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.

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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.

Meal plan: Week of 8/24/14 (First week of school!)


 

Chicken yakisoba

Chicken yakisoba

It’s the first week of school! The BK starts fourth grade and the LK starts kinder, so big big BIG changes are afoot! The LK has a new collection of sassy dresses with animal prints, the BK has … a bunch of new Magic the Gathering cards, so we’re ready to rock! 

These nuggets started school today.

These nuggets started school today.

I figure, new school year = new energy to blog my meal plans, especially since we’re embarking on a new extracurricular regimen (fall baseball! ukelele lessons! gymnastics! painting! etc.!). As ever, I’m looking for a good balance of nutrition (so, veggie-forward), at least one vegetarian meal a week, Weight Watchers friendly for me, and yet still appeals to the kids. As such, here we go: 

Sunday: mac + cheese + chicken nuggets + grapes for the kids (per their request), passed apps dinner at Jacoby’s for the parents (by the way, we really liked Jacoby’s and will definitely be back for dinner, if not brunch and lunch. Think Contigo with southern comfort foods like pimento cheese, coconut cake with marshmallowy 7-minute frosting, and your East Texas grandma’s hobnail glass collection)

Monday: chicken yakisoba

Tuesday: shrimp + black bean tostadas

Wednesday: baked spinach and cheese ravioli + salad

Thursday: beef + broccoli, rice

Friday: dinner at our last Express game of the season

Saturday: pizza, maybe? 

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Foodways Texas Symposium: A Recap


chickens

This past weekend, I had the extreme privilege to attend the fourth-annual Foodways Texas Symposium. This year’s “Farm to Market” program was held at the Agrilife Center on the Texas A&M campus and provided attendees with the opportunity to explore and learn about agriculture through various lenses, from logistics to oral histories to the connections between Texas food and swing music.

The event commenced on Thursday night with a welcome dinner at The Veranda, with a “Texas Spring Picnic” dinner provided by Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods in Fort Worth. The menu included chicken-fried quail and a potent whiskey pound cake, showcasing Texas ingredients from start to finish.

oyster

Indeed, each meal over the weekend laid bare the embarrassment of Texas riches in terms of both ingredients and culinary talent. Friday morning’s breakfast, courtesy of Brian Light of Ronin Cooking, featured empanadas made with Longhorn beef (because College Station), while breakfast on Saturday was curated by Austin’s Stephanie McClenny of confituras, who paired her spring jams (including the brand-new ruby red grapefruit jelly) with irresistible rafts of grilled Texas toast from Dallas’ Empire Baking Company and goat cheese from Blue Heron Farm. Friday’s lunch, courtesy of Randy Evans of Haven in Houston, featured Gulf Coast delights including briny appellation oysters and a mouthwatering sauce piquant plump with Texas shrimp. (Our table also tore through three servings of dessert, a tipsy strawberry trifle stuffed into large mason jars.) On Saturday, Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen in San Antonio offered up a “Winter Garden Luncheon” featuring an absolutely stunning plate of roasted chicken and sweet potatoes, along with lamb shank, meaty mushrooms, and coarse yellow grits. On Friday night, dinner came courtesy of Lenoir’s Todd Duplechan, who wowed us with a smoked porchetta dish accompanied by a hearty peasant bread and refreshing end-of-season beets.

tipsy

While our bodies were nourished by Texas ingredients, our minds were nourished by the various thought-provoking topics. Friday’s program was more loosely organized, focusing on agricultural products like wine, olives and grapefruit, as well as an introduction to Robyn Metcalfe’s intriguing new project, The Miracle of Feeding Cities. I was particularly moved by Saturday’s program, though, which hewed rather more closely to a single topic: the rice industry in Texas.

First, Todd Romero, a history professor at the University of Houston, gave a talk on Saito Saibara, a turn-of-the-century ex-samurai who became a successful rice grower in South Texas before the racist immigration policies of the early-to-mid-20th century squelched his ambitions. Next, MM Pack moderated a panel dedicated to teasing out the nuances of water usage and conservation in Texas and how that relates to the rice industry.

Perhaps the most profound example of this troubled relationship came when Jack “Jacko” Garrett, a Houston-area rice farmer who founded Share the Harvest, a charitable organization that has donated millions of pounds of rice to the Houston Food Bank, accepted his Lifetime Achievement award. He explained that because water consumers in urban areas fail to conserve water in any meaningful way, this will be the first year in decades that his father’s farm will produce no rice because there simply isn’t enough water available. As a result, the Houston Food Bank will receive 800,000 fewer pounds of rice from Share the Harvest this year, which adds up to 8 million servings. It is profoundly humbling to reflect upon the connections between hunger and people’s dedication to maintaining their emerald-green lawns. It’s easy to think of water being a problem people in third-world countries have, but we can no longer deny that it’s a social justice issue here in Texas as well.

Also of note was the closing panel, moderated by Austin’s Kristi Willis, who led three urban farmers in a discussion of their operations. Max Elliott, of Urban Roots in Austin, James Jeffers of Eat the Yard in Dallas, and Colleen O’Donnell of Plant It Forward in Houston all described the ways that their farming programs yield positive change in their communities. Not only does Urban Roots teach at-risk youth critical leadership and life skills, but the farm also donates thousands of pounds of produce to the Capital Area Food Bank and Caritas each year. Eat the Yard, which was founded by two Army veterans, reaches out to veterans who are in need of immediate therapeutic interventions, and Plant It Forward helps out immigrants and refugees through its gardening programs.

In between all the eating and the learning, there was community-building to boot. There were many lively discussions floating around, from how to best manage one’s cast iron collection to what the best thing on the menu at El Patio is. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a weekend than surrounded by people who love food: the growing, preparing, and sharing of it. Here’s to many more weekends like this one.

Meal Plan: Week of 9/15/13


I find myself enjoying — finally — some “down time” in that I have met all my immediate deadlines for both the book and freelance work for the time being. (That doesn’t mean I don’t have deadlines, it just means that, as of right now, I have a whole week ahead of me with NO DEADLINES.)

This weekend has been dedicated to baking, shopping, reading, watching the BK play baseball (Saturday), and finally dusting off my sewing machine. Today will be all about sewing. I’ve got tons of fabric for skirts (me) and dresses (LK), as well as napkins and aprons (which I plan to pop into my Etsy shop very soon).

napkins2

I’ve also done a lot of research around lunchboxes and meal planning, trying to clean up the BK’s lunchbox (fewer chips and sweets, more fruit and veg!) and plan dinners that accommodate everyone’s extracurriculars (BK’s baseball, LK’s swim and dance, my Monday and Wednesday evening classes) as well as my newly reinstated Weight Watchers membership.

(Side note: I recently went in for my annual checkup with my GP and mentioned that I’m — still — not happy with my weight. She suggested I’d be a good candidate for Optifast, since I’m motivated and am good at maintaining my weight. I considered it for a little while, mentioned it to The Husband, who said, “Yeah, because living on a chemical slurry is SO MUCH HEALTHIER than eating real food.”)

So, I’ve been trolling Pinterest and Cooking Light magazine for recipes that meet all the criteria mentioned above, and I think I’ve struck a pretty fair balance with this week’s options. My biggest challenge so far is that sometimes we just end up making another plan for dinner (like when we ended up at the new Lucy’s Fried Chicken instead of having the homemade pizza I’d planned to make for dinner with the BK last Thursday). Most of the time, though, I can roll that over into the next day or week. Oh, and leftovers. We are and always have been MISERABLE at managing leftovers. I welcome any tips or suggestions y’all might have on how to reduce leftovers-related waste.

Sunday: Chicken tamale casserole, veg, fruit
Monday: Slow cooker bolognese, pasta, salad, fruit
Tuesday: Burrito bowls, fruit
Wednesday: Slow cooker balsamic chicken, veg, fruit
Thursday: Italian wonderpot, salad, fruit
Friday: TBD. (If we could have a standing Friday-night dinner at Torchy’s, I’d be a happy woman.)
Saturday: TBD. We’re going to see the new Forklift Danceworks show that evening, so it might just be sandwiches.

Smitten Saturdays: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works


Well, hello! I meant to get this up last weekend, but it feels more appropriate to post it this week instead, given that I’d planned these as a good Super Bowl appetizer.

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Funny story about these potato crisps (which are delicious, by the way): I made them on Sunday night with the intention of having just a sample before moving on to a more virtuous meal of salmon and steamed broccoli. The best laid plans…

First off, this recipe makes a metric ton of baked potato crisps, and I didn’t even meet the stated yield of 42 pieces (more on that in a minute). My husband was a little overwhelmed when he saw the cookie sheets populated with these babies. And then we started eating them.

And eating them. And eating them. And eating them. Soon, the salmon was being packaged up into portable containers for Monday lunch (more on THAT in a minute!) because we each ate nearly a potato’s worth of crisps in under 20 minutes. (It didn’t help that we were starving. Also, bacon.) Even after our starch-dairy-bacon binge, there were still easily a dozen crisps left, which I also packaged up and put away for later.

Fast forward to noonish on Monday. I’m in my cubicle at the Adjunct Gig (soon to be former!) and I’m ready to eat lunch. I’m preparing myself for the salmon and broccoli I hadn’t eaten the night before, feeling right smug about my choices. Then I open up the tub — it’s the leftover potato crisps! DERP. I picked the bacon off the top of a few of them, but I just can’t bring myself to eat cold potatoes. (I ended up using my faculty discount in the dining hall and indulging in their addictive grilled cheese sandwich + a mountain of veggies from the salad bar.)

And it’s the coldness factor that informs my decision to NOT take these to the Super Bowl party we’re attending tomorrow night. These are absolutely gorge-worthy when they’re hot. But cold? Feh. It’s not the recipe’s fault, it’s the fault of the potato for being disgusting when cold. And you can’t really nuke these unless you want to melt the sour cream. Rest assured that if I were hosting a Super Bowl party, I’d be cranking these out without a second thought. And you should, too, if you’re hosting and are looking for last-minute, ridiculously easy and tasty ideas.

One note: some of your smaller crisps may not like the 25-30 minute baking time:

potatocrispsburnt

Baked Potato Crisps with the Works
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

3 T butter
3 russet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (the cookbook says “should yield about 14 slices”; if I had been editor of this cookbook, I would have suggested a clarifying “per potato” to the end of that phrase)
salt
ground black pepper (the cookbook says freshly ground, but whatevs. You do you.)
1/2 cup grated cheddar (I used bagged Mexican blend because that’s what I had on hand)
1 cup sour cream
4-5 slices crispy bacon, chopped
3 T minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with foil (no muss, no fuss!) and butter each sheet. (I used Pam. Again, you do you.) Arrange the potato slices on the sheets and brush with 2 T melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Roast for 25-30 minutes (keeping an eye on them; see the above image) until the bottom side is golden brown. Flip them over and roast for 10 more minutes.

Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of cheese and bake for 5 more minutes. Top each slice with sour cream, bacon, and chives. Serve and marvel at how quickly they are devoured.

Flying solo


Matt left early this morning to visit his paternal relatives in Rhode Island. It’s his grandmother’s 93rd (?) birthday, and he feels that perhaps his chances to visit her may be dwindling. So, he left for four days, with my blessings, to go eat lobster and surround himself with a whole host of people with his surname.

I have been feeling a bit glum and lonely today — I didn’t think that I’d miss him that much, especially after we just spent four days together in Seattle with no three-foot-high, “upupupupupupupupupupup!” preschooligan shenanigans. But I felt and feel his absence acutely, and did so the minute I came home from dropping off Harrison at Nana’s.

Harry and I have a busy weekend ahead of us: tonight we’re going out for dinner, maybe Thai (I dunno about that one; Harry is uber-picky and I need bland foods right now) or maybe something a little more playground-centric (a la Central Market). Tomorrow morning, breakfast tacos (hopefully en masse with other preschooligans and their mamas) at Torchy’s (my new addiction), then the sprinklers at Town Lake Park, then a meeting at Starbucks (unavoidable and definitely dreaded) about an essay and my other contributions to a book project-turned-albatross. Then lunch with Kyle at Phil’s/Amy’s, naptime, then a trip to Maker Faire with Molly. Then dinner and the arrival of the sitter (much trepidation on my part despite my adoration for sitter in question; all stemming from anxiety about possible anxiety on H’s part with Mommy abandoning him the day after Daddy left before the sun rose) so that Mariah and I can go bask in the awesomeness that is Anthony Bourdain (how tempted I have been to unload those tix for double what I paid in order to finance my latest knitting endeavor!).

Sunday is a trip to my folks’ place in Schertz and a visit to the SA Zoo, where they have “weel fah-mingos,” H’s latest animal-related obsession. Monday is school, then dinner at friends’. So, yes, we will stay busy, but the bed for the next few nights will feel very large and cold, and the creaky-creepy nighttime noises will sound that much louder. But, I will take this time to read ahead for my classes, get caught up on my knitting and movies, and generally, be at peace with my aloneness after the boy has gone to bed.