Change is Good for the Soul

I’ve been running since I was a young girl, that’s all I really did.  I did track team for some time in junior high school, but didn’t wish to continue in high school.  I was never a fast runner, slow and steady was always more my speed.  I liked the longer distances, where I could just settle in and enjoy the solitude out on the road.  I was devastated and completely stressed, when I thought I’d never be able to run again.  I definitely went through a very hard time emotionally and soothed myself with way too much food and wine.

Crawling out from the mess I made has been particularly hard this time.  I’m not getting any younger and the older I get, the harder it is to rectify months of poor eating choices.  Gone are the days where I could just burn it all off in a month.  It seems these days, no matter how hard I work or clean I eat, the pounds stay put.  But, if nothing else, I am a very determined woman.  I will get myself back to a comfortable running weight no matter how long it takes.

Long time readers, know that I am not a huge fan of change when it comes to exercise and nutrition.  I like things to stay the way they are and love to get into a routine.  My military/police dad really did drill routine and structure into my brothers and I, especially around our meals.  To change my workout routine and my nutrition at the same time is a huge undertaking for me, but at this point what have I got to lose – except a few inches and pounds.

Instead of running and risking yet another injury, I decided to give Crossfit a try.  I started going at the end of June and have been going at least 4 times a week.  This month, I’ve tried to up it to 5 times and if I can’t make it to the gym, I do the WOD at home.  Remember, we have a full gym set up in our basement, so with my husband spotting me I can do the work – no excuses.  It’s hard, but oh so motivating to do these workouts each day.  They are always different and you never know what you will get, other than drenched in sweat and spent.  They really break up the monotony of doing the same workout over and over again – think running.  The most interesting thing that happened is the more I go, the less I miss those grueling long runs.  I’m truly not at a long run weight right now anyway, so I’ve just been sticking to 3 and 4 mile runs when I can fit them in.

As for my nutrition, I just couldn’t get that darn scale to move no matter what I did.  I know from reading The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain that there are many foods that are thought to be healthy, that may not be healthy for my body.  These past two weeks, I’ve really dialed it in and cleaned up what I was eating and guess what that scale budged.  More importantly, I feel better and actually stopped craving that glass of wine at night.  Foods that I never really wanted to eat are becoming more appealing to me.  Yes, I have been doing a lot of cooking, but I’ve kept the recipes simpler.  Best of all, I think I will be able to maintain these types of meals when I return to my full work schedule.

Today, it is pouring rain outside.  After I came home from the gym, I decided to make three meals to have some pickings for the week.  I roasted some sweet potatoes with onions and garlic to be used as a nice base for poached eggs during the week.  902861B7-BA30-466B-A048-78AAF8033856.jpegI also have the crock pot going (which I haven’t used in forever) to cook some nice boneless chicken thighs with homemade BBQ sauce.  Finally, I’m roasting a tray of vegetables.  These vegetables include butternut squash, sweet potatoes and spinach with cauliflower cream sauce (dairy free).   It smells incredible in my house right now and I’m looking forward to dinner later.

Sometimes, change is good for the soul.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I feel rejuvenated and ready to keep pushing through this rough patch.  Each day I feel that much stronger mentally and physically.   If you are stuck in a rut, like I was, try something new.  You don’t have to try it all at once like I did, but believe me you will find that spark again.  Here is the recipe for the roasted vegetables I made today in case you want to give them a try.6A2B45FF-DE48-41AA-8CDD-F42CDB15E843.jpeg

Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 head of caulifower, cut into florets
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. To make the cream sauce, place a couple inches of water in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, place steamer insert and then cauliflower florets into the pot and cover. Steam for 12-14 minutes, until completely tender.
  3. Drain and return cauliflower to the pot. Add the almond milk, stock, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the pot.
  4. Use an immersion blender or food processor to combine the ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Add the butternut squash and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  6. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft .
  7. Stir in the spinach to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble:

  1. To assemble, grease a large baking dish with coconut oil spray.
  2. Spoon a thin layer of the cream sauce over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange a layer of half of the butternut squash.
  4. Top with half of the spinach mixture, and then all of the sliced sweet potato.
  5. Drizzle with the cream sauce.
  6. Add the remaining half of the spinach, followed by the rest of the butternut squash.
  7. Drizzle the rest of the cream sauce over the top.
  8. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  9. Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*Recipe courtesy of PaleoGrubs.com

Check out The Plant Paradox to rethink some of what you thought you knew about healthy eating.  I find it very interesting and does make sense with the struggles I’ve gone through.

The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain

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Change Your Eating, Change Your Life!

Last week, I talked about how I needed to reevaluate my current nutritional intake and begin to make further changes to improve my health.  I am off for two weeks, so I have more time to read, learn and come up with a new plan of action.  My current goals are to: 1) Improve my health; 2) Improve my sleep; 3) Feel stronger; 4) Lose weight.  I have to accept that though I love to cook, my work schedule makes it hard to do much during the week.  I also admitted to myself that I do not wish to spend my entire Sunday, especially in nicer weather, cooking for the week and/or meal prepping.  I am looking to simplify my life, but make healthier choices by avoiding quick fixes.

I spent my first week off, reading and creating my plan of action for the remainder of the summer.  I will try out this routine while my work schedule is not a full one and hope that I can create some solid habits for when the school-year begins.  I mentioned last week, that I really liked a few of the recipes on the Paleogrub website.  They seemed to meet my criteria of healthy, simple and delicious.  Further, they do not require massive amounts of obscure ingredients.  In fact, I had many of the staples already on hand.  I decided to purchase the Paleogrub Cookbook and their ten week meal plan.  The meal plan is simple to follow and tells you exactly what you need to prepare all meals.  It gives you a specific plan for each day that includes recipes and directions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The Paleogrub Cookbook is digital and once downloaded includes a search feature that is very helpful.  You can follow it exactly as written, or as in my case select the meals that you like.

I know that it is not realistic for me to think I will cook every single meal included in the daily plan.  Some days, I just want a smoothie for breakfast and that’s fine.  Also, what they say serves two people really serves my husband and I with enough leftover for lunch the next day, which is perfect for my work week.  Depending on how much you actually eat, I think you may not need all the lunches listed.  What I did this first week was preview the week and make a plan for what I wanted to cook.  I selected three dinners and one breakfast.  Knowing I will have leftover for lunch, I only selected one lunch this week simply because the photograph looked so appealing.  The plan also conveniently creates a shopping list for you, but I found that it included items for the entire plan as written for the week.  Since I am customizing, based on our personal likes and needs, I did have to modify the shopping list.  This was easy enough to do though, I simply emailed the list to myself and did an edit.

I do not make any money recommending this plan to you, I merely wanted to share that I thought it was good.  The meals are laid out separately by week and I downloaded them to my computer and now have them to return to.  I have noticed the scale moving down this week, which makes me happy.  I don’t feel hungry, or deprived and I feel like I look forward to both cooking and eating my meals.  Here are two recipes that I enjoyed eating this week.5E61D052-1C6F-4EF7-B01C-F7D8B8E13C6B

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • For roasted carrots
    • 1 pound carrots (assorted colors or just orange ones) peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 garlic, minced
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Rest of ingredients
    • 2 small avocados, pitted and sliced or cut into chunks
    • 3 cups arugula or salad greens mix
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • ½ lime, juiced
    • salt, black pepper to taste

I followed this lunch recipe pretty much as written, with only two changes.  Instead of arugula, I used spinach and chopped romaine.  Additionally, I only used one avocado as I felt that was enough for us.  The salad had a bit of a kick as written, so either I added too much red pepper or it needs a bit less.  My husband loved the kick, so it was fine, but next time I will use a bit less red pepper.  I measured by eye, so it could be that I added too much.  Always adjust to your personal taste preferences.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Peel the carrots and cut them into ½ inch pieces.
  3. In a bowl mix the ground cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Add the carrots and toss to combine.
  4. Spread the carrots into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 25 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, place the avocado, arugula or salad greens and warm carrots.
  6. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lime juice and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  7. Divide the salad between serving plates and serve.

This recipe made enough for two to eat salad with ample leftover for next day’s lunch.

ThaiPorkPatties

Thai Pork Burgers

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. minced pork
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 green onions, finely chopped 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey

I followed the recipe pretty much as written, with just one change.  I was not able to find fish sauce and googled what a substitute could be.  I used coconut aminos in place of the fish sauce, but you can use soy sauce as well if you don’t have that on hand.

Directions:

  1. Heat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well.
  3. Using your hand, form 6-8 small patties.
  4. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

I got four nice size patties out of a one pound package or organic ground pork.  This dinner recipe was enough for two with leftovers for lunch the next day.  The patties had a very nice taste.  We topped ours with a spoon of homemade paleo mayonnaise with a pinch of onion powder, garlic and cayenne pepper.

If you try either of these recipes, please let me know how you enjoyed them.  If you have a recipe to share, please leave me a message below.

 

To check out Paleogrubs recipes and meal plan, please visit their site at – Paleogrubs

 

 

Compromises

Sunday dinner is taking a different twist today.  We have been eating a lot of comfort meals lately and many have been meat based. Today, we are enjoying one of our favorite meatless Sunday sauce recipes.   My husband brought home a nice large eggplant today with hopes I’d make eggplant parmesan again.  Since we just had that last week, I decided to turn this beautiful eggplant into a meatless meatball for our sauce.  We’ve had this meal before and it is a nice change of pace from the traditional meatball, and surprisingly quite tasty.

My brother and my niece are both vegetarians.  George grew up on the same meals as I did and has commented on my recent blog posts.  I knew he wouldn’t be eating them though and began to wonder how to offer meatless versions of these family traditions.  I will be experimenting with that concept over the coming months and hope my brother will join me.

image
George on left, Michael on right, yours truly in middle.

During the recent snowstorm, I made a Chicken Schnitzel and George commented how the meatless gravy on spaetzle is often not quite as good as the version we grew up on.  We spoke that day about the mushroom gravy that goes on my Schnitzel. This mushroom based gravy is only used to top the chicken.  That recipe just needs one tweak to be meatless – change the chicken broth to vegetable broth in the recipe.   For Sunday sauce it’s easy to whip up marinara, but for us meatballs are a huge part of this favorite meal.  If I decided to never eat a meatball again, I’d surely be looking for ways to replace them in my sauce.  This eggplant “meatball” is one way to start thinking about alternatives to meat in Sunday sauce.  Today’s menu will include – Sunday Sauce with Eggplant Meatballs served over homemade, hand cut pasta.  Both will be accompanied with a nice robust glass of Merlot and football playoff games.

Meatless Meatballs – Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Eggplant
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Pour glass of Merlot and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.3696CC4B-0446-4256-ABF1-53FED1C597C4
  • Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and trim off ends.  Make a few slits on the cut side and brush with olive oil.   Sprinkle lightly with salt.2881BED9-3233-4F24-BCA7-C8A79D3E2EB1
  • Place the eggplant on a baking sheet, skin side down.
  • Cook at 400 degrees 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size of eggplant.
  • Remove eggplant and allow it to cool before handling.
  • Scoop out the soft insides of the eggplant into your Kitchen Aid mixer with paddle attachment.
  • Add cheese, egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs to the bowl and mix on low until combined.  You may need to add more breadcrumbs if mixture is very soft.F3552CCC-0551-41FD-9EC0-06C9DFDC02F9
  • Roll the mixture into balls and dredge in flour. Fry the balls in olive oil until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.8365AB1D-CD79-4359-8265-EC2436D05429
  • Add to sauce and serve immediately.  There is no reason for these meatballs to cook in the sauce.  They are cooked and ready.  For less saucy eggplant balls, just serve plain with sauce on side.

Last week I shared my sauce recipe, along with the recipe to make easy homemade pasta.  Both recipes can be found by clicking on this link –

Sunday Sauce

Since the eggplant was large, I was also able to make Eggplant Lasagna.   Super easy and great for a gluten free lasagna.  This meal is made and assembled exactly like the traditional version.  The substitution was eggplant for lasagna noodles.    Slice the peeled eggplant lengthwise.   Place on lightly oiled baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.   Let cool, then assemble as usual.

 

How have you tweaked your meals to include meatless versions?  Please share some of your recipes with me.  I am always looking to try something new.  If you make this recipe, please leave me a note to tell me how it was, including any tweaks you made to improve it.

 

Resolutions are not Realistic

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential. – Ellen Goodman

Every January, I hear people talking about their resolutions for living a healthy lifestyle in the new year.  They will exercise more, eat better, stop drinking and the list goes on and on.  But, resolutions are not always realistic.  They are a promise you make to do things differently, but most times they are never fully carried out.

Every January, gyms are overcrowded with people who have made these resolutions.  They vow to come every day and start off strong, but inevitably they can’t maintain this pace because it’s not realistic.  You can’t go from not working out to working out every single day without some soreness, or loss of motivation.  I don’t set resolutions, I make plans.  They often say goals (insert resolutions) are dreams without plans.  I can’t agree more.  So, this year, instead of making a resolution to do a list of things, spend time planning for your success.  Buy a calendar and plan your weeks for healthier living – when will you workout, what will you eat.  This simple change could put you on the road to success.  Now that I’m close to being cleared to return to full activity, that is exactly my plan for this weekend.

Happy Holidays and New Year to all my readers.  I’d love to hear what your plans are for 2018.  Leave me a message below.

Click this link  –  New Year, New You!  to enjoy my New Year’s column to help you get started on your plans for 2018!

 

 

Recipe Swap – Hot Toddy

I was under the weather this past week with a miserable cold and cough.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was allergies or a cold, but after a few days of horrible coughing I knew it was a chest cold.  Anyone that knows me knows I hate taking medicine, especially long term.  I did take something for the cough, but it really wasn’t helping all that much.  When all else didn’t work, I channeled my inner German/Irish grandmother and made myself a cup of hot toddy.  I couldn’t believe how much relief I got from that cup of tea.  I slept like a baby and didn’t cough during the night.

The next few days I had a cup or two of this mix and my chest cleared.  I do still cough occasionally, but overall am feeling better.  Those old wives tales sure do come in handy sometimes.  Here’s the recipe I used for my toddy.

Laura’s Hot Toddy

Ingredients

  • Organic green tea
  • 1/4 tsp raw organic honey
  • 1 tsp organic lemon
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp Slivovitz (you can use Jack Daniels instead)
  • 1 sprinkle of Cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Boil the tea and steep for 3 minutes
  2. Add all ingredients and stir
  3. Sip and enjoy the warmth (I love the Cayenne pepper heat)

My first cup, I admit to using a full shot of the Slivovitz to aid my sleep and it worked like a charm.  First relief I had in days.  If you don’t want any alcohol (though over the counter medicines contain it too) you can eliminate the alcohol and up the sprinkle of pepper.

Do you have a home cold remedy recipe to share?  Please comment in the box below, I’d love to hear about new remedies.  If you try mine, let me know what you think.

Prince of Peace Organic Green Tea 100 Tea Bags

 

Madhava Natural Sweeteners Organic Raw Honey, 22-Ounce

 

Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper Certified Organic Containers – 2.89 Oz

 

Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, 16 Ounce – 1 Pack

 

Santa Cruz Organic Original Lemonade, 1 Quart

**Due to the alcohol in this recipe I do not recommend using with children, especially under the age of 18.  

Recipe Swap – Chicken Pad Thai

I’ve been branching out and trying new recipes that I’ve never cooked before.  I’ve heard so many good things about Thai food, but have yet to try it.  I saw an easy recipe that I thought might be something I’d enjoy.  I decided against purchasing a ready made Thai sauce as I was unable to pronounce many of the ingredients listed on the label.  I used a recipe for homemade Thai sauce found below.  I did not include noodles, but I’m sure you could.  The recipe was super easy to follow and quick!  The whole process took about 30 minutes.  It will be perfect for a work night stir fry and no I don’t have a fancy wok – yet.  The taste of this was delicious, but it was a bit hot which I love.  I’m thinking the heat came from the serrano pepper and not the sauce, so go easy on that if you prefer it milder.

Pad Thai Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. coconut aminos (healthier alternative to soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. organic hoisin sauce
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic ginger (I used minced ginger in jar)
  • 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic cilantro
  • 1⁄2 tsp.  no-salt seasoning

Directions:

1. In a bowl combine all ingredients and set aside until needed for your stir fry.   Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

Chicken Stir-Fry:

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 oz. chicken, cubed
  • 1 small serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp. Pad Thai sauce
  • 1 cubed organic zucchini
  • 1 chopped organic red bell pepper

Directions:

  1. In pan, add 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, zucchini, red bell pepper, chicken and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until chicken browns and is fully cooked. (I actually had leftover grilled chicken that I cubed so it was done real fast.  I cooked the vegetables for a bit first, then added the cooked, cubed chicken to warm.)
  2. Add pad thai sauce.
  3. Stir and warm.

Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

This was a meal by itself, no sides required but you could make a nice garden salad with it.  Be sure you have something to put out the fire in your mouth.  I drank ginger kombucha.

If you try this recipe, please let me know how you liked it.  It was part of a 30 day meal program I participated in recently with Danette May.

Some ingredients needed:

Nutrifera Organic Coconut Coconut Aminos 12.7 fl oz (375 ml)

Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, 20 oz

 

NoSalt Original Sodium-Free Salt Alternative 11 Ounce (Pack of 2)

 

 

Recipe Swap – Gluten Free Gnocchi

Sunday sauce and recipe testing just plain go together. Especially on a chilly, rainy Sunday with nothing to do. I am always looking for ways to make this staple meal healthier. I am not gluten intolerant, but do try to limit the amount of food I eat that contain gluten. Pasta is the first swap I made and I rarely eat pasta that contains gluten. This week’s recipe swap is a delicious, easy to make version of gluten free gnocchi.

Gnocchi are soft dumplings that can be made from semolina, potato or various other combinations of ingredients. The recipe I made today was gluten free and delicious. It was a big hit and the texture was for me perfect. Had I not made them myself I wouldn’t have known they were gluten free. I hope you give them a try.

Gluten Free Garlic Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, strained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 clove roasted garlic (optional)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 tbsp xantham gum

Directions:

  1. Strain ricotta cheese in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes.  Drying out the cheese will ensure your gnocchi are not too dense. (*Mine really didn’t have liquid in it but I did this step in case.)
  2. Roast garlic in a ramekin with olive oil at 250 ̊F (Chop the tops off one clove of garlic but leave the remaining shell on.)  Allow it to cool and then squeeze the garlic clove from the bottom and work your fingers up, pushing out the roasted cloves. Set half of the cloves aside for sauce (or another recipe).
  3. Mix all ingredients together to form a dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. You want the dough to come together to form a ball but not be too dry or stiff, just easy enough to work with and roll without getting stuck to the table!
  4. Cut the dough into 4 sections and roll the first section on a lightly floured surface (using rice flour for gluten-free) into a long log about 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Use a small paring knife to cut the log into 1 inch sections.
  6. Roll the gnocchi with a fork or gnocchi board to create indentations or simply set the gnocchi pieces aside on a foil lined tray.
  7. Continue this process with the remaining dough.
  8. If you will be using the gnocchi later, wrap the tray and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use.
  9. In a large pot, bring water to boil then add half the gnocchi to the boiling water (cooking the gnocchi in batches will prevent it from sticking together). Boil the gnocchi for about 3 minutes or until they float on the surface of the water.
  10. Strain and eat immediately.

*Recipe base on one shared by Integrative Nutrition with substitution of one ingredient

Happily this made enough for my family of three with some leftover for today.  If you have a large family I’d suggest doubling the recipe.  Not sure how they will reheat yet, but I’m sure they will be just fine.  I didn’t bother rolling the gnocchi on my fork to make the dents, but I included those instructions should you want to do so.  For me the soft pillowy clouds were just fine as is.

Please let me know if you try them how you like!  If you have a recipe you’d like to share for an upcoming blog, please let me know in the comments and I’ll contact you directly.

Ingredients used:

Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour – 24 oz

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Xanthan Gum, 8-ounce