Desperation Diet: Week One

Confession: I’m not quite going paleo (a.k.a. caveman diet) as promised.  With the research I’ve done so far, I have some concerns about the red meat content of paleo, and I am not quite ready to give up any and all sweets.  Or black beans and rice.  I am, however, going to largely eliminate gluten and will focus on farm-to-table eating–courtesy of our weekly CSA bounty–and avoid as much processed, artificial crap as possible (the occasional jelly bean notwithstanding)

As promised, I am going to chronicle my kitchen adventures here as I try to find a diet (or “lifestyle” if I’m being PC and self-important) that will make me hurt less, be awake more, and–if I’m lucky–drop fifteen pounds.  When possible, I’ll post include with first-hand reviews, I’ll undoubtedly bitch or whine a little, and I’ll let you know if my pants get looser.  And if it all starts to get boring, I can try it My Drunk Kitchen style. 😀

Sooooo, without further ado, here’s the first pic of my very first CSA haul (camera phone and bad lighting–sorry!  I’ll bust out the real camera for next week’s pics):

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Isn’t it beautiful?!?

It also came with a giant bag of kale, which wouldn’t fit on the platter and therefore didn’t make the photographic cut.  I did however make sure to get a pic of these:

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That’s a green egg, folks!!!  Seriously, it’s green.  That is one funky chicken they’ve got there!  Either that, or it’s a rancid and/or radioactive egg.  I’ll get back to you after breakfast to let you know which (Note: I saw green eggs for sale at the co-op over the weekend, so I’m guessing it isn’t radioactive).

First meal post-CSA bounty was Thursday night’s dinner. The lovely platter of veggies above didn’t arrive in time to cook on Thursday, so I decided on a stove-free option.  The obvious choice?  Strawberries with mixed greens and homemade vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette was a no-brainer when I remembered that my stash of Stuarto’s oils and vinegars included a strawberry balsamic and blood orange olive oil:

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That’s all that went into the dressing, folks (from left: poppy seeds, strawberry infused balsamic, blood orange olive oil and a green onion; full recipe below).  Oh, and a small dollop of whole grain mustard just to bind it all together, which I forgot to include in the photo.  Easy-peasy.

The next meal I cooked at home was turkey, white bean and kale soup.  Alas, I forgot to take any pictures, but it basically looked (and, incidentally, tasted) like Italian wedding soup.  I am still not over the moon about kale, and I would leave out the turkey next time in favor of more beans and carrots, but the hubs ate three bowls in one sitting, so it counts as a success.

Here are the recipes–or the closest things I can give you to recipes.  I don’t actually follow recipes myself, and I don’t measure anything, so take them as more of a guideline.  Be creative.  Be brave!  There’s one thing you can rely on when cooking with fresh veggies and a few, basic ingredients: it’s actually quite hard to screw stuff up.

Note: T = tablespoon; t = teaspoon.  I think everything else is self-explanatory.

Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette:

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar (I used a strawberry balsamic, but regular balsamic would do just fine)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil (I used blood orange flavored, but again, use what you have; some finely grated orange zest in regular evoo would be great)

White part of a large green onion, grated (maybe 1 T total, but more wouldn’t hurt); chop green tops for salad

Scant handful of poppy seeds

1 t. (give or take) brown mustard (if you like more bite to your dressing, use more)

Mix all ingredients in a cruet/bowl/jar/vessel of your choice and serve over mixture of spring greens, sliced fresh strawberries, green onion tops and/or thinly sliced red onion, and toasted nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts or almonds would work, too).  Or just drink it straight outta the jar.  I won’t tell.

Personal Review:

Some folks might prefer a dressing with more herbs/salt/stuff, but I was going for simple and clean here and it was delicious.  It doesn’t hurt that I really could drink that strawberry balsamic out of the bottle.  Everything else was just gilding the lily.  I made enough salad for 3 or 4 people and I ate every bit by myself.

Turkey, Kale, and White Bean Soup

1 lb. ground turkey (omit for vegetarian version, obviously)

2 large green onions (because that’s what I got from the CSA) or one medium onion, diced.

2 cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large bundle of kale, rinsed, ribs/stems removed, and torn into bite-size pieces (I probably had 8 cups or so of torn kale)

3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bay leaf

3-4 cans of chicken or vegetable broth (or 5-6 cups homemade broth if you have it)

Greek or Italian seasoning

Things I didn’t add, but probably will next time: mushrooms, zucchini or squash, and roasted red pepper, or some combination thereof.  Some lemon zest and flat leaf parsley wouldn’t come amiss, either.

In a bit of olive oil, brown the turkey with onion and a few generous dashes of seasoning (I used Greek, because I was out of Italian seasoning; either is fine).  Add carrots, beans, broth, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and add kale, stirring until it wilts (it will look like a LOT of kale, but it shrinks quickly).  Simmer until carrots are tender, then it’s ready to eat.  But it’s better a day or two later.  Just let it cool, then store covered in the fridge.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m guessing it’ll freeze well, too.  Oh, and don’t eat the bay leaf (I have no idea what happens if one eats a bay leaf, but it’s apparently frowned upon).

Personal Review:

As I mentioned above, this recipe didn’t make me a kale disciple, but I liked it better in this dish than any others I’ve tried.  I’m also not a huge fan of ground turkey in most contexts, but my husband really likes it, and I though the soup might need meat for body, so in it went.  If I were making this again, though–and I plan to–I’d forego it in favor of more beans.  Or make turkey meatballs, which for whatever reason, have a more palatable texture to me (and are easier to fish out if one wants a meatless–though obviously not vegetarian–bowl).  It really is essentially Italian wedding soup, so if you like that, definitely give this a shot.  Especially if you need a quick way to use up a lot of kale!

That’s all I’ve got so far for the first batch of CSA goods.  We’ve yet to try the eggs, but I’ll be cracking into them very soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  We’re waiting with bated breath to see if that green egg has a similarly-hued yolk.  If so, I am so serving it with some green ham and a giant hat!!!

The Desperation Diet

The last several months, I’ve gotten increasingly tired and achy and frustrated.  In addition to my normal joint pain (courtesy of rheumatoid arthritis), I have in-between pain–I swear my bones hurt and my muscles feel watery and bruised to the touch.  I sometimes nap for four hours and still don’t feel rested.  I’m simply existing through my days, rather than actually living them.  It all just pisses me off.

Since I clearly can’t go on like this in perpetuity, I’m gonna try to try something different.  This Thursday, we pick up our first CSA share.  We’ll get a box of farm-fresh veggies and eggs each week and I’ll get to figure out how to cook things that I’ve never tried before and force my family to eat them regardless of the results!  Being the mom has it’s perks, you know.

So this is my “desperation diet,” and my pledge to anyone who cares to read about it:  Beginning this Thursday, I’m going to start chronicling my foray into seasonal eating with a daily blog.  I’ll include recipes.  I’ll even try to remember to take pictures.  I’ll also keep a pain journal, so we can all see whether free-range eggs and asparagus can replace hydrocodone, NSAIDs, and/or whisky in my typical pain-managment regimen.  Don’t worry, I’m kidding about that last part–nothing can replace whisky! 😉

13 Ways to 13 years: Building a Great Marriage By Doing It All Wrong

I recently read a blog by a woman celebrating her fifteenth wedding anniversary (I can’t remember what/who it was, or I’d totally give credit).  She offered some unexpectedly helpful, and humorous, advice on how to stay married for fifteen years (one tip: go to bed mad), which got me thinking about my own upcoming thirteen-year anniversary.  Every year for the past few years, I’ve tried to write something sweet for my husband on our anniversary, but this year, I thought I’d go a different way.  I’m pointing out all the stuff we’ve screwed up…and somehow turned to our advantage.  If you’re lucky, you can fumble your way to a happy marriage, too!

  1. We married young.

I wasn’t child-bride young when I married my husband, but I was pretty damned close.  I couldn’t even drink at my own wedding, and not only because it took place at a Baptist college in a then-dry-as-dust county.

I was nineteen when we started dating and still nineteen when he proposed.  When we married, I was twenty and he was twenty-three.  We were babies!  I’d tell anyone else under those circumstances that they were crazy; that one can’t possibly know herself at that age; that the whole world is an oyster, whatever that means.  But my husband and I aren’t normal people.  We kind of did know who we were at that age—and whatever growing we still had to do, we did together.

2.  We sleep in separate beds.  Separate rooms, even.

This is a big “wrong move” and almost everyone who hears this suddenly looks at me as though I’ve just admitted slaughtering baby pandas on a Justin Beiber altar.  But this is what happens when a light sleeper and an insomniac get married.  Well, this or sleep deprivation and frustration.  My husband and I both have enough trouble sleeping on our own (me getting to sleep, him staying that way) that we really don’t need one another’s idiosyncrasies tossed in the mix.

Whoever said that getting married suddenly meant an eternity of suffering snoring, stolen blankets, and getting awakened any time someone has to pee, roll over, or get up extra early was clearly a sadist.  And speaking of sadists:  Yes, we still have sex.  You don’t have to actually sleep in the same bed to do that.  Just pretend you’re still dating.

3.  We take our kid on dates.

Or, rather, we almost never go on dates, opting instead to save the $30-$40 for a sitter and just drag our kid along wherever we go.  Consequently, we have a kid who knows how to behave in almost any situation, which is a price above rubies, folks.  If you have a seven-year-old that can sit quietly during a movie and doesn’t interrupt adults when they’re talking, all is right with the world (don’t worry, he’s given plenty of time to run around like a hyperactive banshee and takes full advantage of it).

4.  Our idea of date night—even before we had a child—is a trip to the grocery store.

We might go to Target while we’re out, if we’re feeling fancy.  This of course makes it easier to drag the kid along.  We do other things on occasion, like actual grown-ups, but honestly our favorite Friday nights are usually spent at a cheap restaurant and rambling around a shopping center.  Then we get to go home, put the offspring to bed, and spend the evening with just one another and the DVR, which is really our idea of date night.

5.  We don’t like the same things.

I first met my husband in his college dorm room, where he displayed what had to be every book ever published about Harry S Truman.  I learned later that the Truman shrine was the result of his honors project, in which he analyzed the campaign speeches of the 1948 Presidential election (I have to say, that fact didn’t really help his case).  And recently he was reading a book on the stock market crash.  For fun.  This is when he isn’t reading one of a gajillion Star Trek books.  Sometimes I don’t know how I married this man.

As for me, I sing in three choirs and have a five-year plan that includes opening a yarn store and buying a hobby farm.  I’d probably live in a commune of Unitarian Universalist Musical Crafters if left to my own devices (Note to self: add the formation of this commune to five-year plan).

Honestly, I really don’t know how he married me, either.  My husband knows nothing about music or yarn, and he has as least as little desire to learn about them as I have to learn about the stock market.  But it works for us.  He listens to me sing, praises my latest crafty project, and I…let him read about boring stuff.

6.  We don’t do everything together.

Given what I’ve just told you, can you blame us?  In addition to the fact that my husband is a political-junkie-Trekkie-business geek and I am a…whatever the hell I am…we rarely see each other during the week.  He works full time and has evening classes for a Ph.D. program.  I’m home during the day, but have choir rehearsal three nights a week, plus the kiddo’s piano lessons and the occasional client meeting.  During the school year, we only get Friday evenings, Saturdays, and some Sunday afternoons together.  We don’t have time to get bored with one another!

I’m not advocating that everyone spend as little time as possible with their significant others.  All relationships need face time.  But there’s something to be said for having one’s own life, too.  No one person should be expected to fulfill someone else’s every need.  Would you want that kind of pressure?  Of course not, and neither does your better half.  Go out into the world and find your bliss all by yourself.  I promise it’ll follow you home.

7.  We don’t fight.  Ever.

Okay, we’ve fought maybe two or three times, but we’ve been together for 14 years, so that’s basically never.  And on those occasions, it was due either to a literal misunderstanding or someone (cough, HIM, cough) getting bent out of shape over something silly (cough, DOG, cough, cough).  The rest of the time, on the rare occasions that we get put out with each other, we just brood until we’re over it.  Or, if it’s something that actually needs to be discussed, we discuss it.  No muss, no fuss.  Communication’s not that hard, people.  Incidentally, neither is silent brooding.

8.  We don’t have the same friends.

That whole “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends” thing?  Are you effing kidding me?!?  Those are the last people I want my husband “getting with.”  First of all, ewww.  Second of all, those are the people who know that deep down I’m actually a neurotic, self-important, hippy-dippy, barely-functional, tortured-artist psycho.  I don’t want those folks anywhere near my husband, whose illusions about me have to be wearing pretty thin on their own after thirteen years of marriage.

9. We’re VERY different people.

My husband and I are literally at opposite ends of the personality-type spectrum.  On the Myers-Briggs chart, my husband is an INTJ.  I’m an ENFP (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can check out http://www.myersbriggs.org).  The only trait we share—the N, for intuitive—is our tendency to extrapolate rather than simply content ourselves with whatever’s put in front of us.  I think of it as a shared disposition to see the forest rather than the trees.  But in every other respect?  We’re Paula-Abdul-style opposites.

My husband is introverted and analytical.  I’m social and impulsive.  He is highly structured and punctual.  Structure gives me hives and I’m always scooting in at the last minute.  Often several minutes past the last minute.  We ought to drive each other crazy, but instead we each seem to exert a needful pull, keeping the other from getting stuck on the outer fringes of acceptable behavior.

10. We talk politics and religion.  A lot.

They’re the only two conversational taboos left: religion and politics.   Polite folk should never engage in these topics, so goes prevailing etiquette.  Though I don’t suppose prevailing etiquette really applies to one’s spouse.  We discuss all manner of things with our better half that we wouldn’t dream of broaching with a mere acquaintance.  At least, I hope we do.

That being said, most people don’t discuss matters of social and spiritual importance with any regularity, even with their spouses.  And if we’re talking ways to build a better marriage, current religious trends and political news would hardly top the come-hither list of conversation starters.  Rather, these topics enrage us, make us sad, and trigger our altruistic and activistic tendencies.  They do not make us romantic or sentimental or, god forbid, libidinous.  And yet, my husband and I tend to get the most juice out of conversations that involve either elected officials, or the impact of religion on social justice.  We’re weird that way.

11. I got sick.

I don’t suppose it was precisely wrong of me to get sick, since I couldn’t help it, but illness and disability don’t exactly lend themselves to great and happy relationships.  Especially when that illness involves chronic pain and fatigue and some of the least sexy physical manifestations imaginable.  Add to that the stress created by the fact that I can no longer work enough to cover our son’s lunch money, and it becomes a seriously daunting roadblock.

But over the years we’ve learned that roadblocks are just opportunities for unexpected adventures.  Stressful, yes.  Always pleasant or exciting? No.  But obstacles force you to alter your plans and adapt to what lies in front of you, whether or not it’s what you thought you were signing up for.  And that, my friends, is the only real key to a lasting relationship.

12. We dropped the mystery.

And the vanity.  Major illness helps in this regard.  So does pregnancy, as well as simple time.  It’s hard to live with someone for a span and keep up any charade of perfection and natural, untarnishable beauty.  Harder still when one’s body is constantly endeavoring to make everyone’s life more difficult and messy.

My husband has had to help me through two major surgeries.  The doctor who delivered our son, via caesarian, actually held my uterus up for him to see during the procedure (in case you’re wondering, it is heart-shaped and apparently terribly interesting).  Once your spouse has an unexpected encounter with an erstwhile internal organ, the magic is gone, folks.  And that’s okay.

13. We don’t make plans (five year plan involving alpacas and hippy communes notwithstanding).

In the film “Leap Year” (one of the very few rom-coms I actually enjoyed, mostly for the adorable Irish guy-next-door and gorgeous scenery), Amy Adams, once she finally realizes she’s in love with the aforementioned adorable Irish guy, proposes that they get together and NOT make plans.  (Spoiler Alert!) He says no, then proposes for real, saying, in an equally adorable Irish accent, “I don’t want to not make plans witcha.  I want to make plans witcha.”  This, implying that marriage and real relationships involve having a map of some sort.  To that I say, “Pshaw!  Plans are for pansies and the criminally unimaginative.  We’ll wing it.”

Is this good advice for everyone?  Probably not.  Hell, almost certainly not.  In fact, if anyone tries any of this and it doesn’t work, I’m going to point out that this was a list of doing it all wrong!  But it has worked for us, and I suspect will keep working for another 13 years, and hopefully a couple after that.

I’ve decided that happiness never lies in perfection.  It doesn’t even lie in mostly-right-most-of-the-time.  It lies in the surprises we’re forced to find after encountering yet another road block.  In the quiet spaces between storms.  In the knowledge that you’ve got a let’s-hold-hands-and-count-to-three-and-jump-together partner in life.  That someone loves you to madness and he’s got your back, even though you drive him insane sometimes and he doesn’t understand half of what you do or say.

By any acceptable standards, we’ve screwed up a lot.  But as a lovely woman recently said to me, “It’s the screws that hold everything together.”

Happy Thirteenth Anniversary, Sweetheart.  Here’s to another baker’s dozen of doing it all wrong.  And spectacularly. xoxo