Foodstuff: Dieting drama
Off the sauce (and carbs, and dairy, and sugar) in the off-season
I have a well-documented love of carbs. Why, in this food column alone, which I’ve only been writing for about a year and a half, I’ve written about pasta, bread, and other types of dough four times.
I am also dairy’s No. 1 fan, as evidenced by my pro-macaroni-and-cheese taster status, and the time I attempted (unsuccessfully) to make my own cheese at home.
To that end, my current editor has anointed me “The Queen of Comfort Food.” This laissez-faire attitude toward food has served me well for the first 40-some years of my life. But squarely into middle age, at 45, and on the heels of adopting some long-term poor habits over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a regular workout routine, my clothes seem to have mysteriously shrunk. Huh.
So I’ve decided to use the off-season to get off the bad habits which are no longer serving me. It’s time for a reset! I resolved to give up carbs, dairy, sugar, and alcohol from the weekend Aspen Mountain closed to Food & Wine. My community was … skeptical.
“I wouldn’t go all the way up to Food & Wine. Why don’t you start with 30 days? Or two weeks?” my friend Amanda gently suggested over a “Last Supper” of sorts at Casa D’Angelo.
My friend Andrea said, “Let me know how I can support you!” then immediately invited me to a bottomless mimosa brunch at the Limelight Aspen.
My fitness coach said, “Try more protein?” with the confidence of a small mouse.
My mother simply shrieked, “It’s about PORTION CONTROL! You can’t EAT SO MUCH.” Thanks, Mom.
So I’ve been viewing this entire endeavor as a chore but with a clear desired outcome of looking and feeling better. I hit two different grocery stores with a very specific list containing a number of things I don’t typically buy, like nutritional yeast — the packaging promising “‘Cheesy’ Seasoning without the Dairy.” We shall see, Bragg Nutritional yeast. We. Shall. See.
However, I had to admit, with a fridge full of fresh vegetables and a bunch of new cooking projects on the horizon, I felt excited. Even a joyless and sad vegetable mélange is better if you put a little time and care into it.
ZOODLES AND SAUCE
1 large zucchini, spiralized
1 yellow squash, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ onion, finely diced
1lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
2T Olive oil
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Sautee all of the vegetables together, tossing frequently, until the water has evaporated, and they are slightly browned.
Combine over low heat with tomato sauce (with or without meat) until well incorporated. You can use a jar of sauce if you like, or the meat sauce recipe I wrote about back in November of 2022 (just omit the Parmesan rind).
Once the sauce and vegetables are combined, top with nutritional yeast and freshly chopped basil before serving.
I made both a fresh batch of the aforementioned beef Bolognese and the vegetables for this Saturday supper. I also portioned out the leftovers before eating, so I wouldn’t be tempted to have extra helpings (Thanks, Mom!). No carbs, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no problem.
This was delicious and filling, and I felt great the next morning, having consumed water instead of copious red wine while cooking. It’s not magic, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work for me to stick with it, but at least I look forward to incorporating some new recipes and techniques into my routine.
Though, quite predictably, I did text my friend a post-dinner recap to say, simply, “LOL, nutritional yeast.”
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who is trying really, really hard to get in fighting shape before Food & Wine. If you’re looking for a workout buddy, she can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at firstname.lastname@example.org.