Quick draw

Traffic on the way home. Walk in the door twenty minutes late.

Drop the purse on the counter, turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Hack a head of cauliflower into submission, drop on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, slide in the almost-preheated oven. Set timer for 15 minutes.

Open a caffeine-free diet soda and check email.

Wander back into the kitchen. Fill a saucepan with water and a generous pinch of salt. Cover, set on stove. Turn burner on high. Count out two servings on Costco frozen ravioli, chip a chunk of frozen pesto out of the container in the freezer and plop it in a small bowl.

Timer goes off. Stir cauliflower. Set timer for ten more minutes.

Stare off into space for a few minutes.

Water boils, ravioli goes in, pesto goes in microwave for ten seconds. Timer goes off, cauliflower comes out. Stir ravioli. It only takes about four minutes. Yell at the boy to wash his hands.

Dinner's only ten minutes late, hooray! And no drive-thrus involved. I call that a win.


Baby steps

I recently reached a milestone: I pulled out the bread machine and made a loaf of sandwich bread. This had been my husband's task, and I hadn't touched the machine since last August, when he got too ill to do it.

Apropos of nothing, it called to me the other day. The recipe was still stuck to the side of the fridge with my Dan Quayle magnet (long story), and there was enough whole wheat flour and buttermilk powder in the fridge to do one batch. There was still plenty of yeast in the freezer, but it had been well over a year old last August so I had doubts. But I was on a roll and going out right that second to buy fresh was not gonna happen. I crossed my fingers and forged ahead.

Three hours and twenty-seven minutes later, I had a slightly undersized, somewhat pale loaf on the counter. Close enough. All I could do was stare at it. I hadn't realized how much I had associated that process with my husband. That simple, pale loaf made me very happy.

I did restock ingredients, but I may have been a tad overenthusiastic. My son and I don't go through a lot of bread and I probably bought enough flour, etc. to last me into next year. But I keep the whole wheat flour in the fridge*, so no worries.

Feels good to reclaim that seemingly insignificant task. Pretty sure my husband would be happy about it, too.

*The oils in ww flour go rancid much more quickly at room temp. FWIW.


Blinded me with science

It's so freaking hard to figure out if a health or nutritional study currently being trumpeted by the media is worth paying any attention to. I pretty much have given up, and have decided to just stick to "real food" as much as I can -- making meals from building blocks as basic as I can manage. And overall I feel pretty good about what I shove in my face, and my son's, but I've always been a little concerned about soymilk.

I started buying soymilk when my son seemed to have problems with cow's milk. Then, as I learned more about what needs to be done to a cow to keep her producing milk year-round, how cows are not even designed to eat corn (primary component of commercially-raised cattle's diet), what they're given to counteract the effects of that diet, how obscenely powerful the dairy lobby is, how dairy is not even an optimal way to get calcium, and how Americans in particular consume WAAAY more dairy (and protein in general) than necessary, it became clear that I was going to keep buying soymilk.

Oh, I still love me some butter, I use cheese as a condiment, we eat yogurt (plain full-fat yogurt sweetened with strawberry jam is AWESOME!) and I do buy milk to use in certain recipes where it makes a difference, but dairy is not a daily requirement in my house. And for someone who grew up in Indiana then lived in Wisconsin for a spell, that's saying something.

Yet, still, I worried about the soy. Would my son grow manboobs? Was I flooding my system with obscene amounts of estrogen? How could I ever sift through the tons of press to find the real data? How could I tell which studies were genuine and which were marketing propaganda designed to play on our fears?


Well, here's one little point of light. Today, Daniel at Casual Kitchen posted a link to this article by Leo Babuta at zenhabits.net that made me feel orders of magnitude better about my choice.

It just goes to show how easy it is for someone to write something in a science-y way that completely obscures the true agenda behind it. And how impossible it is for us to tell the difference.

Basically, I think we're screwed, but we still have to eat, so our house rule is "If it wouldn't have been recognized as food a hundred years ago, don't eat it." No, my Midwestern ancestors would not have known WTF soymilk was, but people in Japan have been making things out of it for centuries. Close enough.

BTW, as a former half-and-half addict, I've discovered that a 50/50 mix of vanilla soymilk and plain almond milk is an awesome coffee creamer. I haven't looked, but I bet if you read the label of non-dairy creamers, it's not too different. Except the ingredient list on the powdered stuff is about ten times longer.




OK, I finally figured out how to break my Diet Coke habit. Say hello to my not-so-little friend:

For the last week or so I've been filling this bad boy, all 64 oz of him, up to the brim at the 7-Eleven... until today. Today I quit. Yeah, just like that.

The habit started when my husband was diagnosed with malignant (metastatic) melanoma, just about 11 months ago. The ritual carried me through the three months of his decline, his death, and the utter WTF-osity of the eight months that followed. And now it's officially over.

Here's the scoop: A couple of days ago I started feeling queasy, and it never quite went away. Last night I got this really weird metallic taste in my mouth, and no, it's not my braces. Somehow I just knew it was from the DC.

I was distressed. I didn't WANT to stop my habit. I'm not ready! But apparently my body is. I went to bed queasy and woke up queasy with that weird taste, like I was sucking on a metal washer. This morning even the thought of DC made me swallow real hard. Twice.

On my way into work I stopped at the drive-thru. Medium unsweetened tea, please. Could I live with that? I took a sip, and apparently I can.

I'm a little disappointed that it's not June 20th, approx. the anniversary of the diagnosis that started it all, but I'll just have to get over that.

Still got nothing against DC and I will enjoy it again, on occasion. But the required daily ritual dosing of myself with whatever-the-hell-that-shit-is-made-of is so over.

The body has spoken.


Doing The Math

So, yeah, I've been using the Costco weight loss shakes to wean myself off fast food lunches. It's been working pretty well, but I've been nagged by the sense that I've been drinking nothing more than YooHoo with a fancy label.

Today I finally crunched the numbers. Guess what? Turns out that about 1.7 of the 6.5 oz YooHoo drink boxes (plus 2T of protein powder) come pretty damned close to the values on the nutrition label of the Costco canned shake. It's short on fiber -- YooHoo has none -- but the shake only has 4 grams, just over 1/8th ounce, anyway. To be fair, I didn't compare vitamins, etc., but that's why we have multi-vitamins. What shocked me most was that the sugar grams were almost exactly the same.


Well, now I can't un-know that data, so it looks like the shakes are out. Reminds me of the day I discovered that Jiff peanut butter contained hydrogenated vegetable oil, aka Crisco. I swear, from that point on, I could feel it in there and haven't been able to buy it since.

So what else can I use for mindless lunches? And, while we're on the subject, how does my default smoothie recipe stack up?

Well, not surprisingly, my smoothie recipe plus some protein powder kicks the can to the curb. Also, it's a larger serving and has WAY more fiber. And, oh yeah, there's that 'whole food' thing, meaning it's actually made from real food.

But making a smoothie takes time. Also, the banana-heavy smoothie tends to oxidize and ends up looking uncomfortably like sewer sludge by lunchtime. OK at home, not so much on the road (or at the desk.) Is there anything else?

Why yes, there is. Turns out that good old Carnation Breakfast made with unsweetened almond milk and some protein powder is also a better choice than the canned shake, being higher in fiber and lower in sugar/calories. And if you go with the sugar-free variety, sugar and calories are lower still.

Fascinating, no?

After I kill the last few cans of shake (hell, I paid for 'em!) it's off to stock up on good old Instant Breakfast... excuse me, Breakfast Essentials, as it's now known. Sugar-free for me, regular for my 5'2", 90 lb. son, who can definitely use the extra calories for breakfast on non-smoothie days.

I always knew that math degree would come in handy someday.


Where is that saddle, anyway?

Is it still blogging if I only post every five months?

Not even going to bore you with what's been going on around here, but overall it has been OK. Not easy, but OK. And I am thrilled with OK.

I did drop a few pounds (depending on what day it is) and I manage to put something resembling food on the table most days. I've succeeded in cutting my fast food consumption way down (except for the Diet Coke) but the green smoothies fell off the list pretty quick. These days I'm using the Costco canned weight loss shakes for lunch. Perfect nutrition it's not, but if it keeps me out of the Burger King drive-through, I'm all for it.

The newest issue is that my son started ADD meds about month ago. It had made his school life SO much easier, however... it has cut his appetite. This is a problem because at 11 years old, he was 5'1" and 90 lbs when he started and he hasn't even begun having the massive growth spurts I know are coming.

So I'm trying to lose weight while trying to get him to gain. I'm cooking more meat (not a lot, but more than I was) and am sticking to things I know he likes, since without the driving force of hunger, he will simply not eat something if he's not attracted to it. Plus, he does leave more food on his plate, which means my bad habit of eating what he leaves behind has become an even worse habit.

And desserts. Did I mention desserts? Let's not go there right now, OK?

Anyway, I have a couple of new Project Weeknight recipes that I can count on him eating most of, most of the time. This one came about because I bought a box of 24 packages of ramen noodles at Costco. No, I don't know why.
Quasi-nutritious Ramen Soup

Per serving:
1 package of ramen noodles, flavor packed discarded
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 Tblsp. veg oil (or olive oil, or butter)
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced or julienned
1/4 cup julienned bell pepper strips (color of your choice)
1 cup (handful) thinly-sliced cabbage
1 sm.-med. carrot, thinly sliced or julienned
splash of sherry or white wine (or water)
salt & pepper to taste
soy sauce, chili garlic paste to taste (opt.)

Bring chicken stock to boil, add noodles and cook per package directions.

Heat oil/butter in a skillet on med-high. Saute the onions and bell pepper until slightly caramelized. Add carrots and cabbage, salt, pepper, and a splash of sherry/wine/water. Cover and let vegs steam for 3-4 minutes or until desired texture. Check seasoning of vegs and adjust.

To serve: Pour noodles and stock in bowl, top with vegs and desired condiments.

  • I am just guessing at the amount of vegs. Use whatever amount/proportions look right to you.

  • Sometimes if I'm in a hurry I will nuke the carrot slices for a minute to get them started.

  • Red pepper flakes would be nice. Maybe add those with the onions and bell pepper.

  • I keep meaning to get some edamame to put in there.

  • Instead of cabbage, you could throw a handful of fresh baby spinach in the bowl on top of the noodles.

  • Hey, how about tofu cubes, or cooked chicken?
Not going to win any awards, but I figure it's a half-step up from Blue Box and frozen peas.