Someone’s Hungry.

organicspread
I’m on a cleanse. A surprisingly stringent clean-eating detox from sugar, caffeine, gluten, and a bunch of other delicious things. Today is day four. Things look grim. Sentences are short.

The Why: reconnected with old high-school friend who’s a consultant for the company that makes the detox products, facebook post called for bootcamp recruits, I was feeling pudgy. An email and a phone call later I found myself looking optimistically at thirty days without coffee, bread, sugar, most fruit, and a commitment to eat only organic produce and grass-fed meat. It’s January, after all; the parties season is over and I bore quickly. As noted, I’ve thickened a bit over the holidays and have been feeling rather sludgy. Why not take on a complete lifestyle change I know nothing about? My main concern was having to clean my blender so frequently.

Right now my main concern is not emptying the half-gallon bucket of organic almonds I’m cradling like a newborn directly into my mouth with the aid of a shovel and a mallet. My next greatest concern is that I can’t put off my second trip to Trader Joe’s any longer. I am the only person I know who loathes the Trader Joe experience, and would like to sit down with Trader Joe, cousin Trader Giotto, brother-in law Trader Jose and third cousin once removed Trader Ming, and make them justify the layout of their space, which gives the impression that Rodney Dangerfield raced through the store in a naked, meth-induced rage while strewing about the contents of three enormous duffel bags.

The produce section’s open floor plan translates into shopping cart traffic chaos, but you’re still safer there than if you’re stuck in bumper to bumper cart traffic within “the grid.” Two and a half actual aisles constructed out of various shelving materials, wood planks, metal woven baskets, wooden barrels and wicker containers aplenty offer the most nerve-wracking, cart-inching, categorically confusing dry goods shopping experience possible. Organic dark-chocolate-covered boysenberries wink ironically at their neighboring bags of quinoa and flax, and an open freezer counter casts a pallid and not at all tempting glow from beneath. I almost lost my handbag, so to speak, when I finally reached the four-foot wide designated rice shelf, and found they were out of brown rice. It’s enough that I’m expected to wash it, I don’t need the main carb of my daily plate (YES, PLATE) to be difficult to obtain. I’ll see you in hell, eventually, Trader Joe, but for now I’ll see you next week.

The daily plan involves a shake and some tea for breakfast, then either the same shake or a meal for lunch. Here’s the catch. “Meal” doesn’t mean a nice grilled tomato, bacon and cheese with some Cape Cod chips, or a small spread of muenster cheese, pepperoni, club crackers, pickles and grapes. No, “meal” means that half of the plate’s real estate is flat-out lost to non-starchy vegetables. A quarter of the plate should be a fist-sized portion of lean protein, which gives you an idea of the plate size we’re dealing with from the start. The last quarter of the plate is 2/3 high-fiber carbs and low-glycemic fruits, and 1/3 healthy fats. So much fun that I opt for the lunch shake and a bonus handful of almonds. What’s that sound? Pay no attention, it’s just my fury. I can’t seem to overcome a block involving the allowed grains, so I’ve been going full-fruit (rather, full-green apple) on that section. Healthy fats really just means nuts, so I’ve been getting by for the first few days with the following salad, accompanied of course, by my meat fist, as my sole solid meal.

The Healthiest Salad I’ve Ever Eaten

All organic:
One substantial handful of spring mix
1 diced green apple (organic green apples are tiny)
1 small of handful almonds, cut in half
1 small handful of diced veggie mix (carrots, peppers, radishes, cabbage, jicama, broccoli)
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Mix the greens together with the salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil until all leaves are coated. Add other ingredients and toss. Appreciate that this is only for thirty days, and that this particular lack of enthusiasm is the feeling of getting a little healthier. Enjoy!

Aside from my irritability and general snark toward the diet part, I’m keeping with it because I’ve noticed a significant change in my energy-level, and I’ve already lost a pound, not surprisingly. I’m blessed and cursed with an innate one-day-at-a-time outlook, so I’m always aware that tomorrow may find me in my van, parked outside Market Basket, with half a dozen of their store-baked blueberry muffins and a carton of buttermilk.

I hear it’s fantastic, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Best Vegetarian Chili I Never Tasted

I love a challenge. I hosted a baby shower for the radiant and ever-gracious Jess D last Sunday, and it was a rare occasion to find more vegetarians and vegans on the guest list than otherwise. Regretfully, I may have harbored a tinge of culinary resentment toward the sans-meat crowd back when I had endless, uninterrupted prep time before parties to spend on crown roasts, sushi, and various fowl. But now that I average two diaper changes while waiting for my morning coffee to percolate, I’m grateful whenever the time-consuming task of meat preparation is rendered null.

Obviously, my tried and true Vegetarian Appeasement made the spread, but I needed one more vegetarian entree, having been physically unable to hold back from applying the bacon topping to You Ain’t Leavin’ Mac & Cheese. Somehow, I was able to locate the recipe for a meatless chili I made six Labor Days ago, combing through search results on Epicurious until I found one with a familiar, ridiculously long list of ingredients.

‘Vores of all walks claimed to enjoy the chili, but one should never take guests’ compliments as honest criticism. I’ll admit that I don’t eat chili of any kind, ever, so I had no idea what was going on in those bowls. However, Mr. P revisited the leftovers twice, legitimizing it as an official victory.

I find it inordinately satisfying to approach meals I prepare and events I host as competitions with myself. None of my children put up a fair fight at anything other than Candy Land, and I no longer work in an office environment (where competitive baking is always encouraged), so I have no choice but to set my own bar progressively higher in order to routinely best past selves. A disconcerting side effect of my approach to staying sharp has been my inner monologue’s shift to a dialogue, with definite manager and underling roles.

In addition to barking orders at my underling and maintaining a high level of hustle in the kitchen, my manager enforces our unnecessarily rigorous weekly schedule, ensures everyone is dressed and fed by eight, and gets us all strapped in the car and on our way by nine. My underling wonders if my manager has been overbooking us lately, but the former doesn’t get a say. Fortunately for my underling, my manager (who’s also in charge of menu planning) is a voracious carnivore, and while this chili is now a standard in our vegetarian repertoire, we’re still not eating it.

I like the idea of vegetables…

Squash Savers


Not only was it a delightful day in all ways save for infant temperaments, but one packed full of smug superiority, my second favorite vice. BK and I got an invigoratingly early jump start on the day, giving a friend a lift to work at eight, then we slowed down by the house as Mr. P chucked in the girls, and off we traipsed to our local farm where we fed goats and bunnies and picked a pound of nice fat blueberries. I’ve learned to bring Wet Ones along on our pickings, as Billy the Kid brazenly over-samples to the point of facial evidence, and I dislike receiving cool looks from any sort of help. Back home, we picked our first summer squash, and I created the following recipe to render the yellow vegetable adequately palatable, mostly by masking the crap out of it with ingredients I like, such as eggs and crackers. The resulting side dish was victoriously satisfying, but even more delicious was the nap I unintentionally took with the girls after lunch.

I have a generous but firm quiet-time policy to ensure my babies get at least twenty minutes of sleep during the day, and BK can either nap with me on the couch or play quietly in the office or his room with a variety of toy options, including (and I will not apologize) the iPad. But even the ultimate attention magnet only buys a half hour at most of distraction for a three-year-old, and I usually get just a short lie-down before I have to engage El Torito in something far away from my napping time-bombs. So I awoke disoriented and suspicious two hours later, and followed a trail of strewn berries into the kitchen to find my little man closing the fridge door, hands clawed and straining to transport many more blueberries than they were able to hold. Evidently, BK had quite a little afternoon for himself. After ditching his pants in the bathroom, he based himself on the office recliner with the iPad, making routine trips to the fridge to reload, while watching some sort of ridiculous anime in Japanese he found on the hulu app.

12 1/4″ slices from the widest part of a summer squash
1 C finely crushed butter crackers
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C grated mozzarella
1/4 C grated Parmesan
Canola oil

Combine the cracker crumbs with the spices and salt and spread them out on a plate. Heat about a quarter cup of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once it’s hot, dip a squash slice into the egg, coating completely, then lay it on the crumbs and turn/pack to coat. Put it in the hot oil and repeat with the remaining slices. After all have been in for 1 minute, start flipping the slices over with tongs, beginning with the first one that went in. Once flipped, let them cook for another minute or until they’re crisp and golden-brown – no amateur pale spots!

Transfer the slices to a plate lined with paper towel to blot the excess oil, then arrange them on a rack placed over a cookie sheet. Top each with a sprinkle of parmesan and mozzarella, and broil them on high at the second-highest rack level for a minute or two until the cheese just starts to brown. Serve them scalding hot to avoid any trace of actual vegetable, and don’t forget to hide your berries!

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