Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

One of the disadvantages to my particular brain is that I have a terrible memory. TERRIBLE. An unanticipated benefit to this blog is that I have a record of lots of things that I might otherwise forget. (If only I were more disciplined about writing daily! Or if only I could STICK TO JOURNALING.) 

My poor memory extends to food as well as life in general. Outside of a handful of meals, I feel like my mind goes blank when I try to think of things I’ve enjoyed eating. That persists despite my (mostly) regular Dinners This Week posts, which theoretically should offer a ready list of great options to put on my meal plan each week. 

And yet… sometimes I see a meal I have planned and presumably eaten (although – Confession Time, it is quite rare that I make all the meals I plan each week) and I cannot for the life of me remember whether it was a hit or not! 

For a while, I tried to post updates on the blog, so that I could go back and read whether a certain dinner recipe was a hit or not. But I have not been consistent about doing that. 

So I am going to try something new. If I make a recipe that my husband and I both love, I am going to post it here. Just a big ol’ running list of dinners that were excellent. That way I have a go-to resource of meals that I have made before and enjoyed. Will I keep this up? I’m going to guess “not reliably.” And this isn’t to say I won’t continue to find and try brand-new recipes! Novelty is one of the main reasons I am able to keep plugging forward with making dinner night after night after night. But sometimes it’s nice to pick from a list of Tried And True Options.

Anyway: here’s a list of Reliably Delicious Dinners and Other Culinary Hits to start from, along with any notes I included with my follow-up of the recipe. (There has to be a better way to organize the lists, but I sorted the recipes out into some rough categories and then alphabetized them by recipe name.) 


  • Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce: This has become my immediate family’s traditional Christmas dinner. Double all the sauce ingredients because the sauce is amazing.
  • Chili: I should post a recipe for this.
  • Garlic Herb Marinated Oven Roasted Steak: I use top sirloin steaks, which I prefer to flank steak.
  • Instant Pot Hamburgers: We put these in the oven to broil for a very short time before putting them on buns.
  • Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Ragu: Decadent and rich. I use tomato puree instead of crushed tomatoes.
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce: Brown a pound of ground beef – say that five times fast – with half a diced onion and as much garlic as makes your heart sing. Add a jar of Ragu pasta sauce, a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, a palm-full of each dried basil and dried oregano, a few shakes of Tabasco, a few shakes of cayenne, and some salt and pepper. Simmer for as long as you can stand it. Eat over pasta of your preferred shape.




  • Best Ever BBQ Ribs: You can make these a day or so in advance before slathering them with sauce and grilling them. I highly recommend using your favorite BBQ sauce in a jar instead of making the sauce from scratch per the recipe; I find the recipe version to be quite salty and it’s just an extra step when you can use perfectly great sauce in a jar.
  • Chipotle Marinated Pork Chops: I double the chipotle in the marinade so that there is a little extra “pan sauce” to drizzle over the cooked pork. I love me a pan sauce.
  • Crispy Pork Carnitas: Definitely best when you crisp the shredded pork in the oven before serving.
  • Oven Baked Pork Chops with Potatoes: Most often, I make these without the potatoes although they are delicious together. The sauce is what makes these pork chops sing. 
  • Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork: I serve the tangy shredded pork over rice with caramelized onions, feta cheese, and I do Kalamata olives and my husband does sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes if I am feeling fancy I will include some hummus and pita, and maybe some artichoke hearts.
  • Slow Cooker BBQ Pork: Add a pork tenderloin, about a cup of BBQ sauce, a diced onion, and as much garlic as makes your heart happy to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred. I slather the pork onto a baked potato. My husband prefers it on a King’s Hawaiian bun with coleslaw
  • Soy Ginger Pulled Pork with Tangy Sesame SlawThe slaw is essential.


  • Black Bean Burritos: Taco-seasoned black beans wrapped in flour tortillas and draped in shredded cheddar, then oven baked at 425 degrees F for 12 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top with shredded lettuce, diced onion, sour cream, and lots of hot sauce.
  • Chickpea Bowls: I make a bunch of the spice mixture (½ Tbsp each of cumin, coriander, and garam masala; 1 tsp of cardamom; ½ tsp of paprika; and ¼ tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, and fenugreek) in advance, so I can use it on a whim. I also pre-make (and freeze in ice cube trays) a batch of the ginger garlic sauce. When these two things are already in my cupboard/freezer, this is super easy to make. (And the end result is well worth the fuss.) I add sliced bell peppers to the final chickpea mixture, along with sliced jalapenos and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Chickpea Curry: My husband and I feel that this doesn’t produce enough sauce, as it’s written. However, I think if you doubled the sauce, it would be TOO saucy. And you can’t do one-and-a-half portions, because you’d be stuck with a half can of coconut milk and I for one don’t want to waste it or measure it out in the first place. So we decided on halving the chickpeas. If you jack up the veggie quotient, I think you won’t even miss the second can of chickpeas.
  • Gigi Hadid Spicy Vodka Pasta
  • Goat Cheese and Mushroom Pizza with Arugula and Onion Jam: I typically use store-bought dough.
  • Grilled Mushroom Salad Sub Sandwiches: I skip the roasted red peppers and use mozzarella for the cheese.
  • Lemon Garlic Veggie Pasta: I make this with Barilla Protein Plus pasta, increase the amount of garlic, and use broccoli, zucchini, red onions, peas, and red bell pepper. Asparagus and mushrooms would be good too. I sprinkle on 1/4  cup of parmesan at the end. 
  • Roasted Artichokes: Not quite sure if this counts as a whole meal, although I love a roasted artichoke for lunch. Trim the edges of the stalks, wrap them in olive oil, and eat them too. I love to dip the leaves, stem, and heart in sriracha aioli



  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • French Onion Soup
  • Guinness Beef Stew: I seared the meat and cooked the onions/garlic as well, before adding those things to my crockpot. I don’t know if the flavors would be the same without, but maybe I’ll try it next time because I really hate searing meat. I used baby potatoes and I didn’t chop ANY of them, which meant I had to eat the stew with knife and fork. Maybe I should quarter them next time. I added two parsnips, a container of quartered mushrooms, and two cups of chicken stock. It seemed a little under-salted, so I also added a big glug of soy sauce toward the end.
  • Garlicky Chickpea and Spinach SoupThis is perfect, but the spinach doesn’t work as well in leftovers as it does the night of.
  • Lentil Soup: I make this without the tomatoes, which means I need to amp up the spices a bit.
  • Mulligatawny Soup
  • Slow Cooker Chicken, Mushroom, & Wild Rice Soup: I use this brand of wild rice and the soup turns out perfect every time. Delicious paired with a loaf of miracle no-knead bread.
  • Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup: I blend the fire roasted tomatoes and strain them into the soup. I also add a can of black beans and about a cup of frozen corn about ten minutes before the soup is done cooking. 
  • White Bean Enchilada Soup: Yum. I reserve a can of Great Northern beans from the recipe, as well as the corn, and blend everything in the pot. Then I add the final beans and corn for a little texture. It makes the soup very creamy and rich.


  • Beef with Snow Peas: Works just as well with sugar snap peas.
  • Broccoli with Beef: I typically throw in sliced red and green bell peppers as well. 
  • Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: Stir fry the chicken with garlic and ginger and then remove to a plate before you add the vegetables. The amount of zucchini in this recipe is only a suggestion. You cannot have too much zucchini. Also, add in a sliced white onion. 
  • Fire Fry: Good with beef, just as good with veggies only.
  • Szechuan Stir Fry: This is good with chicken, shrimp, or beef, or without meat at all. I like using broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers – sometimes adding water chestnuts, sometimes not. Bean sprouts would be good with this, too. For anyone who, like me, is sensitive to Chinese five-spice powder, I only put in the tiniest pinch. Like, 1/16 of a teaspoon.





Read Full Post »

After posting yesterday, I was fretting (mildly, very mildly) about what we would eat for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I like to have a plan, especially when it comes to food. Plus, the grocery store situation will get iffier as we get closer to the holiday – busier and then closed; that’s what I mean by “iffier.” I had to dash over to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, to find something to feed the babysitter.

(Did I already fret about this to you? I feel like I did, but I can’t find it in yesterday’s post. Oh well, if you have already endured this fret, perhaps skim down a bit or come back another day. Here, I will put in sub-headings to make it easier to skim.)

Feeding-the-Babysitter Fret

What do YOU feed the babysitter? Why is this something that I fret about so much? We rarely have a sitter, but when we do I almost always get a frozen pizza. My thought process around frozen pizza is a) easy and b) most people like pizza and c) Carla eats it. (She does not eat macaroni and cheese for instance. Or most other things.) But when I fretted out loud to my husband and daughter, a) my husband said “You ALWAYS get a pizza” and b) Carla said “I’m tired of pizza. I’d rather have chicken nuggets.” Oooh, two multiple choice lists in one paragraph. Wild.

These were highly interesting comments. First, yes, as I already told you, I do tend to ALWAYS get pizza. But we have had a babysitter, what, twice in the past three weeks? Is pizza two times in three weeks really that egregious? But more importantly, the babysitter last night was a different babysitter than the one we had last time. So she hadn’t eaten pizza three weeks ago.

Secondly, yes, Carla ate pizza three weeks ago with the other babysitter… and I think we made pizza last week or the week before as well, so that’s twice. In the meantime, aside from two nights of steak and maybe a night or two of salmon and maybe one night of tacos, I think she’s had chicken nuggets for every other dinner. (I am refraining hard from making a self-deprecating “I am such a shitty mother for feeding my child nuggets daily lol” comment because she EATS them which is better than not-eating other things and they are easy and they have protein and sometimes I get the ones that also have veggies in them and this is a very long-lived phase but it is just a phase that won’t last forever and I make up for my lack of meal creativity in other good and valuable ways.) 

Being a mom slash babysitter-food-decision-maker is so fun. So, so fun. 

Now, I don’t personally care to eat chicken nuggets. (I have never typed “chicken nuggets” so many times in my life.) But I think many people are fine with them, so I decided that I would just let the sitter make some nuggets for herself and Carla. But I still managed to fret about it. The dear wise friend to whom I fretted via text suggested I get pizza and chicken nuggets so that there were options. This was genius, so that’s why I went to the store. Plus, I figured I would come up with some wonderful idea for NYE / NYD food in the moment. The store was very busy. 

(By the way, I have been masking again in the grocery store, these past few weeks. Around Christmas, I noticed that quite a few more people than usual had joined me… but I went yesterday afternoon and I think there was only one other person in a mask.)


While I was there, I did indeed experience a lightning strike of inspiration. For our extra special New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day meals, we are going to have SNACKS!

(By the way, when Carla was very small she pronounced the word “snacks” with kind of a swallowed H/N combo instead of the initial S. Like “HNacks.” So that’s still how my husband and I refer to them.)

We have not yet made the cranberry salsa for which I bought ingredients last week, so we will have that with pita chips. I picked up a small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips and some Southwest Ranch Dip, and I have plenty of vegetables to cut up for extra dipping. 

(Since this post is rife – RIFE – with parentheticals and asides, what’s one more? I first became acquainted with Southwest Ranch Dip when I was pregnant. My mother-in-law served it at her apartment one day – this was when my in-laws had an apartment in our city – and I loved it. Pretty much everything made me nauseated in those days, but crunchy greasy Lay’s chips dipped in that dip were HEAVEN.) 

(I am getting such a silly kick out of posting these photos, as though you don’t know what a bag of Lay’s looks like. I mean, maybe you don’t, but it seems unlikely.) (Images above and below from lays.com, marzetti.com, Instacart.com for some reason, and traderjoes.com)

In addition to chips and dip, I grabbed some mini pretzel dogs that I’m hoping my husband and child will eat (I eat one hot dog a year and it is normal sized and in a BUN not a pretzel; I do not care for pretzels) (are you beginning to get a clearer picture of why my child is so picky), and some feta and caramelized onion pastry bites. I also got a garlic and cheese flatbread, which sounds good but not terribly different from garlic bread; we’ll see. We have some cheese and crackers and some olives already. This is all way too much food already, but I have arranged a family outing to Trader Joe’s later today to see if we can find any other treats to add to the selection. Trader Joe’s is usually pretty great about having fun frozen treats.

Do you have favorite snacks to recommend? I would be willing to go to another location in addition to Trader Joe’s if there is something I NEED to try. I am serious about snacking.

As far as sweets are concerned, we have PLENTY. So many sweets. I ended up throwing out a bunch of leftover (and now stale) Christmas cookies, which was both sad and cathartic (the ratio of cookie plates for neighbors to cookies made was waaaayyyy off; lesson learned), but we have many other cookies and candies that kind family and friends sent. Most of it is chocolate, which I don’t like except in very specific situations. But as I prefer savory to sweet anyway, I will be perfectly happy with my Lay’s and dip. 

Old-Fashioned Blogroll

(I am feeling very smug about my choice to put subheads into this post, because there is no good segue between Lay’s and blog reading.)

Lately, my Feedly has been acting up. Either that or user error but PROBABLY it’s Feedly yes that makes the most sense. The problem is that I keep missing posts. I’ll think, “Oh, so-and-so hasn’t posted in a while!” and then I’ll go to her blog and she posted sixteen days ago and I missed it. I’m not opposed to leaving comments on old posts, not at all, but I like to know what’s being posted AS it is happening, not after the fact.

I was remembering how, in Days of Yore, I had a list of blogs I read on the side of my homepage. And every morning when I had a tea break from work, I would click through the list to read everyone’s posts. When I got back to regular blogging in 2016, my blogroll was so depressing; so few of the people on the list were blogging anymore! Some of the links went to defunct pages or spam sites!  So I deleted the whole thing.

But now… maybe it’s time to create a new blogroll. This wonderful blogging community I am so fortunate to be part of is robust, and I don’t want to miss anyone’s posts because of user a Feedly error.

Of course, the very idea of creating a blogroll raises frets like “what if I accidentally leave someone out?” So I need you to promise that if you have a blog, and for some reason it does NOT appear on this hazy future blogroll should I ever get it together enough to make one, that you would TELL ME because it was clearly I don’t think we can blame this on Feedly user error and not a deliberate decision to exclude.

Read Full Post »

My husband made cookies last weekend. I was skeptical when he showed me the recipe, because they seemed like a cross between a molasses cookie and a chocolate chip cookie, which seemed like an odd amalgam. 

Plus, the recipe specifically doesn’t call for vanilla, which seems like blasphemy. 

But they were perfection. 

The recipe is here. They are supposedly based on cookies sold by Levain bakery. (By the way, Levain bakery is a GREAT source of mail order gifts. A dear friend of mine sent up a package of four cookies a few years ago and I still think of them. They were enormous and thick and chewy and so flavorful. YUM. We have since sent them to a few people as gifts and they are always a hit.)

My husband measured the cookies into four-ounce balls (the recipe gives you options for four-, five-, or six-ounce cookies). He was able to make eight perfect four-ounce cookies (he weighed each one) and one slightly smaller cookie. Four ounces makes an ENORMOUS cookie. They were perfectly round, soft on the inside. And they were exactly like molasses cookies combined with chocolate chip cookies, which – it turns out – is a WONDERFUL amalgam. (If you like molasses cookies, I suppose.) I love that bite of ginger and the smokey undercurrent of molasses, which went perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the chocolate chips. YUM.

The only change my husband made to the recipe was that he refrigerated the balls of dough for 20 minutes before baking them. I think he also cooked them for a total of 12 minutes, turning them halfway through, but that’s because our oven seems to cook more slowly than most. (We discussed adding vanilla, because it seemed so WILD that there was no! vanilla!!!! in the recipe at all, but ended up deciding to stick to the recipe as written, at least for this time. We did not miss the vanilla.)

If you are looking for the perfect fall cookie, look no further. I am certainly bringing these to our next get-together with friends.

Yes, I did a fall photo shoot with the remaining two cookies, and yes, I then immediately ate one of the cookies after I took this picture (it was still soft), and yes, they do look suspiciously similar to regular old chocolate chip cookies but they are so much more.

Read Full Post »

A few people mentioned family dinners in recent comments and it got me thinking about Family Dinners in general. I love learning about the things we all do (in this case, eat meals), but do in such different ways, depending on our families’ needs and priorities. 

I would love to know about your own Family Dinner interpretation. Or if not “Family Dinner,” then whatever mealtimes look like in your family. What were evening mealtimes like when you were a kid? What are they like now? What are the top benefits you reap from your family’s way of doing things? 

When I grew up, family mealtimes happened, but not daily. I seem to recall Sunday dinners in particular taking place around the table, but there must have been others that we ate together as well. Although now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know how that would have been possible during the week. My parents both worked full-time, and I’m pretty sure my dad came home on the late side most nights. Could it be that we only ate together on the weekends? No matter how often they happened: I have a fuzzy but warm feeling toward Family Dinners, and a general feeling that they were A Thing when I was growing up.

My brother and I each had a nanny when we were kids (we were so far apart in age, we had separate nannies), and I remember clearly his nanny making us dinner. She made this dinner of sauteed canned salad shrimp with carrots and celery sliced on the bias that I loved. I… do not think I would love it now. But I am assuming that she made food for me and my brother, and that we ate it together before our parents came home from work. I will have to check with my mom whether that’s true. 

I also remember my mom making lots of wonderful things. Fried chicken, pot roast, a pasta dish with ground beef, corn, and Velveeta that we called “seashells,” tacos, soups. When I was about ten, I made spaghetti or tacos for our family once every week or so. Most Fridays, we ate pizza – for a long time, my mom made it herself but then at some point we switched over to Pizza Hut pizza, which my father brought home in fragrant grease spotted boxes. We ate pizza in front of the TGIF line-up on ABC. 

As I mentioned the other day, I ended up eating fast food on the nights I had extracurricular activities. That really ramped up in high school – I can’t remember my exact schedule, except that I am pretty sure I always had piano on Tuesday nights at around 6:00 and I had cheerleading most days after school. (I also remember scarfing down fast-food tacos or nachos at a friend’s house after practice and then going home and eating dinner. Ah, to have the metabolism of a high school cheerleader.)

What I’m trying to say is, I both have fond memories of family dinners and understand how other priorities (work, extracurriculars, convenience) can reduce the number of nights available to eat together as a family, or eliminate them entirely. 

Family Dinners have so many potential benefits. For me, the top three are:

  1. Gathering for a meal as a family allows every family member to interact – without distractions! – and share Quality* Time together. (*Your level of Quality may vary.)
  2. Meals together allow for important modeling of things like conversational flow, happy disagreement, table manners, etc. 
  3. Eating as a group typically means everyone eats the same meal, which can help picky eaters try new foods and show how other family members deal with foods they don’t love. 

Despite the purported benefits, we don’t do a lot of Family Dinners in my house. Part of me feels a little guilty about this, but the reality is that families are different, and do things differently, and that’s okay. 

Dinners in our house typically look like this: I make Carla something to eat around 5:30 and then I sit with her at the kitchen counter while she eats. Sometimes I read to her (by the way, we finally finished Where the Red Fern Grows, which I delayed based on your kind warnings, and Carla was completely unaffected. I, on the other hand, had to strenuously suppress my gasping tears so that I could read audibly. Carla kept eyeing me, trying to figure out if I was crying, or just really doing a bang-up job voicing the main character, who was definitely crying.), sometimes we chat, sometimes we listen to Kid Nuz or Wow in the World on our Echo. Once in a great while I will eat with her. Then she showers and goes to bed. Once her bedtime routine is over, which is usually around 8:00 or 9:00, my husband and I eat together in front of a TV show. 

Weekends, we often eat dinner together in front of a TV show or movie. (We are watching Junior Baking Show right now and it is just as charming as Great British Baking Show.)

When family is staying with us, we tend to do Family Dinners almost every night. It’s nice in some ways… there’s something pleasant about the ritual of getting everything on the table, and sitting together and being forced to talk to one another instead of look at a screen. But it also reminds me of why I don’t love it: the table has to be set and I use way more serving dishes and there’s so much more clean up afterward. (It’s so small and stupid, but I absolutely hate dealing with place mats or tablecloths.) Plus, people often get out their phones after they’re done eating and sit at the table and stare at their phones, which drives me bonkers. Plus plus, finding a time for all of us to eat together means that my husband has to rush home, often bringing home work to do later in the evening; that he has to skip exercising, which is important for his mental and physical health; and that Carla is often awake much later in the evening than she should be. It’s fine, because it’s for a short duration. And sometimes – over holidays, for instance – things like work and school-night bedtimes aren’t a factor. Maybe if eating together at the table every day were already a habit, it wouldn’t feel like such an ordeal. But it does feel like kind of an ordeal. 

I admit that I’m a little envious of people who sit down nightly to a Family Dinner all together. It sounds so wholesome and idyllic. And I do try to encourage us to eat at the table as a family at least once in a while. There ARE all the benefits I mentioned above (and probably more!) to sitting around the table together for a meal. But I am the only one in my immediate family who cares about it, and I can really only manage it on weekends, and not every weekend day, and sometimes I just don’t have the mental/emotional energy to wheedle my family into doing it at all.  

This most recent time my in-laws were visiting, my mother-in-law and Carla were setting the table, and Carla told her something like, “Oh, we usually eat in front of the TV.” And my mother-in-law laughed, like Carla was trying to pull something over on her, and said, “On a Sunday?!” in a tone of incredulity. That’s the kind of (unintentional) thing that makes me feel ashamed of our dinner habits. As though there is only One Way to do dinner, and I (all on my own, as though my husband has no role) am doing it wrong. 

Well. My own feelings of shame are something to deal with on my own. I would never look at YOU, for instance, and say, “Oh my gosh, HER family doesn’t sit down together for dinners every night?! What are they thinking?!” or otherwise judge you. So why am I so hard on myself for the very same thing? The million-dollar question, isn’t it. 

I remember reading a blog post ages ago – I swear it was from Swistle – that I think about every time I feel a little guilty for not making Family Dinners a priority around my house. It was something like, “Eating together as a family makes me dislike my family,” and it was so freeing. (Oh yes: Here it is.) If you are likewise unable to sit together for regular Family Dinners, for whatever reason up to and including you hate it, I hope that my own report of how we do things releases you from that obligation. 

My husband and I have a close and loving relationship with one another and with our child. Carla is reasonably versed in table manners (whether she uses them is a different topic all together). We find ways to be close and share details of our day at other times. For instance, Carla’s bedtime routine is one of my favorite times of day. I mostly no longer read to her at bedtime (I read to her at other times of the day, but bedtime reading is her father’s province), but there are always at least a few minutes at night when the three of us are snuggled up together in Carla’s bed, chatting about the day behind us and the day ahead, giggling over something silly, or talking through a challenge. It’s not always like this, especially on Call Weeks, when my husband may not make it home in time for bedtime, or on nights when Carla just wants to read her own book to herself (which I thoroughly encourage), but I don’t feel like anything is missing just because we don’t sit down together for a meal each day. 

Carla is extremely picky, and maybe some of that could have been avoided if we’d all been sitting together, eating the exact same food together, every night for her whole life. But… maybe not. And that ship has sailed, so there’s no point in me beating myself up over it any more than I already do.

Read Full Post »

The other day, Carla had a very specific request for dinner: “May I please have a bowl of white [iceberg] lettuce and a separate bowl of [shredded] cheese and another bowl of tomatoes so that I can put them together and make a salad?” 

Sure, child. Why not. 

I mentioned a while back that we are trying to increase Carla’s calcium intake. And by “we” I mean “me” because my husband seems wholly unconcerned by the issue. Not in an “I’m a Physician and Am Unworried” way, but in a “this is not my problem” way ARGH. And a teeny bit in a Thwarting Efforts way. My father (ALSO a physician) suggested we simply give Carla some Tums (calcium carbonate) and so I suggested to my husband that he grab a roll of Tums next time he was at the grocery store. He said a) we already have Tums at home and when I brightened and said “Oh! We can give Carla those!” he said no, that those Tums were for acid reflux. Blink. Blink blink. 

All of this is to say that I am continually working on getting more calcium into Carla. 

Smoothies, as I think I mentioned before, seemed like the perfect vehicle. Especially considering that Carla likes smoothies, and dislikes most other things. 

But there have been two problems.

  1. She hasn’t been in the mood for smoothies. Almost every day I say, “You’re going to have a smoothie for breakfast!” and she says, “No.” And then I argue with her a little bit, and make pleading noises about calcium intake, and she remains firm, and I give up. Because I am not going to waste a smoothie on her when she is clearly going to Stand Firm. And I get it! I like… chili, but I don’t want to eat it every day. If you told me chili had specific life-extending properties, I would still have a hard time drumming up enough enthusiasm to eat it every day. So I get it. I do. But also: JUST DRINK A SMOOTHIE.
  2. Smoothies do not contain as much calcium as I think. I made one for her with 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice, and 1 cup frozen mango chunks. That makes a LARGE cup of smoothie. And it contains about 40% of a person’s daily calcium. Sigh. It’s a big swoop forward on the calcium-intake-o-meter, but it’s not even halfway, and HOW do I get the rest of the way EVERY DAY?

I wonder if I could mix Carnation Instant Breakfast (200 mg calcium per packet) into her smoothies? 

I found a recipe for frozen yogurt treats that I might try. I broached the idea to Carla and she was a little suspicious, but it would be worth trying at least. Maybe I could mix some Carnation Instant Breakfast into some yogurt and pipe it onto cookie sheets and freeze it? I may give it a try.

I have been Googling like crazy, but the food sources of calcium seem to have so little (50 mg here, 125 mg there – and that’s for a FULL serving of foods she DOESN’T EAT), that it seems impossible to get them to add up to 1300 mg per day. And there is a lot of pooh-poohing of calcium supplements. I get it. I understand that most vitamins don’t have a whole lot of calcium anyway, and that you need to be taking Vitamin D as well so that you can properly absorb your calcium. But it would be really useful to just give Carla a chewable something and be done with it. There are Reasons that I don’t want to get the Viactiv chews (650 mg calcium per chew), but maybe I need to get past them. 

I know I tend to catastrophize. I know I do that. But I keep picturing Carla as an adult, with bones that shatter at the least provocation, and her wan little face asking the heavens, “Why, God, why did my mother not force me to get enough calcium when I was small? Why?” 

Now I understand why my parents were so adamant about me drinking a FULL GLASS of milk every day. (A cup of milk is only 300 mg!)

Read Full Post »

I DID IT. Based on your supportive comments and gentle nudges toward action, I talked to my neighbor about her lovely lunch invitation.  First, I resolved to talk to her about it. Next, I cobbled together a script from several commenters’ suggestions, and I practiced it in the car and in the shower. Then, I waited for the Right Opportunity.

Carla provided me with a very nice segue – she was playing with the neighbor’s dog, and I needed her to come home to eat lunch. So I walked next door to fetch her. The neighbor came out and said hello, and I told her the reason for my appearance. Then I made my little speech: “Speaking of lunch, I was thinking about your kind invitation that we have lunch together, and I was so delighted by the offer that I said yes without thinking, but the truth is, Carla and I have so many silly food restrictions between us it’s not really worth getting into, and I was wondering if we could do something a little simpler, like afternoon tea or lemonade?” When I practiced it, I was Breezy and Casual and I had a little self-deprecating laugh in there, plus I also had a line about how of COURSE we wanted to spend time with her… and I also wanted to offer to bring homemade cookies or something… but it all came out in a rush and I forgot some of it. Oh well. At least I got out the important part which was LUNCH WILL NOT GO WELL.

Her immediate reaction was, “Oh no, sometimes I give Carla food when she comes over!” and so I had to reassure her that I didn’t mean allergies, but rather that Carla is the pickiest person on the planet. (Deftly trying to put the bulk of the blame on Carla’s food restrictions rather than my own.) Here is where Carla chimed in and informed our neighbor that I HATE tomatoes. So I am clearly not blameless. 

Once I had assured her she wasn’t doing something egregious by feeding my child cherries and red peppers, she seemed to relax a bit. She asked if something like tea and biscuits would be fine and I said that would be lovely and we discussed possible dates (though didn’t settle on anything specific). I am… so relieved. THANK YOU for helping me figure out the right way to handle this sticky situation. 

Now I can turn my Food Frets toward camp. 

Carla is attending a new camp this summer, and they don’t offer meals. So we will be packing a lunch. This is fine

Now that she is nearly NINE (which is nearly TEN, omg), I am looking forward to forcing encouraging Carla to make her own lunch (with supervision). We discussed some potential ideas for lunches, and her Ideal Lunch is a Lunchable. She only eats the ham Lunchable, and she only eats the ham, the cookies, and the crackers. She refuses to eat the cheese. If I pack her slices of other cheese – specifically cheddar that I have cut for her – she will eat that. 

So I was banking on sending her with Lunchables each day, and that if Lunchables become unavailable (again), or if she gets sick of them, we can pack a bagel and cream cheese with some pepperoni.

To round out her lunch, I would add other things she eats, like pickles and grapes and berries and grape tomatoes and red peppers and sugar snap peas. 

So I felt pretty good about our options. 

Then we got a note from camp that said NO PORK PRODUCTS. 


What now???

I suppose what we have to do is revert to PBJ. The camp is not a nut-free campus, so peanut butter is an option. Carla also enjoys eats sun butter, so she (and I) can make sandwiches every day. Carla eats sun butter sandwiches at school all year long, so I know she WILL eat them. But the last time I tried to make her one, she complained because my sandwiches weren’t the SAME as the ones at school. 

Weary sigh. 

I suppose I can just send her with the equivalent of Snack Dinner, but for lunch. But I am just not sure what the protein situation will be in that case. Snack Dinner usually has pepperoni or a couple of chicken nuggets or two.

I wonder if she would eat cold chicken nuggets (hork)? 

The reason that I am fretting about this is two-fold.

The first fold is that the camp really made a Big Deal about ensuring that we sent a LOT of food with our kids to camp. They emphasized that we should send MORE than we think – like, enough food for a week rather than a day. The kids work so hard and are so active, they are ravenous when they get to lunchtime. So I want to a) comply with the rules and b) make sure my particular kid is getting enough sustenance. 

The second fold is that Carla already eats next to nothing for lunch. I assume she eats something at school each day, although her reports are sporadic and often sound like, “Oh yeah, I ate a hamburger bun and a slice of American cheese.” So I am already facing an uphill climb when it comes to getting her to eat. I want to stack all the odds in my favor by ensuring her lunches are full of things she LIKES, not just things she tolerates. 

Well. I am not really asking for ideas, because I feel like it will be an exercise in frustration. (You, reasonably: “Send her with some chickpeas! Or beans! Or hummus! Or tuna salad! Or turkey! Or a protein drink!” and I will cringe at you while shaking my head because she will not touch ANY of that, and the list is endless.) (I am going to buy some turkey pepperoni and see if Carla will deign to try it.) I am just whining. New camp, new frets. 

Read Full Post »

I have always dreamed extremely vivid – and usually super violent – dreams. But it’s been a long while since I’ve remembered any. 

This past week, I’ve had two that stuck with me after the fact. 

In one, I dreamed I was in an enclosure hiding from bears. The bears WERE going to attack, and if anyone wasn’t in the enclosure, they WOULD be mauled. There were other people who kept coming into my enclosure, but no one seemed to grasp the fact that BEARS CAN OPEN DOORS, and so they were leaving all the doors unlocked, so I had to keep going around and around to all the doors, locking them and shooting meaningful, grim looks to my fellow enclosees, none of whom seemed capable of grasping the fact that MAULING WAS IMMINENT. There were a LOT of doors, and the enclosure kept expanding. At one point, I went outside into a fenced-in area. The fences had barbed wire on top of them, but they were all only about two feet tall so that a really determined bear could simply step over them. 

I think we can all deduce what particular anxiety THAT dream is about.

The other dream is less memorable, and less perilous. But no less upsetting, for me. In the dream, I dropped Carla off at someone’s house for a playdate, and the mother invited me in to join everyone for a snack. The snack was bananas (which I do not eat), but Carla hissed at me, “You have to be polite.” So I ate a piece of a banana. And the host cut off another slice of banana, so I ate that too. And another. And another. Even though I haven’t eaten a banana since… preschool? I can still feel that mushy, sickly sweetness in my mouth. 

This dream, too, has a direct source. Our lovely neighbor has invited me and Carla over for lunch. The date is still pending, but oh my goodness I wish I could get out of it! 

Eating at other people’s homes has always been a HUGE source of anxiety for me. While I do eat a large variety of foods, I have a lot of super picky aversions. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, I have an allergy to X” and then the host just doesn’t cook with X. The list is so long I could not even hope to cover it all.

I remember, as a kid, DREADING going over to other people’s houses to eat. Just absolutely finding it awful. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a friend’s dining table with her whole family as they ate what was, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely meal, and I was just choked with anxiety because I did not want to eat any of it. And I tried to eat things here and there – the bread, maybe – and my friend’s mother was scolding me to clean my plate. It was awful. I don’t think I ever ate at that friend’s house again. In fact, unless someone was clearly and definitely serving pizza or tacos, I don’t think I ever ate at ANYONE’s house again.

I will never do the ”clean your plate” thing to Carla and I will never force one of her friends in my care to eat something she doesn’t want to. But that’s children. I am a grown adult. I should be able to go to someone’s house and eat the food. And yet. It is very anxiety producing, because I am equally afraid that a) I will have to eat something I dislike or b) I will offend the host by rejecting something I do not want to eat. 

I would say that my husband and I only rarely eat at other people’s houses. We have two sets of friends with whom we dine occasionally, and I feel like they are close enough friends that I can say, “No, I don’t eat lamb” when they ask, in advance of the dinner, if we eat lamb chops. (I say it regretfully, and embarrassedly, but with great relief.) But with the vast majority of people, you just show up! And eat the food they serve! I remember going to a new friend’s house and they served an absolutely beautiful meal of which the main course was chicken parmesan. Each breast was just smothered in tomatoes, which is probably my Number One Most Reviled Food. I cannot eat tomatoes; I have tried. I think I tried to be surreptitious in how I scraped them off the chicken, and then I helped wash the dishes, and I am SO hopeful that the host didn’t notice. (I am guessing the host noticed; I would notice. I would then, as host, fret that the food was bad or that I’d made something unpalatable to one of the guests.) Another time, we went to a friend’s house and she served chili with chunks of tomatoes in it. I ate around the tomatoes, but it’s so hard to do that in an unnoticeable way, and yet I cannot eat the tomatoes. I WISH I COULD. If I had access to a genie, and could only make selfish and self-serving wishes, I am pretty sure “make it so I love tomatoes” would be one of them.  

All this talk about tomatoes is making me queasy.

Along the same lines: Carla eats nothing. She is FAR more picky than I am and has not developed the techniques I have honed over the years for eating things she doesn’t like but can stand, or taking (as my mother-in-law calls it) a no-thank-you portion of something she doesn’t want, or trying something that doesn’t look appealing, or swiftly moving an item to her husband’s plate for him to eat instead.  

So now, this lovely, wonderful woman has extended this lovely invitation… to two people who eat NOTHING… and I not only have to somehow overcome my own anxieties about eating but also model good guest behavior to my child. Ugh ugh ugh. (What if she serves egg salad, a food I do not think I could force myself to eat??? Or some kind of lunch meat??? Or almost any normal lunch food????????)

Is there any way, after I have already said, “Oh that sounds lovely” to the neighbor, to now go back and say something like, “Carla and I have a bunch of really fussy food aversions – would it be possible to come have a glass of lemonade instead?” Is there any way?????? There isn’t, is there. I can almost picture her face falling as we reject her LOVELY invitation. Which is almost – but not quite – as bad as facing the Unknown Food. 

Read Full Post »

May is chaos. I was whining to the mom of one of Carla’s classmates recently about busy I feel, and she said in a gritted-teeth, long-suffering voice, “That’s just how May is. And it will get worse as the kids get older.” So that was cheering. 

It feels like I was just chugging along, doing my thing, and then suddenly realized that I have fifty deadlines heading my way and I am only partway through each project.  Luckily, this isn’t true (at least in the paying work sense; I am on top of those at least). But it FEELS that way. Worse, it feels like everyone else has alsosuddenly had the same realization. My email inbox is jammed with teacher conference requests and reminders to schedule my gutter cleaning and invitations to end-of-year parties and check-ins about summer swimming schedules and gently scolding messages from camp to fill out my kid’s many, many forms already and notifications to update school payment plans and on and on. 

We had, in the past week, an invitation to a musical performance at Carla’s school literally three days before the performance itself. And then a notice, seven days ago, from Carla’s teacher, that the class has themed days all this week – and require things like sandals that I had not yet purchased. Then we had to schedule a meeting with one of the teachers to review Carla’s goals for next year. And I (stupidly) signed up to volunteer at a big end-of-school carnival. Not to mention, we get alerts near daily about Covid cases in Carla’s grade. Plus, Carla’s been working on her big Eleanor Roosevelt research project. IT’S A LOT.

I have not felt up to most things lately – reading, cooking, planning meals, blogging – but I miss those things (except planning meals). So let’s try a random info dump. I will try not to complain TOO much, but no promises. 

Zoom Awkwardness: While I am deeply, sincerely grateful for the ability to meet with people virtually, I wish someone would figure out how to solve the end-of-meeting awkwardness. You know what I mean. When you have all already said goodbye, but then you have to fumble around to find the button that ends the meeting. I realize that this awkward moment lasts maybe five seconds, but I find it excruciating. Often, I find myself distracted in the last moments of the meeting itself because I am trying to plan my exit in the quickest possible way. But no. Even if I can find the “end meeting” button ahead of time, I inevitably fumble it, or forget that I’ve carefully hovered my cursor over it for exactly that purpose, or the “are you sure?” box pops up and I just want to die of embarrassment. I realize this may not be as big a deal to some people as it is to me, and obviously I have lived to zoom again, but I HATE IT. Just let me out of this virtual discomfort! 

End of Year Teacher Gift: Every year, our Room Parent (i.e. Room Mom) collects money for a class gift. Every year, I dutifully send in money. Every year, I fret and worry and scour Etsy for an additional gift that my kid can give to her teacher, personally, on top of the considerable amount we have already sent in. Every year, I decide that the collective gift is BETTER – usually it’s a gift card, and I’m guessing it is much more useful/appreciated by the teacher than whatever dumb crap I could come up with – and exit Etsy without buying the personalized water bottle/bookmark/coffee mug I was pondering. And yet, despite going through this for SIX YEARS NOW, I inevitably find myself in the last week of school, fretting and fretting about the possibility of being the ONLY person who doesn’t double gift with a physical gift in addition to the cash contribution.

Road Trip: I am doing a right terrible job of Not Complaining, so let’s talk about something positive. My husband and Carla and I are going on a Road Trip this summer!!!! Aside from the astronomical cost of gas, I am really excited about our Road Trip. (Yes, I am capitalizing it.) We finalized all our hotel stays over the weekend, and so now I am gleefully shopping for Road Trip Necessities. This is what my father refers to as a “Tool Buying Opportunity,” which is part of what makes the planning portion of something (an event, a hobby) as enjoyable as or more enjoyable than the actual thing itself. My husband is researching the best family audiobooks to buy (or check out from our library) for our trip, and I love that this is the way his trip planning excitement manifests. He has already played a few samples to Carla, so that they can figure out whether she’ll have trouble understanding the accent of the narrator. 

Birthday Planning Stagnation: Despite ALL of your lovely suggestions, I have made ZERO progress toward planning Carla’s birthday party. Zero. This fills me with dread and anxiety. However, I will say that with every confident, encouraging comment about hosting a party here, I grew more and more entrenched in my certainty that having a party in my home is NOT the right way to go. So that was extremely helpful, and I am so appreciative. I genuinely envy those readers who are so easy-breezy about hosting an in-home birthday party. You make it sound so easy! And fun! And like the better choice! But my gut was clear: NO. So whatever we end up doing, it will be somewhere else. Your kind, helpful suggestions also clarified for me something that I already knew – but did not know I felt with such stringency – which is that I loathe trampoline parks. We used to take Carla when she was smaller, because it was a great way to release her endless reserves of energy in the dragging months of winter. But even then I always felt like I had to be careful not to touch ANYTHING, and I would always through Carla in the tub and her clothing in the washing machine the instant we returned home. Perhaps this speaks more to the cleanliness of my local trampoline park than to anything else, but since that’s what we have available, I am going to skip it. So I suppose even if I haven’t made any forward progress, I am at the very least narrowing the field. Thank you so much for your help, even if you may feel like I am ignoring your very helpful recommendations. Your advice is helpful nonetheless. 

Handyman: In other good news, I finally finally got a handyman to not only return my call, but to come over and look at my long list of projects!!!! He seems great. He reviewed things and took measurements, and was very clear on things he can/will do and things he cannot/won’t. The most important result, though, is that he CAN and WILL repair our ceiling. I don’t know if I’ve described our ceiling hole in this space, but I am going to do so now in case you want to skip to the next equally riveting bullet. It is not a hole, per se. It is more like a place where the plaster has declined to provide its normal coverage. The plaster is peeling away from whatever material forms the ceiling, and so it looks like a hole. We have had the spot examined several times by a plumber (and by our fathers), and it does not appear to be a leak. And it’s been there for YEARS, so I think we would know by now. But this stupid plaster lapse makes me so self-conscious about our house. It looks terrible, and it’s right above the kitchen table, and I hate it. And now it will be fixed!!!! Of course, there is no scheduled date for the fixing; the handyman warned me he is booked out for several weeks. So I guess now I am just hoping he really will send me an estimate and offer some dates. I almost don’t care what it will cost because I want it fixed. But then again, I have no idea what this kind of thing should cost, so… I will report back on whether it is a swallowable amount or something that kicks me in the gut and forces me to live with the stupid hole for longer. Like I said, we’ve been living with it for YEARS, so it shouldn’t be such a big deal to keep on living with it. But at some point in the past few months, I have reached some sort of tell-tale heart level of complete inability to co-exist with this thing for one second longer. 

Calendar Bedlam: Recently, I am having an issue that makes me think my mind is on a steep decline. I keep making plans, putting them in EMPTY SPOTS in my calendar, and then realizing – sometime later – that I have double booked myself. Example 1: A friend invites me to a performance. I check the calendar and see I have plans that night. I decline. Later, a friend invites me to dinner. I check the calendar and see I am free, so I accept. The next time I talk to the performer friend, she mentions the day of her performance… which is on the day I originally had free but now do not. Example 2: I set a playdate for Carla. The next day, I notice that she in fact has an orthodontist appointment that day, so I have to reschedule the playdate. Example 3: I have to do a mandatory nicotine test per our insurance, so I schedule it in an empty spot on the calendar. I get a reminder for the test at the same time I get a reminder for a meeting with Carla’s teacher, because I have scheduled them in the same time slot. WHY AM I DOING THIS AND HOW CAN I STOP.

Dirty Martinis: I recently learned the joy and beauty of a very, very dirty martini. My whole life, I have been staunchly anti-vodka, but it seems that may be because I have only ever had cheap vodka? I recently had a martini with really good, smooth vodka and it was delicious. Then I made one at home, with the fancy expensive vodka my father-in-law drinks, and it was also delicious. I am now out of olive juice.

Jury Duty: My stint of jury duty went GREAT. The summons said that we needed to be available for five days, beginning on a Monday. So I prepared to be gone that entire week. When I did jury duty several years ago, I went in on a Monday, sat around all day, and then was called to a courtroom near the end of the day. I wasn’t selected for that jury, but I was released from jury duty for the rest of the week. This time, you call a number in advance of your service and figure out if your jury number has been selected for that day. I got to miss two days, but my number was called for Wednesday. Then I arrived at the courthouse, sat around all day, and… was released. I didn’t have to go back at all! It was… kind of pleasant? Of course, the anticipation was the dreadful part. I had to worry about childcare for Carla for the whole week, and then I had to worry about driving on a freeway during rush hour, and I had to worry about parking downtown. But once I had Carla stowed at school, had made it downtown, parked, and successfully made it to the courthouse, it was fine! Pleasant, even! It was a beautiful day and we got ninety minutes (!!!!) for our lunch hour, so I got something from Starbucks and walked around downtown. I was even a teeny bit disappointed that I didn’t get selected for a case – I think it would be interesting to serve on a jury. The biggest inconvenience of the week, it turned out, was that I kept having to email the school to let them know that Carla would or wouldn’t be arriving early for babysitting services. 

Step Off: My watch has developed quite an overblown sense of its own roll in my life lately. Constantly telling me to stop and breathe, or noting that I am usually more active at this time of day what is up????, or advising me that I can “still do it!” if I just take a brisk 20-minute walk at 11:15 pm on a weekday. And now this??? Stay in your lane, watch. I am doing the best that I can.

Keto Stall: I feel the need to give you a keto update. During my extravagant jury duty lunch hour, I ordered coffee with cream (despite the fact that I hate coffee) and a pre-made lunch kit that seemed to be fairly keto-friendly: salami, cheese, and some nuts/dried fruit that I ate even though I’m sure it was full of sugar. I did not eat the crackers. Anyway: I continue to follow a low-carb plan. And I have completely stalled. It is SO frustrating. I am doing the plan, I am eating the high-protein/high-fat foods. I am in ketosis. And yet my weight has gone nowhere. It wouldn’t be so terrible except that I HATE it. Food is not fun or enjoyable. I do not look forward to meals, and in fact actively dread them. I cannot stand to plan meals, because they are inevitably some variation on meat + veg, or else they are complicated and frequently end up tasting awful. I am constantly asking my husband what I should make for dinner. I am not having fun, I am not losing weight, it is all awful. And yet any time I LOOK at a carb, I instantly gain two pounds. So I don’t think I’m ready to quit keto either. At least I am maintaining this not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-bodyweight weight loss. ARGH. 

A Good Salad: I did make a really good salad recently. It was arugula (yum) and spinach (yuck), heavily weighted on the arugula side for me and on the spinach side for my husband (who dislikes arugula). I added goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and grilled chicken. And then I added balsamic dressing because I love dressing as much as I love sauce. (Perhaps this is causing the stall in the previous bullet, perhaps indeed, although I don’t eat salads often because of the dressing factor.)

Strawberry Marketing: The strawberries in the aforementioned salad were PINK. My grocery store had a big display and they had a lot of marketing to assure customers that the strawberries are fully ripe! And taste like pineapple! I had to try them. My husband wondered if they might taste like underripe strawberries and indeed they did. They were fine with some goat cheese and balsamic dressing though, but NOT worth $6.99 per container when I can buy actual ripe strawberry tasting strawberries for $3.50. Between these berries and the miniature iceberg lettuces, produce marketers are really working hard for their money, let me tell you.

Garden Inertia: Let us turn to another pleasant topic, which is gardening. Of which I have also done ZERO. What the hell am I doing with my time, if I am not cooking or gardening or planning Carla’s birthday party? I am fretting and wringing my hands and going in circles is what. We have people coming for dinner this weekend, so now I am suddenly feeling Very Urgent about having at least some flowers in pots. It’s not like my “garden” is anything impressive. But I do like to have a few pots with flowers and I need to do that. Perhaps Carla and I will go after school. 

Spring Shopping Syndrome: In addition to fretting/hand wringing, I have been struck by Spring Shopping Syndrome. You are familiar with this yes? The point at which the weather begins to edge carefully toward warmth and suddenly you hate every single item of clothing you own? I have been buying (and then returning) things with great abandon. Loft has been my latest obsession, and they know it: they keep emailing me with adorable dresses front and center, and so I order the dress and then it doesn’t fit and I take it back. But, to get free shipping, I added on a cute blouse, and that DID fit, so now I have that sweet, sweet dopamine rush of clicking “buy” alongside the possibility, however small, that the item I bought will be cute, which makes me want to repeat the process all over again. Interesting how I am able to analyze this behavior and see it for what it is and yet I still can’t stop/won’t stop. 

All right, that’s it for now my dear Internet.

What’s clogging your calendar this month? Have you made any springy purchases? Tell me which deer-proof flowers to buy for my garden. 

Read Full Post »

When my husband and I did Keto in 2020, we went hog wild. We bought ALL the Keto-specific products. We bought cheese by the cartload. We bought packages and packages of crunchy cheese snacks. We bought almond flour and flaxseed meal and xanthan gum. We bought avocado oil and MCT oil. We bought Keto pancake mix and Keto maple syrup. We bought Keto powdered erythritol and liquid stevia. We had all these plans to make Keto recipes and made many of them. But we found that a lot of the things we tried were either unpalatable or palatable only once or twice. 

This time around, I have been trying to live without Keto recipes and Keto items as much as possible.

But I have found a few Keto-specific items that I really like. This is, perhaps, in part due to the passage of two years’ time. Keto still seems very popular, and I think more and more products have become available since 2020 – and the products that are coming out keep getting better and tastier. 

My primary care doctor recommended two of the first Keto-friendly foods I tried this go-round, and they turned out to be two products that I really like:

Two Good Yogurt: Each container of yogurt contains 3 net grams of carbs. I don’t love this yogurt (it has a slight aftertaste, which I associate with stevia, and it is a little on the tangy side for my taste), so I don’t eat it every day. But it definitely scratches the yogurt itch. And it comes in a lot of different flavors, which adds some nice variety to my life. My favorite is mango, followed by raspberry and vanilla.

Protein Bread: My doctor told me that this was ONLY at Aldi’s, and so far, that’s the only place I can find it. (Strangely enough, Aldi also sells bread that has “Keto friendly!” on the wrapper, but turns out to be… a lot of carbs.) This particular bread has 4 grams of net carbs per slice. That is a lot – more than 20% of my daily allotted carbs – but sometimes I just need some bread. And I find that this bread is VERY satisfying. It tastes fine – nutty and wholesome. But more important, it is BREAD. My husband made a loaf of “Keto bread” in 2020, and it was NOT bread. It was crumbly and bitter and did not count as bread in my mind. But this protein bread is definitely bread in taste and texture. It’s pretty hearty, too, and since I usually pair it with cheese or avocado, it makes for a very filling, satisfying meal. I don’t eat it every day, so I remove a few slices and then freeze the rest. I find that it takes longer than most breads to toast – I like a nice, crunchy piece of toast. Putting it in the oven helps. 

There are a ton of low-carb and “Keto” breads on the market lately… but I have only tried this one. Because of my experience in 2020, I am wary of spending money on foods I end up hating. But… I am curious about some things. The last time I went to Whole Foods, I found a low-carb bread that I want to try. It was out of stock, of course, but if I ever get my hands on it I will test it out and let you know. 

One of the things that I crave the most while on Keto is pizza. And many of the Keto-friendly pizza options I have tried are not great. Most so-called “low-carb” crusts are not actually low-carb. Like the cauliflower pizza crust at Trader Joe’s is 16 grams of net carbs for one-sixth of the crust. If I am going to blow 16 grams of carbs on one meal, it better be for an entire pizza. I have made “Fathead Dough,” which is a low carb pizza dough… and it is so hard for me to make. It never comes together correctly. I think the one time I got it to work, it was fine, but it wasn’t worth the work or the frustration. Plus, it’s still 2 grams of net carbs per one-eighth of the total crust, which… again, I want to eat more than one slice of pizza, you know? And I want to be very clear: I am not eating pizza crust made out of chicken. That sounds… highly unpleasant. (Although my husband has tried it and thought it was fine.)

To address my pizza craving, I turned to tortillas. And I was pleasantly surprised to find several low-carb tortilla options. Here are my two favorites:

Protein Plant Powered Tortillas:  Each of these tortillas has 3 grams of net carbs, and when you add sauce and cheese and pepperoni, it bakes up to be a very satisfying pizza. The tortilla is slightly sweet, and it’s very soft and thin. It crisps up decently in the oven, and I find it to be a really good option for a Keto pizza crust. I have not tried it for other purposes (yet), but I’m guessing it would be a perfectly adequate substitution for burritos or even tacos. 

Street Tacos Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas: These little tortillas are smaller than the above ones, but they are thicker and – I think – tastier. You get two of them for 3 grams of net carbs. Because they are a little thicker, they make a nice sturdy crust for a mini pizza. I always make at least two mini pizzas, sometimes three, and they definitely help curb the pizza cravings. Somehow I haven’t tried these with tacos yet either, but I think they would be delicious.

Keto Blueberry Cinnamon Nut Granola: I bought this on a whim at Costco, and I am very glad I did. (Apparently, you can also buy it on amazon. There are multiple flavors, too!) One of the things Keto lacks is an abundance of crunchy foods. (Outside of vegetables. And dehydrated cheese.) One-third of a cup of this granola has 3 net grams of carbs. (Hmmm. On the Nutrail website, it says 2 grams of net carbs… but on the bag it says 3… Either way, a decently low carb count for what you get.) Pair it with the Two Good yogurt and you have a very satisfying breakfast on your hands. Like the yogurt, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular granola. I feel like the monkfruit sweetener is noticeable, although it’s not bad. But it has a great texture and I love the addition of the dried blueberries. 

Keto Ice Cream: I don’t miss sweets a whole lot on Keto. I think I’m too busy missing black beans and soups and chips and pizza and garlic bread and pasta and beer. Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, sweets. I’m just not a big sweets eater. But once in awhile, I do miss ice cream. Fortunately, there is an abundant variety of frozen desserts available to us. What a time to be alive. Continuous outbreaks of war and ongoing gun violence, but grocery stores have frozen desserts as far as the eye can see. My two favorites are Halo Top Chocolate Cheesecake (from its Keto series; not sure if there is a chocolate cheesecake flavor in its other series) and Keto Mint Chip. If you have never tried these before: they take some getting used to. The texture is so very, very different from real ice cream. It’s… crumbly. But if you let it sit out for a very, very, very long time, or if you grow deeply impatient and microwave it for 15 seconds or so, it starts to melt and become creamy. At least around the edges. Texture aside, I like the flavor of both of these ice creams. The Halo Top is satisfyingly chocolatey, and has these weird (but tasty!) little cream cheese pellets that add a nice cheesecake essence. I am describing it accurately but not appealingly, I realize that. I do actually LIKE it. The Keto option is refreshingly minty and has a profusion of good-size chocolate chips. I have yet to try any other flavors, but there are LOTS.

Atkins Keto Caramel Almond Nut Clusters: I mentioned these before, but I am including them here as well because they are just really so good. At just 2 grams of net carbs per cluster, they are the perfect response to a candy bar craving or to the feeling of FOMO one gets when one’s entire family are eating chewy, delicious molasses cookies with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. And the crunch of the nuts and the chew of the caramel makes them extremely satisfying. They do have that slight aftertaste of erythritol, but it’s not bad. And sometimes you just want something that is as close as possible to candy without being candy. 

Okay, so those are all the things that are made low-carb on purpose. But there are also some products that exist free of Keto/low-carb boundaries that I nonetheless turn to frequently.

Milkadamia Unsweetened Macadamia Nut Milk: When I did Keto in 2020, I used almond milk for my tea, which is a great option that I still love. (The brand of unsweetened almond milk I bought was 1 gram of net carbs per eight-ounce serving. Some brands have a LOT more carbs though.) But when Nicole mentioned that she had switched to macadamia nut milk, I decided to give it a try. It strikes me as slightly thicker/creamier than almond milk, and the flavor is unobjectionable.  It also has less than 1 net gram of carbs per eight-ounce serving, and I use a full cup of it in my tea every day. 

Moo is moot. Apparently.

Low-Carb Sauces: One of the things I love most in life is sauces and sauces are tricky on Keto. A lot of sauces have sugar or other carb-heavy ingredients. That’s why ketchup is a no-no on Keto. I make do with copious amounts of sriracha and mustard… and then I try any no-carb sauce I come across. I picked up this delicious no-carb Lemon Herb Aioli at my grocery store and love it. It’s excellent with salmon. Rich and creamy and flavorful. It does not taste like a diet food and that’s because it is NOT a diet food. I bet it would be tasty with artichokes or asparagus. I loved it so much, I grabbed the Sriracha Aioli (which has 1 gram of net carbs per tablespoon, so I would use it more sparingly) (not that I use a TON of the lemon herb aioli; a tablespoon goes a long way) the next time I went to the store. I’m going to put it on shrimp and roasted cauliflower and see if it works as a marinade for grilled chicken or pork. Stonewall Kitchen has a bunch of flavors, and I want to try the Chipotle Aioli and the Habanero Mango Aioli. Perhaps that is too much aioli for one person to have in her refrigerator, I don’t know.

Bubly: For that dangerous hungry time between five o’clock and dinnertime (which, for me, is usually 8:00 or later, sigh), I find myself craving wine. What a delightful discovery when I learned that a can of Bubly sparkling water with a squeeze of cherry Koolaid liquid works just as well as a glass of chardonnay. Especially if I pair it with some slices of sharp cheddar cheese. The cherry Bubly is my favorite, but I also love the raspberry and the blackberry. The grapefruit is good (and pairs well with gin/tequila and lime juice!) and the passionfruit is decent. The only Bubly flavor I do not care for is blueberry.

The one thing I haven’t found yet is a good Keto tortilla chip. It seems like there are several options that contain only 3 to 4 net grams of carbs per bag, but I haven’t come across any in the wild… and don’t really want to spend $20-$30 to order a bunch of chips I may not end up liking. If I find a single bag at a grocery store somewhere, I will definitely try it and report back. 

Read Full Post »

Some people mentioned an interest in my current Keto Experience, and since – as when on any diet – I think about Keto a lot, I am happy to oblige. 

However, I keep feeling blocked when I try to talk about it. I feel like I have to have an explanation for trying Keto again. And the explanation (I want to lose weight) feels unsatisfactory to me. 

For one thing, the subject of weight is so FRAUGHT. My experience of my body should have nothing to do with anyone else’s experience of their body, and yet weight is so comparative. It is almost impossible to say that a person who wants to change her body is not passing judgment on someone whose body is different from her own. I think we all know that both things are true: I can look at myself and find fault, while seeing absolutely no fault in others. I can know that, experience that, but also feel judged by others who are on their own personal paths. I would never want my decision to lose weight make someone else feel bad. And I don’t want to TALK about weight a lot, either – I had an acquaintance who recently lost a lot of weight, and I am very proud of her for achieving a goal she set for herself and happy for her that she feels so good, but literally EVERY conversation we have includes weight talk and I cannot handle it. So beyond a few posts, which I will clearly label as Keto adjacent, I promise to avoid weight talk. Maybe I will come back and update you on progress, if there is any, but maybe not. 

Another thing that makes me feel conflicted about Keto is that I have tried – so hard – these past two years to love my body the way it is. I’ve tried to accept its changes, to eat intuitively, and to buy clothes that fit me. I feel like I should love my body. But I don’t. So wanting to lose weight feels like a failure. 

But the fact is, I DO want to lose weight.

Plus… I feel like I’ve been instructed to lose weight, which makes me feel both resistant and ashamed. When I went to my new gynecologist earlier this year, she told me I needed to lose weight. Those weren’t her exact words – and I don’t think she even brought it up. I think I may have made a comment about gaining weight during the pandemic, and she said something about how it would be a good idea for me to lose [obscene amount] of weight. When she said that, I felt crushed with despair. I think we can all agree that it’s one thing when you know that you need to do something “for your health.” But it’s entirely another when a medical professional tells you the same thing (especially when she is suggesting it to you in a reasoned and compassionate way). 

When I went to my new primary care doctor, I mentioned what the gynecologist had said. My new doctor (I love her so) shrugged and said that the gyn was going by OLD rules, and that I was really fine. There is a wider range of “healthy” weight/BMI than medical science previously prescribed, and I was within that range. But then she said I might be more comfortable if I lose [less obscene amount] of weight. 

She was the one who recommended Keto. And because I am nothing if not A Rule Follower, I felt like I had to at least give it a try. (As I explained it to my husband: if I ask for advice in solving a problem and then don’t follow that advice, I can’t complain to you later about the same problem.)

I told her that I had done Keto before, and that I hated it in part because – as with all diets – you had to think about food all day every day. My husband and I went All In, the first time. We were super strict. We tracked all of our macros – protein, fat, and carbs – and made sure we were getting the prescribed amount of each. It was a constant battle to get enough protein and fat without drastically overreaching one or the other. It was just as bad as calorie counting, and I hated it. It feels disordered to me, to be constantly wondering if you’re eating enough or too much. I never wanted to do that again.

My doctor claimed that she didn’t track every little thing. She simply stays under 20 grams of net carbs per day. 

I was suspicious. But it sounded appealing, to only think about the carbs. And I wondered if maybe I could fit Keto/low-carb to my needs rather than the other way around. 

I have been much more relaxed, this time. And – not surprisingly – the weight is coming off much more slowly. But it is coming off. (It went right back on when I ditched Keto over my vacation, though. So I will have to figure out how – or if – I can ever add carbs back to my diet without gaining everything back. But that’s a problem for the future.) 

The first time I did Keto, I lost about 10% of my bodyweight in about six weeks. 

This time, it took me about six weeks to lose 6% of my bodyweight. BUT I was taking at least one weekend day “off” of Keto during that time. 

It’s clear to me that if I want to supercharge the results I want, I need to stick to it more strictly. But my husband thinks that it might be more sustainable to do it the way I am – slowly, without feeling overly restricted.

I don’t know. It still seems like early days – especially since I took a week off for vacation and it feels almost as though I am starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. 

Here are the main “rules” I am following this time around:

  1. I try to limit my intake of net carbs to 18 grams per day. I use the free version of Carb Manager to track my carb intake. I think it’s a very user friendly app, and the database of foods is vast and fairly accurate. 
  2. I try to eat foods I like as often as possible. Salmon vs. eggs, for instance. And I am trying to continue to make and eat recipes I like. For example, I will still eat stir fry, just without so much sauce and with no rice. 
  3. When it comes to veggies, I try not to be too restrictive. One cup of raw broccoli, for instance, is 4 grams of net carbs. If I have only 8 grams of net carbs available for dinner, but I want to eat a third cup of broccoli, I eat the extra broccoli. 
  4. I prioritize protein over fat. True Keto is a balance between protein, fat, and carbs. But when I did Keto before, I found myself forcing down things I didn’t want in order to get the “right” amount of fat. I would add MCT oil to my tea, for instance. It was awful and made me feel sick. Now, if I don’t get “enough” fat, oh well. 
  5. I try to drink a LOT of water. I have found that I feel more full if I start the day with a glass of water than if I go straight into tea/breakfast. 
  6. I do not think about calories. When I look at my Carb Manager app, my caloric intake is all over the map. 1400 calories one day, 1100 the next, 1500 the next, 584 calories the next (which obviously is not sustainable or healthy, and the low calorie content was certainly not intentional), 1350 the next. The carbs are my focus, not the overall calories. This helps, I think, keep me from the feeling that I am constantly thinking about food and tracking food all day long. I mean, I do track my food. But it’s much less of an ordeal than it was either in 2020 or when I’ve done things like calorie counting and Weight Watchers. My attempt to be less consumed by this diet is, so far, working pretty well.
  7. For the most part, I try to stick to “real” foods, rather than processed snacky things. For the most part, because I definitely have bought some pre-packaged helpers, which I will tell you about next time. But I find that I feel happier and more satisfied when I am eating things like shrimp and zucchini noodles or pork tenderloin and asparagus than when I am eating 100% hot dogs and freeze-dried cheese. The cheese thing is interesting to me, because one thing that’s great for Keto is cheese. But I eat a LOT less cheese this time than I did in 2020. 

Okay. That’s enough. If you are still reading, first of all, bless you, and secondly, let me know if you have any questions. 

I will do another post about the Keto purchases I have made that I like. And maybe a post about what I eat in a typical week (mainly for Future Me). And then I will stop talking about it. (Mostly.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »