Saturday, January 17, 2015

11 Days Down

Today is day 11 for me and I have come to the conclusion that my family paid me lip service.  When I said...COMMITMENT and ALL-IN they all nodded and agreed.  By day 3 the most common response to any question  that started with "why can't I..." was "it's against the rules" followed by, well those are stupid rules. 

Last Sunday, day 5,  we had tickets to see a matinee play with my husband's family and were to meet them for lunch before the play so we had our first (and probably last) foray into eating out.  And it sucked. Our waiter was actually pretty funny, checking with the kitchen on what items (we were at a BBQ place...probably not a good choice) didn't have restricted items (hint: very few).  I ended up with a plate of romaine, a couple cherry tomatoes and two small smoked chicken breasts with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side.  Poor waiter kept coming by saying, Parmesan?   No thank you.  Croutons?  No thank you.  Breadstick?  No thank you.  Just keep bringing the water.  SO.MUCH.FUN. watching everyone around you enjoy their meal (and, if we're baring our soul, beverages) while you "stick to the plan".

Sunday, before we left for the play, I had put a pot of beef vegetable soup on the stove with instructions to my daughter when to add what.  So it was ready when we got home.  That  night I made a frittata for breakfasts, thinking it would be available for the rest of the week, and the husband took the only piece left on Tuesday.  

Monday I made a pork loin roast, balsmaic roasted sweet potatoes, homemade applesauce (I had apples freeze in my garage fridge and this was perfect for using them up) and broccoli.  Tuesday I shredded up the porkloin, added taco (compliant) seasoning and found a recipe for mock taco shell (eggs, coconut milk and a bit of coconut flour.  I believe this may fall into the SWYPO(Sex With Your Pants On) category. Did it work?, not really.  The crepe like shell wasn't nearly robust enough to hold the taco filling.  It ended up being not much different than using a lettuce leaf.  So, what's the point?

Yes, I looks like an omelet.  It's not.  It's a mock(o) taco.

Wednesday I made spaghetti sauce with both zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash, to make a comparison as to which we liked better.  I'm going to go with the zoodles.  The spaghetti squash was a pain to cut (even after microwaving for a couple minutes to soften it), had to be baked for about an hour, then shredded.  After all that it had none of the consistency of noodles.  The zoodles did.  They were long (enough to twirl on a fork) and has some texture.
Thursday I made chicken strips using almond meal, mashed potatoes (with chicken broth) and broccoli.  I was pretty disappointed in the chicken strips.  They were oven baked (and you know where this is going, right?)  and had no crunch.  On a scale of  Ish to Wow, I'd give them a Meh.

Yesterday was the worst yet.  First my husband and I went to the movies (funny side story, we invited friends via a text that read..."going to see American Sniper tonight.  Want to know if you want to join us on our popcorn free, candy free, pop free, water ladened evening" ..They declined although I'm SURE they were tempted.)  He was in a horrible mood and it wasn't helped when we could actually smell the popcorn in the PARKING LOT (that's just wrong).  As we left the movie, whomever was in the end seat left almost a full tub of popcorn.  I had to drag the husband out.  We came home and had a salad.

Today, I made pepper steak and cauliflower rice (without the cilantro and lime but with jalapenos) which was just OK. I'll be honest though...I am sick to death of this.  And I've actually made a different meal each night.  Everyone's sick of eggs.  I'm trying to keep a variety of fruit on hand (not the best, I know) and I'm even sick of that (apples, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries).  I'm full after every meal but I'm not satisfied.  It's simply not what I want.  I'm not necessarily craving anything (well, except Pizza...Pizzzzzaaaaaaaa), just not really satiated with what I've eaten.

More honesty...not sure if I will last the full 30 days.  I've already talked to my kids today about no longer wanting to hear their complaints.  If they want to be done then they are welcome to be done and do what they want.  But when I'm dealing with my own struggles and keeping strong, having to deal with their complaints is close to pushing me over the edge.  And that won't be pretty. (it never is).

For now, I'm still holding strong, hoping it starts to get easier...soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hoppin' on the Bandwagon

About two years ago, in an attempt to shed a few (can you say muffintop?), a select few in the family embarked on an experiment to eliminate gluten from our diet.  In all honesty, I didn't expect to see any drastic results, mostly because I wasn't convinced that gluten was the cause of any ailments we might have.  Or it didn't appear to me to be.  So, I was completely unsurprised when I didn't see drastic results as what we  ended up doing was finding a substitute for gluten:  potatoes, rice, etc.  So, TECHNICALLY we went gluten free but no, we saw no visible effects (AND discovered it was difficult and expensive).  It got me to step outside my box in an attempt to be sneaky which I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing (I guess it depends on what your goal for me...bad...very BAAADD).  For example, I made chicken strips but used masa harina (corn flour) instead and cooked them in peanut oil (in for a penny in for a pound) and they were DELICIOUS:
So, being as how the weight isn't going to lose itself (would that it could), I was on the look out for something that would get me pointed in the right direction.  Then last year a friend/comrade in arms mentioned doing the Whole30  (in the event you choose not to click the link, what that means is for 30 days you cut out of your diet all of the following: all dairy, grains, legumes (yes, that means peanuts), sugar (even honey), processed oils like canola, corn, vegetable (olive, avocado, nut oils are ok).  Now here is the "funny" part:  I had actually toyed with going Paleo and I'll be honest it probably would have been easier because at least they allow for some naturally occurring sugars (honey).  My reasoning for Whole30 was, selfishly, the timeline.  It's a 30 day commitment and one in which I am requiring the whole family to be "all in".  The purpose, as I understand it, is to reset your body.  Kinda like creating a clean slate.  Or a baseline.  You now know how your body SHOULD act and you can introduce the "forbiddens" gradually to see if they are causes/triggers for issues you may have concerning your health and adjust your diet accordingly.

I started prepping a little before new years by limiting my coffee intake.  That was going to be something the others didn't have to deal with but for me, it was gonna be a biggie.  OH, I get, I CAN have coffee, just nothing in it that makes me WANT it. (aside from caffeine). 

Today is day 4 and even though I'm still in the throws of pizza cravings, I'm going to attempt to describe how the process has gone so far.  For me,  it's been a lot of work.  Mostly because my family can't think outside of what is readily available and therefore whines incessantly about what they can't have instead of seeing what they can.  So if I don't have things packaged up and ready for them, think breakfast that doesn't include yogurt, cereal, toast, bagels, pancakes or waffles...or lunch (have you SEEN school lunches?) then they come close to meltdown.  I'm also feeling my way through this process.  Like how much fresh vegetables will we eat in a week (yeah...EPIC FAIL there...the answer?  a freaking truckload). SSLLLOOOWWWLLLLYYY they're coming on board.  My youngest, who I can rarely get to eat breakfast has been eating monkey salad (bananas, cashews and coconut flakes) almost every morning.  But only if I make it for her.  See where I'm going with this?

Did I mention that there is planning involved?  Yeah, LOTS of planning.  Luckily I was a little prepared.  Not where I should be but a little.  I made mayo.  Yes, you read that right.  Some avocado oil, an egg yolk, some lemon juice a little dry mustard and salt and pepper and VOILA...mayo.  OK, it's not VOILA and my whole arm cramped  in the process but I.MADE.MAYO.  And I made it as part of a dressing for lunches for the week.  I had a bag of broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, sliced red and yellow peppers, red onions and several broiled chicken breasts cubed that I mixed together and tossed with a dressing of homemade mayo and red wine vinegar.  I had romaine leaves they could either use to make "boats" with for lunch or just eat as is. 

So, day one, I made a sausage (made my own seasoning for the pork), spinach, pepper and onion frittata.  It wasn't done before the husband left for work, which was too bad because it was delicious:
 But the nice part was that I was able to cut it into servings and it was available for the next couple days.  The girls, of course, since I had something ready, they didn't want that.  See where this is going? 

Lunch I had all boxed up into little containers:  the above salad and apple slices with almond butter.
 Dinner was a bit of a fail.  I bought rockfish at Whole Paycheck Foods and made roasted potatoes with fresh herbs, broiled rockfish with ghee and almonds, and a salad  with home made Italian dressing (that EVERYONE, to my shock, loved).  I didn't care for the rockfish.  Lesson learned.
Lots of water, tea without sweetener.  I have fruit and veggies and raw nuts available and some Larabars for "emergencies"* and day one is over and I realize...I SO haven't planned this well.

So day 2 starts with yesterday's leftover potatoes with a couple eggs on them and the aforementioned monkey salad.  The husband took the frittata.  Lunch was the same for the girls.  The husband took the leftover salad with chicken (thank God I had the foresight to broil several chicken breasts to have on hand just in case) cut into cubes on top and the dressing (which he left on the counter).  For dinner I made Carnitas with cilantro lime cauliflower rice and a salad of avocados and tomatoes dressed with avocado oil, lime juice and cilantro.  This was FABULOUS (my girls were actually impressed with how good the "rice" was), but my error was in not realizing how little "rice" the cauliflower processed to, having to wait for my oldest daughter to get home and bring a second one.  Loved being able to throw the pork in the crock and just let it go:
Day 3 my oldest daughter was ready to throw in the towel.  She is nannying during jterm and the family is gluten free so you'd think easy-peasy for her right?  No, there were very few things that she could eat so had been coming home starving (which might have been why she loved everything so far).  I was ready for her with the frittata, chicken salad lettuce wrap and apple and almond butter.  The husband took the leftovers from Day 2 for lunch with an apple and almond butter,  the middle daughter I made a salad with power greens (spinach, kale and swiss chard), put peppers, tomatoes, avocado and chicken on top with the left over dressing the husband forgot from Day 2 and the youngest I made a waldorf-ish salad with chicken, apples, grapes, peppers, cashews, mayo and apple cider vinegar and fresh thyme.  We had signed up to do FMSC  at a mobile packing station at our church and knew we'd be getting out late and they'd be starving so I made a slow cooker taco meat with chicken breasts cut into cubes, and when we got home we made taco salads with romaine, chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes, avocados and black olives (husband).  I had compliant salsa and also made a dressing with avocado oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and a jalapeno, which everyone seemed to love as well.
Today starts Day 4 and the girls have requested that I make them a recognizable carb.  By that I believe they mean hash browns,  with eggs and sausage.  And the husband requested steak for dinner which I can work into salads for the week.  So, I'm getting there.  

I have, in preparation, though, made 2 trips each to Walmart and Sams Club, one to Cub, one to Whole Paycheck Foods, and one to Trader Joes.  AND I'M JUST 4 DAYS IN.  We've gone through more food in those 4 days than I can remember with very little being thrown out.  I know the not throwing out part is good...actually it's great. But HOLY HANNAH, it's expensive.  Now I get that I'm not even doing this COMPLETELY right.  OH, I'm reading labels and discarding anything with added "see above list" that is not compliant.  I'm not buying grass fed organic meat.  Have you compared the prices?  And given the number of eggs we have gone through this week, I simply cannot afford to go with the pastured organic eggs that are hand fed by leprechauns.  Sorry, not in our budget.  As it is, just trying to FIND bacon with no sugar or nitrates (there was not ONE at Whole Paycheck Foods) has thrown me into a tizzy.  Flour...pfffttt...I can do with out.  Bacon?  Just shoot me.  And when I do/did find  it (US Wellness Meats), it turns out that they sell it for $17/1.5lb (and are perpetually sold out so SOMEONE is buying it) which puts a major dilemma in my court:  new glasses for the middle daughter or bacon for me?  What to do, what to do? *hears a voice the bacon*

Regardless, I'm only halfway through the first week and I AM committed.  I think a lot of my attitude stems from coming off sugar, flour, some caffeine (I've switched to tea which helps only with caffeine) and, yes, alcohol (although alcohol was another vice that I have already been cutting back on, NYE not withstanding), but I AM optimistic.  I'm hoping once the week is under my belt, I'll be better prepared and feel better.

OH, that's another point.  I also have a plan to start working out but wanted to wait and see what the first week brings, detox wise. My oldest daughter seems to have been hit the hardest and for now I'm going to assume it's the sugar.  She woke up this morning light headed, with the shakes.  She was pretty scared until she ate and I suspect it's her body reacting to the lack of sugar.  I told her to keep a Larabar on hand if she was somewhere and this came upon her but I think once we are through this week this will disappear as her body reaccustomizes itself to the lack of sugar.  While she didn't think she ate that much sugar, I have watched her eat an entire package of Twizzler Pull-n-Peel in one sitting.  This is an exercise for all of us to recognize what foods we are putting in our bodies.

So, I'll be updating what's going on here occasionally.  I'll try and post the fails as well as the successes.  One of the key points to this program is not to weigh yourself during the program.  I struggle with this but I understand how lack of needle movement can frustrate one to quit.  On the other hand movement in the right direction (that would be down) is a motivator.  For now, we're following the rules.

My goals for the next week include adding making my own nut butters because the $13.49 I paid for Nuttzo at Whole Paycheck Foods was, well NUTTZO.  Even if it was a 7 nut and seed butter.  Trader Joes  almond butter is delicious and compliant but it's a haul and I want to see if I can make it cheaper.  That way it's easy to have it on hand if I run out.  I also found a recipe for  zucchini hummus I want to try, because surprisingly, my children eat hummus.  Typical hummus has chickpeas as the base so it is a no-no.  This uses tahini (sesame paste/butter).  If I can find something for the kids to dip veggies into to make them "better", I can hopefully get them turning to it as a quick snack when they get home from school.

I think goals are good to have.  Making small changes, trying new things to see how they work, IF they work, and how you can incorporate them seamlessly into your everyday live is a positive.

Wish me luck.

*emergencies...walking in the door from school and being unwilling or unable (because, obviously your arms are tied behind your back) to cut up an apple, peel a tangerine or a banana.  THOSE kind of emergencies.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The 1990s Called...

...they want their kitchen back.  Yes.  This one:
Take note of the lovely overhang for which there is no room for bar stools (which might or might not have been because we have opened our monster table to accommodate 8 people) and the "beautiful" blue/grey/rose laminate which I obviously LOVED when I chose it in 1996.  Because you are about to see the kitchen transform before your eyes.

My husband is perpetually on me for hyping things too much then losing the full effect because of expectations.  And I probably did it again. *shrug*  It's what I do.

In 2013, almost 2 years ago and after painstakingly going through websites and consumer reports and reviews for new kitchen appliances, and after debating if we should just replace as they actually gave out, we bid farewell to our 16 year old white Whirlpool appliances,  bit the bullet and bought all new appliances (and the husband a pacemaker because I believe his heart stopped several times during the process). Every so painstakingly slow, we were dragging ourselves into the 21st century.  Yes, for us, major purchases like this are a long drawn out soul shattering process and one in which baby steps are necessary.  And matters are never helped by having a champagne appetite and a beer budget.

So, fast forward  about a year, to around March 2014.  The husband received a bonus and we decided to try and finish the project now that we had a timeline:  daughter's graduation party in early June.  So, we went traipsing through granite show rooms, knowing that we have completely different tastes:  his being a more uniform quartz-ish look, mine being a more eclectic but tastefully unusual granite that wouldn't break our meager budget. Choosing granite...worlds colliding...same-sies.

Looking for granite isn't as simple as choosing something online because it has movement and you really have to see the whole piece.  I think we hit about 5 warehouses and ended up at the first one, putting a hold on 2 pieces of granite:  Cosmic Blue.  Now, don't let the name fool you, it's not REALLY blue.  It's black background with "cosmic" white, cream, tan, gold and copper movement. And randomly, through the granite, are small white iridescent places where, when the light hits it, it takes on a blue fire.  These shots don't really do it justice, mostly because of the lighting, and also because it looks to have green in it.  It doesn't.
Now that the granite is chosen we had to find a fabricator to be able to get it in before the party, because, I wouldn't be me if I didn't procrastinate and wait until a month before before starting to look.  Luckily, I found someone to do it and with PLENTY of time before the party.  Or so I thought.

Yeah, I didn't do a whole lot of real thinking when attempting to get this done while trying to plan a graduation party.  My bad.  At any rate, it went in with about 10 days to spare.  So, you're saying, what's the big deal?  The big deal is that we didn't do a granite back splash, as I wanted to tile from the top of the granite to the bottom of the cabinets but we had a laminate back splash up before and when they removed it it left bare walls,  void of paint and with  plenty of nail holes.  10 days before the party we had progressed to this:

I need to take a moment and talk about that sink.  It's a freaking SINK and new faucet and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  My aforementioned champagne appetite had me looking at something like this (for those of you who are brave enough to click the link and follow through until you find the price...yeah, doing JUST a sink and hood would have financed our kitchen reno 2-3 times) and once I grasped that concept, and dialed'er back about 40 notches, I managed to find a granite composite sink and a beautiful aged bronze faucet on Amazon (Amazon was SO my very best friend during this process but it meant I had to take a leap of faith not being able to see it in person).

Luckily, I had been looking for back splash material, I just couldn't decide until the granite was in.  Once in, I hi-tailed it to Home Depot to get a sample and decided yes...this would do.   It is random 1 inch pieces of slate* that pulled together the colors in the granite, the warm tone of the maple cabinetry AND the green on my walls that I happen to adore.  And as an added bonus there are pieces of copper in the tiles that catch the light.  
Which left one small detail remaining...who would install it?  Yeah...that's a pretty "small" detail to overlook, given I now had a partially torn apart kitchen (nail holes exposed IS torn the business vernacular).  Luckily I found someone who could have it done by Friday.  Party was Saturday.  See?  SEE what procrastinating does?  THIS.

OH, now is probably a good time to add that since the wall I wanted to take down, wasn't in the budget, I decided to move the microwave to its own cabinet (which I didn't have) and replace the cabinet over the stove with a range hood.  Good idea right?  Now, I have to find a pre-made cabinet that will fit the existing microwave and the space I intend to put it.  I started my search in April (thinking I was being oh so proactive and even if I had to do a little refinishing problem...plenty of time right?) and found one in late April on Craigslist.  I had her measure the opening to make sure the microwave would fit and lo and behold it would.  JUST BARELY.  So I went out to purchase, knowing it was white washed and I would need to strip it down and refinish but hey, I had like a month, right?  

So, I got the cabinet (which turns out was an old entertainment cabinet) and began the stripping process to remove the whitewash.  OMG.  Having never done it before, it was WAY more involved than I expected.  There were days when I just wanted to say...screw it.  Well, except that I now had the stainless steel hood (in a box in my dining room) that the microwave was replacing AND the kitchen cabinet that the microwave hung from was now ensconced in the garage, I was committed.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  I failed to get a "pre" picture of the unit, but close your eyes and imagine the entire cabinet white washed (yes, even those little decorative touches at the top center and corners of the unit because getting the white out of those crannies had me near to tears).  And given that it didn't scrape easily, they obviously white washed it correctly.  This was the final product which I know isn't up to professional standards and was intended to look a little "shabby chic".  The emphasis there was supposed to be on the chic,  but I think the shabby has the starring role.  But you know what?  I am completely OK with that.
AND while I'm having all these brilliant ideas on how to change my kitchen while not breaking the bank, let's talk about the light over the eat in table.  When we had the house built, we stupidly had the light installed centered on the room instead of centered on where the table would be.  Of course the table would be centered in the space available in the room, not the actual walls, so we had a hook and extended chain hanging the light where it was more properly centered. (popcorn ceilings meant moving the fixture was more work that we wanted to tackle.  And by we I mean me.)   BTW, the old light fixture had already been painted once, from its original tacky brass, famous in the 1990s to a hammered pewter.
Perusing kitchen makeover magazines (which is actually a form of self torture, in case you were wondering), I found something I though would work.  We have high ceilings and I thought what if we put a small drop in the ceiling where we wanted to put the light so that it would cover the old hole and allow for new placement of a new light?  After approaching a friend on how to do this, he made another suggestion that he thought would be easier.  Get a simple table, cut off the legs, turn it upside down attach to the joists in the ceiling and recenter where you want it, covering the old hole.  Believe it or not, this was actually one of the easiest parts of our renovation.  I found a maple butcher block table on craigslist, the husband sanded it down to the grain.  I water popped it to take a stain then stained it to match the armoire for the microwave.  We had the friend install (which MIGHT have been why it was so easy.)  I LOVE...LOVE...LOVE it.
The slate installation was like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon; a thing of beauty.  The process took longer than I expected mostly because even though those interlocking edges are SUPPOSED to line up and fit easily, they don't.  And after hearing the installer swear as the first few tiles went up, I was EVER SO GLAD that we (read *I*) had chosen NOT to inflict this kind of thing on my husband and hired someone to do it.  I was seriously scared but as he became more familiar with the pieces, it went faster and with less frustration(at least on my part ;-) ).  It is beautiful here but once he came back (after the grout set) and sealed it, was stunning:

OK, granite installed, tile installed, cabinet refinished...OH, wait...I forgot about the "issue" we had with the cabinet.  Actually, there were two issues.  One, there was a decorative corbel that hung down from the corners.  When it was measured it was measured from the widest parts, not accounting for the corbel.  When we attempted to place the microwave, it wouldn't fit.  ARRRRGGGGGGGGG.  Yeah, there was a blue cloud of profanity lingering over our house that day.  I said words I didn't even know *I* knew. husband suggested we take off the back panel and insert it from the back.  VOILA!  Problem one solved.  Problem two...that one almost burned down our house.  We didn't remove the light from the bottom of the microwave and it was on for a full night after we installed it.  We kept smelling something burning and turns out the light was powerful enough to scorch the wood.  We removed the light bulb (in the event that the light was ever inadvertently turned on) and slid a large piece of  thin aluminum between the two to make sure that there wouldn't be any further contact.  The center piece (where the TV would be), I installed cork on the bottom and we use that as a liquor cabinet.  The bottom while it looks like drawers is actually two doors and I use to store my food processor, rice maker and assorted small appliances I don't use too often.

The second to last piece to go up was the stainless hood and while it had been delivered (thanks Amazon) before the party, we were renovated out and didn't think about installing it until later (MUCH later...late August to be precise) It was not an easy process and I thank the good Lord that I have a patient and persistent husband who would figure out a way of making it happen come hell or high water.  And he did.  And it looks OUTSTANDING!
The one part of the kitchen that hadn't been completed until December (as you will note in the above picture to the left of the cookbook) was replacing all the outlets and switches with black ones and then replacing the covers with antique bronze with copper accent covers which  now makes them fade into the background.  

Drum roll please for the finished product:

Words simply cannot express how much I love it.  So I won't even try.

*edit-the back splash is slate, not granite