The Challenge: Day Twenty-One

We’ve reached the three week mark here, and I think we’re doing pretty well.

I’m taking a little break next weekend and going to Savannah with my mom and aunt. Obviously, there will be no cooking for me during the weekend, unless one of the restaurants would allow me to invade their kitchen – and that’s unlikely. I’ll have to think of something simple for next Sunday evening, as I probably won’t feel much like cooking anything involved that night when we return.

Since my dear friend is single, and will not cook for one, we stowed the leftovers from last night’s fondue in the fridge. Tonight, I whipped up a little stirfry with some teriyaki sauce: beef, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, broccoli, rice.

I ate a bit, but rice is one of the most difficult foods to eat for me because it’s so damned hard to control. I do love zucchini, and could eat it every day from spring to fall if the people around me could stand it.

Tomorrow, we’re having some people over for dinner, including one of my numerous cousins, whom I haven’t seen in over 20 years. On the menu: chicken in a creamy lime sauce, and rice pilaf with shallots and parmsean. We’ll probably toss a salad together and add naother vegetable in there as well.

Before dinner, though, my afternoon is going to be interrupted by another PET scan, as we’re overdue for one. As usual, these scans and checkups involve a certain amount of apprehension for me, and with the scans there is always a list of rules that have to be followed prior to scan to ensure good readings. For this round, there is no strenuous physical activity, no caffeine, smoking, or gum chewing 12 hours prior. Nothing by mouth except water five hours prior. They also measure blood sugar prior to injecting the radioactive glucose solution, as it must be within a certain range so the scan can give a good reading. Fortunately, I don’t smoke, and I can’t chew gum, but I suppose I better go ahead and have my cappuccino and Reese’s cups now.

The Challenge: Day Twenty

Someone asked me if I was fully recovered now, given that most of my blogging is turned over to food, both cooking and eating, that I mention that I’m getting out and about, etc.

The short answer: No.

The long answer: Looking at all the things I’ve been through and am going through, I’m doubting that I will ever be “fully” recovered. Some things are obvious, of course. There’s little question that the rest of my tongue isn’t going to magically reappear, and the reduced salivary output is probably going to be with me forever, courtesy of the radiation. Other things are iffy, like the range of motion and strength on the left side, the scars down and across my neck, the swelling on the left side of my face, the limited opening range of my mouth, and so on. I still can’t eat very much, and when I do eat, my mouth gets fatigued very rapidly. I’m tired a lot – more than even the people closest to me know, I suspect. I’m constantly in pain, and I have no idea if that will ever go away, either, but I rarely take any drugs for that (only when it’s really out of control). So, no, I’m not fully recovered right now, even though I’m returning to life very, very (very) slowly.

So, on we go with our challenge, which has slipped under the radar this past week.

As mentioned, a friend rescured me from cooking duties by suggesting fondue. My involvement was limited to cubing the beef, opening a two pound bag of shrimp, and whipping up some caramelized onions, as my friend brought along all the fixings. There’s something nice about sitting around with some people, stabbing chunks of food with little forks and setting them into a hot pot.

We had: beef, shrimp, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, caramelized onions, and some cubes of french bread. And water. Lots and lots of water for me. I did eat some of these things, even picked the softer inside of a couple of bread cubes out and dipped them in cheese (that, as you might imagine, required a significant amount of liquid to get down). There were only three of us, but that turned out to be a good number, as otherwise there would have been dueling forks, I think.

I told them that we should do a Chinese hot pot, with broth, next time. And we should definitely do a dessert fondue.

The Challenge: Days 16-19

So, where were we?

Holidays really mess with schedules. Work does, too. And work has been massive.


The 4th of July, everyone vanished or holed themselves up in their humble abodes, which meant no cooking for me. Day sixteen was rather a bust in the old challenge department, but some days are indeed like that.

The next day, however…

Dinner: chicken breasts stuffed with feta and spinach.

With more fresh tomatoes.

And some broccoli, steamed with lemon and garlic.

Wonderful stuff. Nutritious. Tasty. Lowfat. Affordable.

Chicken (boneless, skinless): 4 x 1.36 = 5.44
Spinach and feta mixture: 3.59
Broccoli: 3.19 (yeah, yeah)
Tomatoes: 1.00

Total meal, with leftovers: 13.22
Total per diner (4): 3.31

Day eighteen? Another no cooking night for me, as everyone was, once again, gone, working or otherwise occupied. Soup, ice cream, and cappuccino(!) on my menu. The cap is the output of my dandy new espresso machine, which I probably like more than is healthy.

I’m drinking quite a bit of cappuccino now that it’s so very convenient to do. Not a bad way to take in some extra no-value calories.

Day nineteen? Yet another no cooking night. My sisters are off to Orlando to visit our brothers. My mother is off with my aunts and a cousin I’ve not seen in over 20 years, playing some kind of game and eating. Yours truly had half a hamburger, half a tomato, some ice cream, and (soon) some cappuccino.

I can say that day twenty will be yet another day of no cooking for me, as a friend of mine is going to whip up a fondue to spare me from my non-cooking week.

Next week, however, will bring back more cooking. I posted some menu ideas from which the fam could choose. The top two were chicken breasts in a creamy lime sauce and rice pilaf with shallots and parmesan, and grilled shrimp with a sweet-garlic dipping sauce and a caprese salad (that’s fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil). There are other things on the list as well: pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and shallots, vegetable lasagna, orange pork with rice noodles, citrus tilapia with a mango-coconut-ginger salsa and roasted asparagus, and so on. My sister caught part of a show I was watching and decided she wanted plums in raspberry sauce. I suggested plums poached in raspberry sauce with a lemon reduction and a small scoop of ice cream, which I think would be quite nice.

So, more cooking to come. In other news, I’ve decided to apply myself to learning Italian, for that day in the distant future when I go to Italy to be a tourist. Besides, as long as I’m butchering English on my way to recovery, I might as well butcher another language at the same time.

A presto.

The Challenge: Day Fifteen

This afternoon, my sister popped in for lunch.

“I’m thinking fish for dinner, ” I say. “Tilapia, baked, with a pineapple-chile glaze. Basmati pilaf with parmesan. Salad. Nutritious, lowfat, tasty. What do you think?”

“I’m not in the mood for fish,” she says, as she eats the last of the salad from last night.

“Well, what would you like?” I ask, ready to change the menu.

“Fish is fine.”

Fickle, I swear.

So I made the fish.

And the rice.

And got rave reviews from that very same sister, who was a bit grouchy in the evening. A swim and then dinner cleared that up for us all.

The (large) church down the road had a “family freedom fest” tonight – the wording of which I almost strained my eyeballs at rolling them every time I read the sign this past week – and started a fireworks show around 9:30. We stepped right out in the backyard, looked over the treeline, and saw their show. Not bad. I sipped some hot tea while my mom and sister drank coffee and we stood out in the cooler evening under a sky so clear even the faintest stars could be seen opposite the half moon hanging at our backs.

Tomorrow is going to be another weird kind of eating day, as one of my aunts, as I mentioned, is having a gathering and grilling. I haven’t decided if I’m going to head over there yet. Some holidays I prefer to avoid the multitude of weirdos and drunks and just hang out around my homestead.

Anyway, back to tonight’s meal. Here’s the breakdown.

Tilapia (two huge filets, which the three of us did not finish completely, including the glaze): 11.63
Rice: 1.00
Salad: 1.00

Total meal: 13.63
Total per diner (3): 4.54

I even have nutrition information for the fish and pilaf!

Fish (based on a full filet)
Calories: 206
Protein: 30.7 g
Carbs: 10.1 g
Cholesterol: 9.9 mg

Calories: 260
Protein: 8.1 g
Carbs: 42.2 g
Cholesterol: 10 mg

Not a bad evening, I must say. Now, time for some ice cream…

The Challenge: Day Fourteen

Has it been two weeks already?

My original plan for the day went something like this the night before: get some sleep to recover from the party at my aunt’s, go to the farmer’s market early, cut the lawn (desperately in need of it due to all the rain last week), then cook something healthy and lowfat for dinner. I was kicking around ideas for dinner and asked my brother, who was up from Orlando with a friend, what he’d like. His answer? Steak. Broccoli with cheese sauce. Potatoes with garlic and parsley. Salad.

Not exactly lowfat, and not exactly wholesomely nutritious. Still, it’s a holiday weekend and he’s not up that often, so special requests can be granted.

I agreed, and shortly thereafter, went to bed, hoping to get some sleep in order to get an early start. Alas, my sleep was interrupted just after 4 AM for a trip to the NOC. When I returned just before 6, I was tempted to stay up but decided that was a Bad Idea indeed, and went back to bed for a couple of hours. Once up, it was time to get things started before the day turned into our usual inferno, but the schedule had to be rearranged slightly, so the first job was to cut the grass. I managed to do this relatively quickly, all things considered, and then took some heat from a friend for doing it myself instead of making someone else do it. From there, a quick shower, to the farmer’s market, and then to Costco for steaks.

Where, I will say, I found quite a pretty whole boneless loin for ribeyes, which I then proceeded to slice into 16 very nice individual steaks.

The marbling is fantastic.

We planned on nine for dinner, so I pulled nine steaks and rubbed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The rest went into the freezer to await another day.

Of course, people can’t live by steak alone.

Yukon potatoes with garlic and parsley.

Broccoli and cheese sauce.

The steaks? On the grill until medium rare. Except for two: one more well done, one rare as hell. Heathens. We wound up two people short, so had several steaks left over. These will go home with my brother, since he’s perpetually broke.

As an added bonus, I cooked up a couple pounds of shrimp.

Happy people.

They all took a swim and horsed around in the pool after dinner. I made cookies. Yummy.

So, what’s the breakdown for this grand fiesta?

Ribeyes, boneless – 9 x 3.64* = 32.76
Shrimp – 12.60
Potatoes – 4.99
Broccoli and cheese – 4.00
Salad – 2.50
Cookies – 3.20

* This is calculated based on the number of steaks I cut from the whole portion. If the steaks had been thinner, the cost per steak would be less; if thicker, the cost per steak would be more.

Total for the food: 60.05, with leftovers
Total per diner (7): 8.58

One of our more expensive meals, to be sure. If I’d had my way, I’d have replaced the broccoli with something that was in season, like zucchini or okra, and this would have lowered the cost a bit. However, it is a holiday weekend combined with special requests. It’s also incredibly reasonable for the type of food we had, which I suppose could be classified as luxury items, since we had both steak and shrimp. Finally, it’s also very affordable in the amount per person, since a good, already cut steak would run more than eight bucks a person on its own – not to mention the sides you’d have with it. Overall, I would count this as a success relative to The Challenge, but I’d also caution that it would be imperative to find a good place to buy bulk in meat (like Costco) and do the cutting yourself. Picking up nine ribeyes at Publix would have easily increased the food bill substantially.

With our final hurrah for higher fat food out of the way, beginning Monday we will refocus on lowfat meals, as my mom, both my sisters, and a dear friend are always complaining about their weight, need to eat healthier, and so on. Yours truly does not complain about that particular issue right now, as you might imagine (and today’s weigh in at Publix: 108 pounds). So tomorrow – or, rather, today, as I type this, since it’s now 3 AM because I kept watching a movie with the boys instead of finishing this – I’ll be working on menus that will fit in with the goals the women in my life happen to have. But it will still be tasty. Because what’s the point of eating healthier meals if you can’t stand them?

The Challenge: Day Thirteen – The Holiday Edition

OK, so day thirteen didn’t really count. It’s a holiday here, and this time, not my turn to cook everything – but I still had to make a couple of things to bring to the festivities at my aunt’s.

The ever-popular ribs.

A sneak peek at the interior before hauling them over to the party.

I also decided to make some bread for the masses.

The ribs vanished quickly as everyone gnawed away. There was a ton of other food there, of course, and we snacked throughout the evening on various cookout-related foods: ribs, pork, chicken, potato salad, beans, a delightful corn souffle made by a neighbor of my aunt’s, cupcakes (minis – I ate three!), mac and cheese, chips and dips, and so on. When the sun finally went down fully around 9 PM, we retired to chairs out front and watched partygoers set off fireworks in the street, some of which veered wildly off course and into the crowd, which always lends itself to hilarity.

At the end of the day, we all returned to our homes, full and happy. For myself, that included doing some work and planning out the next day. Those plans, however, are a topic for the next entry.