Double Vegetable Please

Eric and I are embracing a plant-based diet. Yep. That’s right. The way we figure it, we might not have a problem with infertility if we attacked it from a nutritional standpoint. This isn’t the only reason we are changing by any means. And we don’t feel that nutrition issues are the sole cause of our infertility. Far from it. However, the last few months we have struggled with a different medical issue which has forced us to consider the benefits of healthy eating. Not just a once a week thing but a real life style change. Wow! Creating health from the inside out – what a novel concept!

Significant change is never easy. And as our doctor said recently, fear is a great motivator for the short-term. Her question to us was, “How do you feel about this (way of eating/changing)?” Fortunately for me, I’ve been used to consuming a lean protein, plant-based diet for some time. (Although not without its pitfalls – candy, white carbs, wine, candy. You get it.)

Fortunately for Eric, he grew up eating things like whole grains, vegetables and a variety of meatless options. But he too has veered. Straight towards McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. (Sorry Eric!) But seriously, it’s easy to grab processed foods and quicki meals. It’s convenient. It makes lives easier – for the short-term.

But we’re learning as we go. We read a lot. We talk to other people who eat the way we want to eat. We try different recipes. At the grocery store, we bypass the boxed macaroni and think about how we might be able to recreate the same dish in a healthy way.  We are slowly but surely changing the way we think about food.

Here’s what we keep in mind:

1. SUGAR is in everything from fruits and veggies to packaged products. The white refined stuff is what you want to watch out for. Read labels, and keep your sugar intake at a minimum.

2. Stick to 100% whole grain products. In the US, when wheat is refined, approximately 40% of the best stuff is stripped away along with a ton of nutrients like B1, copper, zinc and calcium. The remaining 60% is processed and “refined”. Examples are white bread, white table sugar, pastries, donuts and white rice.

3. Go green! Green veggies are filled with goodies that help the body boost it’s immunity and fight off infection and disease. Use them in juices, salads, stir fry – whatever you like!

4. Fresh and colorful, fruits and berries have powerful antioxidants that also help fight off disease and keep the body strong. Use them in salads, smoothies, juices, breakfast dishes, etc.

5. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Water flushes the system from toxins and other pollutants and it helps keep us hydrated.

6. Nuts and seeds are worth the investment. They are a great source of protein and are perfect for a quick snack.

7. Nobody is perfect.

I had to throw that last one in. We both get cravings every once in a while and we indulge. The point is to try to eat as best as we can most days of the week.

I’ll leave you with a few photos that point out the importance of checking labels:

This label is from a multi-grain cereal similar to Cheerios. You’d think it was healthy yet the second top ingredient is sugar. The sixth is brown sugar.

SAMSUNG

This label is from a pasta sauce we picked up last week. Simple ingredients we can understand without a dictionary! Notice there is no sugar added. (Bonus! I just noticed this product was produced in a green LEED facility.)

SAMSUNG

Whole wheat pasta – always check to make sure it says 100% whole wheat. Not wheat flour.

SAMSUNG

Do you have other healthy eating tips you can share? Would love to hear them!

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Cowboy Casserole

Man! I just got finished writing this post and I deleted the whole damn thing. Darn it! I suppose if that is all I have to deal with today, then I’m okay. 🙂 Let’s try this again.

During my visit to AZ, Dad made me a fantastic dinner of ground beef, potatoes and creamed corn. We enjoyed it with some garlic bread and a little salad. So simple, yet delicious and filling! This is a great go-to recipe for those times where you just can’t think of what to make. I told Mom about it and she says it was her who made that dish for him so many years ago. The credit goes to. . . Mom!

I served it to Eric and he decided after the second dish he liked it. Was it a thick stew? A casserole? Whatever the classification, I think of it as comfort food.

Ingredients:

1 lb. of lean ground beef (85% is a good mix)
1 medium Russet potato sliced in 1/4 inch slices
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 c. chopped onion (red, yellow or white)
2 cans of creamed corn (any brand)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. brown ground beef with garlic and onion, drain
2. layer cooked ground beef on the bottom of an oven safe dish
3. layer sliced potatoes on top of ground beef
4. pour creamed corn on top of potato layer
5. salt and pepper to taste, cover and cook for 50 minutes at 375 (or until potatoes are done to you liking. Enjoy!)

This recipe couldn’t be easier. You don’t have to think AND it uses minimal kitchen ware. Right on!

Note: A co-worker mentioned it sounded like the Shepherd’s Pie she makes. Her version layers the beef with creamed corn. She throws mashed potatoes on last and tops with cheddar cheese. Wow.

Check out the pics! Yummmmmmm

 

 

Gluten Free for Infertility

I’ve not thought much about our infertility. Eric and I have been enjoying the cooler temps, whipping around on the motorcycles and generally enjoying life. Every once in a while I think about our childless life and wonder if our status will change.

Few things trigger me. A movie perhaps. Or a pregnant woman in a grocery store, hand on her belly as she shops for deli meat and cheese. Recently, I attended an anniversary celebration for a local knit shop. Mom pointed out a pregnant staff member. I asked the young woman if could touch her belly and she said no; she doesn’t let people touch. I felt sad for the briefest moment. She must have her own reasons. If I was pregnant I’d let people touch me. Maybe.

Eric and I have talked about what we want to do now that the summer is over. Fall and winter will settle in and we’ll be holed up, waiting for spring to come around once again. I prefer this time of year. Insides of houses transform; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Candles with scents like Cinnamon and Harvest Home and Apple Spice are lit, slow cooker recipes are thrown together and time slows. This is the time of year I like to reflect. What have I accomplished? What are my goals? What are OUR goals? I imagine Eric does this in his own way.

We’ve decided that we are going to do a round of IVF in January. It’s a scary prospect. A $10,000 to $14,000 scary prospect. I have no idea who we will go with but I have had a recommendation or two. It is daunting to think that even though the money will be spent, there are no guarantees of success. I must stop this negative thinking!

In the meantime, I’ve decided to try a gluten-free diet. Wikipedia says, “Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics or dermatological preparations”.

Some sources say that gluten can play a role in infertility and miscarriage. I recently ran across a few articles and blogs that support the idea of gluten causing hormone imbalances. Could this be the explaination behind the unexplained? I’m willing to try anything at this point. Here are a few sources to take a look at:

The Gluten Doctors

Fertility and Pregnancy In Women With Celiac Disease – By Michelle Melin-Rogovin

Celiac Central – pregnancy and Celiac Disease

I don’t propose to have Celiac disease. In fact, I don’t have the symptoms of celiac. However, if gluten DOES have something to do with infertility, then I’m willing to give this diet thing a chance. Eric is going along with it too. For now anyway. When I told him I’d like to try gluten-free he gave a me a look. When I told him I wanted to clean out the pantry of all gluten-free items he put his foot down.

“I’m NOT doing this gluten-free thing forever ya know. Don’t throw away my flour I use to make pizza dough.” Ok. Easy does it.

We’ve been GF for about a week now and I have to say I don’t really mind it. I’m not missing bread as much as I thought. Not sure about Eric, I think he has his moments. He has been eating what I put in front of him. A good sign I’d say! We’ve been able to eat rice, corn tortillas, corn chips, etc. I even made GF pancakes yesterday for breakfast which were quite good. Here’s a few things I picked up at Whole Foods last week:

I have had steel-cut oats before and they are tasty. Especially with a little milk, honey and dried fruit or almonds.

We didn’t have any soy milk so we’ve not tried these yet. Eric had a handful of dry ones and deemed them worthy.

Gluten-free pastas and breads are very expensive. I think this little bag cost about $4. Not what I would normally pay for whole wheat pasta. The texture will be something to get used to. They are not as spongy and chewy as regular pasta. I have a recipe for stove top mac and cheese and I want to try it with these.

These are actually very tasty. They have a little bit of a bite to them but would go great as nachos or with a favorite salsa. Most salsa by the way is gluten-free. You can google almost anything and found out a yes or no to most products.

We made these yesterday and they were delicious! Not as good as the whole wheat pancakes I make but still pretty good. We had soy butter and basic syrup. I would usually put a pure maple syrup on or maybe some honey. I also added cinnamon to the batter. They were super easy to make up.

This is the Gluten Free symbol to look for when you are purchasing prepared foods. I’ve read that you should keep all GF products separate from gluten products especially if you are or might be Celiac or have a gluten sensitivity. Apparently gluten can even stick to door handles (think fridge doors) and the like. Crumbs in the peanut butter, etc. You get the idea.

Lundberg’s makes a GF line of rice cakes as well that are pretty good. I bought the apple cinnamon last week. In the morning I top it with peanut butter and honey. Yum! I will be posting some GF recipes here as well. If you have any thoughts or ideas for my blog please let me know!

I have a confession to make. About an hour ago I opened up my freezer and slowly drew out 32 frozen bananas I had sitting in there for the past year, maybe two. Who knows. In any case, I got rid of them; threw them right in the garbage.

Eric had been harping on me to pitch them but it wasn’t until my sister made a comment this past weekend that I thought I might need to listen up.

“Jen, oh my God! What the hell! What’s with all the bananas?” Steph was amazed they had even fit in the freezer what with all the other crap I have in there.

But I had plans for them. They were intended for banana bread that never came to fruition (Pardon the pun.) I thought about it every time I put another banana in the freezer. Hey, maybe next weekend I’ll make banana bread I thought. Yeah, right.

I don’t know what my obsession is with the bananas. Really. I don’t even like them that much. But I do like bread and I like banana bread when it’s made really well. The problem is I never make it. It’s always better when someone else does the work. Maybe I should have donated the bananas to a bakery or someone at work who would actually use them. As long as they shared the goods with me. That didn’t happen either.

I’m not an obsessive person by nature so it kind of surprised me that I let things pile up this way. I think it was the intention. The intention was there and within that, my excuse to collect an obnoxious  amount of long, yellow fruit that I could take or leave on any given day.

I’m was kind of obsessed in this way about the infertility thing too. I charted, calculated and timed every part of my cycle for the past year. I needed to take a break this May. Even June is lining up to be a fabulous month for wine and margaritas. Things will pick up again though. I’m starting to look into some options for IVF including a new procedure called Micro IVF. (More on that later.)

Maybe I should mull all this over a cup of coffee and a slice of moist banana bread. Oh wait. I don’t have any bananas!

Too Many Cookies = A Fat Ass

You heard it right. My ass has gotten bigger. I’m serious. I can’t fit into the clothes that once looked half way decent on me. I find that I’m leaning towards “comfy” things like sweatpants and men’s t-shirts. (Okay, Eric’s t-shirts.)

I have no excuse for this. I’d rather place the blame on the people who bring treats into the office on a daily basis or the grocery store clerks who swear that “these are the best yogurt covered pretzels!” Yeah, duh – of course they are. I mean really who can stop at just one anyway?

I know as women we should love the bodies that we are in, but let’s face it, that takes a lot of emotional work. I’d rather indulge in a bit of self-loathing for a day or two, maybe eat some homemade cookies (Damn that Good Housekeeping recipe!) or eat a bowl of buttered noodles while watching the adorable Kelly Ripa on Kelly Show. I hope she hates herself. . .

Most people, in my personal opinion, love to have company when they are miserable. After all, who wants to be alone when you can drag someone else down with you? Now that’s the holiday spirit! In light of that then I will share with you the recipe that has created a molasses cookie loving monster that will stop at nothing to get a taste of this chewy, spicy goodness. I really have to thank the internet Gods that I found this recipe no less than 1,582 days after it was originally posted. What is that, like 2007 or something?

I omitted the vegetable fat (aka Crisco or “add a pound to each of my thighs please”) and swapped out Allspice for Nutmeg. What I found particularly interesting was the use of cayenne pepper. I hear it boosts the metabolism. Bonus!

I encourage you to make a couple batches of these so that you have them around when you are feeling sorry for yourself and for when guests come to visit. They are perfect for breakfast when you’re in a hurry and they should be shared with all co-workers who are trying to lose weight.

Enjoy!

Old Fashioned Molasses Crinkles

Here's me getting ready to make the cookies. I ate some of the dough and then proceeded to eat about five cookies once they came out of the oven. Good times.

Recipe #5 – Wine with a Light Whine Sauce

Yes. I am going there. I normally don’t bitch and moan but I really have to do it today. There are just days when I come home from work and all I want to do is veg out. Then there are days when I come home with a mission to clean, scour, reorganize so that I have some sense of order in my life. My one wish? That Eric would come home that way too – at least more often than he does.

We are not neat freaks by any means. Come to our house unannounced and you will find dishes in the sink, clothes laying on the floor, shoes laying haphazardly in the living room and, if they had feelings, probably wondering why they were abandoned after providing solid protection and comfort to the feet all day.

The bitch part of this whole thing is the fact that I am the one who always does these things. As women I think we take on the burden of “caring” for everything in our lives. The pets need to be fed, the husband needs to be nudged from sleep, the laundry has to get done somehow, the food needs to be purchased from the store. The list goes on. There may be some of you that say I deserve this. But we have all been there; have we not?

Most of the time I don’t mind doing these things. It really does become second nature. My irritation builds when I get asked things like, “Did you wash any jeans?” or “What did you do with my blah, blah, blah?” Well, I say silently, I should have thrown your blah, blah, blah in the garbage because you didn’t pick it up, but. . .

So tonight, as I was cleaning the dishes, changing the cat litter, throwing in a load of laundry, changing the sheets, sweeping the floor and dusting the shelves I was asked, “Hey what’s for dinner?”

My reply? “I don’t know what you’re having but this is what I am having.” And suddenly a glass of red wine magically appeared!

Ladies, this recipe is guaranteed delicious. Plus, it is perfect any night of the week, especially nights when your hands get antsy to pull your own hair out or wring your husband’s/partner’s neck.

Cheers!

Recipe #4 Enchilada Lasagna

There was no recipe last week but this one will make up for it two-fold! I was at work the other day getting ready to leave and I thought I’d better stop at the store to grab something for dinner. First off, going to the store without a plan is a bad idea. Going to the store without a plan on an empty stomach is even worse!

I wanted something tasty. Something with substance. A casserole seemed just the right thing. But what kind of casserole? I meandered through a few foodie sites before deciding on an enchilada bake. Figuring I could make this on my own I jotted down a few items and headed home hitting the grocery store on the way.

In the cart went corn tortillas, powdered enchilada sauce mix, diced green chiles, a rotisserie chicken, a can of corn, a big bag of shredded fancy Mexican cheese, green onion and a jar of medium salsa. I also picked up a bunch of fresh cilantro for garnish and sour cream.

By the time I got home I was salivating. This dish literally took me about 15 minutes to put together. (Believe me – I like easy and this was EASY.) I used a 9 x 13 inch pan, sprayed it with Pam and layered all the ingredients that I wanted in there, shoved it in the oven and baked at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Feel free to use the same recipe or improvise:

1 rotisserie chicken (meat pulled off bones in small pieces)
18 small corn tortillas
3 bunches of green onion chopped
1 can diced green chiles
1 package of enchilada sauce
1/2 cup salsa (use what you like)
2 cups of water
5 cups of shredded fancy cheese (use more or less as you wish)
1 can of kernel corn drained
chopped, fresh cilantro
sour cream

Drain and set aside corn. Pull chicken from bones and set aside. Prepare enchilada sauce as directed on the package (I didn’t have tomato paste so I used salsa instead. It seemed to work just fine.)

In a 9 x 13 inch pan layer the following: corn, chicken pieces, green chiles, green onion and cheese. Drizzle prepared enchilada sauce over the cheese. Repeat layer twice.

Place pan in the oven uncovered and bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool. Top with chopped, fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. (We also used a wee bit of hot sauce)

* I shared this with the ladies at work and we all agreed adding black beans would be fabulous. Black olives are also an option. I also thought this could easily transition into a fajita bake by replacing the corn, green onions and green chiles with grilled onions and peppers.

Enjoy!