Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So... there's this guy...

Dating can be tough. In the beginning you're always on your best behavior trying to impress, and slowly the not so glamorous stuff starts to come out. Make it or break it time, I like to call it. But for those of us dealing with dietary restrictions, it becomes a little more difficult to hide, considering that most dates involve sharing a meal or drinks (beer, anyone?). If you have it down, and go out to eat regularly, it might be easy to just suggest restaurants that you know are safe, and choose your go-to meals. Sooner or later the truth comes out and I've had mixed reactions to the news that I can't eat a lot of the stuff that "normal" people eat. For the most part, guys have been understanding of my situation. I have not really experienced a situation where a guy was turned off by it, however I do know one girl that literally had a beer thrown in her face when she told the guy why she had ordered a cider. That situation disgusts me, but if a guy has balls enough to throw a beer in a girl's face on a first date because she can't have gluten, imagine what other whack job tendencies he has going on...

However, when you find a guy that not only understands what you are going through, but then goes a huge step forward and offers to cook you dinner... hold onto him and don't let him get away!! This past Saturday I enjoyed a fine dining experience like none I've ever experienced before. Prosciutto wrapped asparagus and champagne to start, brussels sprouts, baked sweet potato fries, pork chops, and wine for dinner, sorbet and fruit for dessert. Hands down the best date of my life so far. And I'm not just saying that because I told him I'd give him the link to this site and he'll eventually read this. I swear.

But the real reason I'm sharing this story with you, is because this guy has a great sense of humor and put together this little comic that I thought was hilarious and I think you all would appreciate as well. Sometimes being so restricted gets me down, but things like this make it a lot easier to deal with.

Bills Comic
Apologies if you are sensitive to some of the language in this comic.

In this situation, I was up front right away about the Crohn's and the diet and all of that. It just all came out on our first date and as it turns out, he has IBS. He does not eat a restricted diet, and I would never tell anyone else how to eat, he's a grownup and can make his own decisions. I will however continue to be a good role model and if he makes lifestyle changes of his own then I think that's awesome. It's a running joke in my family that all of our conversations turn to shit, well I finally found the guy that I can talk shit to and he won't even mind. I think I've got a keeper here... :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cookies? Yes please! No wait, I'll pass, thanks.

Cookies

Before I decided to try out the Paleo diet, Enjoy Life Foods contacted me to see if I'd be interested in receiving some complimentary samples of their improved soft baked cookies. Well, who says no to free cookies? NOT ME! I have tried their soft baked cookies before and I have to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan. I found them a tad dry and gritty. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that these new and improved cookies are awesome, soft and chewy and flavorful. I really enjoyed them. I didn't even feel guilty about it. Well, today was a Valentine's Day party at work. I stopped at Whole Foods to grab something to share with everyone. These were on sale so I grabbed a couple of boxes. There were some leftover so I brought them home. Now I'm sitting on the couch next to an almost totally eaten package of double chocolate brownie cookies. Ugh.

Listen, I have no guilt over eating some cookies once in a while. I just happened to go a little overboard today. In general, the new lifestyle is going great. I feel awesome! I've noticed that my skin is getting significantly better, it's usually so dry and it's softer and smoother now. My hair seems to be growing like crazy. I am happier, calmer, sleeping better. The rash is getting better. I am seeing nothing but improvements. Eating grain based foods now just makes me feel bloated and weighed down. I really enjoy eating a ton of veggies every day and find that I crave them. I'll write a better post about my progress later. I don't want to steal the thunder of the cookies. This post is, afterall, about them. For those of you looking for tasty, store bought, allergen free cookies, these are a great choice!!

Disclaimer! Yes I received these cookies for free, however the opinions expressed here are my honest review. If I didn't like them, I'd tell you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Determination

tomato
Photo courtesy of matley0

When I started the Paleo diet I read in many different places that people (like me) with autoimmune disease that want to go Paleo should really also cut nightshade vegetables out. Nightshades include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and goji berries. I've read a handful of articles about nightshade issues but I just love potatoes and tomatoes and couldn't bare the thought of giving them up! Plus I didn't really feel like they were causing an issue for me.

But the more I cut out of my diet, the easier it is to see what foods trigger a reaction, and I started to notice some things. Most importantly, the rash is still bugging me. Not as badly, but definitely there and flares worse some days than others. I'm strictly gluten and dairy free and have eaten only a tiny amount of sugar in the past month and a half. So what the heck is it? I also noticed that I've started having some acid reflux, which is totally new for me. Seriously, does it ever end?!? My wish is for one full week of feeling completely healthy. I swear I'm not a hypochondriac! Not at all. But you really can't ignore itchy red bumps, I can't make that stuff up... and one day at lunch I literally almost regurgitated my food so suddenly. I've never in my life experienced reflux. I don't ever throw up. Where is this coming from??

I've started paying attention to when these things happen. A night of a really bad rash flare I had eaten tomato sauce. The day I almost lost my lunch - salsa. But I don't always eat tomatoes, so how is this happening so often? Oh wait, the salad dressing I eat almost every single day is made with tomatoes. Ugh. So I'm going to give it a shot for the rest of the month. I have my next docs appt scheduled at the end of the month and obviously if the rash is still bugging me I'll have it checked, but maybe, juuuuust maybe, this will be the last piece of the puzzle. I hope so!

Other than those two things, my health is phenominal after going Paleo. Seriously, I feel great and my stomach literally couldn't be better. I've never had such a calmn, fully functional stomach in my life! I have more energy, I am sleeping better, the rash heals faster lol. Well, wish me luck on this next step!! I'll definitely keep you updated.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Breakfast and a new venture

breakfast

This is not what I eat every day, but weekends when I have a little extra time I like to change it up a bit. This is two eggs, spinach and tomato omelet, avocado and bacon. This was so delicious!!

Now, on to a more important matter. I've been thinking about doing this for a long time, and I don't know what came over me this morning but I just went ahead and did it. I've created a new network for people like me and you that are healing through food. I hope that you'll join and share your story if you've already been healing through diet, or you'll join and share you're story if you're looking for help with dietary changes. This is very exciting for me and I really hope that it takes off!! Tell your friends about it!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and POM = Wonderful!

IMG_0493

I love Brussels Sprouts. This poor veggie is one of the most hated of them all and it's such a shame. They are delicious!! I usually just buy them frozen, cook them in the microwave and eat with butter, salt and pepper. Over the past year or two I've seen a ton of recipes on the blogs involving these little nuggets of joy and more often than not, the recipe includes bacon and pomegranate of some sort. I've been wanting to try one of these recipes out for a long time but laziness has kept me from doing it. Last week the nice folks over at POM Wonderful sent me a case of their pomegranate juice. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out one of those recipes.

Typically I drink water and only water, but sometimes I just want something flavorful. I'm very picky about juice and it has to be 100% fruit juice. Sure, once in a great while I'll grab a cup of super sugary fruit punch from the fountain in the cafe... once in a very great while. The more I read about POM Wonderful on their website, the more I like them. You should check out their website!

So anyway, I read a bunch of recipes and just kinda threw something together. I thought it came out ok, less liquid would've been better, but it was still pretty tasty! Served with some butternut squash and a pork chop, soooo good. I am loving the butternut squash this winter. My Mom has been serving butternut squash at Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember, but I refused to eat it up until about 3 years ago. Now I just love it!!

Here's how I made the sprouts:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pomegranate Juice

1 package of Brussels Sprouts, halved and loose leaves removed
4 strips of bacon (I used Applegate Farms)
1 small onion chopped
2 Tbs butter (I use Earth Balance)
Chicken Stock
Pomegranate Juice

Start by cooking the onion in the butter
add the bacon and cook for a few more minutes
then add the sprouts and cook for a few more minutes
add some chicken stock and some juice
cook for another 10 minutes or so

Yeah, I just kinda dumped some stock and some juice in, it was too much. I can't tell you how much of each to put in, but there are plenty of recipes out there! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Think it's too expensive to eat healthy? Think again!

Chicken Stir Fry

I live on a very tight budget. After all the bills are paid I have enough money to put gas in my car and to buy food and maybe a night out with friends. The most important thing for me is to make food a priority. Of course over the years I've fallen into the trap of buying cheap food when times are really tough. Mac & cheese is less than $2 per box! Ramen Noodles? Pennies! Of course I haven't purchased ramen noodles or mac & cheese (at least not the Kraft version) in years, but you know what I mean. Lately I've heard a lot of people making statements about how hard it is to eat healthy because it's so much more expensive. I was watching a show about people that are learning to be healthier and one lady said that she never visits the meat counter because that's where the rich people shop. What????? My goodness. I guarantee if they compared the cost of a typical month of food versus a carefully planned out month of healthy foods it would be close. Try it yourself, you might be surprised! I'm putting more effort now than ever before when it comes to stocking my fridge since I'm cutting out all the processed stuff. I thought I'd share my strategies to show you that you can eat healthy on a super tight budget!

1. Failure to Plan = Planning to Fail
Before I even step out of the house to hit the grocery store I plan out my meals for the week. The first step is to go through the kitchen to see what is left over from the previous week. How much meat is in the freezer and what produce needs to be used up? I can't tell you how many times I've thrown away rotten produce. No more!! That's money in the trash. So with what's left over in mind, I then hit the sale folders. I'm lucky to live in a city with a bunch of grocery stores so I have a lot to choose from. I focus on the proteins as that is the more expensive portion of the list as well as the foundation of all my meals. Once I've chosen my proteins, I look for recipes. If I don't have planned recipes, I tend to lose interest in what's in the fridge and wind up at the Chipotle checkout... What I spend at Chipotle for one meal could easily buy me two or three meals at home.

2. Don't throw away food, you might as well just throw your money
directly in the trash
Once you've made your shopping list and you head off to the store, stick to the list! Especially when it comes to produce. Don't buy more than you need! Just because the bananas come in a bunch of six doesn't mean you have to buy all of them. I know I won't eat more than two so I buy two. The same applies to the deli or seafood counters, don't be afraid to order 5 scallops if you want to make one meal of scallops. The deli guy might look at you funny for ordering an 1/8th of a pound of turkey, but so what? Everytime you let a head of lettuce turn to brown mush in your crisper, you throw away the money you spent on that lettuce. Those dollars add up quick!

3. Take advantage of your freezer
Buy meat in bulk packs and take the extra five minutes to freeze the individual portions. You'll save a lot this way! I bought steak, pork chops and stew beef this week and spent a little over $20, that will get me 18 meals. That's a little over a dollar a meal for the meat, add the veggies that I'll eat with them and you're looking at roughly $2 to $3 per meal at the most.
If you do find yourself constantly throwing away fresh produce, then stock up on the frozen stuff! I don't ever buy canned veggies because they often have added salt and preservatives, but frozen veggies and fruit tend to be fresh picked and flash frozen with nothing added. And they are cheap! Buy the store brand and you can often find deals like 10 packages for $10.

Tonight's meal consisted of veggies that needed to be used up, plus veggies from the freezer and chicken from the freezer. I bought the chicken last month when it was on sale, buy one pound get one pound free.

Chicken Stir Fry

2 chicken breasts, cut in small pieces
1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
1/2 head of cauliflower finely chopped (faux rice!)
1/2 bag of frozen carrots

1 clove garlic
1/2 cup of GF Soy Sauce (San-J Tamari)
1/2 Tbs sesame oil
1 good squeeze of honey

Saute the chicken breast in your choice of oil until just cooked
Remove the chicken to a plate and add all the veggies
Cook the veggies for a few minutes and in the meantime, combine the ingredients for the stir fry sauce (minced garlic clove, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey)
Add the chicken and the sauce and cook until it's all combined

This was a really easy meal to prepare and it was delicious! Simple and tasty and gave me enough for two servings, the other will probably be lunch tomorrow. And the total cost? Under $10 total, or between $4 and $5 per serving. Cheaper than a value meal at McDonald's, that's for sure, even if you ate off the dollar menu, a double cheeseburger, small fries and small drink would cost you $3.15 so why not splurge the extra $.85 on REAL FOOD! The truth is, you have to want it. It takes effort, it's a commitment to treat yourself right by eating well. What's more important, convenience and feeling like crap all the time? Or effort and feeling great mentally and physically? For me it's an easy choice these days!!