Monday, December 29, 2014

Hello, (almost) 2015!

Apparently, I'm not very good
at these fun props. It looks like
my face is melting out of its
mustache and antlers.
Here I am again. With one post since January, I think my blog writing is on an incredible roll, don't you? Yeah, well ... anyway ...

It's that time of year again. The Bon Appetit cleanse. I wasn't going to do it this year, but The Man and I enjoyed it last year, and Lordie knows we need just a little motivation after another gluttonous holiday season. So I'm back here to keep track of it all, though I may not link to the recipes this time. Just head on over to the link above and read all about it.

It looks like this year the folks at BA are even more organized than last, what with a fancy-schmancy Google calendar that lists each meal with links to the menus and even more prepare-in-advance foods. All of which is great, because I'm not semi-unemployed as I was last year at this time. Hooray for me!

In addition to eating well, I'm back on the exercise track ... well, I worked out today, so that's one day in a row. Again, hooray for me! I was going to go to the Y, but one thing led to another, and what was supposed to be a virtuous day of working and working out turned into a mini shopping spree at Sierra Trading Post, along with a tour of "The Village" (the name of which puts me in mind of the M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie of the same name). It's one of those made-to-look-like Venice type outdoor malls smack dab in the middle of the suburbs. Totally fits in with southwest Idaho decor?!? Yeah, right. More like it's just kind of weird and almost creepy. But big fat snowflakes were falling, outdoor firepits were blazing, kids were ice skating, and lots of folks were milling around. So it made for a kinda pretty scene, if you ignored the faux-patina domelike rooftops and pseudo-Venetian architecture. A couple of local food trucks have opened up there in and actual glass-and-mortar building, so we got what I think was local good food for not too much money. I was even able to stick to my meatless Monday plan for the day (though I did try a bite of The Man's yummy kimchi chicken tacos). Then it was off to wander through Sur La Table (swoon) and Z Gallerie (double swoon). We totally refrained from shopping because (1) we didn't really need anything and (2) we are cheap. But it was fun to browse. Plus we got a free coffee sample. Yay, us! And, when we finally made it home (with a detour to Cost Plus), I squeezed in a 30-minute Daily Burn interval training workout. Sweaty!

Hmmm, I didn't mean for this to turn into a what-I-did-instead-of-working-today blog post, but there you have it. I haven't pursued the whole writing to find my inner demons/feelings/spirit/what-have-you. But maybe that will happen this month too. It is January after all. Time for a month of sticking to resolutions before February hits!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Writing and stuff

The other night, I went to a friend's 46th birthday party, where I ran into some other friends I hadn't seen in months. There was wine and brisket and cider and sausage and mojitos ... and did I mention there was alcohol and fantabulous food? Well there was also laughter and wonderful camaraderie and the joy of being with a group of friends who take you for what you are and vice versa.

Anyway, ages (eons) ago, I thought of myself as this aloof, mysterious, hard-to-know kind of person. It was a persona that I always loved in the movies and books that I read, and in my brain, I thought that I was that way too. But as I evolved out of sulky teens and confused early 20s, I realized that this is about as far from the truth as you can possibly get. When given the chance, I will literally vomit my fears and issues and concerns and foibles on others. I don't do this to get attention, though I may do this to get the occasional laugh. Mainly I do this because, over my long and illustrious 40-plus years of life, I've learned that so many of us have the same fears and dramas and self-inflicted anxieties. So my hope is that by putting it out there, perhaps I'll get an, "I know just what you mean .... this is how I deal with that." Perhaps it's because I'm too cheap for therapy. Or maybe I'm overly empathetic. Or maybe I am looking for some sort of validation. I do try to keep my personal-issue-vomiting sessions to a minimum, but sometimes, when the wine is flowing, the conversation is congenial, the friends are so supportive, and maybe the moon is just waning from being full, I go off on a little riff. What was nice about Saturday, even as I look back at it from a somewhat more sober frame of mind, is that my friends were truly supportive (and I honestly did not monopolize the conversation ... I really did want to hear what they had to say). And what they had to say resonated with what I wanted to hear.

My anxieties and fears are not substantial. They are not life threatening. They don't stop me from living life and enjoying life. But they are there and they are real and I want to work through them, or with them, or past them. I want to recognize them and then move on. But I am not always sure how to do this. I've always been of the frame of mind that I don't know if a therapist is what I need. I feel like maybe there should be a sliding scale for therapists. Not based on my income; rather based on degrees of whatever it is that is bothering us. I honestly don't think that my concerns warrant the same fee of someone who truly is battling demons and devils. But maybe I'm just belittling myself or not taking myself seriously (who me? do that? never!). Or maybe I'm just scared (most likely).

But these friends of mine on Saturday night listened and commiserated and shared similar concerns and feelings and then proceeded to tell me of ways that they approached their lives. And it's what I've heard before, but I think maybe I am in the right place, the right frame of mind, even the right financial situation to seriously think about it for myself. So tonight I wrote to a man and asked for information about his writer's group. Tomorrow I will call Lula the healer. And I honestly will take the time for myself for some meditation and exercise ... things I love but that I say I have no time for (even though I have time to plow through cheesy romance novels for four hours at a time at night or to play stupid addicting Montezuma Revenge on my phone for 10-minute stretches).

I said to the writer's group guy that I wasn't sure what my intention was for writing, and I don't. I think I feel that writers need a lofty goal or to spout philosophical gems or at least make people laugh. But maybe for me I just need to open up, be honest with myself, write what I am thinking to get it out of my head, and then just breathe and enjoy. In all honesty, I think my intention is to become the person I want to be ... a fun-filled, peace-filled, content-with-myself human being.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


So much for getting back on track. When I went to make the pearled barley to accompany the chicken, there were not-so-little black things floating around in the water. Eeew, bugs! So we threw that out. Then I realized I had all of 35 minutes to put together a meal that would take an hour to prep. So once again, the chicken that had been thawing for a couple days now went back in the fridge. We threw together a tuna salad and that was that.

Then I went to book club and proceeded to eat minestrone soup and bread and wine, topped off with a peanut butter bar.

OK, so it was just another little bump off the wagon, but Tuesday was another day, right? I started off with yogurt, apples, nuts, and pomegranates. Perfectly virtuous. I even got an almond milk latte when meeting friends for coffee. (Found out they are pregnant! Hooray for our friends!!) I knew I didn't have anything for lunch, so while buying fresh pearl barley, I grabbed some sushi and tomato soup. The soup is still waiting to be eaten, but the sushi was so good for store-bought sushi.

And then, as things usually go around here, we got another invite to a friend's for dinner. And boy did I fall off the wagon, hard! But before heading over, I finally made Sunday's chicken and barley dinner so that we would have leftovers for today's lunch, dammit! As for dinner, well, it wasn't quite cleanse worthy at all. Started off with crackers and brie and fruity margaritas! Oh, so yummy. Hadn't had one of those in ages! Then it was on to Jack Daniels brand pulled pork, cauliflower covered in cheddar cheese, sauteed zukes, and more bread. Paired it with some red wine and then topped it all off with CostCo cheesecake.

Ouch, I didn't just fall of the wagon, I took the whole thing with me right over the cliff. There will be no stepping on the scale for me today!

But I'm back on track this morning, with a repeat of yesterday's breakfast. And I've already made the chicken salad lunch. And the more I procrastinate on finishing off this cleanse, the longer it lasts! The chicken dinner cooked a little too long, since I left it simmering on the stove the entire time we were gorging ourselves. So today I'm going to turn it into a soup, which is never a bad thing!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where Did the Weekend Go?

I could have sworn I wrote some time this weekend, but apparently not. I must have dreamed it.

Saturday, we had a tasty lunch of potato-apple salad. I am pretty sure I just threw on some of the pepita crunch, or maybe some roasted almonds, and as usual, I used a mixed greens instead of the frisee.

Saturday night was girl's night with my fellow cleanser. This meant I was solely responsible for the dessert, while Linda cooked up the pork tenderloin with mushrooms and quinoa. Our friend also joined in the fun by providing an appetizer of more fruit, as well as the cleanse-friendly cocktails. What a pleasant night! And with those tasty cocktails, we didn't even miss the wine.

Sunday I fell off the wagon, but I don't feel too bad about it at all. The Mr. and I decided to walk to Addie's for breakfast. But I planned ahead and brought with me a container of coconut milk with a little agave mixed in so I could add that to my diner coffee. And for the first time in my life, I ordered oatmeal with a banana at a restaurant. It didn't seem right at all to spend $6 on something that I could make at home for a third of that price, but such is life on the cleanse!

We then proceeded to walk another 5 miles for our daily exercise. It was a gorgeous day, and it was great to be burning off those calories. Once home, we did a little mobility training courtesy of Cody at The Daily Burn, had our leftover salad courtesy of Linda, and then went to work on the demo house (hooray for more exercise ... and a load of drywall dust). While working on the house, we got an invite to a friends for dinner. How could we say no to lamb-goat stew with lentil soup and garbanzo beans? I indulged in a little homemade onion bread and peanut butter bar, and I also fully met my quota for alcohol this week. But it was all worth it. And we walked there and back, so a little more movement to burn off a few more calories.

So even though I wasn't totally on target, I feel like we are motivated to keep moving foward. This morning I had the banana smoothie, though I threw in some frozen peaches for sweetness. I also had to use a little real milk and yogurt, as I was out of coconut milk. For lunch, I didn't have any leftovers, so I went off target a little more with a half cup of cottage cheese mixed with half a pear and some almonds.

But tonight is back on track with roasted chicken, even though I'll be tempted by garlic bread and manicotti at book club!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Catching Up

Oh, the tuna was totally worth the wait, and I'm glad we paired it up with the potato side from what would have been the mussels dish. Instead of serving the tuna on mustard greens, we just threw together some baby kale and arugula, tossed it with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and called it good. Quite good, actually. For the potatoes I added Mr. Mustard as well as a little whole-grain mustard dressing (which is actually Mr. Mustard dressing). We grilled the tuna (as we have done for most of the meals), and it came out to perfection.

I was craving a glass of wine with dinner, but I knew that The Mr. wanted to do some light exercise and stretching after dinner, so I refrained. After the brief yoga session, which felt great, I indulged in a glass of wine, only to find that I really didn't want it. I know, weird, right?! Maybe I really am detoxing.

This morning I opted for eggs rather than more oatmeal, cereal, muesli. I repeated the omelet, but this time used one whole egg and one egg white. I filled it with a bit of smoked salmon and the red pepper relish. Fabulous!! I didn't even miss the usual cheese ... too much. We also put together a kiwi-grapefruit-apple juice, since we have a ton of fruit that is threatening to go off. All in all, deliciously healthy. Yeah, us!

We are on our second batch of red pepper relish and mustard dressing. As I've said, these may become new staples in our fridge.

On another note, it is dismal outside. Gray and windy and threatening rain, though the temps are creeping up past 50 degrees. Yes, we are the one place in the nation that seems not to be affected by the polar vortex. I'm glad we don't have last year's three weeks of below freezing gray ice, but a little snow would be nice. Anyway, I'm taking advantage of the gray day to try my hand at patching holes in jeans, updating QuickBooks, and perhaps learning how to make yogurt. I think half my relatives would read this last paragraph and wonder, "Who the heck is writing this??!!"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Crazy Daze

We are mostly following the menu but not on the correct days, and now I am all confused.

Just an overall note, first. I find that for the most part we are skipping many of the snacks, and we have very few of the desserts. We finished up the cocoa bark within the first week since we shared it with our guests two nights in a row. But The Mr. and I have both been completely satisfied with the meals, smaller portions and all, and we never really have a craving for much in between. Progress!

I am pretty sure that on Wednesday morning I had the banana almond smoothie. I made a scramble for The Mr. as his job these days is pretty labor intensive and a smoothie would have had him heading for the nearest to-go restaurant on the way to the demo house. The smoothie wasn't bad, though I may have to switch to almond milk, since my coconut milk isn't super flavorful. I'm also wondering if maybe the almond butter I used might have been a little off. But I will definitely make it again. So in addition to using coconut milk and old almond butter, I added in some almonds and maybe a date or two to provide a little extra sweetness.

I loved, loved, loved the leftover chicken salad with mangoes. Nuff said!

Now the meals start getting a little confusing. I couldn't find tuna at the market, so we cooked up Thursday night's dinner of roasted tofu with bulgur/cauliflower salad on Wednesday. The tofu was pretty tasty, though I'd probably cut back a bit on the salt next time. Actually, I might throw that extra salt into the salad, as it needed something to kick it up a notch. Maybe if I'd actually measured out the herbs instead of estimating that would have helped.

The next morning I repeated the muesli/parfait, but without the toasted coconut, as I was feeling a little lazy.

The leftover salad on Thursday was much better than the meal on its own the night before. I had mixed it all together right after dinner, so all the flavors sat together and melded, and the addition of the Asian pear (YUM) and the mustard dressing provided exactly what had been missing.

On a side note, I am loving the habit of making a dinner that serves four and immediately setting aside two servings for the next day's lunch. The Mr. has started a new venture, and he is out of the house everyday. So this way I can ensure that he's getting a filling, delicious lunch, and he doesn't feel the need to swing by a fast food place to get a quick fix for his hunger. I am hoping it's a habit I can maintain.

Before dinner last night, I threw together the avocado smoothie (with fresh orange juice rather than lime juice). Then  we walked down to Whole Foods (about a 3-mile loop) to find some albacore or mahi mahi. But once again, no luck. They had frozen filets, but nothing fresh. So instead we got lamb shanks. Yeah, I know ... Not exactly a lean protein, but the price was right. We also bought the frozen fish so it could defrost in time for another dinner. So last night was grilled lamb shank with the greenest tahini sauce. I also sauteed the mustard greens that were supposed to go with the fish. They aren't my favorite green, but maybe it's because I flavored it with the leftover chimichurri, and that made it a little bitter/tart. I quick roasted some carrots (instead of steaming) as well. Instead of eating an entire shank, The Mr. and I shared one and then split up the leftovers for lunch. Again, progress! [Confession: The Mr. was pretty starving by the time we got to W.F., so he indulged in a slice of pepperoni pizza. And I took a rather large bite. Ohhhh, cheese and pepperoni. So yummy!]

This morning was 10-grain cereal with dates, pomegranate seeds, and the pepita crunch. I topped it off with a splash of coconut milk. Not bad.

And tonight we can finally have the tuna, though with the sides for the mussels.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Falling Behind

Actually, only on the blogging. On the eating, I am rocking it.

Sunday night The Mr. got home from the game and proudly proclaimed that he drank water (while watching football?!? wow!), had only one sloppy joe, and some cheese and chips. Those are some monster baby steps for him. So proud. To reward him, I cooked up a small version of that night's dinner, since neither of us was super hungry.

In place of the mackerel, we broiled up one sockeye salmon fillet and shared it. I totally forgot to add the dill on top. I always forget the little garnishes. I once again added cauliflower to the roasted beets, which are rapidly becoming my favorite roast veggie of all time. I really liked the idea of adding roasted caraway seeds in with the almonds for the beets. Great contrast with the sweetness of the veggies.

I didn't realize that for the next morning's bfast I was supposed to let it all marinate overnight, so instead I did the parfait option. Another favorite is the use of dates and toasted coconut flakes for added sweetness. I doubt I'll ever need to add honey or maple syrup or brown sugar to oatmeal or yogurt again.

I wasn't super hungry by the time lunch rolled around, so I just had leftover beets and cauliflower tossed with some greens and one of the yummy dressings. Of course, that meant I was a little hungry by the time 4:00 rolled around, so I cooked up the recommended snack: hard-boiled eggs. Topping the egg with smoky paprika and smoked salt made it much more exciting than my usual egg with salt. Again, another idea to file away for future snacks.

Dinner wasn't bad. I undercooked the squash a bit, but the addition of balsamic vinegar and the red pepper relish hid a little of the bitterness. I loved the sauteed kale, but then I always love sauteed kale. It would have been even better with the greenest tahini sauce (once I again, I completely forgot about the garnish). The Mr. really enjoyed the lentil pilaf. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite. It needed a little something extra. Maybe if I'd remembered the cilantro that would have done the trick.

I actually read ahead and remembered to soak the oats and quinoa for the next day's quinoatmeal. Maybe one of my favorite breakfasts so far. The apples and nuts gave a nice flavor, but next time I'll be adding my new favorite: dates. I think that would take it to the next level. Lunch was average. In place of mustard greens, I used the leftover sauteed kale. The addition of the tahini sauce definitely helped.

I skipped the hard-boiled egg and instead split the rest of the leftover quinoatmeal with The Mr. as our late afternoon snack. He loved it as well, so double bonus!!

Dinner was delicious!! I had marinated the chicken all day, and the flavors really came together. We grilled it (or, that is to say, The Mr. braved the cold and grilled it), while I sauteed the bok choy and finished up the black rice. Again, more notes to remember: adding things like lemon grass and ginger to the rice while the water is boiling is a great way to add flavor, as is the addition of yet more toasted coconut at the end! Today's lunch should be just as tasty.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

More Clean Eating ... Mostly

Yesterday's lunch required a little rethinking as The Mr. had eaten the leftover chicken from the night before. So I instead I went with Day 1's salad, which I had missed out on. I followed my friend Linda's lead in sauteeing the tofu. The idea of eating raw tofu did not sound appealing at all. The Sesame Miso dressing was quite tasty, although I had to make some alterations. I used an Anaheim chile instead of a red Fresno, I used yellow miso instead of white, and I only had seasoned rice wine vinegar. But I don't think any of that made a big difference.

The steak and potato dinner was delicious. We used a skirt steak that we seared on the grill. The Mr. cooked it perfectly. At the last minute we invited several friends over, so we expanded the meal. Of course, that meant that I wasn't as adherent to portion sizes as I should have been. I didn't add the hot sauce to the sweet potatoes because I wasn't sure our guests liked spicy food. But I did add a little Rooster Sauce to the chimichurri because it needed a little something. For the salad, we just used spring greens with a warmed salad dressing instead of heating up the escarole. I opted out of the dessert since we still had chocolate bark leftover. It just gets better tasting each day.

Thanks to having guests over, I hit my allotment of 4 drinks for the week, including the one glass of wine I had had the night before. But I poured small glasses, and red wine does have antioxidants after all!

This morning threw a wrench in things. We got a call from a friend we haven't seen in a while, inviting us over for breakfast. I knew I couldn't follow the meal as he was going to make a big scramble. But I did avoid the bread, and I kept all my portion sizes small. So although it was "off-cleanse," I feel good about my changing habits. I hope they stick. I did break down and have a small latte and a smoothie, both of which had dairy. It was kind of incredible how fast my sinuses started feeling all mucousy. So I'm back to the coconut milk.

The Mr. continued to eat the leftovers, making the "leftover" salad lunches a little challenging. Today I did a mish-mosh of things. A cabbage salad with sauteed tofu, a teeny bit of smoked salmon, toasted almonds, carrots, and the miso dressing. A quarter head of cabbage is a ridiculously large amount for one salad. But I ate it all, knowing that I will be hungry again in about an hour. I love all the salad dressings and will definitely plan to make batches to keep in the fridge even after the reboot if over.

The Mr. is off to watch the big game. I refrained as I'm not sure I'd be able to resist sloppy Joe's and alcohol. And I'm sure there will be chips! Oh ... chips ... so salty and tasty! Instead I will curl up with a glass of tea and get some rest.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A New Year's Cleanse

My friend and I have decided to do a cleanse to start off the new year. It was actually her idea. I have only done a cleanse once before ... a three-day juice cleanse that only worked because The Mr. was out of town. So I was a little leery of this idea. However, when she told me it was a Bon Appétit cleanse, I was seriously intrigued.

When I checked the recipes, I was sold.

It's not really a cleanse. It's more like a reboot. But after the gluttony of the holidays, which included four days straight of rich seafood dinners, as well as cheese, wine, bread, desserts, champagne, bloody marys, more cheese, more wine, and then some pork and brisket thrown in for good measure, a reboot is exactly what I need.

I won't list all the recipes here. You can find those at Bon Appétit or at my friend's beautiful website.

But for my own record, I want to keep track of how it's going, what I did, what I ate, what I did differently, or how I'm feeling.

I started about half a day late. We went out for breakfast on Day 1 while our car got a tune-up. Instead of healthy oatmeal, I split an order of eggs benedict with The Mr. Not exactly healthy, but at least we shared a dish for a change instead of each chowing down our own huge plate of food. Baby steps!

Afterward, we grabbed the rest of the ingredients from the B.A. shopping list so I could get going on the prep work. It took me all afternoon to put together the various delicious sauces and the chocolate bark (Chocolate bark? Really?! I told you this is my kind of cleanse!!). The upside of a day of cooking (other than the fact that I thoroughly enjoy it) is that I skipped lunch, other than the occasional taste. And after eggs benedict, skipping lunch wasn't such a bad idea.

That night we started in on the real thing with roasted veggies. My variations: (1) We had leftover couscous from a pre-Christmas dinner, along with some leftover lamb tajine gravy, so I mixed the two together in place of the red quinoa salad. I did add the toasted walnuts and sauteed shallots to the couscous. So delicious. (2) For the same dish, I couldn't find the sunchokes, so we added in roasted cauliflower.

Since we missed the oatmeal on Day 1, I decided to make that for Day 2's breakfast, in addition to the real Day 2 breakfast (smoked salmon and avocado on rye wasa crackers). My variations: (1) Instead of hemp seeds I used flax seeds, and I added the milk to the pot while cooking rather than after. I also added cinnamon for extra flavor and a dash of maple syrup for a little sweetness since we were using frozen blackberries instead of fresh. (2) I halved the cracker combo breakfast, since eating two full breakfasts seemed a little indulgent. The oatmeal was mediocre, but I loved the salmon/avocado crackers. I am just not sure if four of those would be a substantial breakfast for the Mr., as I had a hard time divvying up the allotted avocado and salmon between just two crackers. Maybe they thought we'd use smaller crackers?

Lunch was fabulous ... leftover couscous and veggies with tons of salad greens and the mustard dressing. And dinner was delicious. My variations: (1) For the mustard dressing, I didn't have walnut oil, so I replaced that with an orange-flavored olive oil. (2) For dinner, we couldn't find bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (at least not organic ones) at Winco. So we got a whole chicken and grilled it. (3) At the last minute, we invited our friends to join us, so I also threw in an extra green salad with the mustard dressing and some of the cashew/sunflower/pepita mix. (4) I added some leftover anaheim chili in the white bean salad, which may be yet another favorite.

I did cheat with one glass of pinot noir, but I was able to keep it to just one glass. I rewarded myself with a piece of the aforementioned chocolate bark. Yum!

The test was that evening, when we went to Cosmic Bowling to celebrate a friend's 40th party. There was fried food, a delicious-looking cake, and plenty of beer. I refrained from the greasy food (which is usually my downfall), I had one small sip of beer and a teeny-tiny little bite of the chocolate cake. All in all, a pretty successful outing, albeit not completely guilt-free. I was still hungry when I got home, so I nibbled on a carrot and a couple pumpkin seeds. We were tempted to eat some ice cream or popcorn, but those small nibbles were enough to tide me over until I fell asleep. A lesson to remember when this is all over and we get those late-night hunger pangs.

This morning was lovely. I had my first latte in two days, but I used coconut milk instead of regular milk. I did grate a teeny bit of Mexican chocolate on top, but it's a small guilty pleasure. I even made a rather tasty two-egg omelet (no cheese!? the horror!!) topped with roasted pepper relish. The only variation is that I used an orange and yellow pepper in the relish rather than red. All in all a ridiculously easy, delicious breakfast. I will be making that one again for sure.

I am so looking forward to tonight's dinner! Steak and potatoes?! Have I mentioned ... I love this cleanse!?