On Healthy Eating, Viking Style

I made this green curry. It was easy and it looks like something you’d buy in a restaurant.

I’m sharing my thoughts today on healthy eating for a lifetime and making good long-term choices. You know, like a Viking, taking control of my life and doing what I want. In this case, I want to be around for my grand kids.

I’m not actually focusing on losing weight right now. Yes, I am losing weight, which is wonderful and I’m all about it, but that’s not my primary goal. It’s just a natural and delightful side effect. I’m much more focused on controlling my newly acquired Diabetes.

I’m not doing Keto, just something that borrows liberally from those concepts.

Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of causing my body to go into Ketosis, where it literally starts burning body fat because it’s in some form of distress. I’m not a doctor by any means, and I’m not shaming anyone who uses Keto to get healthy. If it works for you as a tool to create a healthy lifestyle, then by all means go for it. I’m just saying, to me, it feels too unnatural to stress my body that way. Plus, I’m lazy and want to make this a new, natural, and comfortable lifestyle, so the eternal tracking of carbs and strictness of staying in Ketosis is just not for me.

With that said, I have found from much experience that the fewer carbs I take in—especially fast and processed carbs like pasta, white rice, white bread, potatoes, any form of sugar—the less hungry I am over all. Now that I’m visually tracking my blood sugar levels and literally see how carbs affect my glucose, it’s really super obvious. So I’m avoiding 100% of sugar and going super, super light on carbs with maybe a single piece per day of a nice complex whole wheat bread, etc. This just naturally makes me get hungry less and snack less.

So I’m using the phrase “Keto-ish” because the Keto community has done an amazing job of creating wonderful recipes that don’t include sugar and virtually no carbs. So I’m leaning heavily on those concepts and recipe sites.

So then what am I eating? A lot of amazing food, actually.

I’m eating whatever meat I want, cooked just about any way I want. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Steak is low carb! Watch your portion sizes. Viking portion pictured above.

I’m eating cheese, but in controlled amounts because I’m lactose intolerant. Otherwise, cheese is great. I love cottage cheese as a super simple, fast side dish. Goes great with meat! And a hunk of Colby cheese is a great snack at my desk.

I’m eating all the veggies. All. The. Veggies. Roasted, toasted, pan fried, stir-fried, steamed, grilled, sliced, diced, riced… all the ways. And they are delicious. If you don’t have the cooking chops to create yummy vegetable dishes, I highly recommend you start educating yourself on some of the simple, basic, easy techniques for cooking some tasty veg. Hint: Whatever it is, cut it into bite size pieces, toss in olive oil, lightly salt and pepper, then roast in the over at 400 for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Yes, it works for everything, and yes it’s that easy. You can branch out later into steaming and sauteing and all the fancier stuff. It’s all pretty easy. You can totally do it.

Steak and bacon, because bacon, with cottage cheese and pan-fried Zucchini and Squash that I grew myself.

I’m also eating fruit, but sparingly. It has a lot of natural sugar. It also has vitamins, minerals, and fiber… but still lots of sugar. So I’m keeping it light. Maybe a banana every other day. I splurged with fresh strawberries when the grocery store had them 1/2 off.

If this sounds restrictive, it shouldn’t. Watch your portion sizes and you can eat virtually whatever you want. I’m eating steak and burgers to the point I’m almost tired of beef (just kidding, that won’t happen.) I eat grilled chicken and roasted chicken and even fried chicken with not much breading. I’m eating pork chops and sausages and bacon and ham sandwiches. I’m making lots of soups, and curries, and chili (light on the beans). I’m swimming in eggs any and all the ways. I’ve even made tuna salad, chicken salad, and salad-salad. Yes, salad. Do not underestimate the grandeur of a big bowl of baby spinach greens covered with all your favorite veggies, grilled meats, nuts, bacon crumbles, olives, plus a good shake or five of your favorite salad dressing.

One of many amazing Salads I’ve been eating.

Do I miss dessert? Sure. But I also recognize that most of my dessert enjoyment was an addiction to sugar. I’ve fought, painfully, for three months to break my 50-year sugar addiction, so I’m not going back there. Outside the sugar cravings, I was using sweets for emotional eating, to get that feeling of control when the world was too difficult. Upset about something? Well, here, eat some ice cream. You can’t fix your problems, but you’re so good at eating ice cream! Look at you go!

So desserts were part of the problem, a crutch, and bad choices, splurging despite knowing I’ll pay for it later. That’s just simply not healthy or sustainable. That’s not who I am, not who I want to be. And now, three months in, and I’m getting more comfortable with this new lifestyle, I’m looking into sugar-free low carb dessert options. I’m finding artificial sweeteners that are acceptable. FYI — Erythritol is a great table sugar substitute with no blood sugar reaction but some… ummm… intestinal effects, and liquid Sucralose is good for mixing in drinks. But none of them are great, so I’m limiting it all pretty tightly. Even when I eventually do desserts again, it will be very small portions and sparingly.

Remember, this is a punishment, it’s not torture. If you’re feeling stifled, that’s when you need to get creative. I eat Chinese take-out occasionally, especially when I’m feeling a little restricted. I just don’t eat the rice or noodles, and I’m careful to limit the breaded stuff. Won-tons and General Tso’s chicken are right out, but there are so many other options. More importantly, I’ve taught myself (thank you YouTube) to make a pretty decent stir-fry at home. Just throw in protein and veggies and some aromatics, toss in a sauce, and YUMMY.

Beef and Broccoli I made in my kitchen. So delicious, so fast, so easy.

Really pinched for time? Most fast food restaurants will make you a cheeseburger as a lettuce wrap. Wendy’s in particular is tasty and they will let you sub in a small chili instead of french fries. Add a large unsweetened iced tea and you’ve got a very fast, pretty tasty, and fairly low carb lunch on the go. Fast food is not the goal, but remember I’m building a lifestyle that needs to be sustainable while traveling, etc.

So, it’s not perfect. I’m growing and changing and learning as I go. That’s how this works. I’m learning and trying to do better.

What are your thoughts? I’d LOVE to hear your experiences and what you’ve learned in your efforts to be healthy.

Good luck! — VVV

A Viking Cooks: Homemade Beef Fried Rice

The only thing better than great Chinese food is great Chinese food I’ve cooked myself at home. I can control the quality of the ingredients and it costs so much less. I’ve made some headway into making a few dishes with confidence, but fried rice has always kind of eluded me. But I think I’ve finally figured it out. Or at least, I’ve got a recipe/method that I can reproduce that creates really yummy fried rice. And you can do it, too.

This all started with some stew beef that was getting old and I needed to use up. So I sliced it up into thin 1/4 inch slices after cutting off the gross bits (connective tissue, gristle, etc.) Then I tossed it into a zip-top baggie with a couple splashes of soy sauce, sesame oil, a little bit of rice wine, rice wine vinegar, and pinch of white pepper and corn starch. Zipped the top, mixed it thoroughly inside the bag (no mess!) and popped in the fridge to marinate during the rest of prep. All in all I think it spent maybe 30 minutes in the fridge and it was the most tender, delicious beef I’ve ever had in a homemade Chinese dish. I think I’ll marinate all beef like that from now on!

Also, having the meat marinating in the fridge gave me plenty of time to slice up the rest of the veggies and scramble three eggs. I cheated a little by using frozen peas and carrots, but they are yummy and fast, so I just microwaved a bag. Besides, I’m pretty sure Chinese restaurants use frozen peas and carrots in their fried rice.

Once everything prepped and sitting out for easy access, I heated up a little peanut oil in my wok and stir-scrambled three eggs. They cooked quickly and I put them off to the side.

Next was the beef. Just a little oil to keep it from sticking, heated until just smoking and then I dumped it all out of the zip-top bag. I moved it around a little to help it brown and not stick. Once it was mostly cooked through I took it out and put it aside. It will finish cooking at the end.

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A little more oil back in the wok, heated until it’s just smoking and then the onions go in. I used one large onion, cut into medium sized slivers. You want the onion to cook down into little nuggets of golden yumminess, so slice small and they definitely go in first to cook the longest. Slicing them down on the small size helps them kind of disintegrate into flavor rather than big chunks in the final dish.

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Once the onions are pretty well softened and translucent, I dumped in four cups of fresh white rice. I’ve read that leftover rice works well, especially if you put in a little water as it goes into the wok. I’ve never had great results with the leftover rice, so I prefer fresh. Stir the rice into the onion mix, adding a little water if you need to (you shouldn’t need to.)

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After the rice/onion mixture has cooked together pretty well, like 5-6 minutes in a small wok like mine, then you can add the sauce. I prepared this ahead of time, of course:

3 Tbs high quality soy sauce
3 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp sweet rice wine
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
chili oil and/or chili flakes to taste (more if you like it spicy)
–Stir together until well blended–

When you do add your sauce to the wok, definitely pull the rice to the sides and leave the sauce in the well in the middle for a while to heat up. My small wok on a residential gas stove has trouble heating up big volumes of food, so I always give it time to get back up to temperature, especially when adding liquids. Once the sauce had heated up, I tossed in the pre-cooked eggs and chopped them up thoroughly and stirred into the rice along with the sauce.

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Once the egg and sauce are well integrated, let it cook a bit longer, stirring occasionally. Once it’s back up to temperature, you pretty much start dumping everything back in. Everyone in the pool! Add your sliced scallions, the beef, and the peas and carrots. Just be sure to drain the peas and carrots. Microwave veggies are notorious for being soggy when re-heated.

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The big trick I learned recently happens after everything is in the mix and your letting it heat back up and crisp the rice a little. Once the mix is nice and hot, pour maybe 1-2 tablespoons of sweet rice wine around the edge of the wok in a big sweeping motion and let it dribble down into the mix. Stir it all together and cook just a bit more. This gives it an extra boost of sweet yummy flavor right at the end and I really liked the results.

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So, for not much money and just a little work, you’ve got a really giant pile of some amazing fried rice. This stuff is delicious and it re-heats really well. You’ll be eating on this for a while. Unless you have kids, in which case you better dig in fast because it won’t last long.

If you try this recipe, please leave me a note so I can hear how it worked for you!

Thanks,

VVV

 

Snarft

Danger Monkey, age 9: “I don’t like tofu.”

Me: “You love edamame, and tofu is just edamame that’s been mushed up into bars. Plus there are peanuts and peppers and broccoli… you won’t even notice the tofu.”

DM: “I guess I’ll try it.”

(SNARF)

Me: “Well, you’re eating it pretty fast. What’s your favorite part?”

DM: “The tofu.”