Mike&Sarah

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My Whole30

No wheat, no flour, no grains, no milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no black beans, no added sugar, no preservatives, no pre-packaged food for 30 days?  Someone was surely off their rocker.  When my dear friend told me what she wasn’t eating during January 2012, I thought it was an unrealistic way to live for 30 days.

But then we spent a month on the road this summer eating more fast food than we normally do in a year.  Hubs and I were both ready for something with guidelines, boundaries, and fresh food.  We felt lethargic and I simply felt.. gross.   The Whole30 came back to me we started on August 14, 2012.

The Whole30, designed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, makes an audacious claim: “change your life in 30 days!”  “Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.”  Sounded good to me.

After 30 days of eating fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, I lost 12.7 pounds, and Mike lost 11 pounds.  Did you catch that?  I’m not gloating but seldom do women lose more weight than men, even on The Biggest Loser!  Now, a month later, I’ve kept that weight off.

My Homemade Ketchup and Mayonnaise!

Was it easy? Well, it wasn’t terrible.  Nor was it really hard.  But it did mean more time in my kitchen preparing food and washing dishes, as well as more time planning meals and making shopping lists.  Every weekend I’d search the internet for great recipes and then create my shopping list.  We ate (mostly) scrumptious home-cooked meals.  As a result, I now make my own mayonnaise and ketchup, as well as my own ranch seasoning.  I think my versions taste better, and since they don’t have added sugar or preservatives, I think they are healthier for me than the store bought versions I was accustomed to eating.

Once the Whole30 was over, we started slowly reintroducing our favorite off-program foods.  Mike noted that certain dairy products made him feel like his allergies were returning, I noticed headaches with greek yogurt and sweet treats.  Food really does matter!

Losing weight wasn’t the only benefit, but it certainly was something I had hoped for.  While on the Whole30 my skin looked great, my energy was consistent throughout the day, and my sleep was deep and restful.  Who knew I could drink and enjoy my coffee black?  Now I’m figuring out my new food lifestyle, and am very hesitant to return to some of the former foods.  I simply don’t need them anymore.

About ten days into the Whole30 I had an all-day video conference call.  My confession: I was so distracted by how great my skin looked on camera that I had to block the self-view option!

My mom did the Whole30 with us, and now two of my sisters are doing it, as well as a few friends around the world.  It was great to have companionship and Mom and I texted photos of our healthy and delicious meals to each other.  We both signed up for the Whole30 Daily emails and thought they were worth at least three times the subscription price!  So helpful, encouraging, and full of great ideas for recipes, eating out, and staying on track.

Today I don’t feel enslaved to my food cravings, I have the ability to resist formerly tempting foods, I’ve discovered how much I enjoy eating vegetables (so many of which I’ve never had before), and I’m experimenting with more spices and seasonings.  I’m inventing yummy recipes and sticking with a surprisingly healthy diet.  I’m happy, I don’t feel deprived, and I think twice about my food choices before eating.  Did I drink the Kool-Aid? No, because it’s not Whole30 approved (haha)!  My sister just sent me the new book It Starts With Food, and I’m eager to finish reading it. If I can do this, then seriously, anyone can do it.  The Whole30 is only a month, and I think the Hartwigs are right, it really can change your life!

BONUS

I pinned the recipes I used on Pinterest, and even made up a few of my own.  Here are my weekly meals if you’re interested in doing the Whole30 (I’m sorry for the unattractive formatting. I’m not sure how to fix it!).

Week One

Breakfasts

– Egg and Sausage Frittata: 1# sausage, 1 pepper, 1 onion, 1 container egg whites, 1 container liquid eggs.  season each serving to taste with hot sauce
–  Southwestern Frittata

Lunch

– Tuna on Salad with carrots and EVOO
– Leftovers
– Chicken or Turkey on salad

Dinner

Ina’s Chicken with cauliflower “rice”
Fish “Tacos” with broccoli
Blackberry (or Blueberry) Glazed Pork Chops with cauliflower mashers
Meatloaf w mushrooms with leftover mashers
– Steak with mushrooms and baked sweet potatoes
Baked tilapia with strawberry salsa and salad greens

WEEK TWO

Breakfasts

– Egg casserole: 1# ground meat or sausage, any veggies, 12 eggs, salsa

Banana-almond pancakes (**NOTE: I later learned that while the ingredients are Whole30 approved, the concept of a “pancake” isn’t [emotional and mental food addictions].  This is terrific for AFTER the Whole30, but isn’t encouraged DURING it.)

Lunch

– Tuna salad with homemade mayo

– Egg salad with homemade mayo (see link above)

– leftovers

– Salads

Dinners

– Southwest Turkey Sliders with Avocado Slaw with homemade Simple ketchup and Mashed Sweet Potatoes (w vanilla and coconut oil)

– Balsamic marinade Steak with cauliflower “rice”

– Cuban Mojo Pork Chops with mashed cauliflower and cooked carrots

– Coconut and Herb Salmon with broccoli seasoned and carrot and cauliflower puree (Whole30-ified):

– Chicken stirfry chicken chunks with veggies and cauliflower “rice”

– Crockpot Mexican Chicken Stew over Cilantro lime “rice”

Snacks

– Coconut Chips

– Sweet Potato Hummus

– Fruit and Nut bars

WEEK THREE

Lunch

– Meat and Spinach Muffins

Dinner
– Ranch Turkey Burgers with roasted cabbage and baked sweet potatoes
2# ground turkey (or beef, lamb, pork, bison, etc)
1 grated yam
1 diced onion
1 handful of kale, chopped
2-4 T homemade ranch seasoning
– “Best Whole Chicken with a Crock Pot” (and the i can make chicken stock!) with baked carrots
– Asparagus, Broccoli and Bacon Soup  (uses some of that chicken broth from the crockpot chicken) with Ranch “Fries”
– Beef Stir fry
– Pork Loin in Cuban Mojo marinade
Snacks
– Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars
– Carrots and celery sticks
WEEK FOUR
Dinner

Back in the Kitchen

I’ve returned to my kitchen with joy, glee and curiosity.  I’ve tried new recipes, discovered new super-foods, and experienced both success and failure.  Here’s a peek into my recent culinary adventures.

KALE CHIPS

A few weeks ago one of the people I admire and respect posted a status on Facebook about making kale chips.  “Kale chips?” I thought.  “How odd. I wonder what that’s like.” But I responded with a more polite “interesting” with my wheels of curiosity spinning.

Kale. Photo from Wikipedia.

Kale is a new-to-me super-food, a dark green leafy vegetable related to cabbage.  According to Wikipedia, “kale is very high in beta carotenevitamin Kvitamin Cluteinzeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.  Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.[3][4] Kale is also a good source of carotenoids.[5]

Kale chips are more like toasted, ruffled lettuce than round, flat potato chips.  They are light, crunchy, crispy and surprisingly tasty.

The last time I was at Trader Joe’s I bought a bag of pre-washed and pre-cut kale, ready to try out this curious recipe.  (Toss kale in 1T of olive oil, spread into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 8-12 minutes.) But that first foray into Kale Chip baking was not a success!  I had a thick layer of kale, which meant the top layer was toasted and the bottom layers were soft, damp and a bit mushy.

Determined to give it another go, I bought whole-leaf kale, cut the center rib out of each leaf and then cut the leaves into pieces about 1-2″ square.  I tossed them with a little bit of olive oil and spread them out on my cookie sheet.  Then I sprinkled sea salt on top and popped them in the oven at 350 for about 12 min. And these were GOOD.

The up-side: They are unexpected yummy, and a great way to crunch on a serving of veggies.  Who knew?  Toasty leaves are delicious.

The down-side: They shrink up in the oven, so what looks like a lot of kale turns out to be not enough for the two of us (we wanted to eat more!).

They burn (turn brown) easily, so keep an eye on the oven when the time starts to run out.  My friend Christie suggests getting them off the cookie sheet immediately so that they stop cooking and don’t turn brown.  Sounds like a good idea to me.

A quick search online for recipes turns up videos and seasoning variations like adding parmesan cheese or seasoned salt.  I still have a bunch of kale, so perhaps I’ll try one of those tasty variations.

KALE SALAD

Why not continue riding the kale super-food wave?  The TODAY SHOW had a chef feature kale the other day, so I looked up those recipes and tried one: Raw Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad, which resulted in another yummy use for Brussels Sprouts (click here for my other winner-of-a-recipe for Brussels Sprouts).  I over-salted the dressing (bad news!), but I will certainly make this recipe again.  It was rather easy and unexpectedly tasty.   (Hm, just about any recipe with vegetables seems to be “surprisingly tasty” in my book!)

The TODAY SHOW’s featured Chef on June 18, Chef “Souper Jenny,” also had a salad with red quinoa and dried cherries. I’ll probably make that with my typical substitutions and adjustments using ingredients I already have for their specialty ingredients (regular quinoa for the red; dried cranberries for dried cherries).  Check back to my RECIPES page in a few days.  If it’s a success, I’ll post it there! In the meantime, click here to find the recipes from the TODAY SHOW on June 18.

AWESOME TURKEY BURGERS

Dinner happens every night, yet it often catches me by surprise.  The other night I had a pound of defrosted ground turkey that needed to be used.  My first plan was to brown it and add it to the left-over baked ziti which was languishing in the fridge.  But then I went on Pinterest and discovered inspiration! I read several recipes and then made some of the *best* *turkey burgers* *ever.*  

Here’s how I did it:  To that mushy, pink, uncooked ground turkey I added 1/4 of an onion (chopped), some shredded mozzarella cheese, some Montreal Steak seasoning, and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. I patted them into burgers and cooked them on the grill pan.  They were SOOO good.  I’ll cook that again!

I snapped a pic of my awesome turkey burgers while they were cooking.  But let’s be honest: raw meat is not attractive or tantalizing to look at.  I’m not posting those pics.

 

Small Steps to the Homeless Shelter

The roasted vegetables smelled really good.  I’d been standing behind the serving counter for an hour picking up clean plates from my left, scooping out a generous spoonful of those veggies and passing the plate to the person on my right who filled the rest of the plate with spaghetti.  It smelled really good.  I was hungry.

He was hungry.  His back was slightly bent.  He hadn’t shaved for a while.  It was a cold day, but he didn’t have a warm coat on.  He came to the homeless shelter at the same time everyday, and stood in the same line which wound around the building.  He was a regular, and he knew that hungry men like himself were allowed into the dining room in shifts so that there was room for everyone to sit down in a warm place to eat.

I was hungry.  He was hungry. But I wasn’t as hungry as he was.  Looking him in the eye, I acknowledged his dignity and greeted him with a smile and an overflowing plate of roasted vegetables and spaghetti.

There’s something good about serving alongside your staff and students when you aren’t wearing the hat of leader or director.  It puts everyone on an even level and let’s face it, there’s something about looking hungry people in the eye and handing them something hot to eat that removes any sense of hubris.

Wikipedia, that vast bastion of ever evolving information, says, “Volunteerism is the act of selflessly giving your life to something you believe free of pay.”

at the Rescue Mission

I agree, but I’d also add that when campus ministers and ministry leaders put our love in action by serving alongside of our students, we demonstrate the Gospel in a deeper way.  With over 300 verses in the Bible about the poor, social justice, and God’s concern for both, putting my faith in action seems like a reasonable act of worship.

For years I’ve thought about volunteering on a regular basis.  I had a roommate four years ago who spent one night a week in a local soup kitchen.  I didn’t even know that our small city had a soup kitchen.  As I watched her go week after week, I thought about how she put her faith in action so well.  I put my faith in words very well, but I felt a great divide between my words and deeds.  I justified my lack of intentional effort to serve others by my full time ministry role (unpredictable hours, seasons of craziness, I’m already trying to meet the spiritual needs of so many), but lots of people experience similar work stresses and still find time to help people.

This fall I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter and a warehouse with supplies for the underprivileged.  Yes, it takes a bit of time to get there, and I have to say “no” to other great opportunities to keep those time slots open.  But those few hours spent serving people in need (people in REAL need) while connecting with my students have given me some sweet gifts and insights.  I walk away so grateful for how faithfully God has provided for me.  I walk away with a full heart of worship, having had my heart touched by compassion.  I walk away knowing that someone else’s hard life was made just a little sweeter because of those few hours.  I walk away with a greater appreciation for the decisions my students make to be there every month, and I get to know my students in a different context.

What’s the next step? I want to model servant leadership by helping “the least of these” without an agenda to advance my own purposes.  For me, it’s to commit to a monthly time to serve at the homeless shelter.  I’d like to make it weekly like my former roommate, but I’ll start with small steps.

What about you?

Earlier that first volunteer day I almost backed out of going to the homeless shelter.  “I’m just so tired,” I thought as the time flashed up that strange greenish color on the microwave clock.  I didn’t know if I had the energy to make the subway trek down to the Bowery Mission.  Enough of our students said they wanted to volunteer at the soup kitchen to serve meals to homeless men that I didn’t think it would make a difference if I showed up.

But it did.  It made a big difference.  To him, to my students, and to me.

 

originally posted on the CruPressGreen Campus Ministry Blog on 15 December 2011

Christmas Cookies!

What would you do with more than eight dozen sugar cookies in the shapes of Christmas trees, snowmen, holly leaves, candy canes and Christmas stockings?  Decorate them, of course!  We pulled the student women and their friends together for a festive Saturday afternoon of decorating with icing and sprinkles.

Decorating Christmas cookies is a holiday tradition for some people, but none of the students had ever decorated cookies.  Julie and I made a quick training video for them.  The video was in jest, but I thought you’d laugh with us!

Our hostess, Kelly, was rather clever about the event, covering her table with a plastic table cloth and setting out paper towels and plastic knives along with the colored icing and sprinkles.  Christmas music and Christmas cartoons played in the background all afternoon as we all got to know each other and “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed at each creative design.

One sweet aspect of the day was that the first six dozen were set aside to give to a halfway house for men with mental challenges.  It was great to show that Christmas isn’t just about getting, but about giving, too.

And in that spirit of giving, Julie led a short discussion about the individual art of decorating each cookie and made parallels to how God was directly involved in “decorating” us when He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.  She then talked about gifts God has given us, and that December is when we celebrate the greatest and most significant gift of Jesus Christ.

Three hours into our decorating extravaganza, and with plenty more cookies to decorate, some of the student men crashed us, er, rather, they stopped by unannounced and little hungry.  We made them work for their eats, and showed them the fine art of slathering sugary confection all over small, sugar cookies.

For Rent

“Location, location, location.” It’s not hard to find an apartment in New York City; it’s hard to find the right one.  We have our criteria listed, ranked and ordered, but a sweet apartment in a less than desirable location can up-end everything.  For example, I loved the newly renovated apartment with views of the Empire State Building, but Mike thought the “up and coming neighborhood” wasn’t up enough, as evidenced by the bevy of young men selling illicit pharmaceuticals out front.

The NYC rental market is a fast-moving game, and you look for a new place 2-4 weeks before you need to move, and in some cases just days before your move-in date.  It’s a brief but all-consuming hunt.

We wake up with apartments on our brains.  Over breakfast we scan Craigslist for new listings.  We talk about our criteria on the way to the subway.  While at work I mentally compare all the apartments we’ve seen.  And then, when work is over, we race all over the City to meet with landlords and no-fee brokers.  It usually takes about an hour to get to the appointment (ride subway, walk, check the map again, walk back).  We wait for up to 30 minutes for someone to unlock the door so we can spend 10 minutes in someone’s filthy apartment (seriously, unless it’s unoccupied, it’s usually filthy), then travel 15-60 minutes to see the next apartment.  All the while I’m praying and asking God for another housing miracle.

Perhaps the process would be slightly less taxing if we were open to using a broker, but we don’t want to pay the usual minimum of one month’s rent as a broker fee, on top of first month rent, security deposit, and the credit check fee to the landlord.  The upfront costs are expensive!

Our top runner right now exceeds my dreams for the interior of the home, but the location is not very desirable, though it is safe.  When we find a potential place, we walk around the neighborhood during the day to check out restaurants, shops, markets and parks, then go back at night to see how the neighborhood changes after the sun sets.  Mike wants to make sure I will feel safe and comfortable walking alone from the subway to our apartment building at night.

Lord willing we’ll have a lease signed within the next two weeks.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving!  We didn’t travel to see family for Thanksgiving, but rather, hosted our own celebration.  We enjoyed a twist on the traditional and enjoyed the beach in the afternoon after watching the Macy*s Day Parade.  After the beach, we opted to dine in a more formal attire than our swimsuits!

For dinner we enjoyed traditional favorites from both of our growing up years like Seven-Layer Salad (Mike) and Pineapple Casserole (Sarah).  And of course, we had turkey.  But I’ll bet our turkey cooked faster than yours!  We had Turkey burgers.

Clams

Photo from www.diggerschoice-seafood.com

Our Montauk neighbor gave us 2 dozen live clams the other day.  He said they’d keep for up to a week in the fridge.  Thankful for the recipe ideas from friends after sending out a plea for help on facebook, I decided that I’d do something with those clams.

Dad and Gramps would know exactly what to do.  They’d make Clams Casino.  It’s a classic and their version is legend.  But that required too many ingredients I didn’t already have.  So I settled on steamed clams in a white wine sauce with pasta.  We didn’t have white wine in the kitchen, but I found a bottle of white zinfandel.  Close enough, right?

I don’t know if I made them “right”.  I read so many different recipes online that I think I probably combined them all.  I scrubbed the clams after soaking them in salt water.  I steamed them in the white zinfandel.  I cooked up some pasta in another pot and on a third burner I sauteed chopped onions and garlic in butter with a dash of tabasco.  When the clams opened up, I took each one out, sliced out the clam, tossed the meat in the butter mixture, and tossed the empty shells in a bag.   After adding the pasta, I poured the steamed clam “juice” through a paper towel (to catch any sand) into the mixture. It was a long, arduous process.  If anyone ever makes live/fresh clams for you, know that it is a labor of love.

The pasta was great!  How can you go wrong with a sauce of butter, garlic and onions?!  But the clams…?  Here’s what I discovered:

  1. I don’t like clams.  It’s a texture thing.
  2. Clams are a LOT of work
  3. Please see #1.

Maybe I’ll try Dad & Gramps’ Clams Casino recipe if someone ever gives me clams again.

(Oh!  Knowing it would probably take a while to make this feast, I whipped up an appetizer to tide us over:  it was the BEST guacamole I’ve ever made.  WOW – I could’ve eaten that all night!)

Beets

Little did I know that I was about to post one of my most-commented on status updates of my many years on facebook.  And it was about BEETS.  Less than 24 hours after posting my original plea for help with beets, 22 comments were made.  22.  Who knew beets were such a conversation topic?

I don’t have a long history with beets.  Make that no history with beets. To me, they’ve always been that odd, shiny, jello-like salad bar condiment that few people eat.  So how did I end up at this place of asking for beet advice?  Mike and I walked to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon.  As we perused the produce aisle, my husband’s voice grew to surprising levels of animation and enthusiasm when he started reminiscing about beets.  Apparently my mother-in-law makes some mean beets.  (beets… that just sounds funny to me. I don’t know why I’m giggling like a junior higher.)

But I know nothing about beets.  Nothing.  They are surprising with a vibrantly red, almost purple, stem and brilliant green, leafy tops.  But that bulbous root with a tail… odd.


Tonight’s the night, folks.  For you beet-lovers out there, I’m going to make beets for the first time in my life.  I’m making them because Mike loves beets.  And I love Mike.  I’m combining the helpful tips from my mother-in-law and three friends who posted comments with cooking/serving suggestions on facebook.  

I’m going to roast them.  I’ll line the jelly roll pan with foil.  I’ll wash the odd root-vegetable.  I’ll cut off the tops and tails, but not too much, so they don’t bleed.  I’ll wear an apron when I push the skin off the roasted veggies an hour later so that I won’t bear the stains.  Then I’ll maybe I’ll dice and pickle some.  Perhaps I’ll turn some into a yummy salad with goat cheese.  Yes, I have goat cheese!  

Can you make soup from beets?  Do they go with tuna?  Can you mash them like you mash potatoes, another root-veggie?  What kind of natural flavor do they have?  Are they chewy?  Or are they like tofu, taking on the flavor of the food they are cooked with?  

This is turning out to be a culinary adventure, exotic enough for the likes of Anthony Bourdain.