Perspective

We got back recently from a much-needed spring break trip to somewhere much, much warmer than Minnesota. Traveling is always such a good reminder that it’s important to step away from regular life in order to get some perspective on things. Without fail, anytime I leave my home (whether it’s for a quick trip up north to a cabin, or a longer trip to a different country), I am able to see things in a different way. That thing that bothers me so much at home? Space and distance helps me realize it’s not a big deal. Meeting new people from different walks of life? A really good reminder that the bubble I live in is just that: a bubble. It’s important to re-learn this lesson, over and over.

So, I didn’t cook on vacation, and I truly enjoyed being provided with all my meals each day. However, I also realize how hard it is to eat 80/20 (80% health-affirming, 20% whatever TF I want) when I don’t have control over what’s being served. Luckily, the place we stayed had tons of fruits and veggies, really fresh fish and salads, made to order smoothies, etc. On the converse, it also had unlimited open bar and really good churros. I would say I veered more towards the 50/50 or maybe even 40/60, which was totally enjoyable but wholly unsustainable in the long run. I always welcome coming back home to my routine. Here’s a couple of photos of one of my breakfast and lunches, and you can see my plate is filled with really good stuff. On the left is one of my breakfasts and on the right is one of my lunches. I really miss my daily breakfast churro. Not pictured are the very yummy cocktails, the slab of steak and potatoes, the emergency hot dog I had to eat when my blood sugar dropped too low and nothing else was available (at home I would have had a banana, some peanut butter, Triscuits or something similar) and the six or seven mini desserts we would sample from the buffet. And it’s all good.

I came home to an obscene amount of snow mold everywhere, of which I’m super allergic, so this week has been rough so far. My throat is scratchy, my eyes are itchy, my nose is runny, and my energy is nonexistent. My meal plan for the week seems like it might be out the window, which is fine. My husband picked up convenience food from the grocery on the way home last night (veggie sushi and Brussels sprouts for me). I will take each day as it comes. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite recipes from previous posts that you might enjoy. One pot pasta is a perennial favorite and so easy. Customizable in so many ways, you can make it your own. And now that it’s warm in a lot of places, it’s time to bring back the caprese pasta salad we love so much. This one is Dr. Jill Biden’s recipe. If you’re looking for something that isn’t pasta, try this BBQ chicken, Spanish style.

Have a tasty week!

What We Ate Last Week & What’s On The Menu This Week

Remember how a few weeks ago I said that most of the time my meal plans go awry for some reason or another? This last week was the perfect example. Monday and Tuesday went great, when I made farotto and a salad (risotto made with farro) and Tuscan bean soup with bruschetta, respectively. Wednesday things went off the rails when I found out the rest of my family had things going on and would not be joining me for dinner. So, I kept the scallops in the freezer and ordered myself Crisp & Green for takeout. I love C&G salads, but I’m a little irritated that probably 50% of the time something is wrong with my order. Still, they are really yummy and healthy so I keep getting them. Thursday, we had Eat for Equity as planned, and Friday my husband got us reservations at Martina, one of my favorite places to eat and have a cocktail. We had scallops, pasta, and Brussels sprout salad, with a delicious banana caramel crepe for dessert. Our plans Saturday were foiled because our paddle party was cancelled due to weather, so we punted and had more Eat for Equity. We tried watching Jurassic World Dominion but it was just meh so we switched to our daughter’s high school’s championship hockey game, which was super fun to watch, and they won state! Sunday I heated up the lasagne from Eat for Equity and we had that and a salad while watching the Oscars. My daughter put together this fun snack tray below. Yes, there’s candy and cookies there! And microwave popcorn. These are all ok (we practice moderation). I lost the Oscar’s ballot competition by a mile.

Oscar’s Snack Tray

Moving on to this week’s plan!

MONDAY: The scallop recipe from last week’s post, along with some leftover roasted vegetables from Eat For Equity.

TUESDAY: Sicilian chickpea and escarole soup with whole grain bread dipped in olive oil.

WEDNESDAY: We have a retirement party to attend, so we will be out (on a school night!)

THURSDAY: Eat for Equity

FRIDAY: Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been told this is not an actual traditional St. Patrick’s meal, but I love corned beef and cabbage and eat it once a year, at most, on this day.

SATURDAY: Eat for Equity

SUNDAY: French onion soup casserole. My daughter and I are big fans of French onion soup, and this just looks cozy and delicious and I love the addition of white beans. Sadly, winter is far from over here, so this recipe just spoke to me, and it came highly recommended.

I hope you have a delicious and restful week! I will need some extra zzz’s thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

What I Cooked Last Week/What I Plan To Cook This Week

I got a lot of interest in my meal planning post last week. And it makes sense. There are some weeks when I sit down to plan the menu for the week and I think “What do I even cook?” My mind just goes completely blank. It’s nice to see what other people are doing with their cooking lives and get new ideas.

First things first: how closely did my actual cooking life last week resemble the plan? I give myself an 9/10. The only change was that on Wednesday I made homemade chicken noodle soup out of the leftover roast chicken because my kiddo wasn’t feeling well. (FYI, if your celery is looking anemic and bendy, throw it in some soup instead of tossing it in the garbage or compost). So I punted on the coconut curry until Thursday, which punted the Eat For Equity meal until Friday. Which means on Friday instead of going out or ordering in, we assembled the most amazing shrimp po’ boys topped with coleslaw made with miso dressing and collards with raisins. We were supposed to go out with friends Saturday but that stupid cold that’s going around foiled our plans, so while our daughter was out, we ate Po’ Boy leftovers and watched the Yellowstone prequel 1923. This time we also ate braised butter beans along with it, also from Eat For Equity. And tonight, we are going out, an usual plan for us for Sunday evening. Anyway, maybe I should give myself an 11/10 for cooking an additional meal this week. Here are some photos of the things we ate. As I keep saying, I’m not a professional blogger who curates amazing photos. I’m a real person who doesn’t have the patience to stage a photo, so you’ll see real-life depictions of what food actually looks like.

This week, I plan on making the following (they are all from the America’s Test Kitchen The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook so I’ll provide similar recipe links. OR you can buy the book or pay to have access to the recipes online):

MONDAY: Roast cod with chermoula (a sauce made with cilantro and other delicious things), and broccolini with garlic and red pepper flakes.

TUESDAY: I’m chaperoning my daughter’s Model United Nations conference and then playing paddle (if you don’t know, definitely watch the video link. It’s such a fun winter sport!) Tuesday late afternoon, so I’ll be pulling out a peanut stew with winter vegetables from the freezer that I ordered from Eat for Equity. The recipe is from Bryant Terry’s Afro Vegan Cookbook. I plan on serving it with toasted sourdough.

WEDNESDAY: Pasta with zucchini and tomatoes and pine nuts, served with a green salad with Marcona almonds and manchego cheese.

THURSDAY: Eat For Equity

FRIDAY: Out

SATURDAY: Eat For Equity

SUNDAY: Crappy Dinner Party (if you don’t know about this yet, read about it here). It’s our turn to host, and I’m thinking maybe my husband can smoke something in our smoker, TBD).

I also plan on making a chopped salad with chickpeas along the way for lunch. Something like this but with my leftover goat cheese instead of feta. As usual, I will also probably eat avocado toast with an easy salad once or twice. Here’s a photo of what my lunches look like most days.

I hope you all have a delicious and healthy week ahead.

Let’s Talk About Stress

stress-emoji

Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.

 

 

New Recipe! Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill

Did you know studies have shown eating fatty fish with high omega 3 content once a week can help protect your brain? It’s true! If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease, have Type II diabetes (which predisposes you to Alzheimer’s) or just want to do something healthy for yourself, I highly recommend eating salmon on a regular basis. Wild caught salmon is best — farmed salmon generally has less omega 3 content and is sometimes fed a diet of corn and soy. Read below for more information on why salmon, garlic, and olive oil are healthy for your body and brain.

 

roasted-salmon-with-garlic-and-dill

 

If you like this recipe, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media pages! Please leave a comment too, I love to hear from you!

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Salmon with Clementine Cucumber Salsa

NEW RECIPE! Spicy Chipotle Salmon

NEW RECIPE! Grilled Salmon with Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday. It’s a short week! For that let’s celebrate. Surely all the kids are back in school and this week is probably hectic for many. Here’s some good information and a quick recipe to get you through to Friday.

I’ve always believed that if more people got in the kitchen and cooked meals for themselves and their families, they would be healthier overall. An acquaintance once lamented that she felt like there were so many nutrition rules that it felt impossible to feed herself and her daughter “the right way”, so she gives up and resorts to takeout. I say that the nutrition and wellness community has failed her if that’s what she (and likely so many others) feel. The truth is, a jar of decent quality pasta sauce and a box of whole wheat noodles with a bagged salad on the side is vastly healthier than a drive-thru burger and fries. So, if that’s where you are starting, that’s ok. Trust me, you will progressively become more confident in your cooking and before you know it you will have a repertoire of healthy and delicious meals that don’t feel overwhelming to make on a weeknight. I loved Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s take on this in her article “The Cure Is in the Kitchen” in  Experience Life’s recent issue. Take a look.

Speaking of making things easier in the kitchen, one approach that I’ve always practiced is to make extra for the freezer or fridge. When making soup, I often double the recipe and fill up Ziploc gallon bags with the excess. Lay them flat in the freezer for easy stacking. On busy nights just pull out a bag and reheat. Sides like roasted veggies are delicious warmed up or cold from the fridge all week long. In fact, I just bought another rimmed roasting sheet on Monday so I can easily make even more.  After this hectic week of back-to-school and houseguest coming on Friday,  I will also start using my weekends or Mondays to make a big batch of quinoa or other healthy salad that I can eat throughout the week for lunch. 

And finally, here’s a simple and delicious looking recipe for your next Meatless Monday or whenever you want to load up on veggies. These Vegan Thai Curry Vegetables look fantastic for a cool fall day, and the gentle spice should be well tolerated by all in your house. I would serve them over brown rice and fruit on the side and call it a day. In fact, it’s what’s for dinner tonight.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading. As always, please pass it along, post it to your pages, and subscribe if you did! And I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

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Midweek Mashup

Hearty Lentil Soup

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday.

This week I bring you a delicious cookie recipe that happens to be vegan and wheat free (whaaaat?!) and some information that will hopefully enrich your life a little and maybe even make it better.

Do you eat granola?  And if so, do you consider it a healthier option than other popular breakfast foods? Nutritionist have long known that most commercial granola is chock full of sugar and consider it a dessert. I suppose that rings true with many of the granolas you’ll find on the shelves. I have found one I love with only good ingredients like oats, dried fruit, millet and quinoa. Purely Elizabeth has an ancient grain line that I love, with my fave being cranberry pecan. It has 6 grams of sugar per 1/3 cup. Ok, yes, 1/3 cup is a very small serving. I pour that much into my bowl and add slivered almonds, fresh blueberries and chia seeds. So, then I’ve got good proteins and fat and it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. You can also use it to sprinkle on unsweetened yogurt. The thing about granola is that it isn’t meant to be eaten in large quantities. Think of it as an addition to your breakfast rather than the main event. 

As you might have read in previous posts, my 11 year old is in the middle of an elimination diet. She’s about halfway through. It’s been a challenge, to say the least. But she’s getting used to it. Yesterday she told me she thought giving up wheat and dairy would be the hardest but actually it’s corn and nightshades, because potato starch and/or corn derivatives are in most packaged foods. Most gluten-free products contain one or both. Almost all candy has corn syrup (yes, candy isn’t healthy, we know that). It’s hard to avoid corn, no matter how much you might try, unless everything you eat is prepared at home from scratch (hello, unrealistic for most).One thing that she has missed is a good chocolate chip cookie. Most chocolate chips have dairy, but I found a brand called Enjoy Life that are vegan and also free of almost all allergens. Yesterday she made a batch of spelt chocolate chip cookies that were to die for. I’m not kidding, they are so good. She found the recipe here: Chocolate Chip Cookies. The only thing I did to help was put the cookies in the oven and take them out at the end. Don’t these look amazing?


And finally, if you’re like me and try to make meals using up your pantry items a few times a year, here’s a great list of things you can cook. My husband gets super excited when I do this because it means I’m being economical and there’s nothing sexy than being economical!

Here’s to a great rest of your week. As always, please share this post with someone you think might enjoy it. Even better, click to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any great tidbits!

 

 

 

New Recipe: Easy Peanut Butter Balls (and an update on the elimination diet).


Today is day 10 of my daughter’s modified elimination diet. Tomorrow is the first day that we start adding foods back in. She gets to eat 5-6 servings of one of the food groups that we’ve been avoiding, followed by two days of “watch and wait”. She has chosen nightshades  because she really misses tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

I’ll be honest: neither one of us has seen or noticed any changes since starting the elimination protocol. Maybe when we introduce things back into her diet she’ll notice something. Hopefully there won’t be a big reaction which would indicate a sensitivity and a need to avoid.

The last 10 days have been trying for her. I get it. When you’re told you can’t have something it only makes you want it more, right? But she is still being a trooper and I commend her for it. There has been no whining, no tantrums, no pushback. She’s stoic (like her dad) and while she really has disliked this experience intensely, she’s persevered.

We just took a three day girls’ trip and I packed much of our food. Eating out was a challenge but we found some places willing to work with us. Two of the restaurants specialized in vegan and gluten-free which usually means that they are more open to special requests. And both happened to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so that was cool. Shout outs go to At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe and Duluth Grill!

Now on to the new recipe I promised. These Easy Peanut Butter Balls are full of protein, healthy fats, and healthy whole grains. They really couldn’t be easier to make and they are guaranteed to please just about anyone. Make a double batch and keep them in your fridge for an easy grab-and-go breakfast for busy mornings and after school snacks.

EASY PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup natural peanut butter (I really like the no-stir Whole Foods creamy)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup vanilla protein powder (I couldn’t get by without Orgain, which happens to be vegan)

1/2 cup honey (use local if you have seasonal allergies, as it’s thought to help with symptoms)

Optional: chocolate chips

METHOD:

Stir all the ingredients together, then form into balls the size of a golf ball. If they are too sticky, add a bit more protein powder or oats. Likewise, if they are too dry, add a bit of honey or peanut butter. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Will you try these? Do you have a variation you like?  Tell me in the comments!

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NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

New Recipe! Pan Fried Tofu

 

NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

If you’ve read my blog recently, you know my daughter is currently doing a modified elimination diet. Even though not one person has made a disparaging comment, I feel a little defensive about this decision. I don’t take drastic dietary changes lightly, even as a holistic nutrition student. Making big diet adjustments can be really hard on anyone, and for kids even more so. But, here we are, and on day 5 no less.  It has not been fun for her, but I’m doing my best to make foods for her that are similar to what she already loves.  Yesterday I made a quesadilla using brown rice tortillas and goat’s milk cheddar.  Let’s just say that wasn’t a home run.

But on Saturday morning, I made chocolate pancakes using the spelt flour that was recommended by our nutritionist. They were delicious and she asked for them again yesterday. SUCCESS! Sadly I forgot to snap a photo for the blog, but rest assured they looked fantastic.

They aren’t gluten-free, but rather wheat-free which is part of our protocol. They were fluffy (but also dense, if that makes any sense?!). And the taste was on par with traditional pancakes. Here’s how I made them:

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups spelt flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups milk (we used Ripple milk, a new milk made from green peas)

A generous sprinkling of dark chocolate chips or blueberries

Butter (we used Earth Balance vegan butter)

METHOD:

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Slowly fold in the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing thoroughly.

Add in chocolate chips (you can also use blueberries or whatever add-ins you prefer). I didn’t measure the chips, but rather eyeballed to our preference.

Melt a little butter in the skillet and add a mixing-spoonful of batter to the hot surface.

Cook, checking for doneness frequently. When the pancake is firm enough to flip, turn over and cook until done.

ENJOY! Please let me know what you think of these pancakes if you make them at home! I always love comments and shares. 

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New Recipe! Pan Fried Tofu

Braised Chicken With Green Olives & Garlic

 

 

Elimination Diet

This past week my 11 year old daughter was put on a modified elimination diet by a nutritionist. She has some GI stuff going on, plus eczema and keratosis pilaris (“chicken skin” on the backs of her arms). As a nutrition student, I understand that there are people who have food sensitivities and that sometimes those sensitivities lead to inflammation in the body, which can present itself in lots of different ways. Skin issues, headaches, GI distress, mood imbalances are just a few ways in which food sensitivities can show themselves. 

So, off to the nutritionist we went. After a thorough intake she suggested a modified elimination diet (she has 30 years of experience and has a master’s degree in nutrition, so I feel quite comfortable in her expertise). Doing an elimination diet with an 11 year old growing girl who is an adventurous eater is a major bummer. But, it’s only for a few weeks so we will give it a try.

The foods she has to avoid completely for 10 days are:
1. Corn. This includes corn starch and high fructose corn syrup. I am realizing corn is in A LOT of packaged foods.

2. Nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant). This is a bummer because she eats peppers and tomatoes in large quantities. And, you know, french fries.

3. Cow’s dairy. Again, in so many different foods. Sheep and goat dairy is ok.

4. Wheat. This doesn’t mean gluten-free. She can have spelt and rye and barley, etc. I realize after looking at oodles of gluten-free packaged goods that most have corn starch or potato starch in place of wheat.

Last night we went out to dinner at the Yard House, a restaurant that has an extensive menu. After much back and forth with the waitress, who was really accommodating, we finally settled on grilled shrimp, jasmine rice, and steamed broccoli.  All of their sauces contain corn starch or soy sauce (wheat). The orange chicken, the chicken rice bowl, the street tacos, the chicken teriyaki — all were off limits. If it were me at age 11 I would have cried and thrown a fit, but my daughter rolled with it.  That’s not to say she’s happy, for last night she announced that “I’m ok but I *hate* it”. I get it, it stinks. But it’s a short period of time and hopefully we will be able to identify any foods that are causing issues, cut them out for a period of time, and then reintroduce them slowly back. The end game is hopefully a healthier kid.

I dabbled with the idea of doing the elimination with her in solidarity but I quickly realized that I needed my energy and focus to help her through these next few weeks. When she’s done it’s quite possible I will give it a try. Don’t expect me to give up coffee or wine, though.

I’ll keep you updated on our progress! This is day 3, and I’m sure there will be lots to share in upcoming days.