Ch-Ch-Chhhaaaaanges (and Low-Carb Sides for Turkey Day)

I’m sure many of you have been wondering where all the delicious Off The Broiler posts have gone in the last month or so. While I could make a number of excuses about how my new job and my current consulting gig on Wall Street has limited my WordPress and stomach time, the reality is that as of about a month ago, for a number of reasons of a personal nature, I — along with my wife Rachel — underwent major lifestyle changes. I decided that after being obese for 20-something years that I had finally had enough and I was going to do everything I could to eat and live better. This included major changes to my diet as well as starting an exercise regimen, as well as enlisting the services of our new personal trainer and natural bodybuilder Dustin DeMercurio who you will be hearing a lot more about in the future.

I’ve thought about how this was going to impact the blog, and what it was going to do to my reader base, who is used to seeing the likes of overstuffed fatty deli sandwiches, chili dogs, pizza, and any number of things that for the lack of a better description, I can no longer eat, or at least not in quantities exceeding tasting size portions. I seriously thought about shutting Off The Broiler down for good, and perhaps starting a new blog focused on cooking, eating and living healthy. But then I realized that Off The Broiler was my brand, and realized I could still continue to make the content interesting and creative, the food delicious, and of course the pictures appealing. And I am sure many of you are in the same predicament I am in.

So the blog is going to change in a fairly organic way — whatever I am cooking and eating will still strive to be delicious, but we also don’t want to promote an un-healthy lifestyle either – and aside from some backlogged content we have that we are going to be releasing that will fill rainy days and such, we are going to try to keep everything low on the glycemic index, low carb, and stay within the bounds of unsaturated rather than saturated fats. And yes, we still will be going to restaurants — good ones — and will be taking food photos and writing about the meals we eat. But everything is going to be done in moderation, and you should be well aware we’re only going to be tasting starches and desserts and not eating them wholesale. What we’re likely to order will reflect the healthier options on those menus. I’d also like to add that this is going to be the beginning of a very long learning process, and I am anything but an expert on nutrition — while I am currently doing my research, and we are tweaking recipes, this next six months or so should be considered a transitory period. I am learning, maybe you guys will teach me some new stuff, and vice-versa. That’s what this whole blog thing is supposed to be about in the first place.

So, now that I’ve sent all of you into a state of shock, let’s get to the issue at hand — Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and probably one where people tend to over-do it the most. I certainly intend on enjoying myself, but there are serious limitations on my favorite Turkey Day foods — I can’t eat much of stuffing, mashed potatoes, or any of the other heavy carbs. If I’m lucky, I’m going to be able to taste a spoonful or two of each. And I need to avoid excess sugar like the plague. Sayonara, Pecan Pie, Cranberry Sauce and Candied Carrots. Turkey? That I can eat as much of as I want.

These Turkey Burgers over a Brown Rice and Whole Wheat Couscous Bake were a dry run for Thanksgiving.

So lets get right to the chase — stuffing replacement. Any way you try to get around it, if you don’t have some kind of carb or grain, then you are going to feel utterly deprived on Turkey Day — I don’t care what kind of diet or restrictions you are on. So if you are going to have carbs, well, then make it COMPLEX carbs. Stuff with a lot of fiber content and that is considerably lower on the glycemic index than the traditional options. And oh yeah, it has to taste good.

Thanksgiving Brown and Wild Rice Dressing

1C Diced Onion

1C Diced Celery

1C Sliced Mushrooms

4C of cooked Lundberg Farms Wild Rice Blend (available at Whole Foods, Wild Oats and )

2C cooked Whole Wheat Couscous (available at Whole Foods) or Quinoa

Chopped Fresh Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme

Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Saute vegetables in 1Tbsp olive oil or Smart Balance Butter Substitute spread. Add herbs, salt and pepper, then remove from heat. Gently combine with cooked rice and couscous. If rice and couscous are warm, serve immediately. This can be made ahead for reheating later — if you like crispy edges a la Stove Top dressing, bake in casserole dish for 20 minutes. Also can be used to stuff a turkey.

This Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apples was lifted directly from Martha Stewart, with modifications.

To go along with your ersatz Stove Top, you’ll want to have some vegetables. Obviously, mashed potatoes inundated with butter is not the ideal side if you are looking to lose weight. Glazed and Candied carrots and yams are also not ideal unless you completely suspend the idea of glazing them with sugar sauces and instead cook them plainly or with herbs, garlic and olive oil. Green vegetables, particularly ones that are high in Alpha Lipoic acid such as cruciforms like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, are beneficial to the metabolic process and if prepared properly, actually taste really good.

I don’t typically regard Martha Stewart as a huge font of knowledge for all things healthy, but in this case, her Brussels Sprouts recipe is a real winner if you make a few minor changes — for starters, we’re going to switch out the regular bacon for Turkey Bacon to give us that smoky taste. We’re in the middle of evaluating a number of these, but we can say that we like Trader Joe’s brand so far and should be fairly easy for you to get. We’re also going to roast the sprouts instead of saute them.

If using frozen Brussels sprouts, 2-1 lb bags of the petite kind are best. If you are using fresh, you may need more than 2 lbs, because you’ll have to trim the stem, outer leaves and may lose some if they are bad inside. Cut large sprouts in half or quarters, leave small ones whole.

If you have to use dried thyme, as opposed to fresh thyme sprigs, add about 1 tsp with the apple & vinegar.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon and Apple

4oz Turkey Bacon

2Lb Brussels Sprouts

10 Thyme Sprigs

1 Granny Smith Apple

2tsp Cider Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 400 F. Dice or cut turkey bacon into strips. Spread out bacon on a half-sheet pan or roasting pan and cook in oven for 10-15 minutes, until mostly cooked and it has rendered fat. Remove cooked bacon and set aside. Drizzle whatever rendered fat there is over the sprouts. If there’s a lot of rendered fat, you don’t have to use all of it, but I seriously doubt that’s gonna happen with Turkey Bacon. You might want to drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the sprouts as well so they caramelize nicely.

Add the sprouts to the pan and roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully using a spatula, turn and mix the sprouts so that they roast evenly. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

While the sprouts are in the oven, peel and dice your apple. Mix with cider vinegar (and dried thyme if you are using that instead of fresh sprigs) and set aside.

After the sprouts have roasted for about 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon and diced apple, stir to combine, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Add fresh ground pepper to taste, be careful with adding salt as the bacon adds a lot of saltiness. Best served immediately.

38 Responses to Ch-Ch-Chhhaaaaanges (and Low-Carb Sides for Turkey Day)

  1. patti says:

    Jason, I have missed your posts, but I am very much looking forward to the new direction you’re taking. I have low carbed from time to time, and need to get back to it. I will be looking to you for inspiration. Best of luck to you and Rachel.

  2. Hugo says:

    I too have missed your posts, but this seems an interesting (in a good way) direction to take the blog. The name ‘Off the Broiler’ perhaps couldn’t be more appropriate now.

    Good luck!

  3. Jordan says:

    Congratulations Jason! It must have been a very difficult decision to make big changes to something that is clearly an important part of your identity…not to mention very courageous to announce it in on your blog. You have to stick to it now! I’ve recently started the Zone diet myself, but I’m giving myself a break for Thanksgiving.

    Good luck!

  4. Hey Jason,

    Glad to see you back. I think you guys are taking a real sensible approach here. You’re not looking for quick fixes, and you’re not giving up pleasure. I’m looking forward to reading about this new adventure.


  5. ahr says:

    Way to go, Jason. My very best wishes to you and Rachel.

  6. dumneazu says:

    Been down the low carb road myself, and there is lots of funky good food to write about along the way. Smoked fish is Your Friend! Hello venison! And there is nothing like nostalgia to inspire a good post about pizza and cannoli! Absence makes the blog posts grow fonder. Keep up the great writing – that’s the real reason we keep coming back to read here, not just the carb-porn.

  7. Ray says:

    Jason and Rachel, I must say that I am a huge fan of your blog and have discovered what it means to be a foodie and to be proud of that as well. You have inspired me to possibly start my own little food blog, I know it will never compare to Off The Broiler, but just wanted to let you know your site has inspired me in a good way. I love the pictures of food and the descriptions provided in your blog. I have visited many places in the blog and used your blog as a place to find new and exciting places to dine.

    I am inspired that you have also chosen the difficult road of eating healthy and making positive changes in the way you eat and dine. I have been overweight for several years and tried and failed many times and realized that life changes need to be made and not quick fixes that usually never work or last.

    I am about to also embark on my own healthy journey, although i keep making excuses and pushing the start date back. I have made some small changes in the way I dine and have seen small positive results.

    I look foward to continuing coming to Off The Broiler and get new healthy ideas to follow in my own journey and once in a while looking back at some of the past memories and maybe partaking in a few of the delights found in past blogs, realistically I just cant quit cold turkey, but in moderation!

    Good luck and please dont delete the site or your older blogs, they are a great read and provides a wealth of information as well as it being your body of work even though you move in a new direction.

    Good luck to you and Rachel and Thank You.


  8. davey says:

    Good Deal Jason…although I must admit I’m sad. However, I have to say I think I packed on a few pounds from visiting my new favorite places that I found through this site. Maybe we’ll both benefit!

    Cheers bud…looking forward to the new direction.

  9. MichaelZ says:

    Wow. I’m glad that you’re doing something that is so obviously good for both of you. Make no mistake about it, I’ll miss the “old” blog, but really am looking forward to this new direction. Hopefully, when you’ve lost the weight, you can tiptoe back towards those Jersey hot dogs with some moderation.

  10. MJP says:

    Good for you, Jason; low-carb/fat diets are good things to do. I’m definitely stealing that brussels sprout recipe so I can use it; I love brussels sprouts and have been dying for a healthy/tasty prep for them other than steaming.

  11. e. nassar says:

    Well, I’ll miss the ‘old’ OTB too and I am glad you are both ok. I was starting to worry when no new posts were showing up for a while there. It seems like you are taking the sensible method to lose weight, i:e you will still eat carbs, but with a lot of moderation and thought, unlike the no carb diet where people binge on greasy proteins and eschew any form of carb (bad idea).

    Will we be getting updates as to how it’s working out for you?

    The very best of luck on the new lifestyle.

    With anticipation,

  12. Rachel Perlow says:

    I want to thank you all for your encouraging words. I’m sure from time to time, we’ll post about weight lost and other health aspects progress. But I don’t think either of us are prepared to commit to weekly weigh-ins with you all. We started about a month ago, just before our 12th Anniversary. I was not up to weighing myself for a about a week, but I think I’ve lost about 5 pounds since my first weigh in. Jason went to the doctor just before we started and had the full range of baseline tests, his next appointment is in a couple weeks, so we’ll really be able to check on his progress then. I’ve been walking about 5 days a week, although it’s been so cold and rainy this week, I’ve been slacking. We’re in the process of setting up a home gym, soon the treadmill will give me no excuses!

  13. Robert says:

    Does this mean no leads on great pizza joints?

  14. Brooks says:

    Thank God. There has been a major shortage of bacon, nationwide, and now I’ll be able to get what I need when I need it and not be angry about the black hole of bacon on the East Coast.

    I’m glad for you both. Good luck. Bon Chance. Buenos Suerte, Bubba.

  15. Bonnie says:

    I’m going through similar lifestyle changes myself….best of luck to you, food is food, and healthier is better, so PLEASE keep your blog going! Fewer rich dinners and more healthful dining will benefit your readers as well as yourself and your wife, so way to go! I’ll still keep my link to your blog, can’t wait to read the new posts!

  16. David P says:

    Jason and Rachel, I wish you both the best of luck. I’m sure it’ll be tough to drive by, say, White Manna without stopping for a quick bite, but you’re on the right path. This is a terrific blog and podcast (please, more podcasts!), and I’m looking forward to reading about your new adventures. Take care, and happy Thanksgiving.

  17. Luther says:

    Damn. My jaw pretty much hit the ground just there. I’ll miss the good food posts – no sense pretending that “clean” bodybuilder food is truly delicious or exciting to those who live to eat – but I’m really happy that you decided to do something about your weight. All the best to you and good luck on your journey.

  18. anu says:

    I wish you all the best with your new way of eating! I’ve enjoyed your posts on food both on Egullet and here and am sure you’ll do a great job of making delicious food even with the new restrictions. Just thought I should point out that there really isn’t much evidence in favour of restricting your intake of saturated fat in the scientific literature. Please read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes for more information.

  19. Good luck and you are both to be commended. I’m sure that, while things might take a different focus in the near future, great posts still lie ahead.

    This will also make future gut-bomb posts (nobody can be a saint all the time) that much more special.

  20. pete ganz says:

    Good luck to you and Rachel.

  21. Hi, this is Malawry.

    Wow, this is such a hard issue and it’s one I’ve grappled with for most of my adult life. It’s very tempting to use my intense culinary passions as an excuse to ignore the basic input/output equations, and it’s also very tempting to live in denial–which I have at various points. Congratulations on taking those first steps towards a more moderate lifestyle. In a few months I bet you will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more energy you have. Personally, once I can get myself into the exercise habit, I start pushing real hard at the gym so I can eat more of the foods I love–perhaps that can work for you too down the road.

  22. Bonnie says:

    Hi Jason, I just had to post again, somehow it picked up The Blog that Ate Manhattan, and that’s wrong, I’m at The Blog that Ate New Jersey. I don’t want to be sock puppeting the poor gal who writes the Blog that Ate Manhattan. Or whatever it is when you impersonate someone else. I have her blog linked too.

    You’ll have to let us know how easy it is to diet in the Garden State. The people down here don’t even like food. Not sure if they even eat. Maybe they synthesize nutrients from sunlight and soil like plants.

  23. tracey says:

    So I guess its going to be all about the Thai, Vietnamese and Korean BBQ now. Stock up on the hot sauces and vinaigers, perky flavors are your friends…and dont forget the roasted cauliflower
    good luck


  24. Deborah Dowd says:

    It is great that you are taking your life in your hands and making yourself healthy. My husband recently went on Glucophage for early diabetes and we are struggling as well. Your brussels sprouts look incredible and I will be gining those a try! Good luck and stick with it- it will be worth it!

  25. It is not an easy thing to do, believe me I know, but I wish you lots of luck with your lifestyle change. David and I are also changing our eating habits. I am rooting for both of you.

    Take care,


  26. Melissa says:

    If anyone can make this work, and will, it is the Perlows!

    Looking forward to joining you on your journey to good health … and, even though I have a few more bites left of yesterday’s pumpkin pie, think that I too can enjoy better health as well …

    Go for it and keep us apprised of your newest venture!

  27. daisy says:

    Dood! I cannot tell you how very proud I am of the road you’ve chosen to take…it is a very courageous one, and as someone who has enjoyed many dinners with you, a difficult (at first!) one at best. I can only hope to be able to contribute recipes and support throughout your adventure!

  28. Dina says:

    This is great news. It is never to late to change the path you’re on and you’re doing what a lot of us ‘talk’ about doing. I hope you continue to post about the struggles and inspire others to take that leep.

  29. Sandy says:

    Jason, I’m so glad for you and Rachel. It’s great that you are making these changes together and I know that the results will be worth the effort.

  30. Randi says:

    It’s so hard to open yourselves up in such a public forum about weight loss and personal issues. This is a great thing for you both. I know you’re not a fan of Eg anymore, but I found the last week’s foodblog to be very interesting. It was a low-carb foodblog and so much of what they ate looked really good!! I’m sure you’ll add your own Jason twist to this lower carb route.

  31. Doug says:

    awesome dude – hope you had a good t-day.

  32. Rebecca says:

    I’m really grateful that you have both decided to ‘get healthy’. I wish for you both a long and healthy life. Of course, there are some things we can not prepare for, health wise, but our diet is definitely something that we CAN control, and that healthy diet eliminates a lot of risks.

  33. Christine says:

    Terrific! Glad you are doing it. We’ll have to create a special dish in honor of you both! Something without butter, I think, maybe, I can cook it! We’ll have to work on it. Best of luck to you both, and keep the blog going strong.

  34. hey jason, many congratulations…you are doing the right thing, and one of the best parts is finding out that becoming your own nutrition expert (which you will) is a completely worthwhile endeavor that is in no way antithetical to gourmandism. blog on!

  35. First time poster, but want to offer some support too. Y’all have one of the most enjoyable, informative, and well composed blogs I regularly go to. With your talents and knowledge of good food I doubt a change in diet will reduce the quality of this blog in anyway. Congratulations and I look forward to regularly coming back and continuing to read.

  36. Jason,
    I wish you and Rachel the best on your change in life and commitment to healthier eating and living. I made a similar decision a year ago and joined the Obesity Research Clinic program at St. Lukes Roosevelt. After 43 weeks in the program, I have made material changes in the way I eat that will be the way I eat for life. I enjoy food as much and have few feelings of deprivation, and the weight loss so far has been rewarding.

    I will follow your blog with interest, as your palate is so good, that the foods and recipes you post will, I’m sure, satisfy a demanding eater.

  37. […] Evolution of Re-Engineering Chinese “Takeout” Since I embarked on my “course correction” in October of 2007 and becoming 67 pounds lighter, and with Rachel herself carrying 50lbs less — we’ve […]

  38. […] You can keep your Thanksgiving Turkey stuffing if you’re willing to make some modifications. If you are from the South, then you are probably used to some variation of cornbread stuffing. If you are from another part of the country, a wild rice stuffing may be part of your Thanksgiving repertoire. A wild rice and whole wheat couscous stuffing is a perfect solution for this Thanksgiving Day dilemma. Here is a good recipe for Thanksgiving Day Wild Rice and Couscous Stuffing. […]

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