Monthly Archives: March 2015

Garden 2015: Restarts, weeds, and in the ground

Over the winter, Andy and I had a boiler/radiator system installed in our home. The base of operations for the new system is our utility room, which used to be the coldest room in the house, and is now the warmest. I thought the heat would be great for my seedlings, and I was right! The balmy heat in the utility room worked its magic much faster than I was expecting, and my seeds started sooner than I anticipated. I wasn’t prepared to transplant them into bigger pots as early as they needed so I decided  to restart a few seeds as the original plants (namely some broccoli and cauliflower) had gotten a bit leggy and I didn’t know if the root systems would be able to develop in the larger pots. Everything else “seems” to be okay. Now I just have to keep them safe from the cats. Much easier said than done. There have been casualties.

As we’re into the middle of March (seriously, how did that happen?), I realized I should probably get my cooler weather crops sown directly into the ground within the next 7-10 days, specifically my beets, spinach, spring turnips, arugula, fava beans, radishes, and lettuce. In order to get these lovelies in the ground, I’ve got to get my act together and do some major weeding. I’ve also got to get my hands on some good compost. Once those two things are done, I should be in a good spot. Thankfully, we’re getting  little bit of sun this week as weeding in the rain isn’t my favorite activity.

March 13th: Weekly meal plan

I don’t know if it’s the combination of warm sun and drizzly gray days (we’ve had both this week), but I’m feeling like I’ve got some ants in my pants. As such, I’m trying two new dinners this week. Normally, I try to limit myself to one new meal a week, but I’m feeling a little adventurous–if two new-to-us meals can be called adventurous–so here we go!

Chicken ragu over herbed cauli-rice
Braised cabbage with fried eggs (new!)
Mushroom masala over Indian-spiced cauli-rice (new!)
– Broccoli, cheese, and egg casserole (from the Wheat Belly 30-Minute (or Less) cookbook)
– Brussels sprouts gratin with fried eggs (from the Wheat Belly 30-Minute (or Less) cookbook)
– Chorizo chile (Probably one of the easiest meals I make. Recipe to come!)
– Hodge Podge (Let’s clean that fridge!)

 

In sickness and in health

After Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I went into overdrive. I spent hours in the kitchen testing healthy recipes he probably didn’t like. I spent only slightly less time online trying to find answers to all of our questions: What did this diagnosis really mean for the life we were currently living? Seriously—we have to give up all fun food? That can’t be right. How do I count carbohydrates and make a “balanced” meal?

On the other spectrum I was trying to support Andy and the emotional roller coaster he was on. I started to get angry. If I was Andy’s support, who was mine? My emotions were on the same stomach-jolting ride as his, and I was trying to process all of my own feelings—concern, worry, anxiety, anger, frustration—while trying not to take his emotional expressions too personally.

How was I supposed to act/react/behave when the love of my life, my partner in crime, my very best friend, was having such a difficult time? I had to watch that my concern and fear  didn’t turn into nagging (I wasn’t always successful). To be perfectly honest, it was through God’s grace alone that we made it through those first weeks.

I started to ask myself: What good was spending 4–5 hours a night in the kitchen preparing healthy food, if I didn’t have the energy to have a real conversation at the end? At what point does the diagnosis take over a relationship, and at what point do you take the relationship—and your own sanity—back?

All I can say is it took time, a lot of patience, and a willingness to forgive Andy’s missteps as well as my own.

During those first 4 months, I made some realizations:

  • Andy is an adult who understands the implications of his health. What he eats, and when/how much he exercises is between him and his body. I can’t control everything—just take care of the little things. A hug, smile, and a meal made with love were sometimes all that I could do to help him on his journey.
  • It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, worried, afraid—Type 2 is a scary disease. Just don’t take your emotions out on the other person. They’re probably feeling the exact same way, and don’t need it coming from you, too.

I learned that bad days will happen more often than not. Blood sugar will get high (and low), and you just have to roll with the punches. In order to survive, you have to pull together and draw towards God. You can’t do it alone. Lean on the other person when you have to, and carry them as you can. Believe it or not, you will come out on the other end, and your relationship may even be stronger for it.

 

 

Garden 2015: Starts and specs

I promised last week I would share exactly what plants I started and my general garden plan, so here goes!

Tomatoes x 20 (8 different kinds)
Peppers, sweet x 5 (California Wonder Pepper)
Peppers, hot x 10 (Jalapeno and Pepperoncini)
Cabbage x 10 (3 different kinds)
Romanesco x 2
Broccoli x 10
Kale x 10 (Curly and Lacinato)
Cauliflower x 8
Celery x 25
Onions x lots! (2 different spring plus a batch of red. It’s hard to say exactly how many, but probably around the 300 mark. Onions start differently than other veggies.)

A little over a week and I already have starts for the following: Tomatoes, cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, celery, and onions. I’m days away from transplanting into bigger pots and trying to figure out where I can put them that gets plenty of light, but is away from the cats, because seedlings and cats aren’t a good mix.

The peppers and some of the tomatoes are being a bit stubborn. I’m hoping they’ll come up soon, though I don’t have any experience starting celery and I’ve never had luck starting peppers.

As for the rest of our garden (remember, I’ve got 8 beds to fill!) I’ve got a fairly large handful of seeds that will be direct sown once the soil warms up sufficiently. Here’s what I’ll be putting in the ground in the next 6–8 weeks:

Pumpkins (5 kinds!)
Fava beans
Bush beans
Carrots
Arugula
Beets (4–5 kinds!)
Butternut squash
Cucumbers (2–3 kinds!)
Head lettuce
Turnips
Spinach
Swiss chard
Radishes
Dill
Sunflowers
Nasturtiums

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little nervous. This is the largest number of plants I’ve ever attempted, and it will take some dedication to the cause to keep everything going . If everything turns out, we’ll be swimming in produce, and I’ll have a lot to put up so we can eat through the winter. If it doesn’t, well I’ll have to chuck it up to another learning experience.

 

March 6th: Weekly meal plan

Hello and welcome to the weekend!

If you look closely at our first few meal plans, you’ll see a lot of repeats. There are a few reasons for this: 1) It makes meal planning super easy–just take what we like from the week before and have it again. 2) We like what we like. Why make a change? 3) It makes sticking to the budget fairly easy as I already know what each meal will roughly cost.

Don’t think that we eat the same thing night after night. When I do meal repeats, I like to make something at the end of the second week that we had at the beginning of the week before. In the end, it all balances out quite nicely.

Here’s a look at what Andy and I are eating this week. Enjoy!

– Egg cups and asparagus
– Broccoli and cheese egg bake/casserole
– Broccoli, sausage, and tomato bake/casserole with grain-free crumble topping
– Chorizo, mushroom, and turnip* soup with salad
– Curried cauliflower soup with salad (freezer meal!)
– Cobb salad
– Hodge Podge (clear out that fridge!)

*Our garden is chock-a-block full of turnips that I planted last fall. I need to start incorporating them into meals before they bolt as it’s been an unseasonably warm winter this year.

A look back

Before we go any further with our story, I think it’s important to take a look at what our lives looked like pre-diagnosis.

When Andy and I were first married, I wasn’t the world’s greatest cook. We ate sandwiches 3 nights a week, I cooked once or twice (usually some form of pasta), and we filled the difference with eating out and leftovers. As the months went along, I stumbled across the amazing world of food blogs and my cooking skills improved dramatically. It turns out I’m a pretty good cook!

Andy is somewhat famous for his devotion to a sparkling green liquid called Mt. Dew. His love of the Dew is so renowned that a friend once brought us Mt. Dew cake as a special treat. In the manner of true transparency (and past a little embarrassment), Andy would easily go through 4–6 two liters of Mt. Dew every week. He drank them and I bought them—it was a vicious cycle.

In May of 2010 I lost my job. Once the summer months cooled, I turned to the kitchen to fill my time and keep busy. I would turn out days’ worth of shepherd’s pie (with fluffy mashed potato topping), chicken n’ dumplings, macaroni and cheese, beef stroganoff, stuffed cabbage, and the list goes on. Weekends were full of biscuits n’ gravy (one of Andy’s personal favorites), pancakes, eggs, and lots of cookies.

We hunkered in for our long winter’s nap starting in September with the help of pounds of lovingly made home-cooked food. And even though we were dealing with a reduced monthly income, we still found the funds to eat out on a regular basis using the excuse that we needed quality time together (apparently over nachos and fried beans).

I can remember the day Andy informed me he was denied for life insurance and the reason why. I took a look at the chicken pot pie I had sitting in the fridge and knew that things had to change.

It took some time, but I’m happy to say, our weekly Mt. Dew budget is now our weekly apple budget. My home cooked meals are still delicious, but significantly lighter—even in winter. Who said you can’t enjoy salad when it’s cold and rainy? We still eat out, but it’s with much (much!) less regularity.

We found that we were feeling lighter and enjoying life together more than ever before. We started to actually talk to each other. Not chat around mouthfuls of take out in front of the TV, or in a faux-leather booth at the Mexican place down the street. But actual “how was your day” type of conversation.

It didn’t happen immediately, and there were definitely some hunger pains as we swapped the mashed potatoes for roasted broccoli. But God took our desperate situation and turned it for good as only He can.

February 27th: Weekly meal plan

Happy weekend! Here’s a look at what Andy and I will be eating this week.

(Recipes will come as I get them posted.)

– Ham and egg cups with truffled roasted asparagus and flat bread
– Bacon eggs benedict with guacamole over salad greens
– Broccoli, tomato and sausage casserole with grain free crumble topping (adapted from this recipe)
– Brussels sprouts gratin (from the Wheat Belly 30-Minutes or Less Cookbook)
– Chorizo cauli-rice bowls
– Curried cauliflower soup and salad
– Hodge Podge (classic leftovers …)