A Cooking Post: Meal Planning

We returned Wednesday night from a week in Oceanside taking care of business. We always combine these trips with some fun, for there are relatives to be seen. Thus, I spent a day with my daughter Mary, and her two kids, visiting the beautiful USD campus where Mary is working on an MBA, then ice skating by the beach. Um… no, I did not ice skate. Only been on them once or twice in my whole life and it’s always good for a laugh. I’d prefer no broken bones at my age, thank you. We also paid a visit for happy hour at the Patio, where my son-in-law tends bar. Yum!

Fun was also had with the in-laws, with lots of pizza and the awesome Taco Tuesday at a local Mexican grocery store. You can’t find good Mexican food up here in the East Bay. It’s one of the two things I miss about Tucson.

Well, so. As usual, I gained weight while there. Three pounds, just like last time. And I have to confess, I’m having a heck of a time sticking to the intermittent fasting routine. I really need a partner, which I guess points to a weakness of character. So be it.

This does not mean that I’m giving up. I’m just going to try a new routine. My new vegan lifestyle is based on the film and book over at Forks Over Knives. It would be best if I could combine this with the fasting, but FOK insists that I can lose weight on this diet. Of course, they make it sound practically magical – “just eat a plant-based, whole-grain diet and watch your weight drop. You don’t have to worry about calories.”

Pfft. I do so have to worry about calories. But it is true that this food is generally low-calorie. For instance, yesterday I ate this:

3/4 cup high-fiber hot cereal with 1 banana: 255 calories
1/2 cup sweet potato with  1 cup sauteed veggies: 127 calories
1 1/2 cups Soba Noddles with cabbage and shitake mushrooms: 175 calories
1/2 cup Amaranth Pudding (recipe below): 202 calories

This for a total of 759 calories and 8 grams of fat.

Did I weigh less this morning? Of course not. Himself is convinced that I need to fast, that the secret is avoiding food for 18 – 24 hours, even if the number of calories doesn’t change. I’m not sure about that, but I guess if I continue to NOT lose weight, it goes back on the table for consideration.

Now, I want to point out that all of this food is very filling. In fact, I probably could have skipped dinner, and certainly the dessert. I really wasn’t  much hungry. But I don’t want starve, nutrition-wise. Sheesh.

I want to try this for a while. I’ll keep calories below 800 a day (I know, I know), and see what happens. So I’ve planned a couple of vegan dinners, both with lots of leftovers. This should carry me through the week. One is the above-mentioned soba noodle/cabbage/shitakes, the other is a barley/spinach/green olives dish. My lunch vegetable (served over either sweet potato or white potato) is a mix of kale, carrots, scallions, with a sprinkle of sage because it’s autumn. The veggies are sauteed in a bit pineapple juice, or I could have used vegetable broth. One of the tenets of FOK is no added oil. In general, I plan to do that, but I’m not going to break my neck trying. Sometimes you just need a bit of olive oil, right?

Now, I will continue to run into the odd day off – dinner out with friends (next Tuesday), upcoming holidays, and such. Also, I’m sticking loosely with the no-alcohol rule. In the past four or five weeks I’ve had one glass of wine (Thanksgiving) one margarita (Taco Tuesday), and one cocktail (vodka/basil, I think – Happy Hour at Patio). That’s more than I plan to do in the long-run. I’m having trouble dealing with holidays and family visits. But you have no idea how many times I turned down a drink. Well, pretty much every other day of those four or five weeks. And I don’t really miss it like I thought I would.

I am craving a glass of Himself’s eggnog, though, which is neither vegan or alcohol free. I suspect I’ll have it at least once. But no coquito this year, Melani. Sorry!

Anyway, I promised you a recipe, One of my most difficult struggles (way worse than giving up alcohol) is giving up sugar. I seriously love sweet stuff. Even if I don’t serve dessert, I snack on dark chocolate or dig into the ice cream. I’ve been known to sneak these throughout the day. Yes, I hide it from Himself. That’s how bad I am.

This is why I made the amaranth pudding. I knew I’d be bad if I didn’t have something to fall back on. It’s probably a cosmic joke that I tried to make something healthy, but oh well. I was going to make brown rice pudding, but then ran across Consumer Reports’ article about arsenic in rice.  Dangerous levels there, especially in brown rice, since the outer kernal is not discarded. (That’s the healthy part, for you wimps that eat white rice).

I’m not a big eater of rice, but if I was going to have rice pudding every day, I knew that would be too much. So I went with amaranth instead. Amaranth is an ancient grain just gaining popularity in America. It’s loaded with protein and tastes awesome. Give it a try.

A note about soy: This recipe uses soy milk. Soy is something I usually try to keep to a minimum. It’s too full of estrogen and too much can be bad. This week I’ve used edamame AND soy milk, but most weeks I won’t have any soy. It’s just how I do it.

Here’s my recipe:


1 cup amaranth grain
3 cups soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Heat milk to just scalding. Mix in the molasses and stir to melt. Pour into a greased casserole dish and add the other ingredients. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Very easy and so good! I love molasses, but feel free to swap out honey or something else if you want. Also, play around with your own favorite spices. If I do this more often, I may see about making my own hemp milk for it. Hemp is about the only thing that makes sense to me as a milk substitute, but that’s whole different blog post.