For the record in case you don't know how Whole30 goes, even though I'm technically all "done" and on Day 31, I'm really still on it. I'm in the reintroduction phase, which I now realize may be even more important than the first thirty days. But don't let that scare you off. Even if for some crazy reason you skip the reintroduction and try to go back to your old way of eating after you finish your Whole30, you'll probably feel great and have learned a lot about yourself. Since I'm a food guy though, I want to talk about the food first. Even though I'm the editor of the New York Times best-selling The Whole30, I'd put off trying out the plan for months because I wasn't sure what I would eat day after day. I've been gluten-free for years now, and I felt like I already had enough limitations on my diet -- why would I add more? But then in recent months my old problems with dairy had come back. For years before going gluten-free I'd been self-diagnosed as lactose intolerant. I could tolerate just a bite of ice cream or a small slice of cheese at the most. But after I went gluten-free and felt so much better, friends encouraged me to reintroduce dairy into my life. I did, and surely enough, my newly healed gut could suddenly handle dairy just fine. I was enjoying ice cream and cheese for years. Then in the last few months, those old dairy pains started coming back. I realized now was the time for me to try something bolder... the Whole30. I jumped in fast, deciding I would start in two days with little to no planning, although of course because of my job, I'd become very familiar with how everything works. But again, I'm a food guy. What was I going to cook day after day with restrictions like no dairy, no gluten, no soy, no grains, no legumes, no added sugar (not even stuff like ketchup or bacon which have hidden sugar if you check the ingredients lists), and of course no alcohol too?At first I was, like many people, only thinking about the restrictions. On the other hand, what could I eat? All kinds of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Fish, seafood, pork, beef, lamb, and poultry. I found that sugar-free bacon in my local market. And I discovered there were some sausage products out there without sugar too (phew). Add all sorts of spices, and it just meant I had to get creative in the kitchen. I looked at it like a culinary challenge, and I was up for it. The Whole30 book has loads of recipes, including very basic ones for beginners in the kitchen, so you can just buy the book and start cooking right away. But I'm a pretty avid cook, and so I simply started combing through books I already owned (a lot). I soon found there were plenty of recipes in my current cookbooks which just happened to be compliant, or could be adapted quite easily. For example, sometimes all I had to do was change the cooking fat.Other times it was more complicated, like using coconut milk in place of dairy, or bumping up the spices and other flavors a bit to compensate for the lack of cheese in a frittata. But mostly, I realized there were compliant recipes of all kinds out there and that cooking this way for 30 days might be really fun. And it was. These are just my Instagram snapshots, not fancy photos. If you follow me on Instagram (@justcooknyc), then you probably saw all of these and more. Besides cooking from cookbooks, I of course did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen too. Some of those experiments turned out great. Some weren't great but were still pretty good, but that's how I always cook. I'm not afraid to take a chance with new ingredients. But again, don't sweat it if you aren't very creative in the kitchen. The Whole30 is packed with recipes, and there are loads of internet resources for more recipes. Just start looking on Whole30.com to be sure you are getting legitimate sources for recipes, because you want to follow this program very carefully. No slip-ups. No cheats. No excuses. So what else? Did I lose weight? The short answer is yes, I think so. I almost don't want to say too much about what improved because everyone's experience is going to be different. Plus I haven't weighed myself since finishing, and I'm not sure I will. My clothes fit better though. Some of my pants are just too big. I pulled my belt tighter to the final notch about ten days ago. Considering I didn't count calories for the entire month and felt at times like I was eating more food than ever before (more nutrient-dense, filling food), that's pretty amazing. This is by all means not a diet. I ate more eggs than I can count, and I was putting avocado on everything.There is a lot more -- my skin looks better than it has in quite a while, but perhaps I'm the only person who will notice that. And I think the more important thing than how you look is how you feel. I honestly feel great. I feel more confident. My stomach pains and bloating have virtually disappeared. Now if I eat something that's not right for me, it's really clear. It turns out that most nuts hurt my stomach -- same with nut butters. My diet had never been so clean before that I could figure that out so precisely. I can have a few nuts at once, but that's about it.But you really want to know about the Tiger Blood, right? Did I get it? To be honest, I'm not sure I know what Tiger Blood really means, but I did have amazing, stable energy levels all the time. (Well, I still do now.) No sudden sugar drops in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon that left me scrambling for another junk food snack to give me a boost. I already don't drink coffee, so I wasn't looking for that fix. But honestly I can't imagine how anyone does Whole30 and still needs coffee in their life. My energy levels are pretty much ideal now. There is another factor that is hard to pinpoint though. I feel clearer, mentally speaking. This happened to me before when I went gluten-free, so I really get it. I just feel sharp, like I could take on a lot right now, like I want to take on something new, a challenge. That's a great way to feel.This is how I want to look and feel, so the next steps for me should be interesting. Some part of me just wants to keep eating this way indefinitely. Okay, maybe I won't worry about trace amounts of sugar in every piece of salami that I eat. But I'm going to think a lot before I order dessert at a restaurant again. At the least I will probably look at dessert as more of a really special treat, rather than what I was doing in months prior -- ice cream every night of the week. And it wasn't just about ice cream... I was eating sugar-packed yogurt for breakfast every day too. I thought it was healthy for me, but I just ended feeling really hungry soon after. Now I eat one big breakfast in the morning, and I've got plenty of fuel to carry me for hours.I'm not snacking at my desk at all, and if I really need to, I feel so strangely satisfied with some celery or carrots. Again, don't think this was diet food. Just look at these pics. Does it look like I was suffering? Trust me, I was eating well. Like crazy well. And although I'm sure my supermarket bills were high, I saved a fortune by not dining out (it's just too hard during those thirty days) and not drinking. Life in NYC is so crazy with all the alcohol. Cocktails are $10 to $15/each nearly everywhere you go. Wine is just as expensive. I'd love to know how much money I ultimately saved, but that's another story, and the savings did also allow me to buy things like coconut oil which can be pricey. In the end, unless you were living on fast food burgers before, there is almost no way you won't save money eating this way. And the long-term costs of eating at fast food burgers are so great, to your health initially, and then in medical costs later on, I'd rather eat better now and be healthier in the long run. I feel like I understand that concept more clearly now than ever before. It's my life. It's my health. But now I'm getting a little preachy, and I didn't want this blog post to seem that way. One thing that is clear to me now is that anyone who does Whole30 is going to tell you a different story about their experience, and I'd love to talk with people about what they learned about food and themselves after they have tried it? Are you sleeping more soundly like I am? Did you get that Tiger Blood? Are you thinking about giving up grains permanently? How is your skin looking? Is it time to go buy some new pants because your old ones are too loose? My story is my own, and I'm so glad I gave this a try finally. What was I waiting for? If I knew I'd feel this great, I would have tried it months ago for sure.
I've mentioned I'm a little obsessed with the breakfast recipes in Jessica Merchant's awesome new cookbook, Seriously Delish, right? If I can put an egg on it, then I'm happy. Next up... Bacon, Egg and Avocado Corn Cakes. I managed to adapt this recipe to be gluten-free, which is really exciting for me. But honestly, there is a mistake in the recipe. And it's my fault. I'm the editor after all.The recipe is missing the bacon! The thing is, the recipe will be incredibly yummy without the bacon, but it's so much better with it. So here is how it goes.I used 1 cup Bobb's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour, which you combine with 1 cup finely ground cornmeal, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. In another bowl you combine 1 1/2 cups thawed, frozen corn (fresh is good too) with 1 diced shallot and 2 minced garlic cloves. I also cooked up about 4 strips of bacon, crumbled it, and added it to the corn mixture. Lastly you combine 2 large eggs and 1 cup low-fat milk.In a separate bowl I halved a pint of grape tomatoes (I used less here because I didn't need to make the whole recipe at once, and you can save the leftover batter for a day or two in the fridge), I added some scallions which aren't called for in the recipe, and I also tossed in some extra corn.You blend up the milk mixture, flour mixture, and bacon-corn mixture to make a batter. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Then scoop about 1/3 cup of batter at a time to make each corn cake. If you used gluten-free flour like me, you might need to add a little more milk to get the texture right. Cook until the cakes begin to set and are nicely browned on the buttom. If you use regular flour, they'll bubble up a little, but mine did not. Then flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.Transfer the cooked cakes to a plate to serve. Add the tomato mixture. Of course you fry up some eggs to serve with it, because this is breakfast after all. And add some sliced avocado too. This is a really hearty breakfast and maybe a bit of work, but so worth it. And if you haven't gotten a copy yet, Seriously Delish is in Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and everywhere now.
Note this drawing is now closed. I've been counting the days until April 29th for a while now. The first cookbook by Iron Chef Marc Forgione (cleverly titled Marc Forgione) was a long time in the works. The photo shoot for example happened well over a year and a half ago. If you see the book in person, you'll understand right away why this book took so long to produce. The Daily News calls it "epic," and I'd have to agree. So much heart and soul went into making this book a reality. There are a lot of people I would like to thank, but here I want to tell you about the photo shoot. That's Marc of course above, along with photographer Evan Sung. They're both very careful and thoughtful guys when it comes to photography. No detail goes unnoticed. Here's an extended look behind the scenes, and skip to the bottom if you live in the U.S. or Canada and want to be entered into a drawing for a copy of the brand-new book.This is the kind of thing I can't do at home with my photography. I just don't have the right gear to get those overhead shots like this.Here is photographer Evan Sung capturing an overhead shot freehand on a ladder. It was my first time working with Evan, and he would do just about anything to get the photo just right.And that's prop stylist Kira Corbin at work with Marc on set. I can't say enough great things about Kira, working under challenging conditions on set at the restaurant. We had to finish up the shoot every day on the early side, because of course the restaurant had to open for business at night. There was a lot of running up and down stairs with props. But more important, Kira has impeccable taste.I don't even know how to describe some of the crazy stuff we were doing on set, but you'll see for yourself when you check out the book -- the photos are so cool. Of course these are just my snapshots from behind the scenes. For Evan's real photos, you'll have to see the actual book in a store. (I mentioned it's officially being published today, right?)The food was so amazing, I have to admit nothing we photographed lasted belong before someone on the crew ate it. And Marc's styling on the photos is beautiful.I have so many photos like these, of Marc and Evan putting tremendous thought into the next shot, working closely together. I can't say enough about what a great team this was and how proud I am of the book now that it's published.Marc was like an artist at work. He styled things in ways for the book that would be totally impractical for serving at the restaurant, but all I can say is that I was incredibly impressed.There's the whole team figuring out how to capture this next image, the tomahawk chop, which turned into a gorgeous double-page spread in the book thanks to designer Alison Lew of Vertigo.Again if you think any of these food photos are pretty, you will be so much more impressed when you see the real photos in the book. And as mentioned above, if you live in the U.S. or Canada and would like to be entered into a random drawing for a copy of the book, please post a comment below. A winner will be selected at midnight on Friday, May 2nd.
There are few things I've made in my life which have generated quite as much interest in such a short time as these. It started out simple. My friend Catherine, co-founder of Luca & Bosco (omg, try their ice cream immediately), was having a bacon-themed holiday party. I was going to make a pork adobo with bacon, but then it was cold outside and I didn't want to leave the house. I had coconut and sweetened condensed milk in the cupboard, so I knew I could make some macaroons from The Macaroon Bible (awesome book, btw). But none of his recipes had bacon, so I I had to improvise. The result was pretty freakin' awesome. I even won a little prize at the party (aww, thanks). If you're interested, and I know you are, here is a recipe to try out yourself.Bacon-Bourbon Chocolate Macaroonsadapted from a recipe in The Macaroon Bible by Dan CohenYield: Twenty-four 2-inch macaroons4 tablespoons your favorite bourbon (I used Jim Beam -- no need for fancy stuff)About 1/3 pound thick-cut bacon (okay to add more)One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk1 whole nutmeg (optional)One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut2 large egg whites4 teaspoons kosher salt1 cup dark chocolate chips (regular chocolate chips would be okay too, but you really don't need to use premium chocolate)1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment.2. In a small saucepan, simmer the bourbon until it's reduced by about half to 2 tablespoons of liquid. Set aside. The recipe would probably work fine if you didn't do this at all, or you could start with even more bourbon and concentrate further it for stronger flavor like I did. You just don't want to add more than 2 tablespoons of liquid to the macaroon batter because it would be too wet.3. Cook the bacon as you normally would until crispy. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble the bacon into bits. Set aside.4. In an extra-large bowl, measure out 10 1⁄2 ounces by weight of the condensed milk. If you don’t have a scale, use approximately 8 ounces (1 cup) by liquid measure. Add the reduced bourbon and about 15 passes of the nutmeg over a nutmeg grater, if desired, and incorporate with a rubber spatula. Add the coconut and combine until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the bacon bits.5. Add the egg whites and salt (I added less salt because I was worried about the saltiness of the bacon) to the bowl of a stand mixer (or small bowl if you’re using a hand beater) and whip on medium-high until very stiff peaks form, 2 1⁄2 to 3 minutes.6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. After it’s combined, push the mixture into one big blob to make it easier for you to portion out the macaroons.7. Dip 2 spoons into a small bowl of water, shake them off, form the mixture into balls approximately 1 1⁄2 inches in diameter, and place them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. (You can also form them by hand, but be sure to wet your fingers frequently.)8. Place the sheet into the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. After about 21 minutes, start checking for coloring. Look for an even, light golden color and for the undersides to be nicely tanned. These macaroons will darken a bit more quickly than normal, so keep a close eye on them starting at about 19 minutes.9. Remove from the oven and let the sheet rest on a cooling rack, leaving the macaroons on the sheet until they’re cool enough for you to pull off (about 2 minutes depending on how sensitive your fingers are). Transfer the macaroons to the cooling rack to let cool completely.10. Melt the chocolate in whatever way is easiest for you. I used the microwave oven. Transfer the melted chocolate to a small plastic baggie, snip off the corner of the baggie with scissors, and use the make-shift piping bag to pipe the melted chocolate on top of the macaroons in whatever design you see fit. You could also just dip the macaroons into a bowl of melted chocolate. Transfer the macaroons to the fridge if you want the chocolate to firm up quickly because they're better that way. But otherwise these taste far better when eaten at room temperature, so don't leave them in the fridge.11. The macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, and for a few months if stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Note that the bacon flavor is a bit better the day after, but they also get a little softer after sitting for a while.
Note: This drawing is now closed. There are a lot of things I love about The Macaroon Bible by Dan Cohen, founder of Danny Macaroons. The biggest thing is that macaroons are naturally gluten-free. Another awesome thing is that they're so simple to make. Lastly, I totally love that the basic recipe in the book for making coconut macaroons is so easily adaptable. I've been baking a lot from the book over the past year while we were getting it ready for publication, and you almost can't go wrong with these recipes. If you feel like adding nuts, it's no problem. Feel like dipping them in chocolate? That's easy too. So when my girlfriend and I decided to bake up a batch of macaroons the other day, we couldn't quite agree on which recipe to try. The solution was easy -- start with one of Dan's great recipes and then tweak it a bit. The result were these super-moist and oh-so-yummy Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Macaroons. I think Dan would approve.If you happen to be still reading this, you can simply post a comment below, and you will be added into a drawing to possibly win a copy of the book. I will be choosing one winner (US and Canada residents only, please) on Friday, October 11th at midnight. Good luck!