Whole 30, day 26

take what you can, closest to what you want.

this is a general theme i have been trying to stick to this past month or so to help me deal with the fluxes and changes that come over us. no, not just in the whole 30 challenge. but in life outside of set challenges. especially with long (12 hours, at least) days at work and trying to take care of a baby, especially moving to a new city, especially with the very soon loss of my income… we are learning to accept that some small things will change here and there. i don’t deal well with that. i have high expectations of everything.

here is my typical cycle of disappointment:

i get home at 8:30pm. i want dinner to be done as soon as i walk in and i want it to be perfect. i want juniper to wake up be ready to nurse as soon as i finish dinner. i want to sleep solidly throughout the night so i can wake up refreshed after my 5 hours of sleep (HA) at 4:30am to go back to work. i want to remember to go to the bathroom before i leave, it could be my only chance all day (nope, forgot to go). i want my breakfast to be perfect so i’m not having cravings all morning, since i don’t get snack breaks until lunch at 1:00pm (burnt bacon, awesome). oh no, still haven’t gotten time to visit ladies’ room. i want to go to lunch on time (nope, emergency patient coming in, toothache. lunch is at 2 and i’m starving). i want my salad to be perfect at lunchtime (oh, someone accidentally dumped your $6 whole 30 compliant dressing last week and i don’t have anything to dress a salad with now? oooommmmggggg… i totally overreacted to this). i want to leave work on time at 7pm so i can get home before juniper is sleeping (oh good, she doesn’t want to nurse because she’s had bottles all day? this is a problem), and also maybe i can take a little walk tonight since i haven’t gotten to all week (nope, another toothache at 6:30pm turns into a late night marathon, call brian, be home at 8:45. also missed jeopardy. damn)… and finally, we fall back into our cycle of disappointment.

it is not the job i am angry with! it is me! i am angry at my lack of coping skills.

isn’t this a negative way to look at my life? it is. so i’m changing it. because i am not a good mommy when i feel disappointed 3 days a week.

in the mean time:

take what we can, closest to what we want!

i had eaten all of my salad greens without realizing it, same goes for avocado. my lunch was seeming like a disappointment, so i changed my frame of mind, and also added a bunch of stuff to my salad that i wouldn’t normally, and: voila! a good lunch it became! how beautiful!

breakfast: sweet potato hashies, 2 eggs, 2 bacons. coffee with coconut cream.

lunch: chicken, beets, baby watermelons*, pepitas, fennel fronds, lemon oil vinaigrette (1/3 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon), 1/3 cup olive oil, sprinkle of salt,sprinkle of pepper).

snack: 1/4 cup raw cashews.

dinner: huge portion of salmon, roasted veggies with basil. watermelon.

results: awesome. ok, so eating that many beets all week.. well, it changed my digestion. let’s just say that. but delicious day of foods, who can complain about running out of avocado and greens with an otherwise delicious salad and amazing dinner at mom and dad’s house?

*no, i had never eaten a baby watermelon until this past week. my mother in law picked up some rare and amazing vegetables and herbs for me at a celebrity chef event in huron, ohio, and i’m gobbling them up fast! baby watermelon taste like.. well, watermelon, but it isn’t sweet at all. i guess it could also be compared to a teeny tiny green tomato. so fun!

juniper, however, remains perfect. not only because she just IS, but also for practical reasons. she sleeps solidly throughout the night, about 12 hours or so. she always has. she doesn’t fuss throughout the day unless she has dropped her tootsie or if she sees that i have been ignoring her for house chores for longer than an hour. she nurses every 3.5 hours, almost like clockwork. she needs her diaper changed every 2 hours. she is predictable, laid back, and happy. she makes me laugh and smile when i am at my whit’s end. days when i drop a pan on my toe while cleaning up cat litter, nothing can be worse right now, look up….. there she is smiling at me, and giggles. my day changes. the sun comes out.

this beautiful baby is something i am never disappointed in. look at her. she is my buddy. when i AM home from work, we are inseparable. we are attached at the hip. when we get up in the morning, i put her in her moses basket and set her on the kitchen table while i make breakfast. i don’t leave her alone in a room yet, not only is she too little, but she’s too cute. i don’t want all of that cuteness to get wasted on an empty room. seriously.

these are a few of my favorite things!!!

seasonal berries parfait with almond slices

the new favorite... sorry, salad...

here is a photographic showcase of my favorite lunch. yeah, normally i have salads for lunch, but this season’s berries are ridiculously outragoeus. i have been foraging mullberries in my neighborhood like a thief in the night. just as soon as the berries are heavy on the branch, that quickly they are grabbed up and slipped into my plastic bucket. i have managed more than enough for a cobbler, breakfast cereals, and lunch parfait. the mullberries in my neck of the woods are long and black, and they bleed purple with the lightest touch. they are delicate, juicy, sweet, and tart. -not sugary and sour, nope. these are perfect.

my favorite way to appreciate them is raw, in this lunchtime favorite. tangy & fluffy yogurt sweetened with jam, given crunch with almonds, and decorated with a heaping dose of berries.

when foraging for mulberries, mind that the best tasting ones are going to be long in shape, and will hang heavily on the branches. they should drop off as soon as you touch them. please be sure to rinse them, as birds are all over these trees, and birds carry filthy things. ick. oh, speaking of birds, watch yourself while picking the berries. i keep getting attacked by the neighborhood grackle, and she doesn’t like it when i steal her dinner from the tree down the street.

berries parfait with almond slices

first you put a ton of greek full fat yogurt into a glass and drop in some jam and as many berries as you wish, maybe a thousand~

pink and black

then you stir it all together, watching the yogurt get a little whippy and tempting~

swirly and girly

then you put a quarter cup of sliced, raw almonds on top, like a little berry crisp~

crispy and complete!

 now go outside on a steamy hot day and have yourself a damn great lunch, one that will cool you off and nourish you. one that will taste amazing because it has this summer’s sweet little gems stuffed into it. 

i can’t wait until lunch tomorrow.

summertime salad: there is a golden ratio

green and mean

cheese, seeds, avocados, fruit..

these are a few of my favorite things!

so why not put ’em on some greens?

people always tell me that they need to eat more salads, they want to make more salads, but they don’t “know how”. they don’t know how to make an appealing salad. they think they would make a boring salad.

they don’t know how?

this doesn’t make sense to me. you do to know how. take the stuff you like, cut it up, and put it on fresh greens. spinach, arugula, micr0-greens, mache,.. i don’t care what green you use, just use one.

and always apply the 50/50 rule. that is the golden salad ratio. half of the salad greens, half of it toppings. does that sound like a lot of toppings to you? good, it should. because you want your lunchtime salad to keep you full all day. all the way up until dinner time. it should be filling. it should be packed with fat, protein, and micronutrients. if it isn’t, then you will not be enjoy eating it. and then, you will think that you don’t like salad. the cycle continues.

ever wonder why people leave most of their junky “side salads” behind at a restaurant? it’s because they are gross. -look, iceberg and tomatoes aren’t going to keep you full all day or do much nourishing. and they don’t taste good at all, either.

so make a salad you will like to eat., and it will naturally be healthy. trust me. listen, i know you are concerned about calories. this salad is 500 calories. does that sound like a lot to you? it should, because it is a lot of calories. -all nourishing sources of energy. a salad is a meal. no more iceberg salads for lunch, then 3 o’clock doritos breaks. seriously, this is a modern world where fresh, delicious and nourishing things are available for us to throw onto a salad. get ready for a summertime bounty of strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, and salad greens you haven’t even heard of.

so gobble up those nutrient-dense, delicious calories.

you need the protein in these seeds and cheese.

you need the fats that the avocado and oil dressing provide.

you need the tasty sweet juice and fiber that the fruit provides.

wanna add bacon? do it! then you’ll really be stuffed on salad.

here is a daily goal for you. are you ready?

operation: stuffed on salad

this will be easier than ever to achieve this summer. i swear. make it happen. you will feel amazing.

here is one of my favorite salads, i make it almost every day for lunch.


summertime salad

1/2 avocado, diced

1/2 orange, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup or so cubed, raw manchego cheese

1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds

2 cups or so fresh, organic greens

lemon vinaigrette

method: toss ingredients well with lemon vinaigrette.

if this is for lunch the next day, keep toppings, seeds, and greens separate so you don’t end up with a soggy salad. i always pack this salad a night ahead of time for lunch the following day.

lemon vinaigrette dressing

3 lemons

lots of really good quality olive oil

tsp honey

black pepper

method: juice lemons into a large jar. pour an equal part olive oil into jar, and also the black pepper and honey. close lid tightly and shake, shake, shake. keep on shakin’, sister. pour a few tbsp or as much as you wish onto fresh salad. keep the rest of the jar at room temp for about 2 weeks to top your stuff with it.


chicken caesar salad

i tend to find chicken breasts useless, both in my diet and in my palate. i prefer the flavorful dark meat that chicken has to offer, and i am wild about the amount of healthy fats dark meat provides, even though it has a falsely attained bad reputation. breast meat is too lean for my taste and yields a dry texture that almost always lacks flavor. my prejudice against breast meat aside, i knew it would be a pretty poor decision to use thigh meat to top a salad with. so i sucked it up and bought some good quality chicken breasts to feat my caesar salad. i used a method praised by america’s test kitchen, and with good reason. this produced a juicy, flavorful meat that was practically slow-poached in a flavorful juice and finished by searing all the goodness in by using a skillet to crisp it at the end.

it does help, too, that the chicken was drizzled with an awesome caesar dressing. fresh caesar dressing is simple to make, inexpensive, and a nutritious way to add a ton of flavor to a healthy salad. -healthy fats from the egg yolk, anchovy, and olive oil, plus the obvious benefits of garlic and lemon juice, this dressing is practically a super-food. make a double batch and keep the leftover in the refrigerator to use later on roasted potatoes, cooked asparagus, or fancy up a burger a little.

this recipe serves 2

for the dressing:

2 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard

3 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp roasted minced garlic

1 egg yolk

S & P to taste

method: using mini food processor, blend all ingredients creating an emulsion, and a nice dressing forms. i like to keep some of the mustard seeds whole for a little added spice. this dressing tastes best served at room temperature.

chicken caesar salad

for the chicken:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

juice from 1 lemon

1 tbsp thyme leaves

S & P

method: preheat oven to 350f. marinate chicken in all ingredients for half an hour while oven preheats.

in a glass baking dish, bake chicken with a foil cover over it for about 20 minutes. while chicken is in oven, get an iron skillet hot over medium heat with some oil or bacon fat in it. add chicken once skillet is hot and cook for 5 minutes, without touching it, and allow meat to brown. flip it over to brown other side. once chicken is done cooking (thermometer should read 165f), let it rest on a plate for 5 minutes before slicing.

for the salad:

1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped

some cherry tomatoes, cut in half

shaved parmesan cheese

method: combine all ingredients in a large bowl. split between 2 bowls or plates and top with sliced chicken and drench in caesar dressing.

this is such a flavorful and fresh tasting salad, i feel really good after i eat salads like this. i’m sure i’ll be chowing on this a few times a week after my upcoming easter binge to jump-start my lighter spring diet!

PB&J thumb prints

 

let’s face it. i could eat peanut butter all the time. i’m becoming a little embarrassed about the amount of blog entries that contain peanut butter as a food topic. the stuff is delicious. and full of protein and healthy fat. so i eated some peanut butter cookies for lunch today, that is why i published this under the “lunches” category in case you are wondering.

i won’t stop writing about peanut butter until i am good and ready. there is plenty of peanut butter baking and cooking out there to discover, so i am not ready to give it up yet.

and i will eat it every day.

my friends were over a few weeks ago for board game night and saw me open the pantry door. “!!!JEEZ!!!”, one friend said, “is that your Y2K cupboard?” -my excuse for having 7, yes SEVEN, jars of peanut butter in my pantry were because my brother in law works for smuckers and it was my duty, as a consumer, to support his product. it was a lie. i just like to collect the stuff.

what my friends don’t know is that there were 2 more jars in the refrigerator.

given my heavy volume of this delicious stuff, i decided to make peanut butter and jelly thumb print cookies for my friends for valentine’s day.

these cookies are remarkably easy to make and crazy tasty. they are not as heavy as i was assuming they would be. they are crumbly, still soft, and any jam would be delicious here. i think melty chocolate would also be great. these turned out quite large, like pb&j biscuits, but only because i pressed them into a medium sized heart shaped cookie cutter. you could do smaller or keep them round if you don’t want to fool with shaping them, but i found it quite easy to do this. i used my pinkie finger to form the heart shape in the center, but i have chubby thumbs.

the total lack of complicated ingredients is genius, and i barely made a mess in the kitchen. barely. ok there is peanut butter smeared all over the counter, but only because i am clumsy. i bet this recipe has been all over the online world of food and back, and i suppose i am slow on trying it. oh well. i had other stuff goin on. i wish i were hip to these a year ago. these are the coolest cookies!

 

ready to bake

ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

some jam

method: preheat oven to 350f. lightly grease a baking sheet.

stir your peanut butter with one of these gadgets. *omg greg, this thing is amazing*

combine sugar and peanut butter in mixer for a few minutes. now throw in the baking soda, salt, and the egg (not the shell! duh!) and continue to blend for a few more minutes. the dough will be crumbly. you may refrigerate it for ease of rolling, but i didn’t.

roll a tbsp of dough between your palms to form a ball. now press ball into cookie cutter on sheet, or keep it round. use fingers to press a heart shape in center of cookie. remove mold. continue until you run out of space. pipe jam into center of cookie. now bake for 13 minutes. cool on sheet of a few minutes before transferring to rack.

i packed these up in some boxes for my friendies.

valentines

salad: my comfort food

salad! no longer a diet food.

salad: no longer a diet food.

since this is one of my favorite meals, i wanted to share it. i eat a salad for lunch 6/7 days a week. i love leafy greens. i love cheeses, and fruits, and seeds, and nuts.. what a better way to combine all of these things, and benefit from the nutritional values of these foods? mix them all together. i’m lucky that my farmer’s market supplies all (yes ALL) of these items. even in the winter. salads are for all times of the year. it may sound boring, but i eat the exact same salad every day, depending on what fruit or greens are in season. for the past few months, this the salad my farmer’s market supplies me with.

i think the colors of this salad are beautiful, the flavors are perfect, and it is nutritionally well balanced. even down to the dressing. i never, ever buy salad dressing. i think it is yucky and has strange things in it. -corn syrup in salad dressing? is this necessary?! plus, it is easy and very inexpensive to make your own. i tend toward balsamic vinegar because i like it’s sour and sweet flavor. vinegar is always tossed around as a nutritious “food”. balsamic vinegar, because it is made from fermented grapes, contains antioxidants that can combat cell damage, and boost immune system. -red wine is known for the same thing. polyphenols in the vinegar boosts the activity of the digestive enzyme, pepsin. pepsin helps break proteins down into amino acids. better amino acid absorbtion aids in immune system function, cell repair, and building muscle. vinegar is also being researched for it’s ability to improve metabolism. and it tastes real good.

ingredients:

for the dressing:

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp fig or apricot jam (or any tasty jam)

method:

in a re-purposed squeeze bottle, like a honey bottle, shake up jam and vinegar. viola! salad dressing!

for the salad:

1 big handful of salad greens

1/2 bartlett pear, cubed

small handful of dried cranberries

1 oz of cheddar (i use goat’s milk cheese)

1/4 cup salted and hulled sunflower seeds

method:

mix all that stuff up and eat it! it’s good for you because it’s salad.

red beets

baithing beauties

baithing beauties

i think that red beets appear to be difficult to prepare. they look funny. they have papery, dirty skin and long stalks that are just daunting. what the heck are you supposed to do with all of that stuff? is there really food in there under that nasty peel? yes there is. ruby, sweet, buttery root vegetable. i love beets in a salad with a little blue cheese and citrus dressing. lately, we’ve been having beets on a salad with dried apricots and apricot jam honey mustard. what a tasty meal! root vegetables are in abundance this time of year, so stock up. my mom cooks a bunch of them in the fall, then puts them in the freezer to keep through the winter. she’s so smart! i remember eating lots and lots of beets as a child, i’ve always loved them. i also remember my dad hating them. without exception, every time i would eat buttered beets in front of him, he would proclaim “eeeewwww, beets”. which meant mom, sister and i were alone in our beet loving dinners.

not only delicious, but healthy too: beets have proven in studies to be effective in protecting against colon cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. they are really cheap, too. we bought a big fat bunch of them at the farmer’s market for $3.

beets will stain anything they touch. anything. a gross but essential bit of knowledge: they will also stain your *ahem* insides, if you know what i mean, especially if you have been consuming them for several days. no need to be alarmed, beeturia is a harmless condition that will pass after a few days.

a tip for keeping your hands skin colored when prepping beets: cover them in olive oil before you peel and cut them.

there are probably a kabillion ways to prepare them, but my favorite is roasted. some will tell you to scrub the skins before you cook them, but i know that there are precious minerals stored in the skin that will be washed down the drain if you do that. plus, you risk scraping and bruising the beet under the skin, and when you roast them, that part of the vegetable will be dry and gnarly.

how to prepare then roast beets:

chop off the hair so you have about 2″ of stalk remaining.

submerge in clean, cold water for a minute or two. change water and repeat.

preheat oven to 400f.
make a big pouch out of foil. drizzle a little oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. fold it all together inside the pouch so the steam doesn’t come out of the loose ends.
roast for 45 minutes. check it to make sure they are “fork tender”. let them cool on the counter top for a few minutes before peeling and cutting so they are easier to handle. use a paper towel to scrub the skins off of the beets, and carefully pull the tops off. cut into chunks to do what you wish with them.

this is what we did:

roasted beets with green beans

roasted beets with green beans

cut roasted beets into manageable chunks.

toss with prepared green beans (i steam them), and a glaze made of equal parts apricot jam, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

we liked it served with some rosemary chicken, which has become our sunday favorite lately. like i said, beets are an essential ingredient in autumn salads, along with a little blue cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds. -and bacon.

look at how pretty they are!

i know that you can make sweet dishes with beets, too. i’ve heard of red beet cakes and cupcakes, but have not yet attempted them. i would love to find a recipe for a dessert beet dish.

you can also pickle them and put them in martinis. yum!