Archive for August, 2008

I have been floundering a bit recently with my nutritional approach.  Now that many peripheral health issues have been resolved, I’m noticing a few things in my diet that are not working for me.  One of the most obvious is the inclusion of grains.  Brown rice hates me.  Even gluten-free, Body Ecology Diet-approved grains like buckwheat, quinoa, and millet torment me.  I’ve been soaking them BED/Nourishing Traditions style, but that hasn’t helped.  I’ve properly combined them but, again, to no avail.  Digestive enzymes?  Ditto.  Since the digestion problems persist, and I know that I’m candida-free, I’m avoiding my food allergens, I’m getting plenty of probiotics and enzymes from both food and supplements, and that my gut is in good shape, I think I am about ready to conclude that grains just aren’t for me. 

This is very frustrating, to say the least.  For one, grains are C.H.E.A.P., which is nothing to sneeze at with grocery prices soaring.  Second, I, um, like grains.  They’re yummy.  Third, my husband needs them to keep his weight up (disgusting, isn’t it?), so I have to make them anyway.  This is very hard for me.  If it’s in the house, I’m probably going to eat it, even if I know it won’t make me feel good.  Fourth, grains are politically correct, you know?  People like it when you say, “Oh yes, I’m virtually vegetarian.”  I do try to buy local, responsibly raised and produced animal products, but it’s still not exactly eco-chic.  Fifth, while true food allergies are a good excuse for refusing bread, things start getting tricky when you say you don’t want rice because “you don’t digest it well.”  Right.  People think you’re making it up or are just overly demanding.  

Despite these myriad objections, I am going to start experimenting again.  Experimentation.  That’s something I haven’t talked much about on this blog.  In many ways, I feel that the last year-and-a-half of my life has been a giant series of experiments.  I’ll try one thing for a while — whether it’s a particular way of eating (raw, vegan, Body Ecology, etc.), a new health practitioner, or a special kind of treatment — and pick up some useful habits and information, then I’ll transition to something else, hoping to make some more progress.  I try to take with me the things that work for me and my body.  Some phases have been more successful than others.  I’ve made some blunders, spending too much money and time on certain approaches and practitioners, but I’ve also found some real gold-mines of health.  If there’s one thing I feel convinced of by now, it’s that there is no perfect solution that fits everyone.  I think that we all have to take things slowly, trying one approach after another, listening to our bodies at every step.  There is no magic pill, no perfect nutritional formula, no genius doctor or naturopath or chiropractor that will suddenly transform us into radiant, healthy beings.  I’m beginning to understand that a lot of patience and a lot of time are required in the pursuit of wellbeing.

I dislike this very much. 

I feel impatient.  I want to be perfectly well now.  It’s easy for me to look at the problems I still have and feel like giving up.  But if I take a moment and think about where I was a year ago, or even six months ago — heck, what about three months ago? — I realize that I have made tons of progress.  I don’t have candida now, my seasonal allergies are minimal, my digestion is dramatically better, my absorption of nutrients is much-improved (as evidenced by my newly strong, long-growing nails!), my immune system is far stronger, I am feeling less hot all the time, I’m off of progesterone for the first time in six years and having better periods than ever (no PMS!), I get fewer headaches, I can think more clearly and remember things better, I have a lot more energy, I have been able to reduce my thyroid medication, and my sleep cycle is much improved, though I do run into occasional hiccups with it.  There are a lot of other great strides forward, but I can’t think of them at the moment.  Are things perfect?  No way.  But they’re better.  So, so, so much better.  It helps that I have a few people around me who remind me of how far I’ve come.  (Thank you!)

Anyway, I’m here to say that I don’t have it all figured out.  I’m on the brink of a new experiment with my diet, and I’m eager to see how goes.  I  feel a little apprehensive because, after all, even if my current diet isn’t perfect, there are no surprises with it.  I know what to expect.  Change is always a little scary and can often be draining.  It requires lots of mental and emotional energy, and it’s important for me to remember that.  I often forget that I need to give myself grace and time.  Oh, that patience would become a habit a little faster!


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Indian Roasted Chicken

Oh, yum!  After preparing this dish for the second time last night, we have officially declared it a member of our favorite recipes collection.  I used this Indian-style rub once when roasting a whole chicken and once (last night) when roasting leg quarters.  Both were fantastic.  The chicken develops a wonderful smoky flavor that is hard to describe and even harder to resist!  Though I haven’t tried it (yet), I suspect that this would also make an excellent rub for grilled chicken pieces. 

I discovered this recipe in one of last year’s issues of Food & Wine.  I tried to locate it on the Food & Wine website so that I could provide a link, but I came up empty-handed.  Thus, I’ll re-print it here with a few very minor modifications that reflect my ingredient and preparation preferences.  If you like highly-seasoned food, consider increasing this recipe by 50%.  I doubled it last night for six leg quarters, and it was perfect for our taste. 


Indian Rub

Please note that this is not a spicy dish.  Leave the seeds and membranes in the jalapeno if you want a little fire on your tongue.

2 tablespoons virgin, unrefined coconut oil (go here for one of the best brands at a great price)
2 large garlic cloves
2 teaspoons high-quality sea salt (Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt are good choices)
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 chicken or equivalent chicken pieces, preferably organic or hormone- and antibiotic-free

Mix all ingredients to a paste.

If using a whole chicken, loosen the skin and rub the paste under and over the skin.  Then, roast at 350 for 90 minutes (for a 4 pound bird).

If using chicken leg quarters, cut 1 lengthwise slash in the drumstick and 1 crosswise slash in the thigh.  Rub the paste into the slashes and underneath and over the skin.  Roast, uncovered, at 425 for 45 minutes, or until juices run clear.

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True Story

Today marks the beginning of the end of my undergraduate coursework.  I am now officially in the midst of my very last semester in college.  Although I’m elated, I’m still feeling a little flustered by an event that transpired in my first class of the day.

KINE 2202: Creating a Wellness Lifestyle

Sounds pretty innocent, right? 

It was.

Until the professor suddenly — and I do mean suddenly — picked me out of a class of 40 students, mostly freshmen, to answer the question, “What did you eat for breakfast today?”

Me?”  This could be interesting.

“Yes, you.  Katie, right?”

“No, Alison.” 

“Oh right.  Okay, Alison, what did you eat for breakfast today?”

“You’re going to laugh.”  I can feel myself starting to turn red.

“Tell me.”

“Um, okay.  I had a little bison–”


“Bison.  Ground bison.  I, um, I broiled it last night.”  I’m beginning to feel flustered.

“You mean buffalo?  Like, like buffalo?!”

“Yes, bison.  Buffalo.”

“Um, okay.  What else?”

“Well, I had some cucumbers–raw cucumbers and some red bell pepper.  And some pumpkin seeds.”

“Cucumbers?  Peppers?”  He’s shaking his head.  “I see.  And this is normal for you?”

“Um, pretty normal.”  Obviously, I often eat eggs and veggies for breakfast, but leftover lamb and bison frequently make the menu.

“Hmph.  Well. . .overall it’s not too bad.”

“I know that.”

“Well, thanks for being honest.”

I checked my shirt after class.  Oh yes, it was drenched with sweat.  Lovely. 

And that, my friends, is how my Monday began.

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After several weeks of eating too much sugar, starches (rice and potatoes), and pasteurized dairy, I’ve decided to go on a modified Maker’s Dietcleanse.  This week, I’ll be eliminating all grains and starchy foods (including beans and lentils), all sugars, most fruits (except lemons, limes, and grapefruit), all vinegars except for raw apple cider vinegar, and nuts.  I’ll be eating tons of vegetables (primarily raw or lightly steamed), generous amounts of cultured vegetables, eggs, poultry, beef, lamb, bison, raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil.  I’m also trying to take extra EPA-DHA fish oil, green drinks, probiotic supplements, and loads of water.  I’m really excited about this because I know I’ll feel amazing by the end of the cleanse, which will last about six weeks.  Here is my menu for this week:

Breakfast: Broiled bison patty, raw cucumbers, red bell peppers, and pumpkin seeds
Snack: lightly steamed broccoli and sunflower seeds
Lunch: Broiled bison, raw carrots, red bell peppers, celery, and seeds
Dinner: Roasted chicken, Carrot Salad with Basil VinaigretteCabbage for People Who Hate Cabbage, and cultured vegetables

To do: Boil eggs, prep raw veggies, make more cultured vegetables

Breakfast: none 😦  (I’m having a full-body thermography done, and I can’t eat before it)
Snack: devilled eggs, raw celery, carrots, red bell peppers, and cultured veggies
Lunch: leftover chicken, lightly steamed broccoli, leftover veggies, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Dinner: Crockpot Ragout (made with lean ground beef, onion, celery, carrots, green beans, kale, and cabbage, but no potatoes), green salad with lots of veggie toppings, cultured veggies

To do: Make turkey breakfast sausage, prep raw veggies

Breakfast: Turkey breakfast sausage, raw veggies, seeds, cultured veggies
Snack: veggies and seeds
Lunch: Ragout leftovers, raw veggies, cultured veggies
Dinner: Turkey Taco Salads w/ Zucchini, 5 Minute Salsa, avocados, cultured veggies

To do: prep raw veggies

Breakfast: Hearty Mexican Scrambled Eggs, raw veggies, and cultured veggies
Snack: veggies and seeds
Lunch: Taco salad leftovers, cultured veggies
Dinner: Grilled Lamb Patties, Fattoush, maybe a version of tabbouleh made with raw hemp seeds instead of bulgur, and cultured veggies

To do: prep raw veggies

Breakfast: Turkey breakfast sausage, raw veggies, seeds, cultured veggies
Snack: Devilled eggs, raw veggies, cultured veggies
Lunch: Leftover lamb, fattoush, and tabbouleh
Dinner: Turkey Burgers with Dijon-Dill Sauce, green salad with lots of raw veggie toppings, cultured vegetables

To do: prep raw veggies

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, raw veggies, cultured vegetables
Snack: veggies and seeds
Lunch: Leftovers, cultured veggies
Dinner: Leftovers, cultured veggies

To do: prep raw veggies

Breakfast: Turkey breakfast sausage, raw veggies, seeds, cultured vegetables
Lunch: ??
Dinner: ??

That’s it!  For more menu planning fun and a special giveaway, visit The Organizing Junkie.

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Breakfast Tejano

My sweet husband prepared breakfast for the two of us for the first few days of our vacation.  By day three, however, he confessed to me that he wanted to eat something besides scrambled eggs for breakfast.  After discussing our options, they being few considering my gluten allergy and our small-town location, we decided that this would be the perfect opportunity for a couple of cooking lessons for him.  I explained that scrambled eggs didn’t have to be boring.  Bring in a few vegetables and seasonings, and you have endless variations.

We really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen together, and he got quite an education.  Although he is always eager to help, I typically give him salad or clean-up duty because he’s not terribly comfortable in the kitchen, and I figure it will take me longer to explain to him how to properly prepare a cabbage for sauteing than it will take for me to do it myself.  (I’ve been realizing that this strategy is not going to work with kids.  If I’m not willing to spend the extra time to teach them how to cook, they will leave home without knowing how to boil water.  Yikes!)  Since we had no schedule and nowhere to be this week, leisurely preparing food together turned out to be quite a treat.

Here is the second of our efforts, a meal I’ll call Breakfast Tejano.  I would be happy to serve this to company, probably with some sliced avocados, a little 5 Minute Salsa, some cheese, and maybe even corn tortillas.  We didn’t have access to these extras yesterday, but breakfast was delicious anyway — and healthy too!

I started by preparing the refried beans.  Once I added the beans to the pan, I heated up another saute pan for the stir-fried vegetables.  After adding the veggies to that pan, I put the eggs on in another pan to scramble.  It would work just fine to make the beans and vegetables first, then keep them warm in the oven until your eggs are done if you don’t have a helper. 

For the best possible scrambled eggs, try to find some local, free-range ones with deep, rich, orange yolks.  They have infinitely more flavor and pack a bigger nutritional punch than even organic store-bought eggs.  Cook them over medium to medium-low heat in coconut oil or Kerrygold cultured butter, stopping before they are fully cooked and dry.  Overcooking damages the egg proteins. 


Alison’s Refried Black Beans

2 tablespoons high-quality butter or virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, partially seeded (optional)
2 cans or 3 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup prepared salsa (optional)
1 tablespoon chili powder (start with 1/2 tablespoon if you don’t like highly seasoned food)
1 tablespoon ground cumin (start with 1/2 tablespoon if you don’t like highly seasoned food)
sea salt to taste
splash of water, broth, or extra virgin olive oil

Heat a pan over medium heat.  Add the butter or coconut oil and melt.  When hot, stir in the onion, garlic, and jalapeno and saute until soft. 

Add the black beans, salsa, and seasonings and cook until hot.  Using a potato masher or a fork, smash the beans roughly, adding water, broth, or extra virgin olive oil until you reach the right consistency.  Taste and adjust seasonings.


Stir-Fried Peppers and Onions

2 tablespoons high-quality butter or virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 orange bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add butter or coconut oil to pan and, when hot, toss in the sliced onion.  Saute for a minute, then add the bell peppers.  Cook until brightly-colored and tender-crisp.  Just before removing from the heat, stir in the cilantro leaves to wilt them.

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I am very excited today because my first guest post has been published!  Over at Keeper of the Home, a fantastic blog on natural homemaking, you can read my post about some often overlooked keys to proper hydration.  The points I cover there in detail — prioritizing morning hydration, between-meal drinking, and water quality — all have helped me tremendously.  I hope you check it out!

In other news, I would like to announce an impending name change.  My blog’s name will change from Pennythoughts to Wholesome Goodness (www.wholesomegoodness.net) sometime in the coming weeks.  When I originally chose Pennythoughts, I thought that I would be blogging on a huge variety of topics.  Over time, though, Pennythoughts has clearly become a health blog with a focus on food and nutrition.  After much agonizing and desperately trying to find a domain name that wasn’t already taken, I feel pretty happy with Wholesome Goodness.  I think it will be far more descriptive of what I am doing here now, and of what I hope to do in the future.  (I foresee some expansion of material in store as I move into motherhood, and I think the new name will be well-suited to those topics as well.) 

The good news is, even if you type in my current web address, https://pennythoughts.wordpress.com, you will be re-routed to the new web location.  So you will certainly end up in the right place whether you remember the name change or not.  Just don’t be surprised when you see a different title on my blog!  I will post more reminders as the time for the switch draws near.

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Pot Roast Success!

I would like to thank Beth for responding to my plea for pot roast recipes.  I prepared her Drunken Garlic Pot Roast, and it was fantastic!  As I had hoped, my husband was delighted with his welcome-home meal.  We really enjoyed the onion and garlic flavoring — very savory — combined with the tiniest hint of sweetness from the beer.  (Although the recipe calls for a bit of sugar, the final result still turned out far less sweet than the traditional carrot-heavy pot roast.)  I served the pot roast alongside steamed green beans and mashed potatoes spiked with cream cheese and garlic-sauteed kale.  I wish I had a picture, but we ate it too quickly for that.  🙂

I used Heineken for the beer, mostly because it was one of the only beers in the store clearly marked as a lager.  Can you tell I know virtually nothing about beer?  Fortunately, it worked beautifully.  The gravy was awesome.  The only changes I made to the recipe were the generous salting and peppering of the roast before I browned it and a little salting of the gravy.  Thanks again, Beth!

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