For those of you just tuning in, our house is in the midst of completing a 30-day dietary “cleanse,” which means omitting dairy, processed foods, grains, soy, alcohol and legumes. If you’ve never heard of Whole30, I know what you’re thinking right now: what else is left?
That’s exactly what I thought when I first read the copious amounts of information on the Whole30 website. But, as someone who lives and breathes to cook and eat, I looked at cooking during our Whole30 as a challenge. The biggest challenge for me would be to keep the kids happy during the Whole30. Before we started, we prepared Ge Ge for what was going to happen. Meimei, at the ripe old age of two, probably can’t comprehend what we’re taking on, and plus she’s pretty much “curly hair, don’t care” about life in general. Ge Ge on the other hand, is a sensitive kid with lots of opinions about food. We explained Whole30 but reminded him that I would still make all of his favorite foods, like fried rice and tofu. Still, his face crumpled.
“30 is a lot of days,” he said. “I don’t think I like this WholeFat30.”
Boy, do I wish it was called that, too. What I could do with a pile of fatty foods in 30 days is probably nothing short of a manmade diet-astrophe.
Today I’m going to talk a little bit about the things I’ve noticed in these early days of our Whole30, along with a Whole30 compliant recipe of steamed littleneck clams over a bed of zucchini noodles in tomato sauce. The kids actually loved this dish, but they’re big fans of littleneck clams anyway, so we probably had a leg up here.
1. I need a village. Or an army.
I could tell pretty early on that I was going to need camaraderie to get through Whole30, so I sent the link to my sister and asked her to do it with me. She texted me back: “Too much reading.” Fair point. There is a lot of information to digest on the Whole30 website, which I suppose takes the place of actual food. Actually, I’ve found myself doing all sorts of things in place of actual food — taking walks, spending even more time with my kids, cleaning the house. UGH. Whole30, you’re making me a better person! STOP IT.
My sister actually started Whole30 in earnest before I did, which was great because it was kind of like sending the canary into the coal mine. While I continued to feast on carbs for a few more days, my sister, who had already traveled down the rabbit hole, was peppering me with texts like, “I think my stomach is mad about Whole30,” and “I’m feeling so unfulfilled, like something is missing. And that something is cheese.” It was nice to know ahead of time the very dark, very real place I was heading. By the time I started in earnest, she could talk me through the tough first few days with knowledge and firsthand experience. She’s also talked me off the ledge a few times, when my stomach was empty and there was nothing but rage in there, which leads me to my next point.
2. Honey, I hope you still love me when this is over.
There’s a point on the Whole30 timeline that says that during the first few days you’re going to want to “kill all the things.” My whole life is wrapped around food, so I definitely saw this coming. The worst part so far is that I’m having a hard time having the perspective to understand that my rage is hunger-fueled. In the moment, I just feel the blinding white heat of starvation.
The poor hubby has gotten the brunt of it. Out of respect and love for him, all I’m going to say is that the other night, in what will forever be known as the Coconut Milk Incident, four cans of coconut milk weren’t purchased when they were supposed to be, which meant that the pork curry that was supposed to be dinner didn’t get made. We’ll laugh at this one day, but for now, let’s just say that I cried, and I’m still holding back tears now writing about the pork curry that never was.
Friends and family, please forgive me for the things I do or say during Whole30. I didn’t mean it. After this is over, I will send you apology cookies. They will be chocolate, with sprinkles made out of my shame.
3. Co-dependency with FitBit is happening, too.
A huge part of doing Whole30 isn’t just about adopting a healthier lifestyle. I’m hoping to lose weight. It’s vanity, pure and simple. I don’t feel comfortable with the weight I’ve gained since having kids. It slows me down, and I can balance a pen on my stomach in a way that makes me feel destined for the circus as a sideshow act. For Christmas, Santa helpfully (and pointedly) stuffed FitBit exercise trackers in our stockings, and I’ve become very committed to wearing my wristband every day, so much so that it feels just as much a part of me as my wedding rings. When my FitBit vibrates to tell me that I’ve hit my daily step goal, I won’t lie: I feel like I’m better than you. Yes, you, with your naked wrist and your untracked steps.
While I’m stepping towards quiet, unfounded superiority, last week I poached some clams in a tomato, garlic and parsley sauce and served them over a bed of zucchini noodles. The zucchini noodles, which I made with my trusty spiralizer, are better when they’re not cooked. I’ve tried cooking them all sorts of ways — boiling, steaming, sauteing. I’ve found that zucchini noodles, due to their thin size and delicate nature, lose their crunch too quickly when cooked deliberately. Instead, I like just piling them raw into a bowl and letting the heat from the sauce soften them just a bit. The clams were zesty in the tomato sauce and was a satisfying one-dish meal. The most surprising part is that in the past, I always steamed my clams with white wine. Since Whole30 forbids it, I substituted the wine for chicken stock. Although the flavor of the clams was different, I liked it all the same.
That doesn’t mean I don’t miss you, Mr. White Wine. Oh, do I ever miss you.
- 2 lbs littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 3 zucchini, rinsed and dried
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 26-ounce box of crushed tomatoes (preferably Pomi brand)
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup loosely packed parsley
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Cut the ends of the zucchini and spiralize with the thinnest blade setting. Place in a bowl lined with paper towels to absorb excess moisture and set aside.
- Melt ghee in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet with a lid over medium heat. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes until translucent, then add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring.
- Add tomatoes and broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 5-7 minutes until tomatoes are soft and the mixture is a little bit on the thick side. Season with salt and pepper.
- Nestle the clams into the sauce and cover the skillet. Steam for 8-10 minutes until the clams are slightly open. Add parsley, re-cover and steam until clams are all opened.
- Divide the zucchini among four large bowls and spoon the clam and tomato mixture over the zucchini. Garnish with more parsley and serve immediately.