Renewed Whole 30

Two full Whole 30 plans. The rest of the year was a loose 80/20 following, lowering our grain input, but not saying “no” to prohibited foods like Oreos when cravings arose.

What does this mean? When we focused on eating right, managing stress, and getting that nutrition right, our bodies shifted. We slept better, our hearts got right, our waists got thinner, and doctor visits were radiant.

Separately, during the 80/20 time, we noticed stress rise, then our waists got thicker, and movement got harder. So, another plan was in order. We attempted to do it during Lent, mocking last year identically. But, we didn’t. We enabled each other towards cravings. Until the husband had it with the tightening belt, and we started again on March 27. Frankly, it’s been a hard week. We’re hungry and relearning what we can eat.

The boy had a sleepover, so we cheated (completely against the rules) on Saturday with a compliant meal peppered with a very non-compliant Mimosa.

Today, we’re out of food and pay-day is tomorrow. So, I’m scrounging in the fridge to find enough food to stave off hunger. I purposefully used up our store-bought mayo a few months ago. Our protein source is down to a dozen boiled eggs or canned tuna. What’s a girl to do? No real mayo, no eggs… Google to the rescue and it gave me Jane’s Healthy Kitchen recipe. Having all the ingredients, I had to try it. I desired to make it Whole 30 compliant, so I withheld sweetener, but all I tasted was the apple cider vinegar. So, I added about a tablespoon of local honey to cut the acid.

My nutrition friend Leigh, crediting ATP Science, added, “the ACV will help manage the insulin response… so that’s a good addition. If you added turmeric in, the vegetable oil will convert to DHEA omega 3 like fish oil.” Definitely try for next time!

Lunch

Chili !
I've been craving chili for some time. Finally made it. Here's the 10 cups of leftovers. Lunch for the week!

Packaged Dinners

Yummy Beef Stroganoff
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

We were watching a cooking show on OPB. This was several months ago (like over a year, maybe). The personality dehyrdated tomatoes in the oven, then she pulverized them in the blender. The result was a tomato powder. Suddenly, it dawned on me: instant “Hamburger Helper.”

We haven’t purchased macaroni and cheese in months. Yes, the cheese powder is cheaper than the 5lb bricks of our Tillamook staple, but homemade cheesauce is just as easy. My cooking evolution seems so obvious, I am surprised others haven’t drawn the same conclusions.

Ramble, ramble, ramble, what does it all mean?

My friend Elizabeth told me, tonight, about a book she has that links the increased purchase of package foods to moms working away from home. I believe it. My husband claims he can burn water (proven, untrue by who was that again?). He wants processed hot dogs and easy mixes. So, tonight, I wanted to show him how easy it was to cook cheese sauce. I am hoping by engaging him in the kitchen, layer by layer, he will step up naturally.

He tried to catch me at my game. He said that when I told him what we were making he heard, “Blah, blah, blah, yummy.” (At least he heard yummy!) So, he started talking about a 4.5 inch rachet with a flex  head that has 44 teeth, and he wants the one with 88 teeth. When I parroted back his desire, he started speaking in product codes. Silliness. But, he stuck around. And, he helped at last put water in pans and pretended to listen while I explained how much butter we melted, when we browned the garlic, why I was adding in flour and how much milk. He even critiqued the sauce as tasting a little too floury. It might have been, but wasn’t to me.

I’ve been thinking about whole foods cooking for so long, I can’t recite all the reasons that got me on this train. Though, I can think back to a few things. I grew up with packaged foods and a mom who claimed she can’t cook. Oddly, she came from a woman who cooks home cooked, fabulous meals, nightly. So, what’s the disconnect? When I was in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to work at a resturant-resort. Because of my position, I ended up helping in the restuarant when I had no clue as to what I was doing. I learned how to hold a knife, weighed out meat for hamburgers, and discovered that cooking is temperature. You sear a steak on each side then cook it until it’s pink. But, a roast,  you slow cook it for hours. The size of the dish the temperature of your heat source are hugely important. These are my trouble shooting tools to this day.

My husband wants me to fix a car with him, start to finish. Brakes were the item he offered up. If I want him to be in the kitchen, it’s only fair… right. (Gulp.) I said, “Suuuure.” He didn’t comment if he heard the pause and reticence.

So, tonight’s shared food prep was enjoyable. It was a simple, yummy meal, lightly seasoned, and cooed in under a half hour. The only canned thing was the salmon. Everything else was as fresh as it could be. It tasted better, it was more or less cheaper, and it was better for you. I added a teaspoon of salt to the whole dish, that was split into 6 servings. I was able to do this because of my food club. So, although my husband isn’t ready to make a meal on his own, he does recognize how amazing our food club is. He helped in the kitchen tonight, and he’s been supportive of our food choices. That’s a pretty amazing step right there.

If you’re in the City of Portland, take the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability Survey. You have until August 29th. Tell them they are going in the wrong direction with many of their ideas, especially in regards to CSAs & Buying Clubs. They claim the purpose is to expand access, but all they are offering is restrictions. How do restrictions really expand access? http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=53834

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Handpicked Pastoral Adjectives

I’m reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Finally. In it, Pollen coins the term “Supermarket Pastoral” as a way to describe the literature we find in supermarkets, like Whole Foods. I think we can credit sustainability and this movement for great leaps and bounds when it moves into the regular aisles and ads of the grocery store.

08-04 Freddy Ad
Thursday, August 4th an Ad in the Oregonian

Sweet corn, picked, carefully (implied) by tender hands at the exact right moment to ensure the highest quality food. Who wouldn’t want that? The care, the thought, the ability that went into ensuring you and your family had quality food — the feeling is wonder, amazement… love.

08-03 Oregonian Cover
Wednesday, August 3, Oregonian, Front Page

What is this outbreak? Ground turkey? Who? Cargill? Where? Kroger? Wait… didn’t Kroger buy Fred Meyer less than 10 years ago? So, Kroger = Fred Meyer = contaminated meat amidst supermarket pastoral.

Finally, this expectation of quality is at the tips of many. Finally, this (re)awareness of the nastiness in industrial food is at the forefront of our brains. Finally.

But, clearly, we have a long way to go in combating this green washing that attempts to erase our understanding of the nastiness. Every time we remove ourselves from a process… the further away we get from necessary processes in every day life, the less connected we are with our real world.

Think sewer systems. Think about from where you get your milk, eggs, and meat. Think about who makes your vehicle that you drive to work. Think about the job you do at work. Do you have a systems understanding of your role and how it affects your company? Or, are you operating with one very small, very controlled piece?

The less we know about the processes that make our lives work, the less connected we are with our lives.

So, sure, on one hand it’s great that visions of handpicked bounty are falling off the tongues of ad writers for local super markets. There is a suggestion in its being there that we want to be connected to our food, to that which sustains us.

But, when we read the day before about the outbreak of salmonella in ground turkey, we need to remember that we are still hiding things. In an effort to be healthy, ground turkey is often sold as a great, lean option, alternative to the fatty, heart disease, mad cow ridden ground beef. But, neither really answers the question of what is healthy. We have these tests by which we measure very specific things (heart disease) and link it narrowly to others (fat content) without thinking about how varied people are and how perhaps diversity of product is more important. We are trading cheap ground beef for cheap turkey and we get another devastating result: diseased food that still makes us sick even if it doesn’t give us heart disease.

Beware of handpicked pastoral adjectives, as often, while increasing the awareness and importance of the topic, it’s slight of hand, green washing gone mad. The best way to get handpicked produce is to pick it yourself. I’m busy. I struggle with balancing all these visions, ideals and wants with every day reality of naps, dinner, paying bills, and going to work… not to mention how do you find time to spend with your family in a fun sort of way! So, the next best thing is to vet your food with friends. Work together to get the handpicked goodness from local farms you trust. Visit the farms. Visit the farmers. Talk to them. Have conversations with them about how they get it all done. Thank them for providing you with quality food that doesn’t make you sick.

If we get more connected to our places. More connected to our food. More connected to  our homes, we can make “handpicked pastoral” a part of our lives. We won’t even need to label it in such quaint terms suggesting a different way of doing things because it simply will be.

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This is the Loaf that I made

This is the table that I cleaned.

This is the all-purpose vinegar wash I created.

This is the bike my husband rides to work.

This is the bowl I used to make the bread.

This is the knife I used to slice the loaves.

This is the measuring cup I used to portion out the flour.

These are the measuring spoons I used to portion out salt and yeast.

This is the cast iron skillet that sauteed broccoli for an easy supper.

This is the rice I made for the lunch I will make tomorrow.

This is the stove that times the bread that I made.

This is the bread that I made.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”alexis22578″ id=”72157626905149156″]

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Food Relationships

Eating a biscuit.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

“You know, I wasn’t eating when we met.”

“What?” I queried. “You didn’t eat?”

“No, you didn’t notice?” asked my husband.

He proceeded to explain that he was riding his bicycle all the time, not really eating breakfast or lunch, and what he did eat for dinner was largely prepared foods like Ramen Noodles. Occasionally, when I would cook something he would participate, but largely it was the variety of pre-packaged foods.

I mentioned this to my mother, who was shocked to learn I hadn’t heard of this phenomena before. The phenomena being that men don’t eat until they meet someone, get married, and are (force) fed 3 squares a day.

Food relationships are very interesting to me. To continue on this theme of food obsession, I now have more fodder to explore and contrast. My husband likely didn’t eat to save time and money. Regardless, this relationship he had with food wasn’t very healthy. Growing up, I also didn’t have a healthy relationship with food.

When I was in 8th grade, I was 5’2″ and weighed about 130lbs. I was pretty well developed as puberty had hit. But, I was not the skinny twig as many of my classmates, and therefore, I felt I was fat. I hated eating in front of classmates for fear I would be judged for continuing this idea of fat. Like many girls, I hated my body and this perception I felt others had of me. I would often skip breakfast and lunch, then I would consume dinner, ravenously.

Food - 2
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

When I think about how obsessed our society is with food, I think of these scenarios. Not eating to save money, not eating to maintain a terrible vision of what looks good, eating in different ways to ensure optimum health, the wrestlers who make weight by being muscled anorexics. What are we really doing when we maintain these habits?

As my high school years wore on, and I created more meaningful lasting friendships, my confidence rose and so did my eating habits. Through my first college years, I stopped the unhealthy meal skipping and began to think about food in a more enjoyable way. I learned that I really do like to cook. I learned that I can cook and people enjoy the combinations of food I create. I remembered that I do enjoy eating and sharing meals with people. On one hand you could argue that I grew up.

Why do we struggle so much, though, with these food obsessions? Today we have Jamie Oliver in his food kitchen trying to show one school at a time how to produce healthy meals in public schools. On the other hand, we have a variety of celebrity chefs (think Gordon Ramsey or any on the Food Network or Bravo) entering kitchens across America, competing, and centering their obsessions around gourmet food. Then, we have the food shortages across our planet and country, the ability of the “haves” versus the “have nots” to access quality food — the irony being, here in the States, we are the among richest on our planet. And, then, we have communities all across the country with children suffering from emotional distress and food related disorders.And, finally, to add insult to the whole concept – there is the growing concern of food allergies and knowledge around food sensitivities – concepts that sometimes fall right in the face of the cultural concept of food.

We need nutrition to sustain us. A more enjoyable method to receive that nutrition is, arguably, through a good meal. Instead of just breaking bread with another and enjoying the nutrition gifted, we obsess.

Please, add to this discussion. How do you obsess about food? Do you? Do you know others that obsess about food? Can you understand?

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Post-Dated: Sunday, May 29th

We had a fairly busy day yesterday. Jam plans weren’t until today, and have to be postponed or canceled due to an unexpected cold. Regardless, we accomplished a lot, including the mandatory Sunday nap-time.

Levi in Olivia's Tub.
Levi in Olivia's Tub.
Levi helping build shelves.
Levi helping build shelves.
Homemade Asparagus Soup
Homemade Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus & Mushroom Soup (wheat-free)

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy sauce pan. Add a few tablespoons of rice flour. Add about a cup of whole milk. I ended up adding about 4-6 cups of milk, and in my estimation too much rice flour. Once you add the milk, get the sauce to boil, then make your adjustments as it will thicken as it gets hotter. I had to switch to an 8 quart pan because I forgot to heat it more thoroughly. Regardless, it was seasoned with salt, pepper, coriander, and tamari. I sautéed leftover baked asparagus and fresh mushrooms in butter in a cast-iron skillet for about five minutes. When the sauce/soup was the right consistency, I added the asparagus and mushrooms to the soup. I let it simmer for about 30 minutes on the stove until served.

Building the actual shelf.
Building the actual shelf.
Lemon Cake Slices
Lemon Cake Slices
Lemon Cake!
Lemon Cake!

Lemon Cake (modified) & Lemon Butter-cream Frosting (modified)

This recipe is from the Magnolia Bakery in New York. It’s a tried and true favorite Lemon Cake recipe. They focus on doing things the “old fashioned way” meaning what was done in the 50s. They would encourage a hand-held electric mixer, but I used my stand mixer this time. I’ve done it both ways. The important thing is to add ingredients slowly and then alternate between dry and wet ingredients when finishing the batter. This is a moist, dense, flavor-packed cake.

Lemon Cake Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs (farm fresh better), leave out for at least 1 hour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened, leave out for at least 1 hour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (bottled in glass, lightly pasteurized)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Lemon Cake Instructions

First, it should be noted that I used two lemons for this cake and frosting. I had to substitute about 1/4 cup juice from concentrate to make up the rest. I grate the lemons on two sides, first, to use as much of the rind as is feasible to get enough zest and garnish for the cake. Then, I juice the lemons. The first cake I made, Saturday, the two lemons yielded just under 3/4 cup juice. Sunday, the lemons only gave me 1/2 cup juice. The recipe also calls for self-rising flour. You can substitute 1 cup of all purpose for every 1 cup of self rising by adding 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt, each. This recipe has been adjusted for that substitution. After making the substitution, I add all the dry ingredients in one bowl and stir with a fork. This is part of my “ingredient gathering” stage of baking so I can simply read and dump into the mixer.

Second, begin! Cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugar, until fluffy and incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, until butter-sugar fully incorporates. Alternate dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) with wet ingredients (lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk), until all ingredients have been mixed well. Make sure you are continuously scraping the side of the bowl to ensure proper mixing.

Third, have two 8″ or 9″ cake pans greased. Then, cut out wax paper in the diameter of the pans, and flatten into the bottom. This makes for super easy removal of the cakes. Preheat oven to 350. Pour batter evenly into two pans (or three and make a three layered cake). Bake for 20-25 minutes until sides just start to come away from the pan and the middle bounces back once pressed lightly. Cool for ten minutes, remove from pans onto plates with waxed paper. Cool overnight or for one hour in the freezer before frosting. If cooling in the freezer, remove wax paper from bottom of cakes and cover with towel.

Frosting Ingredients & Instructions

  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened, leave out for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest

Cream butter in bowl. Slowly add sugar alternating with lemon juice. Don’t be shy by using this amount. The original recipe calls for 8 cups of powdered sugar, but I often find that is too much. Even with 6 cups, this is a very, very, very rich and sweet frosting. You can either use all or part of the lemon zest in the frosting. I often like to reserve some to garnish the finished, frosted cake.

Finally, eat and enjoy!

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Beginning of the Summer Wine

Lemon layer cake beginnings.
Lemon layer cake beginnings.
Lemon Cake
Lemon Cake
Blurry Eyed Dinner Prep
Blurry Eyed Dinner Prep

Because we have to eat for life, why not enjoy it? This is only the beginning of the weekend. Lovely Summer Start barbecue this afternoon filled with delicious pulled pork, beans, cole slaw, quinoa salads, basil-tomato-mozzarella finger treats, cake, cake, cookies, and delightful conversation. And, all on such a picture perfect day.

Dinner was pork chops cooked in a skillet with sparkling peach juice (gifted years ago), a little olive oil, salt and garlic, served with roasted potatoes and carrots and baked asparagus (also in the sparkling peach with butter, salt and pepper).

Tomorrow, we’ll make a lemon cake for home, cook up the last of the frozen fruit for one last jam batch before berry season starts, and maybe make some bread. Monday’s plans include FOUR lasagnas, three of which will go to the just-had-baby friends and soon-to-have baby friend. The last lasagna will stay home, hopefully served with some delightful red wines my husband has been picking out and recently made bread. We’ll probably finish off the last of our salad greens, and go to bed with stuffed tummies. Stay tuned for Memorial Day Weekend food happenings.

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Never Enough

Pool time.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Quiet time. I am absolutely amazed at how much reading, writing, quiet, thinking, pondering time I need. No matter how much I get, it never seems to be enough. I don’t know what the perfect equilibrium would look like. A perfect balance of flitting between thinking, doing, and acting on ideas, fantasies, and time with those I care about.

Identity. I identify myself as an Introverted-intuitive-feeling-judging person on the Meyers Briggs scale. I recently tested at having these top five strengths: input, intellection, belief, learner, deliberative. Both scales – both themes – remind me I need refresh time to be my best, time to let my ideas stew (or simmer and perk), time to create ideas, time to ponder all that goes around. Remembering, knowing these things validates what I feel are needs, daily.

Self awareness. We continually grow up. We continually evolve. We learn more about ourselves – what we like, what we don’t like, what we’re good at, what we’re not good at – we become aware. Part of the “input” and “deliberative” identities are these thirsts, these cravings for knowledge. The need, the drive, to ask questions, take it all in, process it, and come up with a grand idea (intellection) or understanding. Sometimes it feels throughout my 20s, I spent a lot of time taking in these inputs, slowly figuring out what they meant to me. Should I get a tattoo? What would socialism really look like? Do I care about playing the guitar? What makes art art? What do they want out of life? Would I want the same things?

Sometimes, throughout those ponderings in my 20s, I felt lonely wishing I had another to share these ponderings. Now, I am married and have a child, and my pendulum has swung the other way. They don’t process in the same way I do. My new challenge is striking that balance. I yearned for so much before, and now, how do I match these things up?

Right now, it feels like there is never enough time. Never enough time to write. Never enough time to read. Never enough time to garden. Never enough time to knit. Never enough time to bake bread. Never enough time to sweep, vacuum, clean the bathroom. Never enough time to meal plan. Never enough time to sort through the day. Never enough time to read 1,000 books to Levi. Never enough time to clean up the paint I want him to play with. Never enough.

Part psychological, yes I know. The question I cannot seem to answer is how to make it enough? What do I let go of in order to have enough? Often, this seems like the biggest challenge in this act I call balance. Self needs. Mother needs. Wife needs. Work needs. How can they be in equilibrium? Or, is it not about equilibrium at all? Is it about giving my all on self one way, my all as mother the next, wife the day after, work the day after that? Withdrawing and participating like ocean waves? I want it all.  You can’t have it all. I want it all.

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