When Food Becomes The Enemy

Food is such a central part of our every day lives. Everywhere, people gather together around food. I notice it in my own circle of friends who share pictures of delectable meals on social media that tantalize my taste buds. All around me I see people coming together in pubs, cafes and restaurants; down every block, around every corner. Aromas drifting down the street from the food carts in the area have taken on a whole new meaning and I usually take pause to inhale the goodness. My observations are more keen these days because this world of food and gathering places has suddenly become obsolete for me.

The way I eat and enjoy food has taken a new twist. My health suddenly plummeted and it became nearly impossible for me to eat. I feel like my body is betraying me. I never know anymore how it will behave each day.  I’ve sustained myself on some limited food choices that do not give me problems. As I begin to feel better my choices are increasing, but it is slow going as I move into the second month of my health battles.

What began as annoying pain and discomfort when I ate became complete misery in a matter of days. After too many days of painful lymph node swelling in my neck I decided a visit to the doctor was necessary. Instead of making an appointment with my primary doctor who is inconveniently located for me and tends to dismiss my health concerns, I chose a clinic in my neighborhood that took my insurance. I thought this would be a quick visit with a doctor who would give me an antibiotic and I’d be on my way back to health. Oh, but that was not the case at all! I was suddenly thrust into a world foreign to me; that of hospitals, specialists, endless blood draws!, strange tests and more doctors. The results were two severe diagnosis’s that would be life-changing. It would also require surgery.

Once this battle became a discussion about slicing open my body, I sought out the opinion and care from my primary who doubted both diagnosis’s. My own research had already given me doubts with one of the diagnosis’s so of course I liked what she was saying. However, her minimal observations of my physical symptoms and her dismissal once again of my concerns left me with a ridiculously mild diagnosis that I knew was incorrect. I left her office with a treatment plan of pharmaceuticals I had no intention of filling, tears of frustration streaming down my face feeling desperate to find out what was wrong with me. At this point, my diet consisted of about 12 different foods I could tolerate. The amount I ate at one time greatly diminished, I was uncomfortable and in pain often. Most concerning to me was my steady weight loss, yet my primary barely raised an eyebrow to an 18 pound weight loss in just two months without trying.

This traumatic medical journey led me to an Naturopathic doctor (thank you to my employer for offering alternative care coverage!) who not only listened, she showed concern with my plummeting weight and she correctly diagnosed me. I was given a treatment plan that I knew would lead me toward real healing. She did share some similar opinions to my primary doctor as far as treatment, which meant I was going to use drugs I’d never considered. Lots of research and discussions led me to believe those drugs had the least amount of man-made compounds and were the most mild of the pharmaceuticals in those same categories. So, I took the plunge and it was really traumatizing. I hated every second of putting those drugs into my body. And, my body took it’s own sweet time to respond. It did however, and I am beginning to feel relief. It is precarious and while my diet is improving slightly in variety and amount, I still continue to lose weight.

It’s a strange feeling when I look in the mirror at my steadily shrinking body. This is not healthy weight loss, but I can’t help but feel a sense of happiness as a thinner body emerges. I’ve officially dropped one clothing size. I continue to effortlessly lose weight and am now down nearly 25 pounds. My follow up appointment with the Naturopath will reveal any more pounds lost. While I am so close to a goal weight I have had for many years, I do hope a reason for this rapid weight loss is discovered and that the loss slows a bit.

Even though my food choices have become so limited, I still manage to get creative with what I can have. I do my best to mix it up and I’m happy to say I just took my eating to a whole new level. I made a Paleo breakfast bar with ingredients I was pretty sure I could tolerate. I was right! This is the first baked combination food I’ve been able to eat and tolerate in over a month so I’m really excited about it! This means my treatment plan is working and my body is beginning to heal.

My diet has become very strict and one small slip could lead to unadulterated suffering. Sometimes even when I do everything “right” I still have miserable gut issues. It is a delicate balance that I’m still learning as I trek the journey back to health.

Let me share some things I’ve been enjoying. It may not qualify by pub and food cart standards but it is leading me back to feeling good and that’s all right by me!

 

 

Comfort Cookies

For those days that leave you frazzled, comfort cookies hit the spot. One delicious cookie bite and you’ll find yourself in a blissful sweet moment where your woeful, tired thoughts simply fade away.

Using a classic Betty Crocker recipe, I adapted it to my lifestyle choices which made these gluten free and dairy free using quality, organic ingredients whenever possible.

Here’s the original version from Betty herself–If you don’t adhere to a gluten free dairy free lifestyle, just go at this recipe as is and enjoy! http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/soft-molasses-cookies/4e20528d-5cb1-45fb-b9eb-8e6cca62afac

Below is my adapted version and I have to say they were pretty scrumptious to me. I nearly hurt myself eating so many! I needed to pass them along for sharing to save my poor belly!

Give them a try. Get wrapped up in these sweet delights and let your worries be free, if only for a few moments.  Bet you can’t eat just one.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup earth balance spread (organic soy free version)

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 egg

2 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp raw sugar (for dipping dough balls in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Using the large bowl of your mixer add brown sugar, earth balance, molasses and mix on medium speed. Add in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar and mix until completely incorporated.

Shape dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into 1 1/2-inch balls. Dip tops into raw sugar. Using an ungreased cookie sheet, place balls, sugared sides up, about 2 inches apart.

Bake 13 to 16 minutes or just until set and cookies appear dry. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Try and wait until they cool before eating!  

 

Be Bold. Eat Buddha Bowls. 

I ate well last week. Buddha Bowls were my meals for the week, portioned into single serving containers for quick grab and go. The inspiration for these Buudha Bowls came from my son. During a conversation he mentioned that he makes them, stores them in the refrigerator and eats them throughout the week. I asked him a few questions about how he prepared them, checked a few online ideas and I was inspired to create my own.

Buddha Bowls are my new favorite lunch. I plan on making more today to get me through this coming week. The most common way to create a Buddha Bowl starts with a base, which is generally a dark green vegetable. Next there’s a grain, a protein, a complex carbohydrate, something sweet, some crunch and some fluff (this would be toppings like chives, cilantro, sesame seeds, etc). All this goodness is topped with a fantastic sauce which is key for a superb bowl.

I adapted my Buddha Bowls to what I had on hand. I am definitely making it with chicken instead of beef when I make more today. Beef is delicious but I think a different sauce would compliment the meat more. The nutty asian-inpired sauce I made will be more ideal with chicken.

I also used some frozen and some fresh veggies. I very rarely buy frozen vegetables. My local grocer had 50% off on a brand I favor and their frozen vegetables were so inexpensive I bought several packages. I’ve found it difficult to get enough raw, fresh veggies in me lately so I decided to take a temporary different direction. It certainly worked!  In addition to the vegetables in my Buddha Bowls, I’ve enjoyed a couple fresh made juices and delicious fresh green salads. I’m planning more of the same for this week, too.

I encourage you to check out some ideas online and come up with your own unique version of these delicious, healthful meals. Here’s how I prepared my Buddha Bowls:

My base was spinach, then I added brown jasmine rice. My frozen veggie combo consisted of green beans, multiple colors and cuts of carrots, sweet peas, corn, broccoli and cauliflower. I tossed them together on a baking sheet, sprinkled a bit of granulated garlic and roasted them in the oven. My protein was thinly sliced grass fed sirloin steak, browned to medium rare in my cast iron skillet. I added roasted yams, cut into bite sized chunks, skipped the sweet and used chopped romaine as my crunch. I topped it with grated ginger, chives and black sesame seeds. Now, the best part-the sauce!  I looked up a few versions and then made up my own. My measurements are rough and I adjusted to taste, but here’s a good base recipe to start:

3 Tbsp creamy sunbutter

1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1.5 Tbsp sesame oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp ground ginger (I also added ginger juice)

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

I added all ingredients, gave it a quick zap in the microwave to thin the sunbutter then whisked it until everything was evenly combined. I divided the sauce between my containers then topped some with chopped chives & black sesame seeds.

Although Buddha Bowls were the highlight of my week, I did make a two other cassoulets I ate for dinner. These were made with grass fed ground beef, more of the same vegetable combination I used for the Buddha Bowls, spiced with garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper then topped with leftover biscuit dough. Lastly, I managed to get in more fresh produce by making mason jar juice!

I certainly ate healthful food that made my body feel good. Taking a few hours to prepare meals for the week keeps me from wanting to grab unhealthy foods like the little bag of fritos in the convenience market near work that becomes lunch or spending money on the many food carts that line the downtown streets. Homemade meals are always best. My body feels better, my mind is positively focused and my spirit is calm. Eating well makes me happy. I encourage you to try make ahead meals. It’s a great way to be assured you’ll get proper balanced nutrition. I guarantee that will motivate you to be your best every day. Now, who doesn’t want that? 

Two Years Of Good

This day brings significance I must acknowledge. Two years ago today I moved into my sweet little space I now call home. I believed it to be the worst day of my life. I was grateful for a place to call my own, thinking I was headed toward homelessness, but I longed for my old life. This change was abrupt. It was forced. It was not my choice. The day I walked out the door of my old house my relationship was officially over. It ended a month previously, really. I moved myself into the basement guest room while I frantically tried to find other living arrangements. When I wasn’t doing that I was trying to wrap my mind around what the hell happened.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ve read the story of my abrupt life change. In this past blog Dip. Dip. Depression. I share the story of what happened that led me to walk through the door of my new place two years ago. Re-reading it myself I can say the most significant realization is the same. I can also say that two years later I still have no idea what happened to “M” for her to behave so horribly. I also still have no idea why she ended our relationship or why she chose to completely cut me out. I feel pretty confident now I know what happened in “M” that caused her mental break, but she will never tell me so I’ve come to my own conclusions and closure. I had to and I am still no less appalled by what she did, by the way. I accept that it is what it is. I can conjure up compassion for her occasionally, though it’s brief and far between. I know she struggles and suffers emotionally and that’s really an awful way to be. It’s unfortunate.

I don’t often give “M” my mental energy these days. I like much more to focus on my awesomely positive experiences and the goals I am working toward. Life fell magically back into place looking completely different than the old life I was longing. Soon enough I was done looking back, feeling happy and making plans for my future. I have a job I call my dream job even though much like my life it is very different than I imagined.

Life is good. Most days I’m pretty content. I honestly can only see misery when I think of the what if. That being if we had stayed together. Interesting how two short years can change my view of “the good life”. I like where I’m at now. I like where I’m going. While there have been plenty of struggles, I persevere. I really try to be positive. Soon enough things will change again, this time by my own determination. I will always be deeply grateful for this place that became my home. It’s where I came back to myself. Happy two years of good to me!

Gorgeous view from my kitchen window on a recent snowy day

2017. New Year. Radical Change.

Where has the time gone? Do you ask yourself that question as often as I do? It has been seven months since my last blog post! That’s a long time! The break was needed, though I did not intend this length. I continue to be active in other areas on WordPress. I notice I still get activity and new followers to my blog. I do appreciate all of you with your continued support and interest.

It’s hard remembering back to summer as our city sits snow covered after a series of winter storms that paralyzed Portland. I did have an amazing summer though, and I was out exploring my lovely Oregon state as often as I could. My truck got it’s camper conversion and with each trip out I played a little more with the organization and set up. I really like it a lot.

Thanks to my son for gifting me a trip to North Carolina over my birthday so I could see him and spend time in Raleigh, a city I am interested in knowing. Two visits with my boy in one year puts a smile on my face! My plans for radical change continue to move steadily along. There is something both unsettling and comforting for me as I fiercely focus my energies on this change. This being my move across the country from Portland Oregon to Raleigh North Carolina. I am on the path. I’m making it happen. It’s scary exciting!

These past several months have brought change to my family. Our little triad increased three fold when my daughter married a man with two young girls. The joy of little girls to dote on makes this “grandma” very happy. I look forward to being on the east side of the country where I will be closer to my little family.

I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen these past months. I do what I need to sustain myself, however I’ve been lacking the inspiration to be creative with my food. While I am deeply grateful for the space I have including my tiny kitchen, I long for a “real” kitchen with counter space in a room of it’s own. My little studio is overall pretty awesome even with its “rv”style kitchen. I do not know where I would be without this place. It has been a blessing and my saving grace. What originally began as a two month temporary stay is now creeping up on two years of comfortable living.

One thing I do not find so awesome about my area is being housebound for days when Portland gets snow and ice storms, which has been the case recently. It used to be rare for this city, but both winters have dumped the white stuff in my hills. I have learned when it snows and freezes I will be stuck on my hill long after the rest of the city is back to its hustle. My elevation is high nestled among the trees of Forest Park, so weather is more extreme than the valley below me. I am less than two miles from work yet on snow filled days it feels like I’m in a mountainous winter wonderland. I may whine about the size of my kitchen space hindering my desire to be creative, but it came through for me and saved my sanity while I was stuck inside. Thankfully I’ve been well stocked with groceries each time I’ve been stuck!  I now own all the tools I will need to traverse my snowy and icy hills if my truck can’t get out. Ice cleats, hiking poles and an ice crunching shovel will be my winter companions. I find it a funny thought that I now own these things to move around my Portland city!  This is just one of the many things that has made living in the West Hills a unique experience!

I wanted to provide you all with some pictures of my food creations over the past several months but my laptop died before I could save all my pictures to my “cloud”.  For now I’ve replaced it with my tablet which puts me on a new learning curve, especially with blogging!

This post serves as my reintroduction sans the food pictures. I do have a few photos of the incredible beauty I have witnessed recently up here in the hills. I certainly cannot complain about that!

Stunning beauty

Portland like we rarely see it. Enjoy! More to come soon. I promise. Sabbatical over. Thanks again for sticking around.

Happy New year!

Tea and Treats

I have had such a sweet tooth recently!  Sugar is not something I generally have an affinity toward, but there are some hormonal shifts happening in my body and the sugar cravings have been kicking in with a vengeance.

While sifting through my bulging folder of recipes not long ago, I found a couple of recipes that are grain free, sweetened with agave and along the lines of “dessert”, both relatively healthy options for satisfying my sugar craving.  When it comes to gluten free baked goods I proceed with caution.  I cross my fingers hoping that the recipe is well tested, that my process is correct and that my hard work will not be in vain.  Food waste is disgraceful, with greater disgrace when the waste is so expensive.

I had an upcoming tea date with my best friend so this I must say, this was the perfect opportunity (excuse!) to try out these lovely recipes.  Both would be perfect partners with tea.  The first recipe is a walnut date bar using almond flour.  The second recipe is a lemon almond biscotti recipe also using almond flour in addition to being vegan.  I have looked at this biscotti recipe so many times and most recently it has been laying on my kitchen counter for me to scan each time I happen by that area of the kitchen.  It has been such an enticement, but not enough for me to be inspired enough to make them.  I have never made gluten free biscotti and for some reason felt intimidated by its very specific technique.

I am feeling excited for time with my best friend, who has not been to our house in I don’t know how long!  We rarely stray from our sushi dinner dates which either begin or end with tea at her house.  This is a rare treat for sure!  My bestie loves rituals.   She also loves our Zen Room, which provides a peaceful environment where we can escape into the present moment and just slow down.  Slow is good and rituals slow us down allowing us to connect with the here and now.

With an emerging vision of a tea ritual, I found the inspiration to take on this seemingly daunting conquest of biscotti making.  Well, I find it rather silly now that I was so worried about how this recipe would turn out and that somehow the preparation might be hard.  These were so easy to make and they turned out beautifully with such a fantastic flavor.  The lemon flavor grandstands these soft crisp treats.  They certainly got rave reviews from my bestie and my sweetie.  Ok, I really do have to rave, too.  These are fabulous and delicious!  I highly recommend giving these a go!

The walnut date bars were a breeze to prepare as well and smelled magnificent while baking.  Seriously.  Intoxicating.  These bars are lightly sweet, chewy from the dates and cake like in texture.  The date and walnut combination is outstanding.  My mom would have loved these bars.  Dates and walnuts together were one of her favorites in cookies and desserts.  It was such a delightful addition to tea.

My bestie and I spent the afternoon chatting about life and our individual journeys as we march (and flail!) through each day.  We offered each other support and acknowledged that life sometimes isn’t very fun so it is important to stop and connect with others, but more importantly, connect with ourselves and find our place in the present moment.

In the midst of savoring our snacks and sipping our tea, we also found plenty to laugh about as we rejuvenated and refreshed our spirits surrounded by the peaceful environment of the Zen Room.

The afternoon not only satisfied my sweet tooth, it satisfied my desire to spend time with my bestie; a friendship I deeply appreciate.

I encourage you to find your quiet moment and savor the present.  It could be made even more delicious with the inclusion of these treats.  Here are the recipes:

http://www.elanaspantry.com/lemon-almond-biscotti/

Date Walnut Bars

Zen Room

Zen Room

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Walnut Bars and Lemon Almond Biscotti

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Tea!

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Tea & Treats!!

Food Security Is Just One Roasted Chicken Away

Personally, I absolutely love roasted chicken.  One chicken can make gluten free, dairy free meal preparations a breeze for days and that is all right by me!  I think chicken pairs well with pretty much everything!  I also find a great deal of pleasure coming up with new and unique chicken dishes.

I do choose to eat meat, mostly chicken and fish.  I lived many years as a vegetarian for ethical and moral reasons.  For health reasons,  I chose a vegan way of eating for nearly a year.   Ultimately, what I have learned is I feel my best when there is a moderate amount of animal protein in my diet.  So, with this choice, I am mindful of where my meat comes from and that it is the “happiest” meat I can afford.  By “happiest” I mean local, raised humanely, antibiotic and hormone free, organic, free range and best of best when I have the extra money; grass fed.

Blessed be that I can have that choice.  It was not always that way.   Because remembering that eating chicken was a luxury rarely afforded and to honor the life of the chicken that provided me food to eat, I believe in using as much of a whole chicken as I can.  My own personal roasted chicken challenge stems from this belief.  I challenge myself to make the most meals out of each roasted chicken, always attempting to ‘up’ my last chicken challenge in the amount of dishes I can make.

I am not quite sure when it began that I would count the number of meals a roasted chicken would provide, but I believe it began with my first roasted chicken I prepared after a long absence from meat.  I enjoyed that chicken at nearly every meal for over a week.  I ate so many chicken meals that a friend actually commented on how long I had been eating from this same roasted chicken.

Each time I begin a chicken challenge it takes me to a place of remembrance.  Remembering when I could barely afford a can of chicken soup, let alone a whole chicken.  It also reminds me that I now have food security.  I can take care of myself and I can do so in the way I feel is best for me because I can afford to make this choice.  I always have to give a moment of grateful thanks when I have this realization, which is often.  I know access to good, whole food and quality ingredients is a “luxury” not accessible to so many.  Quality, organic, non-GMO foods should not be a “luxury”.   I’ll share more on my beliefs around food security, hunger and lack of access in another post.  For now, in my preparations of just one roasted chicken, I am reminded that I can be resourceful and I can be cost efficient.  I can provide meals for not just myself, but my household for days.  I can do all of these things and adhere to my personal belief system and food philosophy.  This gives me such deeply felt satisfaction.

I ask you to consider having your own roasted chicken challenge by trying out some of these great chicken dish recipes I came up with.  In addition to the meat from the chicken itself, I made a broth with the remaining chicken parts and vegetables I used to roast the chicken.  I put some into mason jars for the freezer and I used some to make a wonderful chicken noodle soup.  The meat from the chicken was enjoyed sliced with veggie sides, it was used to make burritos, stir-fry and breakfast sandwiches.  In total we enjoyed about 15 individual meals with this one chicken.  That’s a conservative guess because I lost count there were so many delicious meals!

How many meals can you provide with your own whole chicken?

For this chicken, I used celery, parsley, a lemon, carrots, yellow onion, minced garlic (from a jar because I had no fresh!)  I sat the chicken on a bed of the sliced veggies as well as stuffing the cavity with all the veggies you see here except the carrots.  I slid a few veggies under the skin and topped it with a spice combination of garlic salt, pepper, paprika, basil and turmeric. I spread the carrots around the chicken, added 1 1/2 cups of water and put into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning it down to 250 degrees and roasting until done, about 2 1/4 hours for a 3 (ish) pound chicken.

Here's what went into the pot with the chicken for roasting.

Here’s what went into the pot with the chicken for roasting.

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All stuffed, spiced and ready for the oven!

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This is the meat that made meals for so many days!!

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This is what is left after I cut the meat from the chicken. I added about 4 cups of water and simmered the chicken parts and the veggies from roasting to make a delicious and flavorful broth.

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3 pints of broth went into the freezer!

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This broth was the base for one of the best chicken soups I have made!

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Here is the finished product! Fantastic chicken noodle soup!
Into this broth I added: the remaining chicken meat that was simmered off the bones, 1/2 a yellow onion and minced garlic to equal 1 clove, sauteed, 3 medium carrots cut into rounds, 1 stalk of celery sliced into moons, 1 cup of fresh radicchio, shredded,   a handful of fresh parsley, a handful of rice vermicelli noodles &  a little salt and pepper. Heat on the stove top until veggies are cooked through and enjoy a piping hot bowl of soup!!