One Week In (reflections on Whole 30 and stuff)


I don’t believe in detoxing from sugar. While I think that it’s possible to consume too much of it with deleterious effects on your body, I think that “detoxing” suggests dependency and addiction. There’s also a mystical component to it that classifies food in the same category as a toxin, and I just don’t subscribe to that line of thinking.

I also don’t believe in “cleanses.” We have livers and kidneys and small intestines for a reason. Their primary function is to cleanse our system of the things it doesn’t need. To quote my doctor, “anything that makes you poop is a cleanse.” And, again, the valence of the word “cleanse” within the context of eating suggests that if you’re not eating these things, you’re eating dirty, impure, or unpleasant things. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, either.

I do believe in balance and mindfulness.

Eating (mostly) Whole 30 for the past week has made me more mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth. I lost about 5 pounds this week (I was up a little on Monday morning due to weekend indulgences). I ate lots of lean protein, a crapton of veggies and fruit, and more cashews than I thought would be possible. I took in very little sugar and dairy (basically enough to make my coffee palatable), swapped out diet sodas for hot tea and sparkling water, and ate wheat (a tortilla) once. As of this writing, it’s been a week since I had a Coke Zero or a Fresca (both of which I would consume once daily) and I haven’t missed them at all.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on how much bread I ate before adopting a Whole 30-forward diet: grazing on Goldfish, pretzels, cheez-its, ritz crackers (usually upon arriving home with the kids in the evening and shoveling something in while getting dinner ready), pasta nights with soft French bread and butter on the side. Cereal or toast for breakfast. Snack bars in the afternoons. Ice cream bars at night. My processed carbohydrate consumption was out. of. control.

Other pros of Whole 30: the leftovers get used, mostly by me. I repurposed last week’s turkey taco meat into taco salad, and made breakfast out of the chicken verde. It feels good to be wasting less food.

Cons: It’s so much meat, and it’s so much cooking. Now, I do a lot of cooking during the week, but holy cow, is this a lot of cooking and prep. How would someone with an inflexible schedule (say, an 8-5 job, kids with extracurriculars, etc.) manage this? But mostly? It’s too much meat. I know that the preferred meats in this plan are grass-fed, organic lean meats, and I reckon I could go source that at the farmers market, but the price goes up exponentially. And I can’t, in good conscience, eat (and feed my family) feedlot meat 5-6 nights a week. It’s bad for our bodies, it’s bad for the environment, and it’s cruel to the animals. (We drove past a feedlot outside El Paso back in December and OMG, not only did it go on for MILES — there were stacks on stacks of cows crammed in these pens, and the ones that were sitting were doing so in muddy sludge — it REEKED. I was gagging at the fetid ammonia smell, something I don’t want to associate with a steak or a burger.)

So, in short, I’ve decided that strict adherence to Whole30 isn’t for me (but I kinda knew that going in). But I can feel that my body likes this healthier regimen of heaps and heaps of fruit and veg, fewer processed carbs (no more than one serving per day), NO DIET SODAS (it’s been 10 DAYS!!!!), and drastically fewer sweets (one serving per week, and not a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, but like, a cookie). This is a way of eating that feels right for me, from a food-consumption standpoint, a quality of life standpoint, and an ethical consumption standpoint.

So, without any further super-privileged navel-gazing about my food choices (just last night I told the BK, who was kvetching about dinner, to think about the kids at his school who wouldn’t have a yummy dinner, so it’s rather ironic that I spend so much time fussing over and analyzing what I eat), here’s our menu plan for the week.

IMG_5397

Sunday: Baked chicken with spinach and artichokes (This was not very good, I thought. The chicken, while tender and juicy, wanted more seasoning, and the three tablespoons of fat made for greasy, greasy vegetables. Not an ideal combination.)

Monday: Steak, broccoli, roasted potatoes (This didn’t happen, as the husband was sick and working late and I didn’t want the meat, so I had a salad, while the kids had mac and cheese.)

Tuesday: Arugula with roasted salmon and potatoes  Just gonna keep the salmon in the freezer and have the steak tonight instead.

Wednesday: Veggie frittata with spinach and peppers (blessed, blessed meatless dinner!)

Thursday: TBD (it’s the night of our school spelling bee, and I’m the coordinator/emcee/pronouncer/judge)

Friday: Tacos (with shells for the family, taco salad for me)

Saturday: Historically our dining-out night. So, we’ll see!

Lunches will consist of salads topped with lean protein, mostly. I’ve got a cache of boiled eggs prepped for the week.

Breakfast will alternate between egg-centric whatevers, Rip’s Big Bowl with unsweetened almond milk, and chicken sausage with fruit on the side.

Book Notes: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl


Earlier this year, I swore to read a book a week over the course of 2014, a plan that failed spectacularly because, duh, I’m a slow reader who picks impossibly long books that couldn’t be finished inside of a week absent any semblance of a life or need for sleep. That said, I have read a LOT of books over the summer, including This Is Where I Leave You (LOVE — can’t wait for the movie!), Broken Harbor (LOVE), The Leftovers (ALSO LOVE), the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (LOVE, even though the author got a little up her own you-know-what in the final book), The Carriage House (DID NOT LOVE), Vampires in the Lemon Grove (MEHHHH, I am disappoint).

delicious

 

On our recent vacation to New Mexico, I devoured (to be clear: when I say “devour” as concerns this book, think of it as the literary equivalent of hate-f**king the fraternity brother who lives in your apartment building) Delicious! by Ruth Reichl. This is not a book that had been on my radar before a food-writing friend of mine alerted me (along with some other local food-writing women) to its existence and suggested that we get together and discuss it. So, I checked it out from the library and packed it along for the long drive to Santa Fe.

Let’s start with the good. We won’t be here long. I really like the way that Reichl drew a direct line from World War 2-era subsistence agriculture and foraging to contemporary notions of homesteading. Just like in Portlandia (“the dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland“), the dream of the 1940s is alive in Ohio … and Brooklyn, and Austin, and Omaha and so on. I also really appreciated when Reichl would demonstrate her deep knowledge of food, from the difference between winter and spring parmigiano to the various histories and uses of particular foods. That’s when her writing really sang in this novel; sadly, she would drop those lovely moments like hot potatoes in service to her hot mess of a narrative.

There is a LOT going on in this book. We’ve got the letters from a mysterious young woman to James Beard during WW2. We’ve got the death of an iconic food magazine (*cough*) and the obvious emotional trauma Reichl is working through via her surrogate(s) at said magazine. We’ve got the Underground Railroad, xenophobia against Italian-Americans, the post-WW2 “lavender scare,” and a mysterious back story and an obligatory love plot for Billie Breslin, the heroine. Reichl has embedded her novel with so many moving parts that she ends up under developing every single one of them, relying instead on tired tropes and stereotypes, down to the ugly-duckling-gets-a-makeover scene. Some people have suggested that Delicious! reads like a YA novel, but that would be an insult to YA fiction, much of which doesn’t insult its readership by telegraphing every plot development and tying up every single crappy narrative thread with an overwrought bow. 

Where was Reichl’s editor? Who was there to say, “Have you considered narrowing your focus a bit?” Or perhaps, “Have you considered fleshing out your characters a bit?” The love interest is so underwritten that Reichl might as well have just marched a cardboard cutout of Mr. Darcy into the scene for all the charisma he has.

And I’m not even mentioning the continuity and basic copyediting errors!

When my friends and I got together to discuss the book, we wondered whether it would have been published if it hadn’t had Reichl’s name on it. I seriously doubt it. I’m shocked it was published, period.

Next up: Delancey. I loved A Homemade Life, so Molly Wizenberg better not let me down!

 

Meal Plan: Week of 9/1/13 (plus some other stuff)


It’s been a while, and much has changed. I finished my book, it is in page proofs, and it will come out in early October.

I got a new job, one that has taken me out of the 8-5 grind of state work and inserted me back into the world of teaching, with the added bonus of an extremely flexible schedule, and for that I am deeply grateful.

The BK started third grade, and he’s gotten so tall. He’s up to my shoulders and he’s only 8. He loves math and video games and is an unabashed extrovert. I see a lot of myself in him. The LK is in her last year of preschool. She turns 5 in October and she is blossoming into a fiery artiste.

I’ve started running again in hopes of maybe running the 3M half in January.

I purged my sewing room of six months’ worth of collected, neglected detritus and actually have room to sew again.

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with this blog. Do I pick it up where I left off before I went into the book-writing cave, with the daily/weekly features I had planned out? Continue on with bakealongs and cookbook reviews and Foodie Field Trips and the cookbook project? Or do I focus entirely on all the “offline” writing projects I’ve got planned/percolating? I just don’t know. Who knows? Maybe I’ll work it out via writing here.

I’ve also been cooking a lot, partly because it helps generate ideas (and leftovers) for the BK’s school lunches, and also because I now have more time and mental energy to curate a meal plan that doesn’t rely on the same old boring stuff I’ve been making for the past six months. I’ve started trying new projects in the kitchen (including the failed attempt at Mile High Chocolate Cake this weekend), which has me excited to be in the kitchen again. It doesn’t feel like a chore anymore.

And so, without any further ado, here is this week’s meal plan, which is designed for assistance from the BK, whom I pick up from school these days and who needs something to do in the afternoon that doesn’t involve a screen.

Sunday: Cheesy pasta casserole (recipe below), steamed spinach

Monday: Beef & broccoli with rice

Tuesday: Asian turkey meatballs with carrot rice

Wednesday (a teaching night for me): crockpot sausage & peppers, pasta, salad

Thursday: BBQ chicken tenders, cheesy broccoli rice

Friday: Pizza/tacos/dining out

Saturday: TBD. Probably nothing with rice. 🙂

pasta casserole

Cheesy Pasta Casserole
(adapted slightly from the Mom 100 Cookbook)

1 package bowtie pasta
1 jar marinara sauce
7.5 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
4-6 ounces shredded Parmesan or mozzarella or “quattro formaggi” blend

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Boil the pasta until almost al dente, about 10 minutes.
Drain pasta, return to pot.
Add in marinara, ricotta, and mozzarella and stir until blended.
Pour into a 2.5-quart casserole dish and top with shredded cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbling.
Serve with a vegetable, for goodness’ sake!