Foodie Feasts Recipe Club: Guilt-Free January

I posted a very long while back about the first meeting of the Foodie Feast group I started and how much fun it was. Since then the group has gotten larger and we’ve had 6 awesome meetings with great people and amazing food. Each event there has been more and more food, almost so much that you can’t even try everything. Some of our themes have been: Best Food Memories, Food on a stick, Brunch, White Hot, Summer Favorites and Fall Fresh. I’m really sad I didn’t have time the last few months to blog about them but they have been documented and well photographed so later on I will have to share some of what I’ve made with y’all for those themes. (and other members creations too if they give me permission).

We all decided it would be best to take a break from the club through the holidays since everyone has a million parties and obligations with family. I’m so excited for tonight and our first Foodie meeting of 2014! This guilt-free theme is a welcome one after the garbage I’ve been eating the last few months.

I’m always a bit excessive and obsessive when it comes to parties, planning, creating and eating. I made a list of considerations to make. I thought of raw dishes, eating clean dishes, low-sodium and healthier versions of comfort food. What was decided on was completely random. I am marinating some english cucumbers as a fresh side dish and am doing a slight variation on Rawmazing’s recipes that you can find here.

I made a couple of changes to her recipe. I like to cut my cucumbers in cute u-shapes and used 3 large English cucumbers. See picture below. I omitted the onion because I’m a cucumber purist. I used 1/4 cup light agave nectar instead of coconut sugar. I also added dill because cucumbers and dill are happy together.

It has a wonderful crunch, a little sweet, nice tang from the vinegar and a slight kick with the chili flakes.

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Chris thought stuffed cabbage sounded good so we are also doing a turkey and brown rice stuffed cabbage.

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For dessert I am making a tofu chocolate mousse adapted from the Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno. I know it sounds gross but I promise you would never a million years know there was any tofu in it! It’s chocolately deliciousness with a good punch of protein and my version is dairy free. I like dark chocolate but you could use semi sweet chips too.
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Ingredients:
1 Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate bar, broken into squares
1/2 bar Ghiradelli 100% cocoa chocolate bar, broken into squares
16 oz organic silken tofu, at room temperature, drained
3/4 cup warm vanilla coconut milk (soy, rice and almond milk can be used)
1 tsp best-quality vanilla extract (I use homemade, so easy and cheap!)

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in double boiler.
2. Heat milk to warm, do not boil.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Pour the mousse into individual sized containers and refrigerate to thicken, at least 1 hour.
5. Optional: Serve with fresh raspberries garnished on top!

Chicken Soup and Stewing on Big Decisions

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(photo by pioneer woman)

Chicken soup is a very good thing. Soup is the only thing that sounds even remotely satisfying at the moment. It’s going on 9 days of this super nasty cold/flu that has me beyond annoyed for several reasons:

1. I had spent the previous 2 weeks back in California (having an amazing time with family and friends) and upon returning home I was to get right on decorating for Christmas, present shopping, baking holiday goodies, etc.

2. I was eager to get right back into my personal training program which I was making fabulous progress with prior to going out of town and getting whollopped by airplane germs. (I’ve lost a little over 10lbs and have had huge strength gains!)

3. There is a mountain of paperwork to be completed to move forward with our adoption plan. Tomorrow is the due date for our application to Independent Adoption Center in order to attend the mandatory weekend adoption “intensive” workshop this coming 14th and 15th.

For all these reasons sickness has had very poor timing. Of course is there ever a good time to be sick? Probably not. It just seems like this last week has gone by with me being an idle lump, accomplishing nothing but a longer list of things I could and should be doing.

Click on Pioneer Woman’s link above to her very simple and delicious recipe for chicken soup.

Today at least I feel human again, thanks to copious amounts of chicken soup, my new humidifier (fabulous little invention) and possibly the antibiotics I begrudgingly started taking yesterday.

With the fog clearing my brain I sat down to tackle some of this adoption paperwork, how bad could it be?

Chris, being the truly amazing husband he is, had already filled out all the basic information they required: address, social security, educational backgrounds, work history and financial status. I just had to fill in a few of the blanks and email it back to him. Done.

Then I delved into the Home Study questionnaire (which thank the Lord we have awhile to complete)….I would like to share these questions here on my blog and as you read them think about how you would answer these questions and the complexity of being honest while knowing a stranger will read your response thus deeming you worthy or unworthy of being a parent…..

1. How would you describe yourself? (personality, strengths and limitations)

2. Describe you spouse’s personality and strengths. What would you change?

3. If you have children, describe their personalities, likes and dislikes.

4. What do you feel are the strong points in your marriage/relationship?

5. What type of goals do you work toward in your marriage/relationship?

6. What are usually the areas of disagreement?

7. How do you handle problems and conflict?

8. Please give a brief statement describing your thoughts about religion and its place in your life.

9. If you are childless, what experiences have you had with children?

10. How do you (or how do you plan to) discipline your children? Give examples.

11. Define discipline.

12. Define misbehavior.

13. What is the difference between discipline and abuse.

14. What aspects of child rearing are important to you?

15. Do you and your spouse/partner agree on child rearing and discipline?

16. What do you expect from your children?

17. What goals do you wish your child to achieve?

18. Why are you applying for adoption?

19. Do both of you wish to adopt?

20. What have been your parents’ response to adoption and response of friends and relatives?

WHEW!!! That’s all. 20 questions. 20 questions that no parent who is bringing a child into the world is ever required to answer, even though, maybe they should, for their own self knowledge.  I’m not even sure how to even begin writing my answers. Yes I can describe myself, my strengths, my weaknesses and describe my relationship with my husband but it feels so weird writing all of it for the purposes of a stranger giving me permission to be parent.

Each of these questions will require a significant amount of time, self reflection, communication with my husband, and editing since I could probably write a novel for each.

This is the beginning and tomorrow is do or die, figuritively speaking. Once we sign that contract we are in this and committed to this path. We have weighed our options:

1. Live a childless life

2. Pursue IVF with the possiblity of health complications and no guarantee of conceiving

3. Adopt: Domestic- Open, Closed, or through Foster Care. International Adoption and infant or older child….

I’ve been stewing on these options for awhile. I’ve seriously considered them all and we have picked open adoption. I want it to feel natural, I want it to feel right but while I read and reread these questions it doesn’t feel natural. Only God knows and time will tell if it is the right decision. I hope he can help me write my answers.

What do you think about this Home Study Questionnaire?

Being Diagnosed with PCOS: What does it mean for fertility? What, I need to diet?

This coming October will mark 4 years of marriage for Chris and I. We have had a great time together so far and have already experienced a lot of changes/life events. We have already gone through several job changes, purchasing and selling our house and buying our second home and moving across the country. We have had some stellar vacations and we have rescued two wonderful dogs. We are, by all accounts, happy but we have been looking to grow our family as many married couples choose to do.

I’ve been content for the most part, no need to rush things. Everything in due time…it all happens for a reason, all that jazz. I have been off the pill for over 3 years. 2 1/2 years ago I started looking into possible issues with fertility. I’ve never been regular in the period department so I guess in the back of mind I figured that there was a chance things could be “off”. I did bloodwork. I did ovulation predictors, charting my BBT (Basal Body Temperature)… Most recently I did a tortutous HSG, hysterosalpingogram which is a procedure where dye is injected to view if your fallopian tubes are open. (See I am already quite familiar with all the medical terminology and acronyms for things. I’ll try not to be one of those blogs spewing meaningless medical terms without first explaining them.) Then we moved and took a few months to get new doctors and settle in and what not. Two weeks ago, the morning before we flew out to California, we had an appointment at REACH fertility clinic and it is a full speed ahead approach: Full medical histories, more bloodwork, pelvic ultrasound, another HSG being ordered- grrrrreat, 3rd sperm analysis, financial advising, genetic counseling…OH MY GOD…we are really doing this, this is really happening to me, to us. Thank God we left immediately to go out of town, I needed the distraction from all that information.  It’s still not really sinking in. I think this whole thing is like having an out of body experience.

I was diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. My previous doctor had casually mentioned that I had the condition but nothing was suggested in doing anything for it or the severity of it or the implications of how difficult it may be to become pregnant. That doctor pretty much sucked if I do say so. She was extremely unhelpful, unavailable and just twiddling her damn thumbs while the years went by. Oops, there’s my frustration spewing out onto this blog…my apologies. I’ve done my own research in the meantime and talked to my new Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Wing, who seems very competent and actually the founder of this clinic. So far he has prescribed me Metformin and recommends a low sugar/low carb diet since one of the main issues with PCOS is insulin resistance, sigh.

I love carbs. Croissants, fresh baked bread, pasta and everything potato are my great loves. What the hell, I feel cursed! I don’t want to be one of those gluten free band wagon people, one of those crazy cranky Atkins dieters. I am NOT a dieter. Is it terrible that I am more depressed about this than the prospect of having to give myself injections in the stomach? Actually that will seriously suck too. Geeez, I’m being a real downer right now. Of course it’s 3:45 in the morning, my time clock is all messed up from flying across the country and I have the flu!

On the upside the doc says Metformin may cause some weight loss on it’s own, yay. I started taking it this week and since I have the flu it’s hard to tell how I’m reacting. We shall see. I got the results of the bloodwork today and found out that I am a genetic carrier for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. 1 in 50 people are carriers and is the #1 genetic cause for infantile death. Now we have to get Chris tested and see if he is a carrier. I am glad to have the information, being prepared is good but the more I learn the more I realize what a delicate delicate balance life is and what a miracle it is every time a healthy baby is born.

Diets I’m considering for PCOS so far are the South Beach Diet and Low Glycemic Diet. After we get some test results next week we may know more if we need to go straight to IVF treatments with ICSI or if we can try other less invasive and more “natural” methods first….to be continued….

Olympic Worthy Homemade Protein Bars

Chocolate Spice Cranberry Protein Bars
These are No Bake and a cinch to mix up!

Yesterday I was rushed to post about my perfect green smoothie as we had big plans for the day. My 8-year-old nephew, Jack and my father-in-law Dan are in town and what better way to entertain a group of guys than to go to an adventure park for the day?! The U.S. National Whitewater  Center is only a short drive from our house and it was our first time checking it out. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect but I knew it was going to be HOT. There was a short list of necessities: Sun Block, a bathing suit, towel, close-toed shoes, and my camera. I had my green protein smoothie in the morning so I was fired up and ready to raft! We arrived to the park around 11:00am. We signed our health release forms and got the area map to scope out what we should do first. Rafting is the only thing you had to sign up for a time slot and we couldn’t go until 2:00. Rock climbing was up first.

Rock climbing walls
There were several areas to climb, this was the only (slightly) shaded area and when it’s 110 degrees outside it doesn’t help much.
The Boys Gearing Up
Safety first! Lock ’em and load ’em boys 🙂
Chris Goes All The Way
Almost to the very top, Chris looks down on us
Thank God For Ropes
People are dropping like flies, dangling from ropes and slipping from sweat…
Go Jack Go!
He gave it a try but Jack’s attention span to rock climbing lasted less than a minute. He’s ready to move on…

We walked around the courses and observed the rafters which made me more and more excited to try it out for myself!

U.S. National Whitewater Rafting Center
This is an Olympic Training site for rafting

It seems so appropriate the timing we have of going rafting to the Olympic training site for American whitewater rafters on the very opening day of the Olympics. I have to admit I had my trepidations before attempting the sport. We were going on the “family” rafting level however so if these little kids can do it then so can I!

The Competition Channel
There are several “runs” you can opt to go for and levels of rapids. The family rafting is for the newbies and the babies where they stick to Class II rapids. “Adventure Rafting” you ramp up to Class II, III and IV Rapids. Then “Rodeo Rafting” you do Class III/IV rapids but learn how to surf the rapids and really get your speed up.

We walked over to the Mega Zip Line and I was really feeling the heat. I opted to sit in the shade with a nice breeze. It’s the kind of heat that makes you want to dump buckets of ice down your shirt.

The line was moving at a sluggish pace and looked as though it could be an hour’s wait before getting to zip so we opted for lunch instead.

We had lunch at the River’s Edge Bar and Grill and was shocked to see how delicious and healthy sounding the menu was. I ordered a black bean veggie burger topped with grilled pineapple and avocado. Chris got a pulled pork sandwich, Jack got an order of wings (he is a wing eating machine) and Dan got a very tasty looking chicken wrap. I suppose since Olympians train there they need to offer “real” food and not just your standard fried Twinkie theme park fare. This fact actually makes me much more inclined to return to the park for all day adventures.

After lunch we went kayaking on the Catawba river and no pics of this since from here on out my camera was safely stored in a locker. There was no way I was going to chance losing my awesome new camera in the river. There were choices of tandem kayaks, single kayaks and stand up paddle boards. We only kayaked about 15-20 minutes since we were nearing our 2:00 whitewater time slot. There is a very peaceful loop you can kayak that would take about 45 minutes to get around, those waters were so calm and flat which really exaggerated what we were about to get ourselves into. This next video will give you a taste of it:

This video will give you a better idea of all the outdoor activities USNWC has to offer:

Do you want to go there now? If you have any kind of spirit for outdoor adventures then it is a place for you! I honestly can’t wait to go back when it’s not so darn blistering hot. I’m so glad I had made these protein bars the night before because by the time we got home I needed to refuel. The right fuel is especially important on days like these. We weren’t done for the day either…we showered, ate some of my awesome protein bars and off we went to the Knights stadium for a baseball game against the Yankee’s. (This is AAA baseball so not the Yankee’s you are familiar with as Chris had to explain to me)

No Bake Protein Bars
Very adaptable recipe, modify to your taste using different nuts or dried fruits.

Homemade Power Bars Recipe

2 cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 cup Protein Powder ( I used Jay Robb Vanilla Whey Protein Powder)

1/3 cup Dried Cranberries or dried fruit of your choice

1/4 cup Sliced Almonds (again any nuts will do)

1/2 TBS  Ground Cinnamon

1/2 TBS  Ground Cardamom

1/4 cup Almond Butter (you can use peanut butter or any other kind of nut butter)

1/4 cup Honey (optional if you are cutting sugar)

1/4 cup Almond Milk ( I use unsweetened Vanilla)

1/4 cup 70% or higher Cocoa/dark chocolate

1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Sea Salt

Directions

  1. Combine Dry Ingredients into a medium bowl or kitchen aide mixer bowl (first 6 ingredients)
  2. In a separate, microwave safe bowl, combine the wet ingredients.
  3. Microwave about 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds until chocolate is melted and well combined.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into your dry ingredients and mix together.
  5. Using an 8×8 pan, spray with Pam and line pan with plastic wrap. (the Pam helps the plastic wrap to stick flat to the pan)
  6. Spread the mixture into the pan and put in the freezer for 20 minutes to set.

After they are set you can cut them into bigger protein bars of 8 or smaller into 16. Mine were definitely on the sticky side so don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty 🙂

I hope these give you the power you need for your next big adventure! Enjoy!

Good Morning! Smoothie Time

Green Juice
Red Kale, Fennel, Apple, Lemon, Lime…These are just a few of what I juice.

Good Morning! I feel really good today! I’m excited about this because I haven’t felt all that well in quite awhile. Migraines, extreme tiredness, indigestion, achiness I have been feeling for weeks. Partially this may be due to the heat since I am such a fair weathered girl. For the last week I have been juicing or making green smoothies everyday. I started this last Monday and now it’s Friday morning. The first 3 days were detox/cleanse days which I have NEVER had the willpower nor  real desire to complete before.  I am about to leave with my in-laws to head out to North Carolina’s White Water Rafting Center so all I want to post about at the moment was this mornings smoothie since it was sooooo very delicious!

This is the best smoothie I have made yet with a perfectly creamy texture 🙂

I have been experimenting for a few months now with juicing and making healthy smoothies. This is probably the best consistency my shotty blender has turned out. I have also been experimenting with various protein powders. This is Jay Robb Vanilla Protein Powder and has a really nice creamy vanilla flavor and is clean eating approved. It is one of the highest quality whey protein powders I’ve found. I purchased this at my local grocery store at $23 for a 12 oz container (it looks big but when you open it is half full- very deceptive, grrr).

This morning I very groggily poured 2 cups of almond milk into the blender. It simply won’t blend if there is not enough liquid. Then I added a bunch of spinach, a scoop of Greens + powder and 3/4 cup of frozen fruits mango, pineapple and strawberries. Whollla!! Awesome protein shake and ready to head out with the boys to the rafting center! Talk to everyone soon and have an awesome healthy day 🙂