Slim Pickings

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post focused on a book that speaks to the benefits of intermittent fasting.  My curiosity piqued, I ordered the book and read it over the course of a cold afternoon in front of a fire place. The book went into detail about studies that were carried out on both mice as well as humans in the context of intermittent fasting and the outstanding results. According to this book’s game plan, interment fasting involves pruning one’s calories to 500 a day, twice weekly. Not as agonizing as full on fasting. 

Outside of these two days, the intermittent faster is advised to stick to their normal routine of diet and exercise. Exercise is strongly emphasized as key to any healthy lifestyle. Obvious of course but for those who purport that diet has the biggest impact on weight management, think again. Incorporate both. Results from the studies spoke to decreased cholesterol, improved blood pressure, weight loss, increased concentration, lustrous hair, gorgeous skin, a sharper mind and something that truly struck a chord with me, decreased anxiety. The advantages went on from here. After discussion with my mother, I decided to give it a whirl.

In turn, three weeks ago I began my own journey as suggested in the book. The book promised that the first Monday and Thursday of the inaugural week would be quite tedious. For someone who lives and loves to eat – not sure I should be advertising this – I found those two days a bit boring. A handful of years ago I read an outstanding piece in Vanity Fair speaking to the financial collapse in Iceland. The article revealed that many citizens were eating oatmeal for breakfast as it sticks to one’s bones throughout the day. I do not know why but this has resonated with me over the years and whenever I think of oats, I revert back to the wonderfully crafted piece prepared by Michael Lewis. Speaking of Michael Lewis, I highly recommend his book Liar’s Poker. My sister, also a Princeton grad, recommended this book to me back in 2003. I read it one summer while on holiday in Tenerife. Talk about an awesome read. I digress. 

For breakfast I had a bowl of gluten free oats with almond milk and two teaspoons of almond butter. I tossed a couple of slivered almonds on top to keep things exciting. A cup of coffee was also in order.  I normally steer clear from carbs so this was a treat!  So oatmeal for me it was. It should also be noted that oatmeal is ideal for those who need lower their cholesterol. Dinner was a sensible affair of one homemade turkey burger (not two) barbecued on the grill, a big salad with fresh squeezed lemon juice, a measured amount of olive oil and steamed green beans. In this first week, I was quite meticulous about the 500 calorie count. No cheating, no nibbling, no innocuous handfuls of anything and yes, I went to bed a bit peckish both of those nights. It must be working I thought. Come morning, I figured that I would be ravenous. Instead, I felt fantastic and surprised that I was not even hungry. Not a growl or a murmur from my stomach.

On my fast days, the no food stretch from breakfast to dinner enabled me to step back and review my eating habits. I found myself wanting to eat at times and I had to ask (this was a first), Elizabeth are you really hungry or do you simply want to eat. Usually the answer was the latter. The first week I lost a couple of pounds and felt great. I was keeping up with my exercise and noticing that my stomach was in top shape. Perhaps most importantly, I was quite proud of myself for having accomplished what I set out to do. The second week, fasting was less difficult. Like clockwork, I did my usual FlyWheel class on the Monday morning, came home to enjoy my Icelandic inspired meal. 

Throughout the day I drank water and a myriad of teas I picked up here and there. Do you need an herbal tea recommendation? I am your lady. I have morphed into an aficionado of oolong, fennel, roobois, dandelion leaf and peppermint teas. I now find myself drinking more green tea than coffee. During week two, I discovered it best to have dinner ready and prepared. That second Monday night I spent almost 90 torturous minutes in the kitchen preparing a Meatless dinner. It was a real personal struggle not nibbling on a carrot here or a piece of cheese there. I could have but I did not. On that day, I realized that after a day of inspiring teas, I wanted something a bit more hearty than vegetables. So come Thursday of that week, I was prepared. I am now in week three and finding it very manageable. I think people are always trying new things, so why not here? Who knows how long it will last but for now, it's all good.

So long as I am participating in this new routine, our Meatless Mondays will be shifted to another day. This past Wednesday was designed a no meat one. We both arrived home late from work and a quick turnaround was in the cards. We are gluten free mung bean pasta converts. This brand is sold at both Earth Fare and Whole Foods. We have also bought black bean and soy bean variations, which we will incorporate soon. This pasta cooks in 7 minutes, looks like real pasta, tastes like real pasta and is fantastic. When living in Italy during university, my bosom pal and roommate at the time had an Italian boyfriend. We all adored him. One night he cooked we flat mates dinner. He was making a generous bowl of pasta and to it he added canned tuna. Who in the world puts tuna in their pasta? Clearly Italians do. When in Rome I thought. Or Firenze. 

He then continued to add other ingredients including olives, cheese and oil. Clearly no one had taught any of us how to grocery shop and keep a stocked arsenal. Basically, he was working with what he found in our kitchen. Genius. The end result was delicious. This week, I did precisely the same. I crafted a meal out of what we had on hand. I pulled out two lemons, a block of unwrapped Romano cheese, a massive bag of walnuts procured the week before, a new jar of capers and a can of the best tuna fish in the world - Cento. Talk about slim pickings. Always keep walnuts on hand. They add pep and pizazz to any dish. I cooked our mung bean pasta and added everything to the mix including olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. I am kicking myself that there were no greens or parsley in the fridge. 

This same bosom pal from Firenze, who dated the Italian, must have forgotten the marvelous tuna and pasta concoction that we enjoyed back in 2001 because she coined the Instagram photograph “weird” followed by “but looks so good”. She was right, it was good. So very, very good. I will now disclose that this past Wednesday night medley was inspired by that dark afternoon in Firenze when a group of American girls clamored over a steaming bowl of pasta and canned tuna fish prepared by a real Italian. Mama mia.

Have-not Pasta


1 bag of mung bean pasta – of course any type of pasta will do
1 can of Cento Tuna, olive oil in which it is packed included
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of toasted walnuts
3 TBS capers
3 cloves of garlic – chopped
2 lemons – the zest and juice
½ cup of freshly grated Romano cheese though any hard cheese will do and go crazy if you like
* This dish would benefit from chopped parsley and greens as well as white beans such as chick peas or cannellini

Prep Work

1. Boil your pasta, drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the water in which the pasta cooked.

2. Toast your walnuts in a pan over low heat. Keep an eye out as they burn quickly.

3. Add the pasta to a big bowl along with the canned tuna and its oil, 1 TBS olive oil, toasted walnuts, capers, chopped garlic, the juice and zest of the 2 lemons, ¼ cup of the pasta water and the cheese.

4. Now add a couple of pinches of kosher salt and some fresh pepper.

5. Give a big stir and bowl up. Add more cheese on top as well as a small drizzle of olive oil.

Buon appetito!

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