I had an idea a few weeks ago: Let’s use our cookbooks more by picking one to cook a meal from each week. Here is my original Facebook post:
Ground rules for the challenge:
It has to be a recipe you haven’t cooked before.
It has to be something out of the norm for you. It can’t be just another roasted squash recipe if you make roasted squash all the time.
Aim for full meals: If it isn’t a one-pot meal, pick an entree and a side from the same book.
I’m calling it Cooking the Books
The first book I grabbed was Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield. We’re in the middle of the Whole30 right now, so it made sense to use that book now. We’ve definitely cooked from it before. I use their Paleo Mayonnaise as my regular go-to homemade mayo recipe. In fact, I think this might be the first cookbook I bought for myself back in 2010.
According to Ground Rule #1, I have to pick a recipe I haven’t tried. I chose Country Captain Chicken. It looked great, we had most of the ingredients on-hand, and it was a one-pot meal. Perfect for a busy week and easy to reheat for lunches.
In this series I’m not going to publish the recipe unless the authors have posted it elsewhere online. That isn’t fair to the authors. I will, however, post the ingredients without measurements or instructions, because I think this strikes a good balance of seeing what is in it and getting a sense of the tastes while still being fair to the authors and their work. Hopefully these posts will drive a small number of sales their way, too.
The recipe turned out great! The black currants gave it a bit of a sweet tanginess that I enjoyed. Though it would have been better had I remembered to put the curry powder in with the vegetables 🤦♂️. The breading was surprisingly good for being almond meal. Almost made me forget it wasn’t real breading. We made it with 6 chicken breasts, so we had plenty of leftovers.
I’d definitely make this again.
If you want to join me in the Cooking the Books challenge, send your posts to email@example.com! I’ll guest post them here on Cook Like Chuck. Here are some guidelines:
Send me a decent photo of the book to use as the featured image
Send me photos of the meal you cooked
Write a little bit about the book, why you chose it, and how the meal turned out
Send me a photo of the recipe
Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.
We are on the Whole 30 again this month, so we are limiting our use of these veggies a little bit. I added some non-Whole 30 options so that you don’t have to suffer with us.
Green Leaf Lettuce – Once again, this is getting turned into salad for lunches and a dinner side. 2 heads should last us all week.
Cucumbers – These will get chopped up for salads and turned into spears for snacks. If you are having dairy, I suggest slicing these and making a salad with sour cream, dill, and onions.
Carrots – We’ll shred a few for salads and then probably roast the rest. I might grab one for an afternoon snack. If we weren’t on the Whole 30, I’d use the tops to make some pesto and eat it with burrata cheese.
Basil – We cut half of this into a chiffonade and put it in the zucchini noodles with the cherry tomato sauce. We’ll use the rest for pesto or adding to a fresh vegetable salad. We are on the Whole 30 again this month, so we’re foregoing putting this on homemade pizza or caprese salad.
Scallions – We’ll include the scallions in salads, in breakfast bowls, or in carnitas bowls.
One thing you need to learn to do when you embark on a Whole 30 is make all kinds of new sides so that you get enough vegetables in your diet. We’ve found that cauliflower is super versatile and takes on the flavor of things you add to it. This makes it a great candidate to turn into a mash.
This doesn’t mean you are trying to mimic mashed potatoes. These don’t taste like mashed potatoes, but this a great side dish that stands on its own.
Whole 30 Cauliflower Mash with Garlic and Rosemary
1 head of cauliflower
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of rosemary (both dried and fresh work)
Salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon of each for a large head of cauliflower)
1 tablespoon of ghee
Get your vegetable steamer going in a large stock pot with water that comes just up to the bottom of the steamer. Turn the burner on high.
While the water is heating up, quickly wash the cauliflower and cut it into florets. Chop up the stem, too.
Peel the cloves of garlic.
Put the cauliflower and garlic in the pot with the vegetable steamer. Steam for 10-15 minutes. They are done when tender enough to put a fork through with minimal effort.
When fully steamed, move the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves into the food processor. Take 1/4 cup of the steaming liquid and put it in the food processor, too. Add in the rosemary, salt, pepper, and ghee.
Process until it reaches the consistency you like. I leave it in until it is pureed (usually 2-3 minutes).
Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, steps 5 and 6 can be done with a potato masher and a bowl or a hand blender.
If you aren’t on the Whole 30, you can add butter and sour cream to make these even creamier. For folks on the Whole 30, stick to the recipe above. Amanda and I eat it even when we aren’t on the Whole 30 because it is delicious.
Chuck’s note: This is a guest post by my wife, Amanda. She normally blogs at AmandaGrimmett.com, but today she is posting here! When I get sick, this is what she makes for me. It’ll have you back on your feet in no time.
I’m really lucky that Chuck likes to cook —and that he’s good at it—because I absolutely hate cooking. I much prefer the exactness of baking because I know what I’m going to get every single time. Sure, I could use a recipe to cook, but why bother? I’m married to #CookLikeChuck.
That said, Chuck isn’t infallible. On occasion, he does get sick and, because I love my husband more than I hate cooking, I whip out the one recipe I know by heart, the one recipe I know will turn out every single time: Sickie Soup.
Chop a medium-sized onion and 3 stalks of celery.
Place them in a pot with a little olive oil and 2 cloves of pressed garlic on medium-low heat.
Chop 3-4 carrots, 2-3 leeks, and 1 decently-sized potato.
Add them to the pot with 2 boxes of chicken stock, salt, and pepper.
Turn the heat up to medium.
I like to add these veggies first because they take the longest to cook.
Chop and add a small head of cabbage.
Add a large diced tomato, a handful of fresh green beans, and about a cup of corn.
Let everything simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the veggies are no longer crunchy. Stir occasionally.
If you’re like Chuck, add a squirt of hot sauce to clear out your sinuses.
We completed the Whole 30 on March 2. I’m writing this review a few weeks late because: 1) I was traveling that week and the following week. 2) I hit the ground running at my new job as CTO at Praxis.
Here is how the final week went:
Successes this week
The final week was fairly easy. We were in the groove from the previous three weeks and we stayed on track pretty easily, despite lots of temptations around us.
I visited my family in Ohio for a few days before my birthday and they were very flexible and helped me find things I could eat. One day they had people over to have burgers, so I ate mine on lettuce without a bun. My aunt brought over a plate of roasted veggies, which was delicious.
My grandma made me a “Whole 30 birthday cake” that was really an apple with a candle in it, garnished with blackberries and raspberries with almonds stuck in them.
I introduced my parents to cauliflower fried rice. It was a beautiful 70F day, so I cooked it in a wok out on their porch.
I made two dishes that I think will be regulars in our house now: Breakfast bowls and a veggie & protein bowl. Recipes forthcoming.
Amanda and I found another Paleo restaurant in NYC: Springbone. (The other one we already knew about is Hu Kitchen.)
Difficulties this week
I traveled for most of the final week, which meant that I had to eat out A LOT. Staying compliant required a lot of extra work and planning ahead.
Amanda packed me some fruit and meat snacks for my road trip.
I drove out of my way on 80/90 in PA to find a Jimmy John’s and have a lettuce wrap.
I hit up Chipotle at least three times. No beans, no rice, double meat, fajita veggies, add guac.
I scouted out places at each airport where I could find compliant meals. Plum Market in the Detroit airport was the best: I got a huge plate of carnitas, roasted broccoli, and roasted cauliflower.
I kept cashews in my backpack. That saved me on a few long flights.
Restaurants will almost always sub any starch or bread with veggies if you ask nicely.
My birthday dinner was not what I had hoped, but I stuck it out for a few extra days to finish out the month before I got doughnuts and that burger from The Spotted Pig on day 31. It was delicious, but it made me feel like crap. Days 32 and 33 we were compliant again.
What I ate
Since I was traveling without Amanda for most of the week I didn’t keep detailed notes on what either of us ate. All I have to go off of are my photos, so here they are:
Amanda and I are both down 14lbs each and a few pants sizes. I had to cut a new hole in my favorite belt and Amanda had to go buy new smaller work clothes.
We learned a lot about what kind of food gives us energy and what makes us feel like crap. It is very difficult to figure this out unless you restrict your diet significantly for a period of time. If you do that and then reintroduce things like sugar and bread back into your diet, you’ll see how quickly your energy and mood changes.
We learned about how much prepared food has sugar in it. Avoiding it requires attention to detail, discipline, and planning.
For the first time in four years, we’ve gotten through the worst part of winter without getting sick. Not even a cold.
We are sticking with 80% of the Whole 30. We are eating legumes again, but primarily still staying away from grains, dairy, and sugar.
We are picking our indulgences instead of indulging in everything. Instead of copious mediocre candy bars, we’ll pick the best cookie we can find and just have one. Saying compliant instead of having fast food so that we can have the best pizza in the area the next day.
We are drinking alcohol again, but less frequently. We are following the principle above: Instead of drinking a few bottles of beer, we’ll have a cocktail or a few fingers of good whiskey.
Despite not being strict now that the dedicated month is over, we are still losing weight because we changed our approach to food.
As I write this, we are at a coffee shop that has some of the best cookies in the area. We each got one, only ate half, and were done because they are so rich. Before the Whole 30, we would have devoured the whole thing within a few minutes.
Staying strict on the Whole 30 long-term is probably unrealistic for our lifestyle right now, but staying 80-90% compliant is doable. Continued weight loss and having more energy is a definite driver for us.
You’ll probably see meals posted here with a heavier vegetable influence, reflecting our change in food consumption.
Amanda is down 9 lbs and Chuck is down 7 lbs since the beginning of February. More since the beginning of January.
We pushed through multiple days where we wanted to order out, but instead dug deeper and cooked at home.
I’m still waking up better than usual.
I consciously ate more this week. That was a problem for me last week.
We ate out multiple times this week because we were shopping for cars and negotiating with salesmen. We successfully found Whole 30 options, no matter where we were.
Our cravings have subsided!
We got creative this week with multiple meals to change up the monotony. Recipes coming soon.
We used leftovers effectively this week and didn’t waste anything.
Difficulties this week
Both of us had tough weeks at work and then we had to go car shopping over the weekend. It made cooking much more of a chore. Weeks like this are when we would have ordered pizza or sandwiches from down the street. Thankfully we pushed through, but it was tough.
We really miss going out to get burgers and drinks after tough days. Especially since the weather was beautiful this week and our neighborhood brewery has outdoor seating.
We both burned the midnight oil multiple days this week. Working late when you stopped eating at sundown is brutal. Fasting is much easier when you are sleeping through most of it.
What we ate this week
Chuck: Black coffee. Amanda: Smoothie.
Chuck: Scrambled eggs, apple, pear, and almond butter. Amanda: Salmon and salad.
Steak, sautéed broccolini, and roasted rainbow carrots
Chuck: Black coffee. Amanda: Smoothie
Chuck: Bibimbap over lettuce. Amanda: Leftover steak, carrots, and broccolini
Carnitas tacos in lettuce wraps
Chuck: Black coffee. Amanda: Smoothie.
Chuck: Leftover carnitas
Zucchini a la esquites with carnitas and avocado (recipe coming soon)
Omelets and potatoes
Chuck: Zoodles, chicken, broccoli, and carrots. Amanda: Grilled shrimp salad