Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1,825 days!

Five years ago, Brian married me! And I married him!

I've been trying to come up with something flowery and frilly about how wonderful the past five years have been, but I'm failing miserably. This anniversary has been entirely low-key, laid-back, and relaxed... just the way I wanted it. And it turns out that my anniversary blog post is going to be the same way.

Heck, it's even four days late!

But trust me to say, yes, the past five years have been wonderful. More than wonderful!

I've learned a lot about Brian, about marriage, about my faith, and about myself. I've learned that when Brian likes something a lot, he'll shrug and say, "It's alright." I've learned that I like my steak even rarer than he does. I've learned that he doesn't care whether or not I make the bed. (But I do.) I've learned that it's okay to ask, can you help me? I've learned that I don't need to feel guilty when Brian makes himself a sandwich. I've learned that worshiping the Lord as a couple is one of the best things we can do together. I've learned that I don't always need to get what I want, exactly when I want it, and that usually it's even better when I wait a while.

And I've learned that I married a total keeper!

YAY, the Bri! Life is good!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cruciferous deliciousness! (Or, how I am enjoying vegetables these days.)

A few months ago, I told a friend that I didn't think my body was cut out to eat vegetables. Why? Because every time I ate a salad or some raw veggies, I would get terrible indigestion.

Huh. Surely it was the vegetables... right?

Nope. It was the culmination of a bad diet. But, I've already preached to you about my new ways, so I'll be moving on now.

What I've learned this summer is that I LOVE vegetables. Love 'em! Truth is, all you really need for some delicious vegetables is FAT! Preparing vegetables with fat rather than with water does more than make them taste good - it actually helps retain more nutrients in the food. Since I've lost the guilt over using butter and a cast iron skillet rather than a steamer basket, I've enjoyed so many different types of vegetables (and I've lost weight, too, even with all that shocking, horrible, no-good fat).

I read a money-saving tip on the blog The Crunchy Pickle: use up your food! I have often been guilty of throwing away rotten produce because I never found a use for it. Now, I clean out my produce drawer before restocking it (and by 'clean out', I mean 'eat it all'). It feels good to not have to brace myself, plug my nose, and dive into the fridge to deal with an unintentional science project gone awry... or have to deal with the guilt over losing a couple bucks to the trashcan.

Another positive perk of this tip is that I've been making a lot of new vegetable recipes. The other night I rescued half a head of cauliflower and half a carton of rather shriveled mushrooms and discovered that, fried up with some caramelized onion and fresh garlic, cauliflower and mushrooms make a nice combination.

Last evening I noticed a bunch of brown-tipped celery at the bottom of the drawer. Now, I don't know about you, but the only uses I've had for celery are making soup, dipping in ranch dressing, or smearing with peanut butter. But I wanted to use it up. And so, googling 'celery salad', I came upon this recipe! I made a few substitutes, added chopped apricot and purple cabbage, and served it up. We loved it! I've made it twice now, in the same week. Celery, gone!

Anyway, in honor of my newfound love of vegetables, I figured I'd show you my favorite way to cook a cheap kitchen staple: cabbage!

My first trick is this: when I chop an onion, I put it in a microwaveable bowl with a sprinkle of water, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and nuke it for a minute and a half. Now that the onion's cooked, it's easier to caramelize it a bit.

Melt a bit of bacon fat (or another oil of your choice). I would use the cast iron pan but it was already taken for another recipe.

Throw in the onion and salt it...

...and cook it over medium so it can start to brown. My second trick is this: when the onion seems like it's burning, I dump in half a cup of water. While the water boils out, the onion will continue to cook and get browner.

Meanwhile, chop up a truckload of garlic cloves. Garlic is so great for you! (These are smaller cloves, though. Don't be too alarmed.)

Here's a third of a head of cabbage. This is enough for two good dinner portions and for some leftovers for lunch the next day.

Here's how I chop it up: first, cut into a few big wedges; second, cut long, vertical slices...

...and come back down with horizontal, short slices.

When the onion is soft and browned, add the garlic. You want that to be a bit fresher.

Scrape the onion and garlic off to the side and add a bit more fat. (FYI, the Lipid Hypothesis that supposedly 'proved' saturated fats clog arteries and cause heart attacks was way off!)

Add the cabbage. We're over medium-high heat here. Don't forget to add salt!

After a minute or two, mix it all together and continue to cook.

I was in a bit of a hurry, so I covered it to help it cook faster.

When the cabbage is softer, crank up the heat to brown it and add flavor!

Pile onto a plate and grind on some black pepper! (Unless you're a hater of flavor, like my husband.)

This is my basic way of cooking lots of greens. Sometimes I add bacon or other seasonings, but sometimes, simple is best.

When it comes to vegetables, don't be afraid of fat! (By the way, steamed or boiled cabbage tastes absolutely AWFUL.)


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More on diet (not to be confused with the 'moron diet')

If you've read more than a couple posts of my blog, it's pretty clear that I love to bake. I'll tell you why: baking is easy. It's cooking that's difficult! Let me tell you: when Brian and I were first married, I was a terrible cook.

(I'm still not a good cook by any means, but now I can put a simple meal together, cook different cuts of meat, and cook vegetables to make them taste good. Basic stuff.)

I still remember (in perfect detail) the train wreck that was my first meal as a new wife. I had some basic knowledge of cooking; one of these 'cornerstones' was that a crock pot supposedly made everything taste wonderful. So rather than following a recipe (pshhh) I decided to wing it! I hauled out my brand-new slow cooker and plugged 'er in. I threw in three frozen chicken breasts and some fresh broccoli and baby carrots and sprinkled lemon pepper on top. I set it to cook all day on low while I began to clean Brian's bachelor pad apartment.

Hours later, I started on phase two of my 'menu' - the cream sauce! I envisioned our dinner plates with juicy, succulent sliced chicken breast and toothsome, perfectly cooked vegetables, all drizzled in an impressive cream sauce. My limited cooking skills included making a roux... but did not include the knowledge of how much flour/butter combination you actually need to thicken a small pot of sauce. (Of course, if I'd known then what I know now, I would have simply boiled down a bunch of heavy cream and scrapped the flour altogether. But I digress.) So I ended up using way too much roux. My 'sauce' became a pot of gluey white paste. Disgusting.

And the results in the crock pot weren't any better. The chicken was pale and gray and the vegetables were mush. By that time, Brian was home, and we ate dry chicken breast and mushy vegetables. Our meal was so different than the one I'd pictured in my head and when Brian said, "You know, with some cuts of meat it's better to cook them fast over high heat," I burst into tears.

The other night, Brian told me, "Yeah, you cried about a LOT of dinners the first year we were married."

Well, I knew that I had a long way to go in the dinner department, but one thing I KNEW I could knock out of the park was baking. Who could follow a recipe to a T? THIS GIRL! Who could portion out perfectly-sized cookies? This girl! Who could mix butter and sugar together and make it taste delicious? This girl!!! (Well, and pretty much everyone else in the world. Butter and sugar are delicious, end of story.)

So, to make up for my lack of cooking skills, I baked. I used an entire tub of Crisco that first winter. Brian gained twenty pounds. (I gained weight too, but let's not go quite there.) Then I realized Crisco was terrible for you, so I switched to butter and oil.

I sent cookies out left and right. I made a lot of people happy that first year.

But at some point, Brian said, "Uh, I need to lose weight... can you stop?" Fortunately (albeit slowly), I had been learning about cooking food, too. It was a slow process, but gradually I learned the right way to cook chicken breasts and the right way to sear fish. The first time Brian showed me how to cook a venison tenderloin in a pan (not a pressure cooker or a crock pot!), I took a bite and swooned. I'd died and gone to a heaven where you could actually enjoy deer meat for its flavor rather than always hiding it in a pot of chili! I perfected my bread-making skills on the weekends, but my desire to see success in a plate of chocolate chunk cookies slowly diminished.

And it's a good thing too, because now, five years later, I'm at a place in life where all I should be eating is meat and vegetables. I'm so glad I've learned how to make them right. Yep, I'm talking again about the primal diet and how thankful I am for the changes I've seen in my health.

I've been eating this way - on and off - for most of the summer now. On the off times, I've been consistently startled by how miserable I feel, how quickly I bloat up, and how insatiable my cravings are for junk, junk, and more junk. When I pare it back down to basics - lots of vegetables (cooked in butter and bacon grease!), lots of meat, some nuts, and a little bit of fruit, I'm an unstoppable force. I get up in the morning rarin' to run. I can give or take my coffee for energy (but I drink some anyway because I love the flavor). My skin clears RIGHT UP and my moods are light and steady.

It is amazing.

At the beginning of this endeavor I approached this eating plan as a diet.... a means to the end of losing weight. I figured I could go without cookies or pasta for a while. But during the next few months, I saw how that junk truly knocked me on my butt every time I ate it, without fail. And the more research I did, the more I realized how crucial it was that I stick to this diet for good.

Truly, folks - the enemy is carbohydrates... not just sugar. It's bread, and pasta, and cookies, and tortillas, and rice, and oatmeal, and so many things I thought were essential to the body and the diet and the dinner table. I spent hours upon hours learning how to make delicious bread, homemade pasta, and desserts... but recently I have come to terms with accepting that even though I know how to make them, I can't keep on eating them.

What it all comes down to is this: should I eat something just because it tastes delicious... even when my body pays for it for hours and even days afterwards? For me, the answer is no.

Kate Moss is credited for saying, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." I used to scoff at that, thinking, enjoying my life (and eating things that taste delicious!) feels WAY better than being skinny (which I interpreted as 'feeling weak all the time'). But if the phrase were a bit different, I would have to agree: "Nothing tastes as good as feeling amazing feels." Would I rather taste a grilled cheese sandwich than a bowl of sauteed cabbage? Maybe (though my vegetables in bacon fat are starting to taste pretty darn fantastic). Would I rather taste a big bowl of sugary cereal or creamy, sugary oatmeal rather than a couple of eggs and a handful of spinach fried in butter in the morning? Maybe, but then I'd find myself feeling hungry in another hour and downing more coffee because my carb rush was ending.Link

We've been taught that we NEED grains (heck, grains were the base of our food pyramid for decades) but the truth is, I don't need them. I don't need them spiking my blood sugar, increasing my insulin resistance, blocking my body's absorption of important nutrients, or making me lethargic any more.

Last week, I had a girl over to my house for an afternoon. We made chocolate chip cookies, ate a bag of chips, and made pizza for dinner. Let me tell you, did I ever pay for that afternoon. That night I felt terrible. The next day I was sick to my stomach and exhausted; in fact, it took about three days or so before my digestive system regulated itself again. I can assure you, without a doubt, that those cookies and homemade pizza were not worth how awful I felt for the next couple of days. Link

So the kicker is this: I'm saying goodbye to bread-making, cookie-baking, and pasta-eating. Those skills have served me well, but I'm movin' on up. I'm moving on to skillet vegetables cooked in fat, bacon-wrapped meat, eggs scrambled in butter, and a general feeling of amazing-ness!

The blogs below have become my reading material lately, and if you check them out you'll find some incredible stories. People have seen diabetes, fibromyalgia, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances (like PCOS), infertility, and disease eliminated from their lives. You might find the same is true for you. Try it for a month, and see how you feel. Thirty short days of change can't hurt, right?

More resources:

Mark's Daily Apple

Everyday Paleo

Primal Kitchen

The Primal Parent

The Crunchy Pickle

I tell you these things because I'm excited, and because I care. : )


Thursday, August 18, 2011

A nightly walk (yes, another dog post)

It's been so hot lately that my normal afternoon jaunt with Bo must be taken after dinner.... lest we die. But when the sun is setting it becomes such an enjoyable part of the day. If I can get the condensation to clear from my shocked, chilly camera, I figured you'd enjoy a few several pictures of what goes on when I take Bo down to the lake on our evening walk.

There's a very little bit of standing still.

Mostly, it's just a lot of running around.

There's some grass-eating... *gulp*. (Why does he do this every night? Can he really be sick?)

And of course, Brian's making me break in my new hiking boots for our trip.

Sometimes, Bo stands still and surveys 'his' vast domain.

And then other times, he's CONVINCED there's some sort of sneaky thing in the bushes.

"Quit taking pictures of me doing this."

Anyway, there's more frolicking...

... and some free-spirited rolling of joy!

And then we walk a few houses down, back home.

There's my sweet cuddly guy!

Wait... he looks kind of mean there.

There's his big goofy tongue. That's better.

Before we go inside, we take a second to check out the backyard... and our poor scrawny garden, wilted in the heat.

Bo makes sure no one's creeping on his space.

I admire my ONE SINGLE bell pepper. I decided to let it grow another week or so. If it's the only one I'm going to get, I want it bigger.

At least the cukes are still growing voraciously. The tomatoes are saying, "Hey, buddy, get out of our space. We're trying to survive here."

And, behold! One paltry small tomato. I picked that guy right away.

Thankfully, the raspberries aren't suffering too badly. "Brian, bring me a bowl!"

And then I towel Bo off, relax into our deliciously cool house, decide that I'm still kind of sweaty and disgusting from the walk even though the sun's gone down, and take a shower anyway.

The end!