What’s in your kitchen? Confessions of a carb addict

My daughter, Tammy, sent me a link to read on foodies who were asked to expose the secrets of their kitchens. What will you find in their refrigerators, pantries, and cupboards? The world wanted to know. Last night I thought of this again when I had one of those terrible attacks of wanting to eat the carb-ridden snacks of my past. Thankfully, though I scoured for a few moments, there were no ‘dangerous’ snacks available!

Hello, my name is Mary and I am a carb addict.

Now I am not saying all carbs are bad or that carbs are bad at all … in moderation. If you are a person like me you have to be very aware of your weakness and your commitment to a healthier lifestyle has to reflect that. I know this is true because admission a few years ago and changing my lifestyle has resulted in not only losing 70 pounds, but being healthier in general.

There was a day when I could go through my whole day and eat only carbs. Sound crazy? How about a bagel for breakfast, pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner. I am sure a few nutritious things fell on the pizza or the pasta, but seriously, that was an average day for me.

Things changed a few years ago when Barry and I were visiting Tammy and Boyfriend (aka Mike). We took the metro from their apartment in Arlington and went to DC to see the beautiful cherry blossoms. It was a breathtaking experience. No, literally, it was breath-taking. I finally had my “Ah ha!” moment on that excursion. Though I married the most loving and supportive man on the planet, I was brutally aware of my limitations on that day.

By the time I had worked up a sweat, Barry was just getting started. I couldn’t keep up, but I didn’t want to admit it, so I pushed myself beyond reason. On the metro trip home I had chest pains. I was secretly praying, “Dear God, please don’t let me die on the metro. Please let me at least get to a hospital.”

Well, I didn’t have the heart attack I feared, but I did have an epiphany: it was time to change my habits and recapture my health and well-being. So I did. I went for a comprehensive health evaluation and I found a plan with the support of my doctor that would get me on the road to better health. Frankly, the weight loss almost became a delightful by-product. The journey began with a step. I had to admit I was eating poorly and it was compromising my well-being.

Purging my kitchen of the foods that were my downfall came first. Doing this without punishing Barry in the process was sometimes tricky, but he didn’t suffer much – or at least not for long! I began to follow the mantra “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” (Note: I mean this in the healthiest way possible. None of that “suffering for the sake of beauty” crap.) So my diet got a makeover from heavy to light. I had to cut the carbs and bump up the protein. And I had to add the, then, almost non-existent produce that is now the bulk of my diet.

Out went the candy, the cookies, and the ice cream. I repeat: out went the candy, the cookies, and the ice cream. Reduced were the “white demons” ~ potatoes, breads, pastas, and rice. Phew! I was feeling lighter already.

I have a great pantry space, but that needed evaluation too. Canned vegetables were tossed, as were packaged quick rices and quick prep foods. My pantry now primarily holds those things that support my cooking. You will find a variety of broths in a variety of sizes. There is chicken, beef, and vegetable broth in both large boxes and 16 oz. cans. I have a large variety of condiments. Yup. Love them. They support my quest for flavor. I have canned tomatoes in different sizes and types: crushed, diced, and whole. There are San Marzanos and organic fire roasted tomatoes. These help me make chilis and sauces and sometimes a quick toss meal with pasta. (Yes, pasta is allowed back into my kitchen from time to time.) And there are cans of a variety of beans. Buy these on sale too! I recently made my own hummus for the first time so chick peas are now a staple!

My cupboards have baking necessities and a plethora of seasonings, herbs, and spices. My refrigerator and counters now have produce instead of cookies and candy. When I went truffle-hunting last night I found crisp red grapes and was satisfied with a handful. Another battle won. Then what are my go-to grocery items?

  • Produce! Produce! Produce!
  • fontina cheese ~ my personal favorite
  • other cheeses for cooking ~ watch for sales and buy your favorites. I just bought monterey jack and sharp white cheddar on sale.
  • tortillas ~ they make lighter sandwiches or crispy chips for salsa
  • PROTEIN ~ usually chicken or pork, with occasional beef
  • edamame ~ Barry and I both love it and eat it probably twice a week.
  • nuts ~ keep them in the freezer. Right now I have walnuts, pine nuts, slivered almonds and whole roasted almonds in my freezer.
  • quinoa ~ yes, there are carbs, but less carb and some protein! We will talk about quinoa another day!

Switching from a diet dependent on carbs to one high in protein, the weight came off and my health improved remarkably. Six prescription medications are no longer needed. I have more energy and can keep up with my husband!

Speaking of Barry, I don’t deprive him of his treats. He loves potato sticks, so I buy those. He loves apple walnut bread, which can almost always be found in the kitchen. I make fudge for him and I actually make his trail mix so that it has his favorite things in it.  So he is well taken care of and these are not items that tempt me.

The journey started with a single step but it was a big one. I am still on that journey, and from time to time it is good to reflect on where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. It is worth the effort because my health is the beneficiary.

Where is your journey taking you? What’s in your kitchen? Have a healthy, carb-reduced, protein and produce rich weekend!

Choices and the Two Bite Rule

Now I stated in Friday’s post that when it came to making the girls try fruits and veggies there were choices. In all honesty, I brought the girls along on my journey. Our dinner table was an incredible contrast to that of my childhood. I put choices on the table so there would be no forcing the girls to “sit there until you eat your vegetables.” In fact, having dutifully researched the food groups, I decided that some nights a fruit was one of the choices. I mean, the food pyramid circa 1990 showed fruits and vegetables on the same ‘shelf’ right?

Before getting to the table, one had to shop for the food. Consequently, I took the girls with me to the grocery store. This was a new and, I discovered, wonderful experience. In fact, we dragged daddy along as often as possible. To this day I find grocery shopping a lonely experience if I have to do it by myself. I still coax Barry into joining me whenever I can!

The produce section became a playground for the palate. We would carefully buy the ‘everyday’ fruits and vegetables ~ lettuce (still iceberg), tomatoes, cucumbers (new addition), apples, oranges and grapes. Then there was the hunt for the unknown delight. This was the adventure. The girls would hunt for something they did not recognize. Of course, they were reluctant to point out anything that looked “Yucky” lest I would make them actually put it in their mouths. That meant that things like ginger root are farther down the road that is my journey. {smile}

Let’s get back to the girls and the beginning of some fun. I would send them on the search but we would decide together on just one new item per trip. We bought a number of new and exciting items over the course of the littles being little.There are a few that seem memorable. Kiwi, for example, seemed fun and Courtney thought it was cute and fuzzy. So kiwi came home with us, not knowing that I had no idea what to do with it. Poor Kiwi.

May I remind you of the time frame we are discussing, and thus the fact that I couldn’t Google the little fuzz ball and find out what to do. I hadn’t yet hooked into watching Food Network because when the girls were little our TV channels were restricted to channels 2 to 13 and we had no cable channels. Besides, we went out to play when chores were done. There was not much time spent in front of the box.

Here is what I knew. The grocery store wouldn’t sell it if you couldn’t eat it. I decided to use common sense. The outside seemed inedible. I cut it off. The rest seemed soft and there wasn’t a pit when I cut through the middle. Cleverly, like the cousin orange, the kiwi came to dinner in slices.

Now would be the perfect time to tell you that we had to decide next what to do about this new choice. The standard in our house became known as the Two Bite Rule. I believe that though you should not be forced to eat things you do not like, you should never close your mind to trying new things. I also know anyone could muster the courage to ingest one bite of an unknown and live to tell about it. You probably wouldn’t even taste it. The second bite is the true test. Already once through the lips, the second sampling sends the savory sensation to your …oh poot. You actually taste the second bite. There really is no getting around it. The second bite tells you whether or not you actually like the food you just ate.

The kiwi was a success for me and for Courtney. Tammy tells me today she still doesn’t like them. I believe when I mentioned them as a part of this discussion she referred to them as nasty. Daddy played it carefully, tried everything, and said it was all good. We girls knew, however, when he really loved something. Fresh pineapple was a big hit for daddy. It still is!

Star fruit seemed to have great promise but the memorable thing was that it was not memorable. As lovers of princesses, we had to buy the star fruit. Sadly, it was a falling star in our home; it did not impress. I have not bought one since. Perhaps, upon reflection, I should give it another go.

So choices and the Two Bite Rule were good practices in our steadfast rule of “Say what you mean and mean what you say” parenting. I could say you have to eat your veggies. And as soon as each girl chose one, they ate them. No sitting at the table for hours. Phew! And just to assure there would be no recurrence of my nightmare, there was always a palatable option for all. My journey, and the girls’, took many adventurous steps forward.

Frankly, the Two Bite Rule still gets called into play to this day.