Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year! (Alternate Title: I got LASIK!)

Well, 2012 is here! I think one of the biggest changes for me personally this year has already happened.

I've had glasses or contacts for a long time - since I think 3rd grade (maybe 4th?) and while I have been VERY grateful that glasses and contacts exist, they aren't perfect. With glasses, they get dirty, you basically have no peripheral vision, every time it rains you get water on them, they slide down your nose......and so on. I stopped trying to wear contacts because they would only be comfortable until about dinnertime and I'd have to switch to glasses anyway, you weren't supposed to swim in them, and it was a pain to put them in....and so on.

So, when my eye doctor suggested to me that my vision was likely correctable through LASIK surgery, I was very interested! (And actually MOST vision problems can be corrected through the procedure, including many with astigmatism - the technology has gotten very good!)

We started investigating pricing, and different LASIK providers/surgeons to try to figure out where to go. As far as I could figure out - the biggie is to make sure that they open the "flap" with bladeless technology (a laser) and that they do a "custom" laser for the actual treatment laser. If you want more info about the actual ins and outs of the process, you'll have to google it - this is just my basic synopsis.

We went through Lasik Plus, which I understand has offices in many locations - there were 3 cities within 2 hours of us that we could have chosen from (we picked the office that google maps said was fewer miles away!). The initial exam was free - they measured my cornea to see if it was thick enough to do the treatment and did various other tests, compared my glasses prescription to my current eye strength, and answered some questions about the procedure. I was proclaimed "a great candidate!" and we went ahead and set the treatment date for 1 week from my first exam!

They send you home with a looooong list of potential problems and side effects that are POSSIBLE, even though the actual likelihood of having problems is extremely small. So, I planned out the weeks following making sure I had easy-to-cook meals in mind that wouldn't be too hard to fix if I had dry, irritated eyes, or if my eyes were tearing uncontrollably or some other such thing. I did all the grocery shopping, and in fact, I WILL NOT HAVE TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING AGAIN UNTIL NEXT SUNDAY!! :-) I made sure all the house cleaning was done and the laundry caught up.....just in case.... I was pretty nervous about the unknown, but deep down I was quite assured that all would turn out just fine, and the only side effect I'd experience from the surgery, if you can call it such, would be 20/20 vision! But still.....I was excited AND nervous all week.

So Friday came, the day of my LASIK surgery. I asked my husband to take my picture in front of the doctor's office door wearing glasses for hopefully the last time! (They have said that most people still need to get reading glasses around the age of 40 - but I'm hoping they may come up with new technology by the time I get to that point!) They give me another DVD to watch talking about post treatment care, I sign a LOT of paperwork, we pay, buy the fancy eyedrops they want you to use, they give me the Valium (so I am relaxed during the procedure, and am able to nap for the first 4 hours afterward) and then the Doctor calls me back to ask if I have any more questions, double check my prescription before they put the laser to my eyes, and then we go back to meet the laser surgeon. I get a hairnet to put on, the surgeon asked if I had any more questions, and then I followed them into the laser suite.

I was only in there for the actual laser treatment maybe 5-10 minutes tops. It was not painful to have it done. But how I wish I had better prepared myself for the actual procedure. It was pretty freaky to follow the nurse into the chair without my glasses (I couldn't see where I was going!) and not know what was going to happen next. That was TOTALLY my fault, because I SHOULD have asked more questions about the specific procedure, but I was thinking that "well, it won't last that long, it will be terrible/unpleasant no matter what, so I will be better off not knowing what's going to happen." I had plenty of opportunity to ask questions about the procedure and even could have watched the person that went before me through a window! I wish I had done that. I also wish that the Valium would have had more time to kick in! Even so, I'd do it again.

I don't know if the exact procedure is the same everywhere, but for me they had me walk in and lay down under the first laser, where they gave me numbing eye drops and then placed a "thing" on my eye (one eye at a time) to keep my eyelid open and they then created the "flap". I was disconcerted because I know at the dentist if you can feel it, you want to be sure the dentist knows!! Well, it was super uncomfortable to have that eyelid-holder-open-thingy in so when the surgeon asked "are you ok?" I said no! Anyway, I figured out that that part was just going to feel super weird, and got over it. It did not hurt even a little to have the actual laser flap created, aside from some bright light. Then the other freaky thing happens: your vision goes dark for just a moment (they do warn you about this). So then they repeat the process on the other eye: now the flaps are done. For me that was the worst part, which really only took like 3-5 minutes, tops? It was kind of alarming to know that after my flaps were made that I was to stand up and walk to the next laser machine. I had assumed that once the flaps were made that I'd have to stay still - but no, I was allowed to walk and blink, eyes open or not it didn't matter! The actual laser treatment was super easy. Same feeling of that eyelid-holder-open-thing, and keep focused on the red light for just seconds (they told me this was 9 seconds). There was a slight burnt-hair smell, and then that eye was done: the surgeon replaced the flap, kind of dabbed around my eye, put more drops in, and done! Repeat for other eye.

I was shocked when they told me I was already done! My vision was already more clear, though certainly not at all perfect, still very blurry. The surgeon looked at my eyes through a special machine, told me that the procedure went very well, gave me a pair of sunglasses, and told me to go home and take a nap. So my husband walked me to the car, and I propped myself up with pillows and rested for the 1.5 hour drive home, which I have almost no recollection of, because I was sleeping. I do know that my eyes watered a lot, and that anytime I tried to open my eyes the sun was so bright that I just decided to keep them shut, but they did not hurt. I never had any pain throughout the whole thing - the most discomfort was the feeling of a dirty contact, but even that was gone after I took my nap when I got home. My vision was still blurry after the nap, but clearer already. I had a lot of "halo" or glare around lights, which they told me to expect.

The next morning I woke up and headed to get ready to go (I had a follow-up appointment that we had to leave the house at 6:30am!). Matt asked me how my eyes were and I wasn't sure how to answer him. It seemed too good to be true....but I could see almost perfectly! Just a little halo still around lights, but I had peripheral vision! I could see the clock across the room! At my follow-up visit, when they checked my vision they said it was even better than 20/20, 20/15!

I have to put medicated eyedrops in at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime for the first week after surgery, and wear goggles to sleep for the first 3 nights. No rubbing the eyes or water in the eyes for the first week. I also have some artificial tears to put in about every hour or as needed. I have these really ugly looking red marks all around the whites of my eyes, which they say will be completely gone in 2 weeks. But no pain!!

I am writing this post on the Sunday after my LASIK procedure. The halo effect around lights is almost completely gone and I am floored at the difference in clarity in normal everyday things that I hadn't noticed in such detail before: the threads in the tablecloth, the grain in the wood on the floor - details in twigs in faraway trees, and best of all peripheral vision to be able to notice when my 2 year old is getting ready to smear mashed potatoes on my arm at dinner! At this point, I am very very glad I did it, and having seen such amazing early results (My vision should continue to improve slightly over the next 3 months) and if I had it to do all over again, I would gladly undergo the procedure, freaky as it was. Two things would have helped: more knowledge of the actual process, and allowing the Valium to set in better! But I am so glad I did it.

Now, at the place where I went they offer a lifetime enhancement - which basically means that if my vision gets worse over time, that they'll redo the LASIK again for free. In order to keep that, I am required to go back in a week, in a month, and then in at 3 months. Then I'm good to go!

I'm looking forward to life without glasses or contacts, and really great vision! Can't wait to go swimming with the kids without worrying about losing my glasses, or trying not to get water on my contacts. Looking forward to not having to clean fingerprints off of my glasses, being able to see the time if I wake up in the middle of the many things! So I'm glad I did it, glad that the technology was available, and I am thankful that God allowed my eyes to heal so quickly!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


So I think I mentioned that now that the "food challenge" is over, that we'd be eating grains, infrequently, and only if whole grain, and only if prepared by soaking to neutralize phytates and other harmful antinutrients they contain. (at home.....anywhere else, almost anything is fair game) is extremely difficult to get anything good to come from 100% whole wheat flour! I tried soaked biscuits (tough, crumbly......almost a waste of jam) I tried sourdough bread, and while the flavor was excellent, the texture of the loaf was, well - bricklike. Not exactly desirable for a loaf of bread! The banana bread I made was pretty decent, actually, and really, the whole wheat sourdough waffles were super good - but even if it all tasted amazing and it all had perfect texture....I'm actually not convinced that grains really DO have a place in our diet!

Surprised? Me too.

Because on every day that I consumed whole wheat, I was exhausted! I mean, ready for bed at 7pm, take a nap in the morning while the kids watch cartoons, and maybe even sneak a nap in the afternoon! This is not me, people - I had not taken a nap in I don't know when.

I sure wasn't expecting to find that my 24 hour, buttermilk-soaked, whole-grain baked goods were making me sleepy and lethargic, but that's what happened.

I can't really imagine any special occasion where a breakfast of sleep-inducing waffles is a good idea. I mean, for most special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever) you have plenty of other things other than eating and sleeping planned, right? If eating grains makes me sleepy, which it appears to, I really would be wise to avoid the stuff, altogether.

Too bad, I was really hoping to enjoy an occasional whole-wheat baked good. But really, I'm not sure if the words "enjoy" and "whole wheat" really even belong in the same sentence. If I'm going to eat grain, give me unbleached all purpose white flour. At least I can make some amazingly delicious biscuits and sausage gravy with the stuff. Occasionally, and only on days when I don't mind if eating breakfast makes me sleepy. ha!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Food Challenge Menus Posted in February

For reasons not quite understood by me, when I posted the week-by-week recount of what we actually ate during February, rather than posting in March, it dropped the posts in February.

So if you're considering giving no grains, no legumes, no sugar a try - and want to see what my family ate for Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Supper - for 28 days, just scroll down a bunch, and you can read that stuff. Otherwise - I'd skip it - it's pretty boring stuff!

But, I do recommend giving this a try. I'd say it was a very healthy way to lose some extra weight, we noticed great alertness and energy levels, and greater intestinal comfort.

We're making every effort, even after the challenge, to significantly limit consumption of grains, legumes, and sugar. In general, we intend to go without it, except for specially planned treats, or as guests we will gladly eat what is offered.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food Challenge Summary

For the month of February, my family challenged ourselves to eat no sugar, no grains, plenty of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, meats, and drink unsweetened beverages.

It went quite well.

  • We tried a lot of new recipes, which for the most part were very tasty.
  • We gained a new appreciation of what it means to have "dessert" - as an occasional treat, not a daily occurance, and even then, being super-sweetened isn't necessary.
  • My husband who's been accustomed to drinking sweet tea every day of his life, has switched (happily, even) to unsweetened tea - and has plans to continue this!
  • I've become more aware of the importance of consuming fat - for cellular health, for being able to use fat-soluble vitamins, and the realization that without consuming fat, your body senses the need to store it. Not to mention that plenty of healthy fats are essential, necessary, vitally important to raise healthy children. I'm also more aware of how various fats and oils are produced, and have a better understanding of which ones are most healthful to use.
  • My husband and I have lost inches off of our waist and hips. Effortlessly - we did not increase our exercise levels in the slightest.
  • I've been motivated to source whole milk for our family, and have begun milking our goats.
  • We now notice how SUPER sweet a soda pop is. Maybe even sickeningly sweet....before it was just a normal, every now and then drink.
  • Fruit salad tastes sweet without sugar.
  • I'm very excited about the gardening season so I can grow and try new vegetables to get a variety in our meals. Brussels sprouts, beets, asparagus, kale, chard - I'm actually looking forward to preparing these veggies, and eating them!
  • I've become a better meal-planner, and become better at sourcing the least expensive, yet high nutritive value foods.
  • There are probably more, but these are the ones I can remember easily. Both myself and my husband have talked about the changes we made, and felt glad for having done it.
Will we continue eating the same way? In a word, no - but there's more to it than that. We did notice digestive and energy level upset when we consumed sugar or grains. We are absolutely going to minimize the frequency of consuming those items, and change the methods we use to prepare them, but not rule them out on a regular basis. Even for the duration of the challenge, we still ate those things when we were offered them by others, either as guests or if given gifts of food - and we'll certainly continue that.

Some basic changes we plan to put into place:
  • eating grain and sugar free at breakfast throughout the week, but enjoying a serving of special things on the weekends, but in smart quantities. Maybe on Saturday and Sunday we'll have a slice of banana bread with our fruit and sausage and eggs, or maybe a cinnamon roll. We'll no longer eat only cinnamon rolls for the entire breakfast meal!
  • when Lent begins, I intend to stop drinking coffee for the rest of the summer - although I'll carefully consider starting back up in the late fall when cold weather returns.
  • when we consume baked goods, they'll be prepared carefully - soaked for 12-24 hours to neutralize phytates and enzyme-inhibitors, and they'll be eaten with moderation.
  • I'll aim to avoid white sugar altogether - we have real maple syrup, honey, and stevia to use as sweeteners when the natural sweetness of foods isn't enough.
  • We're now using olive oil, lard, butter, and coconut oil - avoiding canola, corn, and vegetable oil. Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions, explains why this is a good idea. The next time we take a fat calf in to butcher, I'll ask if we can get the beef tallow.
  • I'm learning to make real stock on a near-weekly basis, and incorporating it into our meals. It's not that hard, but seriously nutritious and delicious!
  • I'm going to learn how to make whole grain sourdough bread!
  • I intend to donate all the unopened pasta boxes that we have in our pantry - those foods have no place in our regular diets. I think pasty pasta might nearly be the definition of empty calories. Yes, we'll still eat the opened packages, but very infrequently.
  • We'll continue to carefully plan out menus, and I'm going to work hard to try to preserve as much as possible over the summer in the freezer to help with the cost of eating this way.
And honestly, I can't ignore the benefits of eating the way we did in February - we're going to try to eat no grain, no sugar as much as possible, though we will also incorporate properly prepared beans, rice, and whole grains as special treats, maybe 2-3 meals/week. Yes, we lost a lot of weight going without grain and sugar - but that was not our main goal, and coming up this summer we will be much more active and will need more sustenance! I have penciled in to do a repeat of the February challenge from November-January to minimize weight gain over the winter, and maximize health during a timeframe that's typically filled with unhealthy (although delicious) holiday treats.

And just in case anyone else reading this is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat that way for 28 days, I did keep track of what we consumed. I'll post them in 4 separate posts, by week. Admittedly, they'll not be particularly interesting to the majority of readers - but if you're considering giving this type of thing a try, it might help you see how we did it. I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

I'm glad we did it. It has helped us change our eating habits, I believe for the better.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fourth and Last Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 4th week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 22:

Breakfast: Banana Pancakes, topped with butter and triple berry mix. I also poured in a tiny bit of raw goat's milk in my coffee. Still not ready to feed it to the kids - the jury's still out on "to pasteurize or not to pasteurize", but until the decision is made, I'm just getting the frisky goats used to the process, keeping the milk in the fridge to feed to the dogs and maybe a bottle goatbaby.

Snack: oranges and walnuts

Lunch: pork bbq

Matt's Lunchbox: pork bbq, grapes, applesauce, tea

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins. When I made the first batch it only called for 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree....but there's about 1.5 cups in a I made a double batch and froze the ones we didn't snack on.

Supper: leftover beef and broth - I'll slice up some mushrooms and simmer them, and we'll have "cream of greens soup" from the PB cookbook

Day 23:
Breakfast: pumpkin nut bread - I poured some of the batter into a loaf pan - it turned out fine that way, too.

Snack: there was a tiny bit of triple berry blend in the fridge, so finished that off plus some babycarrots

Lunch: ate at grandma's and had chicken and noodles with crackers - sooo good! Peaches for dessert

Snack: I ate a couple of pumpkin nut muffins with butter because I was ravenous. Then when Matt got home we all had girl scout cookies. Those are sugar and grain free, right? Ha! We each had half a serving of trefoils, and half a serving of thin mints. They were good, but not nearly as delicious as I had remembered them to be.

Supper: Meatballs with spaghetti sauce with mozzarella cheese on top. Yum!

Snack: 6 trefoils right before bed. it had been a stressful evening...

Day 24:
Breakfast: smoked sausage, orange/pineapple/strawberry/coconut milk smoothies

Snack: girl scout cookies

Lunch: leftover party chicken

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins, then white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies and lemonade at a friend's house

Supper: Ham, leftover cream of greens soup, peaches

Day 25:
Breakfast: smoked sausages, smoothies, I've been drinking goat milk in my coffee for a few days now, Matt and Cora today started "enhancing" their 2% pasteurized, Nesquik-ed cow's milk with whole, raw goat milk.

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins with butter, we all snuck a few bits of ham while I put it into freezer bags for another day

Lunch: hot dogs, pickles, spinach


Supper: pork bbq

Day 26:
Breakfast: bacon, sausage, potato, egg scramble

Skipped the snack

Lunch: cream of potato/cream of celery soup, mixed greens salad with peachy chicken salad on top, pumpkin oatmeal cake sweetened with sorghum molasses

Snack: more cake

Supper: cabbage, carrots, onions, smoked sausages

Snack: each had a half serving each of trefoils/thin mints. We watched Charlie Brown's Valentine's movie - don't valentine's and sweets just go together? (excuses, excuses)

Day 27:
Breakfast: leftovers from yesterday

Skipped the snack

Lunch/Snack: Went to the Maple Syrup Festival for the first time. This was so much fun! The family operated sugarbush is the largest Maple Syrup producer in the state, and they have 2 festival weekends to give tours, live music plays, fun kids' activities, and of course, maple syrup! We had a FABULOUSLY delicious meal: 1st adult meal included 1/2 BBQ chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, dinner roll, drink, ice cream (with choice of apple, strawberry, blueberry, or maple syrup topping), 2nd adult meal included 2 maple grilled pork chops (soo tender) cole slaw, baked beans, roll, drink, ice cream with toppings, then the kid's meals were either a pancake or a waffle with the same topping choices as the ice cream, plus drink and a sausage patty. All of this for only $19!! Cora earned a tiny bag of free maple cotton candy (very tasty!) by collecting all the items in the scavenger hunt. We were able to sample maple cream on cubes of bread, different grades of maple syrup, and maple tea (wow! made with partially boiled-down sap poured over a tea bag, not quite syrup, but not pure sap either) We bought a 2 quart bottle of Grade B maple syrup for baking. We learned that grade A syrup comes from the early season sap which is higher in sugar, lower in mineral content, while Grade B syrup comes in the later season with less sugar, more mineral content and a higher maple-y flavor. It'll be easy to make the decision to go back next year!

Supper: leftover meatballs with tomato sauce, green beans

Snack: Matt brought home some vanilla ice cream, which we had chocolate sauce on top.

Maybe we didn't do so good on the no sugar, no grain thing today.

Day 28:
Breakfast: orange/triple berry/peach smoothie, sausage patties

snack: apples, tiny piece of the pumpkin oatmeal cake with butter on top

lunch: beef and mushrooms, peaches

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover smoked sausage and cabbage, baby carrots, apple, tea

snack: special reward treat - Walnut Meal Brownies from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook

supper: bacon-wrapped, spinach, garlic, onion, and mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts (baked at 350* for ~40 minutes, then put under broiler just until bacon crisped up! delish, and oh-so-fancy looking!

Thoughts: We've just been really impressed with how easily we've lost weight/circumference over the course of the month. Especially considering how low-activity we are in February - we did absolutely NO FORMAL EXERCISE at all. And really, we have not felt deprived - we've been eating delicious meals, making sure we're fully satisfied. Yes, sometimes we've craved sweets or breads and missed some of those things, but in general it wasn't that bad to "go without." Now of course, we did have plenty of "cheats" but by and large we did pretty good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Third Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 3rd week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 15:

Breakfast: smoked sausages, applesauce

Snack: the kids had deviled eggs and truffles. I had 2 truffles

Matt's Lunch: pork chops, broccoli, carrots, apple.....I forgot to make tea yesterday, so the poor man will have to drink water :-(

Lunch: leftover "hamburgers" with ketchup, cheese, and grapes

Snack: Luke had part of an apple, I ate the other half, then he was still hungry and ate 1/2 a banana. Cora had an apple and some walnuts.

I found out I had to return the Primal Blueprint cookbook to the library at the end of the week, so ended up hurriedly planning the rest of the week's menu, and rushed to the "healthfood" store in the next town before they closed. I wasn't hungry but knew it was going to be a while before I got home to supper, so brought a 100 calorie pack of almonds and walnuts and a piece of all-fruit fruit leather and a big bottle of water. Then I immediately ate it in the car and was hungry the rest of the night. Go figure! I also might have purchased an 85% cacao bar and eaten part of it on the way home....but I'm not telling. One thing I know is that I bought enough food that we won't have to go grocery shopping for the entire rest of the month.

Supper: I laid out all the ingredients for the PBCookbook's Bison Chili....only we used ground beef. Matt (sweet man that he is) fixed supper while I was gone. Everyone loved the chili, even the kids ate it right up. We had grapes, and a couple of kiwi, but they weren't quite ripe.

Snack: I ate a few of the truffles we'd made. I guess I haven't really changed my chocolate-snacking habits yet...but at least the chocolates I'm choosing aren't too sugary.

Day 16:
Breakfast: Matt and kids had smoked sausages. I made a "bahama mama" smoothie with strawberries (not stemmed) pineapple, ice cubes, and a can of coconut milk. The boys tasted it but wouldn't drink another drop, and Cora only had a little...but then she'd eaten her sausage already and probably wasn't hungry.

Snack: I had the rest of Cora's smoothie, and 2 bites of leftover sausages. Cora and Luke snacked at Grandma's. Matt skipped a snack.

Lunch: Were all invited to grandma's for chili (with spaghetti and beans and crackers and velveeta). It was delicious. We had some vanilla ice cream for dessert. Almost immediately after eating I felt sooo sleepy! I went ahead and took a nap, slept about 2 hours! As I was falling asleep, I noticed my tummy gurgling alot, but it didn't hurt - just making funny noises.

Snack: I didn't snack, just wasn't hungry. Luke and Matt had fudge rounds and twinkies and sweet tea with grandpa and it was soo warm outside we didn't need hats! Cora slept so long, I finally had to go wake her up from her nap around 4pm so she wouldn't miss the nice weather. She had a drink of water but wasn't hungry.

Supper: Seafood chowder - onion, celery, dill, black pepper, diced bacon, tiny cubed potatoes, chicken broth, a little water, cooked until the potatoes were soft, then added canned salmon (with the weird bones removed....I can't handle their texture!) a can of minced clams, and a pound of lightly sauteed scallops. I added a cup of milk and a cup of heavy cream, brought it to a boil and it needed salt but it was GOOD!

Day 17:
Breakfast: pumpkin nut muffins from the PBCookbook

Snack: Cora and I shared the leftover smoothie and an avocado, and she and luke shared an apple.

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover transylvanian stockpot, tea, apple and banana

Lunch: Leftover transylvanian stockpot, with a tiny 85% chocolate bar with walnuts for dessert after the kids went down for their naps because I have no willpower...

Supper: Coconut Curry from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook - everyone liked it!

Day 18:
Breakfast: Banana Pancakes and butter

Snack: Cora ate an entire avocado, plus an apple, and was still hungry. I had an avocado

Lunch: Leftover chili

Matt's Lunchbox: chili, other stuff (I can't remember anymore I'm trying to recall this info from day 20)

snack: cora helped herself to a piece of fruit leather, I had some frozen triple berry blend (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

supper: Had friends over for pork bbq, applesauce with cinnamon, green beans, mashed potatoes with butter, some homemade bread (our friend brought it - it was delish!) and some corn chips and home-canned salsa (that another friend brought - yum!) Dessert was the triple berry blend with whipped cream: 2 cups cream, whipped until made soft folds, with a pinch of stevia, and a teaspoon of vanilla.

Day 19:
Breakfast: Zucchini Casserole from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook - very good!
Snack: didn't get one, were too busy outside and didn't get hungry before lunchtime

Lunch: leftover pork bbq, plus some fruit salad with kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, and oranges cut up together with whipped cream on top

Snack: kids had fruit salad or grapes, adults skipped snacks

Supper: Slow Cooker pot roast from the Primal Blueprint, sooo good! fruit salad with whipped cream for dessert

Day 20:
Breakfast: assorted leftovers from the previous week, bananas
Snack: skipped it!
Lunch: I'd boiled a chicken in anticipation of needing some broth/stock for recipes in the following days, so I picked meat from the bones in fairly large chunks, added shredded italian style cheese, italian seasoning, capers, and a can of artichoke hearts, and a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Baked it until the cheese melted - it was good, but I added too much salt. I also made a vinaigrette from EVOO, apple cider vinegar, stevia, basil, 2 garlic cloves, basil, and drained canned tomatoes, which we put on was almost like my hubby's french dressing that he loves, Catalina - but a bit too vinegary for his taste. I just really don't care for salad dressing!

Snack: fruit salad for all, except Luke, who only wants the grapes!

Supper: Leftover seafood chowder

Day 21:
Breakfast: clean-out-the-fridge breakfast bake: had some leftover sausage and bacon crumbles, some cheese, some chopped onion, green peppers, and olives, some salsa, and eggs with salt and pepper.

Snack: oranges

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover chili, green beans, fruit salad, and tea

Lunch: leftover coconut curry chicken

Snack: sliced pears, Luke and I shared a chunk of the 85% cacao bar. mmmm!

Supper: clean-out-the-fridge stew

Snack: I might have also possibly sneaked in another chunk of the 85% cacao bar while Daddy was giving the kids their all the chocolate is gone again, I'll have to rely on healthier things.

Impressions from the week: Overall, both Matt and I have been noticing increased leanness, and I can make it from Breakfast to Lunch to Supper without HAVING to snack in between, although I am very hungry by the time lunch arrives if I skip snacks, I'm at least not all shaky and weak. Also noticing definite fat melting away. It is totally effective at dropping the extra "padding" - clothes are looser, I'm getting bruised more easily (due to being bonier around the hips and elbows!) and I get cold/chilled faster. Not sure I like all of those parts, especially considering I was more or less satisfied with my weight before.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Salt, anyone?

So I think it's a given to take another person's words with a grain of salt, right? Meaning, listen carefully, realizing that you can't always take what someone says as absolute truth - whether this is in conversation with a friend, or when reading blog posts on the internet, or yes, even when reading published books!

Right now I have checked out from the library 3 books on nutrition:
  • Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint Cookbook - based on the premise that we should eat as our evolutionary ancestors did
  • Laurette Willis's BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness - a guide to fitness and food choices based on Biblical principles, I get the impression that it's primarily geared towards those who are heavily overweight
  • Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions - suggesting that the food processing industry has created products that are non-nutritive and even harmful, and that we should all return to the way people ate before hydrogenization and white flour and table sugar, complete with recipes for doing this

In all of these books, the theme is healthy eating - but they all differ as to what is the best way to do that: one says grains are bad, the other says be sure to include whole grains; one says drink only cultured milk products, one says drink only raw milk, not pasteurized, and I've heard elsewhere that only pasteurized milk is safe and raw milk is dangerous; one says peanuts are beneficial, another says peanuts are harmful.......and so on, and on, and on. Full of contradictions. How can a person choose which to believe?

Now, one theme that is common to all of the books I've listed in this post is: Eat organic, or die! (this may be a slight dramatization). And this is where it gets difficult for me to find words to explain the rest of my post - I mean, why would anyone listen to some blogger's words over a published author???

On page 51 of Willis' book BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness, she writes:
"As you can imagine, the cattle in biblical times were not subjected to living in overcrowded feedlots, fed moldy grain, or injected with antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids as are today's cattle."
Okay, folks. This paints a picture that is NOT truly the plight of today's cattle!! This sentence (and similar ones found printed in many other books, magazines, newspapers, posted on blogs, and tossed around in conversations) asks readers to imagine the worst possible scenario, and then makes the assumption that these are the conditions that all beef producers intentionally replicate! This is not the case. And it's not just Willis' book - Sisson's had misleading information about the way poultry are raised, and Fallon's was filled with quotations from other's indicating the downfalls of modern agriculture. It's as if the people pushing organic intend to make others feel guilty for consuming conventionally raised foods - and this is a problem.

Those who raise animals for meat production do it because they LIKE animals. It is hard work. You can't call in sick. It doesn't matter if it's -3 degrees, sleeting, and all the water hydrants are frozen and there are inches of ice on the water tanks and it takes many times longer than normal to take care of the animals. It doesn't matter if you've made special plans to go out - when you've made the choice to raise animals, their needs come first! And if it's a cow having trouble calving, or the silo unloader has stopped working, or whatever it is - those emergencies come first!

We raise our cattle conventionally, though on a smaller scale than some others. We take their needs seriously. We need them to be healthy! We do what is best for them to keep them in good health and growing well.

Our feedlots are not overcrowded.

We do not feed moldy corn.

We give antibiotics only to the occasional sick calf, to help them get well.

We do implant our calves to help them grow optimally.

They're well-cared-for, never worry about running out of feed, hay, or water.

Do I think that anyone who believes the sensationalized, emotionally charged message that "conventional farming is evil, organic is perfect" will listen and hear the typed words of one blogger, over published authors? I don't know - but I hope so.

I've been thinking about interviewing my father in law (who does the majority of the day to day work with the cattle) about exactly how we raise a calf from birth to finishing. The way we raise cattle is not much different from the way the large feedlots and ranches do, aside from scale - and I think the good quality care the cattle really do receive may surprise some readers. Please know, in the meantime, that we take our animals' care very seriously.

Organic is fine, but conventionally raising livestock is not the evil that some will make it out to be.

The point is, you can't believe everything you read. I've taken away some great information from each of the three books - I'd actually recommend any of them! But when it comes to how animals and crops are raised, it's best to go to the source - the farmers and ranchers who take care of the livestock and produce on a daily basis, to see how things are really done. I applaud the movement for folks to become more aware of where their food is coming from, and it's not the grocery store! But take it one step further than the books you read - visit a farm or dairy or feedlot - talk to those who are actually doing it because that's the only way you'll really know.
Whose word do you want to believe? The producer who works day in and day out with the animals, or the outsider looking in?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Second Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 2nd week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 8:

Breakfast: Pumpkin spoonbread except I multiplied the recipe and put it in an 8x8 dish. And I left out the raisins and nuts because my husband won't eat them. Turned out, he didn't eat it anyway. I thought it was good - but if you were expecting something sweet it certainly wasn't that. Gave Matt milk with cocoa powder again and instead sifted the cocoa powder, but for some reason he couldn't drink it because of the texture.

Snack: Apple for me and Cora, she also had another helping of the pumpkin spoonbread.

Matt's Lunchbox: unsweet tea, banana, leftover beef stir fry, home canned peaches.

Lunch: leftover chicken salad, oranges.

Snack: pumpkin spoonbread "granola" (put it in a 225*oven for hours until it crisped up....not bad!) Fruit leather, raisins. And here's the thing - I was never *hungry* this afternoon.......I just ate because it was habit. I'll need to work on this. My kids, however, seem hungry all the time. Maybe need to add whole milk as their primary drink rather than water? I'm sure they need more good fat than adults. Maybe I need to be more strict with them about no candy, no flour. I've been pretty lax with them when we're away from home, so maybe it's taking them longer to get used to not constantly having carbs?

Dinner: (are you ready for this??) Beef tongue! Boiled it for three hours with a diced onion and garlic. Peeled it, sliced it, added some frozen leftover beef roast to help trick my mind into thinking we were just eating beef, then spooned the gravy/souplike mixture over potatoes mashed with plenty of butter. It was actually really good. Just be sure that you and your dinnermates are having a very important conversation to help distract from the fact that you're eating TONGUE! lol. We had green beans too, and pickles.

Day 9:
Breakfast: Banana pancakes, Matt has reverted to drinking milk with quik. I can't stop him.

Snack: kids snacked at Grandma's. I ate a banana pancake.

Matt's lunchbox: leftover beef and potatoes, oranges, unsweet tea

Lunch: chicken alfredo with penne.

Snack: pumpkin spoonbread granola

Supper: lemon butter fish filets, lettuce and spinach salads, Cora and I shared an avocado, Matt and Luke shared green beans.

Snack: kids snacked at Grandpa's while Matt and I went to a church meeting, and on the way home had to stop at the grocery store and got some snack sized pepperoni bites.

Really, this challenge is going very very well. Much better than I anticipated. The only real drawback is how badly I do want some chocolate!! And I'm having a bit of a difficult time getting everyone filled up and satisfied at each meal. And I'm very glad I made sure to add the part about eating whatever we were served if we were guests, I just feel that's right.

Day 10:
Breakfast: Sausage, salsa, egg and cheese scramble. Similar to the muffins I made before, only fried in a skillet rather than baked. Since we don't need the on-the-go convenience factor the finger food muffins provide, the skillet and fork method suits us just fine.

Snack: shared avocado for Cora and I. Luke had pumpkin spoonbread granola. He loves it!

Matt ate out for lunch, he had some errands to run over his lunch break.

Lunch: smoked sausages, oranges.

Snack: walnuts for me. walnuts, prunes, and a glass of milk for Cora. Either that girl's going through a growth spurt or she's not getting enough to eat - she's always hungry! I'm thinking how can I add healthy fats to her diet? Maybe whole milk? I am completely seriously considering milking a goat or two to get raw, whole milk.

Supper: I never know what to call what I fix! Why do meals have to have names? Anyway, I chopped an onion, melted butter (should've added olive oil right away, but I ended up adding it later) browned about a pound and a half of deer burger, diced a green pepper, sliced mushrooms, minced garlic and sauteed that. Then I added salt and pepper and oregano and basil, and 2 drained quart jars of tomatoes, brought it to a simmer, then added about 1 cup of chicken broth. It was good. It was a lot like chili, maybe Italian Deer Chili. There we go, it's got a name now! It was filling, but Cora goofed off, said she didn't like it, and didn't eat it. Told her she could either eat it tonight or for breakfast in the morning.

Snack: I had a glass of fiberwise drink.

Day 11:
Breakfast: Matt had leftover sausage/salsa/cheese/eggs, I had leftover banana pancakes with butter, Cora had Italian Deer Chili (in case you were wondering how last night's dinner turned out). Luke slept through breakfast. You see, the boy has been waking up at 4:30 am every single day for the past 2 weeks plus. He will happily nurse back to sleep, then leave me to try to decide whether to try to fall back asleep in the 20 minutes before the alarm clock goes off or just stay up. Oy! But I thankfully have not felt the urge AT ALL to take a nap in the afternoon....whether it's the food we're eating or the vitamins I'm taking, or the combination - I'm not sure.

Snack: Carrot sticks and the last of the spoonbread with butter for the kids, I had just carrot sticks. I wish I'd have had some good fat dip so I wouldn't have been so hungry in between snack and lunch!

Matt's Lunchbox: Leftover Italian Deer Chili, carrots, tea

Lunch: leftover Italian Deer Chili, then I ate a small handful of walnuts after the kids went down for their naps.

Snack: kids had the last of the pumpkin spoonbread granola. I wasn't hungry, so I didn't eat!!! This is unprecedented, people!

Supper: slow-roasted pork BBQ, applesauce, iceberg lettuce salad - Matt and Cora had red french dressing, I had oil/vinegar/garlic/herb dressing, even though usually I don't like dressing. Didn't like it this time, either! Cora told me I should've had the red dressing, it was good. haha

Day 12:
Breakfast: Sausage crumble-diced bacon-diced fried potatoes-egg scramble

Snack: late breakfast so no snack

Lunch: Transylvanian Stockpot from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, grapes, kiwi, strawberries, and some little debbie snack cakes (oops!)

Snack: chocolate truffles from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook

Supper: Meatloaf, potatoes, green beans

snack: tortilla chips, salsa, cheese dip, and a small pineapple juice/coconut rum over a game of euchre

the chips, salsa, and cakes were valentine's gifts from grandma and grandpa. We didn't specifically announce this whole crazy eating thing where we are giving up grain and sugars for a month, so we felt it only polite to induldge a bit! We enjoyed the treat!

Day 13:
Breakfast: omelets - everyone picked out what they wanted on from: mushrooms, olives, green peppers, onions, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, cheddar cheese

Snack: Cora had a chocolate doughnut with chocolate milk at church, Luke had a doughnut hole, I had coffee.

Lunch: leftover pork BBQ, applesauce, the rest of the fruit salad, baby carrots, potato chips, deviled eggs

Snack: chocolate truffles

Supper: Warm again, so Matt grilled pork chops and smoked sausages, and we also had broccoli, and apples

we were all exhausted. Maybe because it was Sunday night and we'd been active all day (I'd been spring cleaning the kitchen with my mom, Matt was working on our pop-up camper, moving hay, etc with my dad) or maybe it was because we were noticing the effects of our chips and lil debbies?

Day 14:
Breakfast: leftover sausage/bacon/potato/egg scramble

Snack: Apples

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes, tea

Lunch: smoked sausage, deviled eggs, grapes, a few truffles

Snack: deviled eggs, bananas, walnuts

Supper: "hamburgers" consisting of ground beef, ground deer (with a little bacon mixed in) and ground beef heart. pickles, cheese. Pretty weak as far as vegetables! Oops! Oh, and we had one package of little debbie cakes - Cora and Luke each had half of one heart-shaped cake, Matt and I split ours 1/3, 2/3 - he took the big half, because they're more of a treat for him than I. Then I had a few of the truffles we'd made from the PB cookbook.

This evening I also went ahead and ordered some goat-milking supplies! I'm very excited to give whole, raw goat's milk a try.

The second week had much fewer sweets cravings, but now I'm starting to lose inspiration for what to fix. I can't really get too excited about planning the next week's menu. But that's pretty typical for me in general, I get into a groove of being awesome at meal planning, then kind of fall off the wagon....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why, oh why am I doing this??

Why have we chosen to stop eating grains and legumes and sugar, and reduce our dairy consumption for the month of February? I have to keep reminding myself that there are only 28 days in February, we haven't necessarily chosen to change our eating habits forever.

Right now, just a few days in I cannot believe I would tell myself no to a small handful of chocolate chips. Saying "no" to chocolate has certainly been the most difficult thing for me about this entire thing, so far. One batch of brownies each week, or even every 2 weeks, couldn't be that bad, right?

But the truth is that we'd gotten to the point where we ate a sweet snack (cookies, brownies, etc.) twice a day. I'd often sneak in a few extras here and there, if no one else was in the kitchen. So I was eating sweets as a large portion of my daily diet. Not particularly nutritious!

For quite some time I would have to eat every 2-3 hours all the time or else feel all shaky and trembly. Like, I can't go from breakfast to lunch without eating, from lunch to dinner.

I had become a slave to food, in particular sweets. In truth, it was getting out of hand. I don't want to raise children to have eating habits like that. So things were getting pretty unhealthy, and in my house, I do all the grocery shopping, and all the cooking, and if we eat out, it's only because I wanted to. In short, I came to the realization that I pretty much control what my family puts in their mouths. Do I want to provide empty-calories or nutritive foods? Do I want to raise my children to not give much thought to the food they eat, or impart to them healthy eating habits?

Well, I think every parent wants to feed their children healthy, nutritious meals, and for them to grow up with healthful habits. But the problem is that children learn by watching their parents. My daughter pretty much only wants to drink chocolate milk, because that's the only way her daddy will drink milk. She also has become a candy her mother. It's just very difficult for my husband and I as adults to change our eating habits - because we're used to eating the way we've always eaten. For instance, how do you have soup without crackers?? Well, we adults can realize that crackers have very little nutritional value, and therefore leave them out! And if we leave them out, our children will not automatically associate crackers with soups. So we're changing the cycle, choosing only foods that are obviously beneficial. Not that crackers once in a while are necessarily harmful for a healthy digestive system.....but they certainly don't have much nutritive substance to them.

Anyway....enough rambling. Here is a short summary of the benefits I'm expecting us to reap from this February Food Challenge:

  • Gain a greater awareness of what food choices we are making
  • Learn to only eat when I'm actually hungry - I've read that this type of diet (diet meaning the food we eat, not some faddish weight loss program) can help reduce hunger pangs - without the addictive power of carbohydrates (which to the body are really just sugars)
  • Retrain my tastebuds to recognize natural sweetness. I clearly remember a couple of summers ago my sister being horrified that I was putting sugar on grocery store strawberries. I told her they were tart compared to the ones we grew at home....but the truth is, we put sugar on the homegrown ones as well.
  • Give our bodies a chance for optimum health. If we choose to only put beneficial foods into it, it won't have to work as hard to remove the harmful things: sugars, phytates, enzyme-inhibitors...and it won't have to work as hard in digestion.
  • Taking on a relatively short, 28 day timeframe empowers us to make significant dietary changes without feeling "trapped" into forever. It will give me time to re-evaluate what to put on the grocery shopping list, and what to leave off. And with a 28 day time period we're well on our way to forming a new habit in our food choices!
  • Greater energy levels - not wanting to just lay on the couch, because I just ate a heavy meal that makes me sleepy.
I may add to this list as time goes on. If it's true that "you are what you eat" then there are in truth many more good reasons to keep a watchful eye on what's on your plate, in your pantry, in your grocery shopping cart. And please notice that I didn't place on my list a desire to lose weight. In general, I'm pleased with my body. I'm strong enough to do the things I need to do, and I fit in my clothes, and my husband thinks I'm pretty good-lookin' - that's all I need. I am not doing this to lose weight for looks - but both my husband and I have been creeping up in weight to more unhealthy levels, and I would really like for both of us to be around for a long time - the healthier our body weights are, the more likely we'll experience long term vibrant health.

Already we're noticing that the food we're eating is still delicious, it's filling, and at least for me I'm not ravenous between meals. I still eat snacks out of habit, but not because I have to because I'll start to get the shakes. But since we only have good foods in the house, it's okay!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

The February Food Challenge *is* underway. I'm keeping track of how things are going but I think I'll wait a while to publish those posts.

Last night I made Shepherd's Pie. It was so good, and really pretty easy and I wanted to share how I made it. Now, hardcore primal eaters won't eat white potatoes (too high in carbs), nor would they eat peas (legumes) but I see them both as more of a vegetable, and I'm not a hardcore primal eater, so therefore this meal counts!

I really don't like to cook in a messy kitchen, so I always start by making sure the dishwasher is ready to put dirty dishes in, and that the stovetop is clear, and that I have a clean countertop to work on.

Are you ready to make Shepherd's Pie??

1. Put 1 pound of thawed hamburger in a skillet on medium heat and with a spatula, chop it/spread it around until it covers the pan. Leave it alone.

2. Chop off the ends of an onion and peel the dry papery stuff off. Slice it in half from end to end, then put the cut side down on the cutting board and slice in about 1/4" sections, so when the onion is separated, you have half-circles. Dump the onions in the skillet with the hamburger, and give it all a stir.

3. Take a few cloves of garlic and mince them, add them to the skillet. Add several shakes of pepper, and about a teaspoon of salt. Stir.

4. Slice enough carrots to make 1.5 cups of carrot bits, roughly the size of peas. By now the hamburger should be browned (keep stirring every so often to make sure it's cooked evenly) Add the carrots to the skillet on top of the meat, and add 1/2 cup of water, then cover and simmer on medium/low - just hot enough that it bubbles. Leave it alone.

5. Grab 4 large potatoes, peel and slice into small, evenly-sized chunks. Put them in a pot, cover with water, and turn it on high heat.

6. Stir the contents of the skillet, then add 1.5 cups of frozen peas, and put the cover back on again.

7. Once the potatoes start to boil, turn the heat down a little so the pot doesn't boil over, then set the timer for 15 minutes. Now you can read a book to your babies, or fold some clothes, or whatever, but try to keep half an eye on the potato pot so it keeps boiling but doesn't boil over!

8. When the timer goes off, check the potatoes with a fork to be sure they're tender (if not, let them boil a bit longer). Stir up the skillet again, then pour 1/2 cup of milk over the contents and let it simmer. Pour most of the water off of the potatoes (leave a little in to help keep them creamy) add a half stick of butter, and mash away!

9. One last time, stir the skillet, then spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the hamburger/veggie mixture. Dot butter on top, and enjoy!

This was a yummy, satisfying meal which the whole family enjoyed. I'd say it made enough to feed 4 adults. We fed 2 adults, a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and had enough for one leftover lunch. Let me know if you try it, how you liked it!