Bulghur, Chickpea & Tahini Salad


Workday lunch. Salad, tomatoes, spinach with garlic.

Last week, I cooked a couple pounds of chickpeas in the slow cooker with no particular plan on how to use them. When it came time to make a meal with them, I didn’t feel like getting the food processor out for hummus or falafel or hummus and falafel, but wanted those flavors. Garlic, more garlic, and tahini with a bit of lemon underneath.

I came up with salad which tastes a whole lot better than it looks. Chris suggested it has a bit of a tuna-vibe. Not what I was going for but there are a million vegan-fake-tuna recipes built on chickpeas so it makes sense.

Like most salads (or soups) ingredients and proportions are flexible.

  • 2 cups bulghur, prepared (for gluten free, sub your favorite grain, maybe brown rice or quinoa)
  • 1 pound dried chickpeas, cooked and cooled (maybe 3 or 4 cans worth)
  • 1 white onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cucumbers, diced small
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup dried parsley


  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 5 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 – 2 ounce water
Pour boiling water on your bulghor, 2 to 1 ratio, and let soak for 45 minutes.
Drained off the excess water with a jelly straining bag
Flavor line up, easiest to make any dressing in a container you can shake.
My preferred method to cut cucumbers small bites in salads
So many veggies
Not the most photogenic recipe

Earring Hanger

Some craft projects are quick and dirty. This is one of those projects. It is designed to fill a need rather than an aesthetic. For a while, I’ve needed a solution to keep my earrings handy. My little idea turned out just fine.

Why orange tulle? Clearance. I’d bought something like 10 yards – the remainder of a bolt – at Joann’s a long time ago. I’d wanted to experiment with the material without paying full price and hadn’t gotten down to using it yet. Still plenty for later.

I considered hand sewing, but ultimately used a zigzag machine stitch. Simple and quick. It would be possible to do a prettier version suitable for gifting, but for my fumbling in the dark to find accessories, it does nicely.

Anyone else have quickie craft solutions lurking in corners?


Grateful Struggles 2017


2017 is done.

I’m sitting here pondering as I tend to in January the viability of my blogging life. I have long struggled with how honest to be about myself and the emptiness of this site speaks volumes to how little I’ve decided.

I’m a podcaster now, so there’s no shortage of me expressing myself available online. I am proud of the work we’re done on The NerdBliss Podcast. Keeping it up for 40 episodes is no small accomplishment. Chris, especially, works hard to edit and handle the technical aspects. I just talk into a microphone.

To tell the story of my year is to be honest about how 2017 became the year of working hard on myself. In March, I had a scary episode on the mental health front. A combination of factors lead to a week long run of insomnia. It’s hard to explain, but I didn’t notice the pattern until that Friday. I’d pushed through, getting up for work each day and writing off a bad night’s sleep as somewhat normal. For so many workers, a day off is not allowable without consequences and I thought I could hold on until the weekend.

Friday was bad. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, alternatively reading and meditating all night. I knew from my experience in 2010 where I’d been hospitalized for what they called brief reactive psychosis that my thinking was not normal. By lunchtime, I knew I had to go home. I hadn’t slept, but I was not tired. I was so frightened. Chris came to get me and we went directly to the ER. I fully expected to be admitted for psychiatric care. I feared losing touch with reality and kept talking with the idea that if I became incoherent at least those around me would know my thinking was off and be able to alert doctors. The ER doc took my admission to a low calorie diet and intermittent fasting as more of the cause than I believe it to be. I was sent home after a bag of fluids with recommendation to have a meal and some Tylenol PM. A few hours later, it became clear the Tylenol PM was not turning my brain off. At this point, I panicked. Words cannot express how thankful I am to Chris as well as my best friend Kate for calmly navigating me through this madness. I have described it as being as if the file cabinet of my brain was dumped out and I could only pick up one paper at a time, reading aloud what was on it. In the moment, I feared I was losing touch with reality and perhaps I did. I did not feel real. I insisted on having Chris call Kate on speaker phone so they could corroborate my very existence. Later the question became wither I could go to bed and sleep (which I desperately wanted) or if I had to go to the hospital. All this was filtered through my brain as a flow chart from hell. The details are fuzzy to me because even at the time there was no real logic to what my poor brain was spitting out. I tried to make sense of things and resolve the problem with a right sequence of actions on my part. I do remember when the EMTs showed up, I didn’t view them as real. I went with them willingly and did my best to cooperate. I am nothing if not compliant. It was a surreal game, but I felt safe inside it.

I slept in the ER that night after a dose of Ativan. I remember falling sleep in the bed with the florescent lights on overhead and Chris sitting across from me, trying to nod off in a chair. If I remember correctly, I told him I was okay and to go home to sleep. They did at least one more bag of IV fluids overnight. I woke up still groggy and with the IV in. Chris came while I was eating breakfast, probably more worse for wear than I. It was, I believe, a social worker who untimely came to talk to us and determined I was to be discharged. I didn’t feel like I needed inpatient care, but I was prepared for the possibly if that’s what the professionals recommended. It was a relief to go home even being uncertain about the next steps.

Ultimately, rest, therapy, journaling, a new job, medication (Zoloft, for both the depression and anxiety), and a support group all factor in to the place I am now where I can say “I’m alright.” I have continued my meditation practice, both read and listen to podcasts related to mindfulness, spiritual growth, mental health and trauma recovery. It has been important to open up a bit and share. I have focused on relationship building and vulnerability. I have asked for help and received such generosity from wonderful friends.

Instead of trying so hard to be perfect as a way to cope, I’ve practiced letting go of what I can’t control. Guess what? I can’t control much of anything. Even myself, in many ways. I can only make choices in the moment and those choices are based on a factors beyond my control plus the incomplete information available to me. It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but for me, being my own Atlas and trying to hold up the world was a way of life.

As difficult as it was for Chris to walk through all this with me, for me, it was instructive in proving to me that I’m not alone even at my worst. I’d always been open with him about my experience in 2010, but knowing he’s seen what can happen and knows how to handle it in such a loving and supportive way gives me a feeling of security I didn’t have before. The loving and supportive environment made all the difference in what could have been a traumatic event being helpful.

I walk into 2018 with no grand expectation. I have hesitated over publishing what I’ve written here but ultimately do not wish to have secrets. I have been working on it off and on for about six hours.

I am not ashamed. It is important to me to be viable and speak up about mental health. These problems are such a part of the human condition, not something that sets us apart.  I could have cried uncle sooner, taken some time to rest, acknowledged I wasn’t where I needed to be. Sometimes, it’s easier to live like life is an endurance test. It would be hubris to say I’ve learned my lesson. I struggle daily to keep a balance of taking care of myself while managing the business of life.

My hope for myself and those who I care about is that we’ll be kind to ourselves and those around us. If you need to talk, I’m here.

Much Love,


Muffuletta Pasta Salad

I know I’ve been an absentee blogger for a long time. Our podcast just recorded episode 31 in our living room. We are very proud of our progress in both sound quality and content. I would love if you’d check out The Nerdbliss Podcast and subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app.

I didn’t reemerge on the blog to plug a podcast. I wanted to share a food discovery that’s been a big hit in our house. So much so, I made the original test batch last Sunday and have made another batch today. It’s what I consider an un-recipe where ingredients, proportions and methods are all up for change. It’s more an idea on how to put foods together to make a meal.

Today’s culinary adventure is Muffalata Pasta Salad. For those who don’t know, Muffuletta is a sandwich made with olive salad and cured meats. The name Muffuletta comes from the bread it’s made on but “Olive Salad Pasta Salad” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Those who have followed Chris and I in our food journey over the last year know we limit added salt and oil (sugar, too) and this dish bucks the trend a bit. I’m indulging only a bit and Chris can tolerate more salt and a few extra fat calories than I can.

I used Banza Chickpea pasta, but any pasta would do. Perhaps even a hearty grain like quinoa or barley, but I haven’t tried it yet. Both my olive salad from That Pickle Guy and my Kalamata olives came from Costco.

I cooled my pasta, cut up some cucumber. I learned watching Good Eats that refrigerating tomatoes kills the flavor, so I added them on a per-serving basis. Onions would be good or shredded carrots or whatever you like. This week, I’m thawing some frozen kale to toss in for nutrition.

The final sexy shot. This was a bowl I made up for myself on Wednesday night after a long day. I’d added extra cucumber and some delicious little tomatoes, sliced in half for maximum ease of eating.

Happy eating!

Podcasting, Reluctantly: Nerdblisspod.com

What happens when a negligent blogger and an aspiring voice over artist marry? It’s only a matter of time before a podcast develops…

Chris asked for the loan of the Nerdbliss name and I, after some contemplation, I agreed. The podcast lives at nerdblisspod.com. Our 7th is up, posting every Friday. Chris and I are joined by our co-hosts Eric, Alex, and Dave as well as guests. I say I’m the reluctant on-air talent, but I seem to be doing just fine.

The goal of the show is to talk about both traditionally nerd and geek topics as well as branching out into topics we or our guests might geek out over. I’m excited to see how the show evolves.

Feel free to check out the show! Leave a comment on the show and let us know you are listening.

Am I Not a Geek? (Musings on Pop Culture’s Place in Nerd Life)

photo credit: Christopher Jones December 2015

Life is unpredictable.

Even when making deliberate decisions, the side effects cannot be predicted. Few things I’ve ever done have been more deliberate than the decision Chris and I made both individually and together to undertake the drastic dietary changes we embarked on in early September 2016. I have one other example of a deliberate choice big enough to truly change my life, but that’s a post for another time…

It’s no secret at this point, both of us have lost a bunch of weight, these physical changes have been the tip of the iceberg. I have questioned myself at a fundamental level when it comes to who I am and what I’m about as a result.  It has not always been easy to stay on track and to make the sacrifices of discomfort and hunger. I was often tired. I was sometimes emotionally overwhelmed, but pushed through because nothing gentle had yielded results in the past and my long term health was at risk.

I had no idea as the pounds came off, my intellectual appetite would change as well.

I cannot speak for Chris’ experience of this except for what he shared with me. He expressed some concern about loosing some of the geek identity that is so much a part of our lives, both individually and as a couple. We had a Klingon wedding – twice – for crying out loud. Our walls are covered with geeky artwork and autographs from sci-fi and cartoon greats. We have geek cred like crazy.

By the time Chris had mentioned the issue, I had already thought about how difficult it was for me to get interested in watching television and pondered the implications. For both Chris and I, keeping up with or watching new shows or even old favorites became less important. I didn’t care what was going on in the DC television universe or that it’s no longer possible to watch weekly on Hulu as we have in previous seasons, figuring I’ll eventually see it on my own schedule. We have even stopped watching the wonderfully done Victoria on a weekly basis on PBS.

We saw the important geek movies released during the time period. Doctor Strange (twice), Fantastical Beasts & Where to Find Them, Rouge One, Lego Batman. Enjoyable entertainment, for sure, but not the intense experiences I’ve had with other films in the last few years with Deadpool being the most extreme example of anticipating a film being a major part of my life. I will always look back fondly at what reading Deadpool comics prior to the release date and the film’s brilliant marketing for giving me something both fun and irreverent to look forward to over the winter of 2016/2017 when I needed that exact thing. As thrilled as I was to get the Batman movie we deserve this winter, the experience wasn’t the same and likely never will be. Deadpool was the perfect anti-hero to show up at an imperfect time.

It’s not as if I’ve turned my back on my love for spaceships, dragons, and heroes in capes. I’m still inspired by the stories and I still think in pop culture references. In times of crisis, I’m going to read A Wrinkle in Time or watch Indiana Jones movies because they remind me of who I am and what I believe. Fiction, especially fantasy and it’s modern descendant science fiction, made me who I am. But at least for now, I don’t need my precious fictional universes front and center to mask what I was missing from real life action – primarily me driving the narrative. Those worlds are my heart’s home but I don’t have to spend all my free time there.

With my attention split between figuring out what to eat within the strict guidelines of our diet and strengthening myself mentally with mindful meditation and earnest study of stoic philosophy to help me bear the stain I was putting myself under, I didn’t have room for much else.

With the extra time gained by not spending nights and weekends binge watching old shows and movies for hours upon hours, together or separately, Chris and I listened to audiobooks and podcasts, the vast majority of them in the realm of self-improvement, efficiency, and other similar topics. (Special shout out to Tim Ferriss for being our Oparh.) I read more non-fiction than fiction, including thousands of recipes which either fit our limits or could be modified. I worked in a few memoirs, notably Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and Debbie Reynold’s Unsinkable. Real life examples resonated with me, especially those ladies who accomplished much in the face of so many challenges.

What I began leaning on primarily for mental and emotional support was both mindful meditation and stoic philosophy. I discovered meditation originally in early 2014, learning from the book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Sometime later that same year, I heard about stoic philosophy on an episode of Dr. Drew’s podcast with author Ryan Holiday. I listened to the episode twice back-to-back and read Ryan’s book The Obstacle is the Way immediately. I so identified with stoic ideals. I love, too, that it is a philosophy and not a religion. It is important to me to live in a way which is no less ethical regardless religious or supernatural truth as I may see it as all mankind should live to the same moral standards.

Prior to the great potato fast of September 2016, I had signed up for the Headspace meditation app in order to renew a daily practice. I was a couple months into the program before the dietary changes – currently 294 days consecutively. As we started the fast, I began reading back through The Obstacle is the Way. As fate would provide, I discovered through a Facebook friend, Stoic Week put on by Modern Stoicism which happened to fall in mid-October. Both the Stoic Week activities and the active Facebook group have been a delightful learning experience. I have studied more about the individual philosophers as well as the practical applications of philosophy. Marcus Aurelius became an early favorite, in part because he wrote reminders to himself on how to behave rather than to teach others. I can imagine this powerful and wise Roman Emperor who was ahead of his time morally if not perfect by modern standards struggling with himself as I struggle each time a passage resonates with me.

It is impossible to say for sure, but I cannot imagine having endured a two week mono-diet of plain potatoes and the following months of saying no to everything about American food culture in favor of whole plants without both mindfulness and philosophy to lessen the misery factor. I know it was a good choice for my long term health, but it was hard.

I had to decide as in the last couple months as the reality of my physical transformation kicked in – around 170 pounds at this writing and 25 pounds from my rather arbitrary scale goal – what else I am. Once I am “done” and have established what food and workouts will be to meet the next challenge of two years maintaining the loss, I will have freed up some of the mental and physical bandwidth I’ve been using on changing my body. I also have a wealth of newfound confidence. To paraphrase one of my long time virtual mentors Adam Carolla, you learn to do things by doing things, sometimes even if they aren’t exactly the same things.

I do want to write more. I don’t know exactly what that will mean and I’m okay with that. My writing has always been wiser than I am. If I sit down to the keyboard on a regular basis, I’ll figure it out.

I proved to myself blogging is something I care about when in January I broke my WordPress installation. I am still in the process of restoring the posts, a few at a time as it is tedious work, but I was not apathetic as my poor posting track record would indicate. I have plans to post about food, because who doesn’t love food? I have so many ideas about how to eat wholesome food without breaking the budget or spending all day in the kitchen.  I always plan on more old fashion analog arts and crafts especially sewing with posts about my projects.  I would like to write thoughtful pieces about the books I read, less review and more discussions like I enjoy reading. I don’t know what else, but as long as it’s something, I’m okay with that.

Part of the reason I dreamed up the name “Nerdbliss” is how flexible it is as a brand. No matter what I do, I do it nerdy because I am passionate, curious, and exuberant. I don’t know how to do things halfway. I love adding to my bank of both experiences and knowledge. At the time, it was more what I hoped my life would be about and now I’m much closer to the ideal.

One of the things that is happening with me and Nerdbliss is a growth into a podcast. Chris wanted to start one and asked if I’d be okay with him using the name. It took me some thinking to decide as long as it was a separate entity from my blog, I was more than okay with it. I have even been roped into participating as on air talent as well as applying my humble WordPress experience. Our first episode is up with a couple more in the can. Feel free to check it out at NerdblissPod.com. We want to cover a broad range of topics both traditionally geeky and passions outside of stereotypical geek culture. I hope, like this blog, not for wild popularity but that it will find it’s audience however small.

So yes, I’m still a geek. I’m growing and incorporating the best ideas I find into who I am. If that isn’t the whole purpose of nerd-life, I don’t know what is. It’s a toss up on wither I’m going to talk your ears off about Seneca or Spock, but rest assured, it’s all the same to me.

Stuff Poblanos with What’s on Hand and Top with Chili Sauce

I made stuffed poblanos last weekend with filling comprised of several items from our regular cooking rotation and a basic chili sauce for topping. I’ve managed to misplace the recipe I used for the method, but since I modified to omit items I didn’t have on hand, I’m safe enough to share one or two similar recipes. It is the method, time and temperature that matter.

The guts can be anything. In this case, I wanted refried pintos, black beans and brown rice, plus some veggies.

I’ve been using a slow cooker recipe for black beans since nearly the beginning of our diet when it became clear the salt in canned beans was going to be a problem. I’ve changed a few details, but the formula hasn’t steered me wrong even with other types of beans with or without seasonings. I do 1.5 pounds of beans and 8 cups of water. Works great!

This particular batch, I did in my pressure cooker. I got a six quart and and eight quart for Christmas (Amazon wish list FTW!) The user manual makes the thing seem if they are likely to explode and should be handled behind those plexiglass panels with glove-holes to avoid exposure when doing science experiments. Cutting 4 – 5 hours on high in the crockpot down to about less than an hour seems worth the risk.

Refried beans were my first try, but it was literally mashing up pintos that were chilling in the fridge for a couple days. We make big batches of most things to enjoy the left overs. Beans especially since they take a long time to cook from dried.

I attempted mashing in the pan with serving fork but soon got tired of it. I got out the mashing attachment for my sweet Breville All In One Processing Station.

Any veggies could be anything. The original recipe I’d used but can’t seem to locate featured zucchini and summer squash, but to me this is the kind of thing you pick favorites or – better still – use whatever is about to go bad. In this outing, I used mushrooms, orange bell pepper and red onion. I’d found on my first batch of stuffed poblanos that I didn’t use enough filling. These, I planned to over stuff.

The worst part of the whole operation is cutting and gutting the peppers. I slit them further this time and it wasn’t so bad. Forget a spoon and use your fingers for getting the seeds. I used rubber gloves, not strictly necessary for the poblanos but a must for the chili peppers I was going to cut later.

Side note: Silicon baking pads have been vital in avoiding oil. Granted, cooking spray wouldn’t been the end of the world, but why use it when these babies keep everything non-stick? We got a set at Costco around the holidays for $15.

I put my veggies in first, refried beans and a spoonful of rice next before stuffing them to the gills with black beans. Pop the little beauties in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes.

The red sauce was a big hit the first time I made it. It’s from that missing recipe and called for chili peppers in adobo sauce, but there we go with salty canned goods again. So improv to the rescue!

I found a recipe to make your own chili peppers in adobo after my first batch, but I haven’t done it yet. With these type of flavors, it’s hard to end up with something that tastes bad, ya know?

I stock up on no-salt added tomato products whenever I find them on sale. Publix seems to rotate the brand they offer buy one get one free and I’m more than willing to take advantage.

My version of chili sauce:

  • 28 ounce can no-salt added crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 4 – 5 chili peppers seeded and chopped
  • 1  tablespoon of dried chopped onion.
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced or powder)
Gloves recommended or wash hands with a tablespoon of baking soda afterward.

Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan, simmer for a while (15 – 30 minutes) to blend the flavors, remove from heat, hit it with a stick blender until smooth. Easy-peasy.

The leftover sauce goes perfectly on the leftover fillings. Why even cook if it’s only going to feed you once?

Masterpiece Theater: Victoria

British historical costume drama featuring not one but two Doctor Who related actors? I am powerless to resist.

Recently departed Doctor Who companion and Impossible Girl Clara played by Jenna Louise Coleman is Queen Victoria. I can’t help but love this as Clara is known to have been deposited all over time and space for the purpose of assisting the Doctor. No reason she can’t be Victoria. My headcanon has no problem mixing history and science fiction.

Eve Myles is the Queen’s senior dresser Mrs. Jenkins. Have you have seen a more disapproving expression?

photo: radiotimes

She played Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, of course, but also played a maid named Gwyneth in the Charles Dickens’ episode of Doctor Who. It does make one wonder.

Three episodes of the series have aired so far on PBS Masterpiece Theater of sixteen total listed as two seasons on IMDB. I am loving the cast and rich details in the set design and costumes. The Britishness of it all! The conversations consisting entirely of what is between the lines.

So far, I have resisted the temptation to read up on the Queen and her court as curious as I am. Better, I think, to wait until I’ve watched the series to enjoy the narrative to sort fact from fiction.

I’ll dig for more information at some point because it’s me. I will try to wait to scratch the itch because I prefer not to have spoilers. I’ll want to know historical details and how many of the household staff are real historical figures. I’m aware of Victoria as a general figure but not the details. I often come to an interest in a period or person in history based on a fictional account or a docudrama.

Forget the dates and facts; Give me the story.

As it happens, the series which has me making appointment TV arrangements over the digital antenna rather than catching a show later on the internet has a companion novel as well as a beautiful companion book. The pictures in the “look inside” sample alone make me want a physical copy rather than a Kindle edition. Something to set in your lap with a cup of tea on the table beside you on a rainy day and dream of velvet dresses and lace collars.

Mathematical Anomaly on Weight Loss Journey

As of today, I have lost both 63.2 pounds and 108.2 pounds, but not 163.2 pounds.

A riddle for the ages, but I’ll explain.

I started my current regiment on September 8, 2016 at a weight of 245 pounds. My highest know weight taken at doctor’s office sometime in 2009 was in the 290s. I don’t know exactly how much, because who wants to think about it when you are resigned to being too heavy because you don’t see another option? Please remember, I’m 4 feet 9 inches tall. Your mental picture should adjust a bit to shorter and more round like a fun-house mirror.

It means something to me that despite my struggles with weight fluctuations since I originally went from 290+ to 217 in August of 2010, I never went all the way back to 290 pounds. (Pro-tip: Get rid of clothes that are too big; Give yourself no where to go without admitting defeat.) I’ve already beaten the odds which say the vast majority of dieters regain what they lost within 2 years. I consider myself to have a leg up in this leg of the journey where the real goal isn’t the losing but the maintaining a healthy weight, reversing and preventing disease, and building my fitness levels. Deep down, I don’t consider “thin” one of my major goals. But excess weight is a health risk, especially when you have the underlying health challenges I do. Weight is also easy to measure.

As of this morning, I weigh 181.8 pounds.

While I don’t advocate for BMI as a measure of health as it only takes height and weight into account, it can be a useful comparison tool. I’m currently 39.2 on the BMI chart. At 290, I was 62.8. At 245, 53.

My goal, because it helps to have one, is 145 pounds. I picked it rather arbitrarily as I don’t have any concept of what my adult body at a normal weight would be like. Plus, it’s half of my highest known weight. It’s entirely possible I’ll won’t consider myself finished at that point, but I suspect it will be time to start working out in earnest

I was around the size I am now (weight unknown) in high school. I am not as muscular in my legs as I was back then when I walked everywhere, but I’m okay with that as part of the plan is *not* exercising in order to avoid bringing up a desire for more food. Since it’s impossible to outrun your mouth, this has proven an effective strategy. Have I lost muscle? No doubt. But what I lost was marbled with fat like a fine cut of steak. Once I reach my goal, I’ll be working to rebuild lean muscles as well as firm and tone which should be easier without the excess me. I have some unorthodox goals but being tasty when grilled is not one of them. Sorry, you are going to have to stick me in the slow cooker with some barbecue sauce.

I have begun in the last few weeks to take walks again. There was a period a few years back when Chris had to drop me off an hour and a half before my shift started so I got in the habit of walking three miles in the morning before work and usually a mile on my lunch. I got to where I was consistently hitting 20 minutes per mile and sometime squeaking out a bit faster. I got addicted to the feeling of that third mile when adrenaline starts pumping hard. I’m not pushing hard these days as my endurance and stamina aren’t what they once were, but it still feels good to put my headphones on and move.

Accomplishments matter. Less to impress others than to convince myself I’m capable. Being able to say I’ve lost 100 pounds and am a mere 37 pounds from my goal is a big deal well beyond the realm of the scale.

Veggies and Brown Rice

I love recipes, I do.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time surfing vegan and Paleo food blogs as well as browsing cookbooks. Saving whole plant food ideas on Pinterest is a hobby level occupation. Even before making a drastic change to my diet, I loved watching Good Eats or reading recipes. Food is essential. Cooking is a basic life skill worth mastering and, if you can, enjoying.

Yet a large percentage of our meals aren’t elaborate. A large part of our diet success is how the limitations (especially the no salt, no oil, no sugar directive which is so important) make restaurants and prepared foods off limits. It’s also made for culinary streamlining. I seldom cook one meal’s worth of food. More dishes are 2 – 4 ingredients than anything. Easy to prepare, inexpensive and good as leftovers is the trifecta for getting in the rotation.

Yesterday’s midday “breakfast” is pictures above. At this point while still working to lose weight, we don’t typically eat in the morning. I’ve joked calling it “fasting” makes it sound better than talking about not eating until later in the day or allowing yourself to become hungry because that’s when the body burns stored calories.

At first, I was avoiding too many whole grains and potatoes, but I have not observed any adverse impact on the scale when I partake. Brown rice has quickly become a staple. At just over 200 calories a cup and with tons of filling fiber, if anything, it keeps me satisfied. We’ve also found that Chris is able to avoid gout flair ups with eating grains and potatoes.

This particular brown rice was seasoned with garlic powder at the ratio of one teaspoon per cup of uncooked rice and cook to the directions on the package. Brown rice takes a bit longer – 45 minutes instead of 30 – to cook than white but otherwise it’s the same method. It’s flavorful enough to be interesting but plain enough to pair with any other dish or add another flavoring on the table. Sometimes I do plain or add ginger as well as garlic. My serving got a hit of Tabasco before I got down to eating.

The veggie mix is Costco’s frozen stir fry blend, plus a pound bag of Costco frozen broccoli. I never think there is enough broccoli. I think we pay around $7 for the four pound bags and it’s great quality stuff. Yes, there is a difference. Buy yourself a cheap bag of store brand frozen broccoli and enjoy all those weird end pieces that are more white than green and I’ll be over here with my bright green tiny trees.

One thing I always get questions about our diet is how can you cook things without oil? I admit, it seems weird when nearly every recipe starts with oil or butter in a pan. Granted, it adds flavor and sometimes adds to the texture of a finished dish, but it’s not required. I start with a little water in the bottom of my pan for things like cooking aromatics or this vegetable blend. I’ve also used vinegar to add some moisture to the pan for things like onions and mushrooms.

In this case, I added the coconut vinegar to the pan once everything was thawed and well on it’s way to done. It’s a mild one and brings a little flavor the the party. We got the vinegar as well as several other flavors (the spicy one is wildly popular in our house) at Saigon Market of Greenville. Watch the labels because some will have salt or excess sugar, but otherwise vinegar is your friend.

A giant pile of veggies, including green peas and string beans which are legumes, and whole grain rice is a nutritionally sound meal. Ready in under an hour. Eating healthy is *so* hard.

Happy eating!