“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13
After weeks on end of so much gray, color finally started to come back. The snow has melted; temperatures are cold but not freezing, and flashes of green wink at me from in between the brown blades of old grass, like Addie flashing me a smile and calling me to come out to play for awhile.
Today I joined her: we rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk and drank in the sun even as a cold breeze reminded us it isn’t quite springtime yet. For a moment I was a little girl again, wind tickling my cheeks while I plucked a handful of sour grass and pretended to be Anne Shirley making a flower crown for Princess Cordelia, her imaginary persona that embodied everything Anne wished she herself was: beautiful, important, and loved.
Anne Shirley didn’t have the luxury of parents to invest in her tender heart. Addie does, but I catch myself wondering if she doubts she is the remarkable girl we know her to be. She asks us all the time: am I beautiful? Important? Loved? She asks it in her own way, of course, and we do our best to answer her in a way she understands. Still, I wonder how much of it is sinking in.
I know why: the four of us have been together constantly from the moment we left California–that’s a month and a half without much of a break. Moving to a new state compounded the normal stresses of summer, and here we are two weeks away from school starting and the day can’t get here fast enough because (confession): I’m a wreck.
If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!
1 Corinthians 10:30 (MSG)
When Emery was first diagnosed with his dairy allergy, we let the girls eat the cheese-laden stuff around him all the time. He was an infant, after all, small and snuggly and on a liquid diet. But once the kid showed interest in what we were eating–and then when he started walking and reaching and climbing, we panicked. (The sippy cup incident taught us our lesson). Clearly, we ditched the dairy.
After I so rudely introduced a new favorite chocolate chip cookie to our household, I’m cutting us off for awhile. Into the freezer they went, ready to give to the Goobies as a treat every once in awhile, but out of reach enough to not be tempting anymore.
I admire your willpower, Josef. You make up your mind about something and ding! It’s done. Over. No wavering. Me? I’m easier to sway, particularly when it comes to food.
Maybe that’s why when I first suggested trying out that Trim Healthy Mama plan, you were confident while I was resistant. Giving up sugar? Really? I think it was the lure of bacon that convinced you this diet plan might be worth a try. Bacon doesn’t move me the same way it moves you. Give me big bowl of buttery popcorn or a bar of dark chocolate and I’m your girl, but bacon? Meh.
Nearly two years ago, I latched on to the idea that the Trim Healthy Mama plan would be the ticket to ridding my body of the dreaded baby weight–four weeks after giving birth. I presented the idea to you, mainly because if I was going to start the plan, I needed your support because otherwise I’d cave in to my buttery popcorn cravings far too often if I didn’t have you keeping me accountable. Lucky me, you were so supportive that you even wanted to start the plan yourself.
A week into the thing I was snippy, ravenous, and mean. It might have had something to do with cutting out sugar, true: but I think it may have had something to do with being five weeks postpartum, nursing, and sleep deprived. Trying to figure out this new diet plan pushed my already emotional self into an even deeper level of desperation.
But I started to shrink. You did too.
Maybe it had something to do with having just delivered a baby (because bodies have a tendency to shrink after that…), or maybe it had something to do with nursing around the clock (because bodies have a tendency to shrink because of that…), or maybe it had to do with choosing to feed myself in a new way. To be honest, I’m still not sure.
What I do know for sure, though, is that once the ball got rolling, the baby weight (and then some) did indeed come off–for both of us, actually. Pretty soon this new way of feeding ourselves was all you could talk about. I remember watching people’s faces as you tried very hard to explain exactly what we were doing to cause such a shift in our food life and pant size: their eyebrows would furrow with disbelief even as their lips twisted into a bemused smile when you admitted both healthy fats and good carbs were central tenets to this particular way of eating. The Hot Mama Diet, you called it, a name both playful and totally wrong. I’d laugh and correct you: Trim Healthy Mama (THM). And others would go on their way with real information to look up on their own time.
Since then–almost two years ago–I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the plan, and so have you. The lingo of THM bothers you (which is part of why you started calling it the Hot Mama Diet–that, at least, makes you chuckle). You also love the way the food tastes, the way it fills you up, and how you leave the table satisfied and well-nourished. I love the way THM promotes whole, unprocessed, real deal superfoods. I don’t love the way it relies heavily on very processed supplements (like glucomannan and psyllium husks) to make low-carb renditions of foods that in my own opinion aren’t exactly “bad” in the first place (like pudding. And bread.) I love that it encourages us to fuel our bodies with both healthy fats and good carbs, both. I don’t love that it makes us separate them to be able to lose weight (but…it really does work). I love that once weight loss is achieved, a smear of butter (or Earth Balance, these days) melting into a sweet potato doesn’t do any harm at all.
For the most part, we’re pretty devoted to this way of eating. We don’t freak out about having a few grams of sugar here and there in our regular every day diets (like the little bit that’s in our almond milk coffee creamer), and we most certainly eat nachos piled high with cheese and sour cream late at night on weekends while the kids are sleeping and the Warriors are playing, because that’s just how it goes around here sometimes.
Our tenets of the Hot Mama Diet are easy: eat healthy, real, not scientifically fabricated foods instead of junk. Use alternative flours (like almond flour and coconut flour) when we can, but don’t stress out to much about using gluten free whole grain flour blends for baking (because really, the kids eat most of the muffins around here anyway). Limit sugar (and use stevia or stevia blends instead). Go easy on good fats in a carb-heavy meal (like this super light Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad and Cucumber Ribbons), and vice versa for richer, more decadent meals, like that Cilantro Lime Ground Turkey with Cauliflower Rice that swims in thick, creamy coconut milk.
Our “diet plan” isn’t really so much of a set of rules as it is a way of thinking about food and choosing to feed ourselves well. And so, in celebration of a new year and renewed commitment (and your success this week), I’m going to keep your favorites coming. It’s an easy way for me to stay motivated because let’s face it: food is my love language. Well, that and words of affirmation, and when I make food that makes you lavish praise upon me? I’m smitten.
Cilantro Lime Ground Turkey (GF/DF/NF/THM S)
One of Joey’s Top 5 Favorite Meals Ever, this is a simple dish that is, again, very quick to throw together. The possibilities here are endless, because these flavors–while fantastic just as they are–could also act as a canvas against which you can add your own finishing touches. Toss in some snow peas and carrots if you want to. Sprinkle in a little ginger and see what happens. Have some curry paste? Sure, throw it in. Serve it over cauliflower rice to be THM approved, or lavish it over brown rice and don’t beat yourself up about it. If you want to lighten it up a bit, use light coconut milk instead of full fat. Either works just fine, of course–but we prefer the full fat version.
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
6 green onions, sliced (diagonally, if you’re feeling fancy)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1-13.5 oz. can full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (the juice of 2-3 limes, depending on size)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
zest of one lime
red chili flakes
Melt the coconut oil over medium heat, then add the green onions and saute for two minutes or so, until you start smelling the onions and they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, again–until they’re soft and fragrant, but not golden.
Next, turn up the heat to high and immediately crumble in the ground turkey. Sprinkle in the salt and cook, tossing together with the onions and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Lower the heat to medium high and pour in the coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro. Stir it all together, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Once combined, toss in the lime zest and red chili flakes (about 1/2 teaspoon or so, more or less depending on how much heat you like). Turn the heat back up to high and cook the sauce for a few minutes–maybe three or so, so that it begins to reduce and thicken slightly.
You may stop here, if you like, and ladle the sauce over steamed rice, cauliflower rice, or even rice noodles–but you may want to thicken the sauce a bit before you do. If that’s you, read on.
You have a couple of choices about which way to thicken the sauce. If you want to use what I will call the “approved” THM method (meaning, a method of thickening a sauce without adding any carbohydrates), sprinkle glucommanan little by little directly over the sauce while it’s still warm and in the pan, and whisk well after each addition. But, if you’re like me and think glucomannan makes food just a little too slimy, go the Hot Mama route and use a little bit of corn starch, for goodness sake. Mix 1 Tablespoon of corn starch* with cold water, pour it right into the pan, and whisk quickly until the sauce thickens (it will go fast!). Cook another minute or two, and then serve.
*There are only 7 carbs in one tablespoon of cornstarch, and if that’s all I’m using in the whole recipe? I don’t stress about it. Neither should you.
Well here we are again: it’s Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon and I still have no idea what we’re having for dinner.
I pulled out some ground turkey from the freezer last night in an attempt to get ahead start in today’s race toward dinnertime. We have gobs of zucchini in the fridge at the moment, and zoodles were sounding like a good idea to use them up. Except then I realized Addie has ballet this afternoon and we don’t typically get home until close to 5:00, and did I really think spiralizing zucchini was actually going to happen in those tense minutes leading up to dinner when the Goobies are literally clawing at each other, hungry and grumpy and pushing my patience to its ragged end?
But if we don’t do zoodles tonight, when will we? Plus, there are tons of those little green beauties in the crisper right now, and they will not keep for much longer. I keep putting them off, assuring them they’ll get their moment to shine as I opt instead to pull out the sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes for a vegetable side for the kids’ beloved (or loathed, perhaps) diet of leftovers.
This morning at breakfast we talked briefly about having some friends over for dinner because we haven’t seen them in ages. The Warriors have their season opener against the Spurs tonight, so it seemed fitting to invite these particular friends over to balance dinner plates on their laps and watch the Warriors do their thing right along with us because we did a lot of that last season with them. We ate things like homemade pizzas and salad with Mr. Cy’s now-legendary magic sauce in our living room after the kids hit the sack for the night. The idea of having zoodles during a Warriors game felt a little…boring.
When my panicked face met your gaze across the table this morning, I wasn’t trying to tell you “don’t invite them over!” I was picking a fight with myself over something as silly as zoodles. If I did go ahead and make them tonight, I would need to thaw another pound of ground turkey, and I might need to swing by and get more grape tomatoes for the Quattro Rosso Sauce that would go on top of the zoodles–or could I just use the half pint that are left and make up the difference with the sad little Roma tomato still waiting in the wings? But if I do thaw another pound of ground turkey, I will have to swing by the store later this week for another pound so I can still make Pumpkin Chili for Halloween (which is what the turkey in the freezer is earmarked for). And anyway, do I really want to go through all that fuss and make the zoodles today after ballet? I guess I could give the kids noodles instead of zoodles and do my best to get the zoodles made later, like after bedtime. But again, do we really want to eat zoodles when the Warriors make their regular season debut tonight?
It was in the midst of this internal madness that you asked, “Do you want me to just pick something up?”
Those words: music to my stressed out ears.
I’m not sure you will ever completely understand the spin that happens when you ask the simple question “What are we doing for dinner?” There is so much going on everyday that sometimes trying to figure out what to make for dinner pushes me over the edge. It’s not just about figuring out what sounds good to me on that particular day (although, sometimes it is). It’s also about negotiating what everyone else around here can and will eat (which aren’t always the same), what we have in our cupboards, what needs to be used, like, yesterday, and how much time I have to actuallycook something. On days like today, it all seemed like a little too much to handle, and I think you must have seen that.
I imagine you offered to grab take out tonight to quell the crazy. But I bet you’d also admit it was to say thank you for being such a stellar wife who does such nice things for you (likewatching basketball. Ahem.).
We haven’t decided yet if we’re having friends over for dinner tonight. We haven’t even landed on whether you are bringing home take out or not (although street tacos from Mexxi’s is really sounding fantastic right about now). I don’t know what to do about the zucchini that desperately need to be used up, and I’m not sure what I’ll be feeding the kids when we get home from ballet in just under three short hours. But what I do know, is that I’m not taking out another pound of ground turkey today, and at some point I’ll plop down on the couch to watch a game of basketball with you.
Sometimes, you get a little …. frustrated with me.
You don’t like to admit it, I don’t think. It seems that you pretty much take my quirks in stride, opting to make light of my shortcomings in a light-hearted, loving manner. But sometimes – especially when you’re tired or hungry or already irritated – you get frustrated with me. Sometimes there are things I do that make you crazy, and in these moments can I see you stewing inside, wanting to pull out your hair or walk the other way or shout in frustration – but you don’t. You hold your tongue and temper your feelings so that you can calmly deal with the results of a mood swing or hair-brained idea or bad choice I have made. You give me lots of grace, and for that I am thankful.
Like the other day when I dragged you out to Toys R Us before dinner. You came home hungry that night, tired from a week’s worth of surgeries and patients and paperwork, ready to start the weekend. Instead of welcoming you home to a relaxing, let’s-get-this-weekend-started-right sort of atmosphere, I jumped into high gear and listed all the things we needed to get accomplished that night. With a birthday party just a few days away, I was starting to panic because of all the things that were left to do: presents to pick up and party favors to find and banners to assemble and cakes to bake and and and.
Into the car we went, dropping the girls off with their grandparents for an hour or so while we got a few things done, but before I let you pull out of the driveway, I proceeded to give you one of my overly detailed explanations for my thought process that day, walking you through every factor that impacted each minor decision I made. You waited, as patiently as you could, for me to get to the point, and once I got there, you didn’t really say much as you finally started to drive, listening to the Giants game as you did so.
A few minutes of semi-silence later, I asked if I had upset you. You said that I had not; you had just needed to know what to do so you could do it, and you were just waiting for me to get to the point.
We drove along, and while you listened to the game, I tuned it out, opting instead to over-analyze everything that we had just said to each other: what I said, why I said it, and how you responded.
I realized that even though my long-winded explanation frustrated you, you took it in stride, knowing that this was one of my quirks, and just waited as patiently as you could for me to get to the point. As you did so, you were telling me something I need to remember in moment like that one: Save the chatter – just get to the point. You don’t need to defend yourself to me; just tell me what I need to do. If I want to know the backstory or extra details, I’ll ask. It’s not because you don’t care about what I have to say, or think it’s unimportant or boring even – it’s because you trust my decision making, you believe that I have good reasons for doing what I do, and all you really want to know is what I need you to do.
A few short stops later and we found ourselves finally talking about dinner as we made our way back to pick up the girls. In a moment of weakness (or sheer starvation) you actually suggested we grab something from a drive through. I countered with an idea for quick bean burritos at home, to which you seemed a little indifferent. When I mentioned that we could top them with lime sour cream sauce, your face lit up and you asked if we had shredded cabbage.
I knew I was forgiven my long-windedness and my wild-goose-chase of an evening right then.
Lime Sour Cream
We love sour cream at our house, but adding lime zest and juice to it makes it even more awesome. There are about a million ways you could make this sauce, but this is our favorite because it is incredibly simple. We love it on fish tacos, but it dresses up an otherwise ordinary bean burrito, too (especially if you add shredded cabbage and hot sauce).
16 oz. sour cream
4 large limes, zested and juiced
1/8-1/4 tsp kosher salt (or any kind of salt really, to taste)
Start by scooping out the sour cream into a big mixing bowl. Next, wash and zest the limes over the bowl; then cut them in half and juice. Add the juice to the sour cream, along with the salt, and stir to combine.