It Starts With a Hole

Holding out several packets of squash and tomato seeds to the nursery cashier, I asked.

“Is it too late to plant these?”

She then turned to the bagger and snickered.  “Ummmm, you can always try.  See what happens.”  She said in a “good luck girly” tone.

Okay, so it was no mystery that she was talking to an amateur, but would it have been too much to ask for her to have a little faith?

Armed with a bag of seeds, I then consulted with my neighbor about starting my own garden (Organic and non-GMO, of course!) in which she simply laughed, “By the time you start, gardening season will be over.”

I figured she would be the perfect source considering the fact that she’d managed to grow a jungle at her other house in the mountains.  Pineapples and lemon trees in the mountains of North Carolina?  In the middle of winter?  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  And although she’s a little tight lipped about the secret fairy dust she sprinkles over her garden,I’m beginning to believe one of the main ingredients is Miracle Growth.

I thought that perhaps with a little luck and lots of praying I could develop a green thumb or at least a fraction of it.  Were my ambitions so low that at that point in time my only wish was to have something green sprout out of the ground?  At least an inch or two or something plant-like.

So what if it was June-ish when I finally built a house for my soon-to-be garden and July-ish when I planted my first zucchini seed?  I needed that month to build the best veggie house I could on a budget and to muster up enough courage to actually build the damn thing.  If you haven’t guessed it by now, I was little worried about my adventure into gardening.  (Just a little.)  But I pushed through my concerns despite the snickers and giggles and here’s how it all went down.

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(By the way, I have to admit that if I were a vegetable, I’d want to live here too.)

Why am I imprisoning my beautiful garden you might ask?  

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There’s your answer.  Deer are a gardener’s worst enemy along with their buddies, the squirrels.  In Eastern and Central Carolina we don’t play around.  You either build a fence or forget about having food for yourself.  You’ll just be feeding the wildlife instead.

Okay, so I’m not a professional (Just yet), but I know a little somethin’ somethin’ about getting dirty.  I spent plenty of summers planting seeds along my grandfather in his garden when I was a little girl.  As a child, I may not have understood the true awesomeness of burying a seed into the ground or how that simple act had the potential to affect the rest of the world and someday possibly end world hunger, but I knew something great was about to happen.  And that greatness started with a hole.

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It took cutting through the arteries of the earth and going toe-to-toe with live snakes (Did I mention that I hate snakes?  Like run-in-the-house-with-the-rake-still-in-your-hand kind of hate?) to create this late summer miracle, but in the end it was worth the effort and next year I’ll be a little ahead of the game.

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BON APPÉTIT

Seeds Planted:

Zucchini, Patty Pan Squash (a.k.a. Spaceship Squash (the only way I could describe them as a child), crookneck squash, grape tomatoes, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, herbs: basil, chives, parsley, bay leaves, lemon balm, thyme).

Produce Harvested:

Grape tomatoes and all herbs

Healthy Journey!

(Deer: Photo courtesy) http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm

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No Dairy, No Gluten, No Peanuts…NO Problem!

Piece of cake….

Well, it was a good journey, but not as sweet as a slice of cake.  (Strawberry cake, please!)  However, surprising to me, giving up dairy, gluten, and peanuts for three weeks wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be considering how much I like all three.

Dairy and I have always had a love-hate relationship, but I honestly couldn’t imagine living without it.  Going into this thing with that in mind, I knew that dairy was something I probably shouldn’t eat too much of or eat at all anyway.  A nibble of cheese or scoop of Ben & Jerry’s every once in a while, okay, but anything more than that within a 48-hour span is trouble (Bloating, severe gas mostly).

Gluten?  Who doesn’t love take a chunk of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread and slather it with butter?  Or cheese if you prefer?

And peanuts?  Peanut butter?  Peanut butter cheesecake?  Oh, my goodness, REESE’S?  Come on, life doesn’t get any better than that…Unless eating these things make you sick as a dog.

Some of you may remember my previous post in which I talked about embarking on an Elimination Diet journey in order to get rid of a chronic sinus infection from hell, but unfortunately, after only four days, my motivation tapered off.  Given that I’d gone to every type of doctor on the planet in search of an answer for the cause of my dizziness, body shakes, headaches, and more and after coming up empty handed every single time, I thought I’d take a closer look at my diet (Can you say run-on sentence!).  It seems like there’s more and more research out there linking what we eat to many ailments.

So why was my elimination diet a F-A-I-L?  The program was extremely strict and although I had a general plan of how to tackle my cravings, it wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t eating enough food and staying hydrated.  I was also lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals needed daily to sustain myself.  Why not take a multivitamin you might ask.  In the many years that I have taken a multivitamin, I can honestly say that I haven’t noticed any difference in my overall health, but maybe that’s just me.  I’m multivitamin resistant?  In my mind, I thought that by eliminating most food groups following the plan, this would make eating a lot simpler and easy with limited choices, but I was living in la-la land.  Folks, I was hun-ga-raaay!  Even with eating these beautiful babies!!!!

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Could you handle not eating the following foods for 3-4 weeks?

NO Citrus

NO Nightshade Vegetables (Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Tomatoes…)

NO Gluten

NO Nuts and Seeds

NO Legumes

NO Soy

NO Dairy

NO Beef, Chicken, Pork, Bacon (I repeat, NO BACON), Eggs,….(Only fish, lamb, turkey, and wild game allowed)

NO Sugar

NO Green or Black Tea

NO Caffeine

NO Chocolate

After the big FAIL, I took a week off and went back online researching the many causes of sinus infections and inflammation, reading testimonies.  I even came across sites that suggested an even more restricted plan than the one I described and needless to say, I couldn’t close those pages fast enough.  No way was I going to do THAT.  By the end of the week, I had basically concluded that the only way to deal with my potential food sensitivity was not to eat at all (Yeah, right!).  Okay, that was bit dramatic, but that’s how I felt.  Eat this, don’t eat that…blah, blahh. AHHHHH!!!!!!!

After calming down, what I decided to do was to try eliminating certain foods in phases, starting with the ones that I knew I wouldn’t have a big problem giving up: Dairy, Gluten, Peanuts.  Something to give me a boost of motivation when the time came for me to give up foods that I knew would be difficult to phase out like sugar and soy.  Sugar, because I’m addict and soy, because it’s everything, including the healthy stuff I try to eat to NOT get sick.

During my gluten-dairy-peanut phase, I wasn’t eating 100% clean and I still found ways to still have junk food while avoiding these groups of food, which I’m sure hindered my progress, but honestly, I was proud of myself for sticking to my ultimate goal.

I cooked more, ate out less, told people “no” when asked out to eat.  By week two, I was still going strong, but I didn’t notice much difference in my symptoms except that they were not as severe.  I still had headaches and fatigue, but not nearly as bad as before and more spaced out so I knew something beautiful was happening with this approach.  Mentally, I could think more clearly, but still felt a bit groggy.  I still had insane popping in my ears during both week 1 and 2 (imagine your ears sounding as if they’re making popcorn), however, I developed a bit of a head cold during week 3.  I thought this was my body’s way of trying to detox since it was mostly mucousy-yellow stuff (TMI) and I wasn’t running a fever and actually started having a little bit of energy.  But the most amazing thing happened.  After the mucous cleared up, so did the popping in my ears.  Six months of constant popping in my ear, poooof, it was gone.  The pressure in my ears somehow equalized and for me, that was enough proof that my horiable diet has finally caught up with me.

I’m making myself sick with food.

Sticking to the modified plan, I started reintroducing foods after week 3 and after most of my cold symptoms had disappeared.  The first food that I introduced was peanuts because I didn’t think it was a major problem or a problem at all really, but I knew it would be the easiest to give up.  I know for a fact that I’m not allergic to nuts or seeds or any food for that matter given I’d been recently tested for allergies.  However, I knew there was a posiblity that I could be sensitive to some foods and sure enough, I was right.  After eating a tablespoon of peanut butter in the morning and a gas station pack of peanuts later in the day, I developed migraine headaches that lasted a few days.  I haven’t had peanuts since then nor have I had any headaches.  Who would’ve thunk it?

A few days later, after my body had enough time to process the peanuts, I re-introduced gluten and waited a few days before finally adding dairy.  I did not have a noticeable reaction to dairy or gluten right away, but I know that these particular foods can take some time to cause problems unless you are allergic to them.  However, over the next week after adding gluten and dairy back, I’ve noticed that on some days my nasal cavity seems a bit inflamed.  I’m almost certain that it’s either dairy or gluten, but it’s slow acting.  Regardless of my discovery, I don’t want to go back to eating dairy or gluten as frequently as I use to.  Less is best.

I’m feeling noticeably better these days, but I’m not feeling 100%.  I’m working out more and drinking more water, taking my vitamins, but I’m still not done with my elimination journey.  I’m thinking of eliminating soy for a few weeks and sugar ( A BIG BIG BIGGY for me).

In the meantime, I’m eating more vegetables and fruit (Stay tuned in for my garden post!!!), more quinoa and brown rice.  And I’m learning that I’m fine without many things like pasta and bread.  It’s not the end of the world.

This is only the beginning.

MY PHOTO JOURNAL

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Healthy Journey!

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Cucumber Hummus Recipe

CUCUMBER HUMMUS

(Makes 2 1/2 cups)

Adaptation of Cosmic Cafe Recipe: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/2009/02/appetite_for_instruction_hummu.php

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2 cups Garbanzo Beans (Cooked or canned), drained

1/4 cup Tahini

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Juice of 1 Lemon

1/2 bunch of Cilantro

1/2 Cucumber, peeled and cubed

1-2 Garlic cloves or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or pickle juice

Water or Broth (to make hummus thinner)

*Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor.  Add water or broth to thin out based on your taste.

Use this recipe as a dip for vegetables or condiment on wraps and sandwiches.  Also feel free to adjust ingredients based on your preference.

Calories: 70 calories per 2 Tablespoons

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“Hey, There’s a Pyramid on your Plate!”

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When I first began my weight loss journey many years ago, I decided then and there that I was not going to give up ice cream, my momma’s fried chicken, and chocolate chip cookie dough.  No way!  I wanted to achieve dietary euphoria.  I wanted it all.  Is that even possible?  Well, maybe.  I kept thinking about the bulky hard cover text-book from my sixth grade health class;  the one that weighs a million pounds and has enough weight to rip a hole in a brand new JanSport backpack.  I thought about the Health & Fitness section of that book and the Food Pyramid Guide diagram.  It consisted of all of the basic food groups including a little junk at the very top.  Hmmmm, can I really have it all?  Many years later I met a nutritionist who put me on my a low-calorie diet and provided me with a food diagram/journal with a picture of…..you guessed it……the Food Pyramid Guide.  Euphoria.  Well, not quite.  Although the 1992 version of the pyramid provides a variety of food options, the proportions were way off in my opinion.  I can do without the 6-11 servings of grains/bread.  I settled for 3-4 servings instead.

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I went on to lose quite a bit of weight by sticking to the basics and I think that anyone who is having a hard time trying to figure out how to start a weight loss journey or just want to avoid fad diets, should not rule out this old school goody.  However, I would recommend using a new and updated model such as the one developed by the Harvard School of Public Health.  This model uses more updated scientific data based on our eating, physical activity, and weight control patterns.  Is it a one-size-fit-all solution?  Of course not, but it’s a decent and simple start.  Hey, we’re like snowflakes and none of us are the same, not even when it comes to dietary needs.  For further guidance, check out Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, a revised version of the MyPlate model, developed by the USDA.

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(Check out the link below to see how they compare)

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate-vs-usda-myplate/

I like the Healthy Eating Pyramid because it takes into consideration physical activity.  In fact, it’s included in the actual model.  I’m also a fan of how it emphasizes good and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils.  However, at this point my main criticism is that there is little or no focus on dairy-free or gluten-free options.  There are many revisions of the Food Guide Pyramid and many debates about whether or not they’re really healthy options or just simply marketing ploys, but you know, I think that even the most basic model and recommendations have to be considerably better than the junk many of us consume on a daily basis.  Eat six slices of how whole grain bread or six bags of BBQ potato chips?  Hmmmm!  I choose moderation!

Healthy Eating Plate (2)

(Check out my Youtube Vlog)

Healthy Journey!

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Days 17 & 18: Viva Oaxaca!

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It’s happening again!  Nostalgia. A few years ago I made a bold move.  I found a Spanish language school online, made reservations, purchased a plane ticket, and left the U.S. for the first time.  I was alone and on my way to Oaxaca, Mexico with only faith, a few bucks in my pocket, a Spanish/English dictionary, and a lot of balls.  Luckily for me, everything panned out.  I met a few good friends, climbed up to the top of a waterfall and pyramid, sprained an ankle, and met my new best friend, Mezcal.  The trip only got better with the addition of the World Cup and having Spanish class in a bar while watching a few cute guys kick a tiny ball across the screen.  Okay, I’m getting away from the purpose of this post.  What I miss the most about Mexico is the food.  More specifically, Tania’s* cooking!  I lived with Tania and her family during my stay and boy can that woman cook a mean egg with frijoles negros.  For the past two days I’ve been dishing up a few eggs and black beans with salsa in honor of this amazing food goddess.  I think I’m going to cry!

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Fried Egg w/ Black Beans and Salsa, Grapes and Papaya

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Fried Egg, Ezekiel toast, w/ Salsa and Avocado, Fruit Salad

When I wasn’t eating, in school, or at work, I just hung out with the most adventurous (another word for crazy) European friends.  One day you’re minding your own business and then the next you’re on a seven hour bus ride to Mexico City in search of absolutely nothing but trouble.  Well, there were some good things too like…..

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…… climbing that pyramid,

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checking out the amazing work of Diego Rivera, visiting the house he shared with Frida Kahlo and…..

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throwing back a few cervezas in the middle of Mexico City while watching the World Cup on the big screen.

Ahhh, Mexico, I miss ya!

Salud!

*Name change.

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Day 5: Leftovers, The Revival

One of the things I’m loving the most about this fingerlickinNutrition lifestyle is that if I make new meals during the beginning of the week, there’s usually something left for the rest of the week.  I can mix and match the meals depending on my mood and still stay within calorie and nutrient range.  Basically, these meals are kind of designed in a “block out” style.  If I’m averaging around 400 calories or a little more for each meal and keep the nutritional value high and somewhat balanced, I can stray away from my daily menu.  In other words, nothing is set in stone.  If I’m not in the mood for a smoothie at snack time, I can have fish and soup instead.  Having leftovers also means that I have to get creative. Sometimes I surprise myself with the stuff I come up with, but I have to admit, it’s not for everybody.  Seaweed and Chocolate Banana Smoothies for breakfast?  Hmmmm, interesting!  Another way to look at the Leftovers Revival I will spend less money.  What I didn’t use this week and didn’t have to throw out, I can use again next week.

Don’t forget: The first place you should grocery shop is in your own fridge and pantry.  Save the bucks, save time, and avoid the extra stress!

Today is my last Insanity workout for the week.  My body is getting back into groove of things since completing the first round just three weeks ago.  I have a rest day tomorrow and God knows I need it!

Friday’s fingerlickin menu:

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Blueberry Pie Smoothie

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Shrimps w/ Black Rice and Vietnamese Dressing

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Coconut Acorn Squash Bisque w/ Salmon

Almond Choco-berry smoothie

Almond Choco-Berry Protein Smoothie

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Roasted Beet Salad w/ Arugula, Edamame, and Citrus Dressing

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Chocolate Covered Peanuts

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