It is finally October 16th, which means I'm on the homestretch of my "7" food experiment.
While parts of this month have been difficult, eating 7 foods (plus fresh garden produce) is actually quite easy. The dishes I've prepared have been tasty and fresh, fresh, fresh. (See below for some of our favorites.) It's what I can't have that is the most challenging. Really challenging. I've had friends who have given up sugar/chocolate/sweets for lent but I never have. I don't eat much candy and I don't bake much, anyway. However, I am discovering how much I do enjoy it now that I can't have it. (Props to those who have gone 40 days without. I'm struggling with 30, and will not be repeating this challenge any time soon.)
Don't even get me started on ice cream and sweet coffee sensations. Oh, I miss ice cream. And my weekly coffee treats. Last week, we had an out of town friend unexpectedly stop by to visit. He suggested going out for dinner or ice cream. Before I could even entertain the thought of justifying eating a "treat with a long-lost friend," I invited him over to our house instead. I knew we already had 2/3 of a gallon of Dryer's S'more ice cream on hand that was on the verge of getting freezer burn. I was "saving" it in the event of an insatiable craving knowing it would be wasteful to let it expire. I scooped it into 3 bowls and almost drooled. I savored every bite. And if you know me at all, you know that I'm a horrible ice cream share-er, so Mike, consider yourself pretty special. (I managed to leave one scoop at the bottom of the tub to save for later.)
We "fudged" the rules a bit this week to accomodate guests. My employer invited me to her birthday party over a month ago, with the promise of excellent food (catered) and wine. She also arranged for an alternative babysitter for Maggie so I could have the evening free to attend. Paul gave me the green light to enjoy myself and I'm so glad he did; it was a delicious spread. I tried to play it cool when I got home, but Paul begged me to tell him what I ate. My response: Four crab cakes, steak and watercress roll-ups, bread with honey butter, fruit with marshmallow dip. Hey, he asked! (and now my stomach is growling.)
We also attended our monthly "Sticky Faith Family Night" at church Sunday evening. Immediately following the event, Paul was teaching a high school bible study, leaving no time to prepare a meal. So, we decided to eat whatever they had, and it was pizza. Mildly warm, processed pizza. It didn't taste awful, but it certainly didn't taste fresh. Both of us were surprised at our response to the pizza. I thought I'd be giddy, but dare I say I was... disappointed? There was also a bowl of fruit and we helped ourselves to an apple, something I ordinarily wouldn't have chosen.
The last "fudging" took place last night. We've made fast friends with a new couple in church who immediately started volunteering at youth group. We wanted to have them over for dinner and 1) didn't want to feed them boring chicken without sauce and no dessert, and 2) wait 3 more weeks to have them over when our food rules lifted. So, I made one of our favorite dishes: spaghetti pie. I did my best to use what I could with what I already had on hand (italian sausage in the freezer, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and I even snuck some zucchini in from the garden). It was ah-mazing. And satisfying. And I don't think I've been that full after a meal since this month started 15 days ago. Oh, and I couldn't have them over for dinner without dessert, so I made apple pie. Don't worry - it's gone already.
Yes, I suppose we could've found ways to enjoy our friends over a meal without compromising our 7 foods. However, it's been a goal of mine for a while to have people over more often, and this was the perfect opportunity to play hostess. No regrets here.
On another note, we are eating more fruits and vegetables this month than ever before. And we like them! Paul even voluntarily ate a bowl of salad while he was waiting for me to bring home lunch the other day. I couldn't believe my eyes! I'm typically a "salad with crunchy stuff" eater, which means I add sunflower seeds, craisins, candied walnuts, feta cheese, etc. whenever I can. I'm actually enjoying my simple salad with chopped apples and homemade croutons + dressing.
I visited a produce stand in town (Peyton's Produce) and learned it's a family's only source of income. I happily purchased a 25 pound box of apples and tried pluots for the first time (a cross between an apricot and a plum. Yum.) Not to mention, she has the yummiest, largest honeycrisp apples I have ever seen, and they were cheaper (and bigger) than the ones at the grocery store. I made tons of applesauce and omitted the sugar in a special batch for the rest of this month. I even liked the taste of it. A lot!
All of this to say, we are managing with our 7 foods and we certainly aren't wasting away. 14 days remaining, but who's counting?
Here are some of our favorite meals so far:
Breaded chicken (egg wash, finely chopped fresh bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and chopped green onion, sautéed in olive oil)
Chicken sandwich: toasted bread, grilled chicken breast, onion, tomato
Toasted whole wheat french bread (olive oil and salt under the broiler) with avocado and tomato on top
Homemade chicken soup using only fresh ingredients - herbs and veggies from the garden.
Mixed greens salad with grilled chicken, chopped apple, cherry tomatoes, hard boiled egg, homemade salad dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handful of fresh basil and green onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and homemade croutons
"Toad in a hole" - bread with a hole in the middle for a fried egg
Applesauce - as variety of apples (gala, honeycrisp, braeburn, fuji, grannysmith), cinnamon and a splash of lemon juice.