Meatless Monday: Chickpea Romesco

I bet you’re wondering how the whole gluten-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, caffeine-free thing is going. (OK, you’re probably not, but indulge me.)

Well, it’s not and it is. I’d say I’ve been about as faithful to the Blood Sugar Solution as a hardcore vegetarian who still adds bacon to his veggie burger. This weekend was a bust, and while I ate really well all week, I also had a treat almost every day.

I’m still seeing benefits to it, and with such a terrible weekend (oh, the pizza, wine and ice cream!), I woke up and saw some of the repercussions. The good: Still at a weight loss, sleeping great, no PMS. The bad: My face broke out this morning.

We’re supposed to be on the sixth and final week, but we repeated week 3 because I wasn’t taking the relaxation part seriously. So, now we’re on week 5, which is focusing on living green. This I can do. I’m planning on concocting a homemade all-purpose cleaner soon.

Aside from nutrition, I’ll give an update on my race plans. On Sept. 15, you’ll catch me out at Mud Factor with a cool group of ladies. It’s nearly everybody’s first dash through obstacle course. I may be the only one on the team who isn’t totally new to it (I did the Warrior Dash last month).

Today’s Monday, though, and you’re long overdue for a Meatless Monday recipe. Here’s what I’m making a double-batch of tonight: Chickpea Romesco, a recipe I have come to love from “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It’s gluten-free, though with some sugar in the recipe, it’s not exactly perfect for the Blood Sugar Solution, but close enough. It’s delicious on its own, but you can serve it over brown rice or quinoa, or if you want to feel like you’re having spaghetti without the guilt, serve over spaghetti squash. It’s all good.

Chickpea Romesco

Serves  4-6

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted would taste good)

2 roasted red bell peppers, homemade or store-bought

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced finely

2 shallots, minced

1 red Serrano chile, seeded and minced finely

¼ cup of white wine or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste

Freshly ground pepper


Using a food processor (or immersion blender), grind the almonds into very fine, almost powdery crumbs. Empty into a small bowl and set aside.

Working in two or more batches, puree the tomatoes and roasted peppers together until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat a medium-sized heavy–bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic, shallots and chile in oil until the shallots turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and stir to dissolve any browned bits of garlic from the bottom of the pan; simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, thyme, and rosemary. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a near boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground almonds and stir the mixture until they are completely combined. Fold in the chickpeas and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chickpeas are very tender. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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Garden Ride

For the first time ever, bikers will be allowed to ride through Lauritzen Gardens!

Lauritzen Gardens launches its inaugural bike ride, Ride for the Roses, on Sept. 2. The nine-mile, scenic route will begin and travel through Lauritzen Gardens, go out to Omaha’s beautiful riverfront and return back to the garden. The ride promotes health and wellness while enjoying the outdoors.

Riders can enjoy a variety of snacks and beverages along the route at rest stops located at Miller’s Landing and Heartland of America Park and at the finish line at Lauritzen Gardens. SAG Support will be provided by Ferguson’s Bike Shop and Greenstreet Cycles.

The ride will start at 8 a.m. with staggered start windows. A pre-registered rider packet pick-up will take place on Wednesday, August 29 and Saturday, September 1 at all Omaha-area Sports Authority locations. Same-day registration will begin at 6 a.m. Pre-registered riders should arrive by 7:30 a.m. to line up for the ride.

Riders may participate as an individual, family or form a team. Teams may be organized by employers seeking to provide a healthy, fun activity for their staff or by schools, churches or clubs with an interest in Ride for the Roses. Registration is $25 per person, $35 day of the race. Children under 12 are free. Registration may be completed online here.

For more information, visit


Looking ahead, if running is more of your speed, you can through the zoo in October.

Lace up your shoes for the 32nd annual Zoo Run on Sunday, Oct. 14. Check in begins at 8 a.m. This fun run is great for runners of all levels with the choice between a 5 mile run or one mile run/walk.

Participants will receive bagels, bananas and free Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium admission on the day of the run. Plus, if registered by Sept. 28, participants will receive a free T-shirt.

Cost is $20 for Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium members and $25 for non-members. Children 2 and younger are free, do not require a registration and will not receive a T-shirt. Reservations are required.  To register online, go to the zoo’s events page to download a PDF of the registration form. Registrations made after Oct. 11 or walk-in registrations are available but will not receive an official time and will not be guaranteed a T-shirt.

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Slippery slope

Two and a half weeks into the Blood Sugar Solution and I’m down 7 pounds! While I’m not doing this expressly to lose weight, I can’t help but be a little giddy. Wouldn’t you be giddy?

I’m happy though I have slipped a little. OK. A lot. It was another week of temptation for me. And, it was all my doing.

Apparently, once I have a taste of sugar, it’s all I can think about. The last few days at work, there’s a little devil sitting on my shoulder whispering “Snickers” into my ear. Repeatedly. And today, the newsroom staff had pizza. So I had pizza.

So in addition to needing to figure out how to get a better handle on my weekends, I need to just learn how to get a handle on every day occasions, too. With weekends, it’s not like my husband and I get crazy and eat pancakes every morning, pizza every night and ice cream whenever we damn well please (which would be more than once a day). But, we cheat. We cheat every weekend night. A little beer. A little ice cream.

It’s an addiction. We’re addicted to that carefree summer lifestyle that calls for a beer when you listen to music outdoors and some frosty, chocolatey goodness when the temperature hits 100. I was naïve to think that I could ignore those siren calls for six weeks.

Our little detours each weekend haven’t really hurt us, that we can tell. My husband feels so much better already. I feel pretty good, myself. And, I’m noticeably thinner, which I like, too. Energy levels are up for me, and I only need to rely on caffeine after the nights my kids wake up repeatedly. If they wake up only once each, I can get by. So that’s cool.

We’re doing good, but we can do better. Someone be the angel that sits on my shoulder and tells me to not give in to temptation? Anyone?

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And… we’re off

In more ways than one.

Let’s start with the bad news. Both my husband and I fell off the Blood Sugar Solution bandwagon this weekend. I knew going into the weekend that I’d be put to the test with this health program we’re on. I wanted to be strong, but I was not.

Friday night was a social event, and we had some beer. The next morning, we ran the Warrior Dash with our brother-in-law, Dan (here’s where that beer was a real bad idea). After the race, we were hot, we were hungry, we were given very few choices. And we were give free beer. So, again, we didn’t make the best choices.

Grrr. Don’t judge me for eating that veggie burger after the race. I was hungry. I won’t apologize. (And, I won’t apologize for that free Miller Lite, either. It hit the spot.)

And Sunday was a big family gathering, with birthdays to celebrate, and I caved in and ate cake. And a few rum bars.

Now for the good news. We’re back on track this morning. I packed healthy food for us to take to work. And I already got my 3-mile run in for the day.

The best news of all is that it appears I’ve cleared the no-caffiene hurdle! I am wired this morning, getting all sorts of things done in the 3 1/2 hours I’ve been up. So, while clearly I need to work on the no-sugar and no-alcohol hurdles, I’ve got one under my belt.

This is Week 2 of the Blood Sugar Solution for us. This week we are to optimize our metabolism with nutritional supplements. My husband’s already has started taking all Dr. Hyman suggests. I have not. So, in addition to keeping an eye on my nutritional needs, I’m going to re-read the chapter and figure out what I should be taking.

I’m not real big on supplements since I come from the school that if you eat a balanced, colorful diet, you’ll get what you need. If anything, I’d take a multi-vitamin. But. I’ll hear him out. He does suggest a supplement called PGX (evidently, this is a Dr. Oz weight loss favorite). It’s a fiber supplement to curb your appetite. It helps my husband. I’m leery to take it since I’m breastfeeding still.

Anyone swear by the supplements they take? What makes a difference for you?

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So. Hungry.

We’re closing out the first workweek while following the Blood Sugar Solution program. My husband – whose idea it was to do this in the first place – is feeling better already, and he has lost 4 lbs (typical man).

I feel about the same. No better, no worse. I have a cold/weird allergy thing going on, so that might be making any early results fuzzy. I have mixed feelings about things so far. This is tough.

On the plus side, I feel good, virtuous almost grocery shopping, buying the things you know you’re supposed to buy but typically put back on the shelf so you can make room for some Ben & Jerry’s. Another good side effect is that I have a bit more energy at the end of the evening. Granted, with it comes a headache that I never used to get, but at least I’m able to get a little bit more done before heading off to bed.

On the other hand, I’m hungry. Really hungry. Breastfeeding makes me constant hungry as it is, but add this whole foods diet into the mix and I’m always thinking about my next snack. And my husband is feeling the hunger pangs too. I cannot pack enough into our lunches to keep us from getting hungry before dinner. I’ve got the solution – hopefully – I know next week I will have to tweak my menu planning and add heavier stuff to our packed lunches.

I’m also feeling a little disappointed in myself. I thought I knew my stuff when it came to healthy foods. However, every day so far, when I assessed how we did on the gluten-free, sugar-free, almost-dairy-free diet, I feel like I’ve unwittingly failed. It wasn’t bad stuff we ate – neither of us have fallen for the homemade temptations brought to work. It just was stuff that’s forbidden during the six weeks of this program. So, one day I put golden raisins in a salad. Whoops. Another day, we had quinoa at two meals when we really should just have a ½ cup a day. Oops. And stop the presses! I ate store-bought hummus with my raw veggies. GASP! (What would the good Dr. Hyman, creator of this program, think?)

We’re being good, but it’s just hard to keep track of everything. And it’s hard not to want to kick yourself for slipping up every day. If I’m going to slip up, I should do it in big style and have a beer. Eating too much quinoa shouldn’t count.

Our biggest hurdle so far is breakfast. What the heck do you eat for breakfast when you aren’t eating gluten or sugar and you don’t want processed food (because there are a TON of gluten-free breakfast stuff out there, but it’s all processed)?! You can only eat eggs so many mornings in a row, even with creative sides like sautéed peppers and onions or spinach. We tried a tofu fruit smoothie this morning and we were still so hungry we had to scramble up some eggs.

I bet you’re wondering how the no caffeine thing is going. Oh, we almost broke down. That happens when you have two kids who won’t sleep through the night. But we haven’t. We both sip our green tea and battle the urge to sneak a cup of joe. We won’t because we’re both competitive and don’t want to be the first to fall.

I’m experiencing good and bad things from cutting out caffeine. As I mentioned above,  I don’t hit a wall as early at night – by 9 o’clock I’m not super exhausted like I used to be (well, last night I was, but that was because my 10-month-old drew out bedtime for two hours and that takes a toll on any soul). But the first couple of nights, I was going strong on chores until up to bedtime. Then I slept great … until the my 2 ½ year old woke up to scream into the monitor that he had a boogie on his finger at 2 a.m. But, the key thing is that I had been sleeping great until that point.

Sorry this wasn’t a post with rave reviews of the Blood Sugar Solution. It’s still really early. Hope my next post will have some more positive updates and good results!


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