Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting Started

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Heaven

Well, I had a really great plan in place today. I was going to start my new "regimen" of menu planning / eating. I started the day with a smoothie, my favorite Blueberry Peanut Butter Smoothie. I added a heaping scoop of Metamucil to that today because I'm on a slew of meds to help control the pain and swelling in my arm. I was told it was arthritis, but my physical therapist believes it is a herniated disc. Either way, things are rather slow going in the bathroom, hence the Metamucil! Sorry, TMI. ;-) I added a piece of Trader Joe's Daily Bread toast with a little butter.

For lunch I was planning on making this salad, which I believe I can get my boys to eat with me. But...we ended up at Taco Bell... What to eat? What to eat? I ended up with a Chicken Cantina Bowl. It's like something you might get at Chipotle but not quite as delicious, and oddly enough, with fewer calories. The total calorie count for the meal is 490 (as posted on the menu). I usually would ask for no sour cream and guac on the side, but of course I forgot. So I ate about 2/3 of the salad. It has grilled chicken, romaine, black beans, white rice, guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. Not bad, but minus the rice and the sour cream I could've saved myself a lot of calories!

Then I woke up from my little afternoon nap, (I was up since 1 a.m. because somehow the Valium I've been prescribed as a muscle relaxer is giving me insomnia!!!) and I had two peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which are deeeevine! And a mug of warm apple cider. Not exactly on the meal plan for a healthy day. Whoops!

Soooo good!
So, here's the recipe for these beauties! I love this recipe because it's easy and everything just goes right into the mixer. There's so much less mess! I substitute chocolate chips for the peanut butter chips, but you could use butterscotch or white chocolate, or whatever suits your fancy. When I'm really feeling indulgent I'll chop up a cup of dark chocolate and toss that in instead of the chips. It creates gooey chocolate strips throughout the cookies and they taste like peanut butter cups, but better. Yeah, it's possible. You should definitely try that.

For dinner I have a lovely crock pot full of turkey chili. Just bell pepper, onions, garlic, ground turkey, chicken stock, and white beans, and of course, lots of chili seasoning. YUM! My house smells so good! Hopefully tomorrow will be healthier!

Here's to peanut butter cookie heaven!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding Healing

Over the last couple weeks I took part in a "Heal Your Gut" bootcamp Facebook group. Through the week I learned a lot about digestion, how and why my gut is unhealthy, and the beginnings of how to heal it. Lydia, the leader/teacher of the group, has enlightened me to many new ideas about how my digestion affects the rest of my body, and what kinds of foods and medicines may be reponsible for my aches and pains. You can read more at her blog Divine Health from the Inside Out.

There is so much I never knew about this subject and so much I still have to learn. From what I can tell, at the most basic, one of the biggest and most damaging reasons for my GI troubles are antibiotics I took when I was young (sometimes I would have 4-5 courses in a year), and a highly processed diet. In any case, an elimination diet is suggested to help me discern which foods are likely causing pain and inflammation. Two to four weeks of only a handful of foods is daunting!

What I've notice about myself is that I like to jump into a new diet/food regimen with both feet and then after a week I find myself giving up. Because I acted on a whim I fail to stick it out in the long run. Ugh! I hope to break this cycle and my plan is to spend an appropriate amount of time researching and preparing before I begin an elimination diet. Beginning in January, after all the holidays and temptation that I may or may not be able to resist, I will do the Whole30 elimination diet. My hope is that this will give me a good basis to start figuring out what is going on in my body.

So what am I doing now? I decided that since I've got a few months before I start the Whole 30 I am going to really work hard to eat healthy foods and eliminate bad foods from my diet so that the elimination diet isn't so sudden and difficult to adapt to. I would like to "crowd out" the bad (processed, sugary, fried, heartburn inducing) foods as I add good, whole, healthy foods to my diet. Obviously this takes planning and preparation, which can sometimes prove to be difficult. I've made a template for myself for now and it looks like this: Breakfast -- Sandwich with eggs, thin slice cheese, light + fiber english muffn, handful of spinach OR a smoothie with lots of greens and fruit; Lunch -- Big Salad with seeds, nuts, dried fruit; Dinner -- Beans, any way, any form, just get them in! Plus a serving of cooked veggies. This is loosely based on a Dr. Fuhrman style menu, getting as much greens and beans in as I can.

I think overall the most important goal is to eat whole, real foods that heal instead of hurt. I'm still learning which foods fit this criteria, and, which ones really fit that bill for me in particular. I'm sure my understanding of which foods those are will change as I go along this journey but I look forward to becoming more and more healthy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

So Long!

My Baby started preschool!!!
Wow! What a year it has been. I can't believe it's been that long since I've posted, but alas! It has been a year. So much has happened, good and bad, but what I know most is that I spent much of the time feeling sad and sorry for myself, and really not caring about what I was eating. This of course led to some weight gain, which led to feeling sorry for myself, which led to emotional eating, and so on and so forth. Obviously not good. I must say I had bursts of courage and hope when I would try and force myself back into healthy eating habits and exercise, but nothing stuck.

That is until the beginning of last month, September, when my wonderful and amazing husband had had enough. You see, when I don't eat healthfully, neither does he and his pants were starting to fit too tight just like mine. He decided enough was enough and we were going to get healthy. It really helps to have someone to push you and encourage you. We spent all of last month tracking calories, exercising, and shedding pounds. It was amazing! He lost 10 pounds in just 5 weeks, and I lost 7 in 4 weeks.

I literally felt like a weight had been lifted and I could see through the fog.

In February of this year, we moved into a new house, so exciting and lots of room to move! But a week later I ended up in the hospital with unexplainable chest pain. It wasn't my heart. They told me it was heartburn, possibly stress related.  They prescribed me heartburn meds. When I was finally able to get to see a GI Dr. he said the same thing, but ordered an ultrasound of my abdomen. My gallbladder is full of stones, they told me. But that's not what was causing the pain so I also had an endoscopy done, which revealed Barrett's Disease in my esophagus and gastritis. They gave me more heartburn medicine and a follow up appointment 3 months later. I really wanted to try and control the heartburn through right eating and exercise, but was told it probably wouldn't work and once Barrett's is present I needed to be on the meds. So I ate. Whatever I wanted. Whenever I wanted. I told myself I was being good, but as I look back I was eating emotionally. I was sad that I had a "disease" and since I was on meds I basically gave myself permission to eat whatever passed my way.

Well, when Josh made his decision to be healthy he really decided for both of us and it helped me get out of the funk I was in. I was doing really well, feeling like I can do this and who cares if I'm sick, I will be healthy! I found some really good online resources about healing your gut and all the other parts of your body that can be affected by an unhealthy GI system. I decided to go off my meds and work on my eating as hard as I can.

Then last week I started having terrible pain in my shoulder and neck. I went twice to the chiropractor but it kept getting worse. I finally went to my primary care physician and he had an x-ray done. Apparently I have arthritis in my spine. What the heck!??! That's all I could think. I'm 33 how does this happen?! I felt like I'd been hit with a ton of bricks. Just when I had decided to get healthy and I'd been exercising for a month straight and getting more into I can barely move. I'm laid out on the couch for two days. The meds my doctor gave me for pain and to relax my muscles barely take the edge off. Back to sad and feeling sorry for myself... Oh yeah, and emotional eating.

Once I worked through the feelings of overwhelm and injustice, I remembered that the book I bought about healthy digestion has an entire section about arthritis. Maybe one does affect the other. Maybe I've been preparing for this for the last month. Maybe God already knew this was coming and He's got a plan and a purpose.

My sister reminded me of these verses:
Isaiah 58:8
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Psalm 107:20-22
He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
    and tell of his works with songs of joy.

In our Bible study this morning she gave this verse:
I Peter 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

So I rejoice. I will be on a new food journey: learning to eat foods that heal my body. And I will be on a new prayer journey: learning to pray for healing in my body.  I hope to learn a lot along the way. I hope to share all that I learn so that the glory of Christ may be revealed in the ordeal and trial.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Healthy" Breakfast Burritos

Soyrizo Breakfast Burrito
Even before I decided to try to be a vegetarian I liked "soyrizo." Actually, when I first heard of it I fake gagged and said "deeeeesgusting!" But then I was tricked into eating it under the premise that it was real chorizo. Not even my dad could tell the difference. I've pretty much never gone back. Josh was already boycotting chorizo because he accidentally read the ingredients. Big mistake! I, on the other hand, have always held that it doesn't matter what's in it, if tastes good I'll eat it. Much like my mom's mantra It doesn't matter if it feels good as long as it looks good! Unfortunately neither of those arguments really hold much water as I am now scrutinizing every label with a magnifying glass and my mom is wearing orthotics! (Don't tell her I told you!)

Anyway, back to my burritos. On our honeymoon to Maui Josh and I ate breakfast at this cool little restaurant called Soup Nuts and Java Jazz. Such a funny name. Turns out it was a coffee shop by day and a jazz club by night. I ordered the chorizo breakfast burrito, which was the size of my head! It had chorizo and eggs, black beans, and a load of cheddar. It was so so good! I thought it such a strange concoction with the black beans, served on a bed of Spanish rice. Oh my. That was seven years ago and I still dream about it!

With a few changes I would venture to say my version of this burrito is quite healthy. Lots of breakfast protein and healthy carbs, not to mention veggies and beans! I went ahead and substituted soyrizo for the real deal. I almost always add baby spinach to my eggs, so I included that in this recipe too. If you chop the spinach small and add it to the scrambled eggs before you cook them you will not even taste it! (This is pretty much the only way I can get Jer to eat spinach!) If you like a stronger spinach flavor, you can saute it before adding the eggs to the pan. Here is my healthy version of this delightful burrito.

"Soyrizo" Breakfast Burrito
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 package Soyrizo -- I like the Trader Joe's brand.
6 Eggs -- You can use more if you'd like more burritos. I'd say up to 10.
A couple large handfuls of Baby Spinach, chopped small, and some extra to add later
1/2 cup Black Beans, drained and rinsed
6 Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas -- You may need more or less depending on how full you like your burritos.
A sprinkling of Cheese -- Right now I have a Mexican blend that I've been using, but you can use whichever kind you prefer, Cheddar is tastiest.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove the Soyrizo from the package and add to the pan. Use a masher or wooden spoon to break it up and let it cook for about a minute or so before stirring. Since it's already "cooked" your goal is just to brown it up and add flavor. Stir every couple of minutes or so till browned.

Meanwhile scramble the eggs with salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add chopped spinach to the eggs and whisk it all together. Add the egg/spinach mixture to the soyrizo once it is browned. Let it sit for a moment to begin cooking, then use long strokes with a wooden spoon to mix.

Once the egg is mostly cooked through add the black beans. Continue cooking for another minute or two till the beans are heated through.

Now you can begin assembling your burritos! If you have a gas range you can heat your tortillas right on the stove top, otherwise you'll want to preheat a pan or "comal" (cast iron skillet) to warm them up. I like to heat one tortilla at a time, then make the burrito before I heat the next. You could heat all the tortillas and place them in a (lintless) kitchen towel to stay warm, then assemble the burritos all at once.

Here's the lineup: tortilla, light layer of baby spinach (you can leave this out for kids or picky eaters as I did here), soyrizo and eggs with black beans, sprinkle cheese; wrap! If you've never wrapped a burrito before you'll want to fold the bottom end (and top if you'd like) then roll from one side to the other. Make sure you're tucking all that yummy goodness inside as you go.

That's it! Enjoy!!! (With a sprinkling of hot sauce of course! My fave bottled kind is Tabasco Chipotle.)

P.S. If you're having a cheat day or just want to be a little decadent go ahead and use real chorizo and white flour tortillas. Don't forget to load up on Cheddar too! I could die happy after eating this...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Menu Planning

If you're like me and you like to make schedules and spread sheets then planning menus can be exciting and a fun challenge. But most of the time menu planning can be a bit difficult and, let's face it, boring. Even when you like to make lists and schedules it's not always the most fun. I've had a few people mention how meal planning is hard and wish they could do it better. Well, you're in luck because I have a few tricks up my sleeves that I'd like to share.

The very first thing you could do is Google it. I know it seems obvious but there are lots of great ideas out there and some helpful websites that will either do it for you or help you out along the way. I found this post on that gives several "basic" recipes with variations on the theme. This is an easy way to use the same ingredients throughout the week and have a starting point for your planning. Easy! has a section called everday cooking which includes a fast weeknight dinners tab. They basically give you a menu for the week's dinners. This is super helpful and, if you like experimenting with menus and new food ideas, it could be a good place to start.

I like to have somewhat of a routine to my meal planning. Each night M-F has a "theme" and every week I choose a meal from that category. I use alliteration because it's easy to remember, i.e. Macaroni Monday. You could have Meatless Monday, Meaty Monday, Mexican Monday, etc. I think you get the point. Planning my weekly menu this way helps to focus my planning ideas. Here's a run down of how I do it:
  • Macaroni Monday - This includes basically any pasta/noodle dish I make or would like to make. We don't have macaroni every Monday, but you could! Sometimes I'll make rice noodles and we'll have Asian, or shredded veggie "noodles" in a wrap.
  • Taco Tuesday - Mexican food! Yes please!
  • Sandwich Wednesday - Sandwiches are so easy and left overs come in handy here quite often. If sandwiches don't seem dinner appropriate to you or your significant other throw a little extra cheese in there and heat it on a grill pan. Ta da: Panini! This category also includes anything on a bun or in a wrap: burgers, sloppy joe's, burritos... You can always include a veggie or salad on the side or make it a veggie sandwich/wrap/burger/burrito.
  • Slow Cooker Thursday - Thursdays are hard for me because it's getting close to the weekend and I'm feeling less and less like cooking. It's also the night we have the least amount of time for dinner because we have music rehearsal at church. I have to be creative here and make something that doesn't require too much energy to get on the table and that will clean up quick. That's where my slow cooker comes in handy! Since we've gone mostly vegetarian throughout the week it's a little harder to find meals to cook in the slow cooker, but any kind of soup or chili is always a hit. There are millions of recipes out there, even whole cookbooks devoted to slow cookers!
  • Family Friday - We always eat together, but this is one night we like to have a fun, easy meal that I don't have to work too hard at. It usually means pizza! I know it's kid food but I looooooooove pizza! We'll usually get take-and-bake or go to Round Table, then out for ice cream or a walk to the park. Basically this is a really great night to get the kids involved and have them help you make dinner or pick what they want to eat. Give yourself a break here and make something easy!
  • Saturdays we eat dinner out or Josh helps me cook something yummy. I don't usually plan it.
  • Sundays we eat left overs and prep for the week ahead.

So there you have it. I will say that before I start my meal planning I check my cupboards, fridge, and freezer to see what I've got on hand. This helps me choose meals that incorporate those ingredients. Just this one thing saves money and time. Sometimes it saves me an entire trip to the grocery store because I have enough on hand to make a few days worth of meals. You can also use the "What's for Dinner" tool at to plan your meals based on the ingredients you have on-hand. You list three ingredients you have and it gives you four recipes which include those things. Couldn't be simpler!

Meal planning takes time so plan ahead to plan your meals. Set aside a half hour or an hour on Friday or Saturday and just do it! If you feel stuck or uninspired ask your hub or kids what they like that you make. Sometimes Josh will remind me of a meal I made that I had totally forgotten about.

The last tip is the hardest one for me: stick to your menu! I maybe felt like stuffed peppers when I made the menu but now they don't sound good. Boo. Force yourself to use the ingredients you've got and make the meal anyway. Turn it into something that does sound good or switch it with another night of the week. This way you save more moola and the food doesn't go bad.

Here's what a typical week might look like for us:
Monday - Spaghetti with Turkey meatballs
Tuesday - Veggie Tacos
Wednesday - Black Bean Burgers with Green Bean "Fries"
Thursday - Meatless Turkey Chili (I use Beef-less Ground Beef from Trader Joe's)
Friday - Papa Murphy's followed by mini blizzards at Dairy Queen
Saturday - Grilled Salmon, Baked Potatoes, Broccoli

Hope this was helpful!

P.S. I also plan lunches based on what leftovers we have so we make sure to eat it all!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Veggie Tacos

Veggie tacos...yum!

Well our healthy eating is going really well! I say that enthusiastically because I'm so surprised by it. Ha ha. We've ventured into "diets" before only to have crazy withdrawals and binges. I think we are learning from our mistakes, curbing our cravings, and really loving the benefits of a healthier diet. The weight loss really helps with keeping us motivated too! Funny thing, our vegetarian diet is moving quickly toward vegan, but I don't know if we'll ever really take it there. We are finding great ways to add flavor without unhealthy fats, and most of the time we don't even miss them! Take, for example, these yummy veggie tacos I've now made three times for dinner. No meat, no cheese or sour cream. Just sauteed vegetables, and whatever toppings I have on hand in a corn tortilla. The first time we ate them we had just tacos, no sides. Surprisingly satisfying.

Mexican food has to be one of my favorite things on earth...probably because I was raised on it, but mostly because it's wonderful. When I first started thinking about healthy eating it seemed like I would have to give up most of what I love about Mexican food...melty cheese, flour tortillas, non-vegetarian refried beans (that means they're fried in rendered bacon fat--sounds gross tastes amazing!), tostadas. And going vegetarian seemed to seal the deal. I thought well, I can eat beans and salsa. It's taken a long time for me to like avocados, so now I can have guacamole too. As I have expanded my horizons I've learned to add Mexican flavors to my veggies, er, veggies to my flavors...yeah that one. Trust me it's nothing fancy, but it sure is good. I'm so glad that I'm learning to eat vegetables and that pretty much anything in a (corn or whole wheat) tortilla is delectable!

I found that whenever we ate Mexican food there were little or no vegetables on the table. Unless you count salsa because as my dad says, "Salsa is a vegetable!" So, I've been making something like a black bean and corn salad with zuchinni and red bell pepper that I added as a side to our taco nights a long time ago. I love it!

This concoction has become a base for many a Mexican dish in my house, and now it has become a taco!

Veggie Tacos
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1/2 large Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Corn Kernels -- You can use frozen, canned, or fresh. I like to keep the frozen ones on hand because they taste fresher than canned and I can use them year-round.
1 cup Black Beans
1 medium Zucchini, cut in half lenthwise then sliced into 1/4 in half moons
2-3 small potatoes, diced -- I don't always add potatoes I was just craving them, so this is totally optional!

If you are using potatoes you'll want to start those first. I cooked mine separately because they take a little longer. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat till shimmering, add potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and a little bit of cumin. Cover and do not disturb while you get the peppers and onions going. Occasionally return to the pan to stir and turn the potatoes so that all sides turn golden and cook until the potatoes are soft. Try not to stir too frequently or they'll turn to mush!

Meanwhile, saute bell pepper and onions with a sprinkling of salt and pepper in 1 Tbsp olive oil till translucent. Add the garlic in at the last minute just to get it started cooking. You don't want to burn it so only cook about 30 seconds or so before you move on. Add zucchini, and if you're using frozen corn add that too and cook till zucchini is soft. (I didn't use zucchini in the tacos pictured because I didn't have any, hence the potatoes!) Finish with cumin, more salt, and pepper, then add black beans and heat through. Every measurement is to your taste so make sure you taste along the way for seasoning and use as much or as little of each vegetable as you prefer.

Once you've added the beans start on your tortillas. If you have a gas stovetop you can heat the tortillas right on the burner. If not, use a cast iron griddle or any flat pan that you've pre-heated. Use tongs so you don't burn your fingers! I like to heat them till they are nice and soft. You can pile them -- folded in half -- in a folded dish towel on a plate or keep them in a tortilla warmer till you've heated them all up. Fill each tortilla with veggies, and add whatever toppings you wish. My suggestions to try: fresh baby spinach (you won't even taste it!), avocados, salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro. Delish!

Veggie Tacos