Monthly Archives: April 2015

Recipe: Texy Mexy skillet

After Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, we had to relearn how to eat. No longer could Friday nights involve 2 large pizzas (1 for each of us! Don’t judge. There were leftovers. Sometimes.), and we couldn’t pop into the 24 hour donut place down the street at midnight on Saturdays just because “we felt like it”.

At first we struggled. Veggies just didn’t hit the spot the way a blueberry cake donut did. But we adjusted out of necessity, and then out of actually wanting to adjust. We realized that as our lifestyle changes took effect, we felt better than we ever did before. Not to mention the weight loss and blood sugar numbers coming down.

I read a lot of food blogs and there’s a lot of food out there that Andy and I can’t eat. I’ve learned how to take the idea of a recipe and update it with ingredients that Andy and I love. This recipe–based on this recipe from The Kitchn–is a testament to how our eating habits have evolved. The original recipe includes rice, corn, and beans–a classic Tex Mex combination–all things that Andy and I avoid, or at least try to keep to a bare minimum. I knew that I could add extra peppers, onions, and swap the rice for cauil-rice and have a great meal. And indeed it is!

You’ll notice the lack of protein in this dish–Andy and I typically eat this with fried eggs and salsa on top.

1 head cauliflower
1-2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (I use avocado)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped
1-2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained of as much juice as possible
4-6 ounces grated cheese (optional)
salt
pepper
sliced avocado
salsa

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Run the cauliflower through your food processor with the shredding blade attached. Alternatively, grate the cauliflower until it is the size of rice. Set aside.

In an oven-proof skillet saute the onions and both peppers with a healthy pinch of salt until onions are translucent. Add the spices, stir to combine, and let cook for a minute or two until everything smells “toasty”. Add the tomatoes and stir again.

Stir in the cauliflower with another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of the peppermill. Make sure all the onions and peppers are distributed and the cauliflower is fully coated with the spices. If you’re adding cheese stir it in now and pop the entire skillet into the oven for 20-25 minutes until brown and the cheese has melted thoroughly. I like ours with little charred bits of cauliflower on top. If you’re not of that persuasion, keep an eye on it around the 15 minute mark.

Serve with eggs (fried or scrambled), sliced avocado, and copious amounts of your favorite salsa or hot sauce.

If you’re curious about the name “Texy Mexy”, it’s an inside family joke. Ask me about it in person sometime and I’ll tell you.

A light week

I woke up feeling under the weather on Saturday, so this week will be a bit lighter than it’s been recently. There will be a tasty recipe to enjoy on Tuesday/Wednesday, and the weekly meal plan, but aside from that I’m going to take a little time to rest.

Thanks for your patience!

April 24th: Weekly meal plan

Even though we don’t have anything special planned this week, I didn’t want to mess around with dinners that were too complicated. After working out in the yard all day, sometimes all I want is easy peasy! This happens to be a week where Andy makes his chili, which is one of the reasons the grocery list is a bit hefty this week.

Have a great one!

Brussels sprouts, apple, caramelized onion salad with fried eggs
– Cobb salad
– Broccoli and anchovy cauli-rice with fried eggs (recipe coming soon)
– Cabbage roll casserole
– Tuna stuffed tomatoes
– Zucchini, mushroom, chicken skillet
– Hodge Podge!

 

 

Recipe: Grown up hot chocolate

There’s something very special about Fridays. Whether it’s the end of the school week, the work week, or both, I’ve always felt that Friday was worth celebrating. When I worked downtown, my Friday “lunch” would often be a Starbucks vanilla latte (iced when the weather was warm enough) and a slice of lemon pound cake. This combination would carry me happily through the remaining hours of the week until I got home and could fully embrace the weekend.

When Andy and I gave up wheat in the fall of 2012, my Friday treat would simply be a piping hot latte (I’d grown flavor-averse by this point). The coffee guy in my building knew how to foam milk and every latte would have an inch of foam floating on top. I have yet to find any coffee company that could replicate his skillz.

By the time my last job rolled around my Friday coffee ceased to be a treat so much as a necessity. Fridays were my heaviest deadline day and I would find myself in the office no later than 5:15 every Friday morning to hit a 10 o’clock deadline that couldn’t be missed. Thankfully, a local drive-through coffee joint opened at 5 o’clock and I could swing through and grab something on my way in.

Fast forward to now. My corporate job has fallen by the wayside–a victim of poor planning and international relations–and while I find myself at home during this season of rest I still feel that Fridays are worth celebrating. As much as I relied on coffee to get me through certain days at my last few jobs, coffee and I fight more than we get along. Sure, I love the initial rush of caffeine, but then comes the fall, the headache, the stomach ache, the jitters, the shakes, and the anxiety.

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I know. You’re wickedly jealous of my unicorn mug. It’s pretty sweet!

Enter brewable chocolate. A former coworker introduced me to the concept and after a little research I found it on Amazon. I prefer this brand/flavor, but play around. Chocolate has just as many flavor profiles as coffee. For me this hits the “treat spot” and makes me feel indulgent without weighing too heavily on my pocketbook or stomach.

Quick word of warning–this is not a sweet drink. If you’re looking for flashbacks to the Swiss Miss you enjoyed as a child, you will be disappointed. Also, I’ve found that if I have this later in the afternoon I occasionally have difficulty sleeping that night. Chocolate doesn’t have caffeine, but the theobromine may cause its own energy/sleep complications.

3-4 tablespoons brewable chocolate grounds
16 ounces boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean pod scraped*
2-3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk**

Makes around 1 serving

Brew the chocolate per the instructions on the package. I make mine in a French Press: Add the grounds to the press, pour in 16 ounces of boiling water, let set for 12 minutes or so, press the plunger.

While the chocolate is brewing stir together the coconut milk and vanilla in your mug. I have a battery-operated milk frothing wand that does the job marvelously, but a fork or small whisk works, too. When the chocolate has been pressed, pour it into the mug with the coconut milk. Depending on how cold the coconut milk is, you may need to give it a good stir to fully combine. Again, my little wand is perfect for this. Enjoy the richness and toast a happy Friday!

Recipe notes:
* If you’re feeling adventurous a pinch of cinnamon is also delicious. As, I imagine, almond extract would be.
** In addition to coffee, I’m trying to cut back on dairy. If you don’t have any dairy issues, half-and-half totally works. Feeling even more indulgent? Lightly sweetened whipped cream would be heavenly.

In his words: Documentation, Accountability, and Consistency (or “You’re Only Cheating Yourself”)

Have you ever heard the phrase “You’re only cheating yourself!”? Have you ever wondered exactly what someone meant by that? Growing up teachers, parents, and other adult/authority figures would say that to me and it really didn’t make sense. Until I was 34 years old. Then it made complete sense.

After my initial diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes I started to record my daily blood sugar numbers along with the times that I took them as well as any pertinent notes regarding what I ate or drank that may explain a spike or dip in numbers. I know that the digital meters all record numbers, but over the years I have found for myself that if I write something down in my own handwriting, it tends to stick with me.

Starting April 21st, 2011, at 7:51 AM, I began a lifelong habit that, while it did not directly result in reversing Type 2 Diabetes, definitely supported the effort–I began documenting my progress in a tiny little notebook. The first entry was 240, “no food.” Right when I woke up.

The reason I started doing this was so that I could track my progress in my handwriting. Type 2 Diabetes is all about a number. Oversimplified explanation: Less than 6 (your A1C number) and you don’t have it. Over 6, and depending on how high it is, you’re either a pre-diabetic or full on Type 2 Diabetic.

If I could see a pattern, then I could figure out what to change, what to keep doing, and what to do more of. That’s also when I started to record my weight. I wanted to see a correlation and pattern with that as well.

For about a month before I started walking (more on that in a bit), I made dietary changes thanks to my beautiful, patient, and loving wife. And as the days went by, my numbers went down–weight AND blood sugar!

When we hit Memorial Day weekend that year, I went and bought a pair of Nike ACG hiking shoes (mentioned in this post) and started walking. That same weekend, I decided it might be a good idea to start logging my miles in addition to my blood sugar and weight to see what those numbers would show me.

It may seem silly, or obsessive, or a waste of time to most people, but one of the greatest tools that helped me was that notebook. Every day that I walked, I weighed myself and wrote down the mileage and the weight. At the beginning, walking wasn’t a daily, let alone twice daily, occurrence. There wasn’t a LOT of consistency until late June when I began walking twice a day.

But as I walked more and more, I weighed less and less, and my blood sugar numbers came down. As I got more consistent with my efforts, I got more consistent results. And documenting that was what helped me on days when I might have weighed MORE than the day before or my numbers were inexplicably higher than they should have been based on what I ate and how much I moved prior to checking myself (… by the way, always make sure that you wash your hands before you check yourself…). If I hit a plateau or stalled, I could flip back a page or two and look at the progress that I *HAD* made and be encouraged.

One the biggest challenges to my success early on was myself. Liv has admitted in earlier posts, she was a bit naggy at the beginning. Some days after a rough day of work, I understandably didn’t feel like doing anything but sitting on the couch and vegging out. And truth be told, there are still nights like this and sometimes I do skip my afternoon walk, but it’s very rare and it’s either weather related or my cat cries/whimpers at me and she just wants to play.

One evening that first year, I was walking past the middle school and it was a really nice evening and I thought to myself, “You know, I could just go lay down in the grass, set an alarm, close my eyes for a minute, and then go home. Liv would *never* know!” And then a voice said very clearly, “YEAH, you could do that. But you’d know. And you would only be cheating yourself.”

That’s the day my attitude changed. That’s the day that I got serious about the lifestyle change. That’s the day that I went from “Well, I’m gonna do this until I am all better and then go back to the KFC and Taco Bell for lunch every day and a couple of Cadbury Easter Eggs for dessert every night” to That was the moment that I realized no one could or should actually care more than me. As concerned as Liv was for me and my health, at the end of the day, I was the only person who could change. If I wanted to cheat on the diet when I was at work, there wasn’t a thing that she could do to stop me. If I wanted to lay down and take a nap in the park before dinner, I could. She’d never know (until of course she realized that all that walking wasn’t doing anything!). I could cheat, sure. But in the end, I would have been cheating myself. And I would have known. And I didn’t want to live with that.

My advice to anyone starting out on a health/lifestyle change or weight loss effort is this: Be consistent with what you do, when you do it, how you do it. Be patient and believe in the process. Document your efforts for self-encouragement down the road. Write it down in a notebook like I do or take photos, but be consistent with that as well. And be accountable to you. Take it seriously and if you do these things as well as make simple, modest adjustments to your diet and activity level, you will be successful.

By the way, I still have those original notebooks. The blood sugar notebook entries ended in August 2011 and I filled up my fitness log notebook on December 31st, 2014. That one contains my notes from over 6000+ miles and I started a new notebook the next day on the 1st.

Garden 2015: Planting season

The weather this spring has been unseasonably warm and dry for Portland, land of the perpetual drizzle. As such, this week officially begins my in-ground growing season for many of my plants. I’m going to hold off on planting my tomatoes and peppers, the nights are still a little cool for their delicate sensibilities, but starting this week I am slowly going to start getting my garden in the ground.

Four of my beds are already partially planted. This week I’m going to get my cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli starts in the ground and get some kale seeds planted as, for some reason, none of my kale starts made it. I’m still puzzled by this. Kale is usually super easy to start.

Once the brassicas are in, I’m going to run through my remaining seeds to see what will be hardy enough to withstand the cooler evening temps. My goal is to have everything in its proper place no later than May 2nd (except the tomatoes and peppers–I think I’m going to wait another week on those).

I’ve got a few garden tasks that I’ll need to take care of in the next few weeks, but the biggest is getting a trellis built for my fava beans. Their ruffly leaves are peeking out of the ground (Yay!) and I want to make sure I’ve got support in place before they get too tall.

I’m not quite ready to start the task of nightly watering, but the dry weather is forcing my hand, so I’m hoping to come up with a solution for that one as well. The garden is somewhat spread out over the eight beds, and I’m not certain an oscillating sprinkler will get it all in one full pass. Up until this point, I’ve always just gone out with a sprayer nozzle and given everything a good soaking. I’d like to be a little more hands off this year, as I could use that extra 20-30 minutes each evening. If you’ve got any ideas about this, I’m all ears. For the moment, a drip system isn’t feasible for us, but eventually that’s my goal!

 

April 17th: Weekly meal plan

Hi there! The weather has been beautiful and sunny lately, so I wanted our dinners to match that tone. There’s a little rain on the horizon, so I’ve got a few “warm your bones” meals, but for the most part we should be eating pretty light this week. I’m trying some new ideas–variations on familiar themes–and am excited about the flavor possibilities (I’m looking at you Brussels sprouts salad…)!

Here’s the grocery list. Enjoy!

Brussels sprouts, apple, caramelized onion salad with fried eggs
Broccoli, tomato, and sausage bake
– Broccoli and anchovy cauli-rice with fried eggs
Chicken ragu over herbed cauli-rice (this makes excellent lunch leftovers!)
– Cobb salad
– Zucchini, mushroom, chicken gratin
– Hodge Podge!

Recipe: Dreamsicle green smoothie

Whenever I try to tidy up my eating habits my biggest concern is how my food tastes. I’ve mentioned that I’m a picky eater, and there’s nothing worse than knowing I can’t have some of my favorite treats all the while being stuck eating bland, blechy, blah food. If my taste buds are bored, I can promise you I will cheat.

When I first started the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) back in January I played around with smoothies for about a week before I came across the combination I’m sharing today. The 21DSD allows you either 1 green-tipped banana, 1 grapefruit, or 1 Granny Smith apple a day. For this smoothie I combined 2 halves of the allowed fruit to come up with a breakfast that is easy, filling, and oh so tasty.

Classic creamsicle flavors are orange and vanilla. I’m not a huge fan of orange (unless it’s an orange cranberry scone, in which case get out of my way!), and oranges aren’t allowed on 21DSD, so I thought grapefruit might be a nice substitute. The vanilla rounds out all the flavors and the two combined give a vague hint of something tropical. The avocado and coconut milk provide enough fat to sustain me until lunch, and the greens, flax, and maca are filled with fiber that keeps my digestion happy.

1/2 green-tipped banana
1/2 ripe avocado
1 large handful of spinach, kale, or other greens
1/2 grapefruit juiced
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or one vanilla bean scraped
1 tablespoon flax
1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
Water

Combine all ingredients except water in a blender* and process till smooth. Add water if the smoothie is too thick. I find that the banana, avocado, and coconut milk are thick enough without adding additional ice, but if I want the smoothie to be a little colder I throw 2-3 ice cubes in my glass as I’m drinking.

* I don’t actually have a fancy high-powered blender. I make all my smoothies with my Cuisinart immersion blender and it works just fine. Every now and then I’ll find something that didn’t get processed, but it’s never enough to really bother me.

How I eat: Liv

This week I (Liv) wanted to take a little time to share my own personal relationship/struggle with food. You’ve read a lot about Andy and how our lives have changed post Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, but Andy wasn’t the only one with food issues prior to Spring 2011.

By now you should have a decent idea of how dinners work around here, and last week Andy shared his daily eating habits. This week it’s my turn. And I’m not going to lie–my eating habits aren’t pretty.

Unlike Andy, I can’t eat the same thing day in and day out. I need variety. On the other hand, I have the pickiness of a 5-year-old and won’t eat just any old thing. (Ask me some time about chicken wings, meatloaf, and coconut oil!) If it were up to me, I would eat candy, ice cream, and pizza every day and be perfectly happy*. But I’m a grown person with some food allergies and as awesome as daily ice cream sounds, I know it will just make me sick.

Also, I’m pretty horrible at taking care of my own needs when it comes to food. By the time I’m finished planning our weekly dinners and making the grocery list, I oftentimes forget that I haven’t planned anything for my own breakfasts and lunches for the week. This means that by Saturday afternoon I’m scavenging through the fridge trying to find something I can eat for lunch. Weekday lunches tend to be leftovers (if we have them), and breakfasts range from leftovers (again if we have them, but even if we do sometimes I’ll pass because too many leftovers don’t make me a happy camper) to smoothies to weird salad combinations to coffee and Brazil nuts. Like I said–not pretty.

Earlier this year (read January 1st–hello New Year’s Resolution!), I decided to try the 21 Day Sugar Detox. I’d been over indulgent through the holiday season and my body needed a break. And. It. Was. Awesome! It was the first “detox” I’d done in a while (I’ve dabbled in years past) and my body responded super well. I wasn’t hungry, I had lots of energy, I only had a few hours of official “carb flu”, and I lost over 7 pounds. 21 days turned into 24, and then my brother got married and my eating schedule got kerfuffled.

I tried to get back on the wagon in late February, as the 3 weeks following my brother’s wedding had completely undone all the benefits I had experienced from the detox, but for some reason my heart just wasn’t in it this time around. I’ve been struggling ever since. I’ve allowed myself way too much processed sugar and dairy and have felt puffy for a couple of weeks. I also aggravated an old shoulder injury which has given me more pain than I’ve experienced in over 5 years–I know this is due to the internal inflammation caused by the sugar.

So this week I’m back on the detox. I know what needs to be done, and while the indulgences of the last 6-8 weeks have been “fun”, in reality they’ve been quite destructive and have wreaked havoc on my body both inside and out. My face is more broken out than it’s been in some time–plus I have this weird hivey/rash thing along both sides of my face near my ears, which I’ve never had before. I’ve put on some extra weight, and I’ve noticed other signs of internal inflammation that just make me feel kinda blechy (it’s of the digestive sort and I don’t want to gross anyone out).

I was very intentional about planning our dinners this week to provide enough leftovers for easy lunches, I stocked up on smoothie ingredients (my go-to breakfast earlier this year), and grabbed some snackable items to enjoy as well. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know that in the long run it will be worth it. So here’s to calming the sugar flame and getting this inflammation under control!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my favorite smoothie recipe!

*You can read all about my struggles with sugar here.

A tale of a sweet tooth

This week I (Liv) wanted to take a little time to share my own personal relationship/struggle with food. You’ve read a lot about Andy and how our lives have changed post Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, but Andy wasn’t the only one with food issues prior to Spring 2011. Here’s a little bit of my story:

For as long as I can remember I have loved sweet things. From candy to donuts, muffins to ice cream, if you put something sweet in front of me I will eat it. I’ve never smoked. I’ve never done drugs. Sugar is my addiction.

When Andy and I first started dating, I would get home late at night and dig into the freezer for the German chocolate cake ice cream my mom had stashed away. There’s something very special about eating ice cream with a fork (those cake pieces were pretty big) at 2:30 on a Saturday morning.

There was rarely a time when I needed an excuse to indulge in a treat. Usually “I want it” would suffice. Andy would chuckle and call me his little junky.

After Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I started to take a hard look at my own health journey and realized that I may have a slight problem. Little junky indeed. My reliance on all things sweet was beginning to be a crutch. Any day of the week warranted a side trip to the store for some candy. Whether I’d had a good day (Hooray, candy!), or a bad day (Blerg. I need candy.), I was becoming overly familiar with my store’s candy aisle.

Sometimes the candy would be completely gone before I got home. It was only a 5 minute drive, and I’d have no idea where it had gone. Not good.

After a fairly indulgent family vacation week in 2012, I decided to curtail my sugar habit. I didn’t want to rely on any food (much less candy) to provide me with life happiness. So I stopped. Cold turkey. And frankly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Sure, I still had mild cravings, but the first few weeks were a breeze.

After that, the cravings came back full force. If possible, they might have been even louder. For those who say the cravings go away, well, they lie. For me anyways. My struggle with sugar is still daily battle (you’ll see what I mean later this week). Almonds don’t replace See’s Polar Bear Paws. Cashews and avocados don’t replace Brach’s Bridge Mix.

I did notice, however, that my blood sugar issues drastically diminished. Low blood sugar used to plague me at least once a week. In the first six weeks of “no sugar”, I think I had 2 episodes, and they were much less severe.

Over the last 3 years, my relationship with sugar has had its ups and downs. I haven’t kicked the habit fully but I do have a better understanding of how my  body responds to sugar, and what it means for me when I do indulge.