Tag Archives: weight loss

Gluten Free: The Evolution of Classic Cuisine

Ann Arbor Food Gluten Free

Gluten Free Brownies at WCC Sweet Shop Bakery

Readers of this blog who have read my pizza making at home post and a series of baking recipes including posts about my pie business might think what gives with the new gluten free focus.

Well, I am trying to go gluten free to see if it helps with my arthritis. It has been a few weeks now going gluten free and it has not been as hard as I thought.

And it is too early to tell, but I do feel my arthritis on my hands is better (less symptom, more range of motion.)

At home, I have been using my rice cooker on over-time and I still have a ton of potatoes and squash from the garden to satisfy a carb fix.

The hard part is outside of the home. The world seems to be gluten obsessed. The center piece of American cuisine is breakfast pastry, sandwiches, pizza and bread/cookies/cakes/cup cakes…or battered fried foods.

So can one live a happy, healthy gluten free life?

My thoughts on the subject turn to my culinary arts school days when I was obsessed with learning how to make awesome sauces.

I read Escoffier, the founder of classic french cuisine and what stood out was that he predicted that toasted flour and butter roux, the traditional thicker for three of the five mother sauces, would eventually be replaced by pure starches like corn starch, arrow root or kuzu…etc.

Well, that never happened, cause in point, we were still using roux, but Escoffier had a point.

Flour in sauce has always be a cheap fix, which is what Peterson said speaking about the history of sauce.

For me, most sauces I make these days are pans sauces.

Pan sauces are made by simply deglazing the pan fond (dry tasty bits in the pan after searing meat) with some wine and thickening it with some starch if needed.

So what does my rant here mean for the foodie who is O-pinning for his Gluten mother sauces.

Two sauce gurus all but say it’s fine to have your classic french cuisine a la gluten free and eat it too.

I say that the time may be right for Escoffier’s roux-less (gluten free) sauce vision to be realized.

Why not simmer your beef/veal stock longer and make a demiglaze?

For Bechemal or Veloute’  (Milk  or Stock gravy/sauces), why not use half and half instead of milk or finishes it with a pure starch?

Does the toasted wheat flavor add a lot to the finished dish? And if it is the taste of toasted grain is all you want, why not add a little toasted rice tea to the stock with the shachet?

It seems weird to spend hours skimming a stock, cooling it, and scrapping the fat off, so you can have a clean product only to add a scoop of butter and flour later to oil and cloud it up.

Why not simply go for a clean cooked down stock and thicken it with a pure starch like corn starch?

Butter or cream can be added if you need some extra richness or you can thicken it with an egg york.

In other words, we can make many tasty dishes without missing the wheat flour, and I am not talking a handful here. I mean us gluten free folks can have most if not almost all of the classic french library.

But what about the crispy breaded coating for dredging meat, fish etc?

I say think Rice flour. Rice flour is used for tempura batter and many o-fish-n-chips use rice flour instead of wheat.

As for the world of bread, that is another story.

I had not ventured too far into the gluten free bake good world. Dare I even say gluten free pizza.

The thing is, like most on a new diet/lifestyles, there is a tendency at first to want to gravitate to a like version of the food we just gave up, or even to want to eat the same way.

A classic example is a vegan eating “fake meat.”

With gluten free it maybe Gluten free bread (which are well….I am not sure yet.)

On other programs it is the health bar. Every lifestyle seems to have their own candy like health bar that fits into their new diet, high carb, low carb, vegan, gluten free, carob

These “fake” substitutions help make the transition easier, but the key word is transition. The transitional foods eventually will be limited or mostly phased out.

For example, I would much prefer beans over tofu.

For me the idea is to transition towards the new diet/lifestyle.

To do this I feel the best strategy is to limit the faux food for traditional foods/recipes that already  fit with the program.

So think foods that are already gluten free.

Here is a quick list:

Southern Grits
Southern corn bread w/B B Q
Pad Thai Noodles
Roasted Potatoes w/baked chicken and green beans
Wild rice pilaf with fish
Saag Paneer (Cream spinach with fresh cheese) most indian dishes can be made gluten free
Nic’e salad
Grill meat or seafood w/veggies
Roasted veggies
Sushi (with tamari instead of soy sauce…soy sauce has wheat)
100% buckwheat pancakes

Ice Cream
Rice Pudding
Chocolate Pudding
Indian Pudding
Short Bread cookies (w rice flour traditional)
Chocolate (Yes, a Gluten Free life includes Chocolate…Hell Yah!!!)
Gelatin and aspics

And for the most part, many traditional dishes could be made with a simple thickener substitute like chowders and cream soups could use potato or corn starches.

So to my Gluten Free Brothers and Sisters out there, take hear there is still a huge world of good eat waiting for you.

Gluten free recipes are on the way.

Mostly Food Communities

I have recently ventured back into my old food stomping grounds of Macrobiotic and Vegan toward being healthier. (See recent post)

Looking back, I started thinking about why I got off the Macro program.

In a previous post, I mention that the Macrobiotic diet was too strict. This was not just strict rules of the food do’s and don’t list.

It was also the strict people on the program.

I recall when I left the Kushi Institute to moved to Ann Arbor. I was teaching Macrobiotic cooking classes at Whole Foods and I had a fan.

This woman came to everyone of my classes, asked tons of questions and approached me during breaks and while I was packing up to talk shop.

Then during my dessert class, I used fruit juice to make a vegan cantan (jello) that was sweetened with agave nectar. Macrobiotics are strict about their sweeteners and agave was not on the list.

She called me on it and that was that. During the class break she left and never returned to another one of my classes.

I had broken the strict rules of Macro and I guess in her eyes I was no longer a part of the tribe.

And this is not an isolated experience. I felt judged and like an outcast for not being a perfect macro eater on many occasions from the community.

I suppose this is common. Vegans may do the same thing if they outed me eating a cheese burger.

The thing is we need community.

When you start a new healthy lifestyle, it is easy to feel like an orphan.

Everyone else is eating pizza and steak and we are the weirdos in the corner eating brown rice and spouts.

Of course, we figure that we will eventually find other people from a smaller tribe of folks who eat and think our new way, but imagine that this new tribe is a tough room with strict rules.

We already broke ties with the majority of folks with our new healthy lifestyle. But say if we also feel left out of the small tribe?

That is how me and Emily felt. Although we embraced the Macro diet (for a time), we had a hard time with the strict people.

I also felt this way when I was on Weight Watchers. The community is more flexible, but week after week, from the lectures, I got the message that the folks who strictly followed the program were where it was at. The rewards were from following the program and the shame/failure was from not.

For me Food is more than nutrition. It is about community and being social.

Food is about life.

This brings me to my “Mostly” Food Community idea.

While I probably could not pass for a Strict Macro or Vegan today , there are many things I have in common with these community, but if they are all-or-nothing then I am shut out (or faking in order to fit in).

So I propose the idea of Mostly Food Communities. These are folks like myself who for the most part follow many of the practices of a food community, but are a little more flexible.

They can bring a vegan/macro dish to a vegan/macro potluck and share food and community, but they are not all-or-nothing folks.

A good example of this is my community garden pot lucks. We have meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans, not to mention all sort of folks with various food allergies and personal food rules.

For the most part the offerings are vegetarian with many vegan items. If you want great veggie dishes good to a community garden potluck.

I tend to bring a vegan dish, but their will always be the guy who brings pork ribs or chicken wings. The difference with my community garden potlucks is that no one walks out in a huff because someone broke their food community rule. They simple don’t eat the wings and opt to hit up the vegan tabouli salad and grilled tofu.

The potluck is a mixed food community with tendency to vegetarian.

As for going to a Strict Food Community event, I would comply with the food rules. I mean, I don’t want to be the guy who brought the pork ribs at a kosher potluck.

With that said, I am going to my first social vegan restaurant dinner on Tuesday with a large vegan community.

I plan to eat an all vegan meal for the event, but if asked I will say that I am mostly macrobiotic/vegan.



Weight Loss By the Numbers: Constant Vigilance

OK. Some may have been following my weekly weigh-in. I have since stopped going to weight watchers, but I am now following a healthy eating program with some of the elements from the program.

I read this article, which may shed some light on the issue of Obesity in America.

A Conversation With Carson Chow
A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity, New York Times

Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake.

So if this true, the real idea is not freaking out about daily food intake, but averaging it out over time. This means changing habits more then a daily counter, which I had a problem with on Weight Watchers.

Hidden foods like trips to the vending machine or high calorie coffee drinks add up with the accounting being tallied at the end of the year.

The real problem is that once we lose the weight, we want to go back to eating about how we normally ate, but it takes time to adjust to the new way of eating. This is why most, like myself gain even after losing.

Did you ever solve the question posed to you when you were first hired — what caused the obesity epidemic?

We think so. And it’s something very simple, very obvious, something that few want to hear: The epidemic was caused by the overproduction of food in the United States.

If you are on a weight loss program is seems obvious that there is a lot of food out there that should be avoided or eaten moderation at best. These are the high point packaged/fast foods on Weight Watcher for example. Veggies and Fruit by contracts score NO POINTS on the new Weight Watchers program if that give you an idea.

Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could. At the same time, technological changes and the “green revolution” made our farms much more productive. The price of food plummeted, while the number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day.

Well, what do people do when there is extra food around? They eat it! This, of course, is a tremendously controversial idea. However, the model shows that increase in food more than explains the increase in weight.

Those extra 1000 calories are out there. There is a vending machine in every building on my college campus and during holidays the break rooms and even classrooms usually have free candy for the taking. And every college club does bake sale fund raisers and visiting groups who table in the student center offers free candy.

So it is just me? I am not offered a drink, a cigarette or drugs, but free or cheap baked goods and candy are every where. I can try to avoid eating it, but I cannot avoid it. With that said, billions are spent trying to tempt me to lower my and the rest of our resolve.

You said earlier that nobody wants to hear your message. Why?

I think the food industry doesn’t want to know it. And ordinary people don’t particularly want to hear this, either. It’s so easy for someone to go out and eat 6,000 calories a day. There’s no magic bullet on this. You simply have to cut calories and be vigilant for the rest of your life.

The message is The “Lose 30 pounds in 30 years program.” (smiles) It reminds me of the Harry Potter character Mad Eye Moody’s tag line “Constant Vigilance!

Weigh-in Update: This week(????)

OK. I have not posted for a week.

So what is going on with my weight loss?

Last weeks weigh-in resulted in Plus 2.4 pounds and I did not weigh-in this week because of tornado warnings at the time of my meeting. (true story)

I have been doing a lot of soul searching about my weight loss and Weight Watchers and I am not sure WW it is a good fit.

And that is not just because I have not had big results.

I get little from the meetings themselves and I don’t feel the program provides any added motivation, or accountability.

I feel good on weight loss weeks.

But on weight gain weeks, I get the added bonus of “motivational public shaming” which does very little for me.

It is indirect, but do get looks from the person who weighs me in and they do announce the people who lose weight at meetings, so it is a last chair left when the music stop situation if you gained weight.

“Guess who I did not call this week.”

I can weigh myself once a week at the gym in private thank you very much.

As for the system, I found it to be cumbersome with looking up and writing down everything I eat with a lot of mostly guessing the “Points” for someone like myself who does not eat at chains or packaged foods.

I guess it works for accountant types like a guy who I take a class with you teaches physics at U of M, but it really does not fit my personality.

The whole point is to eat healthy and to exercise and to avoid the junk food, but even the junk food with WW is on the program if you can justify it with the point system.

You can use up all your points for the day on peanut M & M’s and Ben and Jerry’s if you want. How healthy is that?

So WW does little for me to break from junk food, which I feel is a major block towards my weight loss.

And WW does not come out and say it directly, but the program is really, really about what they call the power foods. These are whole grains, lean meats and fish, fruits and veggies, low fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds and small amounts of healthy fats.

If you eat mostly these foods you do not have to write anything down. They pretty much say as much in the meetings.

But, WW knows most will not eat the “power foods,” so they have everyone factor points and track everything and weigh-in each week.

The “power foods,” for me are basically a throw back to my vegetarian/macrobiotic days with the occasional meat dish thrown in.

That is fine by me.

I used to eat healthy. I know how to cook and I actually like fruits and vegetables.

So where does this leave me with WW?

Their system of trackers and points and meetings and including junk food and weigh-ins provides little help in my opinion.

And my weigh-in results show that.

That is my take on it.

This is not to say I will not eat healthy and work towards my weight loss.

I just don’t feel WW system offers any real help to me in the process.

Weigh-in (Plus .4)

Weigh-in (Plus .4)

I feel I need to do more and that I am staying about the same.

This week is about getting to the gym and moving my body.

Weight loss Weigh-in (Lost 3.8)

I am back under 230 again.

This puts me in the one pound a week range. But the ongoing drama of my up and down weight loss continues. Last week I was up four pounds. The week before, I lost 5.4.

So, we will see what happens. The plan is to go to the gym this week and to bring some weights to my cubical to do a few reps while I am at work.

I have one of those rubber band things for lifting.

I am also starting to switch from cereal to oatmeal and less bread and more brown rice. I have a rice steam, so we are going to make a big batch or rice and steam it up through the week.



Weigh in: (up 4.2)

I am up 4.2 pounds???

The deal with weigh-ins is that you want to weigh less or at least stay the same. My weigh-ins have been a roller coaster.

Last week I had a 5.4 pound loss. A few weeks before that I had also had a 5 pound weekly loss only to have gains the next few weeks.

I felt good to have the loss last week, but I felt that it will be followed by a gain while doing the same thing I did the week before.

My weight loss could really only be water weight, which can change from week to week, but does not result is real weight loss.

These big weekly loses followed by big weekly gains makes me question the process or at least the scale. Each week they seem to bring in a new scale.

And being six weeks in I wonder if I will stick with WW or find another system.

I mean I can get a scale and weigh myself once a week. And I feel that WW is simply food journaling and calorie counting in disquising with Points. You still have to look everything or use a special calulator.

Maybe if I had a weight watcher buddy, I would feel better and more accountable.

I have been better at avoiding snacks, eating more fruit and staying away from soda.

But, I am one high weekly weigh-in from being where I started.

What weighs 75 pounds: List 2

The weight loss target is different for all, but I imagine that whatever the number, it is large on our minds.

My target is 75 pounds, so I thought I’d have a little fun with it and make yet another list of stuff that also is 75 pounds to put it into prospective.

1) 6 American Bald Eagles
2) 21,948 Air-Inflated Party Balloons (without ribbon)
3) 72,000 Tic Tac breath mint candies
4) 2400 Brown Bats
5) 245 i-Phones
6) 14,791 condoms (with out packaging)
7) 740 Tennis Balls
8) 7,125 Hersey’s Kiss candies
9) 6,825 US Nickel coins (91 per pound)
10) 1,350 strips of bacon
11) 720,000 Million Human Sperm
12) Shipping weight of 1 Yamaha DGX505-AD 88-key Electronic Piano Keyboard
13) 557 violin bows
14) 166 Barbie Dolls
15) 2,850 Twizzlers Candy Twists
16) 240 Baseballs
17) 4,800 Cups of popcorn
18) 500 feet of heavy duty electric cord
19) A large Thai Ridgeback (dog)
20) 57 American Flags (3 X 5, heavy duty)

Weigh in 229.4 (lost 5.4 Pounds)

229.4, Under 230

It is another big weight loss weigh in. It is the first time I am under 230 in some time.

I see each 10 pound block as a milestone. The next one will be 220. Of course, I can still gain. I gained for two weeks in a row and then loss five pounds twice.

I am averaging over one pound a week, which is my target. Even if there is some ups and downs, I feel go that the one pound average will continue (if I am keeping with the program and if I pick up my exercise program)



Weigh in 234.8 (plus0.6)


I am four weeks into kmy weight loss program. After two weeks of slight gains, I am averaging on the low end of an reasonable weight loss, a little over 1/2 pounds a week.

Hey I’ll take it, but…

I guess I was hoping for a quicker weight loss boost in the beginning (first month) considering that I am so over weight with some basic changes like no soda, no candy (vending machine snacks), and more fruits and veggies making a bigger weight impact.

I had a little excitement my second week with a five pound loss result, but most of that has been gained back.

The truth is that I have not been exercising much yet on my program and I am far from perfect with filling out all of my points.

All this means is that I need to step it up.

At first glance I thought that a 2.5 pound weight loss in a month was small potatoes, but now that I think about it it is not.

If someone told me that 2 years ago, I would lose 1/2 pound a week on average for 100 weeks, I would have been psyched.

About two years ago, was weigh under 220, so a 1/2 pound weight loss could have meant that I would have been at or near my goal weight.

Of course I did not lose 1/2 a week. I actually gains about 15 pounds in the last two years, which is where I am at today.