Breakfast of Broke Champions

*strolls vehemently to the Kanye West step-team interlude, “Broke Phi Broke”…*
Overnight steel-cut oats

When I was in a rush to work out & eat pre-dawn during my Ramadan observance, I was also broke. That translated to : less money for convenience, yet less time for tedious tasks, which is often the need when it comes to fresh or unprocessed food, which tends to be less expensive.
My roommate and his neighbors would give me food when they tried something they didn’t like or when they were moving, and I made do as well as I could. There I was, planning my week in meals, knowing I wouldnt have a single dollar to spend, praying for the motivation to make good use of another day, and hoping to find more odds and ends around the house that would eventually prove beneficial. I had no idea what to eat after my workout in order to keep within 20 minutes of both my resistance training and Dawn herself.
When I checked the cabinet, I realized there could be a cheat code to getting enough sleep, working out, getting sunlight, and getting enough fuel to live through Ramadan… all at the same dag-on time. While i didn’t have enough for milk (of any kind, which would’ve provided fats and protein aside from taste), I had:
1. the steel-cut oats for which my roommate didn’t too much care, which provide complex carbs, soluble fiber, zinc, copper, magnesium, biotin, B vitamins, iron, and some protein
2. his Ugandan black tea, which provides antioxidants
3. An apple*, which provided vitamin A, fiber, and more antioxidants
4. some protein powder from his failed attempt at shake-making, which was enriched with just about everything I already had in my multivitamin, & finally,
5. some raw honey from a moving neighbor, which gave me oils, glucose oxidase, and a wide range of trace minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and enzymes.
The night before (at least 6h ahead of time for you owls):
Measure 1/4 c oats into a sealable container. Add water to just barely cover. Stir to ensure all oats are soaked (optional: stir in lemon to add vitamin c and citric acid for freshness and softness of the grain). Place in refrigerator.
The next day:
Boil a pot of h2o. While this is heating, measure: 1 tbsp raw honey, the prescribed serving of protein powder, & 2tbsp water. Combine these in a bowl with the cold oats. Measure a tsp of Ugandan or other black tea in a cup (optional: add a tsp of raw honey & lemon juice after tea cools, so as not to lose maximum nutritional benefit). Cut small apple chunks to flavor the oatmeal and tea, and eat the rest of the apple on the side.

One time, I tried to combine everything I listed from the bowl the night before, but it didn’t seem as soft the next day. It’s worth another shot, though, and comments about such are welcome below.

I was left feeling full and recovered every time I used this as my breakfast (which, by definition, is my workout recovery meal), and soon, I depended on it instead of my normal grocery list, especially due to the lower cost of steel-cut oats and apples in bulk. Since the raw honey was a gift, I lucked out, but that’s also how I learned it’s worth the investment if one has the means.

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Quick stuff & fun with friends–for us, too!

As hinted in the descriptive post at the beginning, people with any sort of special diet have a lot of flack to endure on both the social and work scenes (they overlap so much more than we stop to consider).  As one may imagine/remember, depending on one’s level of personal experience, the more “special” (read: number of food rules) the diet is, the harder it is to blend in, adapt, and focus on the work and/or company at hand.

For these reasons, posts to immediately follow will include both creative hacks to take advantage of limited options, as well as conveniently-located places with larger, more eclectic menus.

In the meantime, I invite you, the reader, to set the stage with personal experiences of frustration with limited food choices in tight situations.  Eventually, I will share mine, too.  Please fill the comment section below!

Peace

New cities, new groceries…

…and struggling all over again.

The path of discovery is not for the faint of heart, I tell you.  Each and every time you visit (or move to) a new neighborhood, you have to eke out all your unpopular options from among the many (or not-so-many, if you find yourself in a food desert) regular food stores around you, especially if your budget, menu choices, and ethical buying criteria are very tight.

Although there are some chains on which I can depend in many cities (Sprouts, M.O.M.’s, TJ’s, and the specialty aisles at Safeway/Vons, Ralph’s, ), I usually have to ask around, check the AmEx Shop Small promotions (from the annual holiday, Shop Small Saturday), or worst of all, comb through Google Maps until the reviews show I’m getting warm.

I’m pretty sure I’m neither the first nor last “special eater” to have this struggle, but I do know that in this day and age, with all the rushing we have to do regularly, we humans tend to forget to draw and leave our treasure maps behind for those who may have the same struggle (isn’t this why blogging has taken on so many topics, though?  Why can’t I find more of them?).  Although I’m neither an avid nor a professional traveler, I do know what I’ve found and where I found it.  Below is the bit I can share, and after that, I invite you to tweak and/or share what’s missing in the comments section below.

NOTE: Whole Foods is everywhere, for those with food needs who are okay with shopping at bigger corporations, so assume it’s always there for you

Happy shopping!

San Diego:

Local markets:

Lazy Acres: full-size alternative grocery store complete with deli, hot/cold food bars, fresh juice & kombucha on tap, and its famous Pokē bar.  This tiny chain, with locations spread across many California cities, reminds me very much of MOM’s market, with a full array of departments stocked with brands that are harder to find than those of Whole Foods and the “natural and organic” sections of popular standard chains.   Things can get a little pricey, but on many a hungry night while visiting San Diego, it’s saved me so much time to be able to get most of what I needed (especially for unusual recipes) in a single stop.  The only problem I had was finding gluten-free all-purpose flour for my GFV biscuits (recipe to follow in another blog entry).

Pancho Villa: although this is a locally-owned international (read: Mexican food and a few other additions) market, it has many great options for the more creative alternative eaters among us.  For those who are GF but CAN eat corn, the corn (masa) flour sells out quickly.  For those who are GF but CAN eat rice, bulk sales of white rice are available.  However, you can get fresh Masa tortillas made right there in the store.  However, if you are VERY sensitive with very little time to make your own bread/tortillas/pasta, I would stick to the alternative markets for your tortillas or other starch needs.

Krisp: a little neighborhood market with fresh foods and a few alternative food and health/beauty brands.  HUGE selection of alternative beers & wines.

National alternative chains found here: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s

Regular (national and regional) with good choices: Vons (somehow related to Safeway), Ralph’s

Memphis:

Local markets:

Miss Cordelia’s: Tiny, but well-stocked.  Of particular interest is the availability of Omission beer and a local line of GF cookies, Miss Sandie’s, which I only tasted because I happened upon Miss Sandie herself offering samples that day!

Winchester Farmers’ Market: This is an international market without any particular alternative brands, but again: a gold mine for the creative allergic cook.  There are also fun exotic cooking devices here, although they’re not necessarily manufactured environmentally-safely or socially ethically.

National alternative chains found here: Sprouts, & (if you’re willing to travel to the suburbs) TJ’s

Regular with good choices: Kroger, sometimes.

Chicago and DC coming soon!

 

“So, what DO you eat?!”

Do you find yourself having to answer this question more often than not?  More often, maybe, than you get to actually think about what you want to eat next?

Has your plate ever gotten you called a bird, rabbit, or “one salad-eating (expletive)”?

Or maybe you’re one of the folk who hates eating out with friends, because your supposed “pickiness” means you have to read the fine print of the menu, and all that means to others is that you hold everyone up from eating…

Have you ever gotten a salad cookbook for the holidays?

Or you feel as if you spend more food money than anyone else because you have to go to the fancy grocery stores for at least one thing or another, but have to break the bank when you don’t have time to… *cue Smokey Robinson & the Miracles* …shop around. and around.  and around.

Do people call you Vegan while watching you pour honey, milk, or yolk, just because they don’t know how else to describe your diet?

Do they wake up and ask you to help them go “Gluten-Free” on a whim?

If you cracked a smile at any of the above, be it from personal experience or that of a friend, you’ve come to the right place.  Here, I document my experiences with symptoms, solutions, challenges, and champions in the realm of alternative eating for… various reasons.  Every special diet matches the unique profile of needs of a unique and special person.  Sure, the information that each and every person needs is usually already published online somewhere nowadays, but it doesn’t mean we know how to navigate this sea of words and pictures of exotic foods.  They’ve even added the grossest, most bizarre-looking ones to ad spaces at the end of every blog for clickbait!  However, since it’s so much easier for, I don’t know, EVERYONE ELSE with “normal” (read: “never questioning what passes the lips”) diets to throw us all into the same category (despite the need to full-speed run from one another’s plates at times), it would be so much easier for us to have our dialogue in one place and create a central directory.  Let us take this journey of wellness together; the more the merrier, and since many of us (not all) have our own pairs of “rabbit feet,” our luck should be just fine.

Thank you for hopping aboard.