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?

Meal plan: week of 5/11/14-5/17/14


 

soup

It’s bathing suit season, which means it’s zero-point veggie soup season. Because nothing inspires wolf whistles at the beach than a cabbage-bloated belly. Wooo-hooo!

Seriously, though, I’ve been back on Weight Watchers in earnest for about five months now and I’ve been on the threshold of my first goal (losing 5% of your starting weight) for weeks now. Lots of things derailed me — I didn’t track or exercise during SXSW, I had Foodways Texas, followed by the Austin Food & Wine Festival. I work out A LOT, but I’m also super sloppy in my tracking, going over my daily points allotment every day.

I’m really ready to get serious again with this partly because I’m paying to be a member every month, but also partly because this is the most progress I’ve made with weight loss since before I got married. (I lost 40 pounds back in 2003.) And it’s not so that I can look good in a bathing suit, but because I want to be healthy for a long, long time. I also am looking to clean up the family’s diet, especially because I’ve been letting too much sugary junk slip through the cracks and ends up sliding down my gullet. It’s better for the entire family’s health if I’m holding the line with healthy foods.

Along with having a vat of zero-point veggie soup on hand for afternoon snacks, I’m committed to weighing and measuring all of my portions and staying within my points target every day. No more borrowing from my slush fund of 49 weekly “extra” points, since I have no intentions of giving up my Saturday cheat day.

To that end, this week’s meal plan is carefully planned to speak to all of those concerns — cutting back on the sugar and junk, carefully measured on-plan portions, with a little wiggle room for wholesome treats.

Sunday: Build your own tostada night, with refried pinto beans, shredded chicken, cheese, veggies. The kids loved this.

Monday: Bacon and Shrimp Pasta Toss (10 points per serving); apple crisp for dessert

Tuesday: We’re going to a 6pm UT baseball game, so there will probably be sausage wraps or Frito pies or nachos or something (I’ll have a big helping of veggie soup during the LK’s dance class, which ends at 5:30)

Wednesday: Easy Crock Pot Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salad (7 points per serving)

Thursday: Edamame Salad with Crispy Steak Bits (7 points per serving)

Friday: Mom’s Spanish Chicken and Rice (9 points per serving)

Saturday: TBD. Not sure what we’ve got going on this weekend — maybe nothing, but that’s typically our dining out night.

What’s on your healthy eating plan for this week?

Meal plan: Week of 3/23-3/29


pineapplecake

 

It’s spring! And pineapples were on sale for ridiculously cheap at the grocery store, so I took this opportunity to make my first-ever pineapple upside-down cake. You can see where it stuck to the edge of the pie plate when I inverted it, but look at that glaze! That caramelized edge! I’m very much looking forward to sampling this.

I went to the Foodways Texas symposium this weekend and learned so much, met some cool new people, and hung out with friends I don’t get to see very often. I’ll have a recap of it here tomorrow. There’s so much to share and process and take action on and be excited about — I can’t wait to get it all in writing.

In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!

Sunday: Skillet roasted chicken from Cast Iron Nation; I’ll be testing some recipes from this new cookbook this week for a review.

Monday: Baked Spaghetti (Also from Cast Iron Nation), salad

Tuesday: Baked fish and chips, broccoli

Wednesday: LK and I will have dinner at Salvation Pizza while Husband and BK are at baseball

Thursday: Slow cooker chicken “gyros”, appropriate Mediterranean sides

Friday: Teriyaki salmon, rice, spinach

Saturday: Double date dinner out!

What’s on your menu this week?

Meal plan: Week of 01/05/14-01/11/14


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A work in progress

It’s meal plan time! This week, I’m attempting to balance my needs as a practicing Weight Watcher (so, lean proteins, whole wheat pastas, brown rice, lots of veggies) with the varied palates of my family (and oh, are they varied — the rainbow of pickiness among these people is vibrant indeed). I’m also delving into my new copy of Best Lunch Box Ever for the BK’s lunches, as he goes back to school this week. I’ll probably make some sort of wholesome treat to go in his lunch — perhaps some oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies?

Sunday: Dinner out with my folks

Monday: Chicken tortilla soup from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker cookbook

Tuesday: Coconut curry noodles with tofu
BK’s lunch: kiddie cobb salad, crackers, fruit

Wednesday: Grown-up Tuna Noodle Casserole
BK’s lunch: Annie’s stars, crudite, fruit

Thursday: Shrimp fried rice
BK’s lunch: Turkey and veggie dagwood sandwich (from BLBE), veggie straws, maybe the jewel box fruit salad from BLBE.

Friday: Baked salmon (perhaps this one?), whole wheat couscous, veg of some sort
BK’s lunch: BLT rollups from BLBE, chips, applesauce

Saturday: Leftover bonanza OR dinner out.

What are you having this week? What types of wholesome desserts do you pack in your kid’s lunchbox, apart from fruit?

Meal Plan: Week of 9/29/13 (and other things)


I am crazy busy this week, with a glut of papers to grade and freelance deadlines and meetings and whatnot. This weekend was incredibly busy with family and birthday stuff, so I kind of threw together a meal plan on the fly. I say all this because I really want to process the Breaking Bad series finale here, but I just don’t know if I have the time. I’ll see if I can dump something at the bottom of this post.

OH! And Barb K has still not claimed her prize, so if I haven’t heard from her by the end of the week, I’ll draw another winner.

cake

Sunday: My birthday party, so chips and salsa, charcuterie, cheese, crackers, green bean pate brought by a friend, wine, and the amazing cake pictured above. That cake, made by Kendall Melton (pastry chef at Contigo), was a total fetish object at the party. It consisted of supermoist chocolate cake, perfect peanut butter buttercream, and was topped with candied cashews. Incredible. I may have the one remaining slice for lunch. 🙂
Monday: Sloppy joes, sweet potato fries, broccoli. (I’m the only one in the house who likes sweet potato fries, so I’ll probably throw some regular potato fries in there.)
Tuesday: Coconut curry with rice noodles and tofu.
Wednesday: Leftovers (we’re still miserable at leftovers, and I’m throwing away too much food).
Thursday: The BK has baseball, so I will charge The Husband with feeding himself and the boy. LK and I will dine out with friends.
Friday-Sunday:  I’ll be covering ACL fest, so I’m not sure what the meal plan is for the weekend.

Ok, here is what I will say about the Breaking Bad finale [SPOILER ALERT]: My heart was in my stomach the first time I watched it, and I was so anxious that it didn’t really sink in. And then I watched it again, listening very closely to the closing song (“Baby Blue” by Badfinger), and I’m devastated. Yes, much of it was inevitable and unsurprising — just like we knew Hank wasn’t going to make it to the end, it was also clear that neither would Walt walk off into the sunset. But that final scene was so profoundly devastating, to think that after everything and everyone who was sacrificed in Heisenberg’s wake, Walt died alone with his one true love: an unfinished batch of his blue meth. He forfeited his right to say farewell to his son, his baby daughter would never know him, his genial boor of a brother-in-law paid with his life, and his protegee spent months as a meth slave (and I really hope that Jesse made it to Alaska or Portland or whatever and is making a fortune with his artisanal wooden boxes). So much ruin and misery and in the end we see that he always loved the meth and making more than he loved his family, friends, and community. And that, to me, is deeply, deeply sad. So I don’t see it as a victory that Walt went out on his own terms because, on balance, his terms were crappy. And that is why Breaking Bad is such a devastating morality tale.

(And now I’m crying again. Which means it’s time to grade papers.)

Meal Plan: Week of 9/22/13


This week is the crazy. I can’t even begin to tell you how busy it will be; shall try to do so by glossing each night’s meal entries.

A programming note regarding last week’s meals: We REALLY LIKED the chicken tamale casserole. The Husband even asked for leftovers of it for his lunch the next day, which is unheard of. I might make a thinner “tamal” layer or double the enchilada sauce, though, because it wasn’t as saturated as I would have liked/was expecting. The slow cooker bolognese was a little too runny and greasy. The runny part was probably my part because I was in a hurry and I didn’t let the liquids reduce as much as I should have in the prep process. It was greasy because the recipe didn’t include a “drain fat from hamburger meat” step and, while I paused and thought, “hm, maybe I should drain this fat … but the recipe doesn’t say to do that so maybe it’s incorporated into the flavor.” Pro tip: if you make that recipe, drain the fat from the beef. The slow cooker balsamic chicken was a failure in that while the instructions said to cook the breasts on low for 3-3.5 hours, but because I had two extra kids in my house and was distracted I cooked them on HIGH for 2.5 hours and they were dusty, nasty chicken jerky. Gross. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. You’d think I’d have a grasp on that by now.

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Why not bookend a week with pizza every now and again?

Sunday: Dinner at Bufalina with friends. VERY GOOD PIZZA.
Monday: Beef daube provencal with egg noodles (I teach, BK has baseball practice)
Tuesday: Sandwiches/leftovers/cereal (BRING ON THE CRAZY. BK has baseball, LK has swim, then dance, then soccer.)
Wednesday: Pork tenderloin with sauerkraut from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook (actually maybe a quiet night)
Thursday: Trader Joe’s fish nuggets or Mandarin chicken (We finally got a Trader Joe’s in Austin!!! And there was much rejoicing. BK has baseball, LK has swim, plus we have a big PTA thing at school, which we may or may not attend.)
Friday: Dinner with friends at Umami Mia. (#pizzaresearch)
Saturday: We are hoping to have a babysitter so that Husband and I can go out on a date for my birthday (I’m thinking dinner at Arro, maybe a movie, hopefully some browsing time at BookPeople). The kids will have … something.

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.

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!