Past the Halfway Point of Whole30

I recently decided to commit to the Whole30 program, which is basically a “reset” of the way you eat whereby you forego any dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, legumes (and probably more stuff I am forgetting that you can read about on their website), in favor of basically just fruit, vegetables, and proteins for 30 days. I did a lot of research (and, of course, created the requisite Pinterest board) and felt like this was a good fit for me for several reasons: 1) I like having a clear cut, black and white list of yes or no foods, none of this restricted for 6 days and then eat your face off on the 7th day; 2) as much as I love bread and cheese (and, ok, alcohol), Tyler was going to be recuperating from surgery, so I’d be home for at least a week with ample time for meal prep (also, no time like the present!); 3) they have an amazing (FREE!) website/online community/forum for questions, support, and recipes and, even more appealing to me; 4) they offer an additional paid subscription for a daily email during your 30 day duration. This is great because it details the changes your body is undergoing (I admit to having dreams of sneaking a bite of Jack’s ice cream bar, which they say is totally normal!) as well as providing a link asking you whether or not you made it through the day staying Whole30 compliant (one of the main tenets of the program is that if you mess up, you go back to day 1), which the over-achiever in me loves to be able to check off affirmatively.

One thing I can tell you is that it is a lot of planning and prepping–I feel like I am always thinking about my next meal (and not in a hungry kind of way but more like not wanting to be caught unprepared and forced to eat something non-compliant). I also run the dishwasher every night because I am chopping and cooking so much. But, on the plus side, I have tried/made some new things (I blanched tomatoes and made my own sauce! made vegetable stock from scratch! and chicken tenders! and meatballs!) that I normally would just lazily buy pre-made and not care about all of the crappy additives.

I made my shopping list and started off pretty basic. Luckily, Whole Foods carries a Whole30-compliant bacon, which made my now carb-free breakfasts bearable. Once you get in the habit of reading labels for ingredients, you realize how often sugar sneaks in–yes, even in bacon–but I promise you won’t even notice a difference in taste (as exemplified by Ty and Jack happily scarfing down this bacon; note to self, cook the cheap stuff for them as this sugar-free brand works out to about a buck a slice). For dinner, I went the easy route, and just stir fried a mess of stuff together and served over fresh greens.

 

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zucchini noodles, peppers, onion, and chicken

For day 2’s breakfast, I branched out with zucchini & sweet potato latkes and poached eggs. I used the shred blade on my food processor and julienned one sweet potato and one zucchini, using half for the latke recipe and putting the other half in the fridge to add to salads. I also picked up a pre-made container of broccoli slaw which is great to throw in stir fries and salads. For lunch I sauteed some sausage (again, read your labels–most have added sugar. The brand below from Whole Foods is made with fruit juice, which is considered ok by Whole30 standards) with diced onion and brussels sprouts with a little wilted kale thrown in for good measure. Tyler pronounced the sausage “too sweet” for his taste, but I liked it.

 

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My lame attempt at cashew chicken in lettuce tacos (a sprinkling of sesame seeds make it look more appealing, no?!)

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With the luxury of time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at cauliflower fried rice (bear with me here–you can’t browse food pins or lifestyle blogs without having seen someone singing the praises of cauliflower crust pizza or crumbles in lieu of rice).

 

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Guess what? It was Ah-Mazing! I sauteed some cut up pork in sesame oil with a little bit of Chinese 5 spice powder and a splash of coconut aminos (sounds scary, but a great substitute for soy sauce in any Whole30-compliant diet). I even ate the cold leftovers for lunch the next day and it was every bit as tasty as regular rice.

Once I went back to work for week 2, mason jar salads were my go-to lunch choice. I cut up whatever veggies I had on hand (usually peppers), then added shredded zucchini, sweet potatoes, and broccoli slaw, then spring mix and/or baby spinach, topped with shredded deli turkey (get them to slice for you at Whole Foods deli as pre-packaged types have additives that you want to avoid) and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Tessemae’s sugar-free Balsamic dressing kept me from losing interest in my daily salad.

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To keep breakfast simple, I made an egg casserole on Sunday and cut it into individually-wrapped slices for grab and go ease. I sauteed onions and whatever veggies that I had on hand (in this case, spinach, peppers, and my zucchini/sweet potato blend), crumbled in a little hoarded (already cooked) bacon, then folded it all into 8 whisked eggs and poured into a glass dish to cook at 350 for about 30 minutes. I tended to eat this cold in the car en route to work, but I am sure it’d be even better if you took the 30 seconds needed to nuke it. Paired with a banana and/or a handful of almonds, and I was good until lunch.

By days 10 and 11, I admit I was getting a little burned out on the whole protein/veggie/fruit prospects. It was Friday, the last day of school, the annual Beach Bum parade, and I really wanted nothing more than to chow down on the pepperoni pizza I made for Jack and his friends after school and enjoy some drinks with friends before, during, and after the parade as usual. But, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and head back to “Go” without collecting my $200 like in Monopoly, so I threw a pork roast in the crock pot, ate an orange, grabbed a sparkling water (in a coozie so as to feel more festive and party-like), and headed out. I grazed on the requisitely sad veggie tray at the party and tried the pork when I got home out of sheer principle vs. actual hunger. It was delicious! I followed a recipe from someone’s blog that I cannot seem to find now, but improvised with what I had on hand, in this case: 2 cups of homemade chicken stock (donated from my mom); 1.5 cups of homemade veggie stock (sounds impressive until you realize that I literally just tossed a bunch of veggies in a stock pot with some water and let heat do the work); 1 chopped onion; 1 chopped poblano pepper; 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar; a splash of coconut aminos; and some garlic (and, of course, the pork butt!).

 

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It was even better the next day–I never in a million years would’ve thought to put pork on a salad, but this was super good with just the pork, some torn iceberg lettuce, and broccoli slaw (with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds for added fanciness). It was so good, that I couldn’t wait to eat it again the next day.

Then I made meatballs from scratch, which again sounds impressive until you realize it was literally 2 ingredients (diced onion, ground pork) and some spices. Of course, I have the attention span of a goldfish, so the recipe called for sauteeing the onion and then blending it in with spices and meat, but I measured and dumped all of the spices atop by diced onions and just sauteed the whole mess together then added it to the meat without waiting for everything to cool. I served mine over spaghetti squash and the meatballs were so good that I didn’t even miss the pasta!

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So I have just under two weeks left to finish up and I can tell you a couple of things for certain: I am sleeping great (something they say should occur); I am not hungry throughout the day; I don’t crave anything (except in my weird dreams) as evidenced by the fact that I can make toast for Jack and not bat an eye (or find half of it in my mouth like Sylvester and Tweety Bird) or scoop ice cream at Jack’s end-of-year class party and not “need” to have some myself; and Larabars have several “approved” flavors for an emergency. Made up of mostly fruit purees, nuts, and/or fruit juice, they are good to have on hand (for example, early on at Skate Night I crammed one in my pie hole to avoid cramming some of Jack’s nacho cheese and chips in said pie hole) and I find the mouthfeel offers something akin to bread/treats that protein/fruits/veggies just don’t have.

Once I finish up, I’ll post again with more thoughts, recipes, results, but until then, have a glass of wine and a cookie for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attending an Art Fair in my 40s vs 20s

It’s fall in Savannah, which means on any given weekend there are approximately 43 events overlapping and luring you outdoors to enjoy the fall weather. Fall festivals, corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin farm tours, art festivals, music festivals, food festivals, film festivals…I could go on and on and on.

So on a recent Saturday, we decided to get off-island and take in some of the mainland cultural activities going on, one of which was the Isle of Hope Art Festival. When we lived in KC, I loved going to the annual Plaza Art Fair. We would make a day (and sometimes night) of it, taking in all of the wonderful artwork in a multitude of media, while stuffing ourselves at the food booths of favorite local restaurants to the background sounds of various musical acts on stage. It was the place to see and be seen. I even got to help on the artist selection panel one year as a result of my roles at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Sprint World HQ private art collection. It was such fun flitting from booth to booth, cooly sipping our Boulevard craft beers before craft beer was cool. I once had the opportunity to judge the Brookside Art Fair and was so delighted with the funny photographs of one artist that I bought a piece which still hangs in our house so many years later (and still delights me). The Plaza Art Fair was usually the weekend closest to my birthday, so I frequently indulged in a little “to me, for me, from me” purchase as well.

Going to an art fair with a 10 year-old in tow was vastly different than my golden memories of years past. Pretty much all he wanted to do was buy cookies from the one booth selling them. He lit up at the food trucks, especially Kona Ice, but since we had literally just come from eating breakfast out, there was no “need” for a snow cone at 11 am. We zipped through the fair which was laid out over several blocks between the marina and a small park, visiting with the few artists we knew exhibiting like Kurtis Schumm, Jill Ferree, and Jim Marsh. There were quite a few marsh landscapes that I loved the way the artist captured the light, and one mixed media that had a great low country boil piece with metal cut-outs from Old Bay and Coca-Cola cans among other things. But paying hundreds (if not thousands!) for a piece of artwork when we don’t even have any wall space available to hang something new was just not meant to be. We stopped to listen to the band just long enough for Tyler to get a quick video clip of them before Jack starting dragging us on.

From Jack’s perspective, there were a ton of people with dogs (and puppies!) in tow, so he was happy to work his way through the crowd politely asking strangers if he could pet their dogs. If our mission was to get out the house for a little while and soak up some culture and fresh air, I guess we accomplished it after all.

duncan Duncan Takes A Break by Kip Holm

I’ve had quinoa in my pantry for almost a year and finally used it!

So, about a year ago, I decided to be super-efficient and organized and attacked monthly meal planning with a vengeance (by which I mean I dedicated a Pinterest board to recipes, made detailed grocery lists broken down by week, and was feeling so good about myself that I even created a 2nd Pinterest board for recipes I tried and liked because that’s way easier than just deleting pins that sucked, right?).

I had been reading so much about kale, quinoa, and their other super hero food friends, that I felt I must be missing out on something by not immediately adding them into our dinner rotation. The first week of meal plan implementation had several hiccups in that one or both of us had a meeting or event to attend that conflicted with dinner so the grand meal was foregone in favor of leftovers or pizza or something not on the insanely detailed master menu (in my case, usually a bowl of cereal). And then when I never got around to leaving the island on the weekend to go grocery shopping for week 2, well, it all just went to hell rather quickly from there as many of my pet projects tend to do.

So here we are almost a year later and I still had an unopened bag of quinoa in the pantry that I, in a moment of couponing-be-damned freedom spent $7 on (in my defense, I wasn’t fiscally reckless enough to justify the cost of organic quinoa). I decided to go back to my original Pinterest recipe for quinoa enchilada casserole (compliments of damndelicious.net) and give it a try. Although the cooking directions on the package suggested that I wash and strain the quinoa before cooking, I was having none of that busy work and just tossed a cup into a pot with 2 cups of water. Quinoa cooks pretty much like couscous and rice, with a 2:1 water to grain ratio and you let it all boil and then simmer covered and fluff. Super easy!

20151007_174540_HDR Ta-da! Cooked and fluffed. 

I harvested the last of our amazing chili pepper crop from the back yard, in a variety of shades from green to yellow to red and substituted them for the canned chiles in the original recipe. 

20151007_174544_HDR Paper plates make great cutting boards!

I added some garlic salt, chopped onions, and the rest of the suggested ingredients. Because Ty is a smart man and would quickly realize that this is a vegetarian recipe and immediately protest, I went ahead and added some shredded chicken to the mix.

When Tyler and I lived in KC many moons ago and were not yet parents but just a couple of carefree kids with plenty of disposable income and free time, we used to do things like go to the symphony, art fundraisers, the opera (ok, the opera was my 31st bday present to myself but we all got so hammered at the Young Friends of the Opera pre-party that we never made it to the performance-yes, even dressed the nines, we were classy like that), and book signings (yes, I also used to buy books as opposed to just checking them out from the library, life is funny like that).

On one particular occasion, my mom was visiting from out of town and I had purchased tickets for a book signing event with Anne Byrn, the so-called “Cake-Mix Doctor,” whose cook book for doctoring boxed cake mixes literally changed my mom’s life. Growing up, we never had a single homemade baked good in my home. Birthdays were a time for Pepperidge Farm cakes from the store (and usually a giant taper candle from the mantle to blow out–why waste money on cake-sized candles? It’s not like you had a year to plan for the occasion or anything).

pepperidge farm cake

Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas meant French Silk and Banana Cream pies from Baker’s Square (admittedly, not a bad thing. I wish we had a similar place in Savannah). Mom’s specialties were fudge and rosettes (most of which were given away; again, not a bad thing. Rosettes are like fried dough with powdered sugar, which in the case of beignets is a good thing, but in the case of rosettes, not so much) but never did we enjoy a home-baked cake within the walls of 1531 King George Court. Imagine my surprise decades later when my mom proceeded to detail all of the cakes she had baked for any and every excuse under the sun based on her new cake bible. But I digress. Anne Byrn wrote a second cook book called the Dinner Doctor, which is the book signing mom and I went to. This book taught me how to poach and shred chicken for a plethora of recipes and it changed my life (or at least the way I cook chicken most of the time). So, long story long, I poached and shredded some chicken and added it to this otherwise vegetarian dish.

20151007_180450_HDR Mixin’ it all together…

20151007_182718_HDR  Puttin’ it in the pan…

Then I gratuitously sprinkled way more cheese than the recipe called for and baked it…I skipped the suggested mozzarella and stuck with just cheddar plus a liberal sprinkling of parmesan on top.

20151007_192211_HDR  mmm…cheesy goodness!

Final verdict? It was really delicious (and even better as leftovers for lunch today!), but after cooking and serving it up, I realized that I forgot to include the chopped cilantro (I blame the distraction of cooking/adding chicken), which I do think would have added a unique zip to the dish.

Tyler pronounced it a winner, noting that the “one thing that would really complement the flavors is diced avocado.” Because of course I forgot the frickin’ avocado (along with the cilantro, both of which were still on the counter). No Kitchen MacGyver points awarded but I highly recommend the recipe nonetheless.

Getting a Massage in my 40s vs Getting a Massage in my 20s

In my 20s, I was somewhat squeamish about getting naked before a complete stranger. As a mother, I can attest to having long ago lost any sense of modesty upon giving birth, so in my 40s, my naked-ness before a stranger is no big deal.

In my 20s, I felt completely entitled to anything I could do to treat myself. In my 40s, the thought of dropping $80 plus a tip and finding a couple of hours’ free time for the privilege of doing so is laughable. Thank goodness for Groupon!

In my 20s, I would completely relax, to the extent that I actually fell asleep once despite the jack-hammers tearing up the sidewalk just outside the spa’s entrance. In my 40s, all I could think about on a recent appointment was where did the masseuse get an hours’ worth of pan flute music? Was it a cd? Can you stream that on Pandora or Spotify? Would it be rude to ask her to change the station?

In my 20s, I would relinquish my body to the pain/pleasure of working out the various kinks, the short jabs digging in and the smooth strokes releasing the tension, thinking “this hurts so good.” In my 40s, all that poking and pushing and pulling just plain hurts.

In my 20s, a masseuse was most likely to remark on the tightness of my calves due to my running habit. In my 40s, a masseuse is most likely to ask whether or not I’ve had the moles on my back looked at by a dermatologist.

So I have a new business idea: a combo masseuse/dermatologist. Just imagine being able to relax while simultaneously having suspect moles circled for future removal in one easy appointment, enjoying uninterrupted pan flute music while you do so.

Unexpected Childhood Flashback

When my nana was still alive, I would visit her in Wilkes Barre, PA, and we would always take a trip to Boscov’s Department Store. Even in my 20s, if my travels took me anywhere near Pennsylvania, I would tack on a day or two to stay on her awful fold-out sofa and enjoy her lilting Irish brogue (this despite her 40+ years stateside) and intrepid efforts to feed me every 30 minutes or so. To this day, I still tell my husband that I love the way he pronounces “potatoes” because it sounds just the way she did (“poh-DAY-dos”).

When my brothers and I were growing up, she always sent random care packages in shoe boxes carefully wrapped in brown paper (most likely an inside-out grocery sac). There was always candy, in particular, mini Nestle Crunch Bars, which were a rarity back then, Halloween notwithstanding. Around St. Patrick’s Day, we could always count on a loaf of her Irish soda bread, which she would bake in mass quantities for the church festivities (pun intended). Nana died over a decade ago and, although she is never far from my thoughts (I am convinced that every time I break a new tray of ice cubes and one invariably flies out and hits the floor, that it is somehow attributable to her), I haven’t thought about Boscov’s in as many years…until today.

I was doing what I do for my “day job” in corporate communications and sales support, deciphering our VP of Sales’ chicken scratch notes on business cards as I enter them into our database and assign them to a specific sales rep, when I came across a card for Boscov’s. Not only was I immediately taken back to my younger years and the love I had for my nana and our excursions, but I was surprised and delighted to see that Boscov’s had moved into the 21st century with e-commerce sales from their website. Not that they shouldn’t have continued to flourish online like so many other department stores. I guess that “back then” me didn’t realize there were more Boscov’s than the one nana and I went to in Wilkes Barre, PA, and “today me” hopes there are many more grandmothers and their granddaughters carrying on the tradition of shopping there together, whether in person or virtual. After all, a care package is still a care package, whether you take it home in a bag or it arrives in your mailbox.

Urban Homesteading, cont’d*

And now for the update on my mad gardening skillz…complete with first harvest/two easy peasy meals made from items lovingly grown by yours truly.

You be (bas)illin’

At planting time (approximately 2 months ago):     basil

Currently, 5 out of 6 4 out of 6 starter plants recommend my gardening talents (that sneaky one on the inner right side is technically an attached offshoot of the second plant in from the end!)

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You say toh-may-toes

tomato

I say, “can’t wait to make a tomato sandwich!”

you say to-mah-toI say to-may-to

There are three that are starting to ripen–they’re low and inside the pot, so I am hoping the birds will not have the chance to enjoy them before me. In years’ past, by the time I looked out the kitchen window to see a red ‘mater and the 30 seconds it took me to walk outside, they always managed to swoop in and peck my ‘mater (that sounds dirty, but I assure you, it is not).

I’m a pepper, you’re a pepper…

I don’t have a before shot for the three pepper plants, but they are growing like gangbusters! It was a little rocky after I first planted them and we had a crazy storm that blew them all over and they lost a lot of dirt, but, as you can clearly see from the multitude of peppers below, I triumphed!

pepper family

wouldntcha like to be a pepper toopicka packa peppers

A Sage for the Ages, But Neither Pine, Nor Apple

No before pix of pineapple sage, but it was just an itty bitty thing when I planted it and look at it now!

pineapple sage

I have been steeping it in sun tea and am thinking of creating mojitos this weekend (it worked with the loquats that grow like crazy around us!). It’s even getting ready to flower, and they look like they will be pretty and red.

The Honeymooners Special: Lettuce Alone

lettucelettuce alone

Not quite ready for a salad, but they’re getting there…and 100% of plants planted remain alive!

Gettin’ Figgy With It

One of the fruits of my labor (see what I did there?) that I am most excited about is the figs! Again, no before pic but I assure you this guy is thriving.

gettin' figgy with it   figgy 2

Can you see the tee-tiny baby fig? So far there are three whole fruits, which should be ready to enjoy sometime next month.

Eggs-cellent plants

Speaking of thriving, most of the plants I grew from seeds sown in egg shells started strong but are mostly all failing to thrive (read: dead). Not sure if they don’t get enough sun on the front steps, or maybe using regular eggshells instead of organic ones is the culprit (I am 90% sarcastic here but 10% convince-able that this could be a thing).

The seedlings out front are still hanging in there but don’t seem to have grown hardly at all in two months, especially when compared to the eggplant seedlings growing in the back yard.

eggshell plants

You see the white of eggshell but no green, yes?

eggshell plants2

Three visible egg shells, one visible plant (possibly a tomato? It was pretty obvious when planted what was cilantro, what was sage, etc., but with most everything dead, I have no frame of reference).

failure to thrive  Tee-tiny sprouts, but better than dead!

eggplants, meh  Eggplants

And now, for the stars of first harvest:

1st garden harvest   My precious…

I halved and de-seeded the peppers, laid them over a bed of uncooked rice, covered everything with 2 cans of red enchilada sauce and popped it all in the over. After about 30 minutes of cook time at 350 degrees, I sprinkled shredded cheddar over everything and let it cook for 15 more minutes until all melted and bubbly and gooey. Added chopped tomato as garnish and we chowed down.

I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything about 20 years ago and still consult it on the reg. I used his recipe for pesto, combining fresh basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan (I cheat and use the “green can” parmesan because I know we always have some on hand!), which I tossed with cooked rotini pasta and shredded zucchini that I briefly sauteed in olive oil. Chopped another garden fresh tomato (Brenda 2, birds 0!) for garnish and color. Both recipes were delicious!

Also, I’ve convinced myself to move all of the front porch pots to the back yard. Stay tuned to see if anything changes, I mean grows…

*this title is still entirely ironic.

Urban Homesteading*

After the last several years of “Tyler’s garden,” i.e., a huge portion of our yard dug up and planted with over a dozen rows of “crops” including everything from okra and squash to sunflowers and green beans, and involving renting a tiller from Home Depot, backbreaking additional digging, raking, and weeding (usually with Jack occupying the one “good” shovel to see if he could “dig to China”), combatting an assortment of man-eating mosquitos, fire ants, and gnats, and Tyler’s ultimatum that he would no longer be planting a garden for which Jack and I don’t help, this year I decided to scale back and try my hand at container gardening.

Working in a warehouse, I have access to free wooden pallets, so I began (of course) by plotting (pun intended!) my garden ideas on Pinterest. Jack and Ty got equally excited by free pallets and began making plans to make a tree house, albeit a grounded one as we have no trees big enough to support an actual tree house in our yard. I folded down my seats, laid down a tarp, and loaded in the max number I could fit in one trip, five pallets, in the first week of February (plenty of time to continue building my collection before planting time!).

As luck would have it, Tyler’s brother and sister-in-law came to Tybee for the weekend. The men were adventuring out to harvest oysters, necessitating that I unload the pallets so Jack and us girls could spend the day out and about and pick up libations and snacks to complement the (potential) oyster roast at day’s end. Long story short, we got home after the boys, and my pallets had all been broken down and used for firewood to fuel the outdoor fire pit oyster roast!

Fast forward to actual planting time. We stopped by Savannah Victory Gardens‘ seedling sale and checked out their offerings. Although our zucchini in previous years was always gangbusters (zucchini overabundance cliches exist for a reason!), we never had much luck with melons, so anything on a vine that spreads was out for my container plan. We selected several small 6 flats: lettuce, various peppers, eggplant, and basil; along with 2 heirloom tomato varieties. When I saw the sale mentioned in a friend’s FB post, I was excited b/c it was in an area none of us had ever been to, what  I suspected used to be the old Roberds Dairy Farm that I have heard reference to now and then. The idea that there is farm acreage so close to the Bonaventure Cemetery and waterways of Thunderbolt was difficult for me to wrap my brain around, but beautiful to finally tour. From there, we hopped over to Home Depot for some pots and a few more impulse-buy plants: a fig tree, pineapple sage, and 3 more kinds of peppers, along with a big bag of potting soil.

Somewhere along the line of my Pinterest-inspired garden, I pinned an idea to germinate seeds in used egg shells, so I had been saving the shells as I cooked with eggs, and purchased 4 packs of seeds for $1 at the dollar store: sage, tomato, cilantro, and spinach.

Here are pix of the first stage. Remember the Crystal Gayle 70s tune Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue? I am hoping to cheerfully be singing “Don’t It Make My Brown Thumb Green” if I am able to sustain and harvest anything from our garden this summer! Stay tuned!

Tomatoes

tomato

Lettuce

lettuce

Basil

basil

*This title is entirely ironic.