Eat Down, Day Six: Hitting A Stride

We are almost a week in on our eat down, and it's going really well. There is something altogether liberating about not having to go to the grocery store amiright? We cheated a little over the weekend when we went out to celebrate a friend's birthday, but other than that we have only purchased food from our local farm stand,
barring our initial grocery shop.

Sunday night, I used the last of the mixed salad greens. So we are down to only romain lettuce. That means Cesar salads from here on out! Last night, we made a great dinner that I wanted to share with all of you: ground meat kabobs with grilled veggies. They have a  bit of a Middle Eastern influence, and they were so delicious! While putting ground meat on a kabob may not be the most obvious choice, it's totally wonderful. And you can grill it. YUM!

For my kabobs, I used ground venison, which is my go-to meat. But you can use whatever ground meat you like best from turkey to chicken or beef. Here's a fun fact: the dinner we had last night, with the exception of the rice we prepared and the onions in the tomato salad, was grown right here in Sussex County--even the herbs. This was truly a locally sourced meal!

You'll notice this recipe is rather "loose" and that's because I didn't take precise measurements on this one. But this is the sort of recipe that gives you a little play. Just use your judgement with the ingredients, and use what you have on hand--it's the "eat down" way! One final note, while you can totally make these and grill them, what I like to do is make them a couple of hours ahead and then let them sit in the fridge. I have found that they cling better to the kabob sticks this way.



Ground Meat Kabobs 
Time: 20 (ish) minutes | Makes: 5 kabobs | Difficulty: Easy 

You will need: 

1 pound ground meat (your choice) 
paprika (several dashes)
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
Fresh basil & parsley, chopped (I used several leaves of each) 
1 small egg 
salt & pepper, to taste

5 kabob skewers 

Method
Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Get in there with your hands and mix it well. 

Divide the meat into 5 even portions. One at a time, roll the portions into "hot dog" like shapes. Push the skewer through the meat, long ways. Repeat with each portion. I then like to pop mine in the fridge and let them rest until I am ready to cook them. 

Prepare your grill (or you can use a grill pan on the stove, on medium high heat.) Cook your kabobs about 15 minutes or until done, turning to cook evenly on all sides. 

I served mine with rice and in-seasons grilled veggies (eggplant, zucchini and squash). 

Eat Down, Day Three: Send Mushrooms

We are on day three of the eat down and I have already made a critical mistake...I didn't buy enough mushrooms. In my defense, when I went shopping for the eat down, I was recovering from the flu. So my mind was hazy. And frankly, when I bought the original mushrooms, which we ate last night, they weren't really on the list, so in a way I cheated. Well, I thought I cheated, but really I should have bought more.

To review...

We started night one with a beer can chicken. And then last night we had leftover chicken ramen bowls, which were awesome. Now, was it essential to put mushrooms in the ramen? Probably not. But they happen to be a favorite of my daughter's, so I did it. I did it, knowing full well that I would be making boeuf bourguignon sometime soon. Turned out, sooner than I thought, which was today.

So, last night my husband says, "Hey what's for dinner tomorrow?" The beauty of this system is that there is a big, wonderful list posted on the fridge of our meal options. So I said, "Pick! Your choice." I figured he would pick flatbread, which is what we generally have on Fridays...get it? "Flatbread Friday." But no. Bourgignon.

How this dish came to be on our menu at all (in the middle of the summer, no less!) is because our friends were over last week and left a bottle of wine. Now, in years past, I would have guzzled that wine like it was gatorade, but those days are, I am sorry to say, behind me. My digestive system, in a strange series of events, has turned on me... no wine. No dairy. Very little ability to process spicy food. Let's keep this between us, though, okay, I don't want the "Italian-American" police to come revoke my card.

Long story short: I can't drink the wine, but I can cook with it. This is one of my go-to recipes because it's terrific, and I ALWAYS have great cuts of venison to use in place of the beef. I practically always have all the ingredients on hand. All except--you guessed it--the mushrooms. My husband said, "Oh don't worry, I can go to the store and just buy some." Nope. Nope. That's not how this works. I told him, either a farm stand or beg someone to bring us mushrooms. Well, I guess we decided to reserve our begging to when our need was more dire....

So, as I type this, it's simmering away in my oven, smelling all kinds of crazy good, only without mushrooms. I added extra carrots, and lots and lots of pearl onions. I bought them in the frozen section, which I think has to be the best ever way to buy them because there is so little prep involved.

As for the rest of the eat down, well, I have to say that so far we are good shape. My mom brought me some wonton soup and a couple of other Chinese dishes, so this should help up our game. And tomorrow we are *kind of* cheating because we are going out to celebrate a friend's birthday. I would say we are poised, at this point, to make this thing extend well into August! 

The Great Eat Down of 2017

This summer has been flying faster than a bald eagle hopped up on 'Merican spirit. I mean, seriously, breakneck speed. And you know what that leaves? No room. No room for planning. It's all been fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, go against with the flow, etc. I'm talking POOR EATING HABITS, people! I've eaten more hotdogs this summer than I would like to admit. Also: too many small grocery trips. Which, inevitably, leads to toooooooo much spending.

Now, with most of that stress in the rearview mirror, my husband and I have made the command decision to hit the breaks, slow down and initiate an eat down. What is an eat-down you ask? It's a term that comes to us from my mother's ex-boyfriend, Bob. He was always a thrifty kind of guy, and when he wanted to save a little extra he would say, "you know, an eat-down, where you eat down all the food in the house."

Now, because we have a child and are trying to REALLY stretch this sucker out, but also not starve her or make her eat things that are too super weird. So we are doing a planned eat down. It has steps.

Step 1)- MEAL PLAN 
Hell to the yes. The first thing to go when I am busy is my meal planning, but let me tell you something, meal planning FOR. THE. WIN. It saves money, time, and headaches. So I put together an epically long meal plan....14 meals, including two crockpot meals. Notice, the ones with the stars, which are vegetarian meals. We are trying to be a wee more meat conscious.

Step 2)- Grocery Shop with coupons and list. 
So with meal plan in hand, I went to the grocery and I shopped the list. It's hard not to buy impulsively, but it is a link in the chain of success with saving money. I had my coupons, I used them, and came in at just over $100. Then, for round two in shopping, I sent my husband to the BJ's Wholesale Club, and he finished it off with items like coffee, seltzer, and bulk bananas (because, toddlers.) We are all in for under $200. 

One important note here: we set aside an additional $20 for fresh produce. Less than half a mile down the road is East View Farms, a non-GMO farm that we love. And her stuff is VERY reasonably priced! So it will be our source of fresh, in-season vegetables during our eat-down to the tune of $20. 

Step 3)- Stick to the plan and then some... 
So we 14 planned meals, and then we will enter uncharted territory. But we are hoping to last at least 15 days without another store trip. I think maybe we can make it 20. This is the challenge. We want to save money, eat well, and stretch our creative minds to eat down all (or at least most) of the food in the house for as long as we can! 

You can play along with us at home! Follow our eat-down journey. We are starting tonight with beer can chicken, using my webber poetry roaster (on the grill!). Or maybe you have some advice/word of encouragement for us as we embark on this crazy journey? I'll keep you all updated on how we are doing. So here we go: LET THE EAT DOWN BEGIN! 


My Secret To "Time-Out" Success

I will put a troll in time out like a mo-fo.
My daughter recently turned three, and can I just say "DAMN. Three can be hard." Between her saying she is "scared" of everything, to just flat out bolting away from me in defiance, and a lovely array of other toddler behaviors (um, hey mom, I just trashed your plants!) sometimes I feel like I am living in someone else's version of a joke. Or maybe they call that "parenting a spirited child?" Whatever. It's obnoxious, but she's awfully cute and I'm attached.

Lately, I feel it is my societal duty to really crack down because at three years old, she's old enough to know what I am saying, and pretty capable of obeying the rules (most of the time), it just that she...doesn't? So we had to start really being sticklers. Pay now or pay later, amiright?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am ALWAYS in awe of parents whose children stay in timeout. I tried to put her in her room last year for bad behavior and she bested me by--get this--peeing on her bed.  Oh the horror. For me, time out just. Doesn't. Work. After some trial and error and changed bed sheets, I found something that works. You know what it is? Putting her TOYS in time-out.

REALLY.

I don't like to bribe her to do things...like help me clean up. And I don't have that much patience. So when I am trying to get her to do something, or I need her to understand the seriousness of something I am saying, and she's not listening, I simply say, "I'm going to count to three and if you don't do it, I'm going to put your toy in timeout." There is usually a toy somewhere near me (or in her hand) and them being in time out drives her up the wall.

And if she doesn't listen still? More toy time outs. Side note: I have never had to put more than one toy in time out, it's just a contingency plan.)

It's been a couple of weeks of using toy time out and cracking down on nonsense behavior and not listening, and I am happy to report that things are improving all the time. So, if time out doesn't work for you, either,  put your game face on, grab that toy and put it out of reach!! 

Reviving Puffy Sticker Packs


Is anyone else's kid obsessed with Melissa & Doug's Puffy Sticker Packs? I rave about them to everyone I know. Like, I literally told the guy in charge of ordering of the grocery store how awesome they were and could he please order *all the puffy sticker packs* and then I proceeded to chew his ear off about how my daughter once sat and played with one for two hours. TWO HOURS PEOPLE!!! 

I worship at the alter of anything that can hold my child's attention. Extra points if the item doesn't make noise, and isn't an iPad.  I love these sticker packs because they are non-messy, creative play that is essentially self contained. Five dollars buys me a few moments of peace and that is something that you just can't put a price on! (But if you were to put a price on it, five bucks isn't bad, right?) 

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but my kid loves to stick them on the scene provided, and then, like EVERYWHERE else. On the carpet. On the wall. On her legs. Which is cool. I'm not here to tell her how to play, but once that happens, they lose their "sticky." Or that's what I thought until my mother in law--in her infinite patience-- discovered how to revamp the sticky and it's SO EASY!

Simply take a damp paper towel and wipe the backs of the stickers. I use a little swirly motion and then, BAM, your kid can use them all over again!

You're welcome.


**THIS WAS NOT A PAID ENDORSEMENT. I genuinely love these things. 

Perspectives: Finding the Beauty in My Black



By Trinity L. Hall

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”- Marcus Garvey

I love being Black, however, that love didn’t always exist. When you grow up with as much melanin in your skin as I have, you notice early on that you are different and find that your skin complexion is often the butt of cruel jokes. The ‘you so Black’ puns and references to tar and charcoal became repetitive in my daily young life. To their credit, my parents attempted to reaffirm that I was beautiful, smart, and worthy. My dad would call me his doll baby, but I often wondered who would want to play with a doll that looked like me. Their attempts to shine light on the darkest parts of my conscience were rebuffed by the jokes and the heartache they brought.

My heartache was intensified by the fact that I was often one of few minorities in my classes. I got along great with my classmates and our interactions were positive and fun; however, I noticed that I was different and took that difference to have a negative connotation. Add to that the extreme lack of diversity in beauty magazines, books, and movies I enjoyed as an adolescent and it’s safe to say that I struggled with self-esteem issues. I felt less than, and that feeling was reinforced by society and its visual standards of beauty and worth. It was difficult to see my Black as being beautiful when everything around me stated otherwise. This was painful in and of itself, but include the accusations of “acting White” that were constantly hurled at me, and it became too much to bear.

People would often ask me why I was so different from my siblings. It was discouraging because my siblings were cool and popular, so naturally I wanted to be more like them, but wasn’t. I was often asked how I could be so dark yet “talk so White.” Questions like these highlighted my differences; too dark to be comfortable around my White peers and “acted too White” to be comfortable around my Black ones. I was never quite sure who I was or whom I was supposed to be. I assume most youngsters go through some version of this during adolescence, and can relate to the loneliness and despair it can have on a young mind. I thought of bleaching my skin, though never tried it for fear of the unknown. Instead, I prayed about it, which is what I was taught to do when faced with a situation too great to bear.

When I was 12, I began saying a nightly prayer in the bathroom mirror, “God, please make me a couple shades lighter by morning.” I prayed to be normal and not stand out so much. Obviously, He never granted those requests, He often doesn’t when I ask for something that I think I want,  but He has something better in store. Instead, He sent me on a journey. I was tired of being different, feeling alone and less than. I needed a lifestyle change. So when the time came to choose a college, I knew I wanted to attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

My college choice shocked a lot of people, including my family. But I needed to be around people who I thought were more like me. I wanted to learn from them and their experiences. I wanted to know what it meant to be Black by studying not only the Black race but the Black culture, in hopes of ultimately discovering who I was. My new classmates were extremely diverse. Each class included people from all over the nation, as well as several different countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe. Though we had much in common, our ways of thinking often differed. Our views were shaped by our life experiences and upbringings.

I had to learn to listen to the experiences of my peers who grew up in the northern inner cities, the southern states, and from other parts of the world. Some of their experiences were vastly different from my upbringing in the most rural part of the second smallest state. But we listened and learned from one another, even if we couldn’t relate or understand.  Some of my views developed as a result of those conversations. And while I may have still disagreed with others’ viewpoints, I continued to listen, never negating their beliefs or views, as that would be nullifying their personal truth. The campus was a safe space to hold open and honest conversations. These conversations challenged me to think beyond myself, but also helped me find my voice and speak my mind. As a result I gained confidence. I learned a great deal from my peers but also about myself and my culture. I received an education that went beyond the contents of a textbook.

My knowledge expanded beyond the ideological debates between Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X, to include Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. I studied the philosophies of Frederick Douglas and Marcus Garvey. I read works by Ms. Angela Davis and Mr. Huey Newton. I marveled at the courage and strength of Ms. Claudette Colvin, Ms. Rosa Parks, Ms. Mamie Till and Ms. Ruby Bridges. My knowledge about Black entrepreneurs, inventors, history-makers, and even my ancestry had significantly developed. I found that my culture was much too vast and great to be contained in a 28-day celebration. I gained an abundance of pride for my culture. My education ignited a passion and shed light on who I am.

I graduated with not just a degree but a deep and genuine appreciation of the Black race and culture. I know who I am and I love myself. I know my worth and am confident and secure enough to be the only person like me in a room. I no longer feel less than. I see my being different as a positive feature. I’ve embraced my dark skin, as it carries generations of persistence and greatness that deserves to be celebrated every time I look in a mirror. Am I ever discriminated against, stereotyped, or made fun of? Yes. But regardless of what others or society continue to believe, I know I am magical and that I rock. The journey He sent me on allowed me to find the beauty in my Black, and I am sincerely grateful He did not answer my earlier prayers. If you don’t understand or cannot relate, that’s okay, but don’t discredit my experience because it is different from your own. Instead, let’s have a conversation. 

Perspectives: Being Muslim in America Today


By Aisha Choudhri 

There is a lot going on in America right now, and I do not have the luxury to ignore it. I cannot simply change a channel, avoid a political conversation, or turn a blind eye to what has been happening around me for the last several months. I am a Muslim American who was born and raised in this country.  I grew up in Southern Delaware, and belonged to one of two Muslim families in my town. My family successfully established themselves in this country, and we effectively played our roles to advance society and our communities with our education and abilities. 

Even though I was only one of two Muslim kids who attended my high school (my sister was the other), I always felt like an important part of my school and group of friends. Sure, I voluntarily excluded myself from activities that went against my faith and beliefs, but that never made me feel like less of a member in my circle of friends. I never once felt out of place, or like someone who didn’t belong in this country. I never felt like someone whose contributions to this country were overshadowed by her faith, or her place of worship and choice of dress. That is, until now.

Based on what we witnessed during this presidential election, and the Islamophobic rhetoric that Donald Trump and his cabinet have normalized, anti-Muslim sentiment has reached an all time high in this country. The floodgates have been opened for people to express their hatred and bigotry toward Muslims openly. It has allowed me, and the entire Muslim community in America, to be demonized by a political regime and their followers of white supremacists, misogynists, and bigots. Muslims are constantly and consistently shown as somehow un-American because of our faith. It has made us feel extremely unsafe in a country that is supposed to protect our right to practice our religion freely.

Since the presidential campaign began, Muslims have been the target of numerous hate crimes, and the large majority of these have not even been covered in the media. The majority of Americans are probably unaware that a Trump supporting Christian man walked into a mosque and killed 6 Muslims while they were praying in Canada just two weeks ago. When we aren’t preoccupied defending our religion and condemning attacks that have nothing to do with our beliefs, we sit and grieve alone within our community. We grieve for the mosques that are burned down in the name of hate, or the child who gets bullied at school for his beliefs, or the woman who gets attacked because she chooses to wear a hijab. Yet, we must always defend ourselves. Defend our right to be here, live here, and worship here.  To feel like an outsider in a country you were born and raised in is not something that can easily be expressed. It’s a profound sadness combined with fury and frustration that often cannot be articulated.  It’s a poignant awareness we carry with us in our day to day lives.

Muslims are not the first group to endure this type of bigotry, and they certainly won’t be the last. Racism and bigotry are deep rooted evils in our country; evils we choose to ignore because they don’t fit our narrative of the great United States. As Americans, we flatter ourselves as citizens of a “land of liberty” where religious freedom is sacrosanct. Yet, the United States has a long history of religious bigotry towards different groups which have manifested in discriminatory laws, social practices, and criminal behavior aimed at different populations at various times in history. We are not unaware of the trials that those before us and those among us have endured; however, you do not truly realize the pain of this discrimination until you spend your entire adult life defending who you are and what you believe in.

It is hard to know how to position yourself in a country that can elect a man with such staggering ineptitude; who promotes and supports hate and instills fear against you and your religion. It makes you doubt whatever faith you had in the leadership of this country. The country where your children will grow up. You wonder what kind of hardships they will endure. Will all of this hatred, animosity, and bigotry just be a part of their daily lives? Will they find a way to keep their heads up, when on a day to day basis someone is trying to demonize them because of their religion, way of dressing, or way or worshipping?

But our fear will not paralyze us. With the hatred that has been directed towards us, there is also so much kindness and compassion that is being spread. There is growing social awareness, and nationwide protests are taking place to ensure that the people of this country are given their inalienable rights. We have been reminded again of what we stand for as a country, and by working together against those who try to take away our rights and values, we come out stronger and better.

During these challenging times, there are those who have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community, and that support means everything to us. It’s a beautiful thing to see that there are still many people who will fight alongside you and defend your right to practice your religion and live your life without discrimination and hate. Americans cannot let the ignorance of those in power define what our country should look like. Our resilience is renewed by our common pursuit of values along with equality for all. These principles are what make us a democracy to be proud of.

I have not lost hope in humanity thanks to the support, love and resistance of my fellow Americans, who stand with me and the Muslims of this country to fight bigotry, racism, and hatred.