Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Little Bee

Little Bee Little Bee by Chris Cleave

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't want to say too much about the plot, because I read this book on a spontaneous whim, when it was recommended to me by Kindle because I enjoyed The Help. I knew nothing about it going in, and it was a remarkable and delightful discovery. Given the subject matter, you'd expect the author to have given the novel a preachy, heavy-handed tone, but he didn't. It's a real gift, in my opinion, when a writer can allow the reader to do most of the legwork in that regard. You're left to develop your own readings of the characters and their motives, and trust me--you will.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Big Breakfast. Or Little Breakfasts. Whatever.

salami mini-frittatas
Originally uploaded by ninjapoodles
This is another breakfast shortcut--anything that cuts down on what I have to do in the morning is good in my book. Plus we all do better throughout the day if we get a hit of protein first thing in the morning. It's so hard to get out of that whole "morning is the time to eat cereal grains" mindset, but that really is the worst thing you can do to your poor body after a night-long fast. OK, maybe not worse than skipping breakfast entirely. But close.

Anyway, this was so incredibly easy, and it's endlessly customizable. Basically, they're just little mini oven-baked frittatas. You can do them in regular muffin cups or minis (pictured here).

6 eggs
1 cup of any cheese (I used sharp cheddar here)
1 cup total of other add-ins (I used 3/4 c salami and 1/4c chives)
salt & pepper and/or herbs to taste
splash of milk or cream (or almond milk, etc.--even water)

Mix it all together, pour into WELL greased muffin cups (I sprayed mine too lightly with Pam, and they stuck on the bottoms), and bake at 350 just until eggs are set. You don't want them brown. 20-30 minutes-ish. Cool, then refrigerate or freeze, and give 'em a zap in the morning for breakfast.

Eggs are so awesome. Seriously, do anything here. Bacon, mushrooms, onions, sausage, spinach, feta...basically anything that would be good in an omelet or a quiche would work fine.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big Promise


Every year, I have these big, big plans for my garden. And every year, my grand schemes are realized in yet another Garden of Fail. The lettuces bolt overnight, the beans don't bear, the corn is stunted, slugs beat me to the strawberries, and worms devour the broccoli and cauliflower down to the stems. I don't use poisons or chemical growth enhancers, because for me, that defeats the purpose of growing produce at home. I can buy chemical-laden plants at the grocery store, way cheaper than what my time and labor is worth--there'd be no point in growing veggies and fruit at home that way.

So here we are once again. It's Spring, and I'm rooting around in the dirt. I'm replenishing the raised beds with fresh soil and starting over. This year, if I don't make it work, I think I'll have to give up. I have reinforcements this time. I've got weed cloth, row covers, and Escar-Go. The baby broccoli will be covered up so the cabbage moths can't get to it (though I'm a bit confused over when/how to uncover for pollination, so if you have tips on that, lemme know). The slugs will be baited and dealt with (hopefully) before they nom on my luscious strawberries. I'm limiting my plans to things that we will actually eat, and a smaller selection of those, in hopes that my reach will not exceed my grasp this time.

Here's the lineup for spring, with possible changes/additions happening during the summer and fall growing seasons:

Brussels Sprouts
Bell Peppers: Red, Yellow, and Green
Bush Beans
Sugar Baby Melons
Roma Tomatoes

That's right. ONLY Romas. Aside from the occasional batch of fried green ones, we don't like tomatoes, Sam I Am. We like tomato SAUCE. So all we need is a freezer full of home-grown Romas to get us through the year.

We have herbs going great guns already--that's something even I can't screw up. They grow like crazy in spite of me, even the ones that are in pots and never watered. We've got basil, oregano, thyme, sage, chives, rosemary, parsley, dill, lavender and about a half acre (at least it seems that way) of mint. I think I'm going to try drying herbs this year, so any advice on that front is appreciated.

I do have a bit of good news about things that made it over the winter here, besides herbs. Strawberries, as mentioned, are looking strong and already blooming. We should have a good little berry harvest if I can keep the slugs off them!

berry beginnings

And just in the last couple of weeks, the grapevines I'd given up for dead sprang back to life. Let that be a lesson to my fellow gardenoobs: Grapevines in winter look very, very dead. But look! It's alive (and smothered in mint)!

Grapevine and mint

Also featured in long-range growing plans, and doing well in their second year:

Granny Smith and Arkansas Black Apples
Montmorency Cherries

These things should all be going strong by the time I'm ready to move away from here, I figure.

So what are you growing and what advice do you have for newbies like me?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Big Moves, Dog and Pony Show Edition

The other day, I put a shout-out up on Facebook asking for help hauling horses to the vet for Coggins tests, the first step in getting them re-homed. My good friend Lisa responded right away, and we made plans for today. She was here first thing this morning, and we caught who we could (all but one) and took off for the vet.

By the time we'd gotten the horses into the trailer, Lisa had decided to just take Kate and her baby on home with her after the vet. I did NOT object. This was the best possible outcome for Kate, who is running happily on acres and acres of beautiful grass now, instead of picking her way through rocks over here on the Mountainside of Barren Terrain. The relief I feel is enormous, as was the sense of joy I got from watching that filly stretch out and really run for the first time in her young life. Lisa owns Kate's full sister, who had a foal of her own just a few days after Kate foaled, so the two of them will grow up together, playing as only baby horses can. I love it.

They didn't so much as look back when they got out of the trailer, which was fine with me.


Lisa went back out later and got some better shots...looks like these girls are gonna be just fine. Now I only need homes for two more horses!

Kate and filly, new home!

fuzzy filly

Oh, and also on that trip, Erik the colt became Erik the gelding. He doesn't want to talk about it, and requests no pictures be taken at this sensitive time. He'll get back to you later, when he has reconciled himself to his new identity as one of the nutless.

We'd no more than pulled back onto our street when my cell phone rang to let me know that Kathy and Caitlen were in town to pick up Reggie and Gabby for a little vacation in Indianapolis. Reggie will be romancing the lovely Josephine, and a couple of other Indiana ladies, and I'm sure he'll deliver some beautiful puppies for the Hoosiers. I mean, how could this pair miss?

CH Renaissance Creative Impulse, aka "Reggie"
CH Renaissance Creative Impulse, "Reggie"

CH Serenade's Sweet Surprise, "Josephine"

Oh, and that bitch? Is a thousand times more gorgeous in person, if you can believe it. She created such a stir in the PetsMart parking lot that her owner, Caitlen, ultimately had to HIDE her so we could have a minute of peace. People came from all corners to admire her and ask all kinds of crazy questions. My favorite: "Is that a poodle?" Nope, wolverine. Stand back!

Also traveling is our beautiful, sweet Gabby. Gabby is kind of Mommy's special pocket dog, and she'll be sorely missed while she's gone. But she and handsome Taz will no doubt deliver the next generation of champions in silver for Sue and Kathy. I'm nearly giddy with anticipation to see what comes of this cross.

CH Kallista Tintype At Renaissance, "Taz"

CH Aery Silde Straight Talk, "Gabby"

Since things are still way too upside-down here for us to be doing any breeding or showing at present, I'm grateful to Sue and Kathy and Caitlin for allowing us to keep our noses in the game, and I'm glad that the next generation of amazing dogs is forthcoming.

It was a good day for us and our animals!

Friday, April 09, 2010

World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked this book so much I'm reading it again just over a year later. I remain woefully underprepared for the impending zombie apocalypse.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Big Business

I've spent most of today with Craigslist. I've listed a bunch of hunting equipment and gear, and some other things, and I've also been looking for likely candidates to do some work around here that needs doing. I've a barn that needs cleaned out, junk to haul off, and some heavy housework that I just can't manage on my own, plus Bella was given a playset by her grandmother over a year ago that still hasn't been assembled. Lots of stuff.

I have a bit of trouble staying on-task with Craigslist, because there are just so many fabulous diversions to be had. Usually, the good stuff is from other places. Urban areas. Big cities. New York and San Francisco. But by golly, Arkansas is catching up.

I've just solved all my problems, I think. In looking for house cleaners, just stumbled across this local guy, with an ad titled, "Butt* Naked Stud Monkey." What will Butt Naked Stud Monkey do for you? What WON'T BNSM do for you?

"Will do odd jobs around the house fully unclothed 5o buckaroos an hour obo...you can call me Lambo."

Lambo, don't sell yourself short. You hold firm to that 50 buckaroo rate--don't haggle! Stud Monkeys are rare enough; Butt Naked Stud Monkeys even more so.

Upon refreshing the page a bit later, I found a new listing, titled "Male House Cleaner Needs Houses." Looks like someone is trying to build a new business, but I was curious why he needed to include his gender in the listing. His ad says he's been cleaning houses for 10 years, and then kind of as an afterthought, adds, "I offer bottomless cleaning also." OK, really? Is this something that's in demand? The thought of some random guy in my house with no pants on is disconcerting enough, but when you add in activities that will have said random guy bending, stooping, straining, grunting...yeah, I'm gonna pass. Then again...what if these guys really are the best, and it's the pantslessness that frees them up to do such a superb job? Hmmmm.

Now to compile a list of household chores that don't involve bending over.

*Exactly when did we go from the phrase "buck naked" to the phrase "butt naked?" That doesn't even make sense. What does it mean? "I'm naked...EVEN MY BUTT?"

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Big Chip On Mama's Shoulder

So last week, Bella had a bad fall off of the high monkey bars at school, and fell with a "WHUMP!" flat on her back onto the gravel of the playground. She reassured me that it was at least nice smooth river rock gravel, as opposed to pointy slate gravel, but still. Rocks is rocks, and OUCH. Since she couldn't stop crying for an hour, the school nurse called and said we'd better come on and get her, which of course we did.

I took her to the ER, and based on her symptoms (her back hurt, yes, but her CHEST hurt more than anything), they performed an X-Ray and diagnosed her with a "chest wall contusion." And there was some heavily-accented mumbling about the point where the sternum attaches to something else being "knocked loose," or something, basically meaning that while she was fine and nothing was broken, she was gonna be sore for some time. We were instructed to keep her quiet for a couple of weeks, no heavy impact activities, etc.


I called the school and reported in, then kept her home the next day, and sent her back the following Monday with a note from the ER doctor.

This brings us to Tuesday, when my child, who had been improving steadily, and was really doing a great job of assessing her pain and adjusting her activities accordingly, climbed into the car after school wincing at every movement. This kept up well into the next day, and I finally asked her if her chest was hurting more, because if so, we needed to check back in with the doctor. She said, "Well, it was a lot better, but then yesterday, they took us outside for a reward for doing good on the benchmark testing, and they had games. We had to do a sack race, in teams, and hopping really hurt."

*blink, blink* "Honey, if you'd just told the teacher in charge that it hurt you to do that, she'd have let you sit out."

"Nuh-uhh. I DID tell her, as soon as I took two hops and I knew that it hurt, I TOLD her that I couldn't do it because it hurt my chest! And she said that she didn't have a note from my parents saying anything about that, so I had to go finish the race."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. I tried to make little tiny hops so they wouldn't hurt, but they still did. And then my team was mad at me because I went so slow I made them lose."

And then Mommy's heart broke. And then Mommy got mad.

"So they have to have a NOTE, do they? From your PARENTS? Saying that they have our permission NOT TO HURT YOU? Bring me a piece of paper, honey, I have to write a note to your school."

I think I managed to maintain my decorum, explaining the nature of my child's injury and asking that they please respect her pain threshold, and that if she tells them that an activity hurt, they please NOT FORCE HER TO CONTINUE SAID ACTIVITY. And yeah, I did resort to all caps in one section, which I hope they saw not as yelling, but as an firm but genteel raising of the voice, in a civilized manner.

I think what really annoyed me is that the girl TOLD them that the activity was causing her pain, and they essentially responded that unless she had "backup" in the form of a note from an adult, then she had absolutely zero credibility in representing her own health, her own feelings, her own PAIN. It's telling her that she is not worth believing, not even when it's something important like a medical condition or injury that they could be exacerbating by ignoring her...which is precisely what they did. She hurt for two solid days after the sack race incident, and is still saying "ouch" when I hug or hold her. Grrrrrr.

And it's not like my child is a liar, or even has a history of exaggerating her pain, illness, or other problems for sympathy or special treatment or attention. Quite the contrary--the morning after the accident, she WANTED to go to school. She kept saying, "I think I can do it, if I just go really slow and no one touches me." So when THIS kid evaluates her pain level, and says, "I'd better not do this, it hurts me," then I just feel that SHE SHOULD BE RESPECTED AS A HUMAN BEING. A small human being, yes, but a human being nonetheless.

Shouldn't she? Shouldn't all our kids? Kids, like babies, are PEOPLE, same as adults.

I really hope my note wasn't over-the-top snarky, but then again, with the knowledge that we've been rezoned into a new school next year, I might not've been all that careful...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Big LOLs

I have to interrupt any sort of coherent posting to share the best shirt for sale on the whole Internet right now.

You can get it here. I love the product description: "The font and spacing is bad, evoking the terrible writing of the Twilight series."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Born To Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I award five stars to this book based largely on the "you must read this" influence it had on me. I think I've told just about every thinking person that I've encountered, "You must read this book!"

Change your shoes; change your life. That's an ever-present theme, and it's one that hit home with me for sure, based on the drama of my crazy feet and all they've been through. Ever since a riding accident in 1992, in which a shattering impact on asphalt caused all the bones in the navicular area of my right foot to go, "KABLOOEY," and the subsequent surgeries, years of casting, surgical hardware and yes, even bone grafts, I have been on a constant search for the magical shoe that will give me the greatest mobility with the least discomfort. And always, no matter how short a time I'm in them, my first priority upon getting home is to GET THE SHOES OFF. It turns out that my "there is no shoe that feels better than...well, NO SHOES" philosophy was pretty much right on target.

I'm doing even better since discovering these babies, which I'd have done much sooner if I'd read McDougall's book earlier!


While there is tons of material here regarding the biomechanics of gait and movement, which I personally found fascinating, there's also plenty of storytelling, and the subjects are well worth the time spent running off on tangents in the middle of other tales. (Heck, I'd read a whole collection of short stories, just about the characters in this book, mainly the Tarahumara and the Gringo distance runners, but also the scientists, coaches, and other visionaries.) From some reviews I read, this tangential storytelling style rather annoyed some readers, but to me it felt completely organic to the flow of the larger theme. This could be a personal interpretation, since this is pretty much the way I myself tell stories...I have to make a few pit stops along the way to the destination, visit a few side trails, maybe stop at a Stuckey's for a pecan log. I can honestly say that there wasn't a time that, after one of McDougall's "detours," I thought, "Well, that was pointless." It was all woven in very naturally, to me.

Do yourself a favor, and read this book. Please don't think that just because you're not a runner (I'm not, not since "Frankenfoot"), this book won't speak to you. It seems to have something for everyone. You have to get close to the end before you get into what, for me, was the serious payoff--the examination of evolutionary evidence of homo sapiens' destiny of distance running. That was a game-changer for me, and the proof offered for that thesis is compelling. I was stunned to learn what we share in common, physiologically, with horses and dogs and other "running" animals, as opposed to chimps and other "walking" animals. We really were "born to run!"

So, the short version: Yes, McDougall is given to hyperbole. Yes, he tends to meander a bit while getting to his point. But sometimes, when you're on a long trip, you've just gotta stop and see the world's biggest ball of twine and maybe get a pecan log, right? Read this book, and be prepared to want to just run right out your front door and keep going...possibly with no shoes on.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Big News

big news
Originally uploaded by ninjapoodles
Hey. You guys. My mom got married. I thought that Easter was a good day to make the announcement, what with this being a time of rebirth and fresh starts. He's a heckuva nice guy, with a wonderful family. I finally have those brothers I always wanted, and two new sisters and two adorable new nephews, to boot! When your family is as good as mine, more family is always a good thing! We're blessed, indeed.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Big Outdoors


Are you getting outside? It's spring, you know. If your allergies can take it, get out there! The oak pollen is trying to kill us all, but we're Zyrtecced up and fighting back as best we can.

And? If any horse people local to me would be interested in some very fine Arabian horses, I have some ready for good homes. Give me a holler, and let's talk. They have GOT to go, because on one salary, I cannot afford to feed them. One mare with a foal at her side, a two-year-old filly, and a pony-sized four-year-old colt. Absotively gorgeous, every one of them.

God bless us, every one, and a happy Easter tomorrow.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Big Smooth

I've been making smoothies for a while now. Our whole family loves them, and it's an easy way to pack in a lot of nutrients at once. If you're in it for pure flavor, recipes like this can't be beat. I've now adjusted my thinking on the smoothie's role in my family's nutrition since those days, and it's gone from being a sorta-healthy treat to becoming a real nutritional workhorse in our diet. I've gotten a lot of emails and DMs asking for ingredients and measurements, so I'm gonna give it a go here. This is a process that you really eyeball and taste as you go, but I've tried to observe and record approximate measurements as I went along this time. I'll explain the low-carb version that I make for myself (and Alex), and then show how that can be changed and added to with Bella's "everything but the kitchen sink" version.

THIS IS A RECIPE FOR TWO. First into the blender (or Magic Bullet, or Kitchen Ninja--yes, I have them all) is liquid--a good bit of it. Back in the sugar-high days, I used straight juice, and even supplemented that with a splash of tart cherry concentrate. Delicious, but OMG the sugar. Even orange juice contains a full day's carbohydrate allowance for me per cup. Now if I use juice, I put in about 1/2 cup, then add a cup or so of water to that. I flavor that up with a teaspoon or so of lime juice and a few drops of stevia or a couple packets of Splenda. Another really easy solution to the liquid problem is to use sugar-free limeaid. It provides the perfect base flavor for all manner of fruit smoothies. The reason I use so much liquid is that I don't use ice...more on that later. For now, just follow along, and trust me.

Next in: A couple tablespoons of chia seeds. Yes, chia. THAT chia. You can do your own Googling on the nutritional benefits of chia, or salba, or iskiate. If you've read Christopher McDougall's amazing book, "Born To Run," then you've been introduced to chia seeds. An excerpt:

[Iskiate is]...brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime. In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they're super-packed with Omega 3s, Omega 6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and anitoxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn't do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home.

McDougall hearts hyperbole just a bit, but he's on target here. I used to try to grind the seeds prior to use, thinking they would be like flax seeds, and pass through your system intact. I couldn't really do the "gel method" that most people seem to, where you reconstitute the seeds with water into a substance that resembles frog eggs and eat them straight, because ewwww. I recently consulted a chia-eater friend, and she said she just dumps hers into smoothies straight. My solution has been to dump them into the smoothie liquid at the start of the process, which gives them time to start absorbing liquid and doing their chia thang. So anyway, couple tablespoons of chia seeds. You can get them from this friendly hippie, who will include a free sample of other stuff, instructions on how to use chia seeds, and a hand-written note encouraging you to adopt a raw food diet. If you're like me, you will mentally wish him well while saying "NO, THANK YOU" to the latter. I need my cooked meat.

Here I plop in a couple tablespoons (remember this is for two servings) of a good quality coconut oil. I'm not a total organic fanatic--I can't afford to be, nor would I have the resources if I could. I do prioritize what I feel needs to be organic, however, and at the top of that list is fat, which really should be as clean as possible. That includes vegetable oils, meat, fish, and dairy sources of fat. So yeah, I pop for the organic coconut oil. This is also the substance I crank up when my weight-loss stalls. Sounds crazy, right? Not losing weight? MOAR FAT, PLZ. It has always worked. Listen, you need fat. You must have it to live. NONE of your organs can function without it. Don't be a fat phobic. Just avoid altered fats, and stick to pure, clean fats, and you'll be fine. Without grains, you're just fine (and arguably, better off). Without fat, you're dead. There's a lesson in that. Of course, you don't have to put the fat INTO your smoothie. You could just eat some along with it, or take your daily dose of fish oil at the same time--whatever floats your boat.

Why am I putting fat into my smoothies (or eating fat alongside them)? Because I'm about to pack a truckload of veggies and fruit into them, and all that good stuff that's in your veggies and fruit? Your body can't metabolize that stuff without...drumroll...FAT. This is what drives me nuts about self-appointed nutritional gurus like "Dr. Oz," who I heard last week prescribing diets FULL of fat-soluble nutrients, but not enough fat to metabolize those nutrients. (I also heard him tell an obese man to eliminate pasta from his diet because it "turns to candy in your bloodstream," and then follow that by telling him to snack on white-flour pretzels when he's hungry, but that's a rant for another time.) Onward to the good stuff.

Green leafy vegetables. Spinach is an easy choice, because you can buy pre-washed bags of tender, organic baby spinach, ready to go. I'm all about the convenience. Anything works here, really--chard, kale, any kind of greens, really, but spinach is my go-to-guy. For two servings, at least 4 cups of fresh spinach. That's right, FOUR CUPS. It blends down a lot, don't worry. A few carrots or beets in there won't be noticed, either...be creative. Anything goes. The recipe I'm talking about today did contain carrots.

Go ahead and blend up what you've got so far. Don't panic when it looks like this.


Next, we go to the berries. Any fruit, really, works fine, but I use berries for two reasons: Lower carb count, and spinach disguise. Not that I have to hide the spinach from my family; they know it's in there. But there's a psychological barrier for me in drinking a green drink. I know, grow up. Whatever. I almost always use strawberries and blueberries. Being locally available, and something I can stock up on, those are my go-to fruits. I'll add other berries, like raspberries and blackberries, cherries, whatever I've got on hand. Bella likes to add every fruit you can think of: peaches, apples, bananas, grapes, plums, everything. Pineapples, when used in a mixture with coconut oil, give a nice tropical drink flavor. Add rum, what do I care? Have fun with it. When in doubt about carb loads, stick to berries and grapes and stay away from the starchier fruits most of the time.

Here is the critical tip of this whole smoothie tutorial: FREEZE YOUR FRUIT. When you make smoothies with frozen fruit, you don't have to use ice. Also, this allows you to keep more on hand, especially if you have freezer space. Tomorrow marks the beginning of strawberry season in central Arkansas, and I'll be heading to the farmer's market to buy a flat of fresh, organic berries from my favorite grower. (Berries are also at the top of my "must be organic" list, because they are thin-skinned and porous.) I'll come home and wash and freeze those babies immediately, because I opened my last package of vacuum-sealed frozen berries from last year's crop today! The way you do this with berries is to flash-freeze the berries on a tray before you package and seal them for storage. That way they don't stick together, and you can grab a handful for your smoothies as needed. With strawberries, I slice the bigger ones prior to flash-freezing, so they're less work for the blender later.

So go ahead and whomp those berries in there. Depending on how hardcore you blender is, you might want to do them a few at a time, or all at once. If the mixture gets too thick, just add liquid. For today's recipe for two portions, I used about two cups of berries. Specifically strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Remember how I told you the spinach would be your secret? Behold (this also gives you an idea about the volume, when compared with the previous pic).


That picture wasn't so great, so I took another one, free of the frosted glass of the blender, to show the color.

you can't see or taste the spinach

Four cups of fresh spinach in there, yo.

Bella gets to decide on her smoothie ingredients if she gets up early enough, and she leans toward an Everything But The Kitchen Sink philosophy on smoothies. Today, hers had: Orange juice, 1 Tablespoon chia seeds, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1.5 cups spinach, a carrot, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, half a banana, a splash of lime juice, and a packet of Splenda. She sucked it down and asked for another. And yes, we drink them out of Mason jars. (How's that for hillbilly cred, Liv?)


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Breakfast Is Big

You know it's true. And it's one of my challenges--skipping breakfast is so much easier, and I am, above all, a total lazypants. We all know that a morning meal is important in any weight-loss program, to keep you energized and keep that metabolism running hot, and it's especially important on a low-carb eating plan, because in addition to the usual concerns, you're also trying to spread your carbohydrate consumption evenly out over the course of a whole day, starting early.

So what it boils down to, for me, are shortcuts. Which are really not shortcuts, in that I'm doing the full prep. I'm just doing them at other times besides the rush of mornings. I do as much prepare-ahead stuff as I possibly can for lunches and breakfasts, because I'd much rather be sleeping in the early morning hours than...well, than anything. I have a lot of breakfast foods that I prepare in advance and freeze or refrigerate for use during the week.

Bacon. You know it, you love it. It is not the enemy. I take a pound of thick-cut bacon at a time, put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make it easier to cut, then cut the slices into 1.5" squares. Spread those out in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat, and they cook perfectly. I store them in a sealed container in the fridge, and just grab a few of those little square pieces to round out a breakfast. Sausage also lends itself well to cooking ahead of time and freezing. I'm lucky right now to have a freezer-full of wild forested pork, courtesy of my brother-in-law, which made the cleanest, best-tasting sausage I've ever had. I highly recommend having a brother-in-law get attacked by nice plump wild boars while deer-hunting.

bacon shortcut

Mornings are just about the only time of day I actually use the microwave. It's perfect for cooking eggs in an instant. I can make a yummy little mini-omelet in about a minute in the microwave, or just a nice scrambled egg...and in my fridge there are those lovely bits of bacon or sausage, deli ham, several varieties of cheese, freeze-dried chives, and various veggies that can all be tossed into an egg scramble. I use a coffee mug to cook eggs--a quick blast of nonstick cooking spray, then crack an egg (or two) right in there, scramble, and nuke for 30 seconds. Scramble again, add extras if you want, and nuke another 20 seconds or so to finish.

I have always liked making pancakes or waffles in large batches and then freezing them for quick reheating on school days. It's a good idea to freeze them before bagging/wrapping them, so that they don't stick together. I've had to re-think what pancakes are made of, since my old favorite buttermilk pancakes don't exactly make that 10-net carb cutoff. I've gotten good results with Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix (Bella loves these with pecans and raw honey), but so far, my favorite LC pancakes are these, made with almond flour.* I served them to my daughter with homemade applesauce, and was hailed as Mom of the Year for most of the week. Hmmm, maybe that made me just Mom of the Week. Whatever.

almond flour pancakes

Almond Flour Pancakes
1 cup almond flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons oil (Coconut oil does beautifully in these)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Sweetener equivalent to 1 Tablespoon sugar--the granulated Splenda works measure for measure, or 1-2 packets, or a few drops of stevia to taste. The latter is the way to go for zero additional carbs--Splenda adds some carbohydrate. These babies come in at just under ONE gram net carb each, or about 6g effective carbs for the entire batch.

Mix everything together and cook them just like regular pancakes. They require some care in flipping, as they're a bit delicate. I'm going to try this recipe next with cream, since the carb count on them is so low. I've also seen suggestions for using sparkling water to fluff them up a bit, though I haven't tried that.

I try to round off breakfast with a veggie and fruit smoothie; Today, for example, Bella had a peanut butter sandwich and a smoothie. She loves smoothies, and so do I. Hers are a bit "juicier," since I have to really watch the juice in mine--mine generally have just a splash of juice with a good bit of water to dilute it. Today's smoothies, for all of us, contained orange juice, key lime juice, water, stevia, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, spinach, carrots, coconut oil, and chia seeds. They were a big hit!

breakfast smoothie

*A note on almond flour: In my grocery store, a 1-lb. bag of almond flour runs about $10. You can order the kind I use from Honeywell for nearly half that, plus $4.49 shipping on any size order. You can also get it from Amazon, though it costs a couple dollars more, not including shipping.

EDIT: I've already gotten some questions about some of the more unusual ingredients I've mentioned here, so I added links to the actual products/brands I use. I pretty much get everything from Amazon, because I have a Prime account that gives me free shipping (and that Prime membership pays for itself by February each year--look into it). The exception today is with the almond flour, which, as noted above, can be gotten cheaper directly from the source.


Horns Horns by Joe Hill

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