Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo Phriday: Happy Birthday

Two years ago today I watched my sister give birth to my niece. It was done without drugs (this is not a judgement to any other type of birth; I'm learning just how hard women can be on each other on this subject) and in a birth center. It was truly the most beautiful and emotional experience I have ever had. My sister is tough; really tough. And she brought to the world a little human that has changed mine.

Less than a year after witnessing my niece's birth, I witnessed the death of my grandmother. At 95 she lived a good life, but in no way was I ready to let her go. She was my rock and she made me feel like the most important and most loved thing in her life, and it was really difficult to watch her go.

I think as humans we have a lot of love to give, and I still have more, but the emptiness of my heart when my grandmother passed, I know, has been filled up with this beautiful, bright little girl. A little girl with her Grandmother's name as her middle name: Adelia.

So on my niece's birthday I reflect a bit. I have been lucky enough to live next door to my sister, bro-in-law and my niece for the last six months and have seen how she has grown. She is being raised in a very loving family with parents whose attention and patience with her is inspiring. It makes me want to treat her the way in which my grandmother did for me: regardless of what she decides to pursue in life, I will always strive to make her (and every young person in my life) feel like they are the most loved and important person in mine. It did wonders for me.

She is my muse, and an affirmation that the A-man and I do, indeed, want kids. Happy Birthday La Dudarina. I think you're quite special.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Paleo: How it's Going

So. Basically, I eat paleo at home. And I'm fine with that.

I figured out that, on average, 17 of the 21 of the meals I eat in a week are cooked by me, and those are paleo. The other 4 meals are cooked for me by others, and when it is a friend cooking I figure they work hard enough to make gluten-free meals for me that asking for paleo would be too much. So I don't. Plus, I don't mind eating grains in 20% of my meals -- as an endurance athlete (endurance in the sense that most of my workouts are between 1 1/2 to 2 hours long), that's probably the safest way to go.

I've had some pretty boring meals, but some really great ones too. I made a meat-only chili (just tomatoes, onion, red pepper, ground bison, chili, cumin, and ground red pepper) this weekend and recently ate it over "cauliflower rice," which is minced cauliflower sauted with onion. It was great and filling. And surprisingly, I'm not as hungry as I used to be. I think carbohydrates make me crave more carbohydrates. I'm sure there's some science to it.

In case you're interested in learning more about eating this way, here are a few links I've found really helpful:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Going Paleo

The paleo, or paleolithic way of eating has intrigued me for years. In a nutshell, it is a diet of meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts -- that's it. *The theory is that humans have been eating this way -- this very simple way, for millions of years. If you compare that to how long we've been eating grains and processed foods (10,000 according to many anthropologists), it is literally a blink of the eye.

So, basically, we've had all of those millions of years to adapt to this way of eating, where we've only had a few thousand to adapt to eating grains.

Paleo-friendly stuffed mushrooms

Research in this field has shown that cutting out grains, legumes and sugars can slow the progression of autoimmune disorders, cure acne, and increase athletic performance. I have stake in all three of these: my mother has Multiple Sclerosis, I have skin problems, and as an athlete, I have always been interested in getting faster and stronger.

Paleo-friendly green smoothie

This re-interest in paleo comes from an experience that I had last week. I had a bit of a scare at
skate practice: during a time trial that I was leading my legs cramped up and I had to stand upright and glide for my last two laps. They cramped up in a way I hadn't ever experienced before. In fact, it seemed similar to the way my mother describes her MS-related leg pain. Because my mother has MS, there is a 30% chance I could get it too. That's not that high, but it's certainly an increased risk and that's awfully scary. If there's anything that I can do to possibly decrease my risk, I'll do it.

I've told my mother about the diet before. I've bought her books on the subject and sent her
presentations about it in the past. But she's not budging. In fact, out of my sister, father and I -- she's the only one who is not gluten-free. That is her choice and I respect that. But I want my mother to be around to see my kids grow up.

A Paleo-friendly dinner

I know how difficult it can be. I've tried to following this diet before, but I failed when I was traveling and eating in social settings. I thought, "I can't eat gluten and that makes me enough of a misfit. Why make it more difficult?" I even once suggested a friend try it out to see if it helped an autoimmune disease she had -- it did and she lost a lot of weight. I saw her everyday at work, and I saw what a transformation she made, but I never made it more than a week for myself. The thing is, I was really strict about it when I tried it. And it seems like there are some people who are 100% paleo. However, it's not going to be all or nothing this time. I'll let myself eat grains on special occasions (in fact I'm sure I'll still make grain-based recipes). I'll have dessert if it's once-in-awhile. And I'm not planning on giving up coffee. There is also the idea that athletes who eat paleolithic should ingest some carbohydrates from grains, so I'll give myself that.

I'll end this with a few thoughts; I do not want to insult people who do not eat this way. Studies have shown that East-Asians are the healthiest people. I, in no way, discredit that. I also have a lot of respect for vegans and believe in that way of eating as well. However, with my own health issues and my family history, this seems to be the best choice for me.

In my next post I will be linking to some of my favorite paleo resources.

*I've only skimmed the surface of the history of, benefits from, and details of the paleo diet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Enjoy Life Foods Crunchy Flax

The super cool folks at Enjoy Life Food sent me a couple of boxes of their crunchy flax and crunchy rice cereal. I was a frequent buyer of it under it's previous name, Perky's Nutty Rice, but was excited to learn Enjoy Life Foods acquired the company. Which is good because I would hate to see this stuff go!

Crunchy is the first thing that comes to mind, and as my dad said once, "Americans love to crunch!" Really, we do. There's something very satisfying about biting down and crunching a food. Maybe it's primal. Maybe it's cultural. Who knows. (Any food anthropologists out there?)

So, I eat the cereal for breakfast often and have for years because it's a great, healthy go-to breakfast, but when my sister wanted me to bring over a dessert for dinner recently I whipped up a simple bar recipe. It came from memory of a recipe that was on the back of the old boxes of the cereal for dessert bars, and is really quite simple.

And still keeps that great "crunch."

Crunchy Flax Bars (er, triangles -- I didn't have the right size square pan for bars)

1 box of Crunchy Flax Cereal
1 1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup chocolate chips (Enjoy Life also makes great chocolate chips)
1 pinch of salt
Combine the almond butter, rice syrup and salt in a small pot and cook over medium heat until it melts. In a large bowl put the cereal, then the almond butter/syrup mixture and chocolate chips and combine. Spread into a pie dish, or a 8x8 pan and let cool. Or speed up by putting into the refrigerator. Then, cut however you'd like.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Video Friday: Vita-Mix Review

This was a review I wrote recently for a multimedia class. The quality of the video isn't great, but you get the idea. I might be doing more of these if I can work on the set-up on my home computer.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tomato, Basil & Chicken Quinoa Salad

Link Orgran's Falafel Mix w/hummus: so very tasty

I have been craving carbohydrates lately. Mostly because I've been working out more than what is normal for me. I'm half-marathon training and I skate 4 times a week with my roller derby team. My legs started cramping during a sprint at last night's practice, so I think I'm doing something wrong. A lack of potassium maybe? I'll try upping my banana intake and see how it goes.

In the meantime, I'll share a good pre-workout meal. It's hearty enough to make me feel nourished, but it's not terribly heavy so you don't feel sluggish after eating it. Quinoa is possibly my favorite grain; it's super high in protein and has a texture that reminds me of my beloved (in my non-gf days) cous-cous.

This recipe is simple and only takes a few minutes to put together. I served mine over a bed of baby spinach.
Tomato, Basil & Chicken Quinoa Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves 2 as a meal

The juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups of quinoa, cooked
2 baked chicken breasts, cubed
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 loose cup of cherry tomatoes, halfed
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the quinoa, chicken, basil and tomatoes and toss gently. Salt and Pepper to taste and add more oil if you'd like.