Help me put this food-puzzle together.
March 1, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm temporarily eating a very limited diet. Can you help me come up with meals?

For reasons that aren’t relevant here, I am temporarily eating a very limited diet. All I’m permitted is:

brussels sprouts
green beans
brown rice
white fish
almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
olive and safflower oils
fresh herbs
salt and pepper

And I’m not exaggerating, that’s it. So, hive mind, do you have any recipe ideas for me? I’m a pretty experienced cook, but I’m not used to improvising recipes on my own. I’m open to ideas for smoothies, salads, and other ways in which I can combine these ingredients in particular (I’ve got baked turkey breast/fish + roasted vegetable down fine). I’m also thinking of making some herb-infused olive oils, so any thoughts on that are also most welcome.
posted by mchorn to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
You've got a decent fried rice in there...
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:47 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shiitake bacon. Your head will explode.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:51 PM on March 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

You can turn the fruit, coconut, and brown rice into a decent breakfast muesli. I'd sneak the nuts and seeds in there, too. (this recipe might get you going in the right direction).
posted by jquinby at 4:52 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

are all really appropriate for smoothies. I suggest getting frozen blueberries because they're cheaper, more consistent in taste, and are a good substitute for ice. For breakfast every morning I blend a handful of frozen blueberries with two big bunches of spinach and a half cup of milk. Instead of milk, use any other juicy thing, like apples, pears, or cucumbers. Veggie-only smoothies are improved by flavorings such as lemon or ginger, but you could try herbs too.

I also really like using raw asparagus and brussels sprouts. Asparagus can be shaved into long strips with a peeler, and tossed with olive oil, black pepper, walnuts, and greens (arugula is my favorite).
posted by acidic at 5:05 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chicken (or turkey) with fake pesto -- you have enough to make pesto with parsley, olive oil and finely chopped walnuts. (You don't actually need the cheese.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can make your own almond butter (it's really just whirring almonds in your food processor) and then have that on slices of apple as a snack. Spreading nut butter on apple slices is a staple of my wheat-free eating.

Guacamole without citrus or hot peppers, but with plenty of cilantro and garlic, is a great condiment for your turkey or fish. Taking the lime and Serrano pepper out of this recipe will probably work reasonably well.

You have everything for pesto (assuming you sub walnuts for pine nuts) there; spreading pesto on fish before you broil or bake it is an easy change of pace.

Steaming beets with fresh dill is amazing.

This recipe for roasted brussels sprouts with apples is excellent.

If you can find some really tart apples (Granny Smiths in a pinch), you can juice them and use that fresh juice as a substitute for citrus and even vinegar in some of your regular recipes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chop butternut squash into 1/2" or smaller cubes, sauté over high heat in a cast-iron pan until soft and lightly browned (~10 min depending on size), add chopped walnuts in the last 30 seconds so they get toasted a bit. Season and serve.

Steam cauliflower (I prefer yellow cauliflower for this recipe for visual appeal) until it falls apart and is rice-like in texture. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil. Toss in some slivered almonds. (Delicious with chili flakes, too.) Serve.

Cook white fish in pergament with some thyme or other herbs you have handy.

Can you eat vinegar? If so, you can make delicious pickled carrots.
posted by halogen at 5:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It looks like lots of great stuff there except for breakfast.
Are you limited to certain squashes? If I were you I would clean out the squash aisle. It a great time to get familiar with some unusual kinds.
Also a few kind of usual ways to make common foods.
Turnip, oil and salt and pepper make great "French fries".
Roast cauliflower is terrific.
And there are so so many great greens.
You could try those kale chips everyone .
Since you have ground turkey you have a lot of options there. Burgers, meatloaf?
I would make a turkey soup base and make some veggie soups with it.
You can't have " sandwiches" but I can imagine a really good avocado, turkey burger lettuce wrap with shredded carrots and thinly sliced cucumber.
posted by beccaj at 5:13 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does turkey on the list mean you could make stock? If you've got a roasted carcass, cover it with water, toss in a few chunks of carrots and let it simmer slowly for a few hours. (Normally you'd have an onion in there too, but it shouldn't matter much to leave it out.) Drain/strain out the chunks and refrigerate or freeze.

Some nice stock gives you a ton of soup options with your ingredients - squash soup, beet soup, turkey & rice, etc.
posted by agentmitten at 5:24 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alas, cutting vinegar and citrus out entirely are generally key to elimination diets.

If coconut milk is also OK, you could do a variation on this recipe with turkey instead of chicken, and without the lime (either leave it out, or do the tart apple juice instead), the peppers, and the ginger. The lemongrass is really the key to the flavor profile.

While on soup, this carrot/coconut cream/cilantro soup looks like it fits your food plan if you sub turkey stock for the chicken stock.

For breakfast, I would try switching up this recipe by putting some chopped dates in with the coconut milk to simmer (to make up for the sweetness you'll miss by not having the agave or whatever) and then putting lots of blueberries in with the rice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:25 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a cheese-free, citrus-free pesto recipe that fits your food plan if you substitute walnuts for the pine nuts. Pesto, man. Pesto will save your life. Steaming cauliflower and tossing it with pesto will give you that pasta-happiness.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Roasted root veg: Dice winter squash, beets, turnips, carrots, whatever; drizzle with a little oil (optional, but makes the texture more fun) and sprinkle a little salt; roast at 400 until the corners of the diced bits are brown.

Dice mushrooms and mince garlic, cook in a frying pan the stove on medium or so until it smells great, add green beans and cook ONLY until they are bright green.

Mush fresh herbs, garlic, and add some salt together in a paste, shove under the skin of a turkey breast or leg, and roast.

I don't eat dairy, and let me tell you, avocados are the BEST answer to cheese cravings when combined with umami like, say, that shitake bacon someone linked above.

Cut brussels sprouts in half or quarters, cook in oil on the stove along with thinly sliced or diced winter squash and a chopped up apple.

Pesto spaghetti squash! Cut a spaghetti squash in half, empty out the seed and mush, roast it for a while, then use a fork to pull the middle parts out in "spaghetti" form. Make minced herb and garlic mush, or actually follow a recipe like Sidhedevil's, and toss it all together. Yum.

Dice up a date or two till it's way tiny, braise greens with some water or mushroom stock or whatever, and add the dates in for sweetness as it all cooks.

I could go on. Memail me if you want more ideas, or to commiserate about limited diets.
posted by mismatched at 5:48 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Continuing on the pesto theme, I make a walnut and arugula or walnut and cilantro pesto all the time. Ingredients are 1 cup walnuts (toasted if you want), one bunch greens, 2-3 cloves garlic, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to just get the food processor to blend it. It freezes fantastically, and I sometimes further thin it with additional oil or just some water when I use it.

Apples and brussels sprouts love each other. Cut your brussels sprouts in half (quarters if they're large) chop up a tart apple, and toss it all in a very hot skillet with a bit of olive oil. Let them cook undisturbed 3-5 minutes, or until the brussels sprouts are deeply browned on the bottom, then give it all a stir, cook 2-3 more minutes, and eat immediately.

Spaghetti squash is actually a pretty good pasta substitute. I like to cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and cook in the microwave for 5-7 minutes, then finish in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes (if done all in the oven, it takes forever, done all in the microwave and the squash gets watery).

Try dicing turnips, butternut squash and apples, and cooking this like you'd cook a potato hash. The combo could also be boiled and pureed for a mashed potato substitute. Turnips and carrots could also be grated for something like latkes or hash browns (so could beets...this is delicious, but CRAZY messy).
posted by psycheslamp at 5:54 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Both basil and garlic do really well thrown into a bottle of olive oil. The garlic is a lot stronger (naturally).

Brussels sprouts are really great roasted with garlic, worth trying even if you normally aren't a fan. Broccoli and cauliflower roasted are also really great (together or apart). Here is a roasted broccoli recipe--forget about the lemon and the parmesan, I find this better without them anyway.

Risotto is one of my favourite foods to make on the fly, and I've just found these recipes for brown rice risotto which you could adapt. I've skipped onions, wine, and parmesan in risottos before (maybe not all at once, but still) and I'm pretty sure you'd be fine without all of them. Mushroom and herb is a recent favourite. I also think that turkey, asparagus, and squash would be nice, or even turkey, date, and squash, and definitely squash and herb (with various different squashes, of course).

You could stuff a halved squash (my mom uses butternut or spaghetti, but when I Google all of the recipes call for acorn) with ground turkey, herbs of your choice, and garlic.

Bake squash and apples gratin-style with turkey stock instead of cream. Thyme would be nice with this. It's nice that you get the herbs, you can really just throw them all over any recipe that you worry will be lacking without cream/butter/cheese/etc, and they will make everything good.

And baked date-stuffed apples for dessert!
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:28 PM on March 1, 2012

Oh, and like with squash, make this your time to try all the varieties of mushrooms you can find, if you haven't already. Depending on where you live, the fancy cool ones might not even be that expensive.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:31 PM on March 1, 2012

Boneless dark meat turkey (or just debone a thigh). Onions, apples, dates, walnuts, garlic. Chop all the bigger stuff to about walnut-sized. Cook it all up in a pan with some oil: brown the turkey meat and set it aside; sweat the onions and garlic; throw it all back in to cook. Add just a little dash of cinnamon and cloves. Serve with brown rice on the side. Normally I would do this with pork, but I see no reason not to use turkey instead.

Also, is turkey skin allowed? Render down some turkey skin and the fat that comes attached to it and you will get delicious delicious schmaltz that makes anything you cook in it taste better. Think of it like herb-infused olive oil for carnivores.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:36 PM on March 1, 2012

There are a lot of fantastic ideas here--thank you all so much! This is starting to feel like a culinary experiment rather than asceticism!
posted by mchorn at 5:08 AM on March 2, 2012

I eat a lot of brown rice, but rarely in plain old rice form. If you haven't found these yet, there are brown rice noodles you can use like any other pasta, brown rice cakes when you want something crunchy, hot brown rice cereal sort of like cream of wheat, and puffed brown rice cereal too. And probably a lot of other products I'm not thinking of. I find they all taste slightly different, so it's a nice change from just regular rice.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:23 AM on March 2, 2012

This isn't a recipie per se, but I've found that jarred ginger paste and chopped garlic are a great (and QUICK) way to flavor a steamed or roasted veggie dish in a pinch. The Indian grocer will have these any other fun spice mixes you can use to add some variety to your limited list of permitted foods (and cheap!).
posted by MediaMer at 6:33 AM on March 2, 2012

There are some delicious vegetables in your list! As you're a good cook I'm just listing suggestions of pairings, rather than precise cooking instructions (suck eggs teaching and all that)

1. Roasted Beetroot salad with green beans and walnuts
Roast and then cut into largeish chunks some beetroots, blanch some green beans. Bung em in a bowl that's been rubbed with garlic. Toss them with a little olive oil, and scatter walnuts. This i've eaten before and find yummy. Pears might make a fun addition to this

2. Green things are delicious
saute some garlic in olive oil, add brussels sprouts which have been trimmed and quartered (or further chopped if you like), after a little while add the broccoli and then lastly the (fresh not tinned) asparagus. Finish with some slivered almonds. You could eat this on brown rice if you felt like rice.

3. Turkey
I'm not au fait with cooking turkey pieces, but you could cook said turkey and serve it on a combo mash of squash and turnips, rather than roasted vegies. Serve with green beans.

4. Agree on turkey stock and accompanying vegetables

5. Baked mushrooms
Big field mushrooms brushed with oil, with some garlic and thyme. Bake in oven till delicious.

6. Stuffed mushrooms
Cook some brown rice, mix with it your desired vegetables (small cubes), stuff mushrooms and bake as before. Squash, green beans and brussels sprouts might go nicely in that mix. You could also use minced turkey + rice + vegies and stuff the mushrooms that way.

From a snacking POV, i enjoy snacking on raw carrots, cucubmers and green beans. The fruits make good snacking partners as well.

Basil infused oil is incredible - suggest that might go well with sauteed or steamed vegetables.

Tarragon infused oil is i think a good accompaniement to some fish? Might go well with your turkey.
posted by pymsical at 9:55 AM on March 2, 2012

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