Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick Health Update

Around Christmas I had some tests done to take a look inside my stomach and colon to see if there might be anything abnormal going on. All the test came back clear. The Doctor made it clear that these tests are not 100% accurate and could have easily missed something.

We are NOT at all concerned or worried about my health. We do not think I have this rare stomach cancer, nor are we thinking that I will develop this cancer. Aside from the clean bill of health my Dad and Uncle have received, it was the clear voice of God that gave us the most peace. He is Lord of my body and has told me to leave this with him, that I am healthy, and that is what we are going to do. This way of thinking goes against the common medical community and it's a lonely place to be at times. I do have days when I question this choice, but I just remember that My God is a great big God. He created me and can see what I and the Doctors can not.

I know that there are MANY faith-filled people out there who have gotten sick and I want to make clear that I do not think I am more faith-filled or better than them. My journey, at this point, is clear to me and each of us need to live with whatever wisdom and peace God gives us. He can see the bigger plan that we can not and I will not question his wisdom.

Just because I have received this peace, doesn't mean that I can sit back and live as I once did. My diet has  dramatically changed, how I view my body has dramatically changed. If you look back on some of my older blogs you can see the shift in my focus quite clearly. Sometimes we need that scary kick in the butt to get us back on track, placing our focus and faith where is ought to be. It's not easy swimming against the current, but for God I would do it any day!

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
~ 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
~ 2 Corinthians 7:1

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Will Our Garden Grow?

Overall Plot Plan. Each plot is 2'x2'.
After making my garden plan, my Dad said he was expanding his garden at the farm this year and offered us some space. It's only an 45 minute drive out of the city, but we can camp there in his school bus converted to camper. Now, we will plant more of the fall harvest veggies out there and save our city garden space for the stuff we can harvest all season long. With the exception of a few beets (I really like beet greens in my warm salads), most all of these are weekly harvesters at their peak. I will stagger my planting to keep a nice rotation going and we should be able to have fresh veggies all summer long.

So new to our urban garden this year are: garlic, cauliflower, zucchini and peas (2 varieties). We will plant a variety of peppers and tomatoes; I plan on roasting and freezing these for the winter. We also plant along the side of our house beens and even spaghetti squash. We will certainly do this again, it worked so well last year. I would LOVE to see some fruit planting going on, but I haven't figured this out yet. Space is limited and fruit plants do take up a fair bit of space. If I could get some strawberries growing vertically...

Our rural garden will hopefully grow pumpkins, a variety of squash, potatoes, beets maybe even some corn (not much, but enough as a treat).

Here's our plan thus far. Remember, this is our front yard so some of this layout is to just help things look prettier. It really looked great last year. Now to get some seeds bought & started...

Part I 
We plan on using bamboo to grow our peas, tipi style. Anyone know where to get cheap bamboo or something like it? The outside borders of our garden are "fenced" with lattice; great for growing cucumbers and zucchini. It's removable in the fall and easy to store in the rafters of our garage.
Part II
Last year I outlines each plot using kabob sticks and string. This year I might reduce my work by just outlining the beds with string, but steak out the plots with sticks if I need it.

Part III
*Note: to save paper space I reduced path size. Actual paths are about 2'x2'. Our paths are made shale rock and some wood so it's pretty flexible.

To prepare the soil this year, we will mulch in our compost and we might need to add some soil, but we'll see. Right now it's looking pretty low, but once we add our last year's compost and turn up the earth, we might not need to. I always find that whenever I add dirt, I just get more weeds to deal with. That and I would have to buy the dirt. We'll see...

So there it is. I don't know too much about plant combining so if you have any recommendation I am all to glad to hear them. I always thought that if the food goes well on the plate together that they would grow well together, but I could be way off the mark on that one!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden Planning 2012

I know I had ALL winter to plan this out, but it wasn't until our weather hit a record 28˚ on March 18th that I really felt inspired (the normal temp is 10˚). Last year was our 1st try at planting in our small, urban front yard (22'x12'). I had received a book on square foot gardening from my mother in early spring last year and quickly developed my plan. It was a lot of work initially, but now that our grass is converted into very healthy dirt we are pretty much ready to go this year. I thought it might be neat to blog this year's journey starting from the space we have to work with.

Each "plot" is 2'x2'. The grey is the pathways.

I'm sure if I moved things around I could squeeze in a few more plots, but this way I know that I can easily reach in to do any weeding. Besides I can also sneak in a few more vegetables in between the flowers and shrubs. Some things I will keep the same as last year, but others I will definitely change. I doubt I'll be growing broccoli or the "fancy" lettuce or as many cherry tomatoes. I am trying to keep in mind the "dirty dozen" fruits and veggies. These are the ones that benefit most from being purchased organically to help reduce our exposure to chemicals up to 80%. I look forward to trying out a few vegetables I haven't grown before; cauliflower for sure (we use up to 3 heads a week these days).

Here's my hope for the front garden so far: kale, red pepper, sorrel, zucchini, cucumber, cauliflower, butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, garlic, potatoes, snow peas, carrots, beets and some tomatoes.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waste Not Tips

Living in Winnipeg, where winters are usually long and very cold it really reduces the growing season of our gardens. So often I would buy herbs and vegetables in the winter only to have them go bad on me. This rarely happens today. Between buying smarter and being organized with a weekly menu and that great invention the freezer, the tossed out waste has been so much less. We are a family of 6 so not wasting our money is so important.

Today I want to share with you some of my kitchen tips that help me to waste less.

1) Make a Plan: A meal plan has saved my butt more times than I can count. Not only do we waste less by buying stuff we won't use, but we save money only buying what we KNOW we do NEED. We make extra for freezer lunches and save money & our health from that "boxed" stuff. Now that we have meal plans I am also not scrambling at the end of the day with what to make. Same goes for my hubby should he need to whip something up.

You don't actually have to make each recipe on the date stated, just know what you're going to eat before shopping.

2) Things I Freeze: I'm sure there is more than this, but right now this is what I actually have in my freezers.
  • Herbs - Washed, dried and tossed in a labeled bag for freezing; ready for most cooked applications.
  • Roasted Garlic - I buy a huge bag and roast over half of it, once cooled I put into ice-cube trays and transfer to bags, or place right into freezer bag & break off chunks as needed.
  • Garlic - Of the bulbs I have not roasted, I peel them and freeze them whole, grate frozen into whatever dish you need.
  • Jalapeños - Put them in whole and grate them into your food for kick, best used cooked.
  • Ginger - Put the whole root right into the freezer and grate to cut off chunks as needed.
  • Lemons/Limes - Often a recipe calls for these and often I wouldn't have fresh, so buy in bulk and freeze some. Once thawed they can easily be used in most cooked recipe. I will sometimes grate the zest and freeze that on it's own. You can even just freeze the peels and use in recipes or tea.
  • Bread - Stale bread makes for great crumbs, but I don't always have the time to process, just get a big bag and toss the pieces in. When you need crumbs, the frozen bread processes really easy or make a nice snack to feed the birds.
  • Wild Rice - This often takes so long to cook, so I usually cook it all and then freeze it in bags. You don't even need to thaw it to use it. It breaks up so easily and can me added to any recipe right from the freezer.
  • Vegetable Ends - I have a container just for ends to that when I need to make stock I have onion, carrots, celery, parsley stems, broccoli stems (not too much of this though) ready to go in.
  • Chicken Bones - We order organic whole chickens twice a year, so rather than freezing them all whole I will carve some up into portions we like (just drumsticks, thighs or breasts). The carcass is amazing and has so much good stuff left on it. I wrap it up well and put in freezer for when I have time to make stock. Same goes for cooked chicken, though I usually just make the stock right away then (it's already warm, so just put it all in the oven and leave it overnight really low).
  • Lunches - We haven't purchased lunches for my husband in so long I can't remember. When cleaning up after supper I make pre-portioned lunches in freezer safe dishes, label them with the meal name and date. Ready to go any time; even for a quick lunch for me.
  • Coffee - I do this more in the summer, but there is something to say for coffee flavoured ice cubes in my iced coffees.
  • Watermelon - Last year I was given a watermelon that was just bogged with water. It was mush. I strained/picked out the seeds and froze it (breaking it up a bit before it became a huge brick) and it has made delicious dessert or slush for drinks. The flavour is so intense.
  • Pie Crust - I don't make pies too often but when I do I make a bunch so that it's ready when I need it. Keep them in small disks or roll out into flat pieces (more breakable), wrap in wax paper really well and they will keep for a long time. Thaw in the fridge though or you could get too much condensation.
  • Butter - An obvious one I know but when you get a good price with no limits, how do you not stock up?

3) Buy Bulk: Some things are really best bought in bulk if you can. I know it involved some planning and creative budgeting at times, but if you can manage to buy in bulk it really does save over all. Here are some thing we try to buy in bulk. Most things are actually cheaper at Superstore, but watch the flyers because Bulk Barn can surprise you.

  • Chickens - Organic, free-range. We will buy about 10 Spring and 7-10 Fall. I found the fall ones more fatty than the spring ones.
  • Beef - We usually get half a cow a year and share the other half with family. We could probably use a whole one in the future. These are also from a free-range, mostly grass-fed source.
  • Pork - We have bought a whole cut pig in the past but we don't eat it enough to buy this way anymore, so we just watch for good sales (30-50% off), though we would trade for some beef in the future.
  • Eggs - We order farm fresh, grass-fed from a friend for $3/doz. Stores charge up to $6/doz. 10 doz/month lasts us well.
  • Xylitol - This is so expensive at the health food store so we have been searching cheaper sources. Right now we found a source in the USA, but we need to drive there to pick it up. We are ordering through our friends right now and we're pricing it out to see if it's worth it or not. It is seriously less expensive there though. $20/lb here and $30/5lb online. CRAZY!
  • Almond Flour - Right now we just get this at Bulk Barn, but we're willing to get it elsewhere for less if we can find it. Nothing just yet.
  • Chick Peas, and most all dried beans, lentils - They last longer and won't have the same sodium content than canned.
  • Raisins - Most dried fruits really can be cheaper in bulk anywhere. You might feel they are less fresh, but if you store them well in an air tight container they freshen up pretty well.
  • Nuts - Since we make our own LaraBars and granola bars, it only makes sense to buy bulk. Superstore has the best price for this.
  • Other - We also buy things like Maca Powder, Arrowroot Powder, Chia Seeds, Chickpea and Coconut flour in bulk (Bulk Barn). We are looking for honey and may have found a source for that, but we do prefer liquid most of the time.

4) Make it yourself: I am new to a lot of this, but I am learning something new every month it seems. I know a few families who make most everything themselves and that is just so cool to me. It used to seem impossible, but if you just try one new thing at a time it becomes more possible.

  • Bread - Not that we eat a lot of grains in this house, but at least if I make it myself (bread machine for mixing) I know there are no bad chemicals in it. I am still learning on how to make grain-free bread, but I'll figure it out yet.
  • Pizza - We make three different types of crust and like bread if we're using wheat at least we know what's in it. We also make a cauliflower crust and an almond flour crust to steer away from grains.
  • Yogurt - I am not yet making the yogurt base, but I am learning. For now I buy an unsweetened plain, organic yogurt and flavour it myself. My favourite these days are to add freeze dried strawberries (Bulk Barn) and some xylitol. Fresh fruit works as well, but the powder from the freeze dried helps to keep the yogurt thicker.
  • Granola/LaraBars - There are so many recipes out there for this I got mine from Pinterest.
  • Fabric Softener - Easy and it works. This will be really nice come summer and we dry out on the line.
  • Laundry Detergent - Haven't made a batch yet, but we are making it next week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Salmon Asparagus Frittata

This was a dish that is good for Breakfast, Lunch or Supper. It's been a long time since I had week with so many improvised recipes. It feels good to know that I can just whip something up last minute and still manage to stay away from sugar and grains.

  • 10-12 eggs
  • 2 cans Salmon (fresh if you have)
  • 1 cup milk (coconut or almond)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • S and P (to taste)
  • 1 cup of your favourite cheese (I've used cream cheese or cheddar)
  • 1 Tbsp FOC* for greasing the pan.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Whisk together eggs and cream until light and frothy; add cheese (reserving some for on top). Season egg mixture with mustard powder, salt and pepper. In a large, oven safe frying pan sauté onions, mushrooms and chopped asparagus in FOC until softened slightly; add garlic near the end. They will finish cooking in the oven so don't over cook. Add the egg mixture and finish cooking in the oven. Bake the eggs until firm (about a half hour). Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese. Let cool slightly then serve.

*Fat of Choice

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup (Dairy & Sugar Free)

On our 30 day challenge we weren't supposed to be having dairy unless it was unpasteurized. Aside from yogurt, this was hard to find. Instead we used almond milk and coconut milk. We did end up eating cottage cheese, cream cheese and brick cheese in our lunches after week 2, but these do sometimes have high sugar contents. Either way we lost weight so we're not too worried about it.

With that being said I was challenged a bit while making lunch for the children and I today. I had no soup in the house but was craving tomato soup. I had tomato paste and figured we could start with that. A quick google search later I had a plan and it turned out really well.

  • 1 large can of tomato paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1-2 cans water
  • seasonings to taste (garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, dried basil, salt and pepper)

Directions: Combine in a medium pot on the stove. Mix well with a whisk and heat through. Add more water if it's too thick for your preference. Simple enough.

We topped ours with some cheese, but to be truly dairy free that could be skipped.

I'm thinking that to really go all out next time and make this with fresh garlic and onion

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Night Pizza

This is really getting easier for me. I was able to improvise a bit with this crust. I didn't have enough almond flour so I used chick pea flour to make up the difference and it turned out good. One recipe feeds our whole family.

Even though I had to substitute, I think we finally got the crust right. This time we topped it with gluten free chorizo turkey chicken sausage and red pepper. It was on sale at Safeway so why not? I wish I had greased the pan 1st or at least used parchment paper.

I just had a thought that if any of my family or friends wants to try this sometime, then maybe we should have a pizza party. If you want in, you know how to contact me...

Three Amazing Suppers

Butter Chicken with Cauliflower "Rice"
Clearly my family enjoys indian food. Often I don't follow a recipe, but this one was certainly inspired by an easy pale recipe found on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. I did the chicken, coated in ginger, curry powder and paprika, in the oven and the sauce in a huge pan on the stove. Once the sauce was well blended I added the chicken to the sauce mixture and simmered to yummy perfection. Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

  • butter (obviously)
  • finely chopped onion
  • tomato paste
  • garam masala
  • ginger
  • curry powder
  • corriander
  • chili powder
  • lemon juice
  • cream (any you like)

Salmon Patties with Avocado Slaw
This went over so well with the children I was shocked. What blew my mind most was that they boys asked for more slaw. I didn't expect that at all.

When I find it hard to get fresh cilantro (which my family is not a fan of) I will use the dried stuff. It gives me a small amount of the "soapy" tasting herb but doesn't over power the fragile tastebuds of my family.

If you ever find jalapeños in the 50% off rack, pick them up! I just store mine in the freezer and whenever I need a kick of heat I pull one out and grate it into my dish. This slaw asked for pickled, but we didn't have that. I added a bit extra lime juice and it was great. Still wanna try this with pickled though.

Chorizo Beef Burger with Caramelized Onions
Health Bent is by far my most favourite site for recipes right now. They are interesting, easy to make and most of all, completely good for the whole family. Check them out you won't be disappointed.

When I went to cut up my avocado for this recipe it wasn't good anymore (boo hiss). Even without the avocado this one was super good. I have been craving a hamburger for a while now and this really hit the spot (filling too). Originally, they served this with a fried egg on top. That would taste great, but alone this is a very satisfying meal.

The basic ingredients are:

  • chorizo sausage (couldn't find sugar free)
  • hamburger
  • extra-old cheddar
  • caramelized onions
  • tomato
  • served over baby spinach

Hope you enjoy these as much as we have. Let me know which one you think would work best for your family. Are there foods your kids prefer or just won't eat? Are there any other ingredients you would like me to try out?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two More for the SFGF Menu

 A Classic Curry supper for the whole family. I don't follow a recipe when making this number. I just look in the fridge and toss it all in the pan. Here's the ingredients:

  • chicken thigh
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • onion
  • chick peas
  • curry powder
  • chicken stock
  • garlic
  • chili garlic paste
  • ginger
  • coriander

We used to serve this over rice or with whole wheat pasta, but it really doesn't need that stuff. You could add coconut milk to the sauce. I thicken sauce with arrowroot powder if it needs it. Treat is similar to corn starch. I let the children add raisins to their dish and they go nuts over this one.

This yummy supper is the Pumpkin Chili I found on Health-Bent. It has an avocado cream on top. Served these chive biscuits along side and it's a classic comfort gone healthy. I thought the citrus was too strong in the cream so I would tone that down for the future, but everything else was really incredible.

After searching all of my bookmarks again and again I think this recipe is the one I used for these biscuits, but I could be wrong. Either way it looks like a yummy one. I just added some dehydrated chives.

Hope these help you to live a more sugar and grain free life. I feel awesome for doing this 30 day challenge. While the challenge is over, I am enjoying the health benefits eating this way, so why stop? I have had a 5% weight loss, I am far less hungry throughout the day and I feel like I have a much better grip on my emotions (fewer freak outs).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Life: Post 30-Day Challenge

So here we are after 30 days of grain-free, sugar-free eating and I find myself at the cross-roads. On one hand it's hard to think that it has already been 30 days, on the other it was hard, very hard at times. For Deryk (my husband) it was not having sugar or bread or worse yet cereal or granola bars. For me it was learning how to cook with almond flour, coconut flour and chickpea flour. Spending a lot more time looking up recipes than I would normally was also a bit of a frustration. The bulk of that frustration was then having to actually follow the recipes I found.

For years now I have been able to just look at a photo and glance at the ingredients and make wonderful meals just happen. I am creative, quick and clean in my kitchen (for the most part), but having to follow a recipe has really messed up my rhythm and the cleanliness of my kitchen. While I am not there just yet, I know that I can re-learn cooking with these new ingredients. I just need more time and a lot more practice. It helps to remind myself that there was a time (more than 15 years ago now) that I didn't know how to make anything that didn't come with instructions printed on the package. For this reason (as well as the major health benefits), I think it's worth continuing to use grain-free and sugar-free as much as possible.

I look forward to adding some more fruit and vegetables back into my diet that were higher in sugar. I won't be adding pasta, potatoes or rice at this point, but a banana, apple or carrot is certainly something I will eat. I have had the odd slice of bread or today I ate an english muffin. I will definitely watch this and be sure to not eat any of this past lunch time. What I really need to focus most on right now is getting the 1st meal of the day in earlier though. This business of eating a piece of fruit and then nothing until lunch (a really late lunch) is not good no matter what diet you are following.

So here are my stats thus far:

  • Beginning weight: 157lbs (been stuck there since having kids)
  • Current weight: 150lbs
  • I am still pretty tired through the day (probably the not eating early or often enough)
  • Fewer junk cravings overall
  • My sleep is more sound overall
Upcoming Goals:
  • Eat more regularly
  • Add more physical activity (specifically Burst Training)
  • Conquer the non-grain flours and get back to my creative, improv cooking

So, which road will I be taking? The harder one of course, because if there's not a challenge in it, why do it at all? I know that we will be healthier in the end and I will learn so much along the way. Stay tuned in for more recipes (if that's your thing).