Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sleep and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Sleep has been a key for me lately, I slept 9 hours again last night, I love me some sleep!  It’s nice to wake up and feel like I can get out of bed without dreading having to get up.  Yay!  My poor husband, who is not a morning person, likely doesn’t much care for the more awake energetic me in the morning.  I think I talk more than he does, and that’s saying something!

Last night was a quick evening; I intended to do something, anything, creative.  Instead I listened to music and cooked dinner.  After I read a little bit. I’m reading The Hunger Games for my book club at work (I saw the movie but I love the book, I have a hard time putting it down!).  I got so sleepy I was in bed and asleep around 8:15.  It kills productivity at home but it sure does make me feel better.

On my commute into work today I was thinking about germs and sickness.  There are a lot of people at my office that have been sick over the last couple of months.  A good friend ended up with the flu, I drove her home from work one day because she just needed to get home (she takes the bus to avoid having to drive in our horrible commute).  I’m probably going to jinx myself, but I haven’t caught anything.  I am wondering why.  I know my immune system is tired, maybe a little less so since I have been paying more attention to what my body is telling me it needs?  I always hear people say that it makes a difference, what you eat, how much you sleep and exercise.  I’m beginning to think that’s true.  I have cut out something I know is harmful to my body, I limit sugar/sweeteners (I still have a daily square of really dark chocolate – thank goodness for individually wrapped Ghirardelli squares!), eat veggies with every meal and make sure I’m getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.  I haven’t mixed in regular exercise yet, but now that I am feeling better again the treadmill and I have a date scheduled this weekend.  Anyway, just something to think about….though I still wonder.  I have a sister-in-law that eats perfectly and is an exercise fiend and she’s been sick at least a couple of times this season.  Hmmm….

Enough of that….it’s time for food!  I found a recipe online for something called Chocolate Chip Cookie Dip.  Here is where I admit that when making cookies more of the raw dough ends up in me than that baked cookie.  At first I was a little skeptical about the recipe; the base is chickpeas or white beans.  What?  The things I use to make hummus?  How is that even possible?  Still, the idea that I could eat something that tasted like raw cookie dough and it would be healthy for me, I’m so in!  It’s perfect for taming my sweet tooth and there is something really wonderful about being able to take a spoonful and just eat it without any guilt.  The recipe with my adjustments (I omitted the oats/flax, didn’t add any milk and cut the sugar in half) is listed below, the original recipe is on a fantastic blog called Chocolate-Covered Katie (the healthy dessert blog), you will find it here:  I haven’t tried anything else from her site but I see she has a special section of GF recipes that I plan to revisit (she has a recipe for black bean brownies that I have to try!)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dip
(adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie’s blog)
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (I use peanut butter)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (a couple more may have fallen in when I measured)
1.      Drain and rinse the beans really well, at this point I rolled them around inside the colander and removed as many of the skins as possible though I don’t think you have to do that
2.      Place all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a food processor and let it go, stop when it looks well combined, scrape down the sides and let it go again
3.      This is the point where you taste and see if you need more salt or sugar
4.      Dump all of it into a sealable container and mix in the chocolate chips
5.      Refrigerate…..and try not to eat it all at once!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken Fajitas and Pre-Made GF Foods

When I was first told that I had to start eating gluten-free I was pretty sure it was the end of the world.  I lived for good bread and loved pasta (no wonder I was so sick!).  After the initial shock and realization that in order to start feeling better it was a requirement I started looking around me.

Guess what?  There are tons of pre-prepared options out there, I had no idea!  In my pantry I now have gluten free pasta (some made with quinoa, some with rice), bread (check out Rudi’s, I find it in the frozen section at my grocery store, it’s awesome), GF flour from King Arthur flour, some mixes from Bob’s Red Mill and a couple of frozen dinners from Amy’s that are good in a pinch.  The products that are available are wonderful. 

A warning though, just because it says gluten free on the front doesn’t mean it will be safe for you to eat.  There is a FDA guideline that says what is allowed to be marked as GF, I can’t remember exactly what the level is, but sometimes it can still cause some issues.  For me it was some crackers, I won’t say which brand, I dove into them with gusto thinking they were ok (they were so good!), they weren’t ok for me.  Unfortunately, when you are eating pre-prepared items, it is a process of trial and error.

I have only scratched the surface in finding internet resources for GF recipes.  I have found several, and I have tried more than a few of their recipes.  I have found that Pinterest can be a good resource for GF recipes; there are quite a few people out there with boards collecting GF recipes.  If you have a GF recipe board of your own on Pinterest let me know so that I can follow you!

I thought I would share my recipe for chicken fajitas, something I didn’t have to change other than using corn tortillas instead of flour.

Chicken Fajitas
(4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are)

1 lb. chicken tenders (make sure they are pretty thin so it’s easy to bite through them)
1 lime
1 T olive oil
1.5 tsp Cumin
1.5 tsp Oregano (either regular or Mexican)
1 tsp Chipotle chili powder (optional)
1 tsp salt
.5 tsp black pepper
1 large sweet onion sliced thin
1 -2 large bell peppers (I use red)
2 corn tortillas per person

1.      Place the chicken in a glass dish and combine with juice from the lime, olive oil, cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Cover with plastic and put in refrigerator for about an hour (don’t leave it too long or the lime juice will “cook” the chicken)
2.      Sautee the sliced onions and peppers over medium heat with a little bit of oil and salt until well cooked and slightly caramelized, remove from pan and keep warm
3.      While you are sautéing the veggies heat another skillet (NOT nonstick) and cook/slightly char the corn tortillas, wrap in paper towels and foil to keep warm
4.      Drain off any remaining liquid from the chicken (I usually pat it with a paper towel to get it mostly dry) and put in pan being careful not to crowd it so that it browns well
5.      Turn chicken as needed and cook until done, add the onions and peppers back into the pan just to warm back up
6.      Serve everything together, I top mine with a bit of cheese, homemade guacamole and pico de gallo.  I’m not big on rice but sometimes I will make some refried black beans to go with it along with a salad.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A day in the life...

A day in the life, I named today’s entry that, but really it is a little more than that.

I can tell that I’m having one of those times where my immune system has gone haywire for whatever reason stimulated it this time (maybe it’s the flu epidemic running through my office?).  Anyway, since last Thursday I have been achy, tired, feverish, brain foggy and just generally blah.  I can’t get enough sleep, I’m cold, I’m hot, I can’t focus for more than two minutes, my joints ache, then my muscles do, sometimes together.  I get up from my desk chair at work or the couch at home and have to steady myself from the pain that comes.  It’s not a lot of fun, just an example of a few days in the life.

I found a blog recently that has provided some valuable information along with some validation about the ups and downs.  She talks openly about her “thyroidy” days, something I found comforting because there are times you feel like you might just be going crazy.  Her blog is here: She’s got a great sense of humor and a good amount of knowledge about what’s going on with her and what works for her.  She’s also quick to say that what works for her may not work for everyone.  I think the key I got from reading many of her entries is that you have to take control of your own health.  There isn’t anyone else that’s going to be as much of an advocate for you as you can for yourself.

Moving down the taking control of my own health path I have learned to spend more time really paying attention to what my body is telling me.  If I’m really tired I sleep (I slept 9.5 hours last night), if I have brain fog and can’t concentrate I do those things at work that require less of my concentration, if I’m hungry I eat, making sure to eat lots of veggies while making sure I get the protein I need.  I gave up gluten which helped. However, with the ups and downs I have been experiencing since then, my body is telling me there is more I should do.  Now I’m considering giving up dairy and possibly soy.  One at a time so that I can measure the difference it makes.

There is so much to consider.  Selenium, yes or no (I read I can get what I need by eating a Brazil nut daily), what about iodine?  Do I need to look at other supplements beyond the ones I’m already on (iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, B12)?  There is always more research to be done.  The thing I’m sticking with now though is listening to my body when it talks to me, being gentler with myself.  The world will not end if I don’t vacuum/clean/do laundry and make a gourmet homemade dinner every night.

So, if you are having health issues, even if they are very different from mine, take time, slow down, listen to what your body really needs.  The world will not end if you take a needed break. Take care of you!

One last thing…..a recipe!  I make this soup every couple of weeks, blend it up and freeze it in small containers for those hungry periods when I want to take advantage and get lots of nutrients into my body:

Blended Veggie Soup
(This makes a lot of soup, be sure you have freezer space!)

½ T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic (I actually use 4 but that’s too much for some people)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (I add more but I like things spicy)
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small zucchini
1 lb mushrooms
1 bag spinach
1 bag of kale
1.5 big boxes of fat free or reduced fat chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

1.      Heat a large pot over medium to medium high heat, add olive oil
2.      Drop in the onion, garlic, cayenne, carrots and celery and cook until slightly soft
3.      Add in the zucchini and mushrooms and cook for about 1 minute
4.      Add in the chicken broth then put the spinach and kale on top, pushing down with a spoon to get it in the liquid
5.      Cover and let simmer (not boil) about 15 minutes, check to see how everything is doing….stirring everything up at this point is a good idea
6.      Check for seasoning, does it need salt and pepper?
7.      Cover and cook for another 20-30 minutes, everything should be soft at this point
8.      Cool slightly then blend everything together using an immersion blender.
9.      Store in small serving size (about 1 cup) containers in the freezer, it warms up well in the microwave when you need it

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hashimoto's Sucks and People Don't Get It

I took some time off from anything that wasn’t entirely necessary to focus on my health for a few months.  I have learned quite a bit, though I have also learned that I don’t know nearly enough.  It is easy to get very overwhelmed by the avalanche of information available out there on Hashimoto’s disease / autoimmune diseases.

I have struggled with getting the people in my life, family/friends/co-workers to understand what I feel like, what I’m going through.  Unfortunately unless you look sick on the outside people don’t generally believe you are sick on the inside.  I found a couple of great resources during my research.  The first, a letter from someone that has the disease and explains what it feels like really well, I am Hashimoto’s Disease, if you are interested it’s a good link for a description of the daily struggle. Another one is a letter to friends and families of people with a thyroid disease, When Your Family Member or Friend Has Thyroid Disease, it’s also a good way for people to learn about the experience.

I will note here that Hashimoto’s disease is not curable, though I’m hoping that through diet and exercise it is  manageable. The past year was a roller coaster (not the fun kind) of health issues….I lost and gained weight (40-50 pounds!) over and over again without changing a thing, my hair fell out in clumps, my skin would get so dry it would crack, I forgot almost everything that I was told if I didn’t write it down and I would be completely overwhelmingly exhausted for a few days then feeling good the next few days after that.  I can’t even begin to explain how frustrating this disease is.

The thing is, even though I found some good resources to give my family and friends to describe my experience, I’m starting not to care what other people think about it.  Why does it matter to me what they think about a personal struggle I have?  For now I’m choosing to share it only with my husband and close family. They are the ones that matter, my friends matter but they don’t see everything that particularly my husband does.  He understands, my parents understand, and that’s what matters to me.

I’m back to blogging, I hope to share what I have learned so far with anyone interested in reading about my journey.  I will share some really great GF recipes I have tried and talk more about my daily experience.  If nothing else, I hope to be a resource for someone that was in the place I was in last year…..sick and feeling like I was going crazy because nobody could see what was happening.  This is me and my experience.