Bringing Out the Low-Glycemic/Gluten Free Heavy Artillery

This morning’s walk was one of the most gawd-awful ones taken in my dog ownership career. Oakley and I went to the forest preserve located on the major east-west road by the house. Not such a good idea when one wonders if the neighbors’ cows will fly through the yard. 

In advance of an approaching system, the wind had kicked up to an alleged 22 miles per hour with gusts up to 35. More like sustained 35 and gusts of Katrina level. The road runs through several open fields, and snow had blown over it, made it look and feel like a blizzard. Still, I thought, we both need to walk, so off we went.

I didn’t know which circle of hell awaited us until we arrived in the parking lot. The trail was half-snowed in, and tricky to walk on in cross trainers, especially when Oakley kept trying to protect me from the wind by sitting and planting himself or cutting in front of me to stop us from walking into it. For a few moments, I wondered how I’d ended up on the beach near campus in Marquette, Michigan. The 50 mph headwinds that blast from Canada and gather steam over Lake Superior feel very much like the ones that numbed me into survival mode today, the ones that I deliberately ran into screaming my head off when the stress of school weighed me down and I wanted to shut down my mind for a few moments for the sake of clarity. 

After reassuring Oaks that I had it and that I knew what we were doing, sort of, in a gooey tone, my survival instincts took us back to the car and picked our way home with out incident. Hubby was on a break, and made me tea to help me thaw out. The smokiness of lapsang souchong makes everything seem warmer. I made soup for him after my brain’s higher functions melted.

This weather calls for some serious comfort food. I went shopping yesterday, so save for a couple of incidentals, we are set for this round of growth experiences. I found a recipe for shepherd’s pie with cauliflower standing in for the potatoes. That will be for dinner tonight. 

This is a good time to experiment with low glycemic variations on dishes that ward off the cold. I’ve seen ones that use sweet potato as a substitute for higher glycemic ingredients (sweet potato lasagne fascinates and repels me simultaneously), but the ones  starring cauliflower resonate with me in a more positive way. Likely because of the color and texture, and they lack the note of desperation sung by sweet potatoes in savory applications. They go well with Indian and Thai curries as a stand in for rice, but I can’t imagine it as a substitute for pasta. 

Pasta or no, we need comfort on days like this. So alternative comforts, combined with good music and something on Netflix tonight we shall have.


Dreaming in Green

I checked the long-term weather forecast that comes courtesy of the app on my new cell phone this morning. Today is supposed to be the last day of getting dope-slapped by the polar vortex. The warmup starts tomorrow, and inch by inch, we claw and crawl towards spring. 

Saturday is Imbolc to Earth Religion followers and St. Bridget’s Day to others. The days finally grow longer. We’re still at risk for storms, but those few moments of light carved out at each end of the day certainly boost the old morale. 

This year, I intend to try raised bed gardening. The soil has so much residue from its farming career that I don’t feel safe messing with it any more.  Usual suspects: tomatoes, green beans, radishes, lettuce, spinach. Maybe get a little crazy and try herbs, too. 

The enforced coziness is making me, Hubby, and Oakley a little nuts. Dreaming of this summer’s garden will help in the quest for sanity. 


A Trieste on Music

A person could be deceived into thinking Midwestern winters are not that bad today. The sky is a cloudless, cliche-ridden blue. The ground is another story, however. The stiff wind bringing tonight’s anticipated storm and arctic cold from the northwest sculpts the snow already on the ground like Martha Stewart trying to get just the right ripple effect on a cake’s frosting. 

A pleasant distraction is in order. This evening’s entertainment will be “A Prairie Home Companion,” just as it has been most Saturdays since I was in high school. As I create the cauliflower-crusted pizza ( and it works just as well with plain ol’ mozz in the crust instead of goat cheese–oh, and you can mix the cooked drained and dried cauliflower, egg, cheese, and herbs in the food processor), I will be listening to performers who do what they do out of love and a deep desire to keep traditional music genres alive and well.


I need to have music as I cook. Sometimes it’s jazz, others classical, and there’s something about folk music and Saturdays that mesh just right. Classic rock (from the Police on back) is mostly for driving. But whatever I’m listening to and whatever I’m creating, the ingredients and the tunes have to be real.

Tonight, I need a serious palate clearing. The Grammys are on tomorrow night; the last two days have been filled to the brim with coverage of Justin Bieber’s latest act of stupidity. I am left unimpressed by the artists featured in the clips promoting the former and disturbed that the mainstream media has lost its collective mind over a marketable but questionably talented teenager who’s on the fast track to be a victim of his his own excesses.  

I’ve been spoiled since college by friends who are musicians, and who by rights (extreme prejudice warning here) should have been on “Prairie Home Companion,” but some things just don’t work out they way they ought to in a perfect world. I’ve also dabbled in singing lessons here and there, and been in recitals, and I will tell you, Dear Readers, there is a lot more to the preparation and execution of a performance than looking pretty and enticing fans. 

My own performance experiences have made me quite the demanding critic, just as my cooking has made me quite the pain in the butt over restaurants. I don’t want technotronics, fancy lighting effects, or plates arranged like tableaux from art museums. Just give me the best of either, and plenty of it,  and I will be a happy girl. 

And if we can send Justin back to Canada and get Gordon Lightfoot in exchange, I will swoon in ecstacy.

The Salad in Winter

Really. It’s not as austere as it sounds. You can still have a lunch or dinner salad in cold weather and not feel as if you’re being punished.

I like spinach as a base. Mixed with some pretty greens such as some baby romaine, or even mature romaine, it adds substance. If you warm up your protein, such as grilled chicken or fish, that helps. Add in all the sturdier veggies you can: slivers of carrot, broccoli or cauliflower trees, onion slices. 

Adding some healthy fat in the form of nuts or avocados helps you to feel satisfied as well. Even a judicious amount of cheese can go a long way. Really.


Candles at Dusk

In someways, today has been another wonderfully mundane Monday. Warm-ish, and Oaks and I will head out for another walk in the not too distant future if he’s past being annoyed with me. This morning, I streamed Native American music. One of the tracks featured a coyote chorus. Oakley stopped in the middle of breakfast and stared out the back window, then went to the family room and stared at the speakers. I laughed; I couldn’t help it. 

Later this morning, I was running Oakley through his paces. He was in process of a sit when he, uh, passed gas. He whipped around, unsure of the noise’s origin with a confused look on his face. I started laughing uncontrollably. Hubby came downstairs to see what was happening. Oakley gave me a dirty look and crated himself. 

I don’t blame him. I apologized and gave him some extra goat keifer on his lunch. He’ll get some chicken tonight and another apology with extra snuggles. 

In other ways, the fabric of the day has a few dark threads. My thoughts have been with three friends. One has surgery scheduled later this week to repair damage done in a couple of freak falls; one’s mother is in the hospital; one has an elderly dog with pain issues that required stronger analgesics this week. Outside of my immediate circles, there’s the mess in West Virginia with the contamination of the Elk River and the greedy gutlessness that made the company responsible for it declare bankruptcy to avoid having to pay for damages. 

I can’t make the doggy stop hurting. I can’t teleport myself to the hospitals in question to do what I could to offer comfort and solace. I can’t, even though The Great Mystery knows I would love to, make the suits from the mess at the coal washing plant go for a swim in the fouled water or drink it to show how safe it is. 

So I will light a candle at dusk. I hold the match in my fingers–a wooden one. As I hold it, I set the intention that all will be resolved for the highest good of everyone concerned. Then I light it, and the candle, and imagine the light pushing back the darkness.

Is it a prayer, an intention, an incantation? I don’t know what it’s called, but I feel more peaceful when I’m done.


The Art of the Green Drink

A variation on the smoothie theme, green drinks can be tasty alternative for a quick breakfast or snack at any time. The theory is that the blending process ruptures the cell walls, increasing the bioavailability of the nutrients which leads to a higher degree of satisfaction. 

I’ve been doing these for breakfast and can attest to the fullness, and that I’m not plagued by cravings on days when I start my day with one. The greens help with detoxing as well. That’s why I didn’t have one before acupuncture yesterday–many of the points we’re working on are in my feet, and one run to the ladies’ with needles in place is a lesson remembered for a lifetime, believe me.

You will need a Magic Bullet, food processor, or something else to whir it around in. 

I layer ours like this in the individual cups: spinach or other green veggie, banana or avocado, fruit (partially thawed if frozen), and protein powder, flax seeds, or other things to get mixed in. Pour in a liquid such as water, some sort of milk or milk alternative, or even green tea to enhance the detox process until it reaches the maximum fill line. Attach to base and whirl until it’s combined and the consistency of a milkshake. The flax or chia may make it thicker. 

Personally, I prefer avocado. It’s a healthy fat that provides creaminess but without the sugar of the banana. I don’t like bananas that much to begin with, so no sacrifice made. 

If you don’t have protein powder, throw in a spoonful of nut butter. I will drink banana in a Healthy Elvis–greens, banana, scoop of chocolate protein powder, and a good spoonful of peanut or almond butter.  Should you decide to throw in bacon as well, that is your business. I won’t judge you. 

Operation Grief Bacon Be Gone Begins

Not too long ago, a link to an article about expressions in languages other than English with no direct translation popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. The closest translation to one of the German ones: grief bacon, the term used for weight gain related to stress or sorrow. 

In the last few years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit around my hips and belly along with a muffin top. The death of a beloved companion/fur-bearing child and the unnecessarily protracted illness and drawn-out passage of a family member plus menopause will do that to a woman. I’ve tried a few other times to release it, but for whatever reason, it didn’t leave. I had problems staying on any kind of food plan except the one that I know works best for me: eating low-glycemic/somewhat higher protein.

No, this is not like the Atkins or Paleo food plans. Well, a little in that the emphasis is on non-starchy veggies, fruits that are high in fiber and lower in sugar such as berries, nuts and peanuts, fish, meat and poultry, healthy fats such as real butter and avocados,  and other items that register five net carbs or less.  In other words, put the white carbs down and back away from the table.

I reread parts of The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, MD. That’s what she told patients going through the menopausal metamorphosis to do. She also recommends not eating anything per snack or meal more than you can hold in your two cupped hands.  Yes, it’s doable. Yes, I can have chocolate here and there. Yes, I can rendezvous with objects of desire such as potatoes and pasta once or twice a week.

Just not every day, and in moderation.



The Day As It Is Given

One more weather related cancellation or postponement and I will not be responsible for my behavior.

We had the post-Big Storm Big Thaw yesterday. Warmer temps melted the snow from last weekend’s dumping. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing: we had a pretty hard rain go through. Sheets, buckets, cats, dogs, and a few pocket pets thrown in for good measure. The ground is frozen nine inches down, so there’s nowhere for it to go. The runoff is regrouping in the form of seasonal ponds and black ice in inopportune areas. Nothing livens up your Friday like driving through standing water on black ice. 

After a week of rescheduling and postponements, I was ready to go out for a good walk with Oakley, then out to lunch with a couple of friends. Not so fast. The superintendent at the park was waving people away from the mirror-slick trail, and my road started freezing up again despite a salt truck driving as if in the Indy 500 trials to get the roads covered before the temps tank out again this afternoon. My road follows a hill, curves along a row of telephone poles, then goes straight along a creek .    

I’m erring on the side of caution. I would really like to get out, but what would I be driving into or on when I’m on the way home? I’ve spun out a few times and landed in a ditch. No, thanks. I don’t want to add landing in a creek to my driving resume. 

It’s a good day to practice acceptance. Again. I was able to get out and do some shopping yesterday, so we are set for the duration.  I forgot almond milk, but I will live. 

I have a variety of creative projects to work on, and will delight in the entertainment of “Prairie Home Companion” this evening likely followed by the rest of “Dances With Wolves.” I might even run the vacuum.

But I’m not that desperate yet.

Group Deep Breath

Currently in the soybean field, we are getting snow. A lot of it. And then there will be very cold temps and very bitter wind chills. By Wednesday, however, we will be back to a more moderate twenty-something. 

Yes, we will have a few days that will call for acceptance and adaptation. We will be OK, and the odds are good that most people will live.  But there’s always the inevitable flip into survival mode. You know, where instead of a fast trip to the store to grab an extra carton of milk or another pack of toilet paper just to be safe, people lose their blessed minds and buy cases of sriracha and five kinds of chips and, well, you get the picture. Like the lady at Target the night before the Blizzard of 2011 who threatened Hubby over eggs at Target. To hell with the Wal-Mart, Aldi, Jewel, Walgreen’s and two gas stations perhaps a mile away. Nope, those were the last eggs in her known universe. He graciously let her have them and grabbed some at one of the other stores. 

I had my deep breath moment this morning. Oakley sees the vet for his yearly once over on Monday (theoretically–we’re slated for a high of -12 with Kelvin scale-worthy windchills that’s going from St. Louis up into Canada) and of course I ran out of his Chinese digestive herbs and probiotics yesterday. So I considered a trip to Target this morning. We also walked at a local forest preserve, and as we walked, I felt the barometric pressure change and saw the dark slate cloud wall inch southwards towards us. Barometric changes make me feel as if I’m having a being chased by a tiger. I started doing my breathing exercises as my mind took off. On top of stuff for his tummy, I would then need…OMG…I need chocolate and frozen dog desserts and pizza and a rotisserie chicken and my own personal hygiene supplies and….

Breathe. No, Fran, want or need. You need stuff to keep Oaks’ tummy leveled out. You have enough personal supplies to get you through until Tuesday when you have acupuncture at the clinic almost across the street from Target. You could use some chocolate. Where could you go where you could get stuff for his tummy? Oh, yeah, the drug store two miles from my house.

So I went there, found some probiotics that are safe for the lactose intolerant, a couple of other OTCs to calm things down if need be, and some lovely chocolate. And spray cheese to get everything down Oakley without a fight. 

I was home in about a half-hour. Worth the extra money in this case. Hubby called shortly after I arrived with a story of going to the Target by his mom’s house. All the lanes were open and they still had shoppers in a holding pattern over Detroit Metro. He just went back to his mom’s, grateful for his tuna and soup. I also talked to my sister who lives north of the Detroit area. She and her husband had gone shopping yesterday at their Meijer’s and no carts were to be had. 

So we will be holed up for a couple of days. I’m grateful for my pantry and my freezer, and for basic cookbooks like More with Less and Laurel’s Kitchen to guide me through essentials such as bread should the need arise.

Now as the light slips over the western horizon, it snows. Let it. It will move out in divine right order. Oakley naps next to me with his tush pressed against my leg. I’m thinking chili for my dinner and turkey and pumpkin for his. I lift a prayer for the people and animals out in this. And let the day do what it must. 


The Same Old New Thing

In 2014, I resolve to become one with the sofa, eat all the white carbs I can wrap my jaws around, and sit on my hands regarding the environment and social issues. When I try the opposite, my not insubstantial rebellious streak leads me into doing the above. So we’ll see what happens if I resolve to do the opposite.

Seriously, I prefer “intentions” to “resolutions.” Less militaristic. I do intend to restart my yoga practice and shed the “grief-bacon (closest translation to stress weight in German)” caused by the passages of Orion and my mother-in-law. I do intend to find what works nutritionally for my body as it is at this time of my life. I never had much of a metabolism to begin with, and now that I’m at the Certain Age mark, we’ll have to se what works. It’s not about getting into a bikini; it’s about staving off heart disease and diabetes at this stage of the game.

It’s tough to make adjustments during the winter. This week, we’ve been plagued by snow exacerbated by proximity to Lake Michigan, which spins any weather front into a comma-shaped burst of wind and sharp-pointed ground blizzards. We’ve had to juggle around it, work with it, dance with it. 

The other challenge is keeping Oakley moving. The wind chills warrant an extra day of day care; otherwise, lots of nosework and rally obedience homework are in order. 

So we make the best choices that we can based on what we have available. I think we’re going to choose a nap this afternoon.