the menu on line, something that I always try to do so I am not swayed by the handsome fried entree with its attractive picture on the first page of the menu. John chose camarones a la diabla, a spicy shrimp dish that came with rice, beans, and tortillas.
Camarones a la diabla
I ordered pescado acapulqueno, a seared white fish topped with shrimp. It was supposed to come with a yogurt sauce but they were all out. There were also black beans (some of which I ate), rice (which I did not eat), a bunch of vegetables (yum), and freshly made guacamole that I gave to John.
Needless to say this is a lot more than I am used to eating and I am feeling really full. On the other hand, I feel good about the choices I made and I think that the more good choices I make, the easier the next day’s good choices will be.
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and saute for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the turmeric, cumin, cayenne, lentils and broth, stir and turn the heat up to high. When the liquid boils, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and salt. Serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt (or not) and warm pita or nan bread.
I like to serve this over some sort of greens and with a little sriracha for extra zing.
Sous vide chicken breast with gravy, rutabagas, broccoli
Tonight John cooked our chicken breast using our immersion circulator set to 159F. The constant temperature of the circulating water means that you cannot overcook the chicken. He sealed the chicken in a plastic bag with a sprig of thyme. Now all we needed to do was wait for me to cook the vegetables.
I cooked the rutabagas in the Instant Pot for 15 minutes. An observation about rutabagas, we get unwaxed ones out here in California but they are not nearly as sweet and delicious as the big waxed ones. Occasionally we find waxed ones at Walmart and the difference is amazing. I guess the sugars in the rutabagas must develop during storage. Tonight’s rutabagas were quite bitter. I tempered the strong flavor by mashing them with a little butter.
After taking the steamer basket out of the Instant Pot I dumped the rutabagas in a bowl and put the broccoli in the basket and back over the hot water in the Pot. I set the function to “sauté” and loosely covered the Instant Pot with a pot lid. The broccoli steamed quickly and I eliminated using an extra pot!
John heated up our packet chicken gravy and sliced the chicken breast and we were ready to sit down to dinner. Classic chicken dinner is always a winner at our house.
Monday’s whole grain linguine was topped with a Bolognese which was vegan/vegetarian and sat on a bed of raw Lacinato kale.
Whole grain linguine with Mushroom Bolognese
Mushroom Bolognese is a delicious vegetable based spaghetti sauce. I posted a lengthy discussion and recipe back in February. You can find it here. One thing I did differently was to add the chopped kale stems to the sauce when I was cooking the mushrooms and onions. The bitterness of the kale helped to tone down the sweetness of the carrot and the brightness of the tomatoes.
Using the food processor to chop the vegetables is a real time saver. It makes me think that I ought to use it more often.
This is a very enjoyable dinner and having the lacinato kale under the pasta really makes it a filling dish.
Tonight’s Breakfast For Dinner (BFD) was actually more like dinner than breakfast. I needed to use a piece of a cabbage and entered “egg cabbage” into Google. What I got among other things was a recipe from the Egg Board that I felt I could adapt.
Cabbage and egg frittata with mushrooms, green onions, and farro
First I scaled down the recipe to two eggs and changed all the other ingredients to 1/3 of the recipe. My main departure, though, was to use 1/2 cup of my leftover farro and mix it into the eggs before I put them in the pan. I dressed the frittata with some additional soy sauce and garnished with black sesame seeds. I had to skip the furikake because we do not have any.
The entire frittata was supposed to slip out of the pan in tact and, well, that did not happen. I think my spritz of olive oil spray was not enough to keep the eggs from sticking a bit. Probably at least a tablespoon of oil would have worked better.
What did I learn from this experiment? I learned if you put in almost any combination of food into Google that someone out there has made it into a dish and posted the recipe!
The leftover part of our Leftovers For Dinner (LFD) this week consisted of farro that I made extra of on Friday and half of a head of cauliflower.
Grilled harissa chicken thighs with farro and spiced cauliflower
John marinated the boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the harissa (store-bought jar) and then grilled them outside. My job was to nuke the farro and steam the cauliflower. I had time to kill so I sauteéd some red onion and garlic and then added the cauliflower. Since that did not seem exciting enough I then added capers, roasted red peppers, and a touch of red wine vinegar. To have some sort of sauce I used chicken broth as well. My melange of random ingredients ended up tasting really good!