Tag Archives: Chef Shawn Sisson

On the Menu: August 26-Sept 1

This is the vegetarian/piscean two weeks again, meaning no meat other than fish, and no dairy. This is also the week that Thadd went back to school, and I started some certification training on top of my other stuff; so, we knew we needed meals that would be reasonably quick, too.

In addition to all that, Thadd’s been having problems maintaining his weight with the two weeks of vegetarian foods (especially since we eat little in the way of simple carbs), and is pretty continually hungry.  The reality has been similar for me, and I’m not looking to lose weight. We don’t eat processed foods, we have to be careful on the soy because it interferes with my adrenal medications, and it kills me to not eat cheese. On the other hand, my abs look awesome; but, I have to be very careful to not to lose much weight (about 3% of my body weight) or it messes with my medication dosages.

I’ll be honest, this new diet two weeks a month is difficult, especially on limited time. We’re not sure how it’s going to go,  but, this is our stab at it for the first week of back-to-school and new work stuff. Wish us luck!


Sunday: Potato & Cauliflower Burritos, with sausage for Thadd. These have more carbs than I usually like, but it’s what we have time for tonight. And, they’re really yummy.

Monday: Slow cooker Thai Tempeh Coconut Curry.  Tempeh needs wet cooking, in my opinion, to be good. Dry tempeh is…well, dry. I have to be really, really careful about soy; but, I can treat myself once in a great while, and this is that treat.

Tuesday: Ban Mi Sandwiches.  Another tofu dish, but this one is okay. Non-GMO tofu locally processed at low temps by hand, which helps limit some of the things that interfere with the absorption of my medications.  This is a vegetarian take on a Vietnamese street food that I’ve been wanting to try forever.

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Lentil & Kale Stew, with Bratwurst for Thadd. This is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which bodes well. Again, a new one for us. While we eat a lot of meatless meals, we don’t tend to do a lot of meat-and-dairy-free meals, so I’ve been digging through recipes for the last few months.

Thursday: Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry. Indian is always one the top of my list of vegetarian foods to love!

Friday: Leftovers.

Saturday: Lentil Sloppy Joes with Slow Cooked Baked Beans and Veggies. A vegan (yes, vegan) take on sloppy joes.  I’ll see what I get for fresh veggies from the market, and I’ll make my own bakes beans in the slow cooker.


LUNCHES:  leftovers. Vegetarian salads with chickpeas for protein.  Tuna and egg salad.

BREAKFASTS:  eggs, egg and veggie breakfast burritos, steel cut oats, fruit.

SNACKS: hardboiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, nuts, raw vegetables, fruit, olives, almond butter.


LUNCHES:  Leftovers. Meat, tuna, and egg salad wraps.  Frozen meals (we freeze lunch portions of leftovers, so we have some already in the freezer).

BREAKFAST:  Breakfast casserole, sausage breakfast burritos, steel cut oats, yogurt, fruit.

SNACKS: Smoothies, nuts, milk, yogurt, fruit, olives, peanut butter, cheese.


Gardening! It’s the Thought That Counts.

We are very lucky to have awesome landlords who let us till up (actually, helped us till up) about a third of our backyard for a garden. It happened late last year because they hadn’t realized we wanted a garden, and we hadn’t realized they’d be okay with us doing something so dramatic. This meant we didn’t have time to do our own starters, or even plan much, though it all turned out well in the end. Who can argue with fresh heirloom tomatoes right out of the backyard, right?

This year, we obviously know it’s coming and can be a bit more ambitious. This weekend, we put together our seed order from seedsavers.org, and I’ve started figuring out how much we can reasonably grow and put by. Our garden space isn’t big enough to feed us entirely, but it can go a long way towards supplementing our food budget and our health. This year, we also have access to a greenhouse with warming mats to start our seedlings! And, speaking of seedlings, it’s just about time to get some of them started. By the time our seeds arrive, it’ll be perfect.

So what are we growing, and why? I’m not going to go into the planting schedule yet, as I’m still working on the rotation schedules so we can garden in all seasons; but, here’s what we plan on harvesting in what season (obviously, some of these will start in one season and carry through to another, weather depending):

Spring: Greens (spinach, various lettuces), peas. With luck, blueberries from my potted plants!

Summer: tomatoes (several varieties), beets (these will be interval planted for continuous harvest), carrots, some greens (shade planting), leeks (late), radishes.

Fall: Beets, leeks, turnips, radishes, carrots, sunchokes, Australian Butter and Thelma Saunders squashes, kale, second planting of peas, fall crop of lettuces, tomatoes.

Overwinter in the ground or harvest late/cold storage: leeks, kale, carrots, spinach, squash, beets, turnips, green tomatoes, winter radishes, and sunchokes.

We’re doing all heirlooms, and as much organic as we can get our grubby little hands on. This is a far more ambitious undertaking than last year, but I think the payoff will be worth it. We elected to do high-yield varieties of squash and peas, and the sunchokes are also high-yield as a general rule. Our goal was to do a lot of fresh diversity in small quantities we can eat at harvest, and larger quantities of limited “staples” so we have enough to actually be usable for a good part of the winter. Some things, like squash, only get better with storage (to a point, obviously), and so we are really looking forward to these. Some things, like sunchokes, store just fine in the ground (and, in fact, are made better by freezing); so, we can have the produce without taking up all of our rather limited cold storage.

We’re also going to move some of our “cold storage” around next year. Squash prefer slightly warmer, drier temperatures than, say apples; so, we’re going to store them in another area. Our once concern is that our cold storage won’t be cold enough, which has actually been a problem this year. While I appreciate the warmer winter both from a personal stand point (I don’t like the cold much, hence I moved south) and a financial angle (our heating bills have been about half what they were the last few years), it is taking a toll on the apples. We’re going to have to sauce them out soon.

I spent a lot of this weekend going over two of my favorite books: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, and Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation. There is a bit of modification that goes on for us, since both books (especially the latter book) is written with the general assumption of a colder climate than Virginia generally has. The hardest part of cellaring here isn’t, as in the north, the worry of freezing–it’s the worry of spoilage due to warmth.  But, both books are very useful for anyone who is interested in putting up food. The Root Cellaring book in particular is a great resource for cold storage methods (did you know hard squashes need to be cured before they get put into cold storage?), duration food can be expected to last, what you should and should not store together and why, and all kinds of other neat stuff.

I’ll be doing a layout and schedule soon, and I’ll post them here. I’d love to see your gardens, your planning methods, and your storage hopes and dreams, too!

Paula Deen Is Not the Problem

Why is everyone vilifying Paula Deen? Did I miss her announcement that she was supposed to be a pinnacle of health and wellness, and  that people should eat what she was cooking on her show if they wanted to improve their physical well-being? Because that’s really the only way this whole backlash over her recent announcement she has Type II diabetes makes any sense. It’s a cooking show, not a healthy lifestyle show. I don’t recall ever hearing this woman tout the health benefits of her cooking.

If anyone watched her show and seriously thought “Wow, she is the picture of fitness and health I aspire to,”  the very least of our problems is Paula herself.

Do I think it would have been great if she had, instead of becoming a spokeswoman for a diabetic medication, decided to change her diet and lifestyle and share that on her show? Sure, that would be great.  But, it’s not what she gets paid to do. It’s her personal life–she has no obligation to share what changes she is or is not making with the rest of the world. There is power in celebrity, but just because there is power, there is no obligation to expose your life for the “greater good.” We all have things we struggle with, and we certainly don’t all open each and every one of those personal things up to the rest of the world. Simply because she is a celebrity is no reason for us to expect her to do so, either.

Paual Deen is not a menace to society. She’s a woman who gets paid to cook interesting things on television, end of story. The problem is that people are sitting on their arses watching that much TV in the first place, that our nutrition education is horrible, that we feed our kids appallingly bad foods that set them up for obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that our food system is so broken it’s hard to know where to begin fixing it. These things are menaces to society. That our nutrition education system is so poor that someone would watch a cooking show hosted by a clearly-overweight woman using ingredients that are often very unhealthy and think “Gee, I bet that’s good for me,” is a menace to society.

If one cooking show host is more powerful than our nutrition message in this country, then it’s not the show host that is the problem, folks.

Turn off the TV, go to the gym, and the come home and cook a healthy dinner. Then, volunteer at a school garden, help your elderly neighbors cook a meal, ask your sister to go for a walk, write your representative about GMO/GE labeling, plant a garden, Occupy Monsanto. Do something, for heaven’s sake, to counteract this woman’s influence, if you really think she’s that big of a problem.  See, Paula Deen crisis averted.

On the Menu: Jan. 16-23

A quick On the Menu for this week!


Sunday: Sausage, saurkraut, whipped potatoes. This is one of Thadd’s favorite meals, it’s quick, and we were busy.

Monday: Beef stroganoff over spaghetti squash. I‘m still working on cutting wheat, and most other grains, down. We don’t eat piles or anything, but I’d like to get down to only including them in dinners every other week or so. Hence, the spaghetti squash. This works well as noodles, and it adds a rich and complex flavor to the dish.

Tuesday: Bacon lentil soup. Thadd’s cooking on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, so this is his dish.

Wednesday: Pork Roast with roasted acorn squash and apple-onion hash. Crock pot for the main course. It’s a busy day for me.

Thursday: Thai peanut noodles with tofu. Thadd’s never made this before, and wants to give it a whirl. We’re using rice noodles, which we don’t do often because they’re expensive, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

Friday: Leftovers. It’ll be time to clean out the refrigerator.

Saturday: Meatloaf with roasted potatoes and a veggie.

Don’t forget to check in for “What I Eat!” to see how our meal plan goes, and what m daily food lifestyle looks like from the inside!

On the Menu: Jan 7-13th

The cookies, cakes, pies, and whatever else made it’s way onto my plate this past holiday season is all gone now. If you’ve been reading me for more than a little while, you’ve probably read a mention or two of how easily it is for me to become sugar addicted. It doesn’t take me long to break it anymore (typically about 3-4 days), and once I do I go totally off any interest in sugar for quite a while (which is good). So, you won’t see much in the way of sweets here (not, I suppose, that you ever really do except during holidays).

I’m also kicking my training up a notch, so you’ll see a bit more protein here than you sometimes do. My body isn’t a high-protein machine for whatever reason. In the past, its tended to make me feel pretty icky to up my protein intake as much as is recommended, no matter what form the protein took. I’m going to try some new things this time, to see if I can work in more protein and good fats, and less grains. I’ll still be eating my veggies, but I’m going to try to really ratchet down the grains (yes, even whole grains), and try to rely on mostly veggies for my carbohydrates. I’m not going paleo–Thadd bakes for a living, if nothing else–but, I think it’s worth a shot again. This time, I’m going to try more bio-available protein like egg whites, instead of increasing my dairy. Hopefully that, in conjunction with lots of vegetable fiber, will help my body process better.

So, here it is! The first On the Menu of 2012!


Sunday: Chicken Makhani, with spinach and brown rice. I’ll be eating very little of the rice, which is fine, since I love the chicken!

Monday: Catfish with cauliflower augratin.

Tuesday: Salisbury Steak, with whipped potatoes and broccoli. Lots of mushrooms make this one of my favorites dishes.

Wednesday: Tuscan white bean soup with kale. A great crockpot meal that also happens to be some of the best soup I’ve ever made. It’s hearty, healthy, and can be vegetarian or vegan.

Thursday: Ethiopian. Yep, this will have the concession of bread. We don’t do Ethiopian often. It’s time-consuming. But, it’s completely worth it. We’ll be having Doro Wat for sure, one of the lentil dishes, a potato dish, and a greens dish. And, of course, the yummy flatbread, injera.

Friday. Balsamic roasted chicken, with apple-and-onion hash and a vegetable.

LUNCHES: Egg and almond milk shakes for after workouts, leftovers.

BREAKFASTS: Scrambled eggs & egg cups, omelets, yogurt w/fruit and local honey.

SNACKS: fruit, cheese, cottage cheese, carrots & homemade dip,

Meal Planning 101

I get a lot of questions about our meal plan, and how I make our menu. Since it’s the New Year and many people have made resolutions to eat healthier or to lose weight, I thought I’d take a few minutes to go over the basics of how I meal plan.

The process will differ for everyone, but the basics are pretty…well, basic.For most people, the planning part will actually come pretty easily with just a small bit of practice. The much harder part is to switch from eating on-the-fly to eating what’s planned. Most people are used to catering to their whims for eating, and often balk at the idea of a regimented eating plan. Unfortunately, the “spontaneous” food thing is part of what has led 2/3 of this country’s adults to be overweight. So, the first part of meal planning is:


1. Commitment. It can take several weeks for a person or family to get on board with eating on a plan. We’ve been there, so we understand. But, once used to it, most people actually find meal planning far preferable to “oh, crap, what am I supposed to make for dinner?” Meal planning takes the stress out of meals, because the ingredients are on-hand, and the planning wasn’t done after a stressful day at work. So, commit to meal planning for at least 8 weeks.

2. Find 10 meals you and/or your family will eat, that you either know how to prepare or that you can find a recipe for easily. Write them down, and keep them handy.

These pre-planning items are things you’ll only need to do once. If you have them, move on to the things you’ll do for each meal plan.

Meal Planning 101

1. Get some paper and a pencil. Don’t do this in your head, it won’t work. Write it down, whether it’s in hard copy or on your computer.

2. Check your schedule. Figure out how much time you have each day/night to cook, or if you need to batch cook on your day off. Keep it realistic. If you’ve only got a half hour on Tuesday to prepare dinner, don’t plan on Duck a l’orange.

3. Start with dinners only. You can move on to breakfasts and lunches in a week or two, but unless you have lots of time on your hands, doing this all at once can be overwhelming.

4. Assign a meal from your “Top 10 list” to each day of the week for which you want dinner. We typically do two weeks at a time, and leave one night each week for leftovers; but, this may not work for you.  You can start by just planning a few nights a week, and working up from there. Again, check the prep times against your schedule to make sure you are being realistic.

5. Keep it simple. Re-check your planned meals. To start, keep them simple recipes that you’re either familiar with, or that require few ingredients. You’re more likely to stick with this if you don’t overwhelm yourself in the beginning.

6. Check for double-use ingredients. Depending on your family size, you may be able to save time by planning meals that require a few ingredients in common. That way, you prep once but use twice. Ground beef, for example, could be browned all at once, but used in both tacos and spaghetti sauce. If you’re chopping onions for one dish, check your list to see if anything else needs chopped onions and just do them all at once.

7. Write it down. List each day for which you’re planning a meal and the meal itself. Below it, make a quick note if there are double-use ingredients you can get out of the way for another meal later in the week, and note if you need to take something out of the freezer for the following day.

8. Make a shopping list. This is where the big money savings comes in, and the calorie savings. Using your meals, write down all the ingredients you need to purchase for the week. Make sure you don’t already have any of these items on-hand, of course.  Stick to your list when shopping.

9. Post your plan. Make it visible to everyone in the house. This keeps you on-track, and keeps you from having to hunt for what’s supposed to be for dinner, or what you need to take out of the freezer. It’s also a way to start re-wiring your brain to thinking about what you’re going to be eating, which will help the household get used to non-spontaneous eating.

10. Follow through. Obviously, this doesn’t work if you’re not going to do it. It’ll be a bit rough at first, as are most things that are worth doing. It’ll get easier, I promise.

There are many tips and tricks for people who’ve been doing this for a while. Some, like taking an inventory of anything in the house that needs to be used and planning meals around it, will usually become obvious after a week or two of planning. Others, like batch cooking on your day off, can take a bit more experience. So, for now, start with the basics and get used to meal planning. Use what works for you, tweak as necessary. And, let me know how it works for your family.

Eating Well, Sourcing Foods, and What Can We Do?

Thadd and I had The Talk again. We have versions of this talk quite often, really: What can we do to eat and live a more healthful life?

It’s not as easy to answer as it sounds. Some days–most days, in fact–it feels like we here in the US have very limited control over many of the things that impact our health.  From the water we drink, to the food we eat, to the air we breathe. Every day in my research for clients, I find more things that pose serious health risks to myself and those I love, and often those things are very, very difficult to get away from: the pipes that are used to bring water into our home, for example.

Everyone has their limitations. We rent, and will have to do so for the forseeable future due to the need to move for Thadd’s schooling. We live, therefore, on a budget that also must support his school. We live in an area that isn’t terribly progressive; and, while there is abundant farmland, the products of it are often difficult to acquire or limited in scope. Most farmers here do not plant year-round, even though the climate is suitable, and we have only a small space for our own garden.

There are other challenges, but we do our best to work around or mitigate them. We do have a small garden (which I desperately need to get out and harvest again–our beets are getting overgrown), we order our meat in bulk, we preserve as much food as we can reasonably store. We continue to look for ways to do more.

On the up side, we have some advantages: space for food storage and a deep freezer, a small backyard and awesome landlords that let us have a garden, a rural community that does grow at least some of it’s own food, local farmers who take pride in what they do, a growing community awareness of local food, and a significant other that is also passionate about local and healthy foods.

I would love to hear the challenges and advantages others have, whether they’re personal, geographical, financial, or another -al I haven’t thought of here.