Yup, Still The Worst Cook in Cybersapce

If ever I get too confident that I’m actually learning how to cook an feel comfortable in the kitchen, a day like today comes along to remind me I will likely always be an epic failure.

I bought a Spiral Slicer; a funky device that slices zucchinis into long, thin strands that look just like noodles. Since we’ve finally moved to Stage 4 of GAPS and can now have cold-pressed oils, I thought I’d make a recipe for pesto sauce that I found from the Home Health Happiness blog and something akin to pasta for the first time in God knows how long (because before the past 42 days on GAPS, we were following the Body Ecology diet, which also outlaws carbs). Zucchini Noodle Pesto – I was beside myself.

Zucchini noodles

Zucchini noodles

Normally, I’d never try a learn new, fancy dish like this during the week, and certainly never in the evening when we’re all just getting home. With Sadie tugging on my arm to play dolls with her, Logan incessantly asking me to play video games with him, the dog jumping up and down for me to walk her, and my husband eagerly chattering about something (today it was election results), it’s impossible for me to focus. I’d describe it like trying to learn Greek while walking on a tightrope over a shark tank.

But I’d taken today off work to catch up on writing (I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year and of course am already 6,000 words behind), clean, and grocery shop, so I had the sort of calm, capable feeling that comes after a day of accomplishments (I’d written almost 7,000 words, bought groceries and did the dishes!). I knew I could do this.

I picked up the spiral slicer and fumbled with it in my hands. “How does this thing work?” I asked Jason.

“Well, you use this piece to stab the end of the zucchini, and then you twist it through this piece.”

It felt foreign and awkward in my hand, even more so when I stabbed the zucchini and tried to twist it. Thin, dark green slices fell into my glass bowl.

“Oh,” I said, stopping. “Am I supposed to peel these first?”

I decided I should. That made the slices look like noodles, but I still couldn’t get them to slice into long strands. The tool just felt wrong, completely unlike a pen, which feels comforting in my hands — in fact, I even hold one while delivering a class lecture just to feel at ease. Maybe I should try holding one while I cook, too.

I sliced through most of my two pounds of zucchini, then decided I’d probably done enough. Jason was, thankfully, manning the food processor—another kitchen tool that never failed to baffle me- for the pesto sauce.

“Do we just drop all the basil in, or do we have to trim the ends first?”

“Is that all the garlic we have? I don’t think that’ll be enough.”

“The recipe calls for what? ‘A quart of oil olive, or as much as will fit’? What the hell is that?”

In the end, we did trim the basil stems, we had no choice but to only use six cloves of garlic (the recipe called for 2-10, which seems like an incredibly big range), and we only added maybe a cup of olive oil. All the ingredients swirled around with the high-pitched whine of the food processors, transforming into a bright green paste.

I dipped my finger in. It tasted lovely, like satin and velevet.

My zucchini noodles, on the other hand, were not faring so well. We didn’t really have a recipe for how to make them, but Jason guessed that, based on another recipe in Against All Grain, they’d need maybe five to eight minutes in boiling water. I did that, but when I drained them through the wire colander, they instantly turned to mush.

"Noodles"

“Noodles” Note how they were supposed to look in the picture behind.

I plopped the gob of zucchini into a glass bowl and sighed. It looked like pale green pudding – far, far from anything resembling noodles.

But—maybe because I’d spent all day writing, maybe because Logan’s had two rock star days in a row, maybe because Sadie was at the moment happily distracted—I was not deterred. I simply mixed in a few spoonfuls of pesto sauce and retrieved the now-cooked chicken from the stock Jason had been making. I spread the sauce over it and declared the meal a victory anyway.

The kids even ate it, though Logan had to be coaxed to do so. In fact, he had to be coaxed to eat everything, including his chicken, cabbage and carrots. Despite my satisfied attitude while cooking, I soon fell apart.

“Logan! EAT!” I cried as the night wore on and Logan babbled baby talk, pushed his fork through the air and pressed it to his face, then traced the faint circles around and around on his plate.. “Please take one bite!”

“No, Sadie, do not get up from this table again. If you do, you’re going in your bed. It’s not play time.”

“Logan, EAT.”

Logan stimmed all through the meal, taking bites only after three or four prompts from me. He screamed when I set the timer, telling him he had to clean his plate before it went off or he wouldn’t get a treat before bed. This tactic had worked a few months ago for awhile, but lately, it’s seemed to be more stressful on him than motivating. But on nights like these, it seems to be the only thing that works to get him to eat.

IMG_0079

Instead of eating, Logan is spending most of supper tracing the circles on his plate.

It worked tonight, too, but his distracted/defiant/restless mood continued. He simply could not sit still while I read books to the kids, and a stream of baby talk and extreme silliness seemed to just bubble out of him. He reminded me of a pot of boiling water with the cover rattling on top, barely able to contain the steam struggling to escape.

“Logan, if you can’t have a quiet body, we’ll be done with books and go to bed,” I warned him. I warned him several times, in fact—then finally, I had to follow through with it. “That’s it!” I cried. “You’re not having a quiet body. Get in your bed. Now!”

“I WILL have a quiet body!” he cried. “I WILL!”

“Logan, you’ve said that for the past six times. You will have a quiet body tomorrow. But right now, there have to be consequences!”

He screamed and cried and kicked, his body thrashing all over his mattress. I felt awful, but I felt like I was exploding, too. Why can’t he contain his energy? No matter if he’s angry or excited, he’s always like that boiling water pot, bursting with hot emotions.

“What is going on with him?” I asked Jason when the kids finally fell asleep an hour later.

“Did you see his ears?” he replied. “Fire red.”

Feeling: Irritated

The Stage 2 Slump

GAPS 2 isn’t much better than GAPS 1.

We spent four days in Stage 1, sticking to broth, boiled meats and boiled vegetables. Everyone was getting more and more sick of the same three meals repeated; so, even though I couldn’t really tell based on behavior or physical evidence that Logan’s body was healing (i.e., stools), we moved into Stage 2.

“A junk food egg!” Logan exclaimed, seeing his eggs cooked in ghee rather than poached in stock.  He was beside himself with glee.

But other than ghee, there really wasn’t much difference between the stages. Fresh herbs could be added, but I’m such a bad cook that those don’t help me much; I don’t know what to do with them. I think our only other Stage 2 addition was fish, instead of just boiled beef and chicken, and Logan ate about five fillets of tilapia in one sitting.

Still, he and I were both losing weight. Logan’s lunch and snack boxes came back from daycare and school completely full–he wasn’t even taking a bite of food. We could coax him into eating at home, but only with enormous patience, threats of no books before bed, and promises of “root beer” (fizzy mineral water with two stevia drops) if he cleaned his plate.  Then we added yogurt. Finally, something kids define as a “snack,” and something he would eat at daycare.

But despite additions in our diet–or maybe because the additions were so few–GAPS suddenly became harder.  I felt tired and sick of food.  The thought of chicken made me reel.  I was more tempted than ever before to cheat; the pride I felt from sticking to a spartan meal plan began to wane.  

Logan seemed to echo these thoughts.  His behavior at daycare changed sharply, with more aggression each day and more screaming outbursts.  Picking him up each afternoon became more and more draining each day–listening to Miss Amy recap his day seemed to just zap what little energy I had left. 

And his eyes were so baggy.  Even though he slept fine — in fact, it could be argued he is sleeping better on GAPS because now he falls asleep right away rather than lying awake for two hours — he acted tired.  I decided to give him another apple, thinking he might just need the extra sugar, but it didn’t seem to affect anything.  And on top of his sluggishness, the little scratch that had been under his nose seemed to be growing into a net of red bumps circling his mouth.

Thank you to everyone who supported our walk for autism! Together, we raised $1,500!

Logan at our fundraising walk for autism. We are so grateful to everyone who supported us! Together, we raised $1,500 for charity!

The GAPS book makes it seem like anyone can try to reintroduce dairy, our MAPS doctor told us, but in her experience, she’s seen very few be successful with it. The rash, the aggression, the lack of energy–Logan was going to have to give up dairy (again).  So much for our one snack.

Like ending Stage 1, we might just have to rush out of Stage 2 simply because we can’t take it anymore.  So, onto Stage 3.  With a sigh.

Feeling: Lethargic

Our best Stage 2 meal:

Zucchini casserole from Cara at Health Home Happy (this website was a lifesaver for us in Stage 1!).

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 4 zucchinis
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Slice the zucchini into 1/2 inch rounds. Place chicken and stock into the bottom of a loaf pan, sprinkle with salt, and top with zucchini.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is soft.

Surprisingly, even though it involved touching raw chicken (I’m slowly getting over that), this was incredibly easy to make.  And Logan actually ate every bite!  

Week 44: Welcome, summer (finally)

Logan, Sadie and I sat on top of the wide, smooth boulder and looked out over the flooded park.  The wood chips were submerged on the east side, where the swings and slides were, and visible but dark and waterlogged on the west side.  We ate our snack of snap peas and popcorn as the clouds like mountains rolled overhead, occasionally slipping a few rays of sunlight on us and our rock.

“This is the best day I’ve ever had,” Logan said.  

I hugged him and smiled.  “Me, too,” I said.  Despite the periodic showers all day and the deluge the entire past week, the weekend had been wonderful.  We went to the beach, played baseball in our backyard, swam in the pool, went to a birthday party for one of Logan’s daycare friends, swam some more and now had come to the park.  We enjoyed a rare treat of watching TV — Scooby Doo, my favorite– since we all needed to relax a bit after such busy days.        

Summer means fun, busy days!

Not that they had all been perfect, of course.  I’m slightly groaning because I know all these fun activities means the house didn’t get cleaned (again), and I’ll be stressed all week because my bathrooms are filthy and I’ll be too tired after work to clean them.  My husband is grumbling slightly because the yard once again didn’t get weeded and still looks like a mini rain forest.  

And dinner Saturday had basically been a disaster.  Sadie and Logan came down with a case of the giggles, squawking and babbling and repeating “poopy butt” over and over (and over).  Sadie refused to eat her vegetables and instead mashed them up with her teeth and spit them out, laughing while green zucchini juice ran down her little chin.  Logan did better, eating everything on his plate, but still whined until I spoon-fed him his veggies.  Still, I suppose I have to count it as a win because I was asking him to eat a zucchini salad that he’d never had before, and usually he flat-out refuses and screams about anything new.

And I wasn’t sure how it’d go over, either.  I thought I’d done a decent job making it, as my cooking challenge this week.  The recipe seemed easy enough until I started actually making it, of course.  “Grate the zucchini and onion and let them drain for 30 minutes,” I read, which made no sense to me at all.  I mean, it’s not like a pot of pasta.  

But I did it, first figuring out how to work my food processor (which is a major victory in itself–the first time I’ve used it by myself since receiving it as a wedding present eight years ago!) and then figuring out what “julienne” meant for the red bell peppers (I ended up just dicing them anyway.  No need to get fancy.)  I even chopped two tablespoons of fresh mint, which scared me to death because the small leaves and wide knife were a poor combination in my clumsy hands and I was sure I’d slice my fingertips off–but also sort of had a calming effect because it smelled just like a mojito (though I’m not sure mint is supposed to remind people of alcohol).

Anyway, the recipe, from the Body Ecology website, is:

Zesty Zucchini Insalata

  • 1½ pounds zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons Celtic sea salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • ¼ cup raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
  • Celtic sea salt, to taste
  • Grated lemon zest from one small lemon

Smell and taste, it reminds me of a side dish that some distant, great-aunt twice removed or other extended relative would have brought to a Fourth of July picnic when I was a kid.  Usually a memory of grandmother’s cooking is nostalgic or wholesome; unfortunately, not for me.  I remember my kitchen as a kid being full of microwavable vegetables and Chef Boyardee, so any food like this always scared me.  Honestly, scared me.  I can’t imagine having willfully taken a bite of anything with vinegar in it.  Which makes it even more impressive that Logan–and I–had no complaints (well, almost none.  Logan did say he didn’t like it, but he continue to eat it as long as I put it on his fork., and I thought it was better as a sort-of dressing to a salad of raw kale to cut the vinegar taste a bit.)  

Raw kale.  That just might be the polar opposite of the Hot Pockets I lived for in high school.

And it didn’t occur to me until just now how drastically different my eating habits have become.  I ate raw kale today.  I made insalata and tilapia for supper this evening.  And earlier I sat on a rock with my children and munched on sugar-free snap peas.  We circled the retaining wall holding in the soggy playground and looked at rocks and dropped sticks in puddles.  We trailed a family of ducks before Loki chased them away.  And we all agreed, it was the perfect day.

Feeling: Very grown-up

 

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