In the category of things I cannot cook

Indian Food.

I love Indian Food.  Garlic na’an.  Lamb Korma.  Chicken Tikka Masala.  Saag Paneer.  It’s all soooo good.

I’ve come across several recipes for making it at home and I just can’t get it right.  Or, if I am getting it right, these recipes have no idea what Indian food is supposed to taste like.

Last year for Christmas my cousin got me this Indian Spice Collection.  I have used the Cardamom, Coriander and Tumeric in a couple other recipes, but must make Indian for the others.  So, I tried again yesterday.

I marinated chicken thighs in a spiced coconut cream for hours.  Then threw them into the crock pot with a spiced tomato sauce.  I went to see The Revenant  at 3 and when I came home the house was warm and yummy smelling. (And thank goodness, if there’s ever a time you need to come home to a warm and welcoming place it’s after The Revenant.  Whoo doggies that was a movie.  More on that sometime soon.)     

I even got crazy and tried to make Paleo na’an.  (Spoiler: this does not end well.)  Blah.  There are a few times the perhaps-less-good-for-me version is just the only real option.  Paleo na’an shouldn’t even be a thing.  The recipe I found was simple, the three ingredients you see above.  And I just happened to have arrowroot powder on hand, which I promise is not typical.  I think it’s been in the pantry for a year.

I also served it over cauliflower rice with a bit of crushed fennel seed in it.  That part is okay.  I’m used to that taste and substitution by now, but it still isn’t the delicious white rice of real Indian food.  Also, everything is the same shade of orange-ish brown. I get a little annoyed at my food when everything on the plate is the same color.  Everything tasted ok, but I think it’s time I officially retire trying to make chicken tikka masala or butter chicken at home.

And on the 8th day, we brunched (W30D8)

Brunch challenge passed.

It was actually really easy to do brunch on W30.

I found this recipe for a pumpkin type custard dish and this one for a veggie/egg casserole on Pinterest.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, while the pumpkin thing is technically W30 ingredient compliant, I don’t think the creators of the program would approve of it in spirit.  They don’t like when people “paleo-fy” dishes.  This dish ended up reminding me of the filling of a pumpkin pie (with a decidedly greater banana taste).  I felt okay making it since I didn’t think it would trigger me wanting more or actual pie.  I thought it was just a nice idea for a side dish.  End note.

This is the pumpkin dish before it was baked.

This is the pumpkin dish before it was baked.

I liked it just fine.  I think it will be nice to have a bite or two with breakfast dishes this week. It’s a good dish, for me it’s just that: 1) I don’t love pumpkin pie, so not shocking that I don’t like something that is reminiscent of it.  2) I don’t love bananas baked in things.  Love actual bananas, but not banana bread or anything. This recipe uses two bananas.  I wonder if I used applesauce or something I might like it more.  Next time.

Egg bake prep.

Egg bake prep.

This dish was basically a giant, baked frittata.  I seasoned my own sausage, sauteed a bunch of veggies, added 8 beaten eggs and pour it all into baking dish.

Pre baked eggs.  I have pictures of nothing baked.  It went from oven to table.

Pre baked eggs. I have pictures of nothing baked. It went from oven to table.

I do want to call out my secret for amazing sausage.  Buying sausage can be difficult (added sugar) I buy ground pork and add this spice blend from North Market.

I do want to call out my secret for amazing sausage. Buying sausage can be difficult (added sugar) I buy ground pork and add this spice blend from North Market.

I’ve loved this spice blend, called Dion’s Pork Rub, from North Market Spices. I’ve used it on pork roasts in the crock pot, but find I love it even more in sausage.  I was once at the store buying more and waxing poetic about how much I love it and how it’s so perfect in all these things I made and the employee told me how great it was to hear.  “I’m Dion,” he says.  I shook his hand like he was the mayor.

I also roasted some sweet potatoes with the last of the garden rosemary and thyme.  Then you may see in the pumpkin custard picture, there are scones in the background.  I felt I couldn’t have people for brunch without providing some kind of sweet carb.  We’re conditioned!  I had no scones, but needed to have them for my guests.

Successful brunching was had by all.  We shared vacation photos and stories.  I learned all about Rap Battles, both the Epic History ones and the Princess ones.  If you are not watching Epic Rap Battles of History, I do recommend checking some of them out on You Tube or their website.  J & S always have something fun to share on You Tube.  They’re how I learned about the Whine Wednesday guy and this really funny buffalo cowboy guy video… shoot… what is the name of that one.  I’ll check.  Watch Epic Rap Battle until I get that one to you.

I went for a walk after they left.  I did some laundry.  Then I thought I’d just heat up the last of the taco meet/ red pepper combo and throw it on some lettuce for dinner.  But I wanted something warmer and  yummier.  I also knew I had some ground lamb that needed to get cooked by tomorrow, some celery that’s on it’s last leg, carrots and a few other things that would absolutely make Shepherd’s Pie!  I’ve made this a few times and you can put almost any ground meat and veggies you’d like in it.  I did onion, carrot, celery and peas.  While the meat was cooking I went to grab the potatoes for boiling and found this:

I had sweet potatoes or I had a bunch of mini potatoes.

I had sweet potatoes or I had a bunch of mini potatoes.

I had to make a choice:

  • Use sweet potato as a topper.
  • Parboil the little potatoes and finish cooking them as part of the filling of the pie.
  • Work really hard and make mashed cauliflower as the topper.

Since I had sweet potatoes for brunch I decided to make the little ones work.  I was willing to cook dinner, but steaming and blending the cauliflower was more work than I cared to do.  I ended up with not quite a traditional Shepherd’d Pie.  Oh well.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.

I even baked it in a pie pan!

I even baked it in a pie pan!

I didn’t follow a recipe for my Shepherd’s Pie, but I have followed this one in the past.

S asked if I was feeling better, if the W30 benefits were starting to kick in.  I think they are.  I say this everytime I do it: I never realize how just a little off I must always feel until I do this and feel so good.  I feel like my body works better (and let’s face it, it’s because it is).  I can already tell I’m sleeping better.  Let’s check in with the timeline, though…

Day 8-9: For the love of Gosling, my pants are TIGHTER.

You’ve made it through the Hangover, and managed not to kill ALL the things, and you’re starting to feel like things are back on level ground again.  Then, you put on your pants. They’re just pants, completely normal pants. In fact, they’re the pants you wore just three days ago. (You were too tired to wash them. It’s okay, we understand.) And three days ago, they fit.  But this morning you had to take a big deep breath to get that button where it ought to be.  What gives?!

The same processes that ran over you like a truck a few days ago are still working their magic in your body.  Your body composition is not actually changing for the worse, we assure you. The enzymes that digest your food and the millions of bacteria that live in your gut are adjusting to your new intake of meat and vegetables, and the lack of easy-access sugars.  This is something they do naturally, and these adjustments have contributed to humanity’s ability to flourish throughout our history.  However, these adjustments can be a bit… uncomfortable as your gut starts to heal, rebalance, and process this new food effectively. The good news is that most people find this phase passes relatively quickly, and their pants are easy to button again within a week or so.

I didn’t have this problem today, and I even put on actual pants for brunch instead of my sweatpants.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow morning when I get dressed for work, I suppose.



I think if I were a droid that would be my droid name.

Let’s check in with the timeline!

Days 2-3: The Hangover

The alarm rings on day 2 and you pop out of bed expecting the same kind of Charlie Sheen winning feeling you had yesterday. Instead, you get the other side of Charlie…you know – the pounding-head-cross-eyed-can’t-see-straight side. You know you didn’t down a fifth of tequila in your sleep, so what the heck happened?!

Remember the pre Whole30 bender you went on? Pizza, cookies, Jim Beam, jelly beans (oh, the jelly beans)? Yeah. This is when it comes back to bite you in the butt. (And the head.) And it is definitely true that the amount of suck you experience in this phase is directly proportional to the amount of crap you consumed before you began the program. Especially if you consumed it consistently. This phase is especially hard for the habitual Diet Coke (and Diet Dr. Pepper here in my part of the world) drinkers. You know who you are.

Many Whole30ers report headaches, fatigue, and general malaise during this part of the program. This, my friends, is completely normal. Your body is working its way through a whole host of junk it stored from the foods (or food-like-products) you used to eat. This process lasts a day for some folks, but for others it can take a few days longer. Relax, drink a lot of water, and keep making good choices.

Eh.  I woke up just fine.  I was a little sleepy, but that’s more likely due to not going to bed until just after midnight.  I didn’t have terrible habits right before this adventure.  I don’t have a soda habit to kick.

But let me tell you about the other habit I’m on Day 2 of.  No TV at night!  I have been trying to break this habit for a very long time.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did bring my iPad to bed with me.  I never turned it on.  I didn’t open the case.  I did wake up at one point and found I was kind of hugging it like I usually do the stuffed cat I sleep with – so that’s weird.  But, let’s focus on the positive.  No TV at bedtime!  I’m on a two day streak of winning at life.

Day 2

Day 2

Speaking of, here’s food from today.  Breakfast was the same as lunch yesterday.  Then a big day of salads – lunch was mixed greens with chicken and carrots.  Dinner was a bunch of spinach topped with ground beef I added my own taco seasoning to, sautéed red peppers, tomatoes and topped with avocado.

In non-W30 news, it was a landmark day for the non-profit chapter I’m on the board of!  Our global organization officially announced us and the response from the change management community was pretty strong!  We have interest from Cincinnati to Akron – things are really happening!  I really need to find a place for our first social event now.

W30 – It begins (again).

Picture it, August 2013.  I had just graduated school, brand new to the OH, and finally read this book that I had downloaded months before, It Starts With Food.   I documented a lot of that first W30.  Pictures and updates and recipes.  My Day 11 post remains the most searched for and viewed post on the blog (I assume somewhere it’s linked on a W30 forum).  Sadly, that W30 was cut short at Day 25 when I was back in STL for my Master’s graduation dinner.  I started again in October of 2013, without documenting any of it.  D and I did it together that time and it was nice to have a buddy doing it with me, even a long distance buddy.  We got through the 30 days then, timing it perfectly.  We ended the day before Thanksgiving, and then immediately went to Toronto.  Probably not the best re-introduction plan.  I tried again in the summer of 2014 after the great break up of 2014.  I made it 23 days and then one night after working on the kitchen or some other thing around the house I just did not care and ordered pizza.

Here we go. It’s great timing for this (for the most part, the damn Circleville Pumpkin Show is in a couple weeks and I’m finally going and will have to avoid all the delicious pumpkin things).  I feel ready for a challenge.  I know I could benefit from this challenge.

When I got the idea Saturday to do this again, I told myself I’d start on Monday.  I would need to prepare! I would need to shop!  I wanted to sneak mimosas into The Little Mermaid movie this morning!  Man, when wanting to sneak mimosas into a movie is the reason, you might have a problem.  Which is exactly why I started today (Sunday).  It did mean I had no compliant coffee in the house.  I have some hazelnut flavored coffee right now which has artificial flavors in it.  It’s out.  I was FaceTiming with my sister and goddaughter this morning and that also cut into my breakfast making time, so I ended up with an apple and almond butter and a plan to pick up a few things post-Mermaid.

Meals today.

Meals today.

My breakfast certainly wasn’t the first choice of the W30 group, but it did in a pinch this morning.  I came home from the grocery and made some sausage (I get plain ground pork and add my own spices.  Sugar is everywhere, yo).  Microwaved a sweet potato while they were cooking, shredded some brussel sprouts and cut up half an avocado.  Lunch became a hash of the sprouts, half a sweet potato, a sausage patty cut up with two eggs and the avocado.  While making dinner I also made a butternut squash soup.

Making soup is so easy: I cut up a butternut squash, half an onion, 2 stalks of celery, and one apple and put in a large pot.  Add sage, a bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cover it all with vegetable stock (surprisingly ridiculous how I could only find ONE with no sugar added.  I need to just make the stock myself.  Why is there sugar in vegetable stock?).  Simmer until everything is soft and then take the immersion blender to it.

I roasted chicken and potatoes for dinner and put a mug of my soup on the side.  Oddly enough, the soup comes in handy as a breakfast more often that not going forward.  It’s a good way to get veggies in the morning.

I still like to rely on the W30 timeline.  It makes me chuckle and gives me an outline on what I should prepare for.

Day 1: So what’s the big deal?

It’s 3 p.m. on day 1. You had a guilt-free plate of steak and eggs for breakfast, breezed through the morning with coffee and coconut cream by your side, and had a nice big salad for lunch. Your body is telling you it’s snack time, so you grab a handful of almonds and an apple and head back to your desk to finish out your day. You’ve got a slow cooker full of chili infusing your kitchen with a heavenly smell, and right now you can’t see why anyone thinks this is hard.

This delusion is somewhat akin to the first episode of any given reality show on which the contestants are herded together and forced to live in one house. At the end of the first episode, everyone can just tell they are going to be best friends for life. Those of us on the other side of the screen know better, though, don’t we? No one really believes this mess to be true, but everyone humors it… because how long can it last, really?

The truth is that you’re feeling empowered by making one good choice after another, all day long. And you should! Take note of that Rock Star feeling, stash it away and bring it back out when days get rough. Because rest assured that after a lifetime of suboptimal choices, things are going to have to get worse before they can get better.

It’s true.  Today was no big deal.  I like real food.  I like to cook.  Bring on tomorrow.

Being a local

I nearly called this post “Big OH Weekend”, indicating that I spent a weekend full of Ohio fun.  Then I thought that seemed dirty, and quite frankly, misleading.  So, I renamed.  Carry on…

Friday was happy hour at a relatively new place, Cray Eatery & Drinkery.  In the interest of full disclosure, that was the second time I was there last week.  Fair to say I was a fan.  They make these infused whiskeys and vodkas.  They are delicious, and dangerous.  The vanilla bean whiskey is quickly becoming my favorite beverage in town.  I was home relatively early and after three pretty exhausting weeks, I crashed early and didn’t wake up until about 10:30am the next morning.

Saturday afternoon I went on a tour of the Ohio State House and Court House.  One of my new favorite friends in Columbus is a volunteer tour guide there and I wanted to take the opportunity to visit her AND get a Columbus history lesson.  I learned a lot about the building and how Columbus was founded.  It was a well spent hour.  Our capitol building is fine, but our court house is really gorgeous.  Some of the most beautiful lighting fixtures, and back in the day it was the first fully electric building in Ohio.  People came from hundreds of miles to see the lightbulb in action.

From the outside, the capitol building doesn't have a Rotunda, exactly.  It has a cylinder.  From the inside, though, there is a rotunda.  And it's pretty.

From the outside, the capitol building doesn’t have a Rotunda, exactly. It has a cylinder. From the inside, though, there is a rotunda. And it’s pretty.

One of the great light fixtures from the building.

One of the great light fixtures from the building.

My favorite light fixture.  The hall these were in was magnificent and these light posts were perfect.

My favorite light fixture. The hall these were in was magnificent and these light posts were perfect.

I ran a few errands after that, including a visit to a couple consignment stores looking for some holiday decorations.  I didn’t find anything.  I took some colleagues up on an offer to join them at a sports bar for the OSU game.  It was a rowdy group and a great game.  OSU wins!  Go Bucks!

Sunday I headed up to a local state park to go for a hike/walk.  I participated in a trail run at High Banks park last fall and it was the first place that popped into my head when I decided I needed a good long walk.  I want to be serious about this mindfulness business and I find myself better suited to clear my head outside than inside.  I didn’t bring my ipod, no music – just a walk out in the fresh air.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.00.43 PM

I took the Overlook Trail (light purple) and added the Wetland Spur for another .8 mile (dark purple).  It was a great morning, nice walk, and great for being present and in the moment.  Next time I’ll do Dripping Rock Trail.

I took the road less traveled by...

I took the road less traveled by…

I went from the hike to the grocery store.  I’m hosting my consultant friends for a Thanksgiving dinner party this Tuesday.  I spent this morning building the menu and making the monster grocery list that goes along with that.  On my trip to Des Moines, IA last week I bought three food magazines and wanted to try all new to me Thanksgiving recipes.  I warned the team they were a guinea pig group.  They have no problem with this.  I wanted to do as much prep as possible tonight and tomorrow night so I can make Thanksgiving happen after work.  I took a few shortcuts, but not that many.  Here’s the menu:

Herb Roasted Turkey Breasts courtesy of Rachel Ray

This is one of the shortcuts I’ll be taking – not doing a full turkey, but doing boneless (but skin on) turkey breasts.  They’ll cook faster.  I bought a few turkey legs to roast as well.  I’ll prep them tomorrow night and have them ready to pop in the oven.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Kale Pesto courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens magazine

I made these tonight.  I didn’t combine them yet.  The potatoes are out of this world.  I don’t usually peel my potatoes for mashed potatoes.  But since I was trying new to me recipes, I followed instructions.  I had a test bite (or four).  These potatoes are amazing.  They’re chilling in the fridge and I’ll just warm them up.  I did halve this recipe.

Pesto prep!

Pesto prep!

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Cherries and Chestnuts courtesy of Rachel Ray Magazine

Stepping way outside my comfort zone with this recipe.  I don’t typically use cornbread in my stuffing.  Or sausage, for that matter.  In my life I’ve never had a chestnut.  I made this tonight and it’s all ready, just needs to be baked.  My test bites lead me to believe it is also going to be awesome.  My shortcut was buying ready made cornbread stuffing mix.  I did not have it in me to bake cornbread, cut it up, dry it out, toast it up… Just no.  I mean, I like this group and all, but no.

Stuffing prep!

Stuffing prep!

Stirring in the dried cherries and lots of fresh herbs.

Stirring in the dried cherries and lots of fresh herbs.

Brown Butter Haricots Vert courtesy of Food Network Magazine

I will do anything to avoid the dreaded green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.  I’ll trim these up tomorrow, but do most of the work for these Tuesday.

Pear-Gingersnap Cheesecake courtesy of Food Network Magazine

I’m breaking the pumpkin mold!  There are so many delicious pumpkin recipes, and I was tempted to do a pumpkin cheesecake, but I’ve done one of those before.  Another ingredient I’ve never bought before is molasses.  Aaaaaand… I’m not sure I’d ever need to again.  Molasses has a very distinct taste, and I don’t know that I love it.  I mean, I think this cheesecake is going to be fine, but I have supplemental dessert planned as well – a S’mores bar.  I’ll post more about that Tuesday night.  Spoiler Alert… it does mean crossing something off The List!  

Cheesecake prep!

Cheesecake prep!

Bosc pears are so pretty.

Bosc pears are so pretty.

Pre-baked cheesecake.  My pear placement wasn't perfect.  A few fell off my fork before I was ready for them to be placed.

Pre-baked cheesecake. My pear placement wasn’t perfect. A few fell off my fork before I was ready for them to be placed.

Post baked.  I'll drizzle on a bit more of the molasses syrup right before serving.  Then it will look more like the picture.  I like when my food looks like the picture.

Post baked. I’ll drizzle on a bit more of the molasses syrup right before serving. Then it will look more like the picture. I like when my food looks like the picture.

My reward for knocking out all that prep work tonight was lighting another fire!  Mmmm, Sunday night fires are totally going to become a thing.  I should look into chopping down the mostly dead tree in my backyard so I get my own firewood supply.  Continuing to buy it is going to get pricey.  I’m not the only fan of the fire:

Quinn looks forward to them more than me.

Quinn looks forward to them more than me.

It was wonderful to spend a weekend here.  I have a less busy week coming up and I’m happy about that too.  The temperature is supposed to drop, so I see more fires in my future!  Mmm, so quickly becoming the best part of my house.

A: Ladies 80’s night & Bachelorette Parties

Q: Where to not take pictures so there is no proof later?

I’m on a roll, friends.  A Birthday Month, no holds barred, maybe more events than I can handle roll.

This group of 6 consultants that I hang out with occasionally (and have over for dinner and Wii dancing) found out about “Ladies 80’s” night at a local bar.  It is exactly what it sounds like – a ladies night with all 80’s music for dancing the night away.  They invited the whole program team, and since I enjoy the group and have a tiny, little, innocent crush on one of them, I was sure to go.  I invited my favorite co-worker, three or four other project team members showed up and we had an absolute blast last Thursday night.  I drank a tad too much vodka (read: much too much. Luckily, the worst thing I did that night is lose my glasses.  I’m sure I was a dance floor maniac, but no one seems to care.  We had a super fun time.

So much fun that I missed my flight the next morning… I was headed to Florida for a bachelorette weekend.  I had a 7:10am flight.  I got home at 3am from Ladies 80’s night.  One could probably see this coming.  I had two alarms set for that morning, was all packed…to no avail.  I bolted up in bed at 7am, looked at the clock, texted the bride telling her I’d be on a later flight due to “flight issues” (I told her the truth once I was there in person) and called the airline to see what my options were.  Luckily, Southwest Airlines rules all and as long as I got to the airport within 2 hours of my original departure time they would put me on standby flights to get there.  I missed the beautiful non-stop from Columbus to Orlando, so I don’t land in Florida until 2pm.  But, the only thing I missed out on was going to the new Harry Potter World which will be there next time.  And, it might have been worth it to party the night before with the gang.

We had a big beach house in New Smyrna, FL for the weekend and had a really nice weekend.  Again, I have no pictures of this.  10 girls, so many bottles of liquor, wine and beer, dance parties, laying on the beach, Cards Against Humanity, dancing at a townie bar and ice cream sundaes.  There is the weekend in a nutshell.  I got home late Sunday evening and charged into the week ahead.  I had a happy hour with a woman I’m becoming friendly with Monday night.  She and her husband are some of my new favorite Columbus-ites and it was nice to hang out with her for a while.  It was beautiful Monday night here so I went for a walk in the Short North neighborhood after that.  (Amazing how functional I am after an actual happy “hour” with one drink.)

This afternoon I got home a little early (I start early on Tuesday mornings because of my calls with India.  Yup – I’m international.)  I went for a run and then whipped up a new Sweet Potato recipe for a Pinterest Party!  I have gotten into lately and joined a home cooks/bakers group.  Tonight was my first event with them and the theme was to bring a dish that you’ve had pinned but have never made.  It was such a good idea!  I thought I’d take the opportunity to test out a potential Thanksgiving Side dish recipe – Mashed sweet potatoes with kale and boursin cheese.

Photo from A Family Feast blog

Photo from A Family Feast blog


I was happy to see so many savory dishes – including an awesome roasted zucchini pasta salad, cuban sliders and a watermelon mint salad. Dessert highlight was the creme brulee cheesecake!

This is the best potluck in town!

There were about 18 people and everyone was super nice.  It was a really nice evening.

Non stop fun continues this week with an alumni event on Thursday, the Craft Beer Festival on Friday night, my friend Kristy coming to visit Saturday for this vintage flea market and an early birthday dinner, and a Soup Cooking Class/demo on Sunday!

content Sarah and the finished wall!

content Sarah and the finished wall!

Cat and door in the picture for size context.

Cat and door in the picture for size context.

Anniversaries and stuff

August 13th would have been my nine year wedding anniversary, if I were still married.  Instead it was my 4th not-anniversary.  Which is okay, too.   I know not everyone gets the “my ex husband is my best friend” thing, but it’s one of the things I’m most proud of and protective of.   It takes a strong and honest friendship to text your ex “happy not our anniversary” and know that the other person will be happy to hear from you.   Ex hubs and I chatted briefly about that recently and he put it far more poetic and succinct than I ever have.   “Sometimes you should marry your best friend, but sometimes you shouldn’t.”  So, happy not our anniversary to you ex Hubs and dear friend. 

One year ago I graduated grad school.  I miss school.  I miss learning and the academic environment and the group of people I would have never met otherwise and feeling smart and earning it.   It’s amazing what’s happened to me in the year since.  I’m so grateful for what that degree and experience brought my way.   Earlier this week I had a phone call with Mr. Head of the Leading Change Mgmt Research Company and he told me a joke and we talked about OD vs. CM. This afternoon I got pulled in by my program manager to help with another huge layer of change.   I bought a house, became a full time associate, made new friends, and just all around figured it out.  

3 years ago I got this cat…
The orange one there. Tonight he, Quinn and I are just hanging out on the patio.

It is an amazingly gorgeous night here. Cool and no humidity and perfect for grilling. It’s the only way I’m going to cook around here.
Slicing buns is about all I was willing to do in my still pristine, new kitchen.
Luckily I have a grill.
A grill with a side burner. All cooking can be done out here.

I made some burgers with Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. They were really good and perfect for patio dining.

In the spirit of selfie stories :

I bought a new shirt today while at the food truck festival during lunch. I’m a happy Ohio-an. And that feels great.