Monday, April 24, 2017

Mediterranean Monday?

This past Saturday, I attended our Indiana RWA's mini conference. Kristin Lamb was our speaker, and she advised us all to blog in order to connect with readers. Some of you may remember the days before I had to shut down the old Cheryl Brooks Erotic Blogspot because my family photos had gotten sucked into a XXX bookmark site. Prior to that date--somewhere around July 4th, 2013--I had blogged every single day for four years. That experience made me a bit blog shy, and I must admit I haven't missed sitting down to write a blog every day--or posting several day's worth in advance if I was going to be away from my computer. I'll never get back the countless hours I spent uploading photos and getting them to line up correctly on the page, not to mention writing the text, but those were good times, and I do miss all the fun we had.

Anyway, after talking with Kristin after the event, she looked at the list of my likes and interests that I'd compiled as a part of the program, and because I had listed cooking as an interest, she asked me what sort of recipes I was currently using. When I told her I was on the Mediterranean diet, she suggested that I do a Mediterranean Monday post with my favorite recipes as a way to get back into blogging.

The idea had merit, but perhaps I should first explain why was on the Mediterranean diet in the first place. Last September, my doctor left the group practice, so I had to find a new one. I saw the new guy for the first time in mid January. I told him I was tired all the time and just didn't feel good. He looked at my labs and previous CT scans and said that because the CT showed fatty liver disease and my liver enzymes were elevated, that I was at risk for developing cirrhosis of the liver, and that this was probably the cause of my fatigue. The main treatment, he said, was for me to lose weight.

Well, I've been at roughly 220 pounds for a long, damn time, so I didn't have much confidence in my ability to lose a single ounce, but I told him I would try. He said the diet I should follow is essentially the same as the diet for diabetics--a condition I also have--which is to avoid potatoes, pasta, bread, and sugar. When I got home, I looked up the best diet for fatty liver disease, and the Mediterranean diet popped up. I'll leave it to others to explain the diet overall, but I tried a few recipes, started eating more fresh vegetables (my favorites are red bell peppers and cucumbers), avoided those things he mentioned, and stopped eating (or buying) cheese almost entirely.

I know it sounds hard, but it really wasn't. I found plenty of flavorful recipes and discovered foods I'd never even eaten before. As any dieter can tell you, the only real motivation for sticking to any diet is how well it works. I've been on a variety of diets in my 61 years, and most of the time, I either lost weight, then gained it all back plus ten more pounds, or I was starving to death all the time and didn't lose squat. For the first few days of this diet, however, I was losing roughly a half a pound a day, and not only that, I wasn't constantly hungry.

When the rate of weight loss began slowing down, I got back on my Nordic Track for the first time in at least ten years, probably fifteen. I thought I was going to die after the first five minutes, but I've gradually increased the time and the tension to where I was the last time I used it regularly. I have a six-song playlist I listen to, and I try to think about anything else--what I'm going to fix for dinner, my to-do list, my current novel-in-progress, you name it--and the time passes pretty quickly. I stop between songs, get a sip of water and wipe off the sweat, climb back on and start again. I put my favorite of the songs last so it gives me something to look forward to. 

The result is, I feel better. I've lost twenty pounds, my liver enzymes are down in the low end of the normal range, my Hemoglobin A1C is in the normal range, and I can walk almost as well as I did twenty years ago. I did pretty well until Easter, when I sort of fell off the diet wagon for a day or two, but I haven't given up.

One of the first recipes I found in my search was this one for Baked Sun-dried Tomato Cod, from the Oldways site,  which is baked in packets of parchment paper. I had to modify it slightly because the fish never seemed to get done when I baked it in the parchment packets, so I omit the parchment paper and just bake it in a glass baking dish at 400 F for about twenty to thirty minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. I also cut the recipe in half since my son, Sam, wouldn't eat something like this unless he was dying of starvation. *:D big grin However, my husband, who doesn't particularly like baked fish, loves this recipe!

The source of your cod also makes a difference. If you live near the coast, you're in luck, but I've been buying the cod fillets from the Kroger seafood counter, and I find that it has better flavor and texture than the frozen stuff. It smells horrible when you first unwrap it, but if you rinse it well and then dry it off with paper towels, it becomes more tolerable.

Baked Sun-dried Tomato Cod

1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes
1 chopped medium shallot
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on cod
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (4-6-ounce) fresh or frozen cod fillets (thawed if frozen)
2 lemon wedges
4 fresh basil leaves, julienned, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and mushrooms to a medium mixing bowl. Add vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Rinse each fillet well, dry with paper towels, then place them skin side down in a glass baking dish, brush with olive oil, and top with the sun-died tomato mixture. 
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cod until the fish is white and flakes easily with a fork. Garnish the fish with fresh basil, serve with lemon wedges if desired, and enjoy!

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