Friday, August 30, 2013

Unrecipe: Glazed Pork Chops

As I'm still on vacation at this point, I thought I'd post something I've been meaning to write about all month.  I kind of stumbled upon a fun way to make pork chops the other day that was super yummy, but it's so simple that I couldn't exactly call it a recipe.  So I'm calling it an unrecipe.

Basically what I did was I fried up some pork chops in butter, with salt and pepper, in my cast iron skillet until they were done, and then placed them on a plate and put them off to the side.  Then I mixed up some low sugar peach jam (home made!), about 1/4 cup, a tbsp or two of vinegar, and an equal amount of homemade ginger beer (I used this because we didn't have any white wine, lol).  I put it in the hot skillet with all the pork drippings, on low heat, and stirred until it became slightly thickened.  Once thick, I put the pork chops back in the pan and flipped until well coated and until the pork was nice and warm again. 

Then I just served with another unrecipe of mine!  Frozen green peas, with a little bacon grease, a dash of smoked sea salt, and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Mmm!  It's amazing how awesome meat and veggies can be.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Personal Update

I'm actually writing this Thursday the 22nd, so it's not exactly up to date, but it's pretty close. 

I wrote a while back about how sometimes I really really want to lose more weight.  I've been stuck at 185 for, gosh, years now.  I did manage to get down to about 176 on a low calorie vegetarian diet, but because I was literally starving myself to get to that point, it didn't last very long.  I thought I would try cutting out more carbs from my diet and to stop eating snacks between meals.

That didn't last long.  It just wasn't natural for me, and it felt way too rigid.  The reason I chose to live this way for the rest of my life is because it makes me feel good and because it's so super easy.  The moment it becomes hard to stick with it is the moment I stop being able to live this lifestyle.  And plus, I'm not a whole person and I can't eat like some others might be able to.  I don't have a gall bladder, which makes it hard for me to go long periods without food without feeling sick. 

I have cut out a lot of the treats and desserts, though.  I used to make low carb desserts all the time.  I'd probably eat them once a day (or more).  I'm not sure why I haven't been making them lately.  Maybe I'm lazy?  Or maybe I don't have such strong cravings for sweets like I used to.  I also don't make low carb breads much anymore, either.  Again, I don't know if it's because I'm lazy or because I'm simply not craving bread. 

I also decided to start really reading Mark Sisson's blog Mark's Daily Apple, and really trying to incorporate his ideas and teachings into my life.  I've been walking a whole lot more, and I picked up weight lifting again (Chad and I both do Fred Hahn's Slow Burn, which is intense!).  I fully intend to try incorporating sprints someday, but right now I'm focusing on lifting and walking and making sure I do them regularly.  Once I get that down, I'll try some sprints.  Sprinting actually sounds awesome.  Chad and I used to run three times a week, and even though I hated the thought of going out and doing it, I actually loved running.  I would wax poetic to Chad after running about how awesome running was and how much I loved it and how I wished I could do it more.  Then the next time we'd go to run, I'd be grumbling the whole time because I hated the thought of it.  Lol! 

So I stepped on the scale about a week ago for the first time in probably a month, and also decided to take my body measurements for the first time in, oh, maybe six months.  The scale said....  181.4!  Woo!  I haven't been that low in a long time, and I'm not even trying to lose weight.  It's gone up a little since then because it's my fat time of month, but it was encouraging to see that.  My goal really truly isn't to lose weight, but I wouldn't mind if it happened. 

The really cool thing, though, was my measurements.  I lost an inch around my waist, an inch around my hips, an inch around my thighs, AND I GAINED A HALF AN INCH AROUND MY ARMS!  If that's not proof that I'm making progress, I don't know what is.  And I can really see that my arms are getting bigger.  Not like huge or anything, but toned.  I told Chad that I have to be careful; the women in my family are very muscular by nature, and if I'm not careful, I'll end up super buff, lol.

My goal it to find ways to be active every day and to get strong and fit.  I'm not like unfit or anything right now.  Like I said, I used to be a regular runner, I go walking and hiking all the time, garden for hours a day, and my usual way of climbing stairs is by running up them.  But I want to be strong.  And I want to get a routine down now while I'm young so that I can be strong even when I"m old.  I don't want to end up like my mom, who is 65 and has trouble walking around the block.  I also want to keep up with Chad, who is continuing to get stronger every time he lifts.  He can now pick me up and carry me without complaining that it hurts his back!  And I weigh more than he does!

So that's how I'm doing.  The longer I travel on this low carb whole foods path, the easier it gets.  It's my lifestyle now.  I've come to accept all that it entails.  I don't get upset at the fact that I have to cook everything we eat practically from scratch, because I know that means we're eating the healthiest food we can.  To be honest, I actually really feel good about making everything we eat from scratch.  Sure, it's a lot of work, but I've always had trouble, as a housewife, feeling like I'm contributing to the household.  Now I know for sure that I am.  Chad goes to work and earns the money to pay for our food, and I put forth the effort to make it into something delicious, nutritious, and life-giving. We wouldn't have gotten as far as we have with low carb if it wasn't for all the hard work I've put forth in the kitchen. 

Now I guess I'd better end this rant before it gets too long.  I'll continue to track my weight here and there, but like I said, it's not really my main goal.  I've come to accept the fact that I'm never going to be a "normal" weight, and it's actually kind of freeing.  Now I can focus on my health and getting stronger, which is way more important anyway.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Recipe Makeover: Mexican Pizza

(I'm on vacation right now, so I wrote this post and a few others last week and scheduled them for this week.  So although I'm posting, I'm actually not around!)

I used to love cornbread.  I'd buy the Jiffy mixes a lot, but as I started being more frugal and crafty, I started making my own cornbread mixes.  Not surprisingly, I used to make a lot of recipes from the Jiffy recipe booklet I sent for long ago. 

One of my very favorite cornbread recipe is one I kind of created myself by combining two other recipes.  I called it Mexican Corn Pizza, and I made it all the time because it was so simple and so good. 

Since the original recipe called for a cornbread mix to make the crust, I thought long and hard about trying to recreate a cornbread mix with almond flour.  But that would have been a lot of almond flour, and I'm pretty cheap when it comes right down to it.  So instead, I decided to kind of convert Linda's recipe for cheddar biscuits (which I love and make all the time!) to suit my needs.  Basically I just made a batch and a half of the biscuit recipe, removed the cheese and most of the garlic powder, and added in the seasonings I put in my original cornbread recipe.

And it came out remarkably good!  It tastes almost exactly like the original, except Chad said it doesn't have the same texture (that's because I replace ground beef for pinto beans, lol).  Making  a 1.5 batch of Linda's biscuits required some fiddly measuring; I plan on working on that sometime, to maybe see if I can round those out to whole measurements to make it a lot easier to make.  But it'll just have to do for now!

Delicious served with sour cream and beans :)

Low Carb Mexican Pizza

1 pound beef
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup salsa
4 oz grated cheddar cheese

6 eggs
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp + 2 tsp coconut flour
1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking powder

 Heat the over to 400 degrees.

In a skillet, cook the beef until browned through. Drain any fat.  Mix in the seasonings and the salsa.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the six eggs.  Mix in the butter and the seasonings.  Add the coconut flour and the baking powder and mix until well combined.  Spread mixture on the bottom of a well greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Remove the crust from the oven, and spread the meat mixture evenly on top.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty.  Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

I lined the pan with foil thinking this would help it from sticking.  I wouldn't suggest it, though.  It just makes it harder to remove!  The spatula kept tearing the foil.  Next time I'll just grease my dish well and use a small metal spatula to pry the pieces up.  It did become much easier to remove after cooled in the fridge, though.  I bet this recipe would freeze very well. 

Nutrition info:

For 1/8 of the recipe:
Calories: 395
Fat: 29g
Protein: 22g
Carbs: 11g
Fiber: 4g

For 1/6 of the recipe:
Calories: 527
Fat: 39g
Protein: 29g
Carbs: 14
Fiber:  5g

Friday, August 23, 2013

Keeping Perspective

Mark Sisson, in his Weekend Link Love, posted a link to a very interesting blog post that asks the question What's the point? 

The author starts the essay by quoting Lewis Thomas, and the quote really spoke to me.

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body. 
 The emphasis is mine, because I think that sentiment is so important.  It's very true, at least from what I've seen.  The majority of people who are obsessed with health seem to be trying to put off death, and especially to forgo aging.  You can't pick up a health magazine without seeing an article about how exercise and healthy eating can make you look years younger. 

I think it's great that we in the paleo/primal/low carb communities are reaching for better health and a stronger body, but I think a lot of people are becoming obsessive with it.  There's almost a desperate need to lose weight, gain muscle, eat and exercise perfectly, and keep complete control over their body.  And when they see someone who isn't behaving perfectly like they themselves are, they think less of that person. 

That obsessive behavior has always seemed somewhat disturbing to me.  In some people, it's almost to the point where I'd want to call it an eating disorder.  But can you call a hyper-focus on eating well an eating disorder? 

Most disturbing to me, I think, is that food and exercise seem to be some people's entire lives.  They think about food all day long, and if they're not thinking about food, they're thinking about exercise.  And I don't mean to say people like Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore, or Tom Naughton are obsessed about food and exercise; there's a big difference between being passionate about nutrition and wanting to spread that passion to other people, and being so obsessed about your body that you can't think about anything other than food and exercise. 

I know first hand what this kind of obsession is like, which I think makes it easier for me to see it in others.  For 5 or 6 months, back when I was on a low-calorie vegetarian diet, I was hardcore obsessed about my body.  I spent every waking hour thinking about food, weighing everything I ate, obsessively dividing out meals, trying to figure out how many calories I had left in the day, trying to get enough protein (a hard thing to do for a vegetarian; I got 50-60g on a good day, but usually more like 20-30g), and tracking all the exercise I did so I could make sure I was in a calorie deficit. 

It was exhilarating.  I felt totally in control of my body for the first time ever.  I was dropping pounds and getting active, and I felt like if I just kept controlling my body and giving it only what I thought it needed, I could finally get skinny and beautiful.  But the body is a hard thing to control when you don't have the right information.  Eventually, after ramping up my exercise to a point where my knees were starting to hurt, and cutting back my calories to 1300 a day (which is a level that left me truly starving), my body said "enough!".  I got appendicitis, which totally left me without any resolved after the operation, and I went back to eating a lot more and exercising hardly ever. 

The whole point of this long winded ramble, though, has to do with what my obsession with my diet did to the rest of my life.  I didn't have one.  I had a very hard time going out.  I couldn't eat unless I was the one that cooked the food, because then I could weigh, measure, and divide the meal to my exacting standards.  My conversations with others always seemed to be about food and nutrition, which I'm sure made me the life of the party.  I always seemed to be miserable.  I just thought that came with the territory. 

That's why I refuse to seriously cut my carbs or try to get into ketosis, or any method that would bring back that desire to take control of my body again.  I don't like being obsessed, and I really don't think it's healthy for my life.  The reason I love the way I eat now, which is low carb and whole foods based,  is because it's so lax.  I just need to avoid grains, sugar, starchy veggies, and most processed foods.  It's that simple.  I don't have to count anything, and I don't have to track how many calories I've burned during exercise.

I certainly don't think all paleo/primal/low carb people are obsessed with their diets.  This way of eating actually lends itself to a more relaxed relationship with food.  But I do know that there are those out there taking it to the extreme and doing more harm than they are good.  Just remember that your diet should never get in the way of your happiness (unless your happiness is dependent on sugar, in which case you'll just have to be unhappy until you adjust).  We shouldn't be so obsessed with staving off death that we forget to live. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Two carrots from very different worlds.
A three yolked egg...  seriously!!  Straight from the farm!
Getting my favorite thing to drink: cold, clean water.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recipe Makeover: Stuffed Zucchini

It's that time of year where zucchini is more abundant than annoying low-fat advocates.  I've always enjoyed cooking with zucchini, but I tend to only use it in the summer when it's in season in our area.  I also try to only use local zucs, because, believe it or not, zucchini is one of the most common GMO plants you find in the store.  Scary, right?

When I was low-calorie and vegetarian, I created a nifty way to use up the bumper crop of squash I was getting from my garden.  Of course, it was low in fat and used fake meat, but it was surprisingly easy to convert.

Stuffed Zucchini

12 oz package pork sausage (or 1 pound ground beef if you don't do pork/processed meat)
2 medium zucchinis (6-8 inches long)
1-2 tbsp chopped chives (to taste)
2 cloves minced garlic
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese (1 cup)
1/2 cup marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice zucchinis in half lengthwise and scoop out insides with a spoon, leaving a thin shell.  Place the shells into a greased or lined baking dish big enough to hold them.  Rough chop zucchini innards and place into a skillet with sausage and garlic.  Fry on medium heat until sausage is no longer pink and water from zucchini has evaporated.

Mix in the chives and cheese, and then spoon equal amounts of the meat mixture into the zucchini shells.  Spoon about 2 tbsp marinara sauce onto each stuffed zucchini.  Place into the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until zucchini shell is tender. 

It's quite good, if not a little simplistic.  I think next time I'll add more veggies as filler.

Nutrition info:

One zucchini half:
Calories: 438
Fat: 35g
Protein: 26g
Carbs: 7g
Fiber: 1g

Friday, August 16, 2013


OMG you guys, check this out.  The Diet Doctor posted today on his blog that "paleo" is trending higher than "cupcake".

To be fair, if you compare "paleo" to "cupcakes", with an "s" at the end, then paleo is behind. But only by a little!

It's certainly a sign that things are moving in the right direction. Oh, here's another one (this is too fun). Low carb diet vs. low fat diet.

Woohoo! That's AWESOME! Low carb is nowhere near the levels it was at in 2004-2005, but it's still making steady progress, which is very encouraging.

Also, I find it hilarious that all of the diets get really big spikes around January of every year.


For the last three years, Chad and I have been renting a rustic cabin in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania for a week and just chilling out in the woods.  It's been the best thing for us; we get a chance to be alone, with no pressing responsibilities, no work, no family stress.  Just trees, grass, blue skies, sunshine, and each other. 

Our next vacation is coming up soon.  We'll be leaving the 25th of August, and coming home before Labor day weekend.  That's the quietest time to take a vacation; kids are back in school, and it's not a holiday, so there's usually only a few other people in the campground. 

I can really feel the need to get away already.  I've been ready to go for a couple of weeks now.  This next week of waiting is going to be so hard!  There's nothing so refreshing as spending time with my beloved Mother Nature.  Hearing the crickets, exploring wooded trails, basking in the sunshine, sitting around the campfire, and having nothing more pressing going on than needing to fry some steaks on the grill.  OMG I can't wait!!! 

I guess I'll have to just satisfy myself with some pictures from the last two years.

Our cute little cabin


Chad in the early morning, running.

Pennsylvania hills.

A pretty little creek in the valley.

Asters :)

Chad climbing one of PA's many huge rocks.

A quiet wooded creek.

Chad sitting near the creek.

Sunlit ferns.

Full moon on a quiet night.
So if I don't post much in the next two weeks, I'm not dead or sick.  I'm getting ready for another blessed week in my favorite place in the world. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I went to a baby shower last weekend, and I got to see some people there who I haven't seen in quite some time.  One woman, who knew me from when I was quite young and hasn't really seen me for about 10 years, told me that I was wasting away!  I laughed and told her I was still quite pudgy, and there was no threat of me wasting away anytime soon.

But it got me to thinking about it.  What did I look like the last time she saw me?  I was about 17-18 years old, at my heaviest of 275 pounds, and pretty miserable.  I wouldn't let anyone take any pictures of me because I was so ashamed of how I looked, so when I went looking for some this morning, I had a really hard time actually finding any.  But I did find a few.

Age 17

Here's me in 2001/2002 at my heaviest.  As you can see, I wasn't very happy to have my picture taken!

Age 21/22

Here I am in 2006.  Believe it or not, I was at least 20 pounds lighter in this picture than the first one, but still uncomfortably heavy.

Age 25
This one was taken in 2010, right after losing 30 pounds on a low calorie vegetarian diet.  I was looking and feeling much better, but I was still pudgy.

Age 28

And here I am in January of this year.  I haven't really noticed it, but I have lost more weight since 2010.  And, more importantly, I've gained a lot of muscle.  My weight only dropped about 5 pounds from that last picture, but I lost several inches around my waist and hips and gained an inch around my arms. 

It's funny how I see myself.  I look in the mirror and I still see a fat girl.  I see my big round hips, my belly, my flabby thighs, my bat wings, and sometimes I think to myself, "Man, you're fat.  You should try losing more weight."  But I'm not actually seeing myself for what I really am.  I'm seeing the old me when I look in the mirror.  It's not until I look it the old pictures of me next to the current pictures that I actually realize, wow, I've really come a long way.  Maybe I'm not so fat afterall. 

I think we all are harder on ourselves than we should be.  Maybe I'm not perfect, and I'll never have a model's body, but I'm healthy and I look darn good.  I really wish I had taken more before and after shots, and a bunch of during shots, so I can really look at them now and see how much progress I've really made.  And so that every time I'm tempted to eat junky sugary food, I can look at those pictures to remind myself of how awesome my new way of life is for me. 

Has anyone else had this problem?  You can only see the way you used to look and can't recognize yourself for who you've become after losing weight?  I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Knowing What's In Your Food

I've been doing a lot of canning lately.  Last week I did a batch of ginger peach jam, this week I did a huge batch of salsa, and once the pears come in a couple of weeks from now, I'll be canning those, too.  I love to can.  I've talked about it before on my blog, and how empowered it makes me feel, how independent and self sufficient it can be. 

There's other reasons I love canning, though.  One is that it ties me to my roots; every time I can, I'm reminded of the great canning parties the ladies in my family would have, and the stories my mom would tell me of when her 11 brothers and sisters would help grandma put up food for the winter.  Another reason I love it is because it's pretty darn frugal.  My jams, even though they're almost all fruit with very little sweetener, cost roughly $1 for an 8 oz jar.  The salsa I made today cost around $1.35 for a 16 oz jar.  The pears I'll be canning?  They're completely free, because I'll be picking the pears from Chad's mom's yard as well as our elderly neighbor's yard.

But the reason I most love canning is because I know exactly what's going into my food.  I know my strawberry jam is made with organically grown berries from my own back yard, lemon juice, pectin, and some sweetener.  There's no funky ingredients with names so long and complicated that you can't pronounce them.  I know the pears I'll be canning are pesticide free.  That the peppers and onions I used in my salsa are locally grown.  And that there's love in every single jar.

Chad and I started out this low carb journey over a year ago, and it kind of surprises me when I think back to those times and how much we've changed since then.  We were still eating store bought condiments and salad dressing, eating vegetarian meats (like soy burgers and seitan), using soy flour to make low carb baked goods, using vegetable oils, eating canned soups, and using chemical laden seasoning packets.

It took us a while, but we gradually, little by little, converted our way of eating from a low-carb version of  the SAD diet to a more primal lifestyle.  And over that time, knowing exactly what's in my food has become more and more important.  That's probably why I have a personal goal this year to fill up a metal cabinet where I keep my canned goods.

This is without the salsa, which is cooling on the counter :)

As you can see, I still have a ways to go!  But with the salsa and pears, as well as some applesauce, taco sauce, and pickles I plan on making yet, I think I should be able to reach my goal.

If you're interested in canning salsa, the recipe I used was from this PDF (page 10, the recipe titled "Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa II") from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.  I chose that one because it looked easy, it made a goodly quantity (I got 11 pints), and coming from a university, I knew it was a tested recipe.  Also, I liked that in an earlier part of the PDF, it tells you that you can use any kind of pepper as long as you use the exact amount called for.  So I substituted bell peppers for the hot peppers, being totally anti-spicy foods.  It came out delicious, too, so I'll continue using this recipe!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Recipe Makeover: Stuffed Peppers

When I was a kid, I hated a lot of vegetables.  I'd only eat onions if they were baked into bagels, celery was only good raw (and with peanut butter or cream cheese), tomatoes were only good cooked, and peppers... well, peppers were completely out of the question.  They tasted nasty and bitter raw, and they were slimy and somehow still bitter when they were cooked.  I spent many a meal picking peppers out of my stir-fries or hash browns or soup.  Yuck.

However, as I grew older, I decided I should probably subsist on more than cheese and rice, and I started making an effort to actually enjoy onions, tomatoes, and peppers (but not celery).  The first recipe I ever made that featured a lot of peppers was a creation of my own; a vegetarian, low calorie stuffed pepper.  And it was delicious.  Even after going low carb and eating meat again, I still longed for my delicious stuffed peppers.

When I decided I would start converting my old recipes to fit into my low carb lifestyle, I knew this would be one of the first recipes to be converted.  The first time I tried making it low carb was kind of a failure, but I kept trying, and the second attempt was a success!  It tastes exactly like my old recipe.  Actually, it tastes a lot better because it uses real meat instead of the nasty soy-meat I used to eat.

(I'm actually eating leftovers right now, lol!)

Low Carb Stuffed Peppers

4 large green peppers (although you can use red and yellow if you'd like)
1 pound ground beef
1 can (14.5 oz) Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp of the jarred minced garlic)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cauliflower rice*
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops and scooping out the seeds and membranes.  If the pepper is lopsided and won't sit flat, cut part of the bottom off to make it flat and either wrap the bottom in foil or place it in a ramekin to keep the juices from flowing out.

Brown and crumble the beef.  Drain any fat you may have.  (I used a package of ground beef from the grass fed cow we bought and I was surprised at how little fat there was; I didn't need to drain it at all.)  Add the can of tomatoes, undrained, along with the spices.  Let simmer 5-10 minutes or until the juices from the tomatoes have thickened somewhat.  Remove from heat and mix in the cauliflower and the shredded cheese.

Stuff each pepper with 1/4 of the mixture.  Any leftovers can be eaten later plain or in a salad.  Place peppers in a lined or greased baking dish.  Bake peppers for 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on how well done you want your peppers.  One hour will leave them slightly crunchy still, whereas 1-1/2 hours will leave them softer.

If you're in a hurry or don't want the oven on for an hour, you can also pan fry the peppers and spoon the meat filling over top of them.

They're especially delicious reheated the next day!

*The easiest way I've found to make cauliflower rice is to steam the cauliflower, and then lightly mash it with a potato masher.  It comes out just the right size without having to go to all the work of putting it through the food processor.

Nutritional info:

For one pepper:
Calories: 408
Fat: 19g
Protein: 40g
Carbs: 17g
Fiber: 4g

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunburns, Allergies, and IBS

There's a lot of claims flying around out there in the low carb/paleo/primal communities, and I wanted to address some of my own personal observations on some of them. 

Back when Chad and I first started our low carb journey in September of 2012, I was so excited about it and believed that it could pretty much cure anything.  So when I heard that going low carb/paleo could actually help with certain things I was suffering from, of course I wanted to see how it would actually affect me.  So here's three things I've been personally paying attention to to see how our diet has affected them.

The theory is that going low carb/paleo will make you less susceptible to sunburns, possibly because you're replacing unnatural vegetable oils with natural saturated fat.  I really had high hopes for this one.  I'm literally the whitest person I know, and from a very young age, I have had a lot of problems with sunburns.  I've had at least one, but possibly two, incidences of blistering sunburns when I was a child, which of course scares me to death thinking about what that means for my future.  Chad is also quite white and covered in freckles.

Since we started low carbing in the autumn, we didn't really get much chance to test out the sunburn theory until this summer.  It's been a pretty craptastic summer here, but we did get a couple of weeks of nice sunny warm weather to spend frolicking in the sun.  At first, I thought the theory was right!  We seemed to be tanning instead of burning, which is something that neither of us has really done in the past. 

But as we spent more time in the sun over those couple of weeks, we started having issues.  Just 10 minutes in the sun one afternoon brought on a bright red burn on the back of Chad's neck and my chest.  After that we tried to be more careful about our sun time, wearing hats and staying in the shade.  But one day I went out to pick raspberries, and I must have forgotten the time, because when I got back inside, I had the worst burn I've had in years.  It healed up within a couple of days and never peeled, but after that, I decided not to play any more games with the sun. 

My conclusion: clearly our way of eating has helped somewhat; we do tan instead of burn if our sun exposure is only for short periods of time, or in the early morning or evening.  But eating low carb/paleo isn't going to make you completely protected from the sun, especially if you're a ghost like me.

Another popular theory out there is that going low carb/paleo will rid you of your allergies, most likely from being wheat free.  This is another one that Chad and I had to wait on, since our allergies don't really get bad until mid to late summer. 

Well, it's that time of year again, and we're waking up sniffling, sneezing, and rubbing our red itchy eyes.  Chad has the luxury of going to an air conditioned office during the day, but I've been at home, with the allergen laden air all around me.  I don't like taking allergy pills for the same reason I don't drink; we're trying to have a baby, and I could be pregnant and I don't want to do any harm if I am.  Since I'm not taking any pills, and I get to feel the full effects, I can tell you that my allergies are just as bad as usual. 

I do have to say that Chad and I still eat dairy, and there are people out there that say that dairy could be a trigger for allergies.  But people also say eggs could be, and nuts (especially peanuts), and nightshades, and shellfish, and who knows what else.  Maybe some summer in the future, I'll stop eating dairy and eggs and nuts and see if I still have itchy eyes and sneezing.

My conclusion: At least for seasonal allergies, and with us still eating dairy, there seems to be no change.

IBS/Bowel issues:
This is something unfortunately that I used to have to deal with.  I didn't even know it was a problem, honestly, because it was just the way I'd always been.  If you've ever read the book The Meat Fix, I can describe my issues as milder versions of what John, the author, was going through.  If you haven't read the book, I recommend it, even though the author goes into great detail about his gross bathroom problems.  I'll refrain from going into equally gross details.  I will say that I think it's interesting that the author of The Meat Fix also says that he had no idea that his problems were even problems, because he was so used to them.

Something else interesting about The Meat Fix is that it's written by a man that used to be a vegetarian and who ate a lot of soy burgers and soy bacon and soy sausage, tons of rice, and other whole grains, which is pretty much how I was living as a vegetarian before going low carb.  Literally a few days after I started to eat meat again and gave up the soy burgers and the seitan (meat substitute made from wheat gluten), my IBS issues just vanished.  For the first time in what seemed like my whole life, I no longer had bowel problems. 

When I misbehave and eat wheat or soy, or when I eat too much fiber (usually in the form of too many coconut flour baked goods), my IBS will act up again, but it's never as bad as it used to be.  It's sad to think that I went through so much of my life suffering from that problem and I had no idea it was within my power to stop it. 

My conclusion: At least for me, it has completely fixed my bowel issues.  This reason alone is enough to keep me eating this way forever.

I can't say that low carb/paleo will fix everything anymore, because it's clear that some things aren't fixable for everyone.  A ghost-white person is never going to be sunburn-proof, and sometimes seasonal allergies are just a part of life.  But I can say with certainty that a low carb/paleo/primal diet is the healthiest diet I've ever eaten, and I'm healthier now than I've ever been in my whole life.  Maybe it can't fix everything, but it's sure fixed a lot of things.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lessons from a Lolcat


It's a really cute picture, and I'm sure we can all relate to it.  But thinking about it more, it really says something about our society today.  There's a lot of truth to this lolcat.

I remember hearing about Dr. Oz trying a low carb diet some time back.  He tried it for one day.  His conclusion?  He didn't like it because it gave him constipation.  Really Dr. Oz?  You couldn't try it for a month, or even a week?

Our society is so focused on instant gratification.  If a weight loss book said it could help you lose 50 pounds in a year, which is a very respectable rate, no one would ever buy it.  However, if it said it could help you lose 50 pounds in a month, no matter how outrageous that claim may be, it would fly off the bookshelf.  No one wants to hear that real lasting change takes time.

Another problem we have as a society is the remarkable ability to eat heavily processed food and think of that as normal.  Cake?  Pasta?  Cute little goldfish crackers?  Perfectly ordinary.  Back when I was eating a low calorie vegetarian diet, I would sometimes wonder to myself...  if our ancestors could travel forward to our time, would they actually recognize what I was making for dinner?

My answer would always be no, but for some reason that didn't seem to stop me from eating it anyway.  I think my thinking went something along the lines of, "Well, everyone else is doing it, so it must be ok."  Plus, I didn't know then that there was a better way of eating.  I thought what I was doing was the healthiest thing I could do for myself.

I'm really big on collecting old cookbooks, the older the better.  I think my oldest one is from the 1880s.  The reason I love them is because I have a huge interest in the way people used to live, and there's no better way to find out how people lived than by reading a cookbook.  However, I never thought I could actually use any of the recipes in the book, because the food was so... different.  Even 100 years ago, our food looked incredibly different than what we eat today.  They used a lot of lard and butter, cuts of meat and organs you probably haven't even heard of or animals that would make you cringe, and everything, everything they made was very simple by today's standards.  They may have eaten several courses, but they were almost always quite simple foods.  Foodies would probably accuse the food in my old books as bland.

They certainly didn't have the super delicious, chemical laden, scientifically formulated processed foods lining every shelf in every store, that people are eating today and thinking it's "normal" food.  I know if my great grandma, who was born in the 1800s, was alive and she tried some of the food being sold today, I'm sure she'd have some nasty things to say about them, and she'd be right.  It's not real, it's not healthy, and underneath the addictive qualities, it's not even that good.

That's another thing; people in our societies are so addicted to wheat and sugar that they can't even imagine a day without them.  I know couldn't go a day without sugar, literally.  When Chad and I first went low carb, it was the sugar that we both had the hardest time giving up.  We would literally go a day or two without it, and then "reward" ourselves with some sugary treat.  It was a real struggle, and I know we must have been addicted.  But we persisted, and now we only rarely eat sugar, and even more rarely eat wheat.

So maybe it is hard to go on a low carb diet.  You have to be patient, eat foods you're not used to, and give up the foods you're addicted to.  But that doesn't mean it's not worth it, and it certainly doesn't mean it's not doable. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An Update and a Thanks

I want to thank everyone who commented on my blog yesterday, after I posted about how hard of a time I was having dealing with my family, and all the crazy cravings I was having because of the stress I was feeling.  It was really nice hearing from caring, thoughtful people. 

I sat down with myself this morning and wrote in my journal about my feelings, and I ended up deciding that the reason I got so upset was because it feels like I can't go to my family to talk to them about my feelings or my troubles.  The way it's always been is they come to me with their issues, because I'm the stable one, the one who can see things clearly, the one who listens without judgement.  But I don't want to always be that person for them.  I have my own life and my own issues to work through; I shouldn't have to be dealing with theirs all the time, too. 

I'm proud of myself for not giving into any of my sugar and wheat cravings, although I did eat a lot of other low carb things yesterday that maybe I shouldn't have.  And my mood lifted after Chad came home and he listened to me and held me in his arms.  All I needed was to be listened to and loved.

It's interesting, though, that when my mood went downhill, that's when my cravings got the worst.  I've never really believed those people who say that going low carb/paleo will rid you of all your cravings, because I have a long history of emotional eating and I know that many times people eat for reasons other than hunger.  However, I do know for a fact that I can't eat sugar or wheat the way I used to, even when I'm eating emotionally.  Even a little bit of sugar and wheat can make me feel pretty gross.  I get an almost immediate headache with sugar, and a yucky heavy feeling in my stomach with wheat. 

 I was much better today, by the way.  I woke up feeling refreshed, and I busied myself with a large canning project (three batches of peach jam for my mom and mom-in-law).  I taste tested the jam perhaps a little too frequently, but otherwise I stayed away from sugar and wheat, and actually ate very well today. 

And tomorrow will be another good day, of this I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Life Pressures

For anyone looking into my life from the outside, it might seem really nice.  Quiet, simple, cozy, happy.  Yes, it is all of those things, but only because I work so hard to keep everything quiet, simple, cozy, and happy.  I  strive to make my home a sanctuary for me and my husband, a place to keep the crazy world out and where love can grow and dreams can be nurtured.

It's hard to keep it that way, though.  My family seems to always be striving to create stress and drama and drag it into my life.  I have a psychic vampire sister, a drama queen oldest niece, a negative gossip mother, a narcissistic father, and a bad apple younger niece who has lately driven the drama and stress to whole new heights.

Maybe this is why I'm so anti-social.  The people closest to me are torturing me with their stressful lives.  Today, I've been worse than I have been in a while, and I want to swear off people altogether, especially my family, and drive deep into the woods and stay there forever.  Since I can't actually do that, I find myself instead fantasizing about locking myself in my room with a big batch of cookies.

Stressful times are when I find it hardest to resist the urge to eat bad foods.  I need something, anything, to dull the ache in my heart and quiet the noise in my head, and food has always been how I've dealt with it.  I just want it all to go away.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Recipe Makeover: Lasagna

When I was growing up, we'd eat lasagna all the time.  We don't have any Italian in our blood, which is probably why mom's lasagna always featured cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and canned spaghetti sauce instead of homemade tomato sauce.  But it was delicious nonetheless, and I continued to make it often when I moved out on my own.

The thing with lasagna is that it's usually made with lots of pasta.  Lasagna noodles, anyone?  And the way I made it when I was out on my own was always meatless, either just with cheese or with meatless soy crumbles.  Yum.

However, in the peak of summer, I remember my mom always making zucchini lasagna, using sliced zucchini instead of pasta.  It was fantastic, and I knew it would be the best way to convert a high carb meal into something low carb and nutritious.

The best thing about zucchini is that it's so easy to grow.  I've only gotten one out of my garden so far, but we have a local farmer that's grown so much this year that she's been selling it for 3 for a $1!

The one on the right is a Cocozelle zucchini from my garden.
I've found the easiest way to get zucchini noodles is by using a mandolin slicer.  It doesn't even have to be an ultra fancy, super dangerously sharp one, either, because zucchini is so soft.  I got mine at Aldi for $4, and it works like a charm on zucchini. 

If you don't have a mandolin, and don't have the confidence to slice the zucchinis lengthwise, it will taste just the same if you slice them into coins.

My mom always would dip her zucchini in eggs and flour and fry them before using them as noodles, but it saves a lot of time, trouble, and carbs by just using plain raw zucchini.  She would also use fried eggplant once in a while, but I've never been a huge fan of eggplant and can't really justify ruining a whole lasagna by using them.  (And yet I tried to grow eggplants last year; I guess I thought I'd like them more if they came from my garden.  I didn't, by the way.)

And the best thing about zucchini lasagna is that it makes enough to last for several days, and it's a whole meal in one.  Meat, cheese, good fats, vegetables.

Chad would eat two pieces for a meal, whereas one piece was just right for me.  For some of you, a whole piece might be too big, so of course you can cut it into as many pieces as you want.

Zucchini Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
12 oz package pork sausage OR 1 extra pound ground beef or pork (in case you don't do pork/processed meat)
8 oz shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, divided
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley OR 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 medium zucchinis, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In skillet, brown beef and sausage together. Once completely browned, drain most of the fat and add 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce.  Mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, and seasonings.  Set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Next, layer on the ingredients in this order:

zucchini noodles
1/3 of the meat sauce
1/2 of the ricotta mix
1/3 of the mozzerella

zucchini noodles
1/3 of the meat sauce
1/2 of the ricotta mix
1/3 of the mozzerella

zucchini noodles
remaining meat sauce
remaining mozzerella

Place into oven uncovered and bake for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure cheese isn't burning.  If it looks like it's starting to brown at this point, add a piece of greased foil to the top.  Bake for 30 more minutes, or until quite bubbly and cheese is nicely browned.  Remove the cover if you added one.

This next step is important: let sit for 20 minutes.  You can eat it immediately, however it's going to be soup if you try it.  Letting it rest gives it time to get rid of most of the moisture from the zucchini, and plus it's extremely hot straight out of the oven!

The first piece is always messy, no matter what you do.

If you're more of a cheese fan, go ahead and top the lasagna with another 4 oz (1 cup shredded) mozzarella.  I thought it was delicious with just 8 oz total though.

Nutrition facts:

For 1/8 piece:
Calories: 541
Fat: 40
Protein: 36
Carbs: 9
Fiber: 1

For 1/10 piece:
Calories: 433
Carbs: 7
Fiber: < 1

Friday, August 2, 2013

Keeping the Faith

Would you believe, at 28, I'm going to be a great-aunt soon?  Yeah, me either.  It came about through no fault of my own.  I didn't mean to be an aunt, let alone a great-aunt.  I didn't think I'd be a great anything for several years.  But here I am, about to be the third oldest generation in my family.

My niece is 19.  She was born when I was the sweet and innocent age of 9, so of course I immediately hated her for stealing my place in the family as the baby.  When she turned 10 or so, she and I actually started to get along.  Pretty soon, I actually enjoyed her company and brought out in her the nice, sweet side that no one else got to see.

When she got pregnant last winter, I was very disappointed.  She's not married to the father, and I'm not sure if she has any plans to be.  I guess I always thought she had so much potential, and knew that if she applied herself, she could do great things with her life.  But to see her go down the same path that her mom went down, that my mom went down, that all the other women in her life went down (except me), it saddens me.  Strapped with a baby, poor, in a bad relationship, with no ambition.

I guess that's why she and I haven't talked at all since I found out she was having a baby.  Actually, there's another secret reason I haven't talked to her, and this really makes me feel ashamed.  I'm really mad at her for getting pregnant before me.  Here I am trying everything I can to have a baby, and she has one without even trying. 

I'm trying really hard to let these feelings of disappointment go.  I'm not a strongly religious person, but I am very spiritual, and I believe that God brings us to certain hard situations in life to teach us to be better people, and I'm certain this is one of those times.  So to kind of break the ice, I decided to make my niece and her baby some things, including a receiving blanket and this cute little bear.

When I showed it to Chad, he asked, "Making it for Baby D?" which is what we've been calling our future baby.  I said, "No, but I wish I was."  And that got me to thinking...  It's been really hard to keep my faith that we'll get pregnant as the months go by.  For the last 5 months or so, I've even been thinking in my head that it's just never going to happen.  I want to stay positive, but it feels so forced when I do and it ends up making me feel even sadder when I don't get pregnant that month.

But I wonder if making things for Baby D is a gentler way for me to keep my faith.  I love to craft, after all, and crafting things for our baby might instill a seed of belief in my heart that we will have a baby someday.  I guess I'll try it and see how it goes.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Changeover

I love to cook.  I always have, to be honest.  When I was a teenager, I started cooking for my mom because she worked long hours.  I wasn't exactly a great cook back then, but I was learning.  When I moved in with Chad, I continued cooking, and as I got better, I started to develop my own recipes.  It was very exciting!

Now that I'm low carb, I've pretty much given up hope for my old recipes.  Which is a shame, because I have a whole book full of them.  But a couple of weeks ago, I decided I'd buy myself a pretty new recipe holder and start the long (but fun) process of converting my old carby recipes into delicious new low-carb recipes.

In with the new, out with the old.
I'm going to make it a point to try to convert one recipe a week, at least.  So hopefully soon, you'll see some new recipes from me!