The Ides of January (Rules)

Umami Burger Menu

We’re halfway through the month, and it’s time for an update from our January Rulers!

My Report

It’s pretty simple:  I’ve followed the rules strictly, with one tiny lapse yesterday. I ordered a salad at an upscale Santa Monica cafe (disappointingly, they didn’t have any 100% whole grain bread for the sandwiches).  The salad was good, but not even close to filling. It came with two slices of very-refined French bread, and after finishing the salad my stomach was still rumbling.  I finally ate both slices after much deliberation… and then when I got home I had another snack.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention our Umami Burger cheat meal from last weekend!  Matty and I met up with Rene Lynch and her husband for dinner there, and we decided to order one of every appetizer and share them family-style.

I was unimpressed by the Veggie Burger (it had a bland, mashed-potato-like topping which I still don’t quite understand), though the bun was certainly quite tasty decadent.  It was good, but I was expecting something, well, revolutionary.

The Thin Fries seemed similar to McDonald’s — good but unremarkable (I still devoured them). Then again, the homemade ketchup was first-rate, so that easily made up for it. The Tempura Onion Rings? Almost flavorless. The Pickle Plate, however, was terrific: A sizable sampler plate of several types of homemade pickles, including spicy pickles, tarragon pickles, and pickled okra.

The home-run, though, was the Cheesy Tots. They. Were. Divine.  I’ve always had a weakness for those Ore-Ida Tater Tots (one Chicago dive-bar in particular comes to mind), though I probably only eat them once every other year.  I was expecting something similar, but no, they were unlike any tot I’ve ever had: Shredded potatoes, formed into a ball with a cheese-filled center (I think it was homemade American cheese), and then fried into a gooey, greasy, absolutely heart-stopping ball of savory heaven.  We got a second order.

Overall, I think my expectations were way too high (how could they not be, after all the hype?), and if we go back for another cheat meal, I’ll probably just order an Allagash Black and a bowl of Cheesy Tots.

Michelle Stern

After starting the January Rules challenge, I have been paying more attention to the foods that I have been making for my family.  At first, it seemed like it would be pretty easy, but then I realized — as I stopped myself from reaching for the bag of pasta in my pantry (several times!) — that I would have to work a little harder.  Crikey.  This actually means change, not just documenting what I already do.

Okay – so I started experimenting with flours.  It seemed like a good place to start.  I had some reasonable success with a batch of Oat Cherry Scones that used a mixture of whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour.  They were a little dense, but passed muster with my kids.  Not so much with the waffles I tried the following weekend.  I quickly realized that just because I want something to be whole grain doesn’t mean that I can simply switch the flours and voila — it would turn out well.  Dang it.  I think I’ll have to do a bit more research on this one — especially since the kids are pressuring me for a delicious breakfast.  And for them, that usually involves lots of carbs.  Back to the drawing board.

Andrew’s Note: I’ve got two whole-grain pancake ideas for Michelle (and you):  First, the easy way: Bob’s Red Mill makes several wonderful whole-grain pancake mixes (High Fiber, Seven Grain, and Ten Grain). I’ve had the first two; they’re as easy as any other pancake mix, and taste terrific.  Another option is homemade protein pancakes, made with oatmeal.  They’re a bit more dense, but hearty and delicious, which gives your pancakes some nice variety.

Jayne Rivera-Lynch

I am finding the January rules good!  The whole grain rule is a good one. It’s by far the hardest one to stick to, but so good in that it has me saying “no” to lots of unhealthy things! And, I have lost 5 lbs which was most needed — mentally as well as physically!

Jayne’s shared a January update on her blog, in which she also recommends two nice recipes.

Nimisha Ambati

The January Rules challenge is much easier than the October Unprocessed challenge, and I have been enjoying it quite a bit. I have come across so many tempting situations, but managed to show will power. The cheat day has helped me question whether the food I am presented with is really worth the cheat and what satisfaction I would gain from eating that food.

I am also hosting a cookbook potluck party this month, featuring the cookbook Cooking with Italian Grandmothers. I have been making most of my meals from this cookbook and almost all of the recipes do not require refined flours or fried food. I highly recommend the cookbook to anyone who wants to eat simple, rustic food.

Also, I am discovering a variety of lentils and beans as they are perfect, complex carbohydrates to replace the refined flours in my diet. I even made Chana Masala for the first time, to much success! Even though we are only two weeks into the challenge, it has changed how I feel and I hope to continue it beyond January.

Andrew’s Note: Don’t miss Nimisha’s recent post, Whole Grain vs. Refined Flour.

Ame Schneider

I’ve been happy with my diet overall this week.  I eat in moderation, and enjoy trying new vegan food like the “beef” burger at Green Leaves in Los Feliz, CA.  I have to admit I had some delicious SWEET Thai Iced Tea … and fries … but they were REALLY good — and I shared them with friends.

Also, in addition to being conscious of my intake, I have made a concerted effort to be more active. I am swimming, dancing, biking, and hiking again.  My favorite has been playing Frisbee!

Here’s the good news: I am able to fit into the jeans from two years ago!  I feel a little slimmer in the waste/hips/thighs area.  Though in general I am happy with my curves, I would like to tone up and slim down some more!   Several friends and family members have noticed a difference as well.

Having this January Ruler to measure my progress by, and keep me accountable, has been very helpful.

Andrew’s Note: I’m really glad Ame mentioned exercise.  Although it’s not part of the three rules, it’s the other half of the equation.  Bravo, Ame!

Kimberly Morales

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my January so far.  As I expected, this is much easier for me than for some of my friends (who insist this is still far too hard; I scoff at them), because I do follow these rules for the most part in my regular eating.

BUT… I do have to admit that I do find it a bit challenging to enjoy certain kinds of starches (breads, tortillas, etc) because many of the actual “whole grain” products (not “whole wheat, which seems to confuse people), cost way more than I’m able to afford.

Breadwise, I’m okay because I get the CA Whole Protein bread at Trader Joe’s, which is nothing but sprouted whole grains and just $2.99/loaf.  The tortillas, though… not quite as easy to find.  The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op has some great options, but they’re about $6 per 10-pack (!!!), and that’s just not something I can justify right now.

I’m still a happy camper with my bare bones staples of yummy grains like quinoa, amaranth, kamut berries, etc., plus legumes and other lean proteins.  My first two recipes of the year were made from the same batch of red quinoa.  One sweet, one savory, and both quite tasty & nutritious.

My “cheat” day last week included a new dessert shot recipe (which shall remain top secret for now), and a tasty soup filled with veggies & big slurpy udon noodles, which may or may not have been whole grain.  Overall, not much has changed for me this month, except that I am a lot more obsessive about reading ingredients vs. just reading the nutrition facts on product labels.  Just because it looks “healthy” doesn’t mean it follows the rules!

Rachel Wilson

Andrew’s Note: I don’t think I’ve introduced you to Chef Rachel just yet.  She’s a Chef Instructor, teaching aspiring Chefs at a private college. When she’s at work, she has to taste all their “classwork,” which can mean tasting 20 hollandaise sauces in an hour!  That tastes good, of course, but it really adds up.  She decided to follow the January Rules as a way to balance it all out.

The whole family agreed to the rules. We talked about them — what they meant and what might change. We would follow the rules.

A trip to the grocery store took longer than usual. We had to re-read every label. This was a new way of looking at the ingredients: What does that unpronounceable word mean? Is it whole grain only or a mix? Does dextrose count? Am I doing this right?

Breakfast was easy — Toast and fruit is the norm at our house. As long as we have the right bread, we’re set.  I have been on vacation and enjoying fresh oatmeal every morning. With raisins I get an extra serving of fruit. Check.

Lunch was harder — Being on vacation I can make a salad or scramble an egg.  My son eats at school. At age fourteen, getting up early enough to pack lunch is an impossible task. We’ve all heard plenty about school lunches lately, all bad.  He runs to the lunch line early enough to get one of the few salads available. My daughter’s college classes and my husband’s self-employment allow them to eat at home. I trust they’re following the rules. I didn’t read every label in the refrigerator, but all the new stuff is ok. Check (for now).

Dinner has been very difficult — For one, my son returned to an evening commitment that included dinner and we didn’t plan ahead. The salad was great, but the pizza, typical teenage fare, wasn’t whole grain. For me, it was easy to just have a big salad. Not so for a growing boy — so he limited himself to a single slice to hold him until we got home. At home, my husband did his best (he cooks). The tortillas were whole grain and the rice was brown.

We avoid pre-packaged foods in general. I stocked us up on fruit and yogurt for desserts. I tried a great recipe for Quesadillas with greens and feta from the LA Times that I loved. Check (for now).

The cooking classes I teach were on vacation except one. That one I planned — wheatberry salad and dried fruit tart on a whole wheat crust. Next week is back to a proscribed curriculum and I can’t always follow the whole grain rule, although the others should work.

The bottom line is that we’re trying. As a busy family moving in many directions, we’ve done pretty well. Sometimes, you gotta bend the rules.

Are you following the January Rules?  Please share your updates in the comments below!

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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January 16, 2011 10:21 am

I’m still going strong! I love knowing that people are truly concerned about what they are putting in their bodies!

January 15, 2011 9:18 am

umami’s meat burgers are where it’s at – esp. the turkey – their earth and portabello burgers (and fries/onion rings) aren’t really anything special. but i’ve yet to try their tater tots!