If your New Year’s resolution was to improve your health by eliminating certain foods or categories of food from your life and you’ve made it successfully to Jan. 24, congratulations! You only have 341 days to go. But if you were a little more clever with your choices in resolutions and chose a tighter time frame, the end could be in sight.
A resolution for a booze-free January — or a ‘Dry January’ as it’s often called, only has a week to go. But if you’re a real over-achiever, perhaps you gave up not only alcohol, but also sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods and baked goods for 30 days in pursuit of successfully completing the Whole30. Then you’re down to the final six days and you deserve a big round of applause.
Whole30 — an eating plan in which one goes 30 days with an extremely controlled diet — is supposed to reset your body and eliminate virtually every malady that affects human beings. The claim is that it will change your life.
It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, but changing your life never is.
But whether a life without cupcakes is a change you want your life to take is the question everyone must ask of themselves. It’s only 30 days, but you can’t cheat, or slip, or oops in any way. Not once. Not ever. Thirty days of total commitment, or your life doesn’t change. Those are the rules.
Along with the usual suspects like diabetes, blood pressure, heart conditions and all the other mid-life plagues of humanity, Whole30, according to its proponents, is supposed to help with a myriad of other conditions; like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies and chronic pain, basically anything that medication hasn’t helped.
That’s a long list. No wonder people have been trying this since 2009.
Here’s what you do get to have. Moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. You eat foods with very few ingredients which must all be pronounceable and in a best-case scenario, no ingredients are listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.
Whole30 is unique among these elimination diets in that workarounds are not allowed. For instance, pancakes are forbidden because flour is a grain and syrup is sugar. But you can’t use coconut flour and an artificial sweetener to skirt the rules. Whole30 requires a pure heart. You not only can’t break the rules, you can’t even bend them. You’re not even allowed to try.
On a positive note for carnivores, the diet is kind of meat-intensive. If you can do Paleo, you can probably do this. And it’s important to note, when they say moderate amounts of meat, that includes bacon. Of course it has to be bacon that is made without nitrates and is cured without sugar, but such bacon exists. You may have to go online to find it, but it’s out there.
If you’re down to the last six days of your Whole30, here are a few recipes to help you sail to the finish line. If you’re thinking your life could use a little changing and feel bacon is an adequate trade-off for cupcakes — and pretty much everything else — these same recipes can get you started.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples
A Paleo and Whole30-friendly side dish can also be a breakfast if you add some fried or poached eggs.
1 lb. Brussels sprouts washed, tops removed and cut in half
2 tsp. olive oil + sea salt to taste, for roasting
1 medium Pink Lady apple (or other tart/sweet crisp apple)
4-6 slices bacon (for Whole 30, bacon should be nitrate and sugar free)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
additional salt and pepper to taste
For this recipe you will roast your Brussels sprouts while cooking the bacon and apples in a skillet on the stovetop. Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the Brussels sprouts halves are uniform in size, if not, cut the larger pieces to ensure even cooking. Toss them with the 2 tsp. olive oil and salt and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast them in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until they’re browning and fork tender. Core the apple and chop into 1/2-1 inch cubes, set aside. Heat a medium heavy skillet over med-hi heat (cast iron if you’ve got it) and cut your bacon into one inch pieces. Add the bacon to the skillet and cook, stirring until about 3/4 of the way done. At this point, add the apples and chopped rosemary and continue to cook and stir until the apples have softened and the bacon is fully cooked, adjusting the heat to avoid excessive browning if necessary. Remove from heat.
Once Brussels sprouts are done, add them to the skillet and toss to combine all the flavors. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve hot. This can be served as a side dish or with fried or poached eggs for breakfast.
Sloppy Joe Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
4 small/med sweet potatoes, one for each person you’re serving
1 tsp. coconut oil plus sea salt, for baking
For the Sauce:
3 medjool dates, pitted and soaked in very hot water for 5 minutes to soften
1/4 cup water you can use the soaking water plus more if you need
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup tomato sauce no salt added
3-1/2 tbsp. vinegar – preferably raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. coconut aminos
1 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika or paprika
1 -1/4 tsp. salt
For the beef mixture:
1 lb. ground beef (80-85 % lean)
1/2 tbsp. cooking fat
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt to sprinkle on beef, about 1/4 tsp.
To bake the sweet potatoes: (this can be done ahead to cut down on time – simply reheat uncovered in the oven at 350°F. until heated through and the outside crisps up)
Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat the outside of the sweet potatoes with coconut oil using your hands, sprinkle all around with sea salt and poke holes in the potatoes with a fork to release steam. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until the outside is crisp and inside soft.
To prepare the sauce, you’ll need a high speed blender or food processor. puree the dates with the water and tomato paste until almost smooth, then add the remaining sauce ingredients and puree until completely smooth, set aside. Heat a medium/large skillet (10-12 inches) over med/high heat and add the cooking fat. One skillet is hot, crumble in the beef and sprinkle all over with sea salt, then stir gently. Add the onions and cook until onions are translucent and beef is about halfway browned, then add the diced peppers and minced garlic, stir to combine. Continue to cook until the meat is browned and veggies are softened. Remove from heat and drain off about half the liquid (you’ll still need some), then add all of the sauce to the skillet and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until it begins to bubble, then lower the heat and allow to gently simmer, stirring occasionally (careful not to burn) for 10 minutes or so, then remove from heat.
Cut each potato in half and scoop in desired amount of sloppy Joe mix. You can also serve this over zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles or simply your favorite greens.
Steak Fajita Skewers with Cilantro Chimichurri
Steak and vegetable seasoning:
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano, rubbed between the palms of your hands
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. kosher salt or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Steak fajita skewers:
2 pounds top sirloin steak, cut into approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 red onion, halved then each half cut into quarters
1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup packed flat leaf parsley
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the steak and vegetable seasoning. In a gallon sized freezer bag place the steak cubes, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the seasoning mix. Seal the bag, pressing out all of the air, then massage the oil and seasoning into the steak. Let it rest for several minutes or even overnight if you want to make it ahead of time. In a medium sized bowl or another freezer bag, add the peppers, red onion, remaining seasoning mix and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Toss to coat.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat and brush the grates with oil. Thread 8-10 metal or soaked wooden skewers evenly with the steak and vegetables. (If you are using wooden skewers be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes so they don’t disintegrate on the grill.) Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper before placing them on the grill. Grill the skewers, turning them occasionally, until grill marks appear. Approximately 7-9 minutes for medium-rare. Serve the skewers topped with the cilantro chimichurri or alongside them for dipping.
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and purée until smooth. Pour into a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve. Makes 1 cup. (This chimichurri is a bit acidic. Feel free to add 1-2 more tablespoons of olive oil if you prefer a less acidic sauce.) Leftover sauce will last in the fridge for several days.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.