I’m at the point in the game where I have to consider meal diversity. Candidly, I’m a creature of habit (translation: addict), and I tend to gravitate to the same sort of foods, which are healthy, easy to make and in my repertoire. The notion of creating an abundance of variety is exhausting, especially when I’m in an office for most of the week and my schedule is random for the remainder of the week.
However, after meeting with my food coach yesterday, and presenting yet another jetlag-ravaged food journal rife with CHICKPEAS, kale, and chicken, I realize that I’m in a rut. And while you may see some beautiful dishes on this space–case in point: this beef ragu + zucchini noodle dish–much of my weekday meals are a rinse, lather, repeat. That soup I made last week? It was lunch for three days. And while it’s okay to repeat meals, variation is key so your body doesn’t become accustomed to what you feed it. Apparently, I need to be a magician and pull rabbits out of hats and flash wands every few days in order to maintain my health, weight loss, and more importantly, expand the foods in my diet.
So over the next two weeks, I’m following what Dana calls “The Body Project.” Essentially, I won’t be relying on my morning smoothie every day, rather I’ll introduce eggs, chia puddings and other new dishes in the morning mix. The amount of greens in my diet will be substantial, and I’m adding in bean sprouts, snow peas, snap peas, harissa, cress, and new juices (carrot blitzed with almond milk). Superfoods such as pomegranate seeds, Brazilian nuts, seeds, and mint are finding their way into my diet. I’ll let you know how it goes. The good news is that I’ve learned that you crave what you eat. Many people have lamented that I can no longer have pizza (unless it’s with a cauliflower crust, and no, no, I don’t want that, thankyouverymuch), pasta, bread or cheese, and to be honest, I don’t really crave them anymore. Sure, I have the occasional ache when I walk by a bakery and just SMELL EVERYTHING, but it leaves as it comes, and in this way, I’m sort of reminded of my relationship with alcohol. While I sometimes miss my glass of sancerre, I no longer need it. Those cravings have been replaced by the goodness in my diet.
I mean, when I came home from Spain I NEEDED cruciferous greens because my body had become so used to eating it that it missed it. And who misses kale?
I also talked to Dana about weight loss. So far, I’ve lost 20 pounds and I mentioned that I think I only need a set number to get me back to the weight I was four years ago. More than that made me feel uncomfortable because I want to eat the foods I enjoy–re-introducing carbs beyond my twice-weekly splurges, and desserts–and I don’t honestly want to be too thin. I know that may sound shocking because we’re taught, practically programmed, to believe in the cult of thin, but I’d rather have muscle, strength and a bit of fat because I feel right and I’ll age more gracefully. And yes, I have to start thinking about age as I’ll turn 39 this year. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that I want to feel me in my skin beyond a number.
At the end of my weight goal, I’ll share the before + afters, details, and tips learned. Yet, I’ve also made another important decision–I plan to eat this way (and adding back the random bowl of pasta when I can have it in 7 months time) for the rest of my life. I’ve energy all day, my skin glows and I’m focused, attentive and present, and I can’t help but think that what I put in my body, my house, affects me in more ways than a numerical one.
To that end, this dish is part of that diversity. Who knew I’d be one of those weirdos who gets a SPIRALIZER? However, mixed with the beef, the zucchini noodles, while clearly NOT PASTA (I mean, come on), were though a lovely accompaniment to the hearty beef.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Hemsley & Hemsley. Serves 4 people
1 lb ground sirloin + 1 sweet sausage, casing removed
2-3 tablespoons of vegan butter or olive oil
1 large onion + 2 shallots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 28oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup vegetable stock*
1 cup of red wine**
2 large carrots
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp nutmeg
4 large zucchinis
*I know it’s logical to use chicken or beef stock, but I really love the sharp celery and other veggies that mix with the beef here.
**I used a Rioja, but a full-bodied cabernet is also a fave. If you’re sober and are sensitive about having alcohol in your home (totally get it), I would just add another cup of stock and another tablespoon of tomato paste). I’m cool with cooking with alcohol and reds tend to last in the cupboard than whites in the fridge (good for having friends over).
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegan butter (I use Earth Balance and love it) or olive oil, and fry the onions/shallots on a low heat until softened, not browned, then add the garlic, basil and any other herbs that you choose. Add the extra tablespoon of butter or oil if needed.
Increase the heat and add the ground sirloin/sausage to the pan and brown, using a wooden spatula to break it up as you go. Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan, then the tomatoes, paste and broth. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 1 ½ hours until rich and thickened, stirring occasionally. I left this cook for 3.5 hours, and added a little more wine (or stock if you’re nixing alcohol, though note that the alcohol cooks out in the heat) if the sauce is too thick for your taste.
Ten minutes before the end of cooking, add the grated carrots and season with nutmeg, sea salt and a good grind of pepper.
Meanwhile, use a spiralizer/julienne peeler on the zucchini. Or use a vegetable peeler and then a knife to slice the courgette strips into spaghetti type strands.
Wilt the zucchini using a little butter and water in a pan. Or, to be more authentic in your service and to save time and washing up, just run some of the sauce hot from the stove through your spirals and the heat and salt in the sauce will soften them.
Check the seasoning and serve on top of a pile of zucchini spaghetti with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve.