I’m not usually one for diets or New Year’s resolutions, but in the last weeks of 2014, I threw all caution to the wind when it came to my eating and went absolutely HAM at meal time, snack time, and basically all the time. I had been semi-careful with my diet in the weeks leading up to our wedding so I figured I had earned the delicious calories. Then the holidays came around and with it the special family dinners, Christmas parties, and an endless parade of cookies and goodies at work. So when 2015 arrived, I took the opportunity to join in on a Whole 30 Challenge to rein my eating habits back in.
What’s the Whole 30 Challenge? I don’t know if I’d categorize it as a “diet” per se. It’s more of a philosophy to eat less processed, artificial, prepared foods and more whole (hence the name), natural foods. Basically it boils down to grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, alcohol bad; meat, fish, poultry, fruits, nuts, and veggies good. The reason I don’t view it as a diet is because there is no calorie counting. Sure, with the rules set forth above, we’re pushed towards the perimeter of the grocery store where the healthier foods live and therefore are eating better, but according to Whole 30, there’s nothing wrong with scarfing down a 48 oz. steak for dinner if you wanted to.
The restrictions are pretty strict – no sugar means no sugar of any kind. No honey, no agave nectar, no Equal, no Splenda, no high fructose corn syrup, etc. If you read the ingredients in most prepared foods (even the “healthy” ones), by those standards, sugar is almost impossible to avoid. So to truly live in the spirit of Whole 30, cooking meals at home from scratch is necessary.
If you know me, you know that domestic skills are not my forte. I don’t clean, I can’t sew, and cooking is like an Olympic event for me – grueling and only occurs once every four years. This is NYC where you can have anything delivered right to your door step in 25 minutes or less, and Mr. S and I survive on Seamless.com’s plethora of options. But in the not so distant future, we will move to the suburbs where only three Chinese restaurants are featured on Seamless.com. My hope is that this Whole 30 Challenge will also build my repertoire of home-cooked meals so that we don’t starve to death when we make the move.
Usually when I do venture into the kitchen it’s because I want to eat something that I can’t get at a restaurant. And though our take-out options are varied, there is not a single Filipino restaurant in NYC that will deliver to our neighborhood (actually considering how many Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian restaurants there are here, NYC is severely lacking in Filipino food establishments). So as much as possible, I’ll be incorporating some childhood Filipino favorites into our Whole 30 Challenge.
Adapting Filipino food to the Whole 30 rules isn’t so difficult, since most dishes are made to accompany a side of rice. All I had to do was follow the recipe and swap out the rice with some kind of vegetable and voila – a Filipino Whole 30 compliant dinner is made!
So what’s been cooking in my miniscule kitchen?
Torta. This one is so easy, I think I’ve mastered it by now. Essentially ground beef sautéed with onions and garlic (and maybe some bay leaf if I’m feeling ambitious), bound together with egg. A Filipino frittata, if you will. Traditionally this is topped off with a healthy dollop of ketchup, but ketchup has sugar in it, so I paired our Whole 30 torta with some fasolakia (a Greek dish of stewed green beans and tomatoes). The tomatoes in the fasolakia were so good with the torta that I might take this pairing beyond my Whole 30 days.
Chicken Afritada. This one was a first for me, and though improvements can be made for next time, I’ll consider it a success. Chicken thighs and drumsticks sautéed with onion and garlic, then stewed with tomato sauce, chicken broth, and hearty vegetables. I got caught up in some serious TV watching while waiting for it to all come together and by the time I checked on it, the bell pepper, carrots, and potatoes had gone soft to the point of disintegration. Oops. Aside from the general mushiness, it was still pretty tasty so I’ll give myself a pass. Since I had to skip the rice with this one, I added more potatoes (yes, potatoes are allowed!) and carrots to make a more complete meal.
Chicken Curry. This one is courtesy of my mom (thanks mom!). It’s a blend of onions (so many onions that my eyes were tearing up while she was cooking this even though I was in another room), curry powder, and coconut milk all over some chicken, potatoes, and cute little mini quail eggs. My mom sent us back to NYC with a vat of this stuff, so it’s been feeding us for about three nights straight. Still delicious!
I’m still trying to come up with more Filipino dishes that can be tweaked to be Whole 30 compliant because (1) I miss eating Filipino food, and (2) I want to learn how to make the dishes I grew up eating. Not being able to use soy sauce has limited a lot of my options (not allowed because soy is a legume – told ya it’s strict!). Coconut aminos seem to be the Whole 30 substitute for soy sauce, but I’m skeptical that it will taste the same.
Anyone have some suggestions for me for future Filipino Whole 30 meals?