Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ready for Phase II

Things are still going well with the no-grain fast.  We've been slowly eating through all the food we made on Sunday, and now that the week is coming to a close, I am once again beginning to think about the next week and what we might do to plan meals.  Although, this time around I'm not nearly as stressed.  It definitely helps (more than I had imagined) to have Derek on board with the same diet!  Next week will be our last week doing no grains at all, and then I think we are going to add grains back in, but we will still be gluten-free.  (We haven't yet discussed how long we intend to go gluten-free.)

I used to think being gluten-free was an inconvenience, but I'll tell you what, being grain-free is way worse!  And it's not because I am craving a bunch of stuff - thankfully, I haven't struggled too much with that.  The main issue is that it takes SO. MUCH. PLANNING.  I don't usually have a problem with plans.  In fact, I love them.  Plans help me keep my head together.  But when I have to give up an entire Sunday afternoon to planning and making food just to kind of get by through the week (I still had to buy a few meals out in order to make it through), it's pretty annoying.  So, needless to say, I am looking forward to adding a few grains back in.  Things like corn and rice really can make a huge difference in what kinds of dishes we can prepare.  Being gluten-free isn't "easy" but with all the GF products available these days, it certainly helps with having a life outside of the kitchen!  I miss my rice cakes.  :-(

Monday, June 20, 2011

Turning the corner

This week is turning out to be so much better than I thought it would be.  Basically, my doubts and frustrations about meal planning from last week went right out the window and I've actually felt excited about this week's meals.  Everything got a little better after I worked a few things out, but it all really changed when I talked to Derek because I found out he's going to do the no-grain fast with me!!  And, we're doing it for 2 weeks together (3 weeks total for me)!  Before we talked, I was worried he would want to eat things for dinner that I couldn't have and that I'd just be a big downer on his meals for the week, but now it's not an issue.

Photo Source

Yesterday, we sat down and came up with our meal plans for the whole week (every meal - not just dinners, like we normally do).  Then, we went grocery shopping and stayed under budget!  After shopping, (and here's where it gets really good) . . . Derek chopped all the vegetables!  I hate chopping vegetables.  He helped me cook up a storm all afternoon so we could be prepared for the start of the week.  We made my Greekified Oven Omelet and the Chicken Vegetable Soup.  It all turned out pretty well, and we're almost entirely ready for the week.  We're also making another soup for dinner later this week that will provide some leftovers for lunches by the time the Chicken Vegetable Soup runs out.

While I'm certainly glad to be able to have good food all planned out for the week, there's one thing that is really exciting for me.  I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that Derek approves of!  (I shared the same recipe last week, in case you already looked at it.)  I thought they tasted really good, but since Derek is something of a cookie connoisseur, I was worried they wouldn't be good enough.  Well, he tasted one of my already-6-days-old cookies and thought they were great (success!).  Of course, that led to him deciding we needed to add the ingredients for vanilla ice cream to make ice cream cookie sandwiches.  (I would normally link to the vanilla ice cream recipe here, but for some reason it's not connecting.) 

By the way, that's not my photo (because I haven't made anything yet).  It's just meant to give you a visual.  Anyway, the ice cream recipe is a great David Lebovitz recipe, so you should check it out sometime.  I replace the white sugar with coconut sugar for a low-glycemic, refined sugar-free version.  The coconut sugar darkens the color of the ice cream and gives it a warmer flavor (like a hint of caramel).  We will be making the cookies and ice cream soon, and I am very excited because I've been wanting to make cookie sandwiches for a year!

So tell me, have you used coconut sugar before?  What have you made?  Please leave me links or recipes in the comments section so I can try yummy things too!  If you haven't used it before, would you be willing to try it?

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's a little weird sometimes

Yesterday, I blogged about feeling a little stressed about next week's meal plans, but wouldn't you know that all it took was a little time, communication and planning to wash all that stress away?  In other words, I feel much more prepared for next week.

However, this post is not about how I feel better now.  This post is actually about how tired I felt yesterday!  Up until yesterday, I had been feeling really good having no grains.  I wasn't struggling with cravings and I was feeling light and happy.  But yesterday (and this may have contributed to my momentary panic), I felt . . . off.  I mentioned during my second no-grain post that my tummy feels different when I eat food that does not cause inflammation (bloating).  What I mean by that is, over the last 4 days, I haven't really feel "full" in the general sense of the word.  I'm not talking about a starvation feeling though.  I'm certainly eating enough food to feel satisfied, but the "satisfied" feeling is just different than it usually feels.

So, after 4 days of a new routine, I think my body finally said, "ok, this fast is for real."  You know how sometimes you try to "cut down" on something but then it really just acts as a slippery slope that brings you right back to eating and/or drinking the same amount you usually do?  Well, those "cut downs" do pretty much nothing for resetting your cravings/body chemistry.  Since you're still having the thing you've cut back on, your body is still processing it.  Basically, you're still on alert for that thing.  It takes a little while of doing something new for your body to shift its gears to focus on the new thing.  I believe yesterday to be the day my body shifted.

I didn't realize it until I got home from the gym, but I was exhausted!  I fell asleep at 7:30pm and didn't wake up until 9:45pm when I got a phone call.  Of course, then I had trouble getting back to sleep.  But my point is that my body needed extra rest.  This is very common when undergoing any type of dietary cleansing.  I was also ambivalent about food.  It was really weird.  I felt like a picky toddler.  I was hungry, but nothing sounded good and all I wanted was to go to sleep.  So I did.  And it felt great!

Today, I feel much better though.  Well-rested and ready to eat again.  Although, I'm a little anxious because I'm singing today.  Ack!  Wish me luck!  Also, thanks to everyone who has been following along and commenting!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 4 = Stressed!!

For some reason, I've been really feeling the pressure of next week's menu bearing down on me today.  I enjoyed the things I have eaten this week, but I started thinking about next week and how I will be cooking for two (because Derek comes back to town this weekend - yay!).  (I should also mention that I decided to carry on my no-grain fast into next week because one week really is barely enough time to let the body reset anything.)

Coming up with another week's worth of food ideas (especially when there's special requirements) is tough enough when it's just you, but taking another person into consideration is much more complicated!  Not just because we'd both like to enjoy what we're eating, but because Derek eats A LOT (and stays thin as a pin)!

Between budget concerns and trying to find recipes that accommodate our preferences (no carrots for me, no onions for him), as well as trying to make things healthy, I felt overwhelmed.  I know, I know, this is definitely a  first world problem.

After getting flustered enough to close all my recipe-searching windows, I gathered myself and calmly thought about what would make for affordable/tasty breakfasts and lunches.  Derek and I only eat dinner together, so I figured we could decide those together later.  Doing this definitely made me feel a lot better!  I even got creative and came up with some recipe ideas!  (I will share those momentarily.)

I am one of those people who would much rather cook for a few hours on a Sunday to prepare for the rest of the week instead of making something each day.  Here's what I came up with:  Breakfasts will be an adapted version (recipe below) of the oven omelet I made this week and lunches will be chicken vegetable soup (recipe below).  I do like the greek yogurt I have eaten all this week for breakfast, but I really miss chewing stuff.  For me, greek yogurt is much better enjoyed as a snack instead of the main event.  Also, after eating about half a cup of yogurt, I feel dairy-ed out!  Ok, enough babbling and onto my perfectly designed estimated recipes!  Keep in mind that I just came up with these today, so I don't have any pictures.  Sorry!

Breakfast:  Greekified Oven Omelet (adapted from The Spunky Coconut's recipe)
**Makes 1 pie
6-7 whisked eggs
1 clove minced sauteed garlic
1.5 cups sauteed, thinly sliced broccoli
1/2 cup sauteed, chopped mushrooms
1 cup sliced Applegate Farms, Chicken & Apple Sausage
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup fresh spinach, slightly wilted
2 tbsp feta pesto spread (this is basically pesto with feta cheese blended in, or you can just use regular pesto)
Salt/Pepper to taste*

*Could also be good with a little red pepper or cayenne pepper for a slight kick.

  • Mix all ingredients.
  • Pour into lightly greased pie plate.
  • Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

Lunch:  Chunky Chicken Vegetable Soup (keep in mind, this is all estimation because soup is flexible)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tbsp oil
3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (my favorite is from Pacific Natural Foods)
1 lb boneless raw chicken, diced 
1 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano - undrained
1 small can plain tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1 small-medium zucchini, cubed
1 small-medium yellow squash, cubed
1 small-medium bunch of broccoli, chopped small
1 14.5 oz can navy beans, drained and rinsed
Any other veggies you like (carrots, spinach, corn, peas, potatoes, etc.)
Seasonings to taste:  salt, pepper, Italian seasoning

  • In a large pot, sautee garlic in oil over medium high heat for about 1 minute
  • Pour in chicken broth, diced chicken and seasonings, bring to a rolling boil and then turn down to medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Mix thoroughly and bring back to a simmer.
  • Depending on what veggies you are putting in, first add the ones that take the longest to cook  (e.g., potatoes, carrots, etc.).  Check your amount of liquid.  I like my soup to be chunky and thick, so I try not to make it very liquidy.  If you like a thinner soup, just add more chicken broth (but make sure your pot will be big enough to accommodate the rest of the veggies you'll be adding later!).
  • When you are about 10-15 minutes away from serving the soup, mix in the rest of the veggies and the beans and any more seasonings you want.  Simmer until the veggies are slightly soft.
  • This is a great dish to make ahead of time and freeze in individual servings or to keep in the refrigerator if it will be finished within 3-5 days.  Make sure to let it cool for a little while before putting in the refrigerator / freezer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Grains - Day 3, But Really Day 2

I have a confession to make.  I had some oats the other day...but it wasn't intentional!!  I was going through the fridge getting rid of stuff that was old and I came across some "no-bake chocolate oaties."  I just ate one without even thinking about the fact that oaties = oats = grains = what I'm not supposed to eat this week!  Oops.

The good news is that it didn't derail my progress.  I can definitely tell that my body is liking me not eating grains.  Normally, my abdominal region looks a little more puffy at the end of the day than it does in the morning, but lately it's been even throughout the day.

The food I normally eat does not include things like soda, fast food and refined sugar.  In fact, most people consider me "extra healthy."  And yes, while I do make healthier choices and try to pick whole food items over processed foods, I would not yet consider myself "extra healthy."  The reason for this is because I still have frequent troubles with acne, hormonal stability (i.e., random mood swings), digestive discomfort, bad breath and anxiety.  Hence, why I am fasting from grains this week.  Ultimately, I'd like to get myself to a place where I don't feel sentimental about certain foods so much where it won't feel like a punishment to give them up.  I've actually managed to do this with refined sugar (miraculously), but something like committing to a gluten-free or even paleolithic diet still seems scary.  It's mostly because of social reasons though.

In the past, I have been the "weirdo" who doesn't eat with friends because I couldn't eat what they were eating due to random cleanses or elimination diets.  It's always someone's birthday or wedding, and since so many events revolve around food and socializing while eating, I stuck out like a sore thumb.  While I felt great physically, I did not feel great socially which took a toll on me emotionally.  It became more of a burden than a benefit, so I went back to a lot more "normal" diet.

Sure, I'm still "weird" because I don't eat and/or crave sugar like so many people, but it doesn't bother me because I don't miss the things they're eating.  This is where I want to get to with grains.  I already love a lot of things that don't involve grains, but I want my cravings to focus on the foods that don't create chronic inflammation.  Creating new habits takes time and effort, which is why it is so important to keep your eye on the prize until all the changes become natural.

Things are still going well right now, so I'm really excited to see how I continue to feel.  I will say that I am starting to feel more hungry more often, which means I probably did not buy enough food for this week!  I'm used to taking a long time to get hungry after each meal, but now my body is processing things quicker.  And without the inflammation, I don't have that bloated, overfull feeling anymore.  Satiety feels different when your digestive system is not inflamed.  I have felt this in the past, but it's been awhile, so I'm readjusting to it.  It's exciting though!

Photo source

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No-Grain Week!

This is an exciting week for me because I'm going to spend at least one week with absolutely no grains in my diet!  No wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc.  That might not sound exciting to you, but I've never gone completely grain-free and after a lifetime of digestive troubles, it's about time I try to eliminate them for a little while.  It's been about 24 hours so far and I haven't had any trouble with feeling deprived or bored, and I don't suspect that will happen later on either because I found a couple great recipes that will help me with lunches and sweet treats. 

The first thing I made is this Oven Omelet by The Spunky Coconut.

I used real cheese instead of dairy-free though.  It tastes really good, but it would be even better if the sweet potato slices were fully cooked.  When I make it again I will probably pre-bake them a little before adding the egg mixture.  I'm going to eat this for my lunches this week, along with some apple slices and sharp cheddar cheese as an afternoon snack.

For breakfasts, I will be eating either greek yogurt (sweetened with stevia) or, if I have enough time to cook, eggs with veggies and chicken sausage.  And for dinners, I bought some chicken and asparagus to last for a couple nights.  Although, I also might get lazy and have eggs for dinner a few times.

Now, here's where things get really exciting.  I get to eat COOKIES during this grain fast!!  Elana's Pantry is another go-to blog I frequently use for gluten-free, refined-sugar-free recipes.  And luckily, her chocolate chip cookie recipe will work perfectly into my grain-free week.

I followed the recipe as-is, but it ended up being too liquidy for cookies.  I just added more almond flour as well as some coconut palm sugar.  I didn't measure, so I don't know how much I added, but it was probably somewhere around a half cup of each.  Just add until you have a firmer dough that will hold it's shape on the cookie sheet.  Also, I highly recommend sticking with the dark chocolate chips.  The slightly bitter taste is a nice complement to the almond and the sweetness.

Side note:  These cookies will end up being chewy.  I wanted them to be slightly crunchy, but they're not.  Maybe if I'd left them in longer they would've gotten a little crunchy...but I'm not so sure because my second batch was darker than the first and they still ended up being chewy the day after baking.  If you figure out how to perfect the crunchy-outside, soft-inside effect in a gluten- and sugar-free cookie, please let me know!

I will share more about how I feel as the week progresses!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blogtastic "Open Mic"!!

Ashley, over at (never home)maker, decided to hold a blog-world "open mic" for any bloggers who would like to share whatever talent they care to bless the internet with.  Well, anyone coming to my blog will probably notice that this is the first post I've made since July 2010 . . . which doesn't really classify me as a true blogger, but I do have a blog and I do have a talent I'd love to share.  So, without further ado, here I am singing one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs, "Gravity."  Thanks for stopping by!