Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Whole30, Day 11, 12 and 13

Day 11

I was not sure how this day would work.  I had to come back from the lake because I had something planned at the house for the morning.  I was supposed to head back to help Son2 finish up the deck staining, but after eating breakfast I felt really ungood. ( Practicing my Newspeak just in case the Big Brother thing is about to happen).

Turns out I did not go to the lake at all, instead I changed over most of my summer and winter wardrobe.  Aren't women supposed to be clothes horses and men just utilitarian dressers?  It is opposite here at my house.  We have a walk in closet and TheHub occupies 3/4 of it with his clothes, plus he has the closet in the hall right outside of our bedroom.  As a result, I get to swap my clothes out seasonally from the upstairs guest room closet.  "I love lugging baskets of clothes up and down the stairs.  It's so much fun every time I get to do it", she said dryly.

Breakfast     1 sliced apple
                    1 tablespoon almond butter

Lunch          didn't happen

Dinner         4 slices Boar's Head ham
                    huge tossed salad w/oil and vinegar dressing

Later           2 tangerines

Day 12

Still felt slightly left of normal through mid morning, but finally had to eat something.  It was one of those days when nothing sounded good, but there was lettuce already washed and cukes and peppers in the crisper, plus we are still getting a handful of cherry tomatoes from the plants every day.  That pretty much determined what I was having for breakfast.

Breakfast    huge garden salad w/oil and vinegar dressing

Lunch        got busy and forgot to eat

Dinner       beef vegaghetti (named by TheHub) served over spaghetti squash

Later         tangerine

                                                            Beef Vegaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped, sliced or chunked
1 bell pepper cut in strips
3 yellow  summer squash sliced
1 carton mushrooms, sliced (Had the in the fridge but they were slimy so I left it out)
4 small cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup browned ground beef
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon basil

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil saving the garlic for last.  Add the ground beef and stir to combine well.  Mix in the tomatoes and the Italian seasonings and basil and cook over a medium high heat until bubbling.  Turn down to low and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. If you are eating paleo please serve it over spaghetti squash.  If you are eating like regular humans serve it over cooked spaghetti and pass some grated Parmesan.

This was a win/win.  I thought it was very tasty and a good way to amp the veggie content without feeling like I was eating a plate of vegetables.  Since I am the only one doing the paleo lifestyle right now TheHub must have enjoyed it too, since he ate every bite and then ate seconds.

Day 13

Breakfast        Bowl of sauteed kale
                       2 sausage patties

Lunch            coffee
                      handful of pistachios

Snack            apple/peach fruit bar

Dinner           Paleo "fried rice"

Later            apple

I need to thank Sonya Ann @A Mom, Money, and More for the inspiration for this meal.  I had to adjust it for the Whole30 plan, but it was fairly easy to do.  Hope you enjoy it!

Paleo Fried Rice

I head cauliflower, grated  (I used a box grater, but the grater on a food processor would work)
1 large carrot, cut into 4 pieces, steamed
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion cut in thin strips
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup sliced mushrooms1 pack frozen green beans
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos*
salt and pepper to taste
2 dried Thai bird chilies crumbled
3 or 4 sprays of olive oil
2 small boneless chicken breasts cut across into thin slices
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 beaten eggs

While grating the cauliflower put the carrot pieces in a microwave safe bowl with a lid.  Add about 2 tablespoons water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Cut into small bits and set aside.  Grate the cauliflower and set it aside also.

Heat the oil in a large pan.  I used a 12 inch stainless pot, but use whatever you like as long as it is wide enough to stir fry but deep enough to hold about 8 cups of raw food.  Saute the onions and ginger until both are wilted, the add the garlic stirring it so it wilts but does not brown. Quickly toss in the mushrooms and cook for about 30 seconds then add the green beans.  Cook stirring continually for about a minute. Add the cauliflower and carrots.  Keep stirring and let it all cook together until the cauliflower and green beans are cooked. (crisp tender or soft, it's your choice) Add the sesame oil and the coconut aminos, salt and pepper as needed and crumble the chilies on top of everything.  Give it a quick stir, put a lid on the pan and set it off the heat.

In a separate non stick pan spray the quick spritzes of olive oil  and bring to a mid high heat.  Put the thin chicken slices in the pan and stir fry quickly.  When they lose their pink color put them in the pan with with cauliflower and put the entire pan back on a medium high heat.

 With a spoon push all the mixture to one side and add the oil to the "empty" side. When the oil is hot pour the beaten eggs over it. As the eggs start to set begin to scramble them, then stir them through the cauliflower chicken mixture. Serve immediately.

Oh my goodness this was delicious.  It satisfied the entire palate.  The cauliflower had a wonderful texture as did the seasoning veggies, beans and carrots.  The taste was nice and  intense. Garlic and ginger are both strong flavors on their own but they paired so well in this.  I like heat so the Thai chilies worked well for me.  If you don't care for it that much, sprinkle a few red pepper flakes for just a hint of warmth.  When serving it add have both soy sauce and coconut aminos on the table for anyone who wants a little extra.  Yum! And I have enough leftover for breakfast tomorrow.

Meet my little friend, Coconut Secret, coconut aminos.  I can find it locally at Organic Harvest.  I am sure it is available at most organic markets (large and small).  It is well worth the price, especially if you are avoiding soy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 8 9 and 10

This marks the first difficult weekend. It's pretty easy to be honest the first weekend. Everything had just begun and I was on fire. Plus I was at home and it is pretty easy to "behave" while home. This weekend we are at the lake and it's an away game weekend which means TV, football, and snacky  delicious food. Will power where are you?

Day 8

Breakfast       2 sausage patties
                      1 cup leftover T'giving dressing (cauliflower version)

Lunch.           1 hamburger patty
                      1 tablespoon paleo ketchup

Dinner.          Roast chicken
                      Sliced tomatoes
                      Collard greens onions and leeks
                      unsweetened iced tea

Later.              Dried mulberries

                                                           Paleo Ketchup

You might notice my ketchup is a little darker than commercial ketchup.  It is entirely possibly I might have fallen asleep partway through its cooking time and let it cook , oh, 9 hours or so.

2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon allspice
dash of cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Put all the ingredients in a crock pot.  Stir to combine.  Cook on low for about 6  hours.  Blend with an immersion blender ( Or just use a regular blender, but you have to be careful blending hot things.  The lid will blow if you don't blend small batches at a time.)  Bottle, let come to room temperature and then store in the fridge. (I bottled half and froze half because I am not sure how long it will store)

I found this recipe accidentally at Diane Sanfilippo  I was not looking for anything ketchupy at the time but had the good sense to bookmark it. 3 days later I was making it.  I would be lying if I said this tastes exactly like ketchup.  It is not as sweet and definitely has a more pronounced tomato flavor than Heinz or Hunts.  That being said, it was a delicious alternative to sugar laden ketchup.  It is tasty enough that I might switch to this instead of ever going back to the commercial stuff.  One day next week I might opt for some sweet potato oven fries and this might be a delicious dipping sauce.  Will let you know.

Day 9

Breakfast       Bacon* egg, mushroom, scallion scramble

Lunch           2 ham slices (Thank you Boar's Head)
                      dill pickles

Supper          grilled steak
                     green salad with failed mayo dressing
                     huge serving broccoli
                     1/2 baked potato with salt and pepper

Later             sliced apple

Day 10

Breakfast     2 slices ham

Lunch         Chili stuffed sweet potato
                   tossed salad

Dinner        Chipotle's carnitas salad with pico and guacamole (My anniversary dinner)

Later           Handful of cashews

* Maverick brand bacon has no sugars, no MSG, no nitrates and no nitrites.  I found it at Publix
Boar's head meats all contain no nitrates or nitrites or MSG.  Publix is very kind to hand out a small pamphlet with all their different meats listing all the ingredients and full nutritional info.  I do love Publix!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whatever Book Review "The House Girl" by Tara Conklin

The House Girl is a tale written as 2 overlapping narratives.  One is the story of Lina, a workaholic power attorney in a prestigious New York firm.  The other is the story of Josephine, a house slave for the Bell family in the 1850's.  The 2 stories merge when Lina's firm is hired to represent a major reparations suit for relatives of former slaves.  They focus on one particular slave named Josephine, whose image lives in a famous drawing from those times.  Lina's job is to try and track down relatives of Josephine, who disappears from all records in 1852.

The story switches back and forth between Josephine and Lina.  Through theses flips we come to learn the "back story" of both Lina and Josephine, at the same time Lina is on the greatest legal investigation of her career.  We see that Lina is very devoted to her job and  and her future advancement in the firm, but at the same time very complacent and compliant with her personal relationships, particularly her relationship with her father.

We also find Josephine, the slave in the house, who is struggling with a decision to run away or to stay at the house and care for her ailing "Missus, who has been a kind person to Josephine.

The book is a decent read.  It tends to ignore a lot of the horrors of slavery, but it is not a book about slavery in general, but about one slave, Josephine.  I did not fine her story to be disingenuous and thought it was written well enough.

I did have some issues with the current day story.  I can't see and up and coming lawyer having such a milk toast personality in her day to day life.  To me it just didn't ring true.  Also the story of the hunt for Josephine and any surviving heris was a tad too contrived or my taste.

To be a decent book the tales just have to be entertaining, and this was entertaining.  To be a good book, the story has to ring true, have great character development and be entertaining.  To be a great book, in addition to the previous, the story has to elicit some strong emotional response from me.

I finished The House Girl and was entertained. It made me think, but I mainly thought about how unrealistic some of the situations were. I did think about Josephine and how difficult and scary her choices were
but  I really did not think about Lina at all.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whole30 Past 3 Days

Day 5

Woo Hoo!  It is morning  and once again I do not like eating breakfast, but I am doing it.  I have decided the only way to have vegetables for breakfast is to make enough the night before for leftovers.  Making more at night = less cooking in the morning and I think I would rather just have to nuke a plate than to cook something from scratch. Thank goodness I can still have my coffee!

Breakfast    2 Sausage patties
                   1 scrambled egg (gross)
                   1 cup leftover T'giving dressing
                   1/2 cup pineapple chunks

Lunch        1 Apple, sliced
                  1 Tablespoon almond butter

Supper      1 Bowl paleo chili with butternut squash
                  Shredded lettuce with serving of guacamole

Later          1 cherry pie Lara bar (technically compliant but breaking the spirit of the challenge)

This was a kind of boring food day.  Since I had just eaten the sausage and dressing yesterday, there were no different flavors.  The apple was good, but predictable.  I realized the chili I always make is paleo until beans are added, so I made a large pot of it and separated it into 2 containers. One of them got the added beans and the other got hunks of butternut squash.  I thought the chili flavors might season the butternut squash. Seriously. Bad. Idea. Chili and butternut squash are not really compatible flavors or textures. The squash just made the chili taste like squash. I think I should have just amped up the veggie content using poblano peppers, and additional tomatoes and onions. Live, learn and pass it on?

I had no avocados so I went to Publix to grab one.  Why do they stock only hard unripe avocados.  Surely I can't be the only spontaneous person wanting guacamole tonight. I found one that was about half ripe, so that was what I had to work with.

Guacamole made with 1/2 Avocado

1/2 small avocado
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/3-1/4 clove garlic minced
1/2 tomato minced
2 dozen cilantro leaves. half minced and half for garnish

Mash the avocado to the consistency you like ( I love some chunks left).  Immediately stir in the lime juice, making sure it is well blended.  Stir in the remaining ingredients until it is all mixed.  Serve over a bowl of lettuce.  Serves 1 .  I would have taken a picture but I was hungry, so I ate it instead of photographing it, but honestly it looked like all chunky guacamole looks.

Hopefully tomorrow will taste a little better. Oh and for the record you know why no one but you should know you bought roasted salt free cashews?  Because those other people who are eating whatever the heck they want appear out of thin air and eat your only possible late night snack!  Some people like to live dangerously. Oh, the Lara bar tasted better than anything I had eaten for the past week.  Now I know I can't keep them here because they will disappear in my mouth.

Day 6

Today was what my Beloved Sister calls a Mickey Mouse Day.  It basically means anything can happen and it usually does, well at least unexpected things happen all day.  It was a whirlwind day and I had no time for any food prep so I just warmed a plate for breakfast/lunch between weird errands.  Then TheHub decided to come home from work early and wanted to go see a movie. (For the record, "The Judge" was fantastic.) I sat next to him as he devoured popcorn and a coke while I sipped on my water and inhaled the aroma of movie theater popcorn. Wah! ( Martyr Syndrome).  We didn't get out of the theater until nearly 8, I was truly hungry and I was not going to start cooking then.  PUNT!

Breakfast/Lunch  2 slices compliant ham (Boar's Head with no sugar added)
                            1 cup stewed tomatoes, okra and onions

Dinner                (And then the Angels sang) Chipotle's salad with carnitas, pico de gallo, and

Snack                 Handful of dry roasted unsalted cashews. (I hid them after I ate some)

Breakfast/Lunch was neither good nor bad, it was just fodder. Dinner, oh my, I am not sure it was so delicious because it tasted that fabulous, or because I didn't have to cook.  Either way, I enjoyed it so much.  I will be back at Chipotle's for this meal ( the only Whole30 approved meal there) weekly.

Day 7         One week completed

Today I was home for the day, so it was a good time to do a little advance food prep.  I baked, packaged and froze spaghetti squash and butternut squash.  While they were baking I threw a sweet potato in the oven for lunch.  Collards were washed and cut for Friday's dinner.  Kale and onions were cooked just because I had them in the refrigerator.

Breakfast   Coffee
                  1 sliced apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter

Lunch        Coffee
                  1 small sweet potato baked with chili on top. (This was fantastic and super filling!)

Dinner       Leftover roasted turkey
                  1 cup cooked kale
                  8 grilled okra pods

Later          Pear and handful of cashews

                                     The chili in the sweet potato was messy.  Use a bowl!

Paleo Chili

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion chopped
1 bell pepper or poblano pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cans petite diced tomatoes
3-4  tablespoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt ( I don't like much salt, you probably need more)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Brown the ground beef in a large pot until it loses its pink color.  Add the vegetables and cook until they are soft and the beef is light brown.  Drain grease from the pan and add the tomatoes including the liquid in the can.  Add the seasonings and let it cook on low for about 3 hours. Check occasionally and add more liquid if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your specific taste.

Cut spaghetti squash and butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Place cut halves on a baking sheet and cook at 350 for about 35 minutes.  Remove and let cool until they can be handled.  Scrape the seeds and discard, then scrape the pulp and freeze in 1 cup portions.

With the week over there are a few things I am learning.  Right now I do not want a cookie or candy or really sweets of any kind.  I would love something fizzy to drink (might get seltzer water tomorrow) and I would like something crunchy.  It is more of a tactile thing than a flavor thing. 

 Couple of things I am really thankful for.  (1)  I purchased beautiful produce (2)  I am a decent cook and can experiment with foods  (3) I drink my coffee black all the time so that is one thing that didn't have to change

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

28 & 27 Counting Down Paleo "Thanksgiving Dressing"

This morning I woke hungry, but had no time for breakfast.  I had to get to Sunday School and when the choice was God or breakfast, God won. ( Of course I could have gotten up earlier and there would have been no choice).  By the time it was over and I had run by Organic Harvest to buy some coconut aminos ( don't ask) and compliant almond butter I was beyond hungry, I was starving. And this is why I pre-cooked several things. I just hate to be starving and have to cook. A Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie would somehow leap into my hand and...before I realized it 3 would be eaten.

Day 3    
Pre-breakfast       1 cup black coffee

Breakfast/Lunch 1 leftover grilled hamburger patty ( yes I am tired of them)
                            leftover steamed asparagus
                            1 small sliced tomato
                            1 apple sliced
                            1 tablespoon almond butter
                            1 cup of black coffee
                            large glass ice water with a lime wedge

Dinner                Turkey salad (huge)
                            1 tablespoon failed mayo turned Brazilian salad dressing
                            6 cashews
                            water w/ lime wedge

For the salad,  I chopped 1/2 bell pepper, 1/4 vadalia onion, 1/2 cucumber, 7 baby carrots, 1 tomato, chopped lettuce ( maybe 2 cups)   and 2 ounces of turkey. It was a gigantic salad.  In fact I could not eat all of it and have a head start on breakfast tomorrow.

                          This bowl is about 6 inches in diameter (just for some scale)

Paleo Mayo Fail/ Paleo Dressing Success

1 egg yolk, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/12 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mustard
3/4 cup oil.  I used 1/2 grapeseed oil and 1/2 olive oil

In a glass bowl whisk the egg yolk and salt until thick.  add the lemon juice, vinegar and mustard and continue to whisk.  In a slow stream slowly add the oil whisking continually.  Keep whisking until all the oil is incorporated and it is nice and fluffy. ( I used an immersion blender and don't think I whipped enough air  into it ) Punt time!  When the mayo fails, change it to dressing.  I liked the mayo flavor fine, but it was way too thin and had a heavier oil taste than I wanted for my salad, so I added about a tablespoon more of the vinegar and whipped it with the blender again.  It thickened to the consistency of a bottled ranch dressing.  A further taste test, and i decided additional seasonings were needed for a salad dressing.  I keep a homemade Brazilian spice blend in my spice cabinet and knew it was totally Whole 30 compliant, so I added about a teaspoon  and a half of it to the mayo.  Perfect!

Day 4

Breakfast   Leftover turkey salad ( Yeah I know it sounds gross but it was prepared)
                  Black coffee
                  1 apple, sliced sprinkled with cinnamon ( not great!)
Lunch        2 sausage patties

Dinner       Roast turkey
                  Paleo Thanksgiving dressing
                  Lettuce, tomatoes and scallions with the failed mayo dressing
                  Small handful of cashews

                                                          Sausage Recipe

            These patties are very small, little more than a half dollar size.  There is some "win" when I get                           
                                               to have 2 of them. (delusional)

1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes ( I like hot stuff, if you like it milder try 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt ( I don't like salty food so you might need to increase this)
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Because this food plan is so specific about nothing with sugars, nitrates and nitrites, and msg, you have to read all the ingredient labels carefully.  Because I did not have my reading glasses with me and no amount of squinting would make that chicken scratch turn into letters I decided to just make my own.

I bought ground pork which has a 70/30 lean to fat ratio.  I think the stuff in the plastic tube has a bit more fat.   Now here is the tricky part.  Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Form into patties.  I par-cooked all of them, ( except the 2 I ate, which were completely cooked) stuck them on a cookie sheet to freeze, and put them into a large freezer bag.  That way they can be heated/ completely cooking in the microwave on a paper plate .  Should be a win on a busy morning.

These are leaner than packaged sausage, but taste pretty much like the hot variety.  If hot is not your thing adjust the peppers to your personal taste.  My suggestion is to under season then make a small patty ( about the size of a quarter) and cook it.  Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your personal palate.

                                                 Paleo Thanksgiving Dressing

                   This is what it looks like fresh out of the oven (Notice the pecans sank!)

1 head cauliflower, steamed until it is soft and crumbly
1 small onion chopped
4 ribs of celery chopped
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste ( I used 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 cup turkey broth
2 beaten eggs.
1/4 cup chopped pecans

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble steamed cauliflower in a small bowl until it separates into small pieces.  Add the onion and celery and stir well.  Add the spices and mix until it is well dispersed.  Add the turkey broth and the eggs and mix it well so the consistency is uniform.  Spray a 9x9 inch pan with olive oil ( or cooking spray) and pour the mixture into it.  Bake  about 35 minutes until it is set.  Put the crumbled pecans on the top of the casserole and bake for about 5 more minutes. ( I put mine on at the beginning of the cooking time and they sank)   Let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving and it will cut easily. Or you can be like us and just scoop it out like stuffing.  Either way it works.  I served this to 2 non food plan people and they both loved it.  We decided it is something we will have even when I am finished with the Whole30 plan.  Tasty plus!*

This is how it looked on the plate.  It Looks similar to a traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing.  Now I have to figure out how to make a compliant cranberry relish.

On to day 5 and 6 or Countdown 26 and 25.  I am not sure this is getting easier because it is requiring an insane amount of cooking, but I really do not want a cookie so it must be working. ( Amazing since I am a sweet freak!)

*If you are looking for an exact replica of cornbread dressing then this is not for you.  It has the basic flavors of traditional dressing, but the consistency is quite different.  If you absolutely hate everything about cauliflower you probably should not have this.  Though cauliflower is not the prominent flavor it does surface every now and then. Like I said earlier, we all loved it and I am the only one doing Whole30, so it won non restrictive dieters approval.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whatever Week 3 "Where Did You Go Bernadette?"

The other day I read "Where Did You Go Bernadette? " by Maria Semple.  I found it through a reader of a previous book review blog post.  Brandi of Don't Disturb This Groove mentioned she was reading and enjoying it.  Since I had just put The Outlander Series on ice for a bit, I was reading nothing else and this quirky tale was a huge relief from Scotland in the mid 1700's.

 The book is set in current day Seattle where the Fox family relocated from California when Elgin's  (the dad in the story) business is absorbed by Microsoft.  Along with the move comes an overwhelming, time consuming, all encompassing  job promotion.  Bernadette ( the mom ) moves, leaving  her career as an award winning architect behind. They choose  a crumbling monstrosity needing severe rehabilitation as their home. ( Until later in the book we have no idea WHY the renovation never occurred.)  Add the birth of a sickly baby, and a major anxiety issues for mom and you have the setting for a pretty interesting tale of family and community dysfunction.

Fast forward many years. Bee ( the now 15 year old baby) is enrolled at Galer Street School “a place where compassion, academics and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.”   This is a school where only excellence  and excellent students are allowed, even if the excellent student is only " working toward excellence."

Where to start?  You know THOSE MOTHERS. The ones who work incessantly  at school to control every facet of their kids lives  to be of service and make their children's schools a more efficient and happy place. You also know THOSE OTHER MOTHERS. The ones who are more aloof in their parenting who are content to let their child go to school and manage his/her schooling and social life who are not as involved with the day to day inter-workings of the school.  This tale involves one of THOSE MOTHERS and one of THOSE OTHER MOTHERS.

The story is told in a series of flashback communications, and miscues between the mothers and the people surrounding them.  Oil and vinegar  mix easier than these 2 women.  ONE needs to control every aspect of the other and THE OTHER is mostly oblivious to anything but her daughter and husband. To say things go from bad to worse is an understatement.

Since we know from the title that Bernadette is missing, we obviously can assume someone is looking for her.  Read the book and join Bee as she wades through the mess looking for either her mother or closure.

This was a quick, fast paced, smart, quirky chick lit book.  Definitely worth the time investment.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 2 Or T Minus 29.

OK, day 1 came and went with no major food trauma or cravings. (except wishing I had cornbread to eat with the soup) I did find being prepared is going to be the key to doing this successfully.  Who wants to wait until the last minute when they are starving to begin planning the meal.  Oh yeah, that is my usual m.o.  Something tells me it is not going to work while doing this,  It seems all my usual nibbles are now on the "no-go" list.  Its pretty easy to cook late while having a sip of wine and some cheese and crackers.  Somehow munching on a bell pepper strip and drinking ice water just doesn't cut it. My nemesis, planning ahead, is going to be my new normal.

Day 2.  I still hate the thought of putting food in my mouth in the morning, but I put on my big girl drawers and actually cooked a morning meal. ( I did cheat and have a cup of coffee first though)

Breakfast: 1 breakfast pork chop
                  sauteed asparagus, onions and mushrooms
                  1/2 cup yellow watermelon sprinkled with chili powder (as good as the pineapple)
                  black coffee (so glad that is how i normally drink it)

Lunch      huge bowl of Veggie Dense Chicken Soup
                 1 apple

Dinner      leftover grilled hamburger patty
                 tossed green salad, oil and vinegar dressing

Sorry there are no pictures but nothing was picture worthy, new or even remotely original.

Tomorrow, I do have an idea that might or might not work.  Since I did roast a turkey today I am going to try some paleo take on traditional side/sides

Whole30 Countdown or Count-up? Veggie Dense Chicken Soup

I have never started a diet or new way of eating on a Friday before.  I mean, why would you want to spoil eating opportunities for the whole weekend when you can wait until Monday.  Ah, but then we all know Monday diets are destined to fail, so maybe Tuesday. All of a sudden Tuesday comes and you forget to start and who wants to start a diet after eating a muffin for breakfast.  Next thing it is Wednesday, then Thursday and still no beginning.  Once again it is Friday and the  cycle begins again, much like lather, rinse, repeat. Other than eating with reckless abandon over the weekend, I could find no good reason not to begin Friday, so I did.

This Whole30 concept is not a diet in the traditional sense, but more of an eating plan.  Much like Paleo it has no grains, dairy, beans, sugars, honey,MSG, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Unlike Paleo there is no contingent for making substitutes for those familiar things we all find delicious.  NO Paleo pecan pie, or Paleo cheesecake, or even Paleo pizza.  ( I will be honest and admit to creating "legal goodies" in my mind before I read that is was verboten) This is a straight up no frills whole food eating plan for 30 days.  Supposedly all manner of "good things" will happen once I clean the toxins from my system.  We will see, but as they say, it's only 30 days...and I will be finished well before Thanksgiving. ( I can't believe I thought that much less typed it, but I am trying to be completely honest about food, food thoughts and what I put in my mouth.)

Since it looks like I am going to be doing a lot of cooking, I will be posting my meals and any food successes or failures.  My biggest issue will be eating breakfast.  I know that I am supposed to and the theory of fueling the engine early, but I HATE food in my mouth early.  I would much prefer to have nothing but coffee until after noon, but it is not going to work that way. Drats!

Since I just launched into it this morning I had nothing bought or prepared, so today was pretty bleak eating.  It's ok though.  Now I have been to the store and am well stocked and over the next couple of days I will be getting a jump on meal prep for the next week.

Breakfast: 2 cups o' coffee, black

Lunch: 1 leftover grilled hamburger patty
            1/2 cup cherry tomatoes ( thank you plant in the back yard)
             1 apple, sliced

Mid-day: Grocery shopping, yea!

Dinner: Huge bowl of chicken vegetable soup
             Tossed greens with oil and vinegar dressing
             Pineapple slice sprinkled with chili powder (Thank you Gloria for telling me about this)

                                                     Veggie Dense Chicken Soup

2 quarts water, add more as the water evaporates
3 chicken backs*
1 boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion chopped
2 cups cooked green beans
3 tomatoes, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
3 large summer squash, coarsely chopped
1 cup sliced okra

Pour the water into a large pot and add the chicken backs. On a mid heat cook them until the chicken is done and the meat is virtually hanging from the bones.  Remove the backs from the broth and add the chicken breast.  Poach until it is cooked through, remove from the broth and chop the chicken in bite size pieces.  Return the chicken to the broth and begin adding the vegetables in the order listed. Stop adding after the kale and let it simmer until the carrots are cooked through.  Add the squash and cook until it is soft. Leave the okra for last, letting it cook about 5 minutes.  You want it nicely  wilted but not slimy.  Serve in a large bowl.  I put about a tablespoon of homemade pepper sauce in the bowl since I knew it was made with no MSG or sugar.  I really wanted siracha but it has sugar listed as the 2nd ingredient.  Drats, again!

I figured soup would be great for supper tonight and would be good for quick lunches during the week. (I thinned it down with a bit more water and had about 6 servings.)  I will freeze part of it in individual serving packs for a couple of lunches later in the month.  It was really tasty and very filling.  (Possibly would have been tastier with cornbread slathered in butter__or not)

And about that pineapple.  Today, Gloria told me she often has fruit salad with chili powder sprinkled on top.   I thought it sounded weird but why not give it a try, so, I bought a pineapple and decided to sprinkle some over the top.  Oh my goodness!  Why have I not been doing this all my life? I took the initial bite right after sprinkling the chili on it.  It was a little musty tasting so I let it sit for 15 minutes then tried it again.  It had the traditional pineapple sweetness with some delightful heat.  I am going to do this from now on.

This is my new favorite chili powder.  It has zero added salt and a nice little punch of mixed chilies and a variety of herbs and spices. 

Day one is over and now I am off to day 2 with a few things ready to make tomorrow easier. Or did I just knock of  the first of 30 days and am moving on to the 29 remaining.  I need help deciding if counting up or down is the most beneficial. Thoughts, anyone?

* I used chicken backs because a pack of 3 was 52 cents.  I have broth here but it has a few marginal ingredients, so I decided to just quickly make my own.  Obviously I chose a boney, cheap cut, but the good news was  the delicious cheap broth.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Whatever Book Review "The Family Fang" (Not a Vampire Book)

My book club reads a variety of books but most of the time we read fiction.  Trish suggested "The Family Fang: A Novel" by Kevin Wilson, so this is our most recent read.

Before I get into the meat of the review let me tell you a bit about the novel.  It is written from the perspective of  Annie Fang, the daughter in the Fang Family.  Kudos  to Wilson.  Not to gender type writing, but it is often difficult for a male to write in the voice of a female, since the book is primarily written through her eyes.

I am not even sure how to begin.  Imagine you were born into a family of performance artists. But not just ordinary performance artists, but a couple who creates chaos just for the reactions of those caught in the fray. Then imagine that same couple (your parents) are not as thrilled to have a new baby as much as they are thrilled for another person to add to the "act".  Then multiply the hilarity by another child and the Fang Family bursts into action. With the help of a cadre of "artists" they begin filming their escapades as art, so not only do "Child A" and "Child B" have to participate in the performance, they are on public display via film.   Now imagine you somehow grow up and escape the lunacy and establish a successful career.  Next imagine the heartbreak when a series of unfortunate events cause
you  and your sibling to return to the family nest.

So begins a romp in a new and uncharted direction.  At times the plot line seems contrived until you begin remembering that everyone of us knows someone unconventional, bordering on just plain weird. When you start thinking of everyday real life oddness we see the lines between believable and the absurd blur. The book sets the stage for either the biggest tragedy or the biggest coup in Performance Art History.  I will go no further because I really dislike self indulgent spoiler reviews.   I will tell you for a fun quick read this is a blast.  To quote a friend "It's not literature, but it's a damn fine read."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quick Chicken Gumbo

Are y'all total go getters and always prepared for everything, or do you sometimes get wrapped up in one thing and kind of let others slide?  Last year we bought a small lake place for our retirement and worked very hard (at first) scraping, painting, hammering, sawing, building, reupholstering, name it we did it.  Then, when it was habitable we slacked off.  I mean really slacked off. We wanted to enjoy being there, not just leaving the house for the weekend to go bust our tails working. So we spent the weekends this summer  enjoying.

Fast forward to fall. We are having a family reunion this weekend and all those unfinished projects WE could ignore really did need to be finished before having people who know me well enough to really say what is on their mind over.  For the past 2 weeks I have been running back and forth doing all of the much needed work and finally got the last of the big projects completed yesterday. Whew!

This flurry of activity means we have been eating whatever can be thrown together in a few minutes.  For the most part it has been a pretty random assortment of frozen leftovers. ( Of course I pretend it was done by design rather than total chance.  If I throw together a side salad  and everyone has a different reheated leftover entree, it was intentional, right?)

Last night after getting home at dark I realized I was out of leftovers! Ack!  Real cooking had to take place and I needed to get it done in about 30 minutes.  I think I had mentioned before we are being overrun with okra this year and sure enough, there was a container of freshly cut okra on the counter the minute I walked in the kitchen.  That meant something with okra and the 2 chicken breasts living in the refrigerator. Bingo! Gumbo!

Quick Chicken Gumbo

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/3 cup flour
2 cups sliced okra
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts, boned and cut into bite sized pieces
5 cups water ( 5 cups chicken broth if desired)
4 shrimp bouillon cubes (use if not using chicken broth)
1 teaspoon tomato bouillon (optional)
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere Cajun Seasoning ( I use the low salt variety)
2 bay leaves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice

I did not have time to make a proper roux, so I settled for an improper one.   In a large pot, heat the oil to a medium heat and stir in the flour.  Continue stirring and cooking the "paste" until it the flour is cooked well and the color darkens. (A good roux should cook for at least 30 minutes, should be made using clarified butter and  become a beautiful brown. Mine wasn't)  I spent a little over 5 minutes on the roux and cooked it to a light butterscotch color.  When it colors, add the okra directly to the roux.  It will make a loud slapping sound.  Stir it continually until the sound stops (2-3 minutes).  This will help the gumbo thicken but will contain the okra slime factor.  Add the onion, celery,bell pepper and garlic to the pot and stir until it is wilted.  Add about a cup of the water (or broth) and stir to mix everything well, then add the rest of the liquid.  If using bouillon cubes add them now along with the chicken pieces.  Also add the spices. Turn the heat to medium high and let it cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through.  Stir often and add more liquid if necessary.  As soon as the chicken is cooked toss the rice into the pot let it heat for a couple of minutes and serve.

This is not exactly as I would have liked it to look, but as I said, I did the hurry up version of roux making.  I like the gumbo to be a tad darker than this.  Also, if I had thawed smoked sausage I would have added it to the pot, but it was frozen solid and time was critical.  If you are a purist, you will argue about the bay leaves.  Normally I would have used file' powder but I had none.  Though bay leaves are not exactly the same flavor as the sassafras in file' it is a decent substitute.

TheHub and Son2 both thought it was very good, and this made enough for dinner for the 3 of us with a couple of servings frozen for later. If you have time make cornbread and serve it along with the gumbo.  I think it would be fabulous together.

So summons your inner cajun and let the good times roll with a non traditional take on gumbo.

Friday, October 3, 2014

My First Whatever____Banned Book Week Book Review

I love to cook, that is a given based on the tone of this blog, but I rarely cook on the weekends.  I decided on the weekends I will blog about my second love, reading.  I  read in any spare time I can find and have been known to ignore secondary importance chores if a book is truly engrossing.  I also have been known (Thank goodness The Hub and Son3 were out of town) to buy a book like the "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows" at midnight on its release date and read straight through until I finished  the next afternoon.

When my kids were younger, I would have a book in my car at all times. As was carting them to and fro there always seemed to be wait time, usually in some ball field parking lot or sitting in a driveway during music lessons.  I learned early on to make all my to-do lists during that time, but I also used it for pleasure reading.  Now that they are grown there is much more time for reading and I find  I am doing it more and more.

Each year in the U.S. we "celebrate" Banned Book Week.  I am not a big fan of censorship, so at the beginning of the week I decide which of the top 10 most controversial books of the prior year I must read.  I feel the best way to demonstrate my displeasure with censorship is to not only read one from the list but also to buy it.

 This year's list of controversial fiction had several books I have already read, so my choices were fairly limited.  I am passing no judgements on all of you who liked the Shades of Gray series but it was not on my "must read" or even "want to read" list. I am past the "Captain Underpants" demographic so that left just 2 books that I was mildly interested in. " The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian" and "Looking for Alaska".  I chose Alaska for 2 very superficial reasons.  The author attended a prep school near my home and it was written about the campus and surrounding areas.  I am familiar with the campus, and all the locations.  Plus I am from Alabama and understand the Southern ways and oddities.Part Time Indian looked like it would be equally good reading.

 I certainly do not limit my reading to young adult literature, but I don't exclude ianything simply because that is the market age range. "Looking for Alaska" ( hereafter known as LFA) is  a book written for a young adult  readers, but is relatable to anyone who ever experienced any teen angst.  This book is constructed as 2 distinct parts called "Before" and "After". It is styled as a journal highlighting important days beginning 136 days before and ending 136 days after.  Each journal entry is the equalivent of a small chapter.

It is written in the voice of a socially awkward high school junior, Miles Halter, who has chosen to leave his public school in Florida for boarding life in an Alabama prep school.  He is seeking what he calls "The Great Perhaps".

The book opens with a farewell party he never wanted to happen in the first place. Mile's mother had planned an event for his "friends" to come see him off and only 2 people even make an appearance. "The only thing worse than having a party that no one attends, is having a party attended by two vastly uninteresting people". The stage is set, and we get a front row seat as Miles leaves this life he knows to enter into that great perhaps.

Because of a random roommate assignment  Miles finds his first true friend and new nickname, Pudge",   His new roommate, Chip Martin, AKA The Colonel, not only answers to a nickname himself, but bestows one on people near and dear to him. The Colonel is one of the few scholarship kids who are in school based on their academic prowess alone. He promptly accepts and introduces Pudge into his inner circle of friends. So the story begins with a cast of misfits and we get to be a part of Pudge's journey into a new dynamic.  He has left his home, familiar surroundings and usual food for the unknown.  Not only is he now in a boarding school, he is in an un-airconditioned room in "hot as Hell" Alabama, with characters who grew up in a very different culture than he was used to.

LFA takes us down the road of what is the best and worst of high school: the cliques, clique "wars", the vast chasm between the "haves" and "have-nots", intellectual elitism, the love of learning, learning to skate by, friendships, loves, school spirit, respect for authority, lack of respect for authority, pranks and just the day to day trials of being an awkward teen.

It touches some very difficult topics like death and what defines a person.  Are we the product of our upbringing or do we have some ownership over our futures?  What are we to blame on ourselves and what is just to be blamed on circumstances outside of our control.

It is not so much a "coming of age" story as it is a "coming to understanding" story.  I see why some parents might find it objectionable because it does have teens smoking, drinking and mild drug references and of course some mandatory exploratory sex.  Having raised 3 sons to adulthood ( youngest will be 21 next week) I know that every high school experience has some of that no matter where you go.  I would not have found it offensive if my kids had read it when they were young teens. I just would have read it along with them so we could discuss it.

I would highly recommend LFA if you are looking for a quick read, excellent story line, well developed characters and some tragedy.  If you only like "feel good" or Pulitzer books this is not for you,  I personally thought it was a very good, well written book. It was worth the small time investment for the amount of post reading pondering I have done.