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.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Tucson Botanical Gardens and Cold Brewed Mint Iced Tea

My Traveling Tales by Michelle

   "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  — Nathaniel Hawthorne
My husband and I enjoyed a refreshing lunch on the patio at Café Botanica,
the restaurant nestled inside the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
   When my husband and I purchased our home thirteen years ago, I willfully ignored the fact that the large back yard was a barren landscape (even though the ground was completely covered by gravel). I was undaunted by the thought of master planning and then planting what is a fairly big area, even though friends and family tried to forewarn us. A blank canvas, I thought, in which we will create an inviting environment to attract birds and butterflies and to entertain our friends. What thrilled me most was the unencumbered view of the Tucson mountains. I minimized the labor intensive effort that would be required. I also ignored what would likely be a steep financial cost of putting in the watering system, patios and landscape. At times, ignorance truly is bliss. Until reality sets in—that is.

The Tucson Botanical Garden features a butterfly exhibit in a greenhouse filled with orchids.
   What happened first, is pretty much what always happens, I suspect. We ignored the needs of the yard in favor of the house. My husband and I agreed that the "miles and miles" of dusty rose pink carpeting would need to be replaced. And since we would have to live with that awful carpeting day-in and day-out, I wanted it gone sooner rather than later. It was definitely the priority project. I also wanted to paint over the white walls and add lots of happy color. From an operations point of view, the painting needed to happen prior to the installation of new flooring. As the saying goes, one thing leads to another.
   Similar to my thoughts on landscaping, I was likewise unfazed by the prospect of remodeling. I grew up with a father who subscribed to the do-it-yourself lifestyle before there was ever a Home Depot to promote such activities. I don't recall my dad hiring anyone to do anything on the houses or yards of my childhood homes. He had the tools and the know how to initiate and complete just about any type of home improvement project.
   After my husband and I were settled into our home, I'd giddily read through Phoenix Home and Garden and Martha Stewart Living seeking artistic inspiration. Pages ripped from the magazines decorated the refrigerator and were a constant reminder that we had big plans ahead that needed to get underway. I set about to convert our stucco and tile track home into a suburban shabby chic palace. I dreamed big, planned big and then finally got down to the execution phase.
Two views of the same butterfly inside the Butterfly Magic exhibit. 
   What happened next was years of toil punctuated with multiple starts and stops. Energy ebbed and flowed as did our family income. At the start of the project we ripped out all the downstairs carpeting and the linoleum in the kitchen. What remained was a lot of stubborn glue that needed to be removed from the concrete floors. The work was slow and tedious as we tried a variety of nasty cleaning agents that did not work. Frustrated, I called my dad, the do-it-yourself guru, for advice. He spoke out loud as his brain systematically tried out and discarded several possible solutions. Finally, he asked, "Did you try just water? Most of those glues are water based." Turns out hot water and lots of elbow grease did the job.
   Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a business contact that I had not spoken to in years. In the interceding time, his business has grown exceptionally. I complimented him on his success and he replied, something to this affect, "The funny thing is success is never linear. The road to success has its ups and downs and there are always obstacles to overcome. Oh, look, watch out for the snake pit. And, darn, we took a left when we should have turned right." This line of thought applies to home improvement projects, too. You think that your on the right path until oops! something happens that sets you back and there's a new challenge to overcome before success is hard won.

   Once the glue was dealt with, I finally started painting. Initially I thought painting the ceiling a light blue would add the novelty pop of color pop that I desired. Even though I tried to minimize the work by painting just the ceiling, it in itself was no small job. The front room is made grand by a vaulted ceiling. I didn't like the idea of painting the highest point of the ceiling from an extension ladder. I tapped into my inner Michelangelo and used scaffolding instead. Sometimes I stood on the scaffolding and at other times I laid on it depending on where in the room I was working in relation to the slope of the ceiling. After I completed painting the ceiling,  with a keen eye I evaluated my work. Now this may sound odd, but the tones of the paint did not go well together, even though the ceiling was a light turquoise and the walls were white. The hues were definitely a mismatch and that's when I conceded to myself that the walls needed painting, too. I had just talked myself into about a year's work at my less than part-time pace.

The children scurrying around the Butterfly Magic greenhouse were
highly skilled at finding the deeply hued dart frogs.
   While vacillating over the color palette for the walls, my sister Linda recommended that I watch the Julie Taymor directed film, Frida starring Salma Hayek, to pay close attention to the set decoration. Linda was right. I found inspiration in the vivid colors of Frida's home and paintings and decided upon the colors typical of a Talavera painted plate: cobalt blue, yellow, orange and green.
   Applying multiple colors of paint is tedious work because where the various colors meet, the lines must be perfect. Thankfully I have a steady hand, but I still needed to use lots of blue tape to ensure perfect transitions between adjacent colors. Even then, there were too many touch ups to count. We lived with concrete floors for the years that I painted. I didn't mind it much. My daughter Maddie thought it was wonderful when she and her friends donned roller skates and created havoc throughout the first floor of the house playing tag.
  While our remodeling projects extended across the years, our lives went on. Amongst the chaos, we entertained. At times I'd use the good china even though there might be scaffolding in the front room and plastic sheeting protecting areas in the living room. Several friends told me that I was an inspiration, that they couldn't conceive of hosting events at their house unless everything was perfect. If I waited for everything to be perfect, then there would have been no parties and no fun... for seemingly forever.
   I set up long tables in the front room and hosted themed parties. One of the niceties of our lifestyle was that I didn't have to worry about the kids spilling food or drinks on the concrete floor. I continued to decorate for the seasons. There were heavily adorned Christmas trees to grace the front window and a full house of our family from near and far who stayed with us to enjoy the season. We hosted New Year's Eve celebrations with dance parties in the living room. We celebrated Valentine's Day with family and friends with tables covered with lace and set with vases of tulips. The Easter bunny came and went. Barbecue season rolled around. The fire pit got a lot of action. We did the things we wanted to do and our friends and family joined in the fun.

   While I dreamt of a suburban shabby chic palace, my husband dreamed of creating an oasis in the barren scape of the gravel yard. Sometimes I spied him at the kitchen table with his eyes directed to the yard, a far away expression on his face, and I knew he was painting a picture in his mind of a fully landscaped, functional space for relaxing and entertaining. A gorgeous, green, manicured respite from the world featuring mature trees, a gurgling fountain, a dramatic fireplace and an extended patio softly illuminated with strung lights swaying gently in a soft breeze. I know this because he often draws master plans that look like pages torn from a football play book. He verbally translates the written x's, o's, and arrows that are the markings for trees and shrubs and points of architectural interest.
  The yard waited while I finished the painting. After the painting was finally completed, we embarked upon staining the concrete floors in the kitchen and living room areas. Hindsight is 20/20 and I wish we had subbed this work to a professional. The extended physical labor and repetitive motions of mopping the floors during the staining and cleaning resulted in a rotator cuff injury. When I asked the doctor how long it would take my shoulder to heal, he said that it would hurt for a very long time. So long, in fact, that one day I would wake up and realize that my shoulder did not hurt anymore. He was right. My shoulder did in fact hurt for so long that I was not aware when the pain had stopped. I know the pain continued for at least a year, although I was only seriously debilitated for a month or so. Thankfully I did not need surgery. I just had to grit my teeth and bear it and use my arm.

   The house stayed a work in progress for many years until we were forced to complete the work. We finally buckled down and finished the tile and carpet when we put our house up for sale in 2009 when we were planning to move back to California. For all the years we have lived in our house, the backyard is the project that is continually pushed aside. The decision making process usually goes something like this: do we want to get braces for our daughter this year or landscape the back yard? Braces it is. Shall we go on vacation this year or landscape the back yard? Ummm, vacation, please. Everything always seems to take priority over the yard.
   In preparation for placing the house on the market to sell, we planted ten trees in the backyard and some bougainvillea. The caliche soil in Arizona is so stubborn that we had to rent a jack hammer to assist with "digging" the holes for the trees. Crazy! In addition to the planted trees there were also numerous potted fruit trees placed throughout the yard and smaller groupings of herbs and succulents in various shapes and sizes. We did just enough to make the realtor happy. When we took our house off the market in 2010 and decided to stay in Tucson, it was nice to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We like our brightly hued walls, the finished floors, and our partially landscaped yard.

Apricot Mallow is a drought resistant plant that is gorgeous and requires little water.

   On a late Saturday afternoon, Jay and I often celebrate happy hour by sitting on retro-style metal chairs that are situated under the eucalyptus trees that provide ample shade. Our conversations often turn to the yard. We debate where to plant more trees and whether we should still pour a meandering concrete walking path that will run the perimeter of the yard. We'd like the dirt area between the concrete path and the wall to be planted beds with creeping ground-cover and flowering shrubs. We discuss the materials we could choose to build the outdoor fireplace and living room area. And, what about a pizza oven? It still sounds great even though we've been eating Paleo as of late. There are so many options to consider and so much money needed to create such an inviting space.

This is the seat of a mosiac bench that was installed in the Tucson Botanical Garden
as a tribute for a family's loved one that passed away. 
   While our landscape plans are still in flux, we enjoy finding inspiration in Tucson's various public gardens. Our favorite places to visit time and again are the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tohono-Chul Park and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. All three parks do a wonderful job of providing identification of the plants and trees planted throughout the landscapes. While we wander, Jay and I record plant names in notebooks and capture photos with our iPhones to record our preferences. We always say this is the year we will finish the yard and once again spring is well underway and we are still dreaming the dream.

   As a couple what Jay and I know "for sure" is that we don't want to live in this house forever. We will be empty nesters in the fall after our daughter leaves home to attend college. We may downsize. I fantasize about less upkeep and definitely less time cleaning. A single-story home sounds great—no climbing up and down the stairs a hundred times a day. I am no longer naïve about the consequences of both time and money associated with the do-it-yourself home improvement movement. I do not desire weekends filled with home renovation projects. I'd rather spend my time on photography or writing or working on a new recipe in the kitchen. Or sitting in the lovely garden of my next home that the previous owners spent their time, money and effort to create. No one will be able to say that I am not grateful. Oh, I will be—I promise.

Cold Brewed Mint Iced Tea

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

by Michelle

   "The majority of modern medicines orginate in nature. Although some mushrooms have been used in therapies for thousands of years, we are still discovering new potential medicines hidden within them." ~Paul Stamets

   Oregano's Pizza Bistro is a Chicago-style pizza restaurant that just so happens to offer really excellent stuffed portobello mushrooms. According to the menu, the big caps are stuffed with sausage, marinara, basil, four cheese blend and diced roma tomatoes. This is my take on their popular dish.
   Since I've been eating Paleo-style, I threatened my family that I was going to stuff the mushrooms with riced cauliflower. Horror ensued. After a recent jaunt of over-imbibing cauliflower during the Whole30 Challenge, my husband and daughter raised the white flag. And waived it vigorously. Surely there would be anarchy in the house if I proceeded with that plan. I do wonder though, if jazzed-up cauli-rice might make a great vegetarian filling. I didn't add a dab of marinara like Oregano's, but I may try that next time. My basil pesto might also be great smeared on the bottom of the cap along with the balsamic. So many variations, so little time.

Gigantic mushrooms are ready to pop in the oven for a quick twenty minute bake.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

   Although I have been eating primarily Paleo since February, I have continued to eat some dairy. I tolerate dairy well and love cheese too much to give it up.

6 portobello mushrooms
2 pounds bulk sausage, I used Italian chicken
2 strips bacon, diced; optional
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 big carrot, quartered and finely diced
2 medium celery stalks, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeds removed and diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 big handful parsley, minced (about 1/2 cup)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar
about 1/3 cup grated parmesan
about 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Aluminum foil or parchment paper
Baking sheet + rack

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Gently fry bacon so it releases fat and the bacon cooks without burning. Once the fat is rendered, add the onions. Cook for a couple minutes then add carrot, celery and bell pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the sausage. Crumble the sausage with a spatula into smaller pieces. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add garlic. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked through. Turn heat off and add parsley.

Drizzle balsamic glaze for a sweet and tart balance to the rich filling. 
2. While the sausage mixture is cooking, prepare the mushrooms. Carefully remove stems with a paring knife and discard. Gently remove brown gills from undersides of mushrooms using a spoon; discard gills. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a rack on top of the aluminum foil. Put the mushrooms on the rack and set aside.
3. Drizzle mushroom caps with balsamic glaze, or brush on a thin layer of balsamic vinegar. Divide the filling among the 6 mushroom caps.
4. Bake 15 minutes, then remove caps from oven and sprinkle the tops with grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella. Return the mushrooms to the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

The mushrooms pair nicely with Caesar Salad.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cauli-Rice Cous Cous Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

by Michelle

"A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe." ~Thomas Keller

    Since the beginning of the New Year, I've been on a bit of a cauliflower bender as part of a whole foods eating challenge. The goal is to omit refined sugars and "unsafe" carbohydrates from my diet.   What I have discovered, and rather quickly I might add, is that cauliflower is the character actor of the vegetable crowd. My husband isn't a big fan of the vegetable. Nor my daughter. Therefore, over the years I've passed over cauliflower in favor of just about every other vegetable available, except Brussel sprouts. I'm still learning to like those little buggers and I confess that I am not trying very hard. Bacon can't even make those little cabbage heads worth eating.
   Surprisingly, the fairly astringent flavor and blank-page look of cauliflower can transform into something almost unrecognizable from its God given form. In addition to being consumed raw, the florets can be transfigured through just about every cooking method imaginable, including: baking, boiling, braising, deep-frying, puréeing, roasting, sautéing, simmering, and steaming.

My kitchen table is covered almost entirely with a week's worth of fruits and veggies.
   The metamorphosis is complete when you see in front of you carbless "faux" mashed potatoes, rice, cous cous, and even bagels (who would of ever thought?). This is a dream come true for people who are fighting the good fight against consuming gluten and heavily industrialized processed food. It's hard though because we've been sold a bill of goods of how low-fat diets are good for us, including heavy helpings of cereal grains and legumes. What is abundantly clear is that our nation is not healthy and the benefactors of our populaces' food addictions and subsequent health problems are big pharma and big agriculture. Change will only come as a bi-product of individuals making better choices for themselves and their families.

   After consuming cauliflower in just about every way possible, including making the bagels, my favorite preparation, besides simply roasting florets in a very hot oven, is quickly shocking "riced" cauliflower in boiling water, then quickly stopping the cooking process in a cold water bath. This is the method I will use in the future when making cauli-rice for any dish, whether it's playing a supporting role for a stir fry, or is the lead ingredient for a side dish, such as this post for a cous cous inspired salad. If I try anything else cauliflower-wise in the near future I do believe my family will revolt.

Cauli-Rice Cous Cous Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Whole30 Challenge: Michelle's Paleo Journal, Days 29-30 + Wrap-Up

by Michelle

   "The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things." ~ Ernest Dimnet

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms will fill you up without weighing you down.
Week 5

Day 29
Breakfast: Bulletproof® Coffee made with Kerrygold Grass-Fed Unsalted Butter
Lunch: Scrambled Eggs with Sausage
Dinner: Big Batch Chicken Soup

   What took me so long? I've been hearing about butter whirled with coffee for awhile now, since it's all the rage at the moment. After considering it for a couple of weeks I finally took the plunge and made Bulletproof® Coffee this morning. And, the best part, I added no sweeteners to my coffee. After four weeks of enjoying my "no-no" coffee every morning, I took steps to make a positive change. If I can keep this up, I will have altered my morning routine for the better. Blending the butter  grass-fed butter, that is  with the coffee in my Vitamix produced a foamy top layer similar to a lattemy fav!

I finally made Cantonese Spicy Chinese Chicken Salad.
One of the crave inducing salads from my days in Silicon Valley.
Day 30
Breakfast: Bulletproof® Coffee made with Kerrygold Grass-Fed Unsalted Butter
Lunch: Big Batch Chicken Soup
Dinner: Chinese Chicken Salad

   I jump on the scale this morning and discover that I've lost three pounds. Any weight loss is great, but I was secretly hoping to shed at least one pound a week. But to be fair, I only exercised once and did not get anywhere near 10,000 steps a day. Plus, I still consumed some dairy, enjoyed honey and imbibed wine every so often. Therefore, I must concede, it is great to shed a few pounds when the only change was making certain food choices.
   When I lost a significant amount of weight in 2008 I was at the gym four days a week, lifting weights with a friend. The weekly regimen included two days upper body and two days of lower body. Many Saturday mornings I was back at the gym for an hour long yoga session. And, I'd treadmill at home at least a couple of days a week. I was also a Weight Watchers fanatic, counting every last point. Since Weight Watchers celebrates and encourages the use of artificial sweeteners and low-fat foods, it really is necessary to eat every couple of hours. I didn't consume artificial sweeteners, but I did eat low-fat salad dressings and other low-fat options. And, believe me, eat a leafy green salad with a little protein and drizzled with low-fat dressing and you'll be ravenous in a couple of hours.

This time, for making a big batch of chicken broth, I added fresh ginger, anise tops and
thyme to the usual add-ins of carrots, celery, leeks, white onions, Italian parsley,
bay leaves and whole peppercorns.
Learnings for Phase 2:

1. Think globally, act locally.
   There's much to love about traditional cuisines from around the globe. Many of the favored dishes from around the world are naturally Paleo, or can be made so with some simple substitutions. The next step is to make more new dishes to keep eating interesting.

2. Do better with putting to work modern technology—crock pots and my new pressure cooker.
   Slow cooking is a good thing and I need to do more of it in my kitchen. On the other hand,  it's also great to speed things up. My new pressure cooker will prepare bone broths in a third of the time.

3. Snacks aren't hyper-critical—but still worth planning to carry along.
   I always tote along nuts when I'm about and about. A few additional options are needed. Jerky is always a favorite. Maybe I'll make kale chips. Rosemary seasoned almonds are a winner and are easy to transport.

4. Go Primal to stay in the Paleo realm.
   I'll be a happier person with some dairy in my life.  Unsalted grass-fed butter is amazingly delicious. A little grated parmesan or cheddar used as a garnish for Italian and Mexican dishes is mighty tasty. And, of course, plain yogurt is so good in so many dishes, including Chicken Tikka Masala and Greek Tzatziki.

Bullet Coffee made by blending together stove-top espresso and
Kerrygold unsalted grass-fed butter.
5. Prepare Bulletproof® Coffee or Salvation Sisters' Coconut Oil Hot Chocolate for sustenance upon waking.
   Making sure I start the day with two tablespoons of grass-fed butter or two tablespoons of coconut oil (or a combination of both) blended into my coffee will ensure that I'm getting enough healthy fats in my day. It's kind of like an exercise routine, get it done in the morning and it requires no further attention the rest of the day.

6. Continue to limit alcohol.
   Abstaining from alcohol is fairly effortless until a Friday night rolls around. Every seven days like clock work I desire a nice dinner out and two glasses of red wine. I notice a marked increase in energy after dinner on the nights I avoid alcohol. After cleaning the dinner dishes, I return to writing, reading or photo editing, quiet activities that relax me before going to bed at a reasonable time that will hopefully afford me eight hours of sound sleep.

Turkey meatloaf is lightened with coconut cream, chopped spinach and carrots.
My daughter was disappointed I served Faux-Tatoes instead of the real thing. Me too.
7. Adopt an exercise routine.
   Alleviating stress must become a priority. But even more necessary, is the urgent need to offset all the sitting in my day-to-day routine whether it's working at a laptop or driving hither and dither across Arizona. A Fitbit might be in order to encourage me to walk 10,000 steps a day, at a minimum. Hubby and I did manage to take one walk together in the greater outdoors. We should do that more often, especially when the weather is so beautiful in the desert during the winter and spring months. There will be plenty of time to walk on the treadmill once the heat descends upon us in late May.

8. Eat more probiotics.
   Thanks to my sister, Linda, I am now the proud owner of a 5-Litre fermenting crock. I have my first batch of sauerkraut fermenting, but it won't be ready until mid March. In the meantime, I need to make sure I ingest more fermented foods for a healthier lifestyle. In addition I plan to supplement with Bio-K or Jarro-Dophilus.

My husband and I watching the sun set at the glorious Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
9. Escape into the greater outdoors.
   I've been holed up in my house on weekends for the past two months. Time to plan outings for a Saturday or Sunday to visit new destinations and to return to a few of my favorite places, such as the Antiques Fair, Tohono Chul Park and The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Nearly two months have passed since my husband and I finished the Whole30 challenge. While I certainly won't be nominated poster girl for the movement, with my various missteps and stumbles along the way, I did successfully interrupt my eating patterns and became even more conscious of the food choices that I make.
  Unlike other folks I know, my first course of business after the challenge ended was not to stuff myself with pizza or snarf a bunch of donuts. And, while I am not 100% Paleo, I am continuing to be careful about what I choose to eat. Soups made of bone broths, salads drizzled with homemade dressings, and vegetable-fruit smoothies are in constant rotation. I finally stopped adding honey to my coffee, but only because I discovered Bullet coffee. A tablespoon of honey every morning adds up to just shy of 23 cups over the course of a year. That's nearly 1-1/2 gallons. Small changes yield big results over time.

After two months of patiently waiting, homemade sauerkraut is ready
to move from the fermenting crock to glass storage jars.

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
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...