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Spinach & Goat Cheese Spaghetti Squash

It has been many moons since my last blog post.  My goal was to keep up with this blog frequently to share my journey to better health.  I guess my silence here displays what happens when a stressful situation can overwhelm a person.  I decided to quit my new job and even after being at home for several weeks, it has only been until now after having started my new new job for over a month that I have been able to write again.  To be honest, I’m not sure how often I can blog but I can’t help but share a yummy recipe with my friends 🙂

Spinach & Goat Cheese Spaghetti Squash
Ingredients
1 medium spaghetti squash
6 slices bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 7-oz bag baby spinach
4-oz soft goat cheese
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and ground pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Poke holes in spaghetti squash using knife.  Place in oven for about 1 hour to 1 and a half hours, until soft and cuts open easily.
2. Cut 6 slices of bacon in 1-inch pieces and fry until crispy.  Leave bacon and grease in pan.
3. Add 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar while stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet.  This will deglaze your pan, so that all of the caramelized bits of bacon end up in your food and not stuck to the bottom of your pan.  Add 1 tbsp of maple syrup.
4. Add spinach one handful at a time cooking it until it wilts and then add more.
Spaghetti Squash
5. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds from the spaghetti squash.  Use a fork to pull the strands apart and add to the mixture in the skillet.
6. Add the goat cheese and toss everything together.
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In hind sight, I think I forgot to season with salt and pepper.  Oh well, it was still delicious!  This turned out to be my favorite spaghetti squash recipe so far!  It was sweet and salty.  I could eat it all day long if I could!  Hope you enjoy!

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Loving the Results!

I can’t believe that it has been 4.5 months since I decided to change my health and chronicle this journey.  The results have been much better than I could have anticipated.  I look and feel great!  My eating limitations have been challenging, but as I have been feeling better I have been allowing more and more back into my diet.  I want to see if my body has healed enough that I can start eating some foods that I used to, like corn.  I have been sneaking in foods that include corn starch, so now I’m starting to feel brave enough to try something a little bit more risky–cornbread.  I’m only stepping out because having eaten some items with corn starch in it and NOT having immediate adverse reactions like I used to, gives me a little hope that I could be getting better.  We shall see.  I will definitely let you know how this goes.  I have really missed having Sloppy Joe Casserole with Cornbread, so here we go!

Day 119 Week 18: 139.4 lbs, Waist 37.5″, Bust 33″

Halloween

Don’t I look fabulous?  And so does this little man!  He was a fireman for Halloween!  Can you believe it?  He turned one year old a week and a half ago!  I am so thankful to be able to spend more time with him now.  He has been such a blessing and I love watching him grow up and develop!

And here is my recipe for the week:

Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 pkg precooked crumbled sausage
1 pkg precooked bacon
(you can get fresh bacon and cook it yourself, but I like the ease and speed of precooked for work nights)
2 medium pkgs hash browns
9 hardboiled eggs
1 8oz pkg cheddar cheese
1 8oz pkg pepper jack cheese
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together sausage crumbles, hash browns, sliced hardboiled eggs and cheddar cheese in large bowl.  Sprinkle in pepper jack cheese to desired amount.  Cut up bacon into small pieces (we use scissors) and add to mixture.  Once everything is to your desired amount and thoroughly mixed, pour into two 9″ x 13″ baking pans.  Pour 1/2 cup of heavy cream into each pan.  Place both pans in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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We have tweaked this recipe so many times to find what we really like.  The last time we made it, we added 1 lb of sliced kielbasa sausage to it.  I think that was my husband’s all time favorite!  You can also add more cheese.  When we first made it we added an extra cheese layer on top, but since we’ve been cutting back on the dairy we just mix some in with everything else.  But we love this recipe for being easy and quick.  And it can last us a couple days as well.  Hope you enjoy!

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Fall Celebrations

Fall has finally arrived and I feel like I can now cook my Fall favorites like chilis and soups and hot apple cider.  MMmmmmm.  So today I wanted to share with you some wonderful Fall recipes and a quick update on how I’m doing.  All three of these recipes that I am about to share I made Saturday night and they all turned out so good!

The chili was actually the only one that I had made in the past, everything else was for the first time.  I love this recipe!  It is so easy and so tasty.  I have changed it up several times myself.  Sometimes I don’t put any beans in it.  This last time I didn’t put any onions in it.  We also toned down the spices since my son is starting to eat what we eat now (he just turned one this past week!)  And as always, I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Recipe: Chili

Chili

Ingredients:
3 lbs turkey meat
3 garlic cloves
6 large celery stalks chopped
4 large peppers chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
14.5 oz can black beans
14.5 oz can kidney beans
3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
Mix cooked turkey meat with veggies and sauté.  Place in crockpot.  Add cans of crushed tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, chicken broth and spices to crockpot.  Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

One of my new adventures, and one that I had been wanting to do for a while, is hot apple cider.  This is a stovetop recipe, there are ones that you can do in the crockpot but since I was already using mine for the chili, I decided to go this route for the cider.  Again, this recipe was very simple (as you can tell, I like simple).  And it turned out very delicious!  I love hot apple cider and this made it oh so good!

Stovetop Hot Apple Cider

Cider

Ingredients:
1 orange sliced with peel
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp whole cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
2 liters apple juice

Directions:
I placed the loose powdered spices in a tea strainer and hung inside the stockpot.  Combine rest of ingredients in stockpot.  Stir over medium-low heat.  If you have time, heat for 30 minutes to let the spices really get in there.

And last but not least, we had baked apples.  Our only real complaint was we found that the skin got kind of annoying to eat around.  I ate one in a bowl with ice cream, and I had another one later by just scooping out the meal with a spoon.  But it was all very juicy and tasty, well worth the effort.

Baked Apples

Baked apples

Ingredients:
4 large baking apples (I used red delicious)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
3/4 cup boiling water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse and dry apples.  Using a sharp paring knife or an apple corer, cut out the cores, leaving the bottom 1/2 inch of apples intact.  Put the apples in a baking dish.  Pour the boiling water into the bottom of the baking dish.  Sprinkle the cinnamon into each apple, maybe a 1/4 tsp in each.  Pour about a spoonful of brown sugar at a time into each of the apples.  I got about 3 spoonfuls in each apple.  Top each apple with a slice of butter.  Place in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the apples are cooked through and tender, but not overcooked and mushy.

Baked apples2

As for my personal update, here are my stats below:
Day 112 Week 17 – 139.8 lbs, waist 37.5″, bust 33″.

Unlike the previous week, I wasn’t able to do any exercising.  I had a surprising break in the weather Friday morning so I spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon on the lawn and the garden.  And then Saturday I was trying to clean the house for our showing the next day.  Needless to say, I exhausted myself again.  But I’m hoping that after the next couple of weekends I will be caught up with the garden and scrubbing down the house so I can just do a once over and be done every weekend.

I have been so pleased with how my diet has been doing, I really don’t remember straining too much with picking out recipes this week.  Although I do have to admit, we have been so worn out during the week that we have resorted to eating out more than usual.  And having been making homecooked meals so much, I am amazed at how easily I get tired of fast food now.  I’ll eat it if I have to, but I really miss my homecooked meals.  Hahaha!  And my son is becoming such a foodie!  He is only one year old, but he would not eat KFC mashed potatoes or baked beans today!  I may be in trouble…but I think its good that he refuses to eat crappy food already.  Until next time!

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Day 105 Week 16

It certainly is high time for an update!  So much has happened and changed since my last post (and I’ll say it up front for everyone, no, I’m not pregnant :P).  Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the last several weeks have been filled with long hours and overtime, being sick, changing jobs (both me and my husband) and putting our house on the market to sell.  Whew!  We sure know how to keep things interesting!  Needless to say, I think about updating my blog quite often, but haven’t had much energy or free time to do so.  But I think of you all frequently.

Here is a brief overview of all my statistics for the past weeks that I’ve missed:
Day 70 Week 11 – 143.8 lbs, waist 37.5″, bust 33.5″
Day 77 Week 12 – 141.6 lbs, waist 38″, bust 33″
Day 84 Week 13 – 141.6 lbs, waist 38″, bust 33.5″
Day 91 Week 14 – 140.6 lbs, waist 37.5″, bust 33″
Day 98 Week 15 – 139.8 lbs, waist 38″, bust 33″
Day 105 Week 16 – 141.0 lbs, waist 38″, bust 33″

As you can tell, I had plateaued for a while and then started to come down even further until just recently.  I’m not sure if I was losing the weight because I was sick or if I’m gaining back now from having been sick.  Also of note, this sickness that I’m speaking of has been triggered by a really bad case of seasonal allergies.  I was knocked out for an entire weekend at the beginning and have been slowly improving since.  I was put on another antihistamine (boo*hiss*) and took cough medicine for several weeks.  I’m still coughing up some phlegm but its gotten better enough that I’ve quit taking the cough medicine since it causes (surprise, surprise) extra bloating.  The capsules actually made me nauseous so I had to stick with the liquid.  Yuck!  Being sick and changing jobs has put a cramp on my exercise routine, so I’m hoping I can get back going in the next week or so.

One other thing, that is kind of funny, I made chicken fried rice Sunday night (sorry, no pictures) and the rice mix that I got had corn in it.  I didn’t think anything of it until I got seconds.  And I was like, well . . . we’ll see what happens!  LOL!  I didn’t react immediately, but I could tell by the next morning that I had bloated a little bit and was having some stomach cramps.  I feel like the bloating was a little better, but I don’t remember having stomach cramps in the past.  However, I may have had them and not noticed because everything else was so bad in the beginning.  Somehow, I still feel like that was an improvement, maybe I’m just wishing too hard.  LOL!

I have started back on my coffee addiction.  My commute to work is longer now and mostly in the dark, so I figured that drinking coffee was better than falling asleep while driving.  But I did make it at least three months without coffee which was my original goal to give my adrenals a break.  So I’m very pleased with that.  While I’m thinking about it, overall my hormones are doing SO MUCH BETTER!!!  Now that I’m at the four month mark, looking back, I can say that everything has finally settled back to normal.  My cycles are normal and predictable again, my hair, nails and skin are harder and thicker again and I do not experience the mood swings and depression like I did in the Spring.  I even saw my doctor today for a check-up and she said that everything looks healthy and normal, no signs of cysts at all!  Praise the Lord!  I can tell that everything feels much better now.  I still have to be careful about what I eat, but I’m hoping over time that I can continue to heal my gut.

I hope to check back in soon (and more frequently again), but until next time, here’s a beautiful picture of me and my son enjoying this Fall weather!

Jackson October

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Recipe: Holiday Pancakes

I had been craving pancakes this past week.  So…I gave in.  Gluten free and corn free style of course.  🙂  🙂  🙂  I don’t know why, but pancakes make me happy!  They are my ultimate comfort food.

This is my mom’s recipe.  She would make these the size of dinner plates with chocolate chips.  Oh they are so good!  Ever since I went gluten free, I had a really hard time finding a gluten free flour that had the right consistency to make them.  I experimented a lot with almond flour, rice flour and coconut flour.  But still no luck.  Until I found Bob’s Red Mill baking flour mix!  It worked perfectly!  I was so excited that I could make my mom’s pancakes again!  And they are oh so good!  I now like to tweak the recipe and add some spices for a delicious holiday flavor.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Holiday Pancakes:
Ingredients:
2 cups flour (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbs sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 – 2 cups milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

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Directions:
Mix ingredients together in medium bowl.
Cook in large skillet or on griddle.
Wait till underside is lightly browned and flip.

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You can top with many delicious things like syrup, nutella or icing.  This time, I tried it with vanilla icing, which went very well with the holiday spices.  Yum!

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Unfortunately, I have since found out that most icing contains corn starch.  Thumbs down.  Oh well, it was quite delicious when I had it!  We also cooked a batch with butterscotch chips and that was really good too!

A note on milk:
I have tried cooking this recipe with almost every type of milk available.  Below is a breakdown of how each one cooks.

Almond Milk – My personal favorite, it makes everything extra fluffy
Regular Milk – Probably the next best milk, not as fluffy as almond milk but cooks well
Rice Milk – If you can’t have either of the above, this is your next best bet.  Flat but still cooks alright.
Flax Milk – Run away.  This didn’t cook well at all because the pancakes didn’t hold together.  I had to add coconut flour so there was some cohesion to the batter.  This saved the pancakes this time around, but I would never use it again.

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Day 63 Week 10

Can I just say, I look FABULOUS this week!  I’m slowly creeping back into my pre-pregnancy clothes and even my pre-cyst clothes.  I have to keep reminding myself that the whole reason I started this diet wasn’t to lose weight, but to become healthy and to heal my body.  But it’s oh so exciting!  I’ve also started slacking on being so strict with what I cannot eat.  To be honest, I’ve lost my motivation…but maybe that’s a good thing.  I’ve been able to figure out what my big offenders are so I’ve been able to relax with what I eat.  Once in a while I’ll have sugar or potato chips.  But I don’t bloat up like a balloon every day now.  It’s nice to start enjoying food again.

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Day 63 Week 10 – Weight 142.6 lbs, Waist 38″, Bust 33.5″.  I’m so excited about how I look and feel!  I have been so amazed at what a difference it can make when you clean up your diet and eliminate your personal digestive offenders.  Also, the more I read the more I’m convinced that your health is tied directly to your gut.  Whenever the bacteria in your gut is thrown out of whack, so is the rest of your body.  It effects your skin, your hormones, your digestion, allergies, everything.  I wish I knew this earlier in life!

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Recipe: Jambalaya

Can I just say, my husband was very excited that this was on our list for meals this week.  I was told he got very excited when he saw the ingredients left out to thaw.  This is a great recipe to prep beforehand and freeze for a busy week.  I pre-cooked the chicken, chopped the veggies and froze them for later in the week.  We tried this recipe several months before but it flopped because we used uncooked rice which didn’t soften even after an extra hour or two of cooking.  This time we used pre-cooked rice (Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice) and the rice was soft, it didn’t soak up all the liquid like the previous batch, but not nearly as crunchy!  Sometimes you have to try a recipe a few times till you get it just right.  Also, I like this recipe because it incorporates several cups of bone broth.  If you have a hard time drinking it straight, this will be a great way to add the bone broth to your day.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken breasts cooked
1 lb Andouille sausage
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 large onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1/2 cup celery diced (1 stalk)
3 garlic cloves minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp creole seasoning
3 cups long grain rice
1 lb shrimp

Directions:
1. Dump everything except the rice and shrimp in crockpot.  Stir together.  Cook on high in the crockpot for 2 hours.
2. Add the rice.  Stir.  Cook for 30 minutes.
3. Add the shrimp.  Stir.  Cook for 30 minutes.

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Just a few notes.  We decided (at least for the time being) that we didn’t like the Andouille sausage.  We didn’t like the flavor of the spices, so next time we will use a regular sausage.  Also, when I cooked the chicken in advance, I used Cajun seasoning.  The chicken tasted delicious in the jambalaya.  All in all, this is a great tasting recipe, with some prep time in advance but the day of can be quick and easy.

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Day 56 Week 9

This week had lots of surprises, stress and fun.  My parents, sister-in-law and niece found out last minute that they were able to visit for Labor Day weekend.  We had such a good time cooking and hanging out.  I also have had an external situation that has been causing a lot of stress which in turn has wreaked havoc on my emotions this week.  But I don’t believe it is diet or hormone related thankfully.  I have a very hard time handling stress and I know that it is one of the last steps to healing my body and my gut.  My goal is to reduce my stress levels as much as possible.

Here is some of the fun we had this weekend:

Weekend 3 Weekend 2 Weekend 1

Day 56 Week 9: 143.0 lbs, waist 38.5″ and bust 33.5″.  This week I tried another milk substitute, flax milk.  I flat out did not like this one, especially warmed up with molasses and coconut oil.  So, I went back to using rice milk.  *sigh*

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Day 49 Week 8

I’m so sorry that this is so late.  This has been a difficult couple of weeks and very stressful.  But, as for my health, it has also been very exciting.  I find it ironic that my last post I was hopeful that my next period would be much better than my previous ones, because this week I had my period.  The only emotions I had this week was apathy, no depression or anger or crazy mood swings from sky high to abysmal lows.  This is so encouraging for me!  I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  I think I would like to continue my supplements for my hormones for a full three months before I start regularly drinking coffee again.  I have to admit that I have really struggled to continue taking the coconut oil and molasses this week.  Ever since I found out that almond milk bothered me, I have had a hard time finding a substitute that I look forward to.  The reason I’ve been avoiding regular milk is it causes congestion for me and being in such high altitude increases my ear aches and infections.  Another substitute I tried this week is rice milk.  I found it extremely sweet, too sweet for my taste when its plain.  One thing I’ve noticed since cutting out a lot of sugar and processed foods is that I do not crave or like extremely sweet foods anymore.  I still like ice cream and chocolate, but nothing that is artificially sweetened.

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Day 49 Week 8: 144.2 lbs, waist 38.5″ and bust 34″.  I am amazed that even though I’m cheating a little bit with ice cream I’m still staying the same size and even losing more weight.  I have noticed more vitality, more energy and more level emotions.  I’m so pleased with my health at this point.  I can’t wait for my gut to keep improving as well.

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Day 42 Week 7

This week has had some struggles of its own, but overall I’ve been feeling much better.  My cousin and I had decided to make some fruit muffins to satisfy our sweet toothes.  I used a recipe with almond flour.  Even though I knew that almonds had bothered me, but I thought that it was because they were roasted or whole.  Well, apparently any type of almond causes me to bloat up like a balloon.  *sigh*  I have to admit, I gorged myself on those muffins the following day when I was also testing to see if I would react to almond milk as well (which I did).  Here’s a picture of what happens when I eat almonds:

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I also managed to eat some flavored rice that I later figured out had corn products in it and that did not feel good!  But now that I’ve figured out some of my big offenders, I have been able to avoid them and seem to be doing just fine.

I’ve noticed that overall my mood has been greatly improving.  I had just been thinking about it this week, how just a couple of months ago I really struggled with depression and mood swings.  I’m so grateful my emotions have been able to stabilize since then.  I’m waiting to see if I’ll have another bout of mood swings with this next period, but I’m hoping that the mood swings will continue to lessen and completely go away with each upcoming period.  This last week, I’ve really begun to notice that I’m beginning to enjoy life again.  My health has improved so much (and the weather has been behaving) that I’ve been able to get outside and work on my garden again.  That has been extremely satisfying.

And for my stats for this week:

Day 42 Week 7
Day 42 Week 7

Weight 144.6 lbs, waist 39.5″ and bust 34.5″.  I’m pretty sure that this is the lowest my weight has been since my first cyst appeared almost two years ago.  How exciting is that?  I have been so pleased with how my body looks and feels so far.  I will definitely be keeping this up for at least a little while longer.  My initial goal is three months, to see how much my body improves.  If I’m still reacting to the foods I used to be able to eat, like almonds and corn, I may continue this for six months to a year.  My coworker said that it took her daughter a year to heal her pancreas naturally through diet.  That is certainly a long time, but it will be well worth it!