Asparagus-ish Soup

Ha! Say that three times fast.

Remember my disastrous start as a person who cooks?

You can read about it here and here and here if you don’t.

Well last Friday, I was working my PT job and another librarian came in with this huge bag in her hand and stuffed it in the teeny mini fridge. It was crazy, watching her do that. She then told me the bag was filled with asparagus from her garden and said it was free for the taking. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, hands down. So, upon leaving that day, I yanked the bag from the fridge and pulled out maybe a pound of this giant asparagus this woman grew.

Then I had to figure out what to do with it. Obviously, I asked my mom. She suggested asparagus soup and said she had a good recipe. Unfortunately, she never gave me the recipe. Not a huge deal. I then Googled “asparagus soup crockpot” on Sunday, when I decided to make something. I found tons and tons of recipes and they were all different. One thing I kept seeing over and over is that you should blend your asparagus soup to make it, essentially, cream of asparagus, most claimed for better flavor.

I don’t have anything that can do that, so I shrugged off that concern and closed my computer.

I decided it was just soup and I was going to wing it.

Yes, wing it.

I cleaned the asparagus and cut it up. Into the crock pot. It didn’t look like much.

So I dug into my fridge. I had some cauliflower (another veg I love) on hand that needed to be used up. So I chopped that up and tossed it in with the asparagus. I also found a green pepper that needed to be used. Cut up and toss in. And there was half a zucchini. That went in, too. Then I had two small red potatoes that were getting soft, so I scrubbed them, cut them and tossed them in, too.

Now, it was less “asparagus” soup and more “vegetable” soup, but there was still more asparagus than anything else. Thus: asparagus-ish.

I didn’t have vegetable broth on hand. I had some bouillon and could have made some, but that seemed like too much work. So I used the three cans of chicken broth I had on hand. That didn’t seem like enough liquid, so I added the one can of beef broth I had on hand.

Then I threw in a little kosher salt, some garlic powder, some fresh cracked pepper. I stood over it for a moment and gave it some thought, and decided it needed a little heat, for a boost of flavor. So I added some crushed red pepper. No measuring, for anything, just threw things in the crock pot. I cooked it on low, all day long. Probably 8-9 hours. Then I tasted it. It was okay. Not spectacular. I decided that these wise women of the blogosphere may be right. It needed to be creamy.

Some of the recipes called for the adding of heavy cream, but I didn’t want it to be that heavy….or to add the extra fat. So I let it cool, put it in the fridge overnight and left it. On Monday, I stopped at Target and bought a hand blender. This one here. It was affordable (and I had a $5 gift card) and also came with an extra measuring cup, of which I only have one, so win all around.

I went home last night and warmed up the soup, still in the crock pot. When it was warm, I used my new hand blender to blend the soup. Essentially, I pureed it. I did not add anything to it, just blended it together.

Then I tried it.

It was……AMAZING. One of my favorite things I’ve ever cooked and probably the first thing I’ve cooked on my own, without using any sort of recipe. The texture was perfect, the blending was absolutely the right way to go. Because I added the dark beef broth the color of the soup isn’t as attractive as one would hope, but who cares when it tastes like that. It’s got a little bit of kick to it, and is the perfect amount of salty (no extra needed) and it is just awesome. I ate a huge bowl for dinner last night and contemplated eating a second. I was full, but it was so good. I am very excited to have it again for dinner tonight.

So there you go. I’ve told the tales of my flops in the kitchen, I figured it was about time I shared one of my successes as well. Let me know if you try it!

 

The Dangers of Living Alone

At Christmas, I hosted my family Christmas party. During the party, my brother Zack informed me that he was reaching for the light switch in my bathroom and hit the item hanging on the wall above it. It, naturally, fell and broke. He just wanted me to know. I checked, it wasn’t majorly broken, nothing I couldn’t fix. I set it aside and promptly forgot about it (This was January 4).

Last night I happened to notice the space on my wall and I thought I should fix that thing. The thing, btw, is a silhouette of a 50s era swimsuit on which the words “When she was good, she was very good. When she was bad, she was even better” are typed. I grabbed it and decided to superglue it back together. I pulled out my glue and the open one was completely dried out. I must not have put the cap back on tightly. I then grabbed a new one and got ready. As soon as I punctured the top and tipped it to apply the glue, there was a small problem.

Evidently, the tube must have either had a puncture or I punctured it somehow. Glue was dripping out of the tube….all over my fingers. In, literally seconds, before I could even process this, EIGHT of my ten fingers were glued to the item in question.

And there I stood. All alone, unable to move. I couldn’t put down the plaque, nor move eight of my fingers. For the curious, my right index finger, which was on top of the clue, and my left pinky, which was just somehow, blessedly, spared.

I did not know what to do. I couldn’t even pick up my phone to call for help. I couldn’t drive a car to go get help. I wasn’t even sure I could manage to open the door to walk to my neighbor’s house to ask for help. It was a disaster. But, I had to do something, so before it could set further, I pivoted and headed for the kitchen sink. Luckily, I had just set water on to boil, so I knew the water in the tap was already hot. I plunged my sticky, immovable, fingers, plaque and all, under the running water. I just held them under the water and kept trying to move them. Before long I got one free. Then another. At that point, I figured this was working (thank GOD!) so I just kept pulling and pulling until my fingers were free. I managed NOT to drop the plaque and injure it further. And somehow, whilst doing this, I did actually manage to get glue where it needed to go and it was repaired. And clean.

I survived, obviously, and spent the rest of the evening picking glue off my fingers and nails. Actually, I’m still picking them this morning. But it was a lesson in humility, or stupidity, I’m not sure.

Grown Up Embarrassment

You know how when you’re a kid and if you put something off, it would somehow magically get done? That doesn’t happen when you’re a grown up. I’ve heard tales of women whose spouses may spontaneously unload the dishwasher without being asked, but, generally, as an adult, if you don’t do something, it doesn’t get done.

I’ve noticed that putting off things like doing the dishes, or the laundry, only ends up making this worse. They don’t get magically done when you ignore it and by the time you actually do it, there is MORE work to do. Obviously, this has lead to the conclusion that I need to just “git ‘er done” (as they say in Dillon, TX). I try, and am moderately successful at keeping on top of daily tasks. However, you know what I am terrible at?

Projects.

The not-so-regular, don’t actually need to be done on a timeline but still need to be done eventually kind of projects. I’ve got TONS of them. This past weekend I was thinking about doing one and I thought “I really need to get that done.” And then I laughed at myself because there was absolutely nothing stopping me from getting it done right then and there. Not one thing stood in my path. Is it done? Nope, but I did waste time having that mental conversation with myself.

So, fine, I’m bad at projects. BAD. I ignore them until I can almost forget I need to do them at all. But it’s a bad habit. They will never get done unless I do them, so I either need to do them or decide they don’t need to be done and live with it.

However, this is what prompted the blog. I was looking for something on my blog. Something specific. I did a search and a few results came back. I clicked on a couple and read them trying to find the info I was looking for. (I did find it). Then I read a blog post entitled “Randomness“. It was pretty random. It did not contain the information I was looking  for, but it did contain this sentence.

“My bathroom light burned out. I haven’t yet figured out how to remove the cover to replace the bulb. Judging from the size of the cover, I don’t have the right size bulb anyway. Another fun thing about being a homeowner.”

And I sort of seized up. I scrolled back to the top to check the date of that post. September 20, 2011. Over TWO YEARS AGO and, guess what? That light is still not fixed. I’ve still never opened the cover to find the right size bulbs.

What is wrong with me? This is absurd. And embarrassing. Well, it should be embarrassing, so I’m posting it here. I will leave work tonight, go to the library, go home and check that light. Tomorrow I will stop and buy a bulb and fix it. No more putting this off. It will be done.

It will.

Or you need to all swing by and heckle me. A burnt out bulb for more than two years, just because of procrastination? I’m ashamed of myself.

Whole30 Beginning

Just a quick touch base to let you know how it is going. So far….so good.

Early observations:

I’m hungry….all the time. I know this will stabilize and I’ll actually become LESS hungry over time, because my body stops craving the foods that are bad for me, but for now, this kind of sucks. Even though I think I am eating plenty, I am always hungry. Like 5 minutes after I finish a meal, I am hungry.

I’ve had a headache for two days (and since I’m only 3 days in….) but I figure that’s a withdrawal symptom. It happened when I quit caffeine, so I am not at all surprised. This should likewise go away with time.

I have more time on my hands and I don’t really know what to do with it. Yes, this sounds weird, but I tended to be a grazer when I ate. Snacking here and there. Now I am trying to eliminate that and eat fuller meals with fewer snacks in between. Logically, I know I don’t really have that much extra time, but it FEELS that way because of the desire to snack that I am ignoring.

I vastly prefer raw vegetables. I figured I would get very sick of always eating raw veggies, so I experimented Monday with steaming. While the steamed broccoli with lemon juice and garlic was tasty, yes, it wasn’t really for me. Of course, I don’t really like broccoli and don’t know why I bought it. I suppose I thought I could convince myself to like it if I slipped it in with all the other vegetables. So I tried the same steam recipe with green beans, which I do love. And I was pretty “meh” about that as well. I think I just prefer them raw. But that is pretty boring, so I am open to suggestions.

I haven’t slept all that great the first two nights. I’m not certain that is fully related. I slept, sure, but not super deeply. However, this is a big undertaking and I’ve worried over it a lot, so it is possible that it is related to that and not the food itself. We shall see, I suppose.

***

I wrote the above on Day 3, thinking I’d post on day 4 and let people know how it’s going. But now I am at Day 11 and this is what the update would look like.

On Day 6, I got stomach cramps. Massive, terrible, awful, worst cramps of my life. It was terrible. It laid me out for two and a half days. Yes, DAYS. Then, that subsided and the dreams began. Dreams. Weird, vivid, astonishingly real dreams. Like where I was walking in a church basement and there was food, everywhere. I was trying to find someone or something and as I walked the halls, I’d suddenly find myself drinking a glass of watered down lemonade. Not even anything good, but then I’d realize I can’t have it and be crushed that I ruined all my hard work. Or sometimes I find myself eating a donut.

Which is weird, because I am not craving either donuts or powdered lemonade. In fact, I dislike powdered lemonade, but whatever. I think it is the sugar that my brain is trying to sneak into my subconscious. But, when I am awake, I don’t really have cravings. I mean, sure, I’d love some ice cream. LOVE some, but it’s okay that I can’t have it right now.  Understand that it is the right now part. It isn’t like I’ve changed my lifestyle permanently. I am hoping to, yes, but even so, if I want ice cream, I can always have some. But yet, the dreams.

The tiredness has mostly subsided. I sleep well again. And I wake up a lot easier, so that is nice. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to get up when the alarm goes off, but it is noticeably easier to wake up. I also fall asleep faster. MUCH faster and I never had trouble falling asleep before.

The hunger has also completely abated. I feel hungry at meal times, but honestly, not really. I feel more like “it’s time to eat” not really hungry. So I eat and then I’m full. It’s kind of nice. I don’t really crave snacks or anything in between.

Elena mentioned to me, today, that she is underwhelmed by this thing. She expected me to be raving about how fantastic I feel or something. I get that. But isn’t the point. In order to feel that way, I have to get the bad out or else the good can’t get in. It isn’t an overnight process. That’s why this is a 30 day program. It takes weeks for your system to reset from a lifetime of bad habits. I am surprised it is only weeks, actually. I notice little, gradual changes, like those above, but they are just part of the process. By the final week, I fully expect I’ll feel fantastic.

In the meantime, I just keep on keeping on.

19 days to go.

Whole30

About two months ago, I stumbled across this website. It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard of before, but as I read it through, I was intrigued.

Honestly, I don’t pay that much attention to what I eat, I just eat what I enjoy. I’m not super un-healthy, because I happen to like fruits and vegetables, but I’m not particularly smart about what I eat, either.

Moreover. as I thought about it, I realized I really don’t like the way that I FEEL after I eat. Eating should energize you, give you what you need to get through the day. Instead, when I eat, I feel tired, or not satisfied, or a little gross. I’ve dealt with headaches for years, and I have severe acid reflux. While I understand that these things can be triggered by food, I’ve never considered that I could cure it.

As I kept reading about Whole30, the more and more that I learned the more I realized that this was something I wanted to try. For those of you who don’t read links, this is a food detox program that lasts 30 days. It is not a diet, though most people do lose weight while doing it, it is a way to break a lifetime of poor food habits and allow yourself a healthier eating lifestyle. For 30 days, you eat only meats and produce. That’s it.

No dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugars. Also, it should go without saying, no smoking or drinking during my Whole30 month.  While this doesn’t matter to me, as I gave up caffeine years ago, the program does allow coffee, so long as you drink it black.

Okay, yes, that’s pretty hard. But not impossible. I’m going to miss my milk with dinner. And I love ice cream, and cheese, but while I eat a lot of grains and legumes (beans), I feel quite comfortable going without them.

As this isn’t about weight loss, there is no calorie counting or portion control. As long as you eat only approved foods, you can eat as much or as often as you need to in order to feel full. It is cold turkey, and no cheating. It’s a strict idea, but when I think about it, it is only 30 days. It’s not like I’m committing to eating this way for life. Though it is my hope that I will WANT to keep eating this way after I am finished.

As I said, I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I have decided that September is my month. No birthdays, no special events, still a lot of great summer produce available, I think I can do it. Starting September 1, I will fully embrace Whole30 for the month. I’ve been meal planning and prepping, and I’m hitting the grocery tomorrow.

I’ll probably blog updates over the next month, to keep you posted on how I am doing. I plan on doing the whole month, but at this point, I’m not positive I can make it. There are a lot of side effects and that could be very hard on me. I’m going to do my very best though and see how much healthier I feel by the time October 1 rolls around.

Wish me luck, lend me your support, and we’ll see how it all shakes out in the end.

Kitchen Fairy

Yesterday, when I got home from work, these were on my counter.

photo

If walking in to your house after an extra long day at work and finding a beautiful bouquet of flowers wasn’t enough, that Flower Fairy also decided to team up with the Kitchen Fairy. My entire kitchen had been cleaned, dishes done, counters wiped, wine glasses washed by hand. Pure bliss, let me tell you.

On Saturday, I had a little party for Elena. My kitchen was a disaster. Sunday I went over to my parents house and hung out instead of cleaning. Monday I worked and then came home and ignored the mess in favor of a book (yeah, not as unusual as I’d like to pretend…). That meant, by Tuesday, the mess had grown into epic proportions in my head. It wasn’t actually THAT bad, it just felt like it, to me, because of how long I’d been actively avoiding it.

Also on Monday, my mother’s washing machine broke. Kaput. She noticed on Tuesday when she went to switch the load over to her dryer (which, fyi, broke about a month ago and was just replaced. So if the washer had broken like two weeks sooner, then she could have gotten a new set…saving money, instead of buying individual units, annoying, right?) and it hadn’t completed the cycle.

She called me and asked if she could run to my house to wash the wet clothes. I said it was no problem, but avoid the kitchen, it’s a huge mess. She chuckled at that.

Then, I came home from work, an hour later than usual (that’s a lot when you already work 10 hour days!) and voila! My kitchen was clean and sparkling and there was a beautiful flower arrangement waiting for me.

I was touched at her sweet gesture and thoughtfulness. She says it only took her a few minutes to clean up, and I’m sure it did, because it doesn’t take that long, but what was a little thing to her was an enormous gesture to me. While it would have only taken ME a few minutes to clean my own kitchen, having it just be magically done after I’d been avoiding it? That is a priceless feeling. And the flowers? They are beautiful, and special because people rarely buy me flowers. So rarely I could actually tell you about each instance that it has happened.

Thanks mom, for being a magic fairy for me yesterday and for being the best mom ever…every day. Love you.