Food and Ritual

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I have decided to re-dedicate myself to the Pagan path, as I wandered away for some time – due to wrestling with Atheism and Agnosticism. For many years I was a practicing, Solitary witch (or Hedgewitch) – mostly conducting rituals on a needs basis and focusing on herbal lore. When I started questioning religion (at least, organized religion) and found – through research and much “soul-searching” – I discovered that belief and faith had more to do with wishful thinking and less to do with facts.

The problem with facts is, they too can be a process of smoke and mirrors – not necessarily set in stone for eternity – as things change, with new evidence and theories supplanting the old. Of course – there are manifest truths and facts that have been (for the most part) steady throughout history. For me, the bottom line has become – whatever works and “feels” right is good enough until proven otherwise.

The majority of Freethinkers and Secular people would scoff at the idea of placing importance on gut feelings and what feels right. They would probably say that an ideology based on faith and intuition is lazy or obviously influenced by psychology, sociology, customs and tradition – without hard-earned and scrupulously researched knowledge and cold, hard facts.

I’ve lived a Secular life for quite a few years now and still feel that I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. On the one hand – I think that it’s ludicrous to believe that a loving God or Deity could sit back and watch all the horror going on in the world without stepping in and lending a hand. I’ve discovered that religious systems are so obviously human – with human imperatives and motivations that only serve to protect the powerful and destroy the meek. Bizarre, totalitarian, sexist rules and brutal punishments go hand in hand with greed, murder and fervent religious practices.

The one thing that stands true for me is the spirituality of feeling connected to the earth, the animals and other humans. The religious dogma that parades as spirituality is not what I’m talking about. It’s the magical feeling of creativity and shared experience. It’s the dreams that speak to the subconscious and the emotions associated with kindness, love and true happiness. It’s how music makes us feel; how food, drink and aromas can enchant us and how nature reminds us (sometimes in a cruel way) how finite life is – and yet – how infinite our shared experiences are. Like links in a chain – we pass on our art, reflections and ideas, discoveries, hopes and dreams to each generation throughout history.

I say all this to express my desire to “link” back to the path that I started – with a twist. There’s a side to me that knows that the Deities don’t exist as actual or real people. I don’t believe that they are physically sitting on the clouds watching over us. I do believe (even though I loathe using the word “believe”) that the Deities are archetypes that reflect our desires, dreams, hopes and fears. When I use their names in ritual – I am summoning up the same attributes within my psyche – or asking for these energies in order to emulate the desired outcome.

When we use ritual – we are programming our subconscious, to go about creating the path needed for a desired outcome. Correspondences such as color, objects, seasons etc., are the touchstones that act as symbolic messages – which our subconscious understands. We conduct rituals everyday – in order to go about our daily routines as smoothly as possible. Each step leads to the next which will hopefully complete the cycle and move us forward. When we consciously use ritual in a more stylized format – using touchstones, invocations, creative visualization and so on – we are making an extra effort to program a desired outcome. This sits right for me – right now, at least!

So I will be re-dedicating myself to the path – on October 31st – Halloween (or All Hallows Eve). The Moon will be waning and it will be a Saturday. This is the time of year when the veils between the worlds are thin (according to Folklore). I’ve decided that the Deities I choose will be in accordance with my desired outcomes: a strengthened dedication to my writing career and a letting go of outmoded and negative tendencies. Ganesha and Kali – of the Hindu pantheon.

Ganesh chaturthi: Women decorate Lord Ganesha's idol
Ganesh chaturthi: Women decorate Lord Ganesha’s idol (Click on photo for link)

Since I was a child, I’ve had a special fondness for Ganesha, and was pleasantly surprised to discover as an adult that his festival day is usually on or around my birthday! (September 5th).

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Kali (Click on photo for link)

Kali is considered the Goddess of Time, Transformation, Power, Creation and Destruction (among other things – such as the Goddess of Cemeteries!). I’ve always had an affinity with her aspect as the Destroyer, and have used her energies in many rituals involving banishment (keeping in mind the Rule Of Three) and transformation.

I will be creating my own ritual oil – using Patchouli, Sandalwood and Star Anise; as well as my own incense made from Dragonsblood, Sandalwood and Red Chili pepper. After a ritual bath and anointing, I will prepare a “feast” in honor of the deities. (At the same time, I will be visualizing my purpose.) I will not eat until after the ritual.

The food and drink will be: Spicy Red Lentils, Steamed Rice, Dark Berry Crumble and a nice, dark Pinot!

I will take photos and post them next week. I will also be using the photos in the Pagan cookbook I am writing for my new novel, “The Willow Lake Group” – which should both be ready for release early 2016!

Ritual and food often go hand in hand, not only for traditional or customary reasons such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, but also for celebration and honoring the deities. For me – even the act of selecting, preparing and eating food has a ritualistic feel to it. Eating healthy, unprocessed food (where possible) seems to warrant a more mindful approach – from growing your own or buying locally to cooking and eating. Sharing food is also a form of ritual – which is what makes food even more enjoyable.

That’s another reason why fast food or junk food is such a blemish on the culinary world. There’s no care or mindfulness involved. Sure, going with friends to get a burger before the game or going out for lunch can be rewarding and can save time. Some would even say that it’s a ritual itself to get certain foods on special days and so on. Apart from the fact that you don’t know what went into the food or who prepared it – you did not “mindfully” select the ingredients – taking into consideration the high levels of fat, salt, sugar or chemicals.

I have learned over the past few months that educating yourself about food, where it comes from, how it’s processed and what it does to your body – helps to ensure that you make more informed decisions. The flow-on effect is maximized health and increased happiness. There’s nothing more satisfying than carefully preparing a wonderful meal with fresh produce and good quality meat, taking time to reflect on what it will do for you as well as how you are supporting local producers and helping the environment.

Okay – jumping off the soap-box now!

I stuck with the planking – now increased to ten reps of fifteen second holds per day – as well as the elliptical. I’m noticing the benefits and hope to be able to increase to twenty seconds the week after next. I was ill with some kind of virus on wednesday and thursday – so I didn’t exercise on those days. I’m making up for it this weekend. I just came straight home from work on those days and went to bed, getting up later for soup – before going back to bed again.

I feel that I was fighting off that virus or whatever it was – for weeks. I had issues with low-grade fevers and tiredness, but it was staved off by eating healthy foods and boosting my immune system with Vitamin C and Now’s “AlliBiotic” softgels:

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I was really only down for the count for two days and feel a lot better now. Eating well and exercising regularly really does keep you healthier all round. Other improvements include no more swollen legs or ankles (which means better circulation and lowered blood pressure), no more gasping for breath when using the stairs or walking anywhere, no more headaches or body aches, increased stamina and no more drowsy afternoons. I am more alert, more productive, more creative and do not feel so depressed or moody. They’re all big deals in my book!

Here’s some of what I prepared last week:

Baked Fish and Chips
Baked Fish and Chips

I ran out of potatoes – so I only had three small, golden potatoes for the chips. I added a large sweet potato and a large zucchini – all sliced thinly and tossed in olive oil with a little salt, cracked black pepper and a handful of dried parsley. I spread them on a baking sheet and placed them in the oven (preheated at 395 degrees – could’ve been hotter) – then baked for approx 30 minutes. I put each fillet of Tilapia (seasoned with garlic salt) on a square of foil, topped with some thinly sliced onions, a couple of slices of lemon and a knob of butter. Then I wrapped each piece of fish like a parcel, put them on another baking sheet and placed it in the oven (10 minutes after placing the veggie chips in the oven) – letting them cook for approx 20 minutes. Delicious!

Zucchini Muffins - made with Coconut Flour
Zucchini Muffins – made with Coconut Flour

These were supposed to be a loaf of Zucchini Bread – but I don’t have a loaf pan. (She hangs her head in shame!)

Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Zucchini Muffins

6 pastured eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup coconut flour
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 Tbsp fresh or dried parsley

1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Mix the eggs, apple cider vinegar and zucchini in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the coconut flour, sea salt, parsley, garlic powder and baking soda.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine
Spoon into a greased muffin pan (I used a 12 muffin pan).
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Lovely (and naughty) with butter!

Borscht
Borscht

I researched this dish – as there is a lot of contention re: how it should be made, what country it comes from, whether Borscht should contain meat or not and so on. I’ve always associated it with Russia – but apparently it’s more likely to be a Polish dish. Usually associated with Christmas (vegetarian version – which is what I made, although with Beef broth) – it’s also made for Easter, with lamb or beef. It’s like a sweet and sour soup – with beetroot and lots of cabbage, so I think I might put less cabbage next time. The following recipe was gleaned from several recipes I found.

Borscht

Ingredients

2 quarts beef broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, trimmed, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
1 bay leaf
2 grains Allspice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp brown sugar (I used Coconut sugar)
3 peeled beets, one grated
Few sprigs of Dill
2-3 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream – or non-fat Yogurt

1. Cut 2 of the beetroots into small dice and set the rest aside. Melt the butter in a large pan, and soften the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.

2. Add the carrot, leek, celery, diced beetroot, allspice and bay leaf and stir well to coat with butter. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding a little stock if the vegetables begin to look dry.

3. Pour in the rest of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cabbage, garlic and grated beetroot. Cook until all the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).

4. Add the vinegar, sugar, pepper and a pinch of salt and taste. Add a little more of any of these if necessary, then serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of dill, (I didn’t dollop or dill it up!) and some Polish bread on the side. (I served with a light rye)

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/apr/07/how-to-cook-perfect-borscht

Veggie Egg Muffins
Veggie Egg Muffins

I used the muffin pan a lot last week! These were very messy – but worth it. I either had two for breakfast – or took them as a snack on the days I had a Smoothie for breakfast. They were nice and fresh with the veggies – and might be even nicer with some cooked turkey through them. I used twelve eggs – but shared them with my husband. As they make twelve muffins – each one is approx the value of one egg.

Veggie Egg Muffins

Grease the muffin pan well – probably need to line them as they leave a mess. It took ages to clean the #@!*&% thing!

Pre-heat oven to 390 degrees

Ingredients

12 eggs (I used free range)

1 Bell pepper (I used red) – chopped

6 Green Onions, chopped

4 Roma tomatoes chopped (or whatever tomatoes you like)

1 tsp Salt

1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese

12 slices sharp cheddar cheese (from a block – I used a nice White Vermont)

Red cayenne pepper for sprinking

One handful of fresh or dried parsley

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. (Pretty easy!) Spoon mixture into the muffin pan. Top each one (optional) with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese and sprinkle with red cayenne pepper. Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch. Store in the fridge!

Now for something semi-naughty!

Choc Chip Banana Muffins
Choc Chip Banana Muffins

These were wonderfully decadent – and not too naughty – due to semi-sweet chocolate chips. *sigh*

Choc Chip Banana Muffins

4 Ripe bananas

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 cup sugar (I used Coconut sugar)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cup muffin pan.

*This is a one bowl recipe – no need to use two bowls – Yay!

Peel bananas and mash in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir until combined. Add the sifted flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. Stir just until most of the flour is incorporated.

Spoon into the muffin pan. Put in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

These were wonderfully moist. I had one – Robert had five! Naughty Robert!

Well – here’s my menu for the week – and as always, stay happy and healthy!

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The Middle Way of Healthy Eating

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I’ve been jerking myself (not in a fun way!) back and forth, over what I should do and how I should do it – in regards to healthy eating. I find something out about a particular food item that excites me – so I start eating it – then discover that it’s not healthy or even dangerous. This is the age-old problem of trying to strike a balance with healthy eating. What’s good according to some is evil according to others.

I think back over the years and remember the see-saw arguments over potatoes – as an example. When I was little – potatoes were good, because they had starch and could fill you up. When I was in my teens, potatoes were bad as they made you fat. When I was in my twenties, they were only bad if you topped them with unhealthy things like sour cream, cheese, bacon etc. In my thirties they were good and bad – depending on who you talked to. Now, in my forties – they are bad again – because of the carbs.

The same could be said of nearly every kind of food you can imagine. Sometimes – it’s all about how you use and prepare them. Other times – it’s a definite no-no or a huge thumb’s up – until some scientist or “expert” swings the pendulum in the opposite direction.

One of the things I have been abstaining from is rice. It’s probably the one thing I miss the most, but as my husband is diabetic and needs to watch his sugar, I too have stayed away from it. He advised that it raises his sugar quickly and sustains the high levels for a few days. It has a high glycemic index and is high in carbs. I was told by a coworker recently to “just eat brown rice” – but according to the following article (click on link) – it doesn’t matter if the rice is brown or white.

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/rice-affects-blood-sugar-hunger-1588.html

Apparently Basmati rice (which is my favorite) is the best – even though it’s considered the lesser of the other evils! What shocked me about this article was the revelation that eating rice (and other high carb foods) actually makes you hungrier after you eat it. I find that hard to believe – as I’m usually quite satisfied after I eat rice. For example: when I have a small amount of steamed rice with steamed veggies and a piece of baked or steamed fish or chicken, I am totally satisfied for hours afterwards. So again – it’s about moderation and the middle way. I will stick to my original plan: I will only have rice once a month, to be sure.

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It’s easy to be swayed by popular opinion – especially when it comes to healthy eating. I find that it’s important to remember to weigh up the pros and cons; to go with whatever seems reasonable and when in doubt – err on the side of caution – or at least, go easy until you know what works best for you.

I don’t know why I haven’t made time for meditation. I need it – even though I’m feeling healthier these days. I need it for the stress release! It’s like I don’t value it as a worthwhile activity – even though it’s a kind of non-activity. I tell everyone else to do it and that the benefits are wonderful. I will try and do it at least twice this week!

A new discovery for me this past week is an exercise for my abs – that actually works. Planking!

A Coast Guard recruit from Company Oscar 188 does plank exercises during incentive training at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., July 31, 2013. Training Center Cape May is the service's only enlisted basic training facility, which creates more than 80 percent of the Coast Guard's workforce. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)
A Coast Guard recruit from Company Oscar 188 does plank exercises during incentive training at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., July 31, 2013. Training Center Cape May is the service’s only enlisted basic training facility, which creates more than 80 percent of the Coast Guard’s workforce. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

Even after the first day, I felt the benefits straight away. I was only able to hold each rep for a few seconds when I first started, but I found I was able to increase the time steadily over each day. After the third day I actually felt like my stomach had shrunk a little. I’m going to keep on with this exercise and see how much time I can increase the hold for. Here’s a link to a video for variations on planks:

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20813896,00.html

Look at this challenge! I think it’ll be a while before I can do this:

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I’m still doing the elliptical and enjoying it. I’ve started doing variations on my routine – including going backwards – which works different muscles in my body. I also include short bursts of going turbo – until my knees start hurting!

I’ve been trying to find a farming group nearby who deliver a fruit and veggie box – but no such luck, so far. One of the national groups I looked at charged from $39 (on special) to $69 per box – and that was only for two adults for three nights! I noticed that I only spend from $40 – $60 per week for seven days worth of fruit and veggies for the two of us – at the supermarket, so maybe I should just stick with that. I will try going to the Nashville Farmer’s Market to weigh up the difference (on Saturdays). It’s just that I work in Nashville – travelling on the bus from Springfield each day – and the idea of dragging heavy bags of produce to and fro doesn’t thrill me.

I found this great chart on the Nashville Farmer’s Market website (I’m sure there are similar charts to be found elsewhere).

http://nashvillefarmersmarket.org/seasonality_calendar

I will be using it to check the seasonal produce of my local area. I’m going to try and find produce that is not cool stored – meaning that the fruits and veggies are picked before they ripen and stored for weeks before they are put out for sale. The greatest benefits regarding nutrition etc are to be found in produce that has been freshly picked – when they’re ready and not when they’re half-grown!

They also have some wonderful recipes, found here:

http://nashvillefarmersmarket.org/recipes/all

Babaganoush and Homemade Flatbread
Baba Ganoush and Homemade Flatbread

Baba Ganoush is a middle-eastern dish – basically Eggplant Dip. I made the Egyptian version – but you can also make it with olives, parsley, tomatoes and so on. It was nice – but I think that the next time I make it I will include marinated Greek olives, tomatoes, parsley and cumin – as it was quite bland – but nice with the flatbread. (The flatbread started off as the Paleo Sandwich rolls – recipe posted last week – but I used coconut flour instead of almond flour and it turned out to be a thick mix which needed to be formed into balls and flattened on the tray. It only made five rounds so I’ll double the recipe next time. They were lovely – and I shared it with a work colleague who loved the hint of coconut!)

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients:

2 eggplants
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (I didn’t use the oil)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Place eggplant on baking pan. Poke holes in the skin with a fork. Roast it for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft. Remove from oven and place into a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water, and peel skin off. Cube the eggplant and let drain for a few minutes.

Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini and garlic in a food processor and purée. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil (if you want). Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Homemade Coconut Flatbread

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

2 eggs

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 tsp Baking powder

Dash of Himalayan sea salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350

In a bowl combine cocunut flour, tapioca, baking powder, and dash of sea salt

Add in eggs, apple sauce, and coconut oil – mix to combine

Roll into balls and flatten on a baking tray (I put them on baking paper in the tray)

Bake for 15 minutes

Let cool slightly and serve

Store in the refrigerator

Greek Salad
Greek Salad

I didn’t put cucumber’s in as I don’t like them. This is a very basic salad that we both like, with Romaine lettuce, celery, Roma tomatoes, Greek marinated olives and feta cheese. I have lemon juice squeezed on my salad – but Robert prefers Honey Mustard dressing. We had it with a frittata I made with onions, zucchinis and pepperoni on top! I forgot to take a photo of that!

Here are a couple of the recipes for next week:

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Cold-Fighting Couscous and Chicken Soup http://soupaddict.com/2015/01/couscous-chicken-soup/
Baked Parmesan Eggplant http://www.alltopfood.com/baked-parmesan-eggplant/
Baked Parmesan Eggplant  http://www.alltopfood.com/baked-parmesan-eggplant/

Here’s a great Infograph about busting belly fat:

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Here’s lazy Thor – annoyed that I woke him up for a photo!

Thor

Here’s my menu for the week:

Menu 102415

Until then, stay happy and healthy!

Tweaks and Modifications

4.1.1

Well, I received good news on both fronts when I saw the doctor on Monday. I’ve lost nine pounds and my sugar count has reduced. Both could’ve been better – but my doctor was pleased and said that she was proud of me! I hadn’t taken the pills she prescribed – Metformin – but at least my sugar levels dropped, even if only slightly. Three months ago I was at 8.7 – now I’m 8.4 – so she wants me to take the Metformin.

She advised that she doesn’t need to see me until the six month mark – which will make it around early March 2016. I picked up the pills – and was horrified when the first day had me bolting to the bathroom. Luckily it subsided and now I’m back to normal. She wants my sugar to be at least 7 by the time I go back, so it’s time to be a bit more serious about the carb and sugar intake.

I told her how ice cream was the biggest demon in my regime – as the cravings were intense. What’s funny is that I’ve noticed that my ice cream fetish has scaled back dramatically since I’ve started having fruit smoothies for breakfast! After discussing my food intake with her, we realized that I was eating too much fruit per day. After my fruit smoothie in the morning – which includes approx 4-6 strawberries, a small handful each of blueberries and blackberries, a banana, a tablespoon of raw, unfiltered honey, a tub of carbmaster vanilla yogurt (less sugars than Greek non-fat), a splash of Coconut milk and two tablespoons of flax seed meal – I was eating nearly a cup of raw pineapple as well – in the afternoons.

That equaled nearly two cups of fruit per day – which is twice what I should’ve been having. So now I’m only having one serve of fruit per day – and feel fine for it – so hopefully that will help towards lowering the sugar even more. (I would like to continue this before starting the Metformin – but this time I’ll do what I’m told!) I’m sticking to either two slices of wholewheat bread or 6 – 8 crackers per day, with potatoes once a week and rice once a month. I might sneak in noodles here and there – maybe once every two weeks.

My thyroid test came back normal – so I’ll continue taking my 100mg per day of Levothyroxine – but my cholesterol was slightly bad. Apparently my good levels are a little low and my bad levels are a little high. Ironically – the suggestion was to cut out butter and things like coconut oil – which is okay as I mostly use olive oil in my cooking anyway. I just discovered – however – that the other oils (seeds and nuts) are very bad! I was looking into grape seed oil and discovered this:

“…Grape seed oil has a high smoke point. For this reason, it is advertised as a good choice for high heat cooking like frying. This is based on a huge misunderstanding… the smoke point of an oil is NOT the determinant of whether it should be used for cooking or not. The number of double bonds in the fatty acid molecules is much more important. Polyunsaturated fats are called poly (poly=many) because they contain many double bonds.

These double bonds are reactive and tend to react with oxygen when heated, forming harmful compounds and free radicals. Because grape seed oil is so incredibly high in polyunsaturated fats, it really is one of the worst oils you could possibly use for cooking. The healthiest cooking oils are those that contain mostly saturated fats (like butter and coconut oil), because they don’t have double bonds and are therefore less likely to react with oxygen when heated…”

Well!

Here’s the link to AuthorityNutrition.com – which is apparently a “just the scientific facts Ma’am” kind of site:

http://authoritynutrition.com/

If you subscribe to their mailing list you get a free ebook called “11 Nutrition mistakes”. I learned about increasing protein, good carbs and bad carbs and so on.

I always like to lean towards the moderation rule – or as the Buddhists say – “The Middle Way”. I told my doctor about how hungry I get between breakfast and lunch, so she told me to have a boiled egg or something with protein that will hold me over. I started doing that – but found that I wasn’t totally satisfied. (Apparently 30% of your daily intake of calories should be protein – such as meat, dairy, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.)

What I did discover was Roasted Pepita butter and celery. Lordy – I was so full – I couldn’t even eat my lunch, so I’m reducing it to maybe three small pieces – or one stick of celery.

RPCS

I know that it looks like shit on a stick – but they were scrumptious! I took 2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds, spread them on a baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for ten minutes. Then I let them cool for ten minutes before processing them with a little olive oil, until smooth. I filled the celery with the Pepita butter as I needed them. A great, filling, healthy snack!

One of the recipes I’m going to try is Roasted Sunchoke Soup. (Sunchokes are Jerusalem Artichokes – also known as “Fartichokes” – if you usually have a problem with digesting those sorts of carbs – like apples!)

SSPP

Here’s a link to the recipe:

http://ahouseinthehills.com/2014/1/23/roasted-sunchoke-soup-with-caramelized-shallots/

I’m also going to try these Paleo Sandwich Rolls:

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Here’s the link for the recipe:

http://lexiscleankitchen.com/2014/08/24/the-ultimate-paleo-sandwich-rolls/

(Almonds give me migraines so I’m going to substitute it with Sesame Seed Flour and instead of palm shortening I’ll be using coconut oil.)

Here’s one of my smoothies – this time with half a cup of raw pineapple, a banana, small tub of carbmaster vanilla yogurt, a splash of coconut milk, one tablespoon raw, unfiltered honey and two tablespoons of flax seed meal.

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I made two Asian-style dinners – starting with Sweet and Sour Chicken (shallow frying was bad – but I dried them with paper towels before putting in the oven to continue baking with the sauce – also naughty, but better than junk food!)

SSC

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chicken Breading:
3-5 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch (or Arrowroot)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup canola oil

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken into cornstarch and coat all the way and then into eggs. Heat oil in large skillet. Cook chicken until browned. Place in baking dish.

Sauce:
1/2 cup coconut sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Whisk until smooth. Then pour evenly over chicken. Turn chicken so the sauce gets on both sides and then put in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn chicken and then cook for 15 more minutes.

This Beef and Broccoli was gorgeous – we had it without rice – just served it with steamed carrots on the side. Robert said it was better than what he’s had in the restaurant!

BB

Beef with Broccoli

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch (or Arrowroot powder)
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 lbs flank steak, sliced into thin strips

Mix the baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, water, and oil in a large bowl. Toss the steak with the marinade to coat. Put in the fridge for at least 1 hour, then continue…

1/2 c low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp coconut sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
3 tbsp oil
2 heads broccoli, chopped

In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, flour and vinegar until smooth. Set aside. In a large wok or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat. Add broccoli and saute 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer broccoli to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the marinated meat and half of the sauce mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through. Stir in the broccoli and remaining sauce. Saute 1 more minute, then serve.

CTS
Delicious, homemade Cream of Tomato Soup!
Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup - better than canned!
Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup – better than canned!

I continued with the exercise regime of 25 minutes per day on the elliptical (Mon-Fri) – but the ab roller still hurt my back. I tried different things, like a pad on the floor and positioning my hands and body in different ways. Then I tried the Ab wheel roller and found it hurt my shoulders and elbows – leaving my abs alone!

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When I researched it – I found a fitness site that said it was one of the top ten worst exercises for abs! It stated what I had suspected – does little if nothing for Abs. The same went for the Ab roller I was using. I am going to start some other exercises – like good, old fashioned lunges and plank lifts. We’ll see how that all goes!

I wish I could find a swimming pool close by that wasn’t so expensive to use (like the one at the YMCA – where I got a nasty dose of pink-eye). I don’t mean to bitch – but in Australia there are public swimming pools everywhere that are cheap to use and you can guarantee a lane to yourself, early in the morning. I asked Robert if I could swim in the river and he said, “Don’t you dare! There’s no telling what’s been dumped in it – chemicals, old cars, bodies!”

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 101715

Until then, stay happy and healthy!

Projections and Perceptions: Ignoring the Naysayers

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Rather dramatic, isn’t it?

This week I’d like to address other people’s attitudes towards those of us who are trying to make a positive change in our lives. My reason for doing so is – even though I’ve stuck with the healthy eating and exercise – I’ve been going through a weird phase where all the naysayers in my past are rising up in my dreams and memories. Emotions can definitely affect how well we do in terms of taking care of ourselves – physically, mentally and even spiritually. Whether they’re related to guilt, depression, fear or anger – how we’re feeling can be either a positive or negative influence when we’re trying to affect change in our lives.

This Monday is the three month mark for me, and I’ve surprised myself with how well I’ve gone – keeping on track (at least 98% of the time!) with exercising regularly and eating well. I have my doctor’s appointment on Monday – where I will learn how much weight I’ve lost and where my sugar levels are. I’m excited and a little apprehensive. On the one hand – I know that I’ve lost weight – even though I know that I have a long way to go, but on the other hand – I’m worried that I’m not doing enough and could do more.

I average a total of about 2.5 – 3 hours per week exercising, but I discovered (at least – on one healthy eating website) that I should be doing at least 4 hours per week. I discover this now – just as I am about to get a check up – after I spent the last few months thinking that I was doing a good job! I was also a little concerned about my diet, even though we have hardly had any junk food and we’ve stuck to a healthy diet, eating whole foods and avoiding processed food. I’ve been careful about carbs, sugar, fat and salt – but feel like I could have done so much better.

I know that it seems preemptive to assume the worst before I’ve even seen the doctor, but I haven’t been too happy of late – in terms of the slow pace. I deliberately planned to do this slowly so that it would become a part of my life rather than a quick diet – and it has worked, in that sense. I know that I will stay on this track – eating healthy foods and exercising – so I don’t know why I have to punish myself with negative thoughts.

To give you an idea of how I’ve been thinking lately – it’s all jumbled up with memories of other people’s opinions of me and my body throughout my life. Without going on like a sob story (can you hear the violins in the background?!) – I’ve been barraging myself with events such as family, ex-boyfriends, friends and strangers passing judgement on me.

For example: one boyfriend (who wasn’t a studly man anyway!) – told me, when I was thirty years old, that I would be “so hot” if I lost some weight. I’ve heard the usual, passive-aggressive statements such as, “You’re so pretty for a big girl”, or “You couldn’t wear that” when I pointed out clothing I liked. Some people (family, mind you) told me straight out that I needed to lose weight – when they themselves were chunky, or shall we say – bulbous or rotund!

I remember one “friend” telling me a long time ago that I would never lose weight, as I was supposed to be a big woman. She was as skinny as a rake – thanks to the drugs she was snorting – but hey – who am I to judge, right? The two most important men in my life – who happen to be my son and my husband – are the only ones who’ve ever been supportive and sincere in their acceptance of me and my appearance. I have a few close female friends who have also been very supportive of me – even though they too are “rubenesque”.

Peter Paul Rubens - The Judgement of Paris, c.1606
Peter Paul Rubens – The Judgement of Paris, c.1606

I’m making myself sound like a grotesque pig – which I know I’m not – but I also accept that I am not a raving beauty. I know that I’m attractive and have often been told so, but getting older and heavier makes it more difficult to believe that you have any redeeming qualities – physically, anyway. I hate getting older. I just turned forty-nine and I loathe the fact that I’m fast approaching fifty. I’m a child of the 60’s – having grown up in the 70’s and coming of age in the 80’s – then solidifying my place in the world during the 90’s, raising a son and developing my writing as well as other talents.

I’ve always loved music – especially heavy metal – and have been to many concerts, including: Metallica, Kyuss, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Machinehead, Marilyn Manson, the Rollins Band (several times – as well as Henry’s spoken word gigs), Danzig and Pantera. I’ve seen Tool twice (my favorite band), Devil Driver and other acts such as Morphine, Michelle Shocked and Russell Crowe’s band – 30 odd foot of grunts.

I say all this to illustrate that I used to be cool! Now I’m old and fat. Ha ha! I made myself laugh. Well, at least I’m losing weight and on my way – but the last two weeks have wreaked havoc on my self-esteem – such as it is. What I hate about getting older is not so much due to vanity – it’s because I keep thinking of all I still want to do and feel that time is zooming by. Before I know it, I’ll be on my death bed – moaning about everything I didn’t get to do.

It’s also about feeling “irrelevant” or “invalid”. I know that older people have so much to offer – as they have been through a lot and are wiser (for the most part!) I also know that I should count my blessings as there are a lot of people far less fortunate than me. But I’m not talking about them. The funny thing is, I don’t exactly want to be young again. Younger people shit me – especially today’s generation – with their selfies and overblown sense of entitlement and ego. Surely I wasn’t like that?! Nah – too stoned and busy contemplating my navel!

One thing I have to stop doing is treating every healthy lifestyle or “medical expert” website as gospel. I have to sort through the chaff and take what sounds reasonable and use what feels right for me. I also have to remember that I am a work in progress. It’s only been three months and I have given myself the deadline of a year. That means that I have until July next year to hit my goal. I’ve decided that I will aim for at least size 14. Still not sure what my goal weight is, but I’ll figure it out.

To finish this depressing train of thought, I know now that the only reason people have tried to nag and pick at me during my life – whether I was eating healthy or not – was due to their own issues. They either didn’t want me feeling good about myself – as they preferred me being at their level or lower – or they needed a punching bag. Some people are afraid of others doing well – however they’re doing it – as it casts a light on what they themselves are or are not doing. Mowing down the tall poppies.

So – on with my food for the week:

Tomato and Eggplant Pie
Eggplant and Tomato Pie

I should call this “Vague Pie” – as the recipe was pretty laid back – but it was tasty, although I think I’ll cram zucchini and more herbs and spices into it next time.

Eggplant Tomato Pie

Ingredients

1 eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp pesto
shredded cheddar cheese
fresh parsley

Directions

Peel and cube eggplant, boil until soft. Drain water and mash. To eggplant mash, add diced onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, melted butter, pesto, and mix well. Grease a pie pan. Slice one tomato and layer on bottom of pan. Add eggplant mixture. Slice the other tomato and layer on top of eggplant mixture. Add shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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Crowded Veggie Soup

I call this “Crowded Veggie Soup” – as I used all the veggies that were languishing in the bottom of my fridge and spud cupboard. I actually call this type of soup “Bottom of the Fridge Soup” – but this time there were a lot more ingredients.

I didn’t even start with sauteeing the onions, garlic, carrot and celery – just threw it all in and cooked it for approx 45 minutes. The veggies included onions, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes and parsley. I used organic, free range, low sodium chicken stock, three bay leaves, Himalayan pink salt and cracked black pepper. I also added a pinch of dried thyme, a pinch of dried sage and a healthy pinch of ground nutmeg.

When it was done, I whizzed it with my immersion blender (loving it so much!) and stirred in half a cup of cream. It was heavenly. I made so much that we ate on it four times during the week and I still had enough to freeze – at least three bowls worth. I even took some to work for a friend who was feeling poorly. She told me that she could detect every veggie – even though it was whizzed!

ZFS
Zucchini and Onion Frittata with Fresh Salsa

One thing I started doing (with my immersion blender) was whizzing my breakfast each morning. Usually I eat my breakfast at work but I’m sick of doing that. I whizz and then pour it into a lovely smoothie bottle and drink it on the way to work. (I hate saying whizz cos you’re probably laughing – thinking I’m peeing into my cup – but I’m tired so I’ll keep saying whizz).

My smoothie includes one banana, six strawberries, a small handful each of blackberries and blueberries, a small tub of non-fat Greek yogurt, two tbsp raw, unfiltered honey (wildflower – local), two tablespoons of flaxseed meal and a dash of milk. (Almonds give me migraines so I didn’t use Almond milk.)

Something exciting for my husband and I is a day with our friends on Sunday – playing Dungeons and Dragons! (Yes – we’re dorks.) Actually – this time we’re doing Castles and Crusades! Malinda and I usually do a gourmand’s feast – but we’re doing a healthy feast this time. I’m bringing my Chicken Salad (I’ll share the recipe next week) and Roasted Pumpkin Seed Butter and crudites.

Well, I’ll go now but I just want to share what a wise old man told me once – when I was depressed about how others treated me or made me feel. “Ignore the pigs and fishes. Hold your head high and continue on without them.”

Here’s my menu plan for the week and until next time, stay healthy and happy!

Menu 101015