We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 22-28

by Michelle

   "The one grain type that is virtually toxin free is white rice, which has far fewer toxins than brown rice. The vast majority of toxins in white rice are destroyed by cooking, which is why white rice is the only grain Dr. Jaminet recommends. One of the grain toxins with which you may be familiar is gluten."  ~Grains Rob Your Brain Power - Avoid It for Clearer Thinking by Dr. Mercola

Week 4

Day 22
Breakfast: Eggs over easy with sausage and home fries @ Cracker Barrel
Lunch:  Mixed Green Salad with Chicken and Vinaigrette
Dinner: Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Homemade Chicken Broth with a Poached Egg

   The sausage and vegetable soup reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Maxine. Back in my middle school days I recall my Nana and Papa visiting us two to three times a year. They made the four hour drive in their baby blue Mercedes sedan with the dark blue leather interior. In the trunk my Nana stashed a homemade dinner that we'd reheat during their stay, which helped to alleviate some of the cooking burden from my mother. I remember two entrees in particular that Nana made on a regular basis for their visits. The first was a baked spaghetti and the second a sausage and zucchini soup that was packed with vegetables in a light tomato chicken broth. I liked their visits, even though for a great while, my grandparents would sleep in my twin beds and I'd sleep on the couch, until a particularly rocky Christmas when thereafter and forevermore they slept in a hotel. Papa instilled in me a love for card games and we usually played several rounds of Cribbage or Gin Rummy every day during their stay. I've passed this admiration of cards on to my daughter. Our favorite card game is Spades, but it requires a foursome. We always play when we are together with Linda, and Jay or Mark join in the fun.

Use pitted sweet cherries directly from the freezer. No need to defrost before chopping. Easy!
Day 23
Breakfast: Coffee and Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Homemade Chicken Broth
Lunch: Chicken Caesar Salad, No Croutons @ Chili's
Dinner: Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks with Cherry BBQ Sauce, Baked Potatoes and Asparagus

   Here's a best practice from my household associated with wine-butt chicken. Typically once a week, and usually on a Sunday afternoon, we grill two whole chickens. Once the chickens are pulled off the grill, they rest for about 20 minutes until cool enough to handle. I'll serve the breasts for dinner and reserve the thigh/leg quarters for a meal later in the week.
   When I am ready to "reheat" dinner on a week night, I pull the thigh/leg quarters from the refrigerator and thoroughly coat each portion liberally in barbecue sauce. Then I transfer the coated chicken to a cookie sheet that has been covered with aluminum foil and sprayed with coconut oil. If I have forgotten to preheat the oven to 350°F, I simply place the chicken in the cold oven and turn on the heat and add five minutes to the baking time. In about 20 to 25 minutes the chicken is hot and ready to eat. While the chicken is reheating, I quickly assemble a salad or steam vegetables, or both. As a bonus, I can clean the kitchen in about ten minutes leaving the rest of the evening to process photos, read, or go to bed early, especially if I need to rise early the next day and be on the road before dawn.
   P.S. Nom Nom Paleo's Cherry BBQ Sauce is a winner! I doubled the tomato paste and garlic and added one deseeded finely minced jalapeño.
Roasted Peppers complement roasted meats and keep well 
for about a week in the fridge when stored in olive oil.
Day 24
Breakfast: 2 Hard Fried Eggs in Unsalted Grass-Fed Butter
Lunch: Chef's Salad with Vinaigrette @ Montgomery's
Dinner: Turkey Sausage Chili

   So I faltered a bit tonight. I tried to be creative and put a Mexican inspired spin on stuffed Portobello mushrooms. I wanted to use the last of the salsa fresca, since I made a ton of it. One thing led to another and the mix was too "liquidy" to stuff gigantic mushrooms. Needing to save dinner, I went a step further and added pinto beans (oops I did it again, I broke the "rules") and put chili on the table. My husband was overjoyed. When you can identify a bean from afar and get excited, you know your life has been altered by Whole30. We all consumed beans last night and enjoyed every last bite of legume tastiness. My consolation was that at least we didn't eat sugar.

My husband added much needed shelves to my pantry. Now I can find ingredients easily.
Coconut Aminos is a suitable Paleo substitute to soy sauce and Tamari.
I decided to make Melanie's Best Stir-Fry Sauce EVER of The Clothes Make The Girl. I made a couple of additions, including adding the zest of one orange and substituting homemade
10-Spice Powder in exchange for commercially prepared 5-Spice.
Day 25
Breakfast: Kombucha and Kale Smoothie with Blueberries
Lunch: Turkey Sausage Chili the gift that keeps giving...
Dinner: Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry over Jasmine Rice

   I soooooooooo don't want to make dinner tonight. I'm over chicken. I'd love to dive into a big plate of gluten-free pasta, but that's not going to happen, even though technically at this point, if I follow the Whole30 program to the letter, I'd have to shout "do over" and begin all over again from day one. I'll soldier on from here, continuing to learn as I fumble along. Meal planning needs to be a bigger priority. Marching towards this goal, I purchased a couple of Paleo focused food magazines at retail. In Paleo Magazine's Readers' Favorites Special Edition, I saw what looks to be a great recipe for stove top Tandoori chicken. Unfortunately, after further review, the recipe involves too much prep for tonight's dinner. It wouldn't be if I didn't have to go searching for the spices and prepare the mise en place. That's what Saturday or Sunday is for I suppose. Back to the drawing board.
   I take a mental inventory of the items in my refrigerator... boneless chicken breasts and too many vegetables to count. The perfunctory ingredients of my Whole30 lifestyle. My daughter, analyzing the food inventory alongside me, recommends a stir-fry. Asian is the most difficult food to eat out for anyone that is gluten-free or Paleo. Simply because soy sauce is an ingredient in nearly every sauce and marinade. A simple fix if you are GF is to use Tamari, which is a high grade soy sauce made without wheat. If you are living a Paleo lifestyle, anything that is made of soybeans is off the menu. For Paleo-folk, the substitution for soy sauce is Coconut Aminos. I recall that the magazine that I have been perusing, Well Fed Paleo has an easy stir-fry sauce that author, Melissa Joulan, of Paleo-foodie blog, The Clothes Make The Girl, states whole-heartily that it's the best stir-fry sauce EVER! I will take her at her written word. She's Paleo though and through  no cheating at her house  and understands the need for a good sauce over just about everything.
   I whip up a triple-batch of the stir-fry sauce and make one addition and a substitution. I add freshly grated orange peel and swap homemade 10-Spice Powder in lieu of commercially prepared 5-Spice. I try to make the vegetable mix as colorful as possible, uniformly chopping red bell peppers, carrots, and onions. I also added broccoli, quartered mushrooms and chunks of pineapple. We all agree that dinner is great. It's great to mix things up. I know a meal is really successful when Maddie asks to have it for lunch the next day reheated and transported to school in a thermos.

Oh dear. I certainly won't be serving this up for a company dinner. This is a strictly a
 "keep it in the family" meal. I do chuckle every time I look at the photo.
Day 26
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Leftover Stir Fry Veggies
Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry over Jasmine Rice... somebody please save me from more leftover stir fry
Dinner: "Bangers and Mash" made with Chicken Sausages and Cauliflower Faux-Totates and served with Roasted Peppers and Grape Tomato Halves Tossed with Balsamic Syrup Vinaigrette

   Red and yellow bell peppers seem to multiply in my refrigerator. My family are quite the fans of roasted peppers and in particular this amazing make-ahead appetizer. I eye the big head of cauliflower that has been lounging in the refrigerator and taking up valuable space. Playing a game similar to Charades for the home cook, bell peppers and cauliflower somehow combine in my imagination to create Bangers and Mash. And voilà, just like that I have a plan for dinner. I roast peppers, steam cauliflower and fry sausages. I call Maddie downstairs to help with the tomatoes. Although dinner isn't visually appealing, the three of us snicker a bit as we dish up our plates, the flavors meld together and are quite delicious. I'll prepare this tasty foursome again... just not for company.

I was not able to totally kick my cheese habit over the course of the 30 days. I cut my consumption way back though. Life is a little more livable with dairy. Which, thankfully, I tolerate well.
Day 27
Breakfast: Coffee
Brunch: Sausage, Bacon and Flank Steak Hash with Poached Eggs
Dinner:  Pan Fried Chicken Breasts served with Mano Y Metate Adobo Mole and Spanish Rice

   I love breakfast hash. Maddie will even get up early-ish to enjoy brunch with Jay and me. My trick for preparing six poached eggs is to have all the eggs separated ahead of poaching. I crack two eggs per bowl in to three small bowls. Once the hash is ready, I quickly add the eggs in each bowl to the simmering hot water. All the eggs conveniently finish cooking at the same time, which only takes about 4-1/2 to 5 minutes. The hearty brunch tides us all over until dinner.
   Mano Y Metate is a woman-owned local Tucson company that produces a variety of dried moles. The flavorful powdered moles are a combination of whole spices, nuts, seeds, and chiles. Depending upon the flavor of the mole, there could also be chocolate added and dried fruit. The wonderful thing about the mole powders is that the cook controls the wet ingredients, so you can add whatever oil you like and choose the flavor of the broth. Dinner doesn't get much easier than pan frying chicken breasts and then quickly preparing a Mano Y Metate mole in the same skillet. The flavors are absolutely delicious. The Adobo mole uses Santa Cruz Chili from Tumacacori.

Mano Y Metate powdered moles make for a quick and delicious Mexican dinner.
Day 28
Breakfast: Coffee
Lunch: Bites of Leftover Cold Hash and a Pear
Dinner: Wine-Butt Chicken with Smoked Paprika Rub and Frank's Hot Sauce, Half a Baked Potato with "Fixins", Buttered Corn and Roasted Asparagus

   Tonight is the Superbowl and we're spending a quiet night at home. Inspired by the flavors of hot wings, the "wine-butt" chickens are coated in a smokey rub and doused with Frank's Hot Sauce. I carefully separate the fat from the breasts and pour Frank's crave-worthy sauce in the two "pockets". Along with the russet potatoes I pop yams into the oven. Jay's hoping the sweetness of the yams will act as a replacement for the missing baked beans that he infinitely adores.
   In the afternoon, while the pregame activities are revving up the massive crowd, like a scene from The Hunger Games, I simmer two chickens with vegetables in an enormous soup pot. The yield is nearly 8 quarts of rich chicken stock. Now I need to figure out what to do with the moist chicken and the stock. I'm so over soup, but that will probably be the end game because soup makes a quick non-sugary breakfast for Jay, and occasionally for me. And, if not breakfast, then a really easy lunch.

Jarred mayo is a no-no due to Omega-6 oils. Goodbye Best Foods, hello homemade mayonnaise. 
Preparing mayo is as easy as whirling together the following ingredients 
in a cocktail shaker, or other tall narrowish vessel, with the aid of a stick blender:
1 whole egg, 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup avocado oil, 1-1/2 Tbsps white wine or Champagne vinegar,
1 Tbsp Dijon and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Slowly pull blender up from bottom until the mixture is emulsified (about 10 to 15 seconds). Keeps for a couple of weeks stored in the refrigerator.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 18-21

by Michelle

   "The secret of happiness is variety but the secret of variety, like the secret 
of all spices, is knowing when to use it." ~Daniel Gilbert

Liberal use of herbs and spices will amplify the flavors of your meals. 
Here I am toasting spices to prepare Ten- Spice Powder to add to a stir-fry sauce.
Day 18
Breakfast: Coffee and a Banana
Lunch: Mexican Surprise Chicken with Peppers and Chilies Served with White Rice
Dinner: Paleo Chowder with Chicken and Bacon, and 1/4 slice of Toasted Paleo Hamburger Bun

   On tap for the work schedule today is a visit down to the copper mine for a project kick-off meeting. Thank goodness I check the weather forecast before heading out the door. The sun is shining, but the wind is violently shaking the limbs of trees and pushing shrubs to and fro in the yard. The high temperature will only reach 64 degrees in Tucson and it could be cooler at the mine. I drag on a pair of black 501 Levi jeans, pull a long sleeve t-shirt over my head, slip on a down vest for core warmth, and wrap a cashmere scarf around my neck. I verify that I have my hardhat, safety glasses, reflective vest and required mine safety training documents (that I must carry with me at all times when I'm on-site) in the dedicated canvas bag that holds my personal protective equipment, or PPE as we say in the biz. I put on my steel toe boots just before I leave the house, so I may thoroughly wash my hands before I head out the door. I'm such a chick.

That time I got caught on a roof looking at air handlers during
 a torrential downpour. #SheWorksHardForTheMoney
   I meet the guys for lunch in Green Valley before heading out to the mine. Thank, God—it's a Mexican Restaurant so I have a couple of decent choices to choose between.
   I arrive home at 5:30 and I know I need to hurry to get dinner on the table. Using my good knife skills, I chop up a bevy of vegetables to finish the soup. After dinner I'm craving something sweet. I resist. I'd love to pour myself a nightcap, but I don't. I resist, resist, resist.
   I must admit that I've been sleeping much better since going on a more restrictive diet. Since I stopped everything simultaneously, I'm not sure if it is the diet that is responsible or if it is mostly related to abstaining from alcohol. Who cares? I'm sleeping so soundly. It's divine.

Jay's life is now complete that I adapted the Four Bean Salad to a Paleo-friendly
 version made with a honey vinaigrette and subbing red bell peppers for the kidney beans.
Day 19
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Sausage with Salsa Garnish
Lunch: Same ole, same ole
Dinner: Wine Butt Chickens and Vegetables and More Vegetables

   I'm not sure why, at this juncture, but I'm craving sweets. I finally cave into my sugary desires and eat two dates. I chew the dates thoughtfully. As if it is my first time giving them a go. The craving quickly subsides. Thankfully, I don't have to loathe myself afterwards. I always feel compelled at times like these to think of the film Chocolat, and the scene near the end of the story when Alfred Molina, playing the town's righteous elder, decadently succumbs to his cravings. Linda, Maddie and I watch this delightful film annually, typically at Easter.
   After nearly three weeks of restrictive eating, I now feel overwhelmed by the fact that I'm in an eating rut. I need to regroup. I begin scrolling through the blog again looking for recipes that will adapt to the Whole30 plan. I come across Chia Pudding, and think, yes that will do nicely. Mix things up a bit.

Fried potatoes extended by adding mushrooms, yellow bell peppers and carrots.
Day 20
Breakfast: Chia Pudding made with Coconut Milk and a Little Honey Syrup
Lunch:  Mixed Vege Salad with Protein and Vinaigrette this is my often repeated lunch mantra
Dinner: Grilled Flank Steak with Nom Nom Paleo's Cherry Barbecue Sauce, Special Fried Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

   Jay said that if he had to choke down one more chicken or steak dinner without a sauce that he'd want to commit sipiku. Those really aren't his words, just my interpretation of his facial expressions and the limited words he used to describe his feelings at this juncture in the Whole30 eating plan. That's what couples do. We infer meaning in each other's words. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
   My husband is the king of barbecue sauces. And, it has been difficult for him (and me) living without a great sweet and sour sauce with a ketchup kick to enjoy dinner that much more. I recalled reading a recipe for Cherry Barbecue Sauce in the Nom Nom Paleo Cookbook. I sent Jay on a shopping mission to find frozen sweet cherries. The only grocery store that stocks the sweet cherries, at least in our neck of the woods, is Whole Foods Market. A zesty sauce is now in our future.

My take on a homemade "Burrito Bowl". It might as well be called Mexican Salad.
Day 21
Breakfast: Coffee followed by Kombucha and Kale Smoothie
Lunch: Bunless Hamburger in an Iceberg Lettuce Cup with homemade Russian Dressing and Fixins
Dinner: Paleo Friendly Burrito Bowls: Oven Fried Cali-Rice, Sausage, Guacamole and Salsa Fresca

   Even though I love eggs, I am way overdue to begin introducing new breakfasts to the morning routine. Back in the summer of 2011, I made smoothies ritually over the entire summer, including Misty's Coconut Whey Protein and Blueberry Smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrition into the first meal of the day.
   I was so excited over the prospect of oven roasting Cauli-Rice. I have to say with complete disappointment that the technique was a complete bomb. At least for me. The roasted Cali-Rice had a deep cauliflower flavor and smell to match. Life is full of trials and tribulations. Onward!

Now all the bunless burger needs is a drizzle of my Russian Dressing,
and slices of tomatoes and dill pickles.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 15-17

by Michelle

Quickly blanching zoodles for a "spaghetti" dinner. 
While I had the Spiralizer in action to make zucchini noodles, I also twirled carrots for the salad.
Week 3

Day 15
Breakfast: Banana and Toasted Cauliflower Bagel slathered with Butter
Lunch: Cream of Tomato Soup
Dinner: Zoodles with Meatballs and Marinara and a Lovely Mixed Green Salad

It's MLK day. Why it's a work day I'm not sure. School is closed. Banks are closed. Government offices are closed. Ah well, that's life. The copper mines are open. I suppose that means I'm open for business, too. Although Americans don't like to admit it, consumers have a voracious appetite for copper. They just don't know it. I really did not consider the use of copper before I began working in the industrial automation industry. I was ignorant about the use of metals and minerals in my daily life. The state's media outlets print a negative point of view on developing new copper mines and yet global demand for the metal is increasing.
   I recently attended an event related to the development of Rosemont mine and a perturbed woman said to me in a nearly hysterical tone, "I don't understand why they have to build a copper mine in such a beautiful area. Why can't they build a copper mine somewhere out in the middle of nowhere where no one if affected?" I was mystified by her reasoning. Yes, that would be lovely if we could drop a copper mine any old place we wanted, but the fact is, copper is only in certain areas, and the metal must be mined where it is present in the ground. The CopperMatters website has the following education tidbits to educate consumers:

   "There's more than 50 pounds of copper in a typical american made automobile: about 40 pounds for electrical and about 10 pounds for nonelectrical components. Today's luxury cars contain some 1,500 copper wires - totaling about one mile in length. To put it into perspective, in 1948, the average family car contained only about 55 wires, amounting to a length of 150 feet. 
   The Toyota Prius uses 64 pounds of copper in every car. While the hybrid's batteries are nickel based, a Prius still needs lots of copper wiring and computer chips to keep it on the road and cutting carbon emissions. 
   It's not just consumer cars - alternative forms of transportation, from buses to electric trolleys and subway cars use an average of 2,300 pounds of copper apiece."

That's me... looking all boss in my hardhat and pink safety glasses.
And, of course, copper isn't just used in transportation. Do you like your mobile phone and computer?

   "Because of copper's incredible properties where electricity is concerned, copper has long been looked to when building and developing technology. Recently copper has been replacing aluminum in computer chips, resulting in much faster operating speeds and greater circuit integration - up to 200 million transistors can be packed onto a single chip. And copper also means that your gadgets need less power - so your battery life lasts longer. Power requirements are now reduced to less than 1.8 volts, and the chips run cooler than ever before, increasing the effectiveness of the technology and the longevity of its components. The use of copper conductors in the chip is the last link in a now unbroken copper chain comprising the electronic data path between user and computer. From external cables and connectors to bus ways to printed circuit boards, sockets and lead frames - it's all copper. 
   There is about .5 ounces of copper in your mobile phone. That's more than all the other metals in your phone and more than 12% of your phone's total weight. As more computer chips and sophistication are added to our phones, the amount of copper in them will continue to grow as well. 
   Not only can copper be used to send information, but it can also be used to prevent signals traveling where they are not wanted. the National Security Agency buildings at Ft. Meade, Maryland, are sheathed with copper to prevent unauthorized snooping. Even the windows are fitted with copper screens. The copper blocks radio waves from penetrating into or escaping from spy operations. Copper sheathing is also used in hospitals to enclose rooms containing sensitive equipment like CAT scan, MRI and X-ray units to prevent problems related to the entrance or emission of errant electromagnetic radiation."

   And it's just not transportation and technology. Enough copper plumbing is installed in buildings every year to wrap around the equator seven times. The actual amount is one billion feet of copper tubing. And that's just the USA. On a smaller level, the average American home, according to the ArizonaExperience.org website, "...contains about 400 pounds of copper for electrical wiring, pipes, and appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves."
   In Arizona, students are taught the Five C's that drive the state's economy: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Climate. Are you familiar with Pima Cotton? That particular hybrid of cotton was cultivated in Sacaton, Arizona, located south of Phoenix and north of Casa Grande. The cotton is named after the Pima Indians who grew the cotton.

Children and adults alike will enjoy wandering around the grounds
at the ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center.
   Of the 50 states, Arizona produces the most copper, and is the second largest producer of molybdenum. There are about nine active mines in Arizona that produce copper, and there are another handful of properties under development, such as the hotly contested proposed mines of Rosemont, Florence and Resolution. According to Wikipedia, "Over 60% of the newly mined copper in the U.S. comes from Arizona." The largest copper mine in Arizona is Morenci, owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan.
   Over the last year and a half I have spent a lot of time at copper mines in Arizona. Ask any miner who has been in the mining industry since the 1970s, what changes have taken place in operations and environmentalism, over the course of the proceeding decades, and they won't even know where to begin the conversation. From safety to environmental awareness to reclamation, the mining industry has made sincere progress to overcome issues across all categories to become sustainable operations. Interested in learning more? If you are visiting southern Arizona, book a tour to see an opening pit copper mine in action. ASARCO mine in Sahuarita, Arizona. The mine has employees working three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The tours run daily Tuesday through Saturday.

The ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center is only 15 miles south of downtown Tucson.
Before or after your visit to the ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center, visit San Xavier del Bac.
Next time I may peel the zucchini for a more realistic looking noodle.
   Switching from copper to dinner - I'm so diverse (she says tongue in cheek) - I decide to make my life easy and drop frozen meatballs into marinara. Everyone in the fam-damily agreed last go round that we weren't so crazy over pairing spaghetti squash with marinara. I opted tonight to go the zoodle route. I pulled out the spiralizer and gave medium zucchini a twirl. Since I liked blanching the cauli-rice the other night, I decided I would use the same cooking technique with the zuchini noodles. I prepared the zoodles first. I tossed the spiralized zucchini with two teaspoons of sea salt and tossed to distribute evenly. The zucchini shedded water as I prepared the vegetables for a green salad and heated up the meatballs in the marina. Occasionally, I would pour off the zucchini water. Come to think of it, I could have let the zucchini sit in a colander in the sink. At the same time the zucchini was "dehydrating", I put a pot of water on to boil, just as I would do for pasta. When everything else was ready, including setting the table, I quickly blanched the zucchini in the boiling water for 60 seconds. I drained the zoodles and then tossed with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. We all scooped a portion of noodles onto our plates and then sauced with the marinara and meatballs. Jay, Maddie and I all agreed we much preferred the zucchini noodles with this particular meal.

Paleo Hamburger Buns made with cashews, almonds, eggs and coconut flour. 
It's been awhile since I've made a sandwich for myself. I like knowing that it is an option.
Day 16
Breakfast: The last of the Cream of Tomato Soup
Lunch: Turkey, Salami and Cheddar on Paleo Hamburger Buns with Mayo and Mustard
Dinner: Chicken Picatta over Spaghetti Squash and a Mixed Green Salad

   This morning I rose early and whipped up some gluten-free hamburger buns in the food processor. I feel like a sandwich for lunch. Baking my own buns (hee hee) is the only way I'm going to get what I desire. The recipe from Against All Grain is easy to prepare. The author, Danielle Walker, mentioned that the buns are a little crumbly, so I added a tablespoon of ground chia seeds to act as a replacement for gluten, as I did for the superb gluten-free pie crust I made last year. That seemed to fix the crumbly problem. The buns are rich and filling because of the high nut content.

Chicken Piccata tastes great.
We like prepared Spaghetti Squash with the Chicken Piccata.
Day 17
Breakfast: Coffee and a Banana
Lunch: Jay's Famous Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Dinner: Chicken Picatta over Spaghetti Squash and a Mixed Green Salad

   Maddie's astronomy class is gathering in a park tonight to look at the stars through the teacher's fancy telescope. Parents are invited to join in the fun, but I'm just not up to attending. The last two scheduled astronomy nights I was not able to attend due to work commitments. I feel badly for not going, but Maddie assures me that my bowing out is fine. She and Jay head to Chipotle for a quick dinner before heading to a park on the outskirts of town. Maddie always helps the teacher unpack the equipment and set it up before sunset so they can make all the required adjustments while it is still light. The further away the park is from city lights, the better to see the stars. Tucson is considered a star gazing town. Multiple observatories are within close range of Tucson and the city has kept nighttime lighting to a minimum to help astronomers. Once the sun goes down, it's very dark in and around Tucson and especially at the park.
   I stay home and prep dinner for tomorrow night. We have depleted our soup reserves and its time to make another huge pot of soup. Time to mix it up. I'm getting tired of my brothy soups, so I go to a recipe that I have not made in years, a thick vegetable chowder. A quiet evening at home alone is a rarity.

I never tire of photographing the interior of San Xavier del Bac

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 13 and 14

by Michelle

   "For decades now I've heard that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, thirty days at the most. If a person can just marshal their will power for three to four week, bingo! They've got it made. But anyone struggling to form a new habit knows there's more to the story.
   Researchers at University College London tracked people attempting to form different types of new habits. Instead of three or four weeks, they found it took an average of sixty-six days for new habits to become automatic. And they project that some would take more than 250 days."
~Michael Hyatt, CEO of Your Virtual Mentor

The soup that seemed to multiply in the refrigerator. I kept eating it and eating it and eating it. 

Days 1-2, Days 3-4, Days 5-7, Days 8-10, Days 11-12, and so the story continues...

Day 13
Breakfast: Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Chicken Broth
Lunch:  Waldorf Salad with Kale and Chicken and a Glass of Pinot Noir
Dinner: Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Chicken Broth

For the third time this week, it's back to Phoenix. This outing is with my family. We're scheduled for a 10:00 a.m. college tour. I'm very happy to be chauffeured there and back by my husband. It's Saturday, so it is not appreciated when the lilting tones of my iPhone's alarm awakens me at 5:30 a.m. I would love to be a morning person. Sadly, I am not. But, it's up and at 'em, because we should be out of the house by 7:30 a.m. We barely have enough time to get out the door on time and I discover too late that we have eaten the last of the eggs. Plan B is to quickly heat leftover soup. It's the soup that keeps giving, and seemingly multiplying in the fridge. I joke the soup is like the oil celebrated at Hanukkah. Maddie can't fathom eating the soup for breakfast. On the way out of town we pull through the drive-thru at McDonald's and order her an Egg McMuffin for the road. I console myself that this fast food side trip is a very infrequent activity. It truly is an exception. And it always has been for my family and me.
   After the college tour, Maddie asks if we can eat lunch at our favorite restaurant, Hillstone located near 24th Street and Camelback in the Biltmore neighborhood. Our family loves everything about this restaurant the efficient and professional service, the terrific food, the beautiful interior. I could move in and take up residence. The property also has a koi pond, outdoor patio and fireplace. All my needs are met. I usually order the Seared Ahi served with greens that are spiked with chunks of avocado. mango and black sesame seeds. For whatever reason, I decide to break my habit and instead order the Waldorf Salad. I'm glad I did. It was wonderful. I enjoyed every last bite and washed it all down with a stellar glass of Pinot Noir. Life is good. We're back to Tucson by 3:00 p.m. so Maddie can go to work at 4:00. It's a nice quiet night at home. I don't feel like cooking and we're not going to dine out twice in one day, so it's more of that frickin' never-ending leftover soup.

I saw this recipe on Saveur magazine's Facebook page and decided to make it post haste.
Day 14
Breakfast: Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Chicken Broth
Lunch: Macadamia Nuts and half an Avocado
Dinner: Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup and Chicken Caesar Salad

Jay completes the grocery shopping in the late afternoon, so it is Mother Hubbard's cupboard until he returns laden with bags filled with mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, whole chickens and a flank steak. I finish the last of the soup and then supplement in the afternoon with a few Macadamia Nuts and half an avocado that I season with a little sea salt and eat with a spoon. I clean the refrigerator while Jay is out. This is one of my least favorite activities. In my book, it's right up there with cleaning the bathroom.
   Pretending that I'm on a cooking show and the challenge is to produce a gourmet meal with only a few disparate items, I throw together dinner with the few remaining leftovers from last week. It's not fancy, but it's satisfying. It would have been lovely to dip a toasty buttery grilled cheese sandwich into the tasty Cream of Tomato Soup, but it is not to be. Week two of the Whole30 challenge comes to a close without much fanfare or palpable enthusiasm. But, we are dedicated, and we will forge on.
   I hope against hope that The Good Wife might be on after the Patriots/Colts game, but alas it is not. After Jay wanders upstairs I happily turn off the post-game blather analysis, the announcers rabid over the upcoming Superbowl and instead listen to my new audio book The Poet, a mystery by one of Linda's and my favorite crime-thriller-suspense fiction author, Michael Connelly while I give the kitchen a good scrubbing. I'm livin' the dream life.

Soup. More soup. And, even more soup. Good thing 'tis the season for soup.
This was circulating on Facebook and the origin is unknown (to me).
As Liz Lemon would say, "I want to go to there."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 11 and 12

by Michelle

Making bone broth is now a weekly part of my routine—it has become second nature.
My Whole30 Challenge journey continues:

Day 11
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Sausage
Lunch:  Chicken Fajita Salad
Dinner: Sausage and Vegetable Soup in Chicken Broth

   On the agenda for today is a morning tour of a wastewater treatment plant (WTP). A technician at the facility, takes my manager and I through a walking tour of the various areas of the plant. The wind is blowing and my hair is whipping around like helicopter blades on the top of my head. For the first time ever, I wish I was wearing my hard hat to keep my hair in place.
  Do you ever wonder what happens to your excrement once it is flushed down the toilet? I never gave it much thought. Not surprising, I'm sure. Inquiring minds want to know a lot of things, but few want to dwell on that. When I joined my employer, I learned that one of the industries we serve is water/watewater plants. Over the last year and a half, I've learned quite a bit about this topic. I can tell you all about it since I've been on several tours at various WTPs in Arizona.
   It's estimated that every person in our nation contributes between 70 to 150 of wastewater every day. The influent flows into bar screens, and traps the big stuff that gets into the wastewater stream, including rags, plastics, other things that shouldn't be there. From there, more filtering is required, in including remove grit and sand. Settling tanks hold the wastewater to allow solids to sink the bottom, whereas grease and oil rise to the top and are skimmed on the surface. The "poop" that sinks to the bottom is called sludge. The sludge is exposed to micoorganisms that "dine" on the solids and biological conversion occurs. Wastewater and the microorganisms are mixed with oxygen to help the organisms multiply. The mixture then goes to a secondary sendimitation tank. The microorganism and solids settle to the bottom and are then removed. Chlorine treatment is next, and afterwards, dechlorination before the effluent water is recharged into the environment. The preliminary solids - rags, plastic bottles, etc. are washed and sent to a landfill. The grit and sands are cleaned and sent to a landfill. What's left is the poop, also known as biosolids, but commonly called "sludge". As much water as possible is removed from the sludge. Different water treatment plants have different methods to deal with the water removal. Once the sludge is thickened, it's sometimes incinerated, and the ash is sent to a landfill. Ultimately, the conclusion of every process for sludge handling ends with truckloads of organic bisolids dumped (pun intended) to a landfill.

On the grounds of a waste water treatment plant in Arizona. 
   When you are employed in the wastewater industry, you think about this on a daily basis and especially when big events are on the horizon, like the Superbowl. The WTP employees, in any of the game hosting cities, are the good folks who think about and prepare for halftime at the Superbowl, just from a different angle. The halftime event is referred to by wastewater industry folks as the "big flush". Take a moment to consider how many toilets, not only at the stadium, but in the stadium's zip code that will be flushing during those 15 critical minutes during the half time show. All the water and solids will be sent rushing to the WTP for processing. If the WTP incurs any problems during this extreme volume event, well, it ain't gonna be pretty, if you know what I mean.

Left to right: Chuck Norris, my daughter Maddie, and Aaron Norris (Chuck's brother) in 2014.
My daughter is a 2nd degree black belt in Chun Kuk Do, the karate style of Chuck Norris.
   During our walk, we discuss the forthcoming days of water shortages. It's not an "if" situation, but "when". The technician asked if I've been to Lake Mead lately. I haven't visited since stopping by Hoover Dam in July 2012 on a driving trip to Las Vegas for my daughter's karate tournament. I flew over Lake Mead last September and noticed the level of the lake had dropped significantly. The technician commented that Lake Mead is at its lowest point since the opening of Hoover Dam in 1936. The water is so low, that new pipes are being installed to drain the lake even further, since the water line will fall under the existing infrastructure.
   The three of us marvel that the federal government isn't taking a strong stand on water conservation and explaining to people that our dystopian future is around the corner. I wonder what Las Vegas is planning to do once Mead is empty. Surely, there has to be a plan. If there is no water—there is no Las Vegas. My sister's ex-boyfriend once commented that Las Vegas will make a really interesting ghost town in the future.

Flying over Lake Mead on my way home after visiting Salt Lake City.
   I read that Lake Mead provides water to farms, homes and businesses in Southern Nevada, Arizona, southern California, and northern Mexico. "According to the National Park Service, about 96 percent of the water in the Lake Mead is from melted snow that fell in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Each year, these "Upper Basin" states are required to allow a minimum flow of Colorado River water to reach Lake Mead," reports the Climate.gov website. Over the last two years, runoff is less than half of the normal, which is a continuation of a 15-year drought. No one knows how long this drought will continue. Science shows that over many thousands of years, extreme droughts have lasted upwards of 50 years. The difference is now, greater consumer demand for water by population shifts, farming and industrial manufacturing.
   My mind returns to desalination. Why isn't Las Vegas enacting a plan now that doesn't completely jeopardize the future of the lake? The Israeli's have had great success desalinating water and conveying it throughout their small country, which, granted, is only territoriality just slightly bigger than New Jersey. It may very well be expensive to desalinate water in the Gulf of California and convey it to Las Vegas, but it seems that this an important consideration should the drought carry on and deplete precious water reservoirs.
   In the manufacturing industry, there are conveyance systems installed throughout a plant to carry raw goods and finished products from one area to another. In the world of wastewater, the conveyance system is water. Solid waste (feces) is conveyed from the toilet to the WTP by water. There has been some transition to low water toilets, but they don't always work well, causing people to flush toilets two or three times, if the first flush doesn't "clear" the bowl.
   After our tour, my manager and I head to lunch. Yes, it is possible to be hungry after such an adventure as touring a wastewater treatment plant. Surprisingly, Mexican fare is one of the better alternatives for eating out. Just omit the corn tortillas and much of the menu is under consideration. The Chicken Fajita Salad is quite good and I use salsa as dressing to successfully avoid dousing my entrée in delicious Ranch dressing.

There I am drinking red wine. Again. It's just soooooo delicious.
Day 12
Breakfast: Maple Yogurt and a Banana
Lunch: A handful of Marcona Almonds and an Apple
Snack: Chicken Broth
Dinner:  Warmed Olives, Bibb and Blue Salad, Pork Chop with Broccolini, Roasted Tomatoes and Cottage Potatoes and Two Glasses of Cabernet

   Another day trip to Phoenix to visit the main office. I've got some deadlines that need to be met, and I'm so busy that I manage to skip lunch. This is not intentional. I loathe skipping meals. I have marcona almonds in my purse and an apple. Thankfully I have planned ahead for a food emergency. The drive home is incredibly stressful. There are two accidents on I-10. Both crashes leave northbound travelers stopped on the highway. You realize just how many 18 wheelers are on 1-10 everyday when traffic is halted. It's literally a convoy on the interstate. Southbound traffic slows and slips into stop and go traffic due to all the annoying looky-lous that need to check-out what's happening on the other side of the highway. The drive home is havoc with drivers passing on the right and zig zagging through traffic, apparently trying to make up for lost time while rubber necking at the accidents. I can't tell you how many times these crazy drivers end up behind me after surging ahead and then getting stuck behind a slower moving truck. Slower drivers in beat-up cars, or from Mexico, drive under the speed limit in the middle lane, bunching up traffic, and agitating the already more aggressive drivers. I don't listen to the radio. I don't talk on the phone. This traffic requires all of my attention.
   I'm starving when I arrive home. And a little frazzled after participating in the simulated NASCAR race from Phoenix to Tucson. As the old adage goes—TGIF—Thank God it's Friday. Jay's not ready to go out, and I'm starving, so I warm up a cup of homemade chicken broth. I drink it slowly while Jay showers and I read the newspaper. The broth is quite delicious and soothing.  It evens out my mood. We have a nice evening out, and I devour a hearty meal. There's a little Gorgonzola sprinkled on my salad. I give in and eat it. I appreciate the flavor even more since I've been doing without. The roasted pork chop hits the spot. I'm especially happy that I don't have to do any dishes. Hooray for small favors.

A capture of my husband and daughter on a very windy day at Hoover Dam.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal—Days 8-10

by Michelle

"Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." ~ Jim Rohn

Thai Shrimp Bisque will fill you up, like for days.
Continued from my Whole30 Challenge Journal:

Week 2

Day 8
Breakfast: No-No Coffee and Scrambled Eggs with Diced Sausage and Salsa Garnish
Lunch: Last of the Leftover Curry Chicken Salad
Dinner: Thai Shrimp Bisque

I wake up feeling thinner. I resist stepping on the scale to see my progress. That will have to wait another three weeks. Jay offers to make us scrambled eggs with diced sausage. I accept without skipping a beat. I draw a comparison to driving. Sure I like to drive, and I drive my car all the time, but if someone offers to get me from "here" to "there", I say good on ya. I like to be chauffeured. If Jay wants to make breakfast I will not jump in and say, no honey, let me do it. Please clean the dishes too, but that rarely happens. A girl's got to take what she can get.
   Later on in the day lunch takes two seconds to dish into a bowl and eat with a fork. So far today is easy peasy with no food cravings. I'm not hungry between meals.

I love my No-No coffee.
   The Thai Shrimp Bisque took a little longer to prepare than I would have liked during a weeknight. I take 388 photos for the forthcoming blog post. I'll need to cull the photos and select about 8 to 10 images to publish online. Since it took longer than expected to put dinner on the table, there is no salad or accompaniments. Egg rolls would have been nice (made with rice paper, of course). I figure with the coconut milk in the chowder our main course will be filling. Jay particularly misses sourdough bread with the chowder. My husband looks a little crestfallen, but he holds to his commitment to Whole30 (it's now become a verb) for one month, even though there is a loaf of sourdough on our counter for Maddie. He could have popped a slice into the toaster and to his credit, he refrained.
   I joke that I should have made cauliflower garlic bread. Yes, there is such a thing. It's from the same guy who has a cauliflower bagel recipe on his blog. Jay responds by riffing on the SNL skit from eons ago that has Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner debating whether New Shimmer is a floor wax or a dessert topping. Chevy Chase wraps the skit by claiming in his assured tone, "New Shimmer for the greatest shine you ever tasted." Cauliflower, it's a vegetable, it's rice, it's mashed potatoes and a bagel. It's the chameleon of the vegetable world.
   Continuing on with the assessment of the bisque, Maddie comments that she finds the soup strongly flavored and not suitable for an entire meal. I could see that coming from a mile away so it rolls off me. Next time, she recommends, I should serve the chowder in a smaller portion as a first course. Half her portion is left in the bowl, essentially making her main course a first course. Jay asks Maddie if she plans on finishing the bisque and she responds by shaking her head no. I think he's going to eat it all. Instead, he picks up the big glass cup and begins spooning through the opaque bisque to find any remaining shrimp. There's only two. For someone who doesn't particularly care for shrimp, she manages to eat almost every one in her bowl. Jay's disappointed. I let him know there's more shrimp in the soup pot but he doesn't feel compelled to rise and dish up more. Maddie peels and eats a banana. Yes, I have a food blog. But, that doesn't mean my child loves everything I prepare. You know me, I like just about all foods. I will definitely be reheating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
   My only fallback today is the amount of honey I've consumed between my coffee and the Curry Chicken Salad. There's a little rice flour in the bisque that acts as a thickener, because... well, I wanted bisque, not soup.

Jay's Favorite Salad made fresh almost daily. Sometimes he does something crazy and
swaps red tomatoes for the yellow. The bean salad is a fixture. What's a guy to do in its absence?
Sausage stuffed portobello mushrooms are a guilt-free pleasure.
Day 9
Breakfast: I want one of the cauliflower bagels, but eat scrambled eggs and sausage once again
Lunch: Jay's Favorite Chicken Salad with leftover Citrus Vinaigrette
Dinner: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms and a Caesar Salad

I almost went the lazy route and reheated leftover frozen meatballs. I love meatballs because they can be cooked once and eaten multiple times. The fully cooked meatballs can be pulled directly from the freezer. I drop the amount needed—figuring 3 to 4 meatballs per person—into marinara and slowly reheat while I round out the meal. I'm just about headed down easy street, when it dawns on me that I have portobello mushrooms lounging in the refrigerator taking up space. Like guests that overstay their welcome, they need to go. I pretty much only eat stuffed mushrooms at Oregano's Pizza Bistro, so I decide I'll do my best to do a copy cat recipe, but with more veggies tucked in because I have a truckload in my refrigerator that we need to eat through by the end of the week. Waste not, want not is the wisdom of our forefathers.

   The mushrooms are really easy to prepare. It's practically a one pot meal except that the mushrooms need to go on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for a quick 20 minutes. While the mushrooms are baking, I quickly make Caesar Dressing with homemade mayonnaise made with a stick blender. While I'm scrambling at the end to wash, dry and cut a gorgeous head of romaine lettuce, I call Maddie down to set the table. Jay wanders into the kitchen soon thereafter and says dinner smells great. The aromas of cooking sausage had wafted up the stairs and into his office making him hungry. They both ask suspiciously if there is cauliflower hidden anywhere in the meal. To their collective relief I respond with my least favorite word, no. Some people might say it is my favorite word because in an act of feminism several years ago I taught myself how to say no to a whole bunch of things. Women are taught to say yes. Sometimes it's beneficial to say no.
   Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms is a Maddie approved meal. She ate every bite and had two helpings of Caesar Salad. Jay summed up Maddie's thoughts by saying I could make that meal whenever I want. I earned two thumbs up. Hooray. I labeled dinner a success, too. Maddie even said that she'd try a cold stuffed mushroom in her lunch tomorrow. If you like cold pizza, you might just like a cold stuffed mushroom cap filled with sausage and vegetables.
   For today's missteps, Jay once again put a helping four bean salad on both our salads. I ate it knowing that the Earth would still spin on its axis if I swallowed the marinated beans. Even though I'm supposed to be abstaining from cheese, I did top the mushroom with parmesan and mozzarella. I can't imagine a Caesar Salad without parmesan cheese, so I followed my traditional recipe. In the future, an antipasto-style salad would be a nice pairing with the mushrooms, especially when dressed with an old-school-style Italian vinaigrette.

Day 10
Breakfast: Two Fried Eggs
Lunch: Greens with Chicken and some Vegetables and Lemon Dressing
Dinner: Chipotle— "Burrito Bowl" with Steak and Guacamole and (No Beans!!!)

Up and at 'em early to drive to Phoenix for a nine o'clock meeting. Upon rising, I look out to the Tucson Mountain range. It's completely dark outside, but I can see from the luminous light of the moon that fog has creaped in once again and settled over the city. The misted humidity creates a fairy tale effect of other-worldliness. The occurrence of fog is extremely rare in the desert and I savor it.
   In the car, I drive for many miles before I notice that it is quiet in the car. I have failed to turn on the radio or plug in my iPod to listen to an audio book. Passing by cotton fields in Marana, a developing community near Tucson, the whispy fog hangs low on the brown skeleton of plants, some still displaying tuffs of cotton balls on the tips of branches. Two old tractors sit idle in the field and I wish I could stop to capture the bucolic scene and put a new spin on fifty shades of gray in the rural agricultural area between Tucson and Picacho Peak—a stretch of highway lined with Pecan trees. The fog is dense all the way through Casa Grande and visibility is low, but the 18 wheelers continue to roll at 75 miles an hour. Just before Phoenix, an invisible line is crossed, and I break through the fog. In my rear view mirror, the fog looks like an infinity wall reaching towards the sky. Phoenix is ahead, tall buildings refracting light from the rising sun.
   Around noon I am invited to attend lunch with a visiting customer who is signing-off on a piece of equipment that my employer built to spec. Apparently everyone is in the mood for Mediterranean food and I find myself perusing the menu at Pita Jungle. Normally, I'd enjoy some hummus ladden entrée, but it is not to be. No tabbouleh. No pita. No shawarma. No falafel. No anything except for a salad with chicken and lemon dressing. Woe is me.

Linda captures me in a contemplative moment during Sistercation.
   I leave Phoenix late and by the time I arrive home it is dark and I am hungry. Maddie greets me at the door in sweats and a t-shirt. "Go change," I say— we're going out. I definitely don't feel like cooking. I just feel like eating, then curling up in bed and reading for awhile. Maddie's confused. Where can we possibly go eat that will meet my diet restriction? We'll figure something out, I say. As a family, we strive to only eat one meal out a week, so dining out on a week night is rare. We decide on Chipotle. I order a burrito bowl with a smidgen of rice on the bottom. I forgo the beans and then pile on steak and guacamole and every vegetable available along with a giant serving of pico de gallo. It's actually pretty tasty.
   Back at home, I've caught a chill. I climb into bed but instead of reading Olive Kitteridge, I decide to spend time with Tony Bourdain in Quebec for another episode of Parts Unknown. The episode is fascinating but a little nauseating to watch on a full stomach. Tony plows down hearty food with the rambunctious Joe Beef guys. I alternate between curious fascination and aversion watching them plow down course after course of rich fare over multiple days. I still can't seem to get warm, even though I am under a blanket and a comforter. I turn over on my side to curl up. In two seconds I'm dead asleep with both the bedside table lamp and TV on. I awake to my husband and daughter staring at me. I can hear mild laughter escaping their mouths. I see Maddie through my squinted eyes. She is entirely amused, face glowing, lips stretched into a laughing, mischievous grin. Apparently my snoring can be heard throughout the second story. I rarely snore and I'm not amused by being the butt of whatever joke that is shared between Jay and Maddie. I'm also not happy that I have to rise and brush my teeth (what? Are you f*%&ing kidding me?) and wash my face and then go back to bed. Once my personal maintenance is completed, I fall back to sleep almost immediately and I sleep restfully all night.

My Whole30 Challenge continues—follow my upcoming adventures in healthy eating during the month of March.

The Food Pyramid is updated to a Paleo-Style apple by Ph.D.'s Paul Jaminet and
Shou-Ching Jaminet of The Perfect Health Diet book and blog. While the Whole30

program is more strict and excludes potatoes, white rice, honey and alcohol,
this Paleo template diet is infinitely easier to live by day-to-day.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal—Days 5-7

by Michelle

"What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing." ~ Pablo Picasso

Linda captured this photo of local produce at the Thursday afternoon farmers market at the Mercado San Agustin near downtown Tucson.
Continued from my Whole30 Challenge Journal.

Day 5
Breakfast: Fried eggs in coconut oil
Lunch: Cobb Salad (no cheese) with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Dinner: Pork Chop with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Warm Bacon Salad

On the agenda today—arriving at the Phoenix office for an 8:00 a.m. meeting. This means leaving the house by 6:15 a.m. before the sun breaks the horizon. My alarm is set for 4:30 but I awake from a pleasant dream at 4:10. Why must this happen? I would have very much appreciated twenty minutes more of sleep. I lay in bed even though I know I should just get up. But my bed is warm and toasty and the room is frigid. I turn my alarm off at 4:28 a.m. to avoid waking my husband and my day starts.
   I have no problem with the fried eggs the morning before, but today the eggs rumble around in my stomach causing quite the commotion while I make the drive in the dark from Tucson to Phoenix. Fewer things are worse in the realm of food than burping eggs for two hours. I think it is the coconut oil. I have no such problems with butter. There is a rare layer of fog that is clinging low to the ground stretching for miles atop the cotton fields which provides an air of mystery across the land. On this particular morning the heavy fog reminds me of growing up in Solvang, located in the Central Coast of California, and I reflect back across time to my morning commutes in high school, the visibility through the windshield limited, while I navigated the country roads made eerie by the creeping, opaque gray mist.

The village in which I grew up on the Central Coast of California—Solvang.

   A bunch of co-workers decide to head to Smashburger for lunch. I hold up the ordering line while I request multiple changes to a Cobb Salad. I despise it when places offer a Cobb salad, but they decide to make their own version of a classic. Now I know why Italy and France get so pissed off when chef's try to put their own stamp on famous regional dishes. Stay the line. Innovate elsewhere, or else...
   The burger chain's version the Cobb Salad includes cheddar cheese and buttermilk dressing and deletes the avocado (what?) and fries the egg (ummm... no). The girl at the register pokes around on the Point-of Sale in an effort to accommodate my requested changes. She deletes the Gorgonzola and shredded cheeses, swaps balsamic vinaigrette for the buttermilk dressing, and adds avocado. The egg stays. I always error on the side of protein. My co-workers, who are lined up behind me, begin hazing me, wanting to know what's taking so long with my order. I feel as if I'm channeling the ingredient-swapping character, Sally, played by Meg Ryan in When Sally Meet Harry. I call back to the line of people and explain that I'm high maintenance, but worth it. I refrain from carrying out the fake orgasm scene while we are all sitting at the very long table, although the team probably would have gotten a kick out of it. Or not.
   I arrive home at 6:00 p.m. I rejoice that we are eating out to celebrate my daughter receiving an offer letter from one of the top universities on her target list. As a reward for a job well done, where we eat is of Maddie's choosing. The winner is Union, an upscale pub at St. Phillip's Plaza. When we are seated at our booth, I cave and order red wine. Truly, it is the liquid of the Gods. We order chicken wings as an appetizer, to keep it at least somewhat Paleo friendly. I do my best to avoid the dips, but my chicken wing "slips" into the bleu cheese dressing two or three times. Creamy and delicious. I'll miss it until next time, whenever that might be. I debate between two entrées—Pot Roast or Pork Chop. The server pushes me towards the chop. The bone-in pork chop is served with a drizzle of gravy, warm bacon salad and mashed potatoes that are flavored with goat cheese. I figured if I'm going to cheat, I would at least keep my choice in the Paleo realm.
   After we finish our entrées, Maddie orders a dessert that is comprised of mascarpone cheese, a pistachio tuille and topped with a Luxoro cherry and cherry syrup. At Christmas I made an Old Fashioned with a Luxordo cherry, so I know just how delicious the cherries and syrup taste. I reminded myself that I had to draw the line somewhere, so I drew it at dessert. I watch and sip the last of my wine as Jay and Maddie methodically whittle away the creamy, crispy, sweet dessert until there are just pink streaks of cherry syrup on the white plate punctuated with a couple tiny crumbs of cookie. Truthfully, even though I love cherry-flavored desserts, I was still happily basking in the afterglow of mashed potato heaven.

Chicken Curry Salad with pineapple over shredded romaine lettuce. 
Day 6
Breakfast: Coffee and nothing else (my bad)
Lunch: Leftover Fried Cauliflower Rice with Pulled Pork, Sauteed Vegetables and Pineapple Chunks
Dinner: Curried Chicken Salad with Pineapple over Shredded Romaine Lettuce

   While sipping my "no-no" coffee, I page through the cookbook Against All Grains by Danielle Walker, seeking inspiration. I disparagingly comment to my husband, who is seated at the head of the table reading the newspaper, that Danielle is high on cauliflower as the basis for faux-rice and faux-totatoes. Jay detected from my tone that my newly minted fascination with cauliflower seemed to be finished. "Game over," I said. "Thank God," he replied. Jay's never been a fan of the cruciferous vegetable, although he has declared roasted cauliflower edible and even went so far as to call it quite good. So, I have to say, while not a fan, Jay's been quite game to try all the various versions of cooked cauliflower that I've put before him in the last week.
   I find that I am starving at 1:00 p.m. because I "forgot" to eat breakfast. The "forgetting" is an inside joke between my husband and me. Once upon a time, we had a friend who would "forget" to eat lunch. Since she is rail thin, I think it was just an excuse for her to skip lunch and instead scarf a big bag of kettle potato chips. Since I'm a person who enjoys eating three square meals a day, I never quite bought in to her "forgetting" to eat. However, every once in awhile it happens to me, like this morning, so I can't completely dismiss "forgetting" to eat, but it always seemed like a ridiculous excuse coming from her potato chip dusted lips.
   In my urgency to eat food, now that I'm starving, I resort to eating some of the leftover fried faux-rice. I actually like it better cold. The texture of the "rice" is better chilled. Maybe I was just so hungry I didn't care. Jay saw me eating the cold leftovers and remarked that I must really be enjoying my meal. Liberal use of sarcasm unites us in the game of life.
   Time to boil two chickens. Additionally, I have grand plans of making Thai Shrimp Bisque for dinner since I promised Linda it would be next week's post until I run up against a timing issue. I run behind preparing the ingredients for the chicken broth and then one thing leads to another and it's getting late and I will not be making Bisque for dinner. What to do, what to do. I decide to use the gently simmered chicken breasts to make Chicken Curry Salad. I already have homemade curry powder in the cupboard. And whaddya know, I have one apple and golden raisins. So, there I go again, breaking the Whole30 rules by adding honey to the dressing. I feel vindicated though because I make my own mayonnaise, which is our Paleo Aïoli recipe made without the garlic, capers or parsley. I've managed to stay Paleo, but not Whole30. 'Tis difficult.

The chicken looks prepared to try out for Riverdance. I swapped white wine for the beer in our Beer-Butt Chicken recipe and the hens are ready to go on the grill. I also like to coat the chickens with a smoked paprika rub and then drizzle with Frank's Hot Sauce.
Cauli-Rice Cous Cous Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette featuring vegetables and Kalamata olives.
Day 7
Breakfast: No-No Coffee and Scrambled Eggs with Diced Sausage and Salsa Garnish
Lunch: Leftover chicken curry salad
Dinner: Roasted "Wine Butt" Chicken, Half a Baked Potato and Cauli-Rice Cous Cous Salad

You should have seen my grocery shopping list for today. Vegetable after vegetable after vegetable and some fruit thrown in for good measure. My husband shops for the groceries and I cook. That's how we divide the duties of the business of feeding ourselves and our daughter. Over our many years together of wedded bliss, we determined through hard won experience that I spend more money grocery shopping than Jay. I'll spy a new food item and think, oh I need to try that. Maybe I can do X, Y or Z with this fun find. Jay, on the other hand, doesn't care about the hunt for new food. He only buys what's on the list. Nothing more and nothing less.
   When he brought in all the grocery bags I unloaded all the fruits and vegetables onto the kitchen table. I marveled at all the produce and wondered where I would store it all. It wasn't too big of a concern considering I have three refrigerators. I know, I know. Don't get me started. I have one refrigerator that is dedicated to bread making, but as my co-workers can attest, I haven't been
baking bread lately, even though they regularly pester me for a loaf of sourdough deliciousness. As the saying goes, get them hooked by giving away the first loaf for free and then it's the gravy train after that. Oh wait, I don't get paid for baking bread. If they lived closer they could buy loaves from our sister, Juliette. She is owner and chief baker of Guadalupe Baking Company in Bisbee, Arizona. If nothing else, it's a great excuse for a road trip from Phoenix to Bisbee to pick up an order of Juliette's almost famous wild yeast sourdough bread.

I have miles of fruits and veggies to put away after Jay
completes the weekly grocery shipping.
   I busily make sauerkraut today and store it in my new 5 Liter fermenting crock that Linda gave to me as a present. I feel pretty stoked to finally be fermenting vegetables. It has been a goal for a very long time so I'm starting the year off right. I snack on some of the ingredients as I prepare them. I like raw cabbage. I nibble on a carrot and a celery stick. When my daughter comes into the room, I feign a British accent and repeat the line that we love from Devil Wear's Prada. In the film, Emily Blunt's character, Emily, is perpetually trying to lose weight even though she is model thin. Emily laments, "...I'm on this new diet. Well, I don't eat anything and when I feel like I'm about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight." In my reciting of the line I swap a celery stick for the cube of cheese. Maddie repeats the line one more time for good measure. We laugh in unison. Maddie and I always laugh at the same jokes. I'm always thankful we share the same sense of humor.

My daughter, Maddie—the apple of my eye.
   My intention is to make Thai Shrimp Bisque for dinner. Between finishing the sauerkraut mixture and making Cauli-Rice, I fall behind. Fortunately, I have two chickens on the grill. The plan is to eat the chickens throughout the week, by adding protein to lunch or dinner entrées, such as Jay's favorite chicken salad. Instead I switch gears and the chickens quickly become the star of tonight's meal. Thankfully, I popped potatoes in the oven earlier as a proactive measure against Maddie not caring for the Bisque. She doesn't really like shrimp, and I did not want to push it on her 'cause I'm not one of those parents that insist that my child adore everything I make food-wise. That would be great, but not realistic. I try to deal in reality whenever possible. My fantasy life is not rich.
   After all my experiments with cauliflower this last week, I think blanching the processed cauliflower for 90 seconds and then plunging it into an ice bath is the way to go. One medium head of cauliflower makes about 4.5 cups of "rice". Now, the question becomes what to do with it. I grab The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs for inspiration. If you don't have this book sitting on the shelf next to your cook books, and you like to cook, I highly recommend that you buy it post haste. I scroll through the index until I find the subject, and then flip to pages 97 and 98 to review the various "chef approved" ingredients that complement cauliflower. I note that flavor affinities include lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil and parsley. Since Jay just completed this weeks shopping, I have all the ingredients readily available.
   While watching The Golden Globes from the pass through window between the kitchen and family room, I make the salad on the fly. We all like the cauliflower cous cous salad a lot, even Jay, who dishes himself three helpings as the meal progresses. I root for Michael Keaton and Kevin Spacey, both winners, even though they have been the underdogs for years. I root for Frances McDormand who played the title character of the book that I'm reading, Olive Kitteridge. When I read the book, I picture Frances in my mind, although I have not seen the mini series on HBO. Everyone prattled on and on about Amal looking bored with George's "office party", but Frances looked even more disenchanted than Mrs. Clooney. I thought, that's how I must look after a fight with my husband. Maybe Frances wants to wring Joel's neck. It's so much fun to speculate about something I know absolutely nothing about. Back to more important matters than Hollywood royalty.
   Ironically, I notice later, as I'm putting The Flavor Bible back on the shelf, that those ingredients are the flavor affinities for carrots. Now I know that those ingredients also work well with Cauli-Rice Cous Cous Salad a la Michelle. Whole30 wise, where I went down hill was with the potato. I slathered it with sour cream, just enough not to feel cheated, and then sprinkled a wee bit of shredded cheddar cheese. Paul Jaminet would pat me on the head and say I'm doing a-okay.

Stay tuned... there's more in the days ahead from my Paleo Journal.
Linda takes a surprise "cheap shot" of me at my local farmer's market when I was picking
up salad greens for Maddie's 18th birthday in Tucson this past December. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...