Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Nice Surprise

As my longer term readers know, last year about this time I purchased a book entitled The Conscious Cleanse in an effort to find out if the chronic heartburn I'd suddenly developed shortly after I turned 43 might be the result of food allergies.  As it turned out, I ended up having my gallbladder out last summer (which had been the problem all along!), but not before I learned some really interesting things about foods and my body's reaction to them.  At the time, I hadn't yet been diagnosed, and the  solution that was offered me by the specialist I saw was to add another chronic medication to my regimen. That wasn't an option.  It bothered me that I was on a number of meds to keep me functional and able to work two jobs, and adding yet another pill bottle to my nightstand wasn't an acceptable solution!

The premise of the cleanse as outlined in the book is to follow an eating plan consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, non-gluten grains, and small amounts of lean meats for 2 weeks, and then slowly add in different foods such as dairy and gluten to see how your body responds.  What initially interested me was that the author of the book had suffered a pretty life altering accident very similar to my own, and had found that by changing how she ate, she was able to basically heal herself and no longer required chronic medications.  THAT totally appealed to me, and though at the time I wasn't sure I could duplicate her results, I wanted to explore foods to see if maybe something I was eating might be causing inflammatory processes in my own body that increased my pain, and if simply by changing my diet I could cut down on the significant amount of daily pain that I have.  At the time, I had no idea that it would really change my life and how I relate to food. 

After 1 week on the plan I had lost about 8 pounds.  I hadn't been exercising, but had followed the plan religiously.  I was surprised to find that, since the book said that I could eat however much I wanted of the foods within the above groups, I wasn't ever the least bit hungry and never felt like I was dieting.  I learned to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full.  And because in my head I never felt like I was restricting myself, I never felt like I was missing anything at all!  I felt clearer headed, my stomach upset seemed to be less, and I was ecstatic with the weight that seemed to have just fallen off in my sleep!  No amount of dieting or combination of diet and exercise had produced any results after I turned 40, and the fact that I wasn't hungry but was losing weight like crazy was a freaking happy shock.

When the 2 weeks of the cleanse were up, I felt so good eating the way I had been that I just sort of kept it up.  I just wasn't so strict about it.  We'd do happy hour on Friday nights or meet friends for a meal out, and I'd totally chow down on ribs and potato salad, or have the occasional ice cream cone for dinner on a Tuesday.  The difference was, I was no longer addicted to sweets (craving sugar is also a side effect of narcotics) and a single cookie that once may have ended up in me scarfing half the box and then rolling around on the floor in the crumbs was just a single cookie or two and nothing more.  And I also found it shocking that, as I was tracking my intake just out of curiosity, I found that I was eating what seemed like huge quantities of foods, yet my caloric intake was amazingly low!  I was giving my body whole, living foods, and it was processing them quickly and efficiently, and somehow I was still losing weight! :D  I found the whole process fascinating.

Rik hadn't bitten off on the whole clean eating idea yet, but one of the things I love about him is his willingness to try just about anything once, so as I experimented in the kitchen I used him as a sounding board for the recipes that truly tasted good.  If his reaction was "Wow!  That's not bad for something healthy!" I didn't make it again!  I wanted the recipes and foods that I created to taste good all on their own, "good-for-you" notwithstanding.  Cooking is something I love to do.  To me, cooking is a form of alchemy: taking disparate ingredients and putting them together in a unique way to create something entirely new.  It's magic.  And I learned that I truly can eat well, even on a gourmet level, without feeling like I'm eating "healthy", and I'm hoping to convince you of the same :)  

If you have some time and want some examples of what I'm talking about, click on the "Pretty On The Inside" tab at the top of the page (or here) and scroll through.  That is the home for some of the recipes from last year's experimentation that range from Chocolate Almond Breakfast Ice Cream (7 ingredients and seriously okay to eat for breakfast!) to Chocolate Brownie Batter Bites that taste like raw brownie batter but are pure protein goodness that you can eat without the least bit of guilt.

So I think I may have messed up in choosing this week to start this blog experiment as Rik is out of town which means that I won't be cooking much which is why I changed the format a bit today compared to how the rest of the week has been.  But in a way, this might be good as you'll see how he's able to eat out when he's away from home and still make good choices.

Here's today's intake:  

Breakfast:  1 c. of Oatmeal with 2 tsp. of brown sugar  
Snack:  Vanilla protein shake
Snack:  2 Oatmeal Cupcakes to Go
Lunch:  A 6-inch Subway Club Sandwich on Flat bread with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, onion, and cucumber, 2 small (2 oz) cookies 
Snack:  Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar
Snack:  Vanilla protein shake
Dinner:  Olive Garden Seafood Alfredo 

My Lunch

Breakfast:  1 Oatmeal Cupcake to Go and 3 cups of coffee with homemade creamer
Snack:  A handful of Cinnamon Spice Chickpea Poppers
Lunch:  Leftover Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup and open-faced toasted cheese made from Oroweat Sandwich Thins & Sprouts bulk cheddar (the one Rocket Dog bit) o_O
Snack:  Sandwich thins (not sure what's going on with my bread craving today) toasted 
with almond butter and honey, and a cup of Tazo decaf chai
Dinner:  Rik's favorite super salad  
After Dinner Snack:  Sliced apple with 1/2 cup of Healthy Nutella from my favorite dessert blog

NOTE:  I want to point something out here: I ate quite a lot today.  Now that I'm feeling better, this is about what my usual day is.  For most of us trying to watch what we eat, it's recommended that we stay under 1200 calories (for women) if we lead a rather sedentary lifestyle.  I've tracked intake today to show you that all of this food, every bite, is a total of 1,300 calories.  That's it.  I ate when I was hungry, stopped eating when I was full (i.e, the 2-cup bowl of soup picture above only got about half eaten as I couldn't finish it), ate within my food groups (with the exception of the bread), and am very close to the allotted calories for the day if I were counting calories alone! :D
Here's tonight's dinner.  We like salads, but they get realllllyyyy boring if you eat a lot of them.  And let's face it: eating the required amount of vegetables is a lot of work, and sometimes your mouth gets tired of chewing before your stomach gets full!  My way around that was to cut back on the amount of greens and double the amount of vegetables.  And then throw in things that you might not think to add otherwise.  Like gourmet olives, pepperoncini, sliced strawberries, or apples. 

 I.    Toss in a handful of greens.  I'm using a baby spinach and kale mix.    

II.   Chop about 5 baby carrots and 3 green onions.  

III.  Add in a handful (these were pre-sliced in a bag) of radishes.  
IV.  Half a cucumber, chopped coarsely.
V.   A hunk of pepper (any color) chopped.
VI.  A small handful of asparagus (raw is good!).
VII. A chunk of jicama peeled and sliced.
VIII. A handful of sliced cabbage mix.
IX.  Some pepperoncini and a few sliced olives from the gourmet olive bar at the grocery store, and a good crumble of feta cheese.  
X.  Toss it all in your bowl and add a drizzle of dressing.  
I only use about 1-2 Tbsp. on a salad big enough for 2 of us to each have seconds, which means 2 Tbsp total on around 5-6 cups of salad.  
XI.  Top the completed salad with half a sliced avocado and a chopped hard boiled egg.  

This takes about 15 minutes to prepare.  And if you think you've made too much, take a handful or so out and put it in a ziploc bag before you add dressing, and it will be great for your lunchbox the next day.  I'm not big on the average salad, but this one (and variations on the theme) are good enough for seconds.  And if you can get away from the mindset that dinner needs to always consist of THREE (1 meat, 1 vege, and a bread) like most of us believe, a salad like this can totally work as a meal on its own.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You'd Think I Could Come Up With A Blog Title...

...but apparently I can't.  That and tonight's is gonna be short and sweet as I've got some cooking for fun to do!  Also, I just found out that I totally missed 2 of Rik's snacks and his recovery drink!  So yesterday (for him) should have looked more like today (for him).

Tonight I finished work and called the coolest parents in the world (mine) while I made some more Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go for Rik to take with him on his trip (cuz I ate the last of them this morning for breakfast!), and got dinner on.  Check the link right up there.  These are super good, have about the same calories as a cup of oatmeal, and are completely sugar-free.  They're delish.  (And Chocolate Covered Katie ROCKS.  I want to be like her when I grow up). :D

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go

My Tuesday Lunch!
While these were in the oven, I got the chicken grilled that we bought on Sunday as I finished the last of the Thursday-grilled chicken for lunch today, which btw took as long as it would take a normal person to scoop about a cup of barley into a bowl, break some raw asparagus on top, and slice up a piece of chicken breast and then nuke it for 30 seconds.  I coulda drizzled it with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, but I was really busy at lunch today and just did the basics.  But it was really tasty and really filling for a total of 331 calories.  I totally didn't even do a snack this afternoon because of it!  Actually, I'm sorta lying a little bit as Rocket finished off the last few bites of chicken and barley

Anyway, here's the day:


Breakfast:  1 c. Oatmeal 1 T. Honey
Snack 1:  Golden delicious apple
Snack 2:  Protein shake same as yesterday
Lunch:  Banana, 1 Flame-grilled Boca Burgers on multi-grain Sandwich Thins
Snack 3:  1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
Snack 4:  Protein shake
Snack 5: Bartlett pear
Post-workout recovery drink
Dinner:  Chicken Barley Vegetable soup  

Breakfast: 2 of the small Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go and 3 cups of coffee with homemade creamer
Lunch:  1 cup of barley, 1 cup of asparagus, and half a grilled chicken breast
Afternoon Snack:  Tazo Chai with skim milk
Dinner:  2 cups of Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup

Here's the soup:


Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup

4 cups water
1 chicken breast, chunked  
1 c. cooked barley
2 Tbsp. 'Better Than Bullion' chicken base (you can just use extra chicken stock or dry bullion in place of this.  I'm just preferential to this as it's restaurant grade and I think the taste is better) :)
2 Tbsp dry chicken bullion
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. chopped celery, I like to use the top section of the celery stalk for soup.  The leafy part.  (see picture left)
1 c. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. Sage
1 Tbsp. Rosemary
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste

I.  Put the water on to boil in a medium saucepan. Dilute your chicken stock or bullion while you're chopping the veges and the chicken.   (And I don't forget to share a carrot with The Rocket Dog who waits patiently for just such an event.  It's like paying the piper) :) Add the chicken, carrots, celery, and onion to the boiling water.  Add in the black pepper, sage, and rosemary. 

II.  Let this stuff simmer for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, you can start to taste the broth and see what it's missing.  After it simmered for about 20 minutes, add in the peas (I used frozen) and the cooked barley.  If you're using dry barley, add it in at the very beginning with the raw chicken and veges.  I used cooked barley for this because I already had it in the fridge and we aren't eating it as fast since I'd made it specifically for the Warm Chicken and Barley Salad that I'm still missing mint for the sauce, so we have extra that I don't want to go bad.  

III.  The frozen peas will cool the soup down enough to make it totally edible right now.  The barley makes the soup broth creamy, and the chunky vegetables make this a totally hearty winter dinner.

Start to finish, the meal took about 40 minutes (that includes grilling the left over chicken breasts that I didn't use for the soup which means we now have grilled chicken breast in the fridge ready for a snack or lunch addition).

Nutritional information: (Thank you Rik!) the entire pot of soup has about 800 calories which means about 80-90 or so calories per 1 cup serving.  AND, there's no fat other than what was in the bullion.

AND you can easily make this vegetarian or even vegan if you so choose and it would still be fantastic.

AND you've gotten MORE than half your daily requirements for vegetables in this single meal. :)

AND your tummy is warm.  

AND you're full.  

AND you haven't destroyed your kitchen cooking (like I'm about to do when I go make my sugar free version of Chocolate Covered Katies Healthy Nutella!)

ANNNNDDDD (best of all), you probably still have calories left over if you want to make some popcorn later!  

See you tomorrow!

Monday, January 27, 2014


So before we go any further, Rik pointed out a few things that I should probably make more clear before you see exactly what we're eating each day.  The way that he's eating and the way that I'm eating are a little bit different.  He started doing Beachbody's Focus T25 workouts in October along with clean eating.  He stuck to the eating plan that was provided with the course he purchased which is pretty much how I was eating anyway.  After following their eating plan to the letter for the first month or so, he'd come to understand portions and the foods that were compatible with the goal he had in mind for his body.  Mainly, 6-pack abs, muscles that he hadn't had in years, and the ability to do the P90X workouts that kick normal peoples collective ass.  Since October, he's completed the T25 program and has moved on to P90X3, which was a brilliant idea as P90X is much higher intensity so the potential of doing real damage to your body is significant if you start there and not build up to it like he did.  (He's so smart!) Anyway, what you're going to see on his daily menu is a lot higher calorie count A) because he's working out at such a high intensity, and B) this way of eating is conducive to his goals. 

I on the other hand have a totally different reason for what I'm doing.  I'm still eating clean, but I'm not really limiting my caloric intake.  I've found that as long as I cut out all processed foods and refined sugar, I lose about 1 pound a day.  The goal I've set for myself is that I want to get off the pain medications that I've been on for a while now since my accident.  For me, this means working out every day and eating right.  Since Rik had finished the T25 program and the discs were already purchased, I'm using his.  The workouts are reasonable at 25 minutes, they get results, and it's something I've been able to commit to so far without giving up.  (But that's another post altogether.)   

Ok.  Now that that's cleared up, here's our day:  


Breakfast:  1 c. of oatmeal with 2 Tbsp. of brown sugar
Morning Snack:  2 hard-boiled eggs
Lunch:  1 cup of black beans
             1 cup of diced yam
             7 oz of grilled chicken breast
Afternoon Snack:  Protein shake with a small handful of fresh blackberries blended in 2 scoops in water
Dinner:  Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower


My Breakfast
My lunch
Breakfast:  1/2 c. oatmeal with 2 Tbsp. of honey and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
& 3 cups of coffee with homemade sugar free creamer.  
Lunch:  1 cup of  cooked quinoa
             1 cup of diced fresh papaya (leftover from last week)
             Small handful of fresh blackberries
Dinner:  Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower  

For Rik, I found that if I can prepare the building blocks of a healthy meal for him, he'll make the time to throw them together however he wants.  The foods are cooked and ready to go in the fridge, mostly all prepped on Sunday night (and occasionally again on Wednesday if we're running low).  He's still measuring out portions as he's super careful about his intake due to the goals he's set for himself.  My lunch took me all of 2 minutes to throw together as the quinoa was already cooked and in the fridge, and the papaya was already seeded and chunked in another bowl in the fridge completely ready to eat without any prep.  

And here's dinner:  
Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower  

2 c. Cauliflower cut into small florets (think slightly bigger than macaroni noodle size)
1.5 c. Elbow Macaroni
1/2 c. Coarse-chopped Onion
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1.5 Tbsp. Flour for thickening
1.5-2 c. Skim Milk
3/4 c. Parmesan Cheese, grated
3/4 c. Sharp Cheddar, grated  
1/2 c. small curd low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 tsp. Garlic Salt
Salt and black pepper to taste


I.  Put a pot of salted water on to boil while you're cutting up the cauliflower (left). Put the cauliflower into the steamer basket and you can actually steam it over the mac as it cooks.  It only takes about 3 minutes for small-cut cauliflower to steam. You don't want to overcook it as it's going to go into the oven briefly.  

II.  In a frying pan, heat the olive oil (right)  Cook the onion until it's tender.  Add the flour in and stir until well combined.  

III.  Add in the milk (below) to the onion/flour/olive oil mixture and stir with a whisk until well combined.  This is the base of your cheese sauce, so make sure that you whip it...whip it good.  It needs to be nice and creamy with the only lumps being the onion.  Let it simmer and stir pretty often until it starts to thicken.  Add the cheese and stir until they're melted.  Now add the garlic salt and salt and pepper until it tastes how you want it to taste.  (If it gets a little too thick, just thin it down with a little more milk.)

IV.  By now your noodles should be done (right).  Drain them well and add in the steamed cauliflower and cottage cheese.  Stir it well and then dump in the cheese sauce and mix until it's well coated.  

V.  Put everything into a 9" x 13" baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  You can top it with another half-cup of cheese if you want...I used to use a pound of cheese in this when I made homemade mac and cheese...and sour cream..., and half and in comparison to that, even another half-cup of cheese isn't bad compared to the good 'ol days!  But I tossed on about 1/4 cup of cheddar just before popping it in the oven because I love cheese!

So.  A 2 cup serving size of this recipe is just under 400 calories and contains no processed foods.  I'm sure you can switch up the flour so that it doesn't use processed white flour, but I didn't feel like messing with it tonight.  It's snowing and I wanted real mac and cheese (the fattening kind), and so it could be healthier, but it's still not bad for you.  And it's pretty freaking good.  Start to finish (including baking time), this took 30 minutes.  I didn't make a tossed salad or anything to go with it tonight (I ran outa steam).  It can serve 2 or 3 people depending on how hungry you are.  
Note:  Overall, this is a fairly light consumption day for me .  I think I'm getting sick and I wasn't very hungry today, so please don't think that this is a 'typical' day and that you have to eat as little as I did.  I usually eat quite a bit more.  But tomorrow should be a more typical day.  I'm way under calorie-wise today as everything that I ate (all listed here) is approximately 900 calories total (just for me).  I'm afraid I won't be able to break out each meal by cost, but you can get a good idea from the receipt and ingredients alone.  The point is to eat what you like, but make some changes.  Instead of whole milk, use skim.  Instead of the pound of cheese, use what's in the recipe.  Instead of butter to saute your onions, use olive oil.  It's NOT about eating all the veges and rice you can stuff in your face and then feeling hungry later so you can say you ate healthy.  You can totally eat healthy and have it taste great.  And life is full of enough NOT enjoyable things that we have to do.  Eating shouldn't be something you dread (you know who I'm talking to, don't you D?) <wink>

See ya tomorrow!  And don't forget to drink lots of water.  That's a big part of it too. :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

And So It Begins

As promised, for at least the next few weeks I'm going to post what we're eating along with our grocery receipt and the time we're putting into our meals along with recipes.  Rik's done SO good.  He's lost almost 40 pounds and the biggest change in him (like it was in me if you've followed up to this point) was changing how he eats.    

Sunday is usually grocery shopping day.  Today we went to Sprouts Market here in Longmont.  They've got AMAZING prices and the best produce for grocery stores locally.  Huge selection, and lots of organic if you swing that way (we don't). We also hit Natural Grocers for Vegenaise (click here for explanation) and hazelnuts for some more of that home made sugar-free Nutella I made last Thursday night (and we had  finished off straight outa the bowl with spoons by Monday).  

I can't find the receipt for Natural Grocers (thinking it blew out of the box on our way inside), but you can add $35 to the total here if you're so inclined, for what we spent there which also included the Udi's gluten free pizza crust, pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella for the pizza Rik was craving for dinner (he decided against Dominos!  I'm expecting a tearful driver sometime in the next few days asking what he ever did to make us mad), and some nutritional yeast I'm craving on popcorn when I finish this post, and some pita pockets. 

Anyway here's the receipt.  We spent $90 today total which is a bit more than normal due to the fact I didn't shop in the middle of the week like I normally do and was gone all last weekend.  So this is basically 2 weeks of food for us minus some incidentals like fresh fruits/veges.  The bulk items are only purchased every-other week or so.
Notice the big bite taken out of the edge of the Colby cheese...yah...right there in the middle in the front.  We took The Rocket Dog with us in the Jeep just to get out of the house for a bit, and someone snuck into the bag in between grocery stores and we didn't find it til I was unloading everything.  Soooo..... yaaaahhhhhhh..... (we're still totally eating it).

So here's a typical Sunday evening.  We got home from our hunting/gathering having conquered strangely busy grocery stores sanity intact (not sure what the heck was going on was busy everywhere), and I emptied the bags and got things put away.  I put on 1 c. of barley and 1 c. of brown rice to cook on the stove and cleaned some garbanzo beans and put them to soak overnight while I got dinner going.  (I'm not crazy about garbanzos, but found this cool recipe I'm going to try and will share here this week, so this is in preparation for that.) 

I also usually cook half a dozen eggs (good for a snack or lunch) at the same time I'm making the rice/quinoa/barley which will last all week.  Got the groceries put away while the rice/barley was cooking and put a yam and a sweet potato in the microwave to bake while this was going on which then got peeled and cubed and put in a plastic bowl in the fridge, another item you can use to throw into a bowl with rice or as a side to a piece of grilled chicken which we still have cooked from the middle of the week.  But usually I'll grill the chicken on the outside grill while the grains are cooking.  This sounds time consuming, but ALL of it took me a total of maybe 30-45 minutes.

Rik got dinner started, which was pizza tonight as stated.  By the time the pizzas came out of the oven and we sat down to eat, the items on the stove were about half done.  Groceries were put away, so after we ate I totally sat on my butt watching The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and did absolutely nothing.  

After the movie, I went in to clean up from dinner, got breakfasts made for Rik to grab on his way out the door in the morning, these cool little Overnight No-Cook Oatmeal To Go that I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago and gives him some variety and are super easy to grab and toss in his backpack if he's running late in the morning or just wants a change from hot cereal or a protein drink.  (The link above is to the original website.  Try as I might, I couldn't find a recipe on the site that had instructions with measurements, so let me know if you need them.  I figured it out and wrote it out with measurements per serving).  I could have done this earlier and been done with the whole prep thing, but got sidetracked being lazy.  This took about 10 minutes.  Again, notice here that I'm still under an hour for prep time total!  :D

This went into the fridge which is now full of the following:  
  • A tub of black beans I cooked on Wednesday.  
  • A tub of navy beans and ham that was dinner on Thursday night whose leftovers will probably be lunch tomorrow.
  • Half a dozen eggs I cooked on Wednesday.
  • A tub of brown rice cooked tonight.
  • A tub of barley I cooked tonight that will be made into Warm Chicken and Barley Salad for Rik's lunch when I can get to the store and pick up the mint leaves I forgot for the sauce (I'll post the recipe later this week).
  • A tub of baked yam/sweet potato.
  • 2 pint containers of Oatmeal to Go.

With the exception of the items I cooked on Wednesday, 
all of this prep took me about 1 hour.  That includes putting away the groceries, fixing dinner, and cooking everything.  I promise: it's not time consuming, and now we have almost everything we need to toss things into lunch pails, track intake, and not eat out for lunch because we aren't home.  

We got these cute little plastic containers for the dry goods we get in bulk at Sprouts.  You'll notice on the receipt that both the barley and the oatmeal are only $0.99 per pound, and the garbanzo beans are $1.61 per pound.  Buy in bulk when you can.  It really is a great way to save money.  And most Sprouts stores have a large bulk section.  If you're not sure what store in your area sells in this way, remember that Google is your friend.  You're friend who knows the best places to save you money and help you eat healthy within your budget.  

Some of the items that I'll use this week are things I already had to hand from my abbreviated trip to the store in the middle of last week, like the pineapple, bananas, and spaghetti squash pictured below.  These are pretty incidental though.  
So here we go!  I'll try to post every day with recipes of what we ate so you get an idea of the time spent in preparation and how much you can eat when you're eating healthy.  It's NOT like 'dieting'.  I intially lost 23 pounds eating as much as I wanted of the following foods:  

Non-gluten grains
Raw nuts and raw nut butters
Lean meats

Add to this any herbs for seasoning, salt within reason, honey and/or stevia, and some rare low-fat dairy if you're so inclined, and you've cut out 90% of the items in the average grocery store and pretty  much anything that has more than 1-2 ingredients.  Added bonus:  You've avoided that 90% of the store that generally pisses people off the most: almost every narrow cart-filled aisle!)

We're proof that this works.  And weight loss notwithstanding, we feel so much better.  Rik's blood pressure medicine was made obsolete and his joint pain is only a rare occurrence (usually if he's dehydrated).  When you're giving your body real food, it thanks you in unexpected ways.  And it doesn't have to be time consuming or costly.  I promise.  

So stick with us kids...

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Yummy Stuff To Fill In The Chinks

So if you've been around for any length of time, you know how much I love my sugar.  Lattes, ice cream, cookies, name it, I love it.  Now that I'm back on the clean eating wagon though, evenings are the hardest.  About an hour after dinner, sitting watching TV or reading a book, and a horrible case of The Munchies seems to hit.  Every night like I'm on a timer.  

When My Person began eating clean, I came up with this recipe one night when he wanted something sweet but didn't want to break his day by indulging in a bowl of ice cream, and it's become that go-to staple when the nighttime munchies hit.  It's especially good considering it's about 15 degrees outside right now!  This recipe makes two 1-cup servings.  

Hot Chocolate You Won't Feel Guilty About
2 c. fat free/skim milk
1.5 Tbsp. raw cocoa powder (unsweetened)
25-30 drops of liquid stevia  

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat stirring often.  You don't want it to boil.  
When the milk is warm, whisk in the unsweetened chocolate powder.  
Bring the milk to just the right temperature for you.  
Sweeten to taste using the liquid stevia.  I've found that the liquid seems much sweeter than the powdered, but the pic (above) shows the powdered kind I decided to try at my last grocery store visit.  I'll be returning to the liquid kind next time I go!  

This has about 179 calories, 16 g of protein, and 4 g of fat.  Remember, if you're eating clean, you need to make sure you're actually getting enough fat in your diet, and this is a delicious way to do that!  


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Fourteen Years Ago Last Month...

...I stood on the wet and snowy sidewalk at the crosswalk in front of the hospital in Ketchikan AK where I worked.  It had been snowing for awhile and the roads were starting to get slushy, and I remember wondering if anyone was going to stop for me in the middle of "rush hour".  There's only one main road in Ketchikan and traffic was moving, but it was definitely busy.  A car to my left finally slowed down and waved me across and I waved back.  I stepped of the curb looking the opposite direction, and was struck in the median by the minivan that sped around the car that had signaled me to cross (and then turned into the hospital driveway without waiting to make sure I was safe).  I didn't see it coming.  I remember the sensation of falling...I thought I'd slipped in the slush...but then moving so impossibly fast I was confused... I remember thinking "Wow!  I didn't know a body could move this fast!"

Then everything stopped.  I remember complete and utter silence...I couldn't hear the cars around me... and having the realization that I'd been hit.  I then realized with complete certainty that I was dying.  I knew I had a collapsed lung.  I knew that my back was broken.  I knew I was really damaged inside.  And I thought of my kids.

I don't remember being afraid, just really, really sad that I wasn't going to get to see them grow up.  I'd just had them with me at work the day before and had crossed this same street, one on each side of me, holding a little hand inside each of mine, and I remember being glad that 'this' hadn't happened yesterday.

It all happened in a split second, though strangely I remember it as a long drawn-out process.  But as soon as I accepted that this was it, everything turned back on.  I could feel the cold puddle that my face was in. I could hear the cars all around me.  And it hurt a lot.  But I also knew with the same complete certainty that I wasn't going to die.

A man came up to me and knelt in the puddle with me and leaned down and said "Oh my god...are you alive?"  I told him "yes...don't move me".  He started hollering for someone to call an ambulance.  I could hear a woman repeating over and over again "She just stepped out in front of me!  It isn't my fault!  It isn't my fault!"  I heard the man yell at her to give him her phone already and heard him call 911.  Someone covered me with their coat.  No cars were moving.  It took over 10 minutes for the ambulance to get through the now stopped traffic that I was blocking, and this whole time, the man knelt by me talking to me and making sure no one moved me.  I wish I knew who that man was.  I'd like to thank  him...

I remember being annoyed with the EMT's who kept asking me the same stupid questions over and over again... "What's your name?"  "Where do you work?"  "Who's the President of the United States?"  "What year is it?"...not understanding at the time that they weren't forgetting the answers, they were trying to keep me conscious.
They got the backboard out and one of them told me "This is going to hurt".  I have a brief recollection pain so shocking, and then my next memory is of snowflakes falling on my face and a huge jolt as the wheels of the gurney hit the inside of the ambulance.  That was the only time I lost consciousness.
Since I was on my way home from work at the time this happened, and I worked at the hospital, the ambulance ride was short...just up and around the corner to the ER entrance. Two guys from Radiology (who I'd just had lunch with a few hours before), met the ambulance as it pulled up.  They took me inside and pulled the curtain, and suddenly there seemed like too many people running all around me while someone else cut off all of my clothes.  I never did find one of my shoes...
When they spoke to me, it was only to ask quick question:  "Where does it hurt the most?"  "Are you warm enough?"  But no one gave me the substance of what was going on.  I heard snippets of conversation:  We can't deal with her injuries here....  "Has someone called Flight For Life?  Call Harborview in Seattle and let them know we're sending someone down STAT".  No one really listened to me when I told them I wasn't going to die.
Finally I was able to get someone to tell me what was going on:  Massive internal bleeding of unknown origin as my abdomen was visibly filling with blood (it was assumed I had a large amount of organ damage).  Pelvis broken, whiplash, contusions, road rash, large laceration on my face from hitting the windshield wiper, broken ribs, broken leg...they weren't sure yet of everything.  No one gave any reassurances other than "It's going to be alright" (I coulda told them that!).  I was told that they weren't equipped to perform the exploratory surgery needed to stop the bleeding, but that I was going to get a CT while they waited for the plane to arrive.
One of my coworkers in Radiology wheeled me out to the CT while we waited for the plane.  He laughed when I told him I was going to be fine, but he wouldn't stop crying.
A little while later, I was told that my boys were being brought in to see me.  I told them absolutely not, but no one would listen to me.  They told me that it was "important" for the boys to see me.  Now.  I argued and argued, but no one listened.  I finally asked them to at least cover me with a blanket to hide all the blood on the sheets, and wash the blood off my face.  The boys were just babies at 7 and 5.  I remember smiling at them and telling them we'd still bake Christmas cookies when I came home, but that it would be a couple of days.  They held my hand.  Will showed me his new Power Ranger that Gramga had gotten him.  Zach was being so brave, but cried really quietly and held my hand, and told me he'd be waiting for me in the lobby.  I still hope no one actually told them to say goodbye to me.
Not long after that, the doctor came in.  The CT scan showed no internal organ damage.  The amount of blood in my abdomen could not be accounted for only through the bleeding that would have occurred even with three breaks in the pelvis.  But there was no organ damage.  We were still waiting for Flight For Life.
Some time later it was determined that I was stabilizing.  The bleeding, wherever it was coming from, was slowing and I was stable enough to perform surgery.  My flight had been cancelled.  An operating room was being prepared.  Not long after that, more lab work came back and that showed I had somehow stabilized.  And the only actual broken bones I had sustained were the pelvic fractures.  Everything else was just banged up.  No surgery.  They were doping me up and putting me upstairs.  I remember telling someone "See?"  They laughed but didn't look convinced.
There was a large room in the corner of the ward floor where the doctors would sleep when they had free time.  I was put in this private room, all by myself.  People who I'd seen every day since I'd worked there came by to bring me a warmed blanket, to check my vitals, to take blood.  I slept a lot for a few days.  When I finally woke up, I found my room, still only with me in it, full of flowers and cards and balloons.  A kind man came and washed my hair over and over in a tub to get the blood out.  I didn't even know all of these people personally, but they were all so kind.  I finally cornered my doctor long enough to learn that I "had a long road ahead of me" (I didn't believe him), but that since I hadn't "thrown a clot or caught pneumonia" ("so far"), he didn't think I was going to die after all.  The EMT's came by to say hello and laughed at me for getting frustrated at their questions.
I spent most of the rest of the month in the hospital, but was able to come home the day before Christmas Eve after completing a series of "challenges" the doctors hadn't actually thought I'd be able to accomplish (i.e., get in and out my wheelchair and into a car by myself). My boss from work stopped by my house with a money tree that they had passed around the hospital with hundreds of dollars on it.  Vans arrived filled with presents for my kids that people in town had  donated.  For the first time in my life, I couldn't do anything to help anyone or even myself.  I just sat there and cried, overwhelmed at how caring people were.  There were so many presents, the kids donated half of them to other kids who might not have Christmas.
For months I couldn't walk, and sat in my house watching my mom live my life as a busy single mom, as well as hers.  I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd actually taken the time and really looked at my kids.  And I understood what "Be careful what you wish for" really  meant.  After all, in the weeks before the accident, I'd wished for more time to really enjoy my life.  More time to spend with my parents and kids, more time to read, and any amount of time to relax.  It had seemed like life was moving so fast and I was hardly keeping up.
I spent 3 months in a wheelchair, followed by months and months of physical therapy (years actually), then more time having operations once I'd healed enough that it was safe to undergo them.  Over the next few years, I was in and out of hospitals having surgeries and procedures and diagnostic studies.

But I have a job that I enjoy going to every morning.  I've married my best friend and met my first grandchild.  My boys are growing into fine men I'm proud to call mine.  And I can walk.   I've gotten to see the beautiful house and land my mom and dad bought when they finally moved away from Alaska, and spend time with them there.  I don't limp when I walk.  I have a fabulous doctor who I can also say is one of my best friends, and have gotten to be a part of her families' life.  Just to look at me, no one would know how broken things are.  I have the life I've always dreamed of having.  And, did I mention I can walk? :)

Next week I'll be 44.  I don't think I'll ever be one of those women who lies about her age. 

I'm just so happy to BE.

Starting on January 6th I'll begin an exercise program in the hope that I can get off the large amounts of narcotics I've been on for the last 11 years.  This is going to be one of the harder things I've ever done.  The pain meds I take only keep my pain at a tolerable level.  They don't eliminate it.  Exercise not only isn't something I would want to do, it hurts.   A lot.  But after losing the weight that I needed to lose in 2013, I'm committed to becoming a woman who ages with strength, not just grace and great shoes.  So this blog is going to take a little bit of a different turn for a while and focus more on the Health tab than the Fashion aspect.  Bear with me.  

I take my 'before' photos tomorrow.  Stay tuned!                     ~M