The Monday Dispatch

Last night I made chicken in spinach gravy for the first time in ages. The hard part is factoring the time for marinating the chicken in yogurt and spices. The recipe came from Indian Every Day by Anjum Anad, a native of England who lost a crap ton of weight by modifying her mum’s recipes to reduce the fat. I’ve only had one dish go wrong. I love the book and the recipes. Pretty easy to follow.

We went to lunch with our neighbors on Saturday. When in doubt, salad with grilled chicken and dressing on the side. Pretty good. Not too many points. Requested that the bacon be held. No cheese would have been too austere.

Hubby will likely be returning to his mom’s house to finish the outside before the weather goes to poop. Before that, we’re going to the Stronghold Olde English Faire in Oregon, IL this weekend. It’s small, doable in a half-day, but still just enough to boost me through until Bristol Ren Faire opens next July. Last year, I was the volunteer from the audience who stood on stage while two nice looking men read poetry from the Elizabethan era and today to me.

I hope this year is as magical.

Reconsidering Aldi

No, dears, I’m not getting paid for this. I have simply developed a fondness for it after many years.

When we first moved out here, Aldi was the store of last resort. The turn off of the main road is at an unnatural angle and shared with two other businesses. The old building, now demolished, smelled odd. Many of the foods were processed overseas, and the labels read like the culinary world’s Periodic Table. I bought what I could comfortably (read: pasta) and dreamed of the post-construction days ahead when I could shop other places without fear of overdrawing our checking account.

As do other trying times, those passed. I drove past it with little thought.

Then in came the new building.

And in came reviews and raves from unexpected sources. One friend with a kid en route to college told me over several lunches that Aldi had started to carry organic and natural and gluten-free products. Another who runs in business circles of the highest order on the east coast posted several raves about it and how much she had cut her grocery bills. Then came the biggest shocker of all: my sister whose taste buds out-discriminate mine called and told me of a delicious dinner that she’d made with fish purchased there.

Oh, and let’s not forget my personal kryptonite: chocolate. Really good high-quality made in Europe chocolate.  Hubby brought a lot home before I caved and decided to give Aldi another shot for everyday shopping. We went there one afternoon, and well, he won.

Caveats:

  • Take a quarter and bags with you. The carts are chained together and can be freed for a quarter. This prevents loss and damages incurred by rogue carts roaming the lot. They do have paper bags, but they’re something like six cents each. Oh, and you have to bag your own purchases. But it’s worth it.
  • Take an extra bag or two. Remember the stories about shopping in Cold War-era Russia where people always carried bags with them so they could purchase food, clothes, etc. to make sure they didn’t run out in case of a shortage? You never know what you might find on special at Aldi, so be prepared. Not just food wise, but kitchen equipment, household goods, and chainsaws. Really.
  • Do extra scrutiny on the labels. I bought some salsa that had sugar in it. Some argue that sugar in tomato products lifts and balances the flavor. To me, you might as well pour it on ice cream. Also the nut butters have palm oil in them with no indication about whether or not it’s rainforest safe. Their grape supplier sprays them with sulfur to preserve freshness.
  • Be careful about the meat and fish for additives such as dyes and preservatives and where it was produced. Also be aware that the dairy products give no indication about GMO or antibiotic safety.

But that being said, their parent company is in Germany, and they usually have breads, jams, and soups manufactured in the EU, so that helps with the safety factor. They have a lot of gluten free offerings: corn-based pasta, mac and cheese, pizza (which incidentally gives two Weight Watcher friendly servings), and cereals and snack bars. The produce is a little hit and miss, but they are making strides with the organic offerings.

I mentioned the chocolate, didn’t I?

 

 

 

 

 

So Let Us Begin…

It’s Monday, the first day of autumn, a/k/a Mabon in the earth-based religions, and new moon day.

This weekend featured marches against climate change. Can the effort to heal the planet continue? I hope so.

Oakley and I walked at a forest preserve populated by oaks yesterday. Over the next few weeks, their leaves turn gold or scarlet depending on their species. The vibrant if too-short show really pops against the grey skies. I thanked and blessed the trees for their efforts to clean the air and cool the earth. We arrived pretty early, and no one else was there, so why not? Trees are some of the best huggers I know.

Local critters are starting to move. Deer appear by the side of the road, ready to play the ancient versions of “Dating Game” that perpetuate the species, namely crossing from point A to point B without getting nailed by a car. This morning, Oakley protected me from a flock of wild turkeys blocking the path in front of us. No harm done, but the power of a dirty look is not to be underestimated.

Hubby returned from the latest wrestling match with his mom’s house. A few days of my cooking and some decent nights’ sleep will go a long way towards repairing him. I made him pasta and broccoli with a reduction of chicken broth to cut back on the oil. He liked it and fell asleep on the sofa.

I bought another bag of gala apples from the orchard yesterday afternoon. Perfect. Sweet and crisp, just as the season they represent.

 

 

The Challenging Yoga of Dog Cuddling

This morning, Oakley hopped up on the sofa next to me and wrapped his left paw around my right arm. I had just enough wiggle room to reach up and scratch his ear. Then I reached over to scratch his right ear with my left hand, and he wrapped his right paw around my left wrist, pinning me down and pulling me over to him so my cheek rested on top of his head.

Deciding that he was comfortable, he fell asleep. Luckily for me, it was just a micro-nap. Any longer in that half-sitting-half-lying-down-elbow-balance would have caused me to freeze.

Refreshed, he was ready for his morning walk and kindly let me up so we could proceed.

Advice from a Disney Character That’s Actually Pertinent

I won’t post the link to “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” nifty song that it is. Elsa sang some words of wisdom, though, as she climbed that mountain. I love it, but for readers who have been subjected to its repeated playing by members of its intended demographic group, I’ll spare you.

We are coming up on equinox next weekend. Plans for a gathering to mark the turning of the wheel are afoot for a week from today. Time to let go of the summer. This will help.

I’m not struggling as much with letting go of Oakley’s former day care. We went to the party last weekend and exchanged contact information. I did what I could to help organize for the garage sales she’s holding to find homes for the equipment. I can’t roll back time and make it my version of right again. If you’ve been through the process of walking with a loved one down the path of a terminal illness, you’ll get it. The band of Denial, Bargaining, Anger, and Depression have finished their opening act and left the stage for Acceptance’s solo show. There is no good time for something like this to happen, but as things wind down and contract in the fall, it’s as good as any. The anger still flares now and then, but has settled into righteousness and outrage that what is legal and what is moral are two very different things. I have to gently remind myself of Karma and her mysterious ways, breathe, and get on with things.

The change of seasons, especially going into fall and winter, are good times to let go of stuff in any form, physical or otherwise. I’ll be using this week to sort out some clutter and make a run to a donation center. Perhaps an unsent letter burning is in order as well.

Let it go, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Frost(ing) on the Pumpkin

free vintage digital stamp_pumpkin image

 

At the intersection of Pointsville Road and Change of Seasons Street lies the pumpkin. Before the humble squash gets gussied up with milk, eggs, sweetener, and so on, it can be used as the basis for many yummy savory things such as soup, ravioli filling, or curry for not too many points. No fat, low in carbs, high in fiber makes it a good addition to many recipes.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I saw a dessert recipe that involved a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin as a substitute for the oil and eggs. If you use a natural or gluten-free mix with a minimum of chemicals (you do need baking powder or soda to make it rise), I personally don’t see an issue with it, especially since g-f baking can involve a long list of ingredients. In this case, you’d still have to add eggs, but the oil could get swapped out for the pumpkin.

Pumpkin is also good for dogs. Oakley has it several times a week as the basis for his meals. The fiber in it helps to balance intestinal activity and soothe the whole GI system. His favorite treats include it.

And by some coincidence, so do mine.

Becoming Keen on Quinoa

A little adventure for breakfast is a good thing, especially when it comes to quelling cravings for things that might not be that good for you. I’ve been craving oatmeal, but the last few times I had it, things did not go as planned. Because I count my readers as polite company, I will spare the details.

I had picked up a package of quinoa a couple of weeks ago. It’s a seed from a South American plant that doesn’t fit the criteria for a grain for some reason, but it can be called in to pinch hit for wheat and rice in applications such as pasta. It cooks up in about 15 minutes, not unlike rice. It’s higher in fiber and has a lot of protein, so you’ll stay full longer. The flavor is slightly nutty, very pleasant.

Unless it’s part of a pre-rinsed mix, you’ll need to give it a good washing. Put it into a fine-meshed strainer and rinse, rinse, rinse. In its natural state, it’s covered in saponins, soap-like substances that protect the plant by making it taste like, well, soap. Pretty nasty surprise.

Cooking it is pretty easy–it’s a 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. Bring the two cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt, then pour in the quinoa and let it go for 15 minutes.

I had half a cup with almond milk, blueberries, stevia, and cinnamon. It did the trick of keeping me full all morning long for not a lot of points.

Savory applications are in order as well. I think I hear a salad or two calling my name.

To Everything There Is a Season

Labor Day came and went, and left hand in hand with August. The storm came on Thursday, the one that announces autumn’s impending arrival. We still have a lot of summer in front of us and plenty of nice days ahead until that last week or so in November. School starts, and on we go into the new season, changes and all.

Some of them are good. I am down a hair under seven pounds as of Friday. (bows and says “thank you, thank you.”) Oakley did two full days at his new daycare place. He slept well both nights. Going to Ms. Rebecca’s involves a left turn at the major intersection rather than going straight. He’s learned that when we do that, he’s going to go have fun, and he stands up in excitement. Oakley has mad several new friends, including a pretty lab mix named Sheba and a schnauzer named Wilfred. Ms. Rebecca’s is about a third of the distance that it was to Ms. Judi’s, even picking through the construction that squashed the main road through town to two lanes.

Some are bittersweet. We are staying in touch with the parents of his previous day care friends through email and Facebook so that we can arrange play dates and walks. The adjustments are easier for him than me. Oakley’s blissfully unaware of the legal, moral, and karmic aspects about the hows and whys of the center’s closing. I wish that I were as well.

He has accepted the changes well. I, too, will adjust, but I’m the one who needs the time to do so.

 

Notes on the First Week

So I went to Weight Watchers on Friday. I am four pounds lighter. (takes a bow) Thank you.

What am I eating? Pretty much what I was before, only being very mindful about measuring. I am measuring out my cashews, nut butters, salad dressings, yogurt, cheese. I am amazed at how much a tablespoon is, and how satiated a half-cup of yogurt makes me feel.

And drinking a lot more water. I had really fallen away from doing that.

I’m still eating chocolate and pasta. Need to look at how pizza will fit into the grand scheme of things: a serving of the gluten-free one that I like is worth about a third of a day’s points.

I mentioned that I lost four pounds, didn’t I? Thank you.