I should know better than to even look at the snacks at a work event. But when I saw the huge spread for our division’s annual meeting, I immediately started filling my plate with pita chips, spinach dip, and a couple of pigs in blankets. BUT: I did not drink any full-calorie soda (and oh, was I tempted.) Small victories!
Some victories too
Like yesterday, I made my Bullet-Proof Coffee last all morning, until noon. It’s so filling I don’t even feel hungry until noon. And the best victory today was taking a new recipe to work: Broccoli, Bacon, Cheese, and Egg Muffins. Sorry, no link – you’ll have to go to the Simply Keto cookbook to get this recipe. (The book is SO worth it!)
The recipe makes six muffins, and they are filling and delicious! Two muffins make a serving, so you have plenty. I just put the leftovers in a ziplock bag in the frig so I can enjoy them later. 9 out of 10; definitely recommend! And you can find many other ideas for keto breakfasts on Suzanne’s Simply Keto website, including this list of five Keto Breakfast ideas and especially this one, which I’m going to try: BLT Breakfast Salad.
Hope you’re all having a wonderful Keto week! Tomorrow, I think I’ll be enjoying some Keto chili leftovers for lunch (yes, just checked the menu plan) and a lovely Creamy Pesto Chicken.
It wasn’t hard at all to get back to eating the Keto way when the dishes I made today were so good. Prep yesterday on Sunday afternoon made all the difference. But first I kept my fast going by enjoying only my special coffee.
At 5:30 a.m. I’m not thinking about taking pictures of my BPC. Because I forgot, I’ll just post a picture below from the lowcarbyum website, with its own BPC recipe. Unlike that one, all I add is MCT oil and butter. I finish it by frothing with a milk frother (so much fun!) Then I enjoy.
Lunch – Light for a workday break
Today I took some of the chicken I cooked yesterday and made a terrific Chicken Caesar Salad from the Simply Keto cookbook. I even made the dressing from scratch. The addition of avocado adds needed fats as well as creaminess, and the homemade dressing was a creamy pleasure. I will follow the optional recommendation of adding 1 tsp of MCT oil to thin the dressing a bit the next time I make it. Score: 9.5 out of 10 – would recommend!
Dinner: warm and perfect
The Keto Chili recipe from Simply Keto was full of yummy pork sausage and ground beef. I loved the mix of cumin and chili powder and didn’t miss beans at all. The recipe makes six portions, and I think I helped myself to two portions tonight in one very large bowl – it was so good! Adding some sour cream and grated cheddar made it even better. This is a home run. Definitely recommend – 9 out of 10.
Nothing special today; I didn’t have time! Instead, Atkins peanut butter cups (1 net carb each) to the rescue.
…Or maybe I’m just not fully recovered from my cold last week. But I’ve been cooking all afternoon to get at least some of my recipes ready. I also cooked a grass-fed eye of round roast for lunch today. Now I have extra food for the week!
Besides the roast, I prepped Keto Chili, which is full of beef AND pork, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic. It’s now simmering away in the crock pot. Can’t wait to try this. Click the link above to go to the recipe on the creator Suzanne Ryan’s site “Keto Karma.” I also did prep work for the Creamy Pesto Chicken and Chicken Caesar Salad. Actually, I’ll just be having Creamy Alfredo Chicken – as I was making my shopping list I realized: it is February; I’m not getting fresh basil unless I want to pay an arm and a leg. I’ll save the pesto sauce for this summer when I can just walk outside into my herb garden and pick my own.
It is time to get serious. I have had so much success with Keto, but frankly, January has been a bust (so far.) I’m putting on my project planner hat and getting organized. I’m mapping out five days’ worth of meals, starting next Monday, that will help me be stay on this way of eating. Each meal has to be pleasing, delicious, and fixed fast.
We don’t need no stinking breakfast
This is my modified form of intermittent fasting: I have a 17-hour window between my last meal of the previous day, and the first meal of the next. I finish dinner around 6:30 p.m., so my lunch is at 11:30 a.m. If I leave it till noon, I get cranky. All I have in the morning is Bullet-Proof Coffee (which is also a good lip moisturizer. All that MCT oil!)
Something easy to grab at midday
On the two days a week I go to the office, I like to think I’m going to grab a salad from the salad bar, but often I don’t. What makes me happier (and much more satisfied) is bringing in a dish from home. It can be leftovers from last night, or something I’ve made special for lunches. Anything full of protein is good!
Dinner has to be easy too
Let’s face it: I’m not going to come home and start cooking an intricate meal that takes an hour to prep and longer to cook. I need something that’s no more from 30 minutes from start to plate. I’ve learned over the years: cook ahead of time and reheat. Or cook double recipes. Do something that shaves time off nightly meal prep when I’m tired out from the day at work, and I have more things going on at night.
Let’s plan it out
Chicken Caesar Salad
Keto Hot Chocolate
Broccoli, Bacon & Cheese Egg Muffins
Filet Mignon w/Gorgonzola Sauce
Creamy Pesto Chicken
Chicken Caesar Salad
Broccoli, Bacon & Cheese Egg Muffins
Creamy Pesto Chicken
Parmesan-crusted Salmon Bake
Chocolate Chip Mug Cake
I don’t plan out Saturday and Sunday because I have more time to cook on those days.
Check back for how I did!
I can’t wait to make these dishes. They just sound fun, filling, and tasty. Every dish above (except for the Atkins snacks, of course) is from my new cookbook, Simply Keto, by Suzanne Ryan. I’ll be posting lots of pictures and text about how each dish turned out.
Isn’t that a book already? Actually it is – a memoir by Pierre Berton. I hope he gave a tip of the hat to Joy of Cooking author Irma Rombauer for the inspiration.
Writing has always been my favorite way of communicating. I like it better than even speaking on the phone to someone. I think better when I’m either putting fingers to a keyboard or setting a pen to paper. It gives me the opportunity to think linearly and logically, when I wish to write non-creatively: pick the topic, add sentences supporting your position or thoughts, give evidence, persuade or inspire.
But I also love playing with words. I was one of those funny kids who loved learning about words in school – where did they come from; how did they get their present shape? When I discovered the Oxford English Dictionary, with its complete etomology of each and every word in the language, I was transfixed. Why do we use certain synonyms? I loved learning all the different flavors of a word. I can hear my friends now saying, why do you have to use the word frank when the word candid will do? Or any of the other synonyms that convey open, sincere, honest, or plainspoken? Because! I’d shake my head – don’t they understand the connotations? Don’t they hear the music of the word? Sometimes you need one, sometimes the other.
How I got started
It was in third grade that we all starting writing stories for our English class each week. Our teacher would give us a topic or question, and we’ll all write a page. (A ‘prompt’ in writers’ jargon.) I’ll never forget one essay I composed: “I wish I had a money tree.” I kept it for years, along with all my other papers, thus getting a jump start on my lifetime of hoarding books. Looking back at it I was appalled at my sheer greed and sloth: I ended the page saying I would just eat and read all day. Actually, that does sound like my idea of heaven right now!
Later on, I kept writing – both for the high school newspaper and the college paper. The only story from those years I remember is the feature I did on the ducks that lived on the Thomas Cooper Library pond at USC. Later there were freelance articles in newspapers and magazines in Columbia and Savannah. Then I spent two glorious years writing for a small weekly paper, before I went on to be an editor at a daily.
Starting this blog
Over 20 years ago I went corporate, starting by doing communications work. Then I got into the web game, and corporate life became a string of projects, analysis, testing, and usability work. Shortly after completing a masters in 2010, I decided it was time to start a blog so I could write again. At the beginning, it was random day-to-day happenings, more diary than journal or newsletter. And lots of cat pictures.
Fits and starts
I kept it going fairly regularly for about four years; then, life got in the way. Back in 2022 I re-started and did fairly well. But this year: this is the year I’ve dedicated the blog to only four topics, all revolving around my special interests: Books (including writing, literature, and just plain fun reads); my new Keto Journey and my love of cooking (with lots of fun pictures!), and Gardening. I’m dedicated different areas of the top navigation to those categories, and I’ll be blogging more frequently on each topic.
Next up: Masterclass
My newest strategy: taking lessons from some of the world’s best. My membership in Masterclass is giving me access to some best-selling authors. I want to explore how do they handle the problems of fleshing out a character in fiction? How do they write compelling openings, that draw a reader in and make them want to spend time with the people in the book? When you’re reading, it’s as if you’re entering that character’s world, or as if you’ve invited that character to come over to your house, sit on your couch and chat for a while. How can I make people want to spend time with my characters? So off to Masterclass I go. Now, my biggest question – do I choose Judy Blume‘s or Amy Tan‘s class? Or perhaps Neil Gaiman? Good thing the membership is for a year. I can and will do all three.
Stopping Keto for even the two feast days of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day blew up my keto success. I was doing so well! But the carbs of Christmas came calling… and didn’t stop calling through Epiphany. And then I got sick, sick, sick for over a week – and all I could stand to swallow was cool refreshing orange juice, ginger ale, and moose tracks ice cream. None of which are on any Keto plan.
Today, though – I finished the last of the ginger ale. The last of the orange juice disappeared yesterday. I threw away so much bad stuff getting the trash ready for pickup this week. And tomorrow morning – I set out again on this Keto journey of 22 grams of carbs a day. My poor chubby body will go into shock.
Fortunately, a friend recently sent me a new cookbook full of keto recipes – Simply Keto by Suzanne Ryan. I have an accountability partner – I can do this! Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t realize what I’ve already accomplished. It’s not over – I’m just beginning again.
Yes, you read that right. Book Club! (Or as I misspelled it in a DM to a friend, “boom club.” That did make it sound more enticing!) I joined my current group about a year or so before the Big Disruption – COVID-19. That shot our monthly meetings all to heck and gone – we didn’t meet again for over 18 months, I think. Days, weeks, months, all flow together in my brain.
A focused group
I love that that the group I joined goes in depth on the works of a select few writers: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams – all the writers that met together as “The Inklings.” The Columbia book club is named “The Inklings” in homage to them. This winter we started reading The Magician’s Nephew, from the Chronicles of Narnia series. I loved reading these books, and can’t wait to see how we’ll draw on the themes that this book begins to illuminate even in the first two chapters: a person’s character, honor, our responsibility to others, and more. Plus, the color illustrations by Pauline Baynes in the 2001 edition are beautiful.
Junk reading: the cotton candy of the brain
Of course I don’t read only literary fiction. I’m not finishing up some of the weighty tomes that I listed in a previous post last summer. In fact, I’m buying trashy non-fiction and fiction books and gobbling them up like popcorn and Milk Duds at the cineplex.
And I’m not fooling anyone by hiding them on my Kindle. In fact, that’s one of the two reasons I bought a Kindle. I first decided to buy one after I started running out of bookshelves, counter space, end table space, and floor space to stack books. Once I had it, I realized I could hide those unauthorized celebrity biographies, wacky sci-fi, dystopian end-of-the-world fantasies, polemical screeds, and the Twilight series on the Kindle. Oh, how I wish I was kidding about that last one. Several hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
This morning I watched an old clip of the Craig Ferguson show with guest Ricky Gervais. There was a short bit that threw me back in time, to when I was an even-more gullible child.
We used to take big family vacations when I was a kid – once every summer, we’d head to the beach with the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents to spend a week in a huge house. Every year we’d go eat real Calabash-style seafood. One year at the fancy Calabash restaurant, my grandpa asked me if I wanted to order frogs legs with him. I scrunched up my face and shook my head furiously – no, I most DEFINITELY did not want frog legs! Yuck. Ugh. Gross! Who would eat frog legs? I made my displeasure at the very idea known. He just chuckled and said OK. And we all ordered, with me getting whatever kids’ special they had.
A half-hour later we were all chowing down on our lovely, overpriced seafood (Dad always complained about the prices, and how the servers rushed you.) At 9 I had the attention span of a gnat. I had completely forgotten about the conversation. I was happily cleaning up my plate as you did, looking for seconds, when Grandpa asked me, “Would you like some fried chicken?” “I would! Thank you!” Grandpa passed me a meaty leg and I munched enthusiastically. Everyone asked me how I was enjoying the chicken. “This is wonderful, very good,” I replied blithely as I proceeded to polish the bones.
I was so focused on the yummy bones I didn’t notice the adults at the table sharing grins and suppressing laughs.
Later that night, after we paid the check, and while we were walking through the parking lot, Uncle Wayne said to the group at large “Do you think we ought to tell Jenny what she had to eat tonight?” Everyone burst out laughing as I said “What? What? What are you talking about?” Uncle Wayne happily chortled “those were frog legs.” I can’t even imagine the look on my face. I’m sure I spluttered, “Well, they tasted just like chicken!” which everyone says. I can verify, yes, that’s true.
I’ve never eaten frog legs since. And I may never eat them again as long as I do keto – because while the frog legs themselves are zero-carb, that delicious fried breading sure isn’t. HOWEVER: a couple minutes searching the Internet shows some cooks have creatively tackled that challenge:
Do you have a hobby you love? One that you’ve dabbled in over the years, but then with the onset of COVID-19, delved into more and more. That’s how I feel about cooking. Today, in this post adapted from a speech I gave to my Toastmasters club, I’ll share with you some of my favorite kitchen stories, tools, triumphs, and failures.
Let’s Get Cooking!
When I was a child, I’d often stay for the weekend with my Grandmother Shuler. Once I got to watch her as she made her famous pound cake. She’d take the butter out of the frig and let it sit out on the counter, in the bowl of her stand mixer, at least overnight. She explained she did that so the butter would soften up.
The next day, she’d take every ingredient and line it up on the counter. Years later I’d learn that was what chefs called setting up a “mise en place.” As the cake finished baking, she’d make a tart lemon glaze to pour over the hot pound cake.
Not every dish was a hit – I STILL, to this day, cannot stand the taste and texture of lima beans – but my love of cooking started with Grandma Shuler in her country kitchen.
Today, in my Forest Acres kitchen, I’m creating my own culinary memories. Join me in a tour of my kitchen, won’t you, and let’s get cooking!
When we first enter the kitchen, you’ll see the vast quartz countertop which divides the back room and makes a nice square shaped kitchen. It makes a wonderful prep area where I chop all my veggies. Always on the counter: either my Air Fryer or my Crockpot, depending on the season.
And I adore baking. Years ago, my parents gave me a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer in Empire Red – the Cadillac of Mixers. That wonderful appliance has turned out endless cakes and batches of Christmas cookies.
An awful accident
Last year I experienced one of my rare cooking fails as I used the mixer. I happily envisioned myself on a cooking show as I measured out all the ingredients for a carrot cake and put them in dishes, ready to use. I even went ahead and measured out all the cream cheese frosting ingredients and put those on the counter in little glass bowls too. Gordon Ramsey would be proud!
As I set the full cake pans in the oven, I turned around to begin cleanup. I noticed there was still a bowl on the counter – of what? It was FLOUR. I left out the Flour. But I knew I had mixed something white in! I had mixed in the four cups of confectioners’ sugar, set aside for the frosting, into the cake batter!!! I quickly yanked out the pans, threw it all back into the mixer and mixed in the flour. It actually came out well – the top was just a tad caramelized. Nobody tasted a difference. The only difference was visual: I didn’t have enough confectioners’ sugar left to make enough frosting for the sides. It was a near-naked cake.
Blood sugar up; Time for Keto
A lifetime of baking and sweets has raised my blood sugar, so I’ve stopped baking and I’m doing keto. So, what dishes am I preparing? Well fortunately Turkey is low-carb, and perfect for holidays. I decided to go all out on a Turkey this year for Christmas. We usually have ham at our holiday meals – because of the eight of my extended fam, seven prefer ham. Guess who prefers turkey – me! So, since I was cooking, I decided on Turkey for Christmas Eve lunch.
I found a super deal on ButcherBox.com and quickly ordered the turkey. But – my brother’s five weren’t coming for Christmas. I put out of my mind the fact that I purchased a 15-pound turkey for three people.
I cleared out an entire section of the freezer for it to live in until the Sunday before Christmas Eve. That Sunday I moved the turkey to the frig to start thawing.
On Thursday I created a beautiful brine and submerged the turkey in a huge turkey bag with the gallons of brine. It soaked for 18 hours. Early Christmas Eve morning, I dumped out the brine, cleaned the sink THOROUGHLY and let the turkey soak in a sink full of water for 30 minutes, to scrub off some of the salt.
Then I dried it off, shoved quartered onions, garlic and rosemary up its arse and trussed it up for a four and a half hour stay in the oven. I used an entire half cup of melted butter as my basting liquid throughout.
That turkey was DELICIOUS. Even my Dad, who dislikes turkey, couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. And the drippings made the most WONDERFUL gravy!
As I continue my Keto journey, those wonderful Turkey leftovers have helped immensely – Turkey/Broccoli casserole and Turkey Vegetable Soup. As I explore new recipes, I continue to set out the ingredients before I start cooking, just like Grandma did. But now, I make sure I have the ingredients lined up, in order.
This is a re-run of a post I put up several years ago – which is a reprint of an article I wrote in 1993 for a small weekly paper. When my parents downsized they gave me the tree. Enjoy!
Tonight I put up the tree I “inherited” from Dad when they downsized to a patio home. Here’s the story I wrote about that tree 17 years ago for The Georgia Guardian newspaper. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll post pictures of the decorated 2010 tree. Tonight you’ll have to make do with a picture of Pickles sitting underneath the tree:
Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree. Dad loved the story so much he matted and framed it. Once you read it, you’ll see why.
A Tree for All Seasons
First published in the Georgia Guardian, Dec. 24, 1993 Copyright Jennifer Rust
Every family has its Yuletide traditions, and ours is no exception. We’ll be going to parties, attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church and decorating the tree. Yet we do something lots of people would never dream of: We pull our tree out of the attic each year.
Yes, we have an artificial tree. During my impossible-to live-with teenage years, I continually referred to it as the fake tree. I would groan and roll my eyes each time my dad pulled it out of its box, telling the story of how he bought it in 1968 for only $15. (What a bargain, I can hear him say.)
When I was in high school I would beg my parents to buy a real tree. We could decorate it with strings of popcorn and other “natural” ornaments. But each year we’d re-assemble that same old tree, sticking branches into the holes on the trunk pole and bending them into place so they’d look right.
As time passed, my brother and I graduated, left the house, got jobs. Now, I have only a few days at home to celebrate the holiday. And I’ve noticed a change in the way I feel about that tree. It happened the year before last, when my dad said, “I think we might replace this one with a new tree.”
You would have thought he suggested we replace Mom. I gasped, “No! You can’t get rid of this tree!” Even as I said it I realized why.
Because of all the laughs we have putting it up each year … because all the made-in-kindergarten ornaments look just right on it … because we’ve had it for 25 years, and how many things last that long? Heck, that tree is the same age as my brother Bill and we’re keeping him.
That artificial, fake but eternal tree has become so much more than a decorative centerpiece upon which to hang the ornaments. It is a symbol of all those Christmases past and all the memories we share. That glorious fake fir has become a holiday tradition of its won. I wouldn’t trade it for the most majestic blue spruce around.