fitness

Nicole’s evolution in eating, from pre-pandemic times to now

Before last March, when I was going to the office every day, my eating habits looked something like this:

Americano misto from one of my favourite indie coffee spots on the way to work.

Breakfast at my desk: either a muesli/yogurt combo I brought from home or a turkey bacon and egg white breakfast sandwich from Starbucks (with sriracha).

Lunch – “sometimes” I’d bring lunch from home, which would typically be leftovers from dinner since I’m not a sandwich person at lunch. A lot of time, I’d buy “nutritious” options from the food court – bowls from iQ, veggies and tofu with half the usual portion of rice from the Japanese place, bowls from Freshii, etc.

Dinner – before I was partnered off, I often ate salad and hummus or tuna, for dinner. With canned dolmades dipped in tzatziki. Or a lot of the toppings and half of a small pizza with sun dried tomatoes, green olives and hot peppers. I like to cook, but I saved it for company or weekend projects. But since living with another human being, I’ve typically made dinner most nights. Turkey meatballs in a glaze over rice with salad with a tangy vinaigrette. Noodles in a peanut, orange, garlic, soy sauce, with tofu or chicken. Roasted fish with roasted potatoes and/or other roasted vegetables.

Glazed turkey meatballs, roasted potatoes, broccolini and carrots and a quinoa dish.

Brunch on the weekend has always been my favourite meal. Shakshuka (eggs in an aromatic tomato sauce, sometimes with goat cheese on top and spinach) or breakfast sandwiches with interesting combinations or Pamela’s gluten free pancakes with a fruit coulis and yogurt and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

A picture of shakshuka.

When the pandemic hit and we were home every day, avoiding the store as much as possible, I was cooking every meal. Like most people, I was baking more. Figuring out homemade sourdough bread. Sourdough bagels. Homemade pasta. Time-consuming dishes that I didn’t have time to make when I was out of the house for 12 hours a day. . Then when we could order takeout again, we started ordering special meals once a week. Or more. Seafood paella in May when we were supposed to be in Spain. Meals finished at home from a local French bistro. French onion soup. Decadent. Comfort food. Sushi, Thai and Vietnamese and Indian food. Delicious, fancy pizza.

A picture of sourdough bagels Nicole was making not too long ago.

Since I’ve been home my once or twice a day Americano misto has become 3 or 4 from our beloved (and fairly new) Breville espresso machine.

A black poster with a white coffee cup and white lettering that says “I Like Big Cups & I Cannot Lie”

Throughout the summer, we stopped drinking alcohol in our house. I was never a big drinker but that was a bit of an adjustment, in terms of cooking with alcohol and periodic glasses of wine when relaxing or with a nice meal.

Then my husband “really” got into gelato and we were snacking on delicious gelato from Death in Venice many nights. Add to that my monthly “candy nights” where I’d have a bag of sour kids and he’d have a bag of wine gums.

Then, my husband found out his sugar was a bit high about a month ago. Nothing alarming, but we decided to cut back on the snacking, lower sugar intake and refined carbs. I won’t get into that too much, because I know this can be a boring and annoying topic. I am not providing advice about what anyone else should do. But this obviously has changed our eating habits for now. And I love talking about food and what I am making.

I am still making sourdough bread about once a week, but I’ve replaced much of the regular flour with rye and spelt. These loaves don’t rise as much and are not as pretty but they are pretty delicious. Especially if you enjoy Scandinavian-style bread, which it reminds us of.

I’ve experimented with “cloud bread” which is made from separated eggs and a bit of cream cheese and have the consistency of meringue when freshly made, but become a bit firmer over the next couple days. We enjoy them as a sort of “BLT” with turkey bacon and an over easy egg and tomato. There are many ways you could use these.

A cloud bread sandwich with scrambled eggs and veggies.

Most days I start the day with oats cooked with a little frozen fruit and flax seeds and I add yogurt after it’s cooked, and sometimes banana, sometimes coconut or peanut butter or a tiny bit of honey.

Lunches are usually leftovers from dinner or big salads with the usual add-ins (tuna or egg or hummus, pickled beets, or hot peppers, onions, basically whatever tasty things are laying around).

Dinners are usually roasted salmon or cod or chicken or tofu. There are always a lot of vegetables – squash or cauliflower or wild mushrooms or eggplant or rapini. One big hit recently was “Lemon chicken piccata” which is breaded in a mixture of almond flour and tapioca flour and the sauce is made from coconut cream and lemon juice and grainy mustard and capers. I don’t have a picture of that, but I do have a picture of a big salad with pan seared scallops that was quite tasty.

A big salad with roasted veggies and scallops.

I’ve experimented with lower sugar baking too. I recently made cookies with coconut, almond flour and monkfruit sugar, that were delicious and a big hit.

One of the sites I discovered recently that is my new favourite is “elavegan.com”. I made delicious and super easy spinach tortillas from this site. They consist of spinach, tapioca flour, water and chickpea flour. I am not exaggerating when I say they were extremely simple to make. And they had a “foldy” tortilla texture and the taste from spinach was delicious. I used these with my own “waldorf-style” chicken salad which I made with pomegranate seeds, apple, almonds and walnuts, garlic powder, parsley, a little grainy mustard, mayo and greek yogurt, lemon juice and salt and pepper. It was one of my favourite recent brunches.

A collage – top is the chicken salad before blended. Bottom left is the spinach tortilla in the pan. Bottom right is the spinach tortilla filled with chicken salad.

My annual holiday cookie baking is coming up. I plan on making some of the usuals (rugelach, biscotti, macaroons) and experiment with the monkfruit sugar for some.

Has your cooking or eating changed during the pandemic? What are you enjoying these days?

Nicole with straight hair, which is a rare occurrence, especially during the pandemic.

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