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I AM NOT A VEGETARIAN

Cindy Maddera

My chiropractor recommended that I start taking collagen every day for joint support. She said “it’s great! You can’t even taste it when you mix it with water or almond milk.” After she said this, I started seeing collagen supplements every where and I got curious. Translation: I fell for the hype of collagen supplements. I could not find any vegetarian collagen at the health food store. The marine based collage (from fish) was super expensive. So, I ended up with straight up collagen made from cows. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I dump a scoop and half of bovine collagen in to my almond milk.

And I hate it.

It makes my almond milk taste weird and if it’s not stirred well enough you end up swallowing goopy clumps of collagen. I have been drinking it for a month and I do not feel a difference in my old lady achy joints. I feel guilty for drinking crushed up cow cartilage. I feel guilty for buying crushed up cow cartilage. You are probably wondering why I don’t just stop drinking the collagen and throw it out. Well, bovine collagen is only slight less expensive than marine collagen. Since both of my parents taught me to value a dollar, I cannot just throw out a $40 tub of bovine collagen powder. So I will continue to drink my collagen laced almond milk every morning while grimacing and crying on the inside as I think about the process of grinding up cows. Then I will never buy another container of it again, so help me God.

Sometimes I fall for the next big health craze. I’ve done lemon water first thing in the morning and have mixed apple cider vinegar with honey in water. I didn’t really see or feel any different after a few weeks of either of those routines. I did the Cleansing Diet once. That’s the one where you give up sugar, gluten, animal products, alcohol and caffeine. I did this for a week and it ultimately lead to me becoming mostly vegetarian. It turned me into a label reader and it’s why most of the food on our grocery list is fresh produce. There might be one or two canned items on the list, but mostly everything goes in the fridge. Chris and I did a juice diet once. I lost five pounds which I quickly gained back and had a roller coaster mood. I could hug you and then turn right around and punch you in the throat. The only thing gained from that health craze was the thrill I got from pulverizing stuff in the juicer. I’ve been drinking kombucha with my lunch for months now. I have seen a slight reduction in my belly, but that could also be from the forearm plank challenge I’ve corralled half the guys in my office into doing everyday. Sometimes I end up doing the challenge twice, once on my own and again with the group. That means this week, I’ve done two minute forearm planks twice a day.

I can become so neurotic about my food.

I’m trying to be less neurotic and more obsessive about really good ingredients. I am going to the Asian Market this weekend to buy miso that has been aged no less than three years and smoked bonito. I am trying to find a way to purchase fresh (not frozen or canned) snails. I am in the early stages of trying to convince Michael to buy me an Italian Red Cow so that I can start making my own parmesan cheese. We were talking about turnip greens at work the other day and my boss said “I can get you turnips. My Dad plants them as a cover crop.” I told him to bring me all of the turnips and greens he could shove into a bag. I’ve had visions of steaming bowls of seasoned turnip greens ever since. I put smoked oysters on my half of the pizza I made on Sunday and marveled at the smokey rich flavor the oysters added to the pizza. I want to make hearty rich sauces that requires quality butter and wine.

I am not in search of exotic flavors, but true authentic flavors. This country is a melting pot of cultures, yet I find that so often the flavors of those cultures are diluted in order to not overwhelm someone not used to those flavors. I’ve been to Chinese restaurants that have an ‘American’ menu and a ‘Chinese’ menu. The items between those two menus differ greatly. My favorite Vietnamese restaurant is the one that is crowded and a little dirty. We always end up sharing our table with another couple. The egg rolls remind me of the ones Chris’s mom makes. The best Mexican place is the taquiera that has there menu written out daily on a chalkboard. The taco fillings are determined by what ever the butcher or fishmonger had available that day.

I want to fall for the fad of undiluted.

EAT

Cindy Maddera

I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential a couple of months ago. The book has been on my reading list forever and I am almost positive Chris had a copy of it laying around his office at some point. I just never got around to it, but I was finally between books and not to sure what I wanted to read next. I cashed in some Amazon rewards and bought a copy of it for my Kindle app. This was the book I read on the airplane to Portland and I have to admit that at times, it was not an easy read.

I could not read the book without hearing Anthony Bourdain’s voice. It was as clear as if he was reading his words out loud. His voice is so familiar because Chris and I would sit down to watch No Reservations with rapt attention and with the kind of reverence used for listening to the gospel. Anthony Bourdain traveled the globe in a way that Chris and I dreamed of doing ourselves. The destination was not so much about seeing the sights as it was about immersing yourself into the local culture. This baptism came in the form of food in an all senses dunking. You felt the texture of the food as you pinched a bite together between your thumb and forefinger. Your eyes were blinded by the colors of spices filling bowls in a market. You could almost smell the pungent smells of the fish markets. Whenever Chris and I traveled, our adventures centered around food. The question was not “what did we do?” but “what did we eat?” We sought out the obscure. We followed the locals and we avoided the chain commercial places like the plague. Now, I’ve converted Michael to this food travel cult. I think this is why on this last trip to Portland, I found myself falling in love with the city all over again. Michael is notorious for having unsatisfying restaurant experiences. There is always something, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the quality of the food, but in Portland, Michael didn’t have one complaint. On our last breakfast in Portland before heading out to the coast, we ate at Pine State Biscuits. On taking his first bite, Michael pretended to pick up his plate and smash it on the floor in anger. The food was that good.

No Reservations was more than just a travel show though. It was a gritty, real and beautiful example of how we are all connected to each other through food. Food is the thing that binds us together. It is the reason we all gather in kitchens during social events. Every single one of us can recall a dish that when you smell it, you smell your childhood memories. Every family has their own taco salad (Michael says it is not taco salad and every member of the Graham family tell him that he is wrong). Food brings joy and comfort and this was an emphasis in Kitchen Confidential. Reading Anthony Bourdain’s words describing simple and fresh ingredients made me want to cook. I don’t mean that it made me want to quit my job and become a chef. I mean that it inspired me to want to cook something more elaborate than the easy meals we put together during the week. Saturday evenings have become our night for experimenting in the kitchen. I browse through issues of Bon Apetit and the New York Times food section for ideas, but a lot of times we let what ever happens to be cheap and interesting behind the fish counter inspire that evening’s meal. The meal itself doesn’t even have to be complicated. The goal is to use fresh and unique ingredients and to try something new. It can just as easily be a good stinky chunk of blue cheese crumbled in the salad paired with simple baked fish seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh lemons.

The joy of the experience is all inclusive. It begins with Michael and I browsing through the grocery store and hashing out ideas. We debate about pairing monkfish with roasted potatoes or clams with a linguini in a butter/ white wine sauce. We either take turns cooking or work together in the kitchen, dancing around each other as one chops and the other one sautes. We make huge messes in the kitchen and I love it. The meals are not all hits. It was decided that whole baked red snapper wasn’t good enough to deal with picking out all the bones (I’m pretty sure I swallowed a fish bone). Yet we are still more satisfied with our meals than if we’d gone out.

And no reservations are required.

THE FARM LIFE

Cindy Maddera

Michael's been reading a book about food and how he should eat this instead of that. A lot of the information he's getting is about the dangers of processed foods and industry farming. He tells me things and I just kind of nod my head. He's learning about all the things Chris and I learned about food years ago when we watched all of the documentaries and read all of the books. We fell down a rabbit hole of organic, responsibly sustainable food and how to get them on our tight, almost nothing food budget. Those were the days when Saturdays were devoted to grocery shopping and it took us all day to do it because we had to travel to at least three, sometimes four, different places spread out across the OKC metro to get all of our groceries for the week. The breaking point came when Chris and I went on a road trip and stopped at a convenient store for a snack. I walked out in tears because I couldn't find anything to eat. That's when Chris realized I might have gotten a little out of control and that we needed to find a better balance. 

And we did. I did. 

So, I'm listening to Michael tell me why we should only eat grass fed beef and how sugar is the enemy as if it's all new information and I am clueless about all of it because we all need to discover things on our time, in our own way. I know the rabbit hole he's about to fall down. I told him about how I'd been using "Do what you can with what you have, where you are." as a meditation mantra and how it is not a bad mantra to apply towards food. He agreed. We still ended up visiting a farm Saturday morning to look into buying some pork chops. Bonnie View Farm is seriously eight miles from our house, which sounds surprising because we are in such an urban city area. Just a few minutes south and suddenly you're in rolling hills and pasture. Bonnie View looks like any other midwest farm house, painted a buttercream yellow with a wrap around porch. The farm itself is tucked down the hill behind the house. You wouldn't even suspect that there was a working farm there if they didn't have a sign posted out front. 

We got out of the car and stepped into the cold, just as Justine, one of the owners, stepped out of the small barn that acts as their store and houses their giant freezer. She greeted us warmly and beckoned us all to come inside where it was a little bit warmer. Two of her older children where in the process of moving chickens from the coops to the pasture. She said that the chicks should have been moved out there weeks ago, but with weather being so cold they had had to leave them in the coops to keep them warm. Then she got down to business and talked pork and bacon with Michael. She said that she does have some greens that she grows in her hoop house and she'd have them on her list whenever they are available. We talked about vegetable gardens. She agreed with me about the work. Her two oldest daughters where the gardeners of the family and when they got married and moved out, Justine let the garden go. We chatted about seeds and piglets and then I asked if I could take pictures. Justine said "let me go get one of the girls to take you down to the barn." Her daughter Emma came out and took us down to the barn to see the baby goats and a calf.

They were all so nice. 

And relaxed. 

Even when we noticed that one of the chickens had escaped. Justine and Emma slowely circled around the chicken, which led to a chase into some fencing before Justine calmly scooped up the bird. They all shrugged their shoulders as if to say "this is life on a farm." For just a tiny half minute, I thought I could get used to life on a farm. Then it snowed on Sunday and I started looking at retirement villages in Mexico. The thought quickly shifted to 'I could get used to visiting this farm'. Hopefully, the next time we do visit, we will be able to go on our scooters.

FLUBBER

Cindy Maddera

Recently, I found myself clicking on a link for an add selling weight loss to millennials. I am not a millennial, more like the teenager who babysat your millennial child, but here I was clicking on the link that promised a weight loss program better than Weight Watchers and specifically geared to the tech savvy, glued into their phones, young millennials. The program itself was basically Weight Watchers. You just take all the personal one-on-one support and the meetings and put them on your phone. That is what "weight loss for millennials" looks like. I was tempted to click on the add partly out of curiosity, but mostly out the need to torture myself. My Google searches of late have been the weight loss version of "is this spot on my arm cancer or a corn flake?". 

It started with the second skirt debacle (that may or may not be the fault of the manufacturer). I've been silently stewing about my weight that seems to be increasing despite my usual activities. I'm the only one who notices it right now or at least that is what Michael tells me, but I stepped on the scale with my boots on a few weeks ago and the number was 185. Taking the boots off dropped that number to 180. I find it really hard to believe that the combination of my leggings, long sleeve T-shirt, tank top, socks and underwear weigh five pounds, which would put me down to my so-called normal weight, which I suppose I could live with. So I have taken to asking Google if my weight gain has anything to do with the following: eating too many calories, not eating enough calories, perimenopause, being forty one, my love of cheese. Of course, Google tells me that "yes; all of those things are true. Also, that spot is totally cancer." 

The internet searching has been my only action taken to combat the whole weight loss thing until last week. Last week, I had to use a different treadmill than the one I usually use at the gym. I entered my usual settings into the new treadmill and started walking. My hands instinctively rested on the heart rate monitor and I soon discovered that my usual pace does not get my heart pumping fast enough to lose weight. So, I picked up the pace and even moved over to the elliptical machine for a couple of days. Then I decided that we eat too many starchy carbs. We tend to rely on potatoes for a lot of side dishes and pasta dishes when we're too lazy to think up another option. Spaghetti is easy and the Cabbage will eat it. I designed this week's meal plan to contain as few of those starchy carbs as possible. We had roasted cauliflower steaks and green beans with roasted tempeh or chicken for dinner last night. This meal was a hit, which is encouraging because I think Michael was worried that we'd be eating weird foods this week. We are not completely eliminating carbs from our diet, but we are restricting them.

I've also introduced snacks into my day. I am not a snacker. I eat three meals a day and usually this is enough, but sometimes I get hungry between meals. I ignore it and when dinner roles around, I end up eating enough tacos for two. I took some snacks to work to have on hand for those moments when my stomach feels growly. Today I ate a handful of nuts, a few pieces of cheese and a couple of strawberries before heading to the gym at 11:00. This way I was able to do my cardio and spend time on my mat without thinking about lunch and hearing my stomach remind me that it was time for lunch. Of course, it is way too early to tell if any of this is working. I expect it will be weeks before I notice a difference. It would be totally great if when I go to the doctor in a couple of weeks for my yearly (torture) check-up, and I stepped on the scale, that scale would read out a number that would make me jump for joy. 

I'll let you know how it goes for me. 

 

A LISA SIMPSON STORY

Cindy Maddera

Sunday morning I woke up wedged between a dog and a cat. From my view point, I could see through a crack in the blinds that it was still overcast and dreary outside. We had an odd unseasonably cool Fourth of July weekend with lots of rain. Any way, I'm laying there trying to decide which animal to shove over first, knowing that disturbing the cat will incite Josephine to chew on the cat, when I think "I should bake a loaf of bread!" I know. Just wait until I reach about seventy four when the gaps in my brain are even bigger. I managed to shimmy out of bed without disturbing the animals, slid into a house dress and made my way to the kitchen.

I first made sure that I had all of the ingredients before heading over to the cookbook stack to retrieve my bread recipe. My bread recipe is written on an old scrap of paper that is worn and brown around the edges. It is the recipe I have always used to make bread ever since I started making bread and I made A LOT of bread. I'm going to tell you why I made loads of bread. It's a full confession of my absolute nerdery. Are you ready? Back in my early teens, I was a member of the Food and Fiber Group. It was a 4-H program designed to promote and educate people about Oklahoma agriculture. I think there was like six of us or something and we each had a table. Someone told the story of cotton. There was a table on pecans. Jessica Worstell had a table on dairy because her grandparents owned the local dairy. I don't remember all of the tables, but my table was all about wheat. I grew wheat. I milled wheat. I turned wheat into flour and I made whole wheat bread to hand out as samples. It worked really well when Jessica would make butter with my mom's little butter churn. Then we'd have bread and butter. We all wore matching denim dresses with green bandanas. Our tablecloths matched our dresses. 

Yes. I recognize that this was full on dorkery. Say what you want. I learned the value of getting a loaf of bread to the table and a little bit of scholarship money. In those days, I pimped myself out for scholarship money. So yeah, I'd wear that awful denim dress and do my whole song and dance about wheat a million times if I had to. I also became very adept at bread making, but for some reason, mostly because I got lazy, I stopped making bread. It just seemed like it was an unnecessary task, which is why I was a little surprised I woke up wanting to do it. In retrospect, I should have made an apple pie, because of America, but no. I wanted bread with flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. I am pretty sure that I had tucked that scrap of paper containing my tried and true bread recipe into one of the cookbooks in my collection. At least I was pretty sure. Turns out I may have stuck that recipe into a three ring binder that contained recipes torn from magazines; the very three ring binder that I threw away during one of my cleaning fits. 

That's right people. I've lost or thrown away the National Treasure of a bread recipe. I even called Mom to see if she had a copy and she said "nope!" There's no copy! I guess it's not really that big of a deal, because a bread recipe is a bread recipe. They all contain flour, yeast and maybe honey. Except that this was the bread recipe that I learned on. This was the recipe that I knew. When I was being taught to kneed dough, I was told to think of the dough as a punching bag. My Mom had just been fired from her job. Her supervisor, who was a real jerk, came up with some cockamamie reason to fire my mom. I used to imagine that dough was Mom's supervisor. Later that dough would become other mean hateful people that would skirt on the edges of my life, but the point is that I could take out all my frustrations on this lump of flour, yeast and water. Then I could bake it and turn it into something delicious. 

I ended up using some random bread recipe that I found online that seemed pretty close to the one I used to use. I'm out of practice. The bread turned out good, but dense and not as fluffy as it should be. It still makes great toast though and maybe this will become a regular Sunday thing. Baking bread could go on the list with CBS Sunday Morning, laundry and waiting until late afternoon to brush my teeth. Maybe I had some frustrations that needed to be turned into something delicious and that's why I got all obsessed about baking bread. Maybe it is just a good idea to practice releasing frustrations every week by pounding a lump of dough with my fists.  

SAUERKRAUT IN MY OATMEAL

Cindy Maddera

Have you guys heard about this new food craze of eating fermented foods? I feel like my yoga and veggie magazines have had something to say about fermented foods in every issue for the past three months. They talk a lot about incorporating kimchi and sauerkraut into your diet, but I usually stop reading anything that has the word "kimchi" in it. Chris loved kimchi. He was half Thai and it was a staple in his house growing up. I, on the other hand, was never able to get past the smell of kimchi in order to eat it. It smells like hot boiled garbage vomit. There was a late night snack incident that happened once when we lived in a rent house in OKC. Chris was in the kitchen and I was sound asleep in the back bedroom with the door closed. Chris quickly opened the lid of a jar of kimchi, stabbed some onto a fork and then into his mouth before closing the lid of the jar. The whole process took seconds. The smell from the jar being open for those seconds was enough to wake me from a deep sleep rooms away. 

I do like sauerkraut though. I'll eat it on a hotdog or a sandwich. There's a brand called Bubbies sauerkraut that is my favorite. It is crisp and fresh and delicious; probably because it only has three ingredients: cabbage, water and salt. That seems too easy. I might try making my own this summer. Any hoo...fermented foods in your diet. All the articles are saying that naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut are a really good source of Omega-3s, vitamin D and probiotics. Probiotics has become a buzz word all of it's very own, but there's some solid research out there that these microbes are beneficial to gut health. Then I found this article that says probiotics can change brain functions. Probiotics probably need to be a buzz word. You can take a pill form of probiotics, but I already have to swallow two fish oil pills, a multivitamin, an iron pill and my birth control pill every day. Sometimes I add in a vitamin D, but still, that's a lot of pill swallowing. I don't eat much yogurt either or much dairy at all. Every once in a while, I get a Noosa yogurt because it is the most delicious. Even the raspberry flavor that makes my lip swell (food allergy). 

I like to diagnose myself and I've recently decided that my bloated belly is due to the fact that I don't get enough probiotics in my diet. I remember reading about ways to incorporate fermented foods and one way is to mix it in your oatmeal. I know. Sauerkraut and oatmeal just don't really sound like two things that go together.  Well, the other morning, I was scraping my steel cut oats out of the rice cooker and decided to throw in a fork full of sauerkraut. I also added some honey and a banana. Sauerkraut and oatmeal should totally not go together, but some how they kind of do. No really! It's good. It's weird, but it's good. I've been a little put off with my steel cut oats because they're boring and then I'd be hungry two hours later. Now, I don't finish my bowl of oats and I'm not starving at ten o'clock and I like my steel cut oats again. I will not, however, try to mix kimchi into my oatmeal. Because I'm nutty, but I'm not crazy stupid nutty. 

I've only been doing this for a couple of days, so I don't really know if it is making a difference in my bloated belly. I also can't tell you if it has made my brain happier. It has changed the way I think about mixing salty cabbage with honey and oats. That's got to be saying something about my brain function (good or bad). 

WE ARE VERY PROGRESSIVE

Cindy Maddera

Several weeks back, Michael and I were discussing my birthday and what I might want to do for my big forty. I'm not one for making a big deal out of my birthday no matter what the age. That day has some heavy heavy baggage and I figure if I lay low, the Gods won't notice me. So, better keep it simple is my thinking. Any way, week nights are not good going out nights for either of us. We couldn't do anything until Sunday because we had the Cabbage this weekend. So we were talking about what to do and where to go when I remembered that trying escargot was on my life list. I said "I want to try escargot!" and Michael looked at me with a squinty eye. "Well...OK." and he started looking up French restaurants. We have a number of reputable French restaurants and most of them all have escargot on the menu, but nothing else about their menus seemed all that appealing. I was unwilling to waste a whole birthday meal at one of these places. Then Michael saw that the Westport Cafe and Bar had escargot on their appetizer menu and a light bulb went off above my head. 

The Westport Cafe is in the Westport area that includes a whole bunch of great places to eat, all within walking distance of each other. I suggested that we do a progressive dinner. We'd have appetizers at one place, soup and salad at another place, an entree at yet another place and then dessert at some place else. I remember doing progressive dinners with the youth group in church when I was a teen and I remembered that I thought they were great fun. I don't know why I haven't done one or two since then. Michael agreed that a progressive dinner sounded like great fun. My job was to make a list of places I wanted and he would make sure we'd get there. So, I made my list. We'd start out at the Westport Cafe for escargot. Next, we'd move on to the Beer Kitchen for soup and salad. Our entree would of course come from Char Bar who has the most delicious jackfruit sandwich. Then we'd finish off our evening at the new Doughnut Lounge. Michael's rule was that I had to have a cocktail at each place. 

Of course the highlight of the evening was the escargot. It was a new experience for both of us and it was a little scary and a lot exciting. When our waitress brought them out, I was slightly disappointed that they were not in shells. I had all these previous visions of people digging snails out a shell with a dainty fork. We've all seen Pretty Woman, but our snails came out with out shells, individually resting in a well covered with herbed butter sauce. I quickly squelched my disappointment and scooped one up with my fork and popped it in my mouth. They were delicious! We loved them. The rest of the evening one of us would exclaim "We ate snails!" and the other would reply with "and we liked them!" This is not to say that we did not enjoy the rest of our progressive dinner. I had the Boulevard Tank 7 cheddar soup and Rocket Greens salad at the Beer Kitchen. The salad had beets and arugula and you can't go wrong with cheese soup and I was really full by the time we left Beer Kitchen.

We got to Char Bar and we were not hungry at all, but we were in this thing. So we each ordered a sandwich and cut them in half as soon as they brought them out and asked for to-go boxes. I love the Jackknife sandwich at Char Bar. It has smoked jackfruit and cheese on it, topped with fried jalapenos and avocado, but there was no way I was going to be able to eat all of  that after everything else. I was grateful that the Doughnut Lounge was at the opposite end of the street from Char Bar so we'd have a longer walk for dessert. When we got to the Doughnut Lounge, we sat at the bar to order our drinks. Michael told the guys working that we were in celebrating my fortieth and a young man, who I assume was the manager, said "Lovely! Let me get you a doughnut on the house!" The drink I had there was called the Last Word, which we found appropriate for our last stop. It was made with gin and chartreuse and some other stuff and it smelled like I was sticking my face into an herb garden every time I lifted my glass to take a sip.

Everything was delicious and each restaurant was very gracious. They were all interested in where we were going next and where we had been before. We had never been to the Westport Cafe before and after seeing their menu we both agreed that we needed to go back  and eat dinner there some time. Things I would do different next time would be to split more things. We ordered two appetizers at Westport Cafe in case the snails where not our thing. We totally didn't need that delicious cheese plate. But I'm glad we did it. I think we should have progressive dinners all the time.  

 

THE SKINNY

Cindy Maddera

We were naked in bed. I looked down at my doughy white belly and mumbled something about being fat. Michael told me that this was untrue. I said "next year, I'm going to be skinny." Michael replied with "a healthy skinny." I said "No. I want to be so skinny you can see my bones." Michael said "No. You mean a healthy skinny." I didn't argue with him, but in my head I was still stuck on the idea of being that kind of skinny where my bones poked out of my skin and you could count my ribs. There's a part of me that really considers this, wonders how to achieve this. I would eat one Jelly Belly a day, a piece of fruit and a peanut. I have never been skinny let alone bag of bones skinny, but I now wanted desperately to be skeleton thin. I've never been an extreme anything before.

My whole life has been one of practicality and moderation. I rarely snack between meals. There's never a cookie a day. My dessert at lunch is fruit (with the exception of the other day when I ate what was left of Mom's sweet potato pie/casserole/deliciousness). I may accept the offer for candy one out of the ten times asked. That's not to say that I will not eat the occasional cupcake or bagel that is brought into this office. I will devour that shit, but the cupcakes and bagels are maybe a bi-monthly event around here. I am a moderate drinker with three beers being my usual limit. I walk thirty minutes a day at the moderate speed of 3.6 miles per hour. My tattoos are even moderate. If I were to have a tombstone "everything in moderation" would be my epitaph. 

My entire life I have sat on the fence line straddling mediocre and advanced. I was one point away from being put in with the "gifted and talented" kids in third grade. Too smart for my class and too dumb for the advanced class. My talent is average with a singing voice that was good enough for a scholarship but lacked the ambition and drive for much more than that. I don't really care about the number of publications I have (not really that many) and I am mildly proud of myself for that journal cover I got once. Actually, I think I was just as impressed with the Christmas wreath I made for the door.

I am not one to over indulge or deprive myself. In fact, I have a thing about being hungry. Fear of hunger may be a good way to put it. I don't want to get caught between meals with a gnawing stomach and no snack. If faced with this situation I will either suffer and feel woozy and anxious or I will go to the cafeteria and buy all of the food. All of it. The hardest part of that juice cleanse I did once was making all the juice to take with me to work, because the anxiety of not having enough was crippling. I have no idea where this anxiety and fear comes from. We were poor at times growing up, but never so poor that we didn't have food. 

I know that saying I want to be skeleton thin sounds dangerous. It puts to mind eating disorders and illness. I'm not looking to give myself an eating disorder or poor health. But maybe a little deprivation is in order. Maybe I need to go hungry for a bit, work through that anxiety. Maybe I need to do what I am afraid to do. How shameful and ridiculous is it for someone like me to be afraid of going hungry when millions of people in this country go to bed at night with gnawing stomachs and uncertainty of where their next meal will come from. At least I know I can have more than a Jelly Belly and a peanut for lunch. I have the means and then some. In fact I will be delivering my box of canned goods to Harvesters this weekend. I have collected fifteen cans or so of food for the 15 Can Challenge. You can help too by making a donation to Harvesters. All you need to do is click on the word Harvesters in this sentence.

So don't fret. You will not be counting my ribs by this time next year. I'm too lazy to be extreme. 

APRIL FOOO...WAIT, WHAT DAY IS IT?

Cindy Maddera

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I honestly thought that tomorrow was April 1st and had ideas of writing all about how Michael probably wished I was playing an April Fools joke on him with the meal plan for this week. You see, I've put us on a cleansing diet this week. Last week every pair of pants I put on made me feel awful. Then I bought a pair of pants (in my usual size) through an online sale for a place I've always wanted to buy pants from but haven't ever because they are EXPENSIVE. Those pants arrived Friday and I was really sad when I tried them on. They fit, but it ain't pretty. They're too tight but if I'd gone up a size those would be too big. So I threw my hands up and yelled "THAT'S IT!". The food in this house is out of control. It's not that it's so bad for us as much as I have been eating so much of it. I told Michael that I was going on a cleansing diet for this week and he said "sign me up!". No gluten, no sugar, no caffeine, no animal products and no alcohol for a week. Then Michael said "wait a minute. no cheese?".Hey, I gave him an out. I told him he didn't have to do this if he didn't want to. I probably shouldn't have started our first meal of the cleanse with something like kelp noodles. I felt like my ass was telling me it was just time to lighten up and thought what a great way to start out the first week of April. Except it is not April. But who cares. No gluten, no sugar, no caffeine, no animal products and no alcohol for a week. This sounds like it would be so dang easy for me, but I will tell you that I have been tempted. There was a bunch of food left over from an event at work and they invited the employees down to eat it. There were three kinds of cookies. I ate strawberries and grapes. Same thing. But I was really surprised by my reaction to the sight of all that food. The craving train hit hard. Besides the cookies, they had lots of vegetarian friendly items, all of which were wrapped around some sort of bread. I was slightly appalled at myself because of how badly I wanted to eat that stuff wrapped in bread. I have grown an addiction to bread products. I don't even know how I did that. I eat corn tortillas at the house and have a bagel on Sundays. But if you set a basket of fresh bread any where near my face, I will eat it. My office at work has had a constant supply of cookies, candy, and muffins since Christmas. I have said yes to every cookie, cupcake and sweettart. I used to those soft fluffy foods to comfort me through the winter. Actually, I think I just now realized that's what I've been doing. Breakthrough!

I've done this cleansing diet before. It's a great re-set button. I've learned a few things about doing one of these re-sets. Right off the bat you're hit with all the things you can't eat. This diet is so easy if you can flip that mindset around to see all the things you can eat. Also, flavor is important. Spices, spices, spices. I had to plan meals that I thought Michael would eat. He likes curries and tacos. We'll have butternut squash and chickpea curry on night and black bean quinoa sweet potato tacos another night. There's a potato and broccoli skillet meal planned and a stir fry with corn noodles. Somewhere in the middle of all this I hope to regain some control over my eating habits. Well really it's more about regaining some constraint in eating the foods I just don't need to be eating.

Except I just sent a check to Stephanie for three boxes of Thin Mints.

THE ITCHY AND SCRATCHY SHOW

Cindy Maddera

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I share an office space with five guys. It started with Jay. He was the first to fall victim to the sinus infection. In fact he carried his around for almost a month. Next was Zulin. He fared better than all of us, only struggling a couple of days with the sniffles. The next to fall was Jeff, except his got diagnosed as bronchitis. Sean fell victim soon after Jeff. I thought I was doing well, like I'd make it despite all the hacking, snorting, and coughing going on all around me. I am delusional, but after six days of antibiotics I feel like I am on the mend with the exception of wanting to claw my skin off. The antibiotic makes my skin itchy. Unfortunately I have passed my illness on to Michael. His birthday is tomorrow and we decided not to do gifts for each other's birthdays. I cheated and gave him some new house slippers, a book and a cold. I'm the best girlfriend ever. But I feel fine. Maybe fine isn't quite the word. I feel motivated. You see, they had to weigh me at the doctor's office last week and I cringed at the eight pounds that I've added to my body. I already had an inkling that I've put on a few pounds since Michael moved in. He's not a good food influence. Also, for the last month, there have been some sort of basket of candy, cookies and bagels sitting on the windowsill right behind my desk. I'm a sucker for anything bread. I've noticed this pattern emerging where I start off the week with good intentions. I eat good clean food, no snacking between meals and a smaller portion at dinner. By the middle of the week, I'm still doing OK except for the four pumpkin cookies I consumed, but I made sure to space them out through the day. A cookie here. A cookie there. It just gets worse. By Friday, my brain stops functioning and looses the ability to process the little things, like what to eat for dinner. This means I am easily talked into things like Chinese buffets and fried cheese. I'm not going to lie. Saturday night, a tipsy Michael said he was hungry as we neared the end of his birthday barhop. When I asked him what he wanted, he looked sheepishly at me and said "Taco Bell". We were barhopping in my neighborhood, close to the house, but I had no idea where Taco Bell was. Turns out, it's right down the street. Michael was amazed that I let him eat Taco Bell and more than shocked that I ate a bean burrito. I have regrets. And Michael is still talking about how I let him eat Taco Bell.

When I went a little crazy after seeing Food Inc., Chris would remind me that we eat 80% clean so we can give ourselves that 20% of leeway. That way of thinking curbed my neurotic panic attacks when forced to make a food decision in a convenient store. It has also helped me to stop beating myself up every time I put something in my mouth (I'm talking about food, you filthy minded). My 80/20 these days is starting to look more like 60/40. Holiday season is upon us which that 60/40 could easily go 40/60. Over the weekend I thought a lot about making a holiday resolution. I know we usually save up the resolutioning for the New Year. But what if I made some preventative resolutions? I'm even considering making the usual resolutions that people make every year: eat less, exercise more, yada yada yada. Make better choices. Worry less (I've been a bit of a worry wort the last couple of months. I'm imbalanced). All I know is that it sure would be a lot easier dropping those eight pounds now than eight plus who knows what after the holidays. So...once again I'm beginning the work week with good intentions, but this time I plan to see them through.

FOOD DIARIES

Cindy Maddera

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I've had several questions about recipes for things I've posted pictures of lately. I know we have this whole group on FB for menu ideas and recipe exchange and I hardly ever post to it. It's just that I feel that by the time I type everything up, I've used too much space. No one wants to read that much about ghee and mung beans on that little forum. So I thought I'd post some stuff over here. Also..I wanted to address a comment left by Melissa on my picture for quinoa tacos. She mentioned something about how time didn't allow her to make meals like that one. I think a lot of people feel this way. Eating clean and healthy just seems like it takes so much time and effort. I've got two words for you: rice cooker. If you don't have one of these things, get one. And if you're just now going out to get one, go ahead and invest in a nice one with a timer that let's you set it to when you want to start cooking. The rice cooker has become my go-to gadget. It's not just for rice. Put your steel cut oats and water in before you go to bed and when you get up the next morning start the rice cooker. Breakfast is served. One meal I tend to make at least once a week in kitchari. There are dozens of recipes out there for kitchari. I use a variation of this one. I've modified it because I like more mung beans and less rice. The night before, I put 1/2 cup of mung beans in a bowl to soak. The next day I rinse the beans and then put them in the rice cooker along with 1/3 cup of rice (this makes enough for my super and lunch the next day with lunch being the bigger portion). I add enough water for both beans and rice (1 and 2/3 cup). When it's done, I stir in a tablespoon of ghee, some coriander, some cumin and some fennel. I top my serving with steamed kale, dulse flakes (my alternative to salt) and toasted coconut. But you can top kitchari with anything you want. That's the beauty of this dish. The rice and beans make up the base of the dish and then you flavor it to your taste. The rice cooker does all the cooking except for the five minutes it took me to steam my kale.

The quinoa sweet potato tacos were my invention. I chopped up a sweet potato, dumped it in the rice cooker along with quinoa and water. I mixed in some taco seasoning and ghee and then started the cooker. Near the end of the cook time, I opened the rice cooker and stirred everything. When most of the liquid was gone, I turned off the rice cooker. I wanted the quinoa to be mushy and not too dry. I don't think it would hurt to set the rice cooker and forget it, but quinoa tends to stick to the bottom of the rice cooker more than rice does. I filled taco shells with the quinoa sweet potato mixture and then topped with avocado and shredded spinach. You can, of course, top this with whatever you like to top tacos with. Again...the rice cooker does all the work. It took five minutes to chop up the sweet potato, spinach and avocado.

I know many of you out there are probably thinking that this all sounds nice but there's no way you'd be able to get your kids to eat this. Maybe and maybe not. A kid has to be exposed to a flavor twenty times before they can make a decision about it. Tacos are generally an easy sell with kids. Especially if they get to make their own. Same goes for kitchari. Remember, the rice and beans are the base. You add the flavors. Coconut oil is a great alternative to ghee. I say let the kid choose the spices and steamed veggies. This way they'll learn what flavors they like or don't like on their own. These are really simple meals, but they are tasty and satisfying. And it's what I've been eating lately.

BOUNTY

Cindy Maddera

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I mentioned earlier in the weekend that the Farmer's Market was a trap. This time of year it truly is for me. I go in with a list and an intention and then pass the booth of fresh corn and all that intention and list making is tossed out with that silly baby and the bath water. I've been buying tomatoes from this one booth now every weekend for the last three weeks. It's run by a young Pentecostal family. They have boxes of what they call seconds that are half the price of the others. This means that the tomatoes aren't pretty and have some bruises. The woman and I swap tomato stories. She's up to her eyeballs in canning. Her husband always tries to get me to buy a whole box load of tomatoes, but I just can't commit to that kind of commitment. My freezer is only ye big.

Turkish Eggplants

The market is full of beautiful bright colors right now. Cantaloupes and watermelons. Tomatoes and peaches. Every kind of squash and eggplants. The find this Saturday was bright orangey red Turkish eggplants. They were not on the list, but they were too enticing to turn down. The corn was not on the list either, but it's so cheap right now and I've become addicted to that moc-polenta. I also ended up with a bag of okra. I think that just jumped in all on it's own because I honestly don't remember buying it.

Colorful slurry

I chopped up the eggplant and okra, tossed it with garlic and olive oil. Threw in some basil and oregano from the garden and roasted them in the oven along with my tomatoes. The Turkish eggplants remind me of a pulpier tomato. It has almost a bitter earthy taste and mixes well with the sweet corn of the polenta.

Roasted Slurry

Yes, the market is a huge trap, but it's a trap I don't mind getting caught up in again and again and again. And who knows? Maybe next week I will buy that box of tomatoes.

SUNDAY DINNER

Cindy Maddera

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When I was little Sunday dinner (or lunch) was a thing in our house. Mom would cook a big fancy meal and we'd all sit down at the dining room table set with the good china, cloth napkins and fancy tablecloth. The fancy tablecloths and fine china didn't really stick, but the idea of cooking a nice meal kind of did. I think it's because Sundays have become my nothing day. Chores are complete except for the laundry hanging on the line. I even sleep in on Sundays to almost eight o'clock (yes... I know). Sundays are the days where I let myself be. So, every Sunday, I fix a nice meal. I usually use this time to try out something new, a recipe that may seem too labor intensive for a weekday. I have made this recipe from Bon Appetempt for sweet corn polenta before, but I cheated. A lot. I used a frozen bag of fire-roasted corn from Trader Joe's and topped it with a bag of frozen eggplant/tomato mix (also from TJ's). It was delicious and I didn't feel bad for taking the easy route. But fresh corn is in season right now and I can get six ears of it for $2.50 from the farmer's market. No excuse for cheating and really the fresh corn wasn't that much more work.

Corn off the Cobb
Blend
Add Feta
Roasted
Sunday dinner

I roasted okra and baby eggplants with onions (from my own garden), garlic and tomatoes and served it on top of my polenta with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. This is the most delicious meal. Ever. I thought my cheating frozen bag version was really good, but the fresh? The fresh is so much better. I think this has become my new favorite Sunday meal.

Try it. I bet you'll like it.

WESPORT FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL

Cindy Maddera

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Remember a few weeks ago when I told this really cool woman gave us tickets to the Westport Food Truck Festival? Yeah. That totally happened today. And it was great. The first person we ran into was Carman, the woman who gave us the tickets. Can I just say, this girl is totally awesome? Yes. Yes I can. She was running around making sure all the trucks were ready to go, but she still took a moment to say hello. And she actually remembered us. She was really happy to see us out there. She's awesome. Wait, I've said that already.

The Woman who Made it Happen

I don't know what I'm doing in this picture. I look like I'm about to swallow Carman whole. I managed to restrain myself and save the stomach space for the tamales. There was so much goodness to be had and so many pictures, I thought it best just to slide show them all for you. Enjoy! We sure did.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

At one point we were sitting there eating and I looked up to see a sea plane flying over. I said to Chris "Is that a sea plane?". He replied "Yes. I do believe it is". Then I said "We live in Portland". And we kind of do in a way. At least, we do today.

HOW TO BAKE BROWNIES

Cindy Maddera

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First, assemble your ingredients.

Ingredients

Then, squish the brownie mix for no other reason than it's just fun. Squish. Squish. It's so squishy!

Squish More squish It's so squishy

OK. Stop squishing. Tear open Ready-to-Bake Brownie Mix from Trader Joe's.

Tear Tah Dah

Pour into a pan.

Pour

Next, add extra stuff like dried cherries, walnuts and a few chocolate peanut butter wafer cookies (also TJ's).

Add Cherries Add Walnuts In to the pan

Bake at 350 for about 22 minutes.

Bake

Enjoy!

Done Eat

FEAR OF HUNGER AND DAY 10

Cindy Maddera

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I know I've mentioned here just how attached I am to schedules. It should come as no surprise that I am the same way about food. Around 7:30 AM, I eat breakfast, noon is lunch and 5:30ish means dinner (or supper). At any point in the day where it seems like this may be disrupted, like lunch doesn't come until 12:30, I start to panic. I am afraid of being hungry. I have no idea where this comes from. My family had it's fair share of bean dinners, but we always had plenty of food on the table. There was a big theme of "waste not" in our home and it's possible my hunger fear comes from that. But who knows? When Chris suggested the juice cleanse, I immediately started worrying about going hungry. What if I ran out of juice at work? How would I parcel out my juice during the day to ensure I'd have enough to get me through? But this is what I learned: it's OK to be hungry. I'm not talking about starving to the point of wonky. There's a difference between hungry and being HUNGRY. These last few days, when I've felt hungry, I'd drink some water and wait. If I still felt hungry twenty minutes or so later, I'd make a cup of miso soup or drink some of my "snack" juice. And for the most part this worked out. I realized that I was hungry when I was supposed to be hungry.

I'll tell you what's not OK and that's walking into a Whole Foods when you're hungry. Because hungry quickly turns into HUNGRY. You know what they have at Whole Foods? Free samples. Free samples of cheese. Free samples of fruits. Free samples of Pirate's Booty. These free samples are open and begging for you to take, take, take. And while I've been able to handle being hungry, I have grown weary of the monotony of juice for every. single. meal. I want food I can chew. Sunday, we started talking about what we were going to eat on Thursday. Oddly enough the list didn't include chocolate cake and potato chips, but more like big salads and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Today is our final day of the 10 Day Juice Cleanse. It's also known as a re-boot. This makes sense because I'm back down to the weight I was before the move. I am happy with that. I'm also happy that I put a big dent into that fear of being hungry.

THANKFUL FRIDAY AND JUICING UPDATE

Cindy Maddera

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I can't believe it's already Friday! That means Chris and I are five days into our 10 day juice cleanse. And you know what? I feel just fine. I'm not starving, like I thought I would be, and I don't feel like I need to eat a hamburger. I have to admit to cheating on one meal. Wednesday, my lab went to lunch and then to a tour of the Harely Davidson Factory. I did my best to cheat reasonably, meaning I had a very simple Southwest salad and a huge glass of water. I was a little excited with the idea of eating un-juiced food. OK. I admit it. I was really excited. But as I chewed on that first bite, I was like "meh". It wasn't all that thrilling. I've done cleansing diets before and with all of them I've had what I like to call the third day woozies. I always have a crash day. That hasn't happened on the juice cleanse and it's one of the things I'm thankful for today. Yes, I still have hunger pangs, but they happen when they are supposed to and I never feel so hungry that I feel like I'm going to eat my own arm. So I'm thankful Chris talked me into the whole juicing thing. Plus I love putting things in the juicer. Who knew you could juice a sweet potato!?

I am thankful for the promise of naps this weekend and the time to organize a few things. I am thankful for the cooler weather and the garden possibilities. I am thankful for the 5lbs I've lost this week. I am thankful for our juicer.

Juicer

Happy weekend and Thankful Friday!

JUICE CLEANSE DAY 1 OR JETLAG

Cindy Maddera

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Some of you may have read over at Chris's blog about our 10 day juice cleanse. For some reason I let him talk me into starting it the day after getting back from BlogHer. This has it's ups and down sides. First of all, I'm exhausted from my weekend and my head is full (I promise, tomorrow will be something about my trip). Also, something the internets probably doesn't need to know, I start my period tomorrow. So, of course, I'm thinking that this has something to do with the 168 lbs reading on the scale this evening (I had been hanging out at around 163). This morning, I had a lovely juice of apples, lemon, kale, celery, carrots and something else I can't remember. Oh, wait. Watermelon. Any way, it was good and filling and then Chris and I made a bunch of green juice for me to take with me to work. All went really well until I ran out of juice some where around 3:30. Then, I was hungry. I kept thinking of this book I'm reading where a reluctant nun starves herself in order to see visions. At one point while riding in the elevator, I thought "now, this is the time of day I start my own vision quest". I had visions of crackers. Profound visions of crackers.

But really, for the most part I'm fine. Dinner tonight was a juice of onion, parsley, Romaine hearts, celery, tomatoes, broccoli, and garlic blended with avocado, Cayenne and black pepper. And it was tasty and I'm full. I think I'll have dessert juice later of pineapple and cantaloupe. Day one and not so bad. Only nine days left!

YOU SAY TOMATO!

Cindy Maddera

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Chris and I stumbled across yet another new place to eat. I found it by accident online and it's a good thing I did, because we would have never found this place on our own just driving around. You Say Tomato is tucked back into a neighborhood, where it used to be the corner grocery store. It still has lots of the old fixtures and part of it is still a little grocery, selling locally-grown veggies and other locally-produced goods. You can buy sticks of butter and pounds of sugar. Or you can just order a yummy meal.

Happy Dog Thinking

That's what we did. Chris had the biscuits and gravy, while I had the baked French toast. The French toast was made from slices of their homemade cinnamon rolls. And to top it all off, we split an ice cream sandwich. It was brilliant, a big slab of homemade vanilla ice cream wedged between two slices of gingerbread. I'm getting a bit teary just thinking about it. We ate there on Saturday and loved it so much we went back on Sunday for brunch.

Biscuits and Gravy Baked French Toast

It wasn't just the food that drew us in to You Say Tomato. The atmosphere is calm and easy. It's the type of place where you can sit and linger over that second (or third) cup of coffee. Sunday was busy, but that just meant that we had to sit outside under the awning. We didn't mind. The day was cool with the occasional sprinkle. We even had a little sparrow that kept hopping up to our feet to beg for food. It's our new favorite place and it and will be really hard to convince ourselves to try other places. Yet another very Portland-like place.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Cindy Maddera

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Memorial Day weekend, Chris and I realized that we did not have an air conditioner. I don't mean the air conditioner doesn't work. I mean it doesn't even exist. There's no air conditioning unit. At all. No big deal. We've gone with out before. We survived two summers in Oklahoma heat without it at one crap hole we lived in. As long as we can open some windows and turn on some fans we're doing OK. Except we soon realized that only half of our windows had screens. That's OK too because we have a fan that pulls the cool air up from the basement. Who am I kidding. It was hot and humid and the dog was starting to hate us just a bit I think. The heat made us not want to turn on the stove so we headed to the market for some cheap produce. I've had to get over the organic vs non-organic thing for a while. We are on a budget and the way I see it, fresh produce is better than no produce. So we headed out into the heat and crowd of the market and this is what we got for $20.

$20

Not a bad haul. That's fourteen Roma tomatoes, four bell peppers, five nectarines, five peaches, one mango, five grapefruit, seven limes, bunch of mint, carton of strawberries, two onions, two small watermelons and a cucumber all for twenty bucks. I made gazpacho for the first time ever (remember that gazpacho we ate outside that cathedral Chrome? It was that good). I made this super easy hummus recipe sent to me by the lovely Fluid Pudding. Tonight we ate taco salad with lettuce and green onions from the garden. My lunch today looked like I was back on some wacky cleansing diet. Except I'm not. I want to eat this way. Weird.

Last night our landlord took pity on us and brought us a window unit (we're his favorite tenants, dur). The dog slept on the floor in front of the unit last night. I think he loves us again. We could totally do with air conditioning just to prove how tough we are. I'm just sayin'. We aren't wimps. BUT THANK GOD WE HAVE AIR CONDITIONING!