Divide & Conquer

Last night, Mr. Rathroy made dinner. On top of an already busy week, I had signed up for a special 6 p.m. preview class at U Barre, the latest (and greatest) workout trend, with Girls on the Grid. I was even less in the mood to discuss our dinner plans than normal, especially because it meant a trip to the store during grocery rush hour.

That morning, I had gotten out of bed an hour and a half before Mr. Rathroy. In that time, I got myself ready for the day, took care of the dog, made our daily green smoothie, and even baked a fresh batch of peanut butter granola. And even though I had chosen to do all of those things, I found myself very annoyed. Why did I have to take care of everything (and in the dark no less) while he ignored his alarm and went into work later than usual? Doesn’t he know how much work it is to curl my hair and feed him every morning?

By the time I went into our dark, sleepy room to say goodbye before I left for work, I was in full domestic rebellion – not a great way to start our interactions for the day.

After a few hours of reflection in my cubicle, I sent an apology text and, because Mr. Rathroy is the greatest and most understanding man in the world, he responded with a heartfelt thank you for everything that I do. I knew that I was being a martyr and that I had never even asked him to help that morning. I just grumbled about how nice it must be to sleep in and how lame it is to be the lead homemaker. I decided to ignore the fact that I my lead homemaker status was self-appointed.

So, when it came time to discuss the fact that we had nothing for dinner, I knew it could go one of three ways:

  1. I could take it on as my unspoken responsibility to feed my husband and trudge my butt to the store so that he could eat while I went to the barre class
  2. We could split the responsibilities and he could take care of dinner since I was already scheduled to be out of the house
  3. I could have a meltdown about being a square peg in the round hole of traditional female roles and we would order Chinese food

We went with the second option and It. Was. Awesome. We each picked a couple dishes that we’d like to have on our menu for the week and drafted a grocery list together. Mr. Rathroy went head first into grocery rush hour and cooked up a storm while I flailed around gracelessly on my tippy toes during my ballet-inspired workout. By the time I got home, I was elated about my newfound exercise routine and Mr. Rathroy had made roasted vegetable mac & cheese from scratch and puff pastry wrapped jalapeno poppers…Uh, why had we not made him Head Chef of the Rathroy household yet? The kitchen was spotless, the food was still hot, the dog was curled up in bed, and he was patiently playing Forza4 until I was home to eat dinner with him.

I quickly realized that I had become a bulldozer. I took it upon myself to try and take care of everything around the house. My office is closer, my hours are more flexible, and my paycheck is smaller, so why wouldn’t I make up for it with meal plans and freshly baked granola? I took those life responsibilities off of his plate without even asking him. I made it my obligation to keep the house clean and do the grocery shopping, which in my mind, meant that no one else knew how to do it correctly.

Mr. Rathroy is not only fully capable, but is happy to pitch in and work for our lifestyle as much as I do. And when we split up the mundane responsibilities, they become less of a burden which means we’re both happier to contribute. And after devouring half a dozen homemade cream-cheese-filled jalapenos last night, I’m happy to release control of the menu and share the tasks that create our daily experiences together. And who knows, maybe I’ll be the one relaxing with Forza4 and a freshly prepared meal next time…

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Malawi Is…Home

We just celebrated the first Christmas of our marriage. It was full of family, twinkling lights, food, and new traditions. It was perfect.

It also included a decent amount of home improvement projects (shocking, I know). From a new fence to replacing a broken door to building a table out of 100 year old farm fence posts, we kept ourselves quite busy with house projects this holiday season. And the more we improve our current home, the more I grow nostalgic for the first home we shared in Malawi.

It was Mr. Rathroy’s home for two years, but for the time that I was there he let me take half ownership (he’s such a good sharer). I can’t imagine what it was like for him to walk away from that house, that village, that country after all he had experienced there. I still miss it and my experiences are hardly a fraction.

As with any approaching new year, I’ve been reflecting on the past – trying to remember lessons learned, laughter felt, and love shared – so that I can make the incoming year the best one yet. Malawi was such a short period of time in my life, but it changed everything. So, I’m finally adding another episode to the neglected Malawi Is… page.

Malawi, just like Mr. Rathroy, is Home.

Ironically enough, our current house is probably only slightly larger than our Malawian one.

Ironically enough, our current house is probably only slightly larger than our Malawian one.

Sharing a twin bed takes talent. And mosquito nets make you feel invincible.

Sharing a twin bed takes talent. And mosquito nets make you feel invincible.

Clean dishes drying outside.

Clean dishes drying outside.

Wringing out the excess and hoping they dry before they mold in the humidity.

Wringing out the excess and hoping they dry before they mold in the humidity.

Wedding Dress be Damned!

During my first wedding dress fitting, the consultant asked if my weight typically fluctuates. No. It doesn’t. I’ve been within the same 2.5 pounds for the last 10 years.

When they initially took my measurements to order the dress, I was told that my hips measured 1 inch into a dress size that is normally 3 sizes too big for me. Despite the fact that it felt like an open hand slap across my bridal face, I told myself that wedding dress sizes are weird, that they were the professionals.

Fine, order it in that size.

Six months later, as they laced the dress onto me and let go, it couldn’t stay up on its own.  As I attempted to hide my satisfied smirk (turns out I don’t wear three sizes up after all), the seamstress got busy pinning and bunching and pinning and bunching until she had reconstructed most of the dress.

During the process, the consultant made the inquiry about my typical weight fluctuations. Turns out, the dress had to be taken in so much that it couldn’t be let back out.

Translation: If you gain an ounce between now and your wedding day, this is going to be really uncomfortable.

No problem. My weight doesn’t fluctuate. Take it in!

As my second fitting approaches, so does our wedding. We are T minus 3.5 weeks and I’m starting to get a little loopy if we’re being honest here. I’ve still been making meal plans and doing my best to feed my 6’3” fiancé, but in the last week or so I’ve found myself saying things like, “Can we just order a pizza instead?” or “Oooh, Willies! Let’s get milkshakes!” or, “I’m still tired. I don’t want to go to bootcamp this morning.”

On its own, none of those things would be abnormal or alarming. But the fact that each of them has occurred within the same week (the week leading up to my second “don’t be fat or your dress won’t lace up” fitting) has me a little concerned. The other aspects of our life and wedding planning seem to be getting more overwhelming, so the idea of escaping into a pile of ice cream or melted cheese or an extra hour of sleep has been more appealing than normal.

I’m not usually a highly groomed kind of gal. Don’t get me wrong, I can use mascara and wash my hair just fine, but makeup trends and manicures have never been my thing. Unfortunately, the idea of being at an altar in front of every person I know has spooked me into the beauty world in an all inclusive way. I’ve had more beauty appointment trials than I care to count. And that’s nothing compared to the week-of-wedding appointments! We’re talking manicures, pedicures, waxing, spray tanning, hair trims and eyelash tinting to name a few. I’m starting to feel a little bit like plastic Bridal Barbie.

Bridal Barbie

The point is, I’m being tanned and trimmed until about 2 hours before my wedding, and the idea of it is getting exhausting. I know they’re all elective procedures, but it’s nearly impossible to escape the idea of being my “most beautiful” on my wedding day. Like I’m not beautiful enough on any other day? It’s a defeating thought if you let it get to you.

So you can imagine that the last thing I want to say to myself right now is, “You’d better eat a stalk of celery instead or someone won’t fit into a certain special dress on Friday.”

Therefore, in an effort to save my sanity and to continue enjoying the build up to my wedding day, I made brownies. And I ate two big ones. And I am going to enjoy that decision and the chocolatey goodness without guilt or worry. I’ve gone on pizza binges before. I’ve missed bootcamp before. And no, my weight does not fluctuate.

Wedding dress be damned! I’ll be beautiful on my wedding day no matter what. Even if you are a little snug…

Crock Pot Saves the Day

Feeding a 6’3″ man can be challenging (my props go out to his mother that fed him and his brother throughout their teen years!). He works out, he’s genetically thin, and he will eat whatever measly portion of food I put in front of him and insist that it’s enough.

In my adventures as an almost wife (and full time employee), I’ve become a big advocate for casseroles, lasagnas, soups, and anything else that you can make once and will last for 3 or 4 meals. And I’m an even bigger advocate for recipes that you can throw together with random stuff that you have sitting in the door of your refrigerator.

Despite my vegetarian handicap, I knew when I saw this recipe that it would be a winner. Russ will eat this stuff with a spoon, on a slab of bread, on top of salad, rice, cous cous, etc, and can you blame him? Even I want to eat this stuff with a spoon (and I usually do before I pour the mixture over the chicken…).

I scanned the short list of ingredients, pulled my hand-me-down crock pot out of the cupboard, and within about 4 minutes, this baby was cooking and I was on my way to a meeting.

I couldn't get a very appetizing picture of raw chicken in bbq sauce, so here's one of my pretty little crockpot!

I couldn’t get a very appetizing picture of raw chicken in bbq sauce, so here’s one of my pretty little crockpot!

I’m also learning that recipes can be flexible. I had just used the last of our brown sugar on an attempt to re-make pumpkin chocolate chip bread (not recipe worthy yet, but Russ will eat it with a smile) so I improvised and threw some honey in the mix instead. Natural sweetener is better than sugar anyway right?

Keep your fingers crossed that 3 chicken breasts will last for a couple days while I munch on all of the fresh greens from our most recent CSA box!

So many veggies!

So many veggies!

What are your favorite crock pot recipes and how do you make food last in your house?

The Tortured Tummy

This is why I try to experiment on my own diet before feeding Russ.

IMG_0474

To be fair, he is the least picky eater you’ll ever meet and can survive on one meal a day. However, I have (much to my surprise) fallen head first into the “care taker” wife role and it’s really hard to watch my 6’3″ fiancé eat the same number of calories as I do. Especially when I’m all like, “Hey, why don’t we try to eat gluten free and vegan as often as possible? It’ll be good for us!”

For various reasons, including health and fitness, I’ve been toying with the idea of a paleo diet, a vegetarian paleo diet, a gluten free diet, a whole foods diet, and an insane combination of all of the above. Maybe it’s wedding gown madness or my background in evolutionary biology, but the idea of eating unprocessed foods is sticking in my brain and I can’t get it out. Bolstered by the documentary “Forks over Knives” that we watched last night as recommended by our trainer.

In my research for such a diet, I found an incredible recipe resource at Edible Perspective. She has a great recipe for homemade pizza sauce that I put on top of my cauliflower pizza crust (one of my first and more successful gluten free attempts, though that doesn’t say much…). And since there’s no way I’m completely giving up cheese, I’ve been obsessed with replacing my morning milk and cereal with something more biologically friendly to my gut.

I marched over to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op and bought as many obscure grounds as you could imagine. Oat flour, flax meal and wheat germ to name a few. And then I followed the recipe for the “banana scramble” and it did not turn out great. Instead of the cute little browned patty, I got this:

Just to remind you of how not great it turned out...

Just to remind you of how not great it turned out…

But I’ve eaten plenty of poorly presented food that tasted delicious! My cauliflower pizza crust being one of them.

Not the case. The saving grace of this meal was a jar of homemade jam from my beautiful friend over at Dirt Road Photography. I’m not even much of a jam eater but these fruit preserves were the only reason I could go back for another bite of this breakfast. I ate about half of it and it sure stuck to my ribs, so I guess if I can continue to choke it down, it does it’s job. Though I can’t say that I want to spend any amount of my life with food that looks like a pile of poo (and with a similar consistency I would imagine), but at least I didn’t force Russ to eat it too.

Mmmmm, jam!

Mmmmm, jam!

So now, I’m floating around as some weird version of a vegetarian with a tortilla addiction that still misses chicken and I can’t bring myself to let go of the experiment and just cook a roast. If you see Russ, feed him a steak, he deserves it.

Crossing the Chicken Road

I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12. I don’t even remember what it was like to bite into a hamburger with texture. Just mush for me, thanks!

Despite my anti-protein lifestyle, I’ve had quite a few close encounters of the meaty kind in my young adult life. Partly through my previous life as a duck biologist and partly through my awesome farmer friends.

A duck biologist is a real thing.

A duck biologist is a real thing.

I’ve gone hunting. I’ve had conversations about ranch butchers. I’ve watched a live rooster turn into fried chicken. I’ve even helped Russ cook a rabbit and taught an anatomy lesson during a mallard evisceration.

That word just does not bring up appetizing images. Sorry…

Be vewy quiet...

Be vewy quiet…

What I’m saying is, my relationship with meat has been weird. And up until very recently, I’ve been just fine eating nothing but carbs. I squeaked by on my protein intake with beans, some grains, and an occasional yogurt (don’t ask about eggs or I’ll gag all over you). But I’ve been noticing some signs that are getting hard to ignore and it’s making me reconsider the diet decision I made as a kid.

Does that mean I didn’t know everything as a pre-teen? Can’t be!

These days, when I walk into a Safeway, the only thing I smell is the fried chicken and the only thing I can do is drool. A chicken salad sandwich is the only meal that I could ever imagine actually keeping me full for more than 25 minutes. I feel dumber and weaker and like I might have been missing something these last 15 years.

So a while ago, prompted by farmer friend conversation, I declared that if I ever started eating animals again, I would know exactly where they came from and how they were raised. I would be comfortable with handling it whole and understanding that it had a life before it became part of mine. So when Russ bought a stew hen from one such farmer friend, I took it as an opportunity to explore my options…

We can roast it or crock-pot it or stew it or whatever! Until it came time to actually cook the chicken and I realized that I no longer had the stomach to take out the chicken’s. Russ had to do everything. This man cleaned, prepared, and roasted the chicken, and when carving with a knife was too slow, he literally ripped it apart (bones and all) with his bare hands. I’m betting that two years in Africa had something to do with that.

I didn’t end up eating any of it. Actually Russ didn’t either. Turns out a stew chicken is best cooked as stew…So we’ll repurpose the meat and do a take two, but in the meantime, I get to brag about THIS:

Stock pot time!

Stock pot time!

That’s right. Thanks to farmer friends and a temporary hold on my gag reflex, I’m making chicken stock. I think this may have to be my first step back into the meat world – liquified. I’ll make some sort of vegetable soup and trick my body into absorbing animal protein again.

So for tonight, I’ll sit by our fireplace, admire our Christmas lights, and pride myself on the boiling carcass in my kitchen.

Tomato Tom(ah)to

One night, when I was about 10 years old, my family gathered around the living room and watched the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.” And even though I don’t remember the plot or point of the movie, I do remember enjoying it when I was a kid and so, have a childhood founded affinity to actual fried green tomatoes.

Lucky for me, my parents let me come over and steal food from their garden whenever I want and tomatoes are always first on my list. Mostly because they’re delicious, but also because the smell of tomato plants makes my brain do the “It’s summertime!” dance. So if you’re ever near me and a tomato plant at the same time, don’t be alarmed when you get a leaf shoved in your face until you agree that it’s the best smell in the whole world. Just ask Russ.

The other day, Russ and I decided to try our hand at southern cooking and make fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. After stealing 4 pale green tomatoes from my parent’s yard, we marched back to my apartment, suited up, and prepared to create the golden glory that is fried food.

'suited' up and ready to fry

Despite my domestic neurosis that include compulsive cleaning and organization, I am no Martha Stewart. In fact, my kitchen jitters have gotten worse since Mr. I’m Low Key About Everything And Can Cook Like Nobody’s Business came into my life, so I have no problem admitting that I googled this recipe. Follow along as you like and remember to spice it to your taste buds.

INGREDIENTS:
4 green tomatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use plain because I like to spice it up myself)
Spices (include the obvious salt and pepper and then add whatever you like)
Vegetable Oil for frying

PREP:
Once your tomatoes are sliced nice and thick (about 1/2 inch), whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl deep enough to dip the tomato slices in. Mix the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, and spices together on a plate. On top of the salt and pepper, I like to add cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, and anything else that strikes my fancy at the time. Put the flour on its own plate.

DUNK:
1. Into the flour to coat each slice
2. Into the egg-milk mixture briefly
3. Into the delicious, crumbly cornmeal-bread crumb-spice mixture

    

FRY:
Heat the oil in a pan until its of frying temperature (not too hot or else you’ll get scalding hot oil all over your face).  Add tomato slices. Make sure they don’t touch each other so they get nice and fried on all sides.  Fry until golden brown (about 2 minutes) and then flip to fry the other side. When finished, they should be that golden brown color that we all love so much.

I like to dip mine in a little bit of ranch dressing and Russ likes to dip his in a gallon of ranch, but they’re great on their own or you can get fancy and make your own aioli.

dinner.

In the end, Russ and I fried 15 slices of green tomatoes and laughed at how we would have to reheat them in the oven because no one in their right mind would eat that many in one sitting. About 15 minutes later, we had one empty plate, two full stomachs, and zero left over fried green tomatoes. Appetizer shmappetizer. At least they were vegetables.