Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What do salads, piggybacks, and lightbulbs have in common?

Well, I don't have a lot of time to blog today, but I wanted to update you on my juice fast and piggy back on Andrea's Bombshell Salad. I can't wait to try the poppy seed dressing when I can eat REAL food again. I have a couple other salads that you can share some of the ingredients. I need flavor in my life, so if I post a salad on here, you better believe it's full of it. Flavor that is. at least to me.

Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Orange vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Herbamare (or sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
pinch cinnamon

8 cups mixed organic greens
1 ripe, firm pear, cored and sliced thin
1 cup pecans, toasted*
1 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)

To make the dressing, place all ingredients into a glass jar (old almond butter jars work well), and shake well.

Toss all salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour dressing over and toss again. Serve immediately.

*To toast the pecans: place them in a glass baking dish and toast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. This brings out their yummy nutty flavor and increases the crunchiness. Watch them carefully, you don't want them to brown too much or burn, just be lightly toasted. Source:
(I use a toaster oven)

California Girl Salad

(I named it myself)

When I moved to California 11 years ago and realized that iceberg wasn't the only type of salad, I fell in love. A whole world opened up to me and this was probably the first real salad I had. My husband's aunt made it and I still LOVE it.

Baby mixed greens (spring mix)
sliced pear
candied sliced almonds
(I just heat honey, or pure maple syrup in a small nonstick pan and toast the almonds in the pan)

Balsamic Vinaigrette

I have always used Newman's Own balsamic vinaigrette, but would like to try out some recipes to make my own. I'll do that when I am eating food again, then I'll share with you my research. OR.. YOU can share with me YOUR balsamic vinaigrette recipes. OR there are recipes all over the web, so find a good one and report back.

So what if FRIDAY is our recipe contribution day!? We'll give you a category and you can share your recipes.

Ok, I voted. And it's a unanimous yes.

Rules: NO sugar, NO packaged or processed ingredients. Whole food only (cheddar cheese ok, Velveeta NOT ok), NO white (all purpose) flour (maybe as a thickener.. )

Disclaimer: These rules might be revised.. probably should have talked to Andrea first. She's usually my voice of reason.

Anyhow, post or link your recipes in a comment.

THIS WEEK: in keeping with the theme of salads..


(green, lettuce based)

OK, now for my juice fast update:

I am on day 4. I am feeling great. Never hungry, I have lost a few pounds, although I wasn't keeping track so I don't know for sure, but I have decided to log it starting today. Day 2 (which I am repeating today) was definitely harder than day one. The recipes were more vegetably and I tried to simplify by juicing all of my drinks in the morning and then putting them in the fridge for consumption throughout the day. Makes sense RIGHT? You would probably have come to that conclusion too. But learn from my mistake and DON'T DO IT. I gave them all a sip as I made them and although they weren't as tasty as strawberries, blackberries, and kiwi, They weren't bad. However, when I pulled them out later after sitting in the fridge getting cold, blending flavors, (and I swear fermenting) It was AWFUL. So hard to get down. Hot dogs (that my kids were eating.. I know) never smelled so good. Anyway, I'll just be juicing 4 times a day from now on.

Yesterday, I only got around to drinking 3 glasses. I wasn't hungry in the least. I usually have a little baggy of raw nuts to snack on and drink a lot of water between "meals".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bombshell Salad

I'm about to hit you with a bombshell:

I'm not much for salads.

Yep, I said it. And it's true. I've just never been able to get myself real psyched over a salad. I mean, I like salad, I just don't love it. I don't think about it. I don't crave it. I don't go out of my way to get it. If it's served, I'll eat it, but I don't seek it out.

I have lived with this disability my entire life, and to tell you the truth, I have never felt like a real woman because of it. I mean, what kind of woman doesn't like salad?

I wrestle with this failure daily.

Thankfully, my husband is open-minded and supportive, and has somehow found it in his heart to overlook this flaw in my femininity. Bless him.

But when I happened upon this particular combination, it was like a shaft of heavenly light shone down upon my plate, and for the first time I began to hope.

Hope that I, too, might join the ranks of females who eat salads every single day.

Or, at the very least, the ranks of females who talk about salad in polite company.

Here's the salad that started it all (hopefully it'll trend):

Bombshell Salad

Baby Spinach
Pear, chopped
Candied Walnuts*
Clean Poppyseed Dressing**

Directions: Toss everything together. But only directly before you devour it. With a shovel.

*Honey-Candied Walnuts 
(I make these every other day, because I snack on them and put them on this salad)
1 C. Walnuts 
    2 TBS. Honey 
    1/3 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper (or substitute cinnamon - both are delicious!)
    Dash of Salt (to taste)

Directions: Put honey, cayenne (or cinnamon) and salt in bowl. Microwave 20 seconds to thin honey. Pour walnuts into bowl. Mix with spoon until nuts are covered. Spread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes @ 350. Stir halfway through. Let cool. Store in tightly covered container. 

**Clean Poppyseed Dressing 
(I always half the recipe, cause 2/3 C. of oil at one time in anything freaks me out a little)
6 TBS honey
1/3 C. red wine vinegar
2 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS onion, chopped (or dehydrated onion flakes)
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C. olive oil (or whatever kind of oil you want to use)
2 tsp. poppy seeds

Directions: Put first 5 ingredients in blender until well mixed. Add oil gradually while the blender is on. Add poppy seeds and pulse a couple times to incorporate.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Water Bottles Are So 2011

If you're not lugging around a coconut with a straw, you need to get with it because you aren't foolin' anyone into thinking you're actually serious about your health. My biggest problem now is that the cup holders in my van aren't big enough, and I need two hands to carry it, so I'm hoping my 4 year old can make her way across the street. It's all about priorities people.

Ok, seriously.. as you know I started my juice fast yesterday and in preparation, I went all over town gathering the ingredients that I would need for the week. In looking at plans on the website, it suggested drinking coconut water and some of the actual juice recipes called for it anyway, so I stopped into Wholefoods and grabbed myself a weeks supply. A super helpful employee taught me the ways and even gave me the one I have modeled for you on the house. I had never tried it before.. I take that back, I did buy some out of curiosity at Jamba Juice once but I couldn't handle more than one sip. The fresh coconut water was WAY better and actually sort of pleasant.. yet at the same time it threatened my gag reflex. And acquired taste I'm sure.

So here's all the produce that I purchased at the farmers market and Wholefoods for the week. I had to go to Trader Joe's after I took this photo for MORE. I planned out all my "meals" for the week, made a list, and left it home..

When all was said and done, I think I spent almost $300!! Seriously, that's just produce. For one week. For JUST ME! But if I can get off my meds in the next month, it will have been SO worth it. (And I live in the Bay Area where everything is way overpriced)

I'm a system's kind of gal, so I just chose 8 juice recipes from the website for 2 days (so 4 per day), made a 2-day menu, and repeated it until I had 7 days. Then when I FINALLY had all of my ingredients, I used all the plastic bags that I came home with from the farmers market and grocery stores, to separate the produce into "meals" and then I put all the meals for 1 day into paper bags and shoved them into the fridge in the garage. Did you get that?.. Ok, moving on..

So like I said, yesterday was my first day and I'll admit I was scared when I pulled out the ingredients. If I was actually able to get it all down.. and keep it down, would it be enough to drink 4 glasses of juice for a WHOLE day? Especially when I had to go to a BBQ for lunch and then a dinner meeting a la gourmet cook lady?

Not bad at all. Actually pretty good, and the mint smelled fantastic

Other breakfast: Pear (I got this huge and amazingly delicious pear from some cute little Asian lady at the farmers market.) and fennel (didn't even know what it was/totally afraid to drink it)
Then I had to do some research on fennel and figured out what it was and it's health benefits, which are many.

Lunch: (don't you just love my attempt at food photography?) 2 small sweet potatoes, carrot, 2 apples, 3 clementines, baby beets. I have yet to acquire a taste for beets, but..
quite drinkable. Not half bad.

Dinner: Apple, pear, strawberries, spinach, swiss chard
pretty good.

So, I've liked all the juices so far, I didn't come close to starving (mid morning I ate a handful of raw cashews), and also drank water.

I'll post about the recipes I try tomorrow. Then I just repeat, so you'll have to wait in suspense until next week when I change it up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's Only 3 Weeks...C'mon

I have been doing the same exercise routine for two years. It is boring. I don't like it. My muscle strength, definition, and endurance has not increased at all.

So, I was thinking it's probably time to get a new one! Only took two years for that to dawn on me.

Another revelation: I don't have to hire a personal trainer to give me a new workout schedule, because I have a computer and I pay for an internet connection!

I searched and searched (for about 2 minutes, at least) until I found one that fit my criteria:

1. Must be as short as possible, but still do the job. I only have a one hour slot of time for exercise. That includes getting up and feeling my way to the bathroom (1 min.), getting dressed (2 min.), doing my hair (10 seconds), finding my keys (5 minutes), grabbing my water bottle and ipod (2 min.), forgetting my water bottle and running back in the house to get it (3 min.), driving to the gym (8 min.), and driving back (10 min. - the roads are busier by then). So, not an hour of working out. An hour ALTOGETHER.
2. Must include all the muscle groups. Cause everyone knows by now that the more muscle a gal has, the more energy (I don't believe in calories, so I say 'energy') she burns, right? Plus, I don't want to have abs of steel with arms of flab.
3. Must not be complicated. I don't do complicated.

Anyway, I think I found a winner. It's only 3 weeks long - which is a lot less of a commitment than all of these 6, 8, and 12-week programs. At least in 3 weeks, if I decide I don't like it, I won't feel like I wasted my entire year, and I can move on to something else.

Anyone want to do it with me?

It's all right here if you do.

C''ll be FUN!

(I am starting week 3 on Monday, but each week is practically identical, so you can still do it with me! Also, I like the progress I've seen so much already, that I think I'll do it over - with heavier weights - after I finish)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blending and Juicing

So today I (Merica) went to the Rheumatologist. That's a fancy word for Dr. for people with Autoimmune disease (inflammation). (and I can see now that reading Fancy Nancy to my 4 yr old is taking it's toll) Anyway, I am very excited because I am maintaining the lowest dose of prednisone (the duct tape of medicine) that I have ever been able at 2.5 mg per day and my Sed rate (inflammation) is the lowest it has been in 4 yrs since my diagnosis. it was 120 then and 5 now. Did you get that? 40 mg of prednisone and Sed rate 120 then, and 2.5 mg of prednisone and Sed rate of 5 now. I am so elated. I attribute that to my ever increasing nutritional lifestyle. (I use that term loosely.. I'll explain)

I often joke (with a hint of complete seriousness) that if I wasn't raising a family I would be so domestic. Boy would I have time to make and clean up gourmet (healthy) meals (that people would eat), keep a tidy organized home, refurbish antique furniture, plant a garden, etc.. Well, Changing the way I eat is no different. It has taken me over 4 years to get to the point where I am really practicing what I preach. In the last 2 months I have cut out sugar and almost all processed food (except for a 5 day girls get-away), and made "green" smoothies every day (I add frozen berries, so not really green). I have done this before, but only for a couple weeks at a time. It's pretty difficult when you have withdrawals (not to be confused with.. but usually confused with low blood sugar), headaches, grouchiness and cravings that fog your judgement torturing you with the questioning of why you're punishing yourself and your family. Everyone complains about dinner, and all of the bday parties, holidays, gatherings, outings, and cupcake shop drive-by's where your hard earned points are beckoning, are just TOO MUCH!! What I realized is that as with running, you need to get to the point where you hit your stride. I spent my whole adolescence making fun of those goofy, skinny, happy, eye of the tiger singing, Cross Country nerds. Why on earth anybody would run with no purpose (scoring a goal, getting on base, being chased by a doberman pinscher.. all legitimate reasons I had personally found running to be useful) was BEYOND me. I even took a running class in high school to improve my endurance on the soccer field and thought I had enough experience to make an informed decision. What I found out years later in attempt to offset some of the weight from my medication by running a 1/2 marathon was that I had never hit my stride. My running class in high school was 3 miles per day, and although I got to the point where that didn't feel like it would kill me, I didn't ever run more than 3 miles, which is the point at which I hit my stride in training for the 1/2 marathon. When I experienced this PHENOMENON for the first time, I realized why those cross country nerds were so happy. It doesn't feel like work. It feels great and it was like my body turned on a switch that took over and THAT's what I had been missing in my nutrition efforts. I have now hit my stride and feel great. For the first time since developing Autoimmune issues, I feel like I will be able to manage it without medication. I have always known it on some level.. but I couldn't feel or perceive it. So that's why I am so happy about my doctor's appointment, smoothies, and running. (which I should take up again)

On this note of Autoimmune and getting off medication, I recently watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix. It's a documentary about a guy who has an Autoimmune disease and is able to get off prednisone with a 60 day juice fast.. and then maintaining a whole food, plant based diet. This might be extreme to some and boring to others, but to me it was revelation.
60 days is A LOT. If you visit the website you will find that for most average Americans, they suggest a shorter modified version. Personally, with the low dose of medication that I am currently maintaining, I am going to start a 30 day juice fast on Sunday. The website also suggests that you don't start without some preliminary prep. Cutting out sugar and processed foods for a week or so.. Anyway, I am excited and I'll keep you updated. (You're welcome :)

Ok, so my contribution today is my testimony of "green" smoothies. As in green vegetable based smoothies. Getting in the habit of blending smoothies every day (unless you're smart and make enough for two days) will change your life. It is the first step to getting the most out of our bodies. It will give you "fresh" energy, it will feed your organs so that they will run properly and offset some of the internal effects of the SAD (standard American diet), and it will motivate you to eat healthier all day.

My tips:
1. if you have a regular blender like me as opposed to a high powered blendtec or vitamix, you have to know how to handle it. I was really turned off in the beginning because it took me like 20 min to blend a frozen smoothie. NOW I just do frozen fruit (sometimes frozen broccoli) and fresh vegetables. I start by filling the blender close to the top with (any or all) spinach or kale, broccoli, cucumber, avocado, green bell peppers, 1/3 - 1/2 fresh pineapple, and some water. I blend that down and add frozen berries and/or any fruit hangin' around. (clementines, bananas, strawberries, pom seeds, etc )

2. Avocado's add to the texture, but you can't taste them. My kids sing praises on days that I use avocados, but they would never touch one with a 10 ft pole.

3. To sweeten, use dates. I add 4 to a full blender. Our outdoor potted plants are far less likely get a smoothie breakfast on the days I use dates.

4. Search the web. There are SO many smoothie recipes and concoctions.

What are your favorite (sugarless) smoothies??

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Good Clean Cornbread

My girls love cornbread for breakfast, and can you blame 'em? It's warm and filling, and pretty much just cake.

Add a little maple syrup, and what's not to like? Or, if you're like my husband's Southern family, maple syrup belongs nowhere near cornbread, and you'll reach for lots of butter and honey instead (I made my husband cornbread once when we were dating, and set the syrup down next to him, and he looked at me like I was insane - too bad I was a jobless college girl and couldn't afford honey. Poor boy just had to be polite and choke it down dry).

The only problem is that those little Jiffy mixes aren't so nutritious. Delicious, but devoid of good things.

So this morning I whipped up a batch of better-for-them cornbread that I was sure they would hate.

But what do you know? They loved it! Even my youngest ate it - and he will never touch the Jiffy stuff.

Here's the recipe:

Good Clean Cornbread

1 C. Cornmeal (you could even grind your own)
1 C. Flour  (Hard white wheat flour is good. I haven't tried hard red wheat flour alone in this recipe. I think that would be a bit heavy. Today I used .5 C. hard white + .5 C. hard red).
1 TBSP. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs - beaten
1 C. Milk (I used almond milk today)
2-4 TBSP. Honey
1/4 C. Oil (I used half coconut oil, half butter - just stick it in the microwave and melt on low while you mix the dry ingredients)

1. Grease bottom and .5" up sides of 8x8 (or 9x9) pan (I used some butter and coconut oil).
2. In mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.
3. In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, honey, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened.
4. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake @ 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Serve with pure maple syrup if you're cool. Honey if you're not.

Just kidding.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Last-Second Pasta

Today I was NOT feeling dinner.

I took my kids to Taco Bell.

I know, I know.

But we haven't eaten fast food in almost two months, and like I said,

Not feeling it.

But then, in a strange twist of fate, my son (for the first time in his life) ate his entire burrito. The burrito I was planning to finish for him after the two tiny bites he always takes.

I was out of luck.

Then I got really busy getting the kids ready for bed.

By the time my husband got home, I was in a starve-induced grouch coma.

He was hungry, too, but had been eating leftovers all day, and didn't want any more.

I angrily thought, "I give up."

He juiced us some vegetables, I took a couple gulps, and instantly felt right peppy!

(the fact that the kids were finally all tucked into bed may have contributed to the peppiness, but I like to attribute it all to the juice)

Peppy enough to roust us up some dinner.

I put some whole wheat noodles on to boil.

Then I sauteed whatever random vegetables I found rolling around the bottom of the crisper.

I planned to put Parmesan over the noodles, but found that I was all out. Lucky for me, I had a little homemade pizza sauce that needed using.

By the time the noodles were done, I had a saucy vegetable medley rarin' to go.

I tossed the noodles in there, added garlic salt and a little olive oil, and voila!

Dinner was finally served! At 9 p.m.

Then I forgot to take a picture until I was packing up the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

Anyway, it was so quick and easy: 15 minutes start (of noodles boiling) to finish.

I think it will become my new go-to lazy meal!

Here's the official recipe for my Last-Second Pasta:

Whole Wheat noodles - cook according to package directions.


In saute pan, heat a little olive oil and toss in chopped onion, bell pepper, peas, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and anything else you have in your fridge.

Saute until browned and spinach is nice and wilted.

Dump in some tomato sauce of any kind (or skip this step).

Drain noodles and add to saute pan. Add a little more olive oil if your noodles are sticky.

Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.


Now tell me, what is your favorite last-minute dish?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Granoly Moly!

I made granola two days ago. A new recipe.

I am making it again tomorrow*. That is how good it is.

I am a life-long admirer of granola, and this one is THE one. All others are now dead to me.

The first day, warm out of the oven, we broke it in chunks and ate it like granola bars.

Second morning, I cut up kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, and bananas, and let the kids choose their toppings after we poured (almond) milk over it.

(warning: some small children like it plain without "vegetables, like fruit" on it)

An hour after that, I filled a bowl with the left over chopped fruit, and topped that with dry granola.

For dessert that night, my husband poured chocolate almond milk over it.

This afternoon I ate it plain like trail mix.

Tonight I was planning to make banana "ice cream" (just frozen bananas blended up in the blender with a little coconut milk) and top it with the stuff, but went into the kitchen to discover my children lined up at the bar, finishing off the last of it.

That is why I am making it again tomorrow*.

And probably the next day.

Cause I want to try the bar method with steel-cut oats (and dates and currants and dried berries), but I've got to have the regular cereal kind on hand in case we have a snack emergency.

Which, in this house, is not a question of whether.

It is a question of when.

And the answer to that question is always.

Now go forth and nourish!

Recipe HERE

*I will try it with coconut oil instead of butter next time
*I want to try half honey/half maple syrup sometime, but not until I run out of my sacred, hoarded tiny jar of wild honey (from the depths of the jungles of South Carolina) that looks and tastes exactly like molasses, and which I am sure took the recipe from great to magical.

Update: I tried it with coconut oil and all regular honey, and it is still really good!