Ellen Clifford
May 23, 2015 7:37 am

I am always drawn to outsized challenges. The overachiever and perfectionist in me tends to believe that if I just follow the plan (any plan!) I will be A Winner. Magical things will happen. I will find success and love and the perfect lipstick that is never discontinued. Not ever. These things are important-ish.

So I was intrigued when The Whole 30 arrived at my doorstep one day. Penned by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, it is a guide to making the dietary changes that, they say, will change your life. And it all starts with 30 days following a rather strict diet that rules out dairy, sugars, grains (even corn!), legumes (that means soy too), alcohol, a list of common food additives, and even foods that are pretending to be your favorite foods. So no “pancakes” of egg and banana. They are trying to break both emotional and physical attachment. So I guessed I wouldn’t be waffling my kale. What you can eat on the Whole 30 includes fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs and a whole lot of meat.

This sounded dismal to me, especially since as a vegetarian I wouldn’t be eating the meat making up the bulk of the plan’s protein. If it weren’t for coffee being okay, I’d be SO out. Oh, that and the one dairy item they allow: clarified butter or ghee. And salt is okay. Hallelujah salt.

And beets! Okay I wouldn’t starve. Although they acknowledge that if you are vegetarian, getting enough protein will be tough and if you are vegan you’ll have to alter the plan. So I thought I’d try it for a couple of days, simply to get me out of my usual eating patterns. It is just that… no sweets? And little protein variety? And…wait peanuts are a legume so no peanut butter? Crud. Okay, maybe I’d try it for a day.

There were a few non-food parts of this plan I really liked. You are not allowed to use a scale or take measurements during the plan. Nor are you to count calories. You are just to follow their template for a few balanced meals a day and some mini-meals to fuel exercise. I dig a plan that wants to get people out of their obsession with numbers.

And as I said, it got me out of my usual patterns of consumption for the day. I realized there are a lot of foods I enjoy that I just don’t eat on a day-to-day basis because I half-live off smoothies and protein shakes when I am not cooking fancy things for this column or my blog. I don’t cook up tasty omelets too often but am glad when I do. On this plan I realized I was gonna be downing a lot of eggs. And the vegan cream cheese I hadn’t tried yet from from Kite Hill? Totally cool on the plan. And I’d get around to making homemade salsa  and these awesome vegan tacos again. Grand.

But you know what is okay on the plan? Homemade hollandaise sauce. That’s VERY cool. So I was hinging my happiness, not to mention caloric survival on on hollandaise, potatoes, eggs, chia seeds and salsa.

So how did the day go?

Thank god for coffee. Made homemade salsa and these vegan tacos. Eggs. Annie Chun’s Seaweed Snacks. Larabars. Other sundry boring things like those vegan tacos I mentioned. Whee. I certainly got enough to eat. Sort of missed my last piece of chocolate I end my days with normally, but those Larabars made solely of nuts and dates were tasty, sweet and quite filling. I was so full of nuts that I didn’t get around to making hollandaise until a couple of days later.

So would I recommend this? If you are a vegetarian or vegan, probably not. After that? Well, it depends on if you are already too obsessed with your diet. If you are I would say no. But I WOULD recommend taking the cleanse from weighing or measuring yourself. And the recipes were quite solid! I cannot find fault with a book touting the excellence of hollandaise sauce. It is magnificent.

Hollandaise Sauce adapted from The Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

  • 1 1/2 cups clarified butter or ghee (if you are making it from scratch you’ll need to start with a bit more)
  • 4 egg yolks (I used pasteurized eggs so I didn’t worry about salmonella
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pinch cayenne (they say optional, I say do it!)

First, unless you bought it, you probably need to clarify your butter. It really is easy I promise. Just heat about 2 cups butter over medium-low heat until it melts and is barely simmering. White foam that is the dairy component of the butter will rise to the top. Skim that off and discard. When it is all gone, strain the butter through a cheesecloth into a glass jar to store. But don’t strain the solids at the bottom of the pan. Those are also dairy solids and can be discarded. Let the butter cool before storing.

Measure the 1 1/2 cups of butter and melt it. Don’t let it boil! You may want to transfer it to something you can pour easily out of.

Meanwhile, lightly beat together the rest of the ingredients in a blender. I used an immersion blender. Here is the part that takes patience. Very, very slowly drizzle in the butter while the blender is going at low speed. If it is too thick at the end you may need to drizzle in a tablespoon of butter. Use this within an hour, preferably. I didn’t try but supposedly it neither stores nor reheats well which seems likely since it has raw egg in it. So get some friends and enjoy this goodness!

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