Striving to overcome Multiple struggles

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Okay this is not about excuses. Or – maybe it is. As the title states – I’m trying to overcome multiple struggles – in terms of healthy living, anyway. I have not been gorging myself stupid – but I haven’t been exercising or keeping to my healthy eating regime. It’s one thing to have discipline (I do have it) but it’s another to actually use it. I’ve been ignoring all the little voices – to my own detriment.

The health problems I had before I started on this journey have crept back into my existence and I’m pretty sure I’ve gained most – if not all the weight I lost, before I left my full time job to become a freelancer. Not that I’m unhappy with that decision – as I have steadily increased my profile and have several repeat customers. It’s just that I allowed myself to slip – notwithstanding my post in Feb 2016 advising that it was time to crack the whip again.

There really are no excuses, as I know that I feel better when I exercise, meditate and eat healthily. I went through quite a deep depression (which I posted about on my other blog) and I dragged myself out of it through sheer willpower. I didn’t want to lose it completely. I felt bad as my life has become less stressful with working as a freelancer – seeing as there are many out there who don’t have the luxury of being able to work from home, with a supportive partner.

I don’t know if the shift from a lifetime of deadlines, schedules and 9-5 work contributed to my feeling of being “out of it” – but I do know that I saw it happening and just let it wash over me. (If we’re honest with ourselves – this happens to all of us. The left hand does know what the right hand is doing but it takes a back seat to go along with the flow.)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve got back on track in terms of eating healthily. Now I’m ready to get back into the exercise – no excuses. One thing that I will do is get my thyroid properly checked. I’m sure that my lack-luster weight loss (when I was being a good girl) was due to my thyroid problems and hope that a full round of tests will reveal any kinks that need to be ironed out.

So – I will continue with the healthy food (including free range, organic, low sodium, low carb etc) and will try not to get into too many fads that are a waste of time. It’s hard not to be distracted by stories about new discoveries in the healthy eating arena, but I’ll be more “common sense” before I jump in with my shoes on!

Here’s my menu for the week:

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I found that the smoothies weren’t enough in the morning. Having the toast first thing makes me full for longer, so when I get to lunch time – having my two boiled eggs followed by the smoothie – I only need a homemade granola bar in the afternoon to see me through to dinner.

I’m still making a lot of soups – which I love – as well as yummy salads. Soup and salad at night is great as I don’t get too tired before bedtime, although I think my husband is getting sick of them! Even though I bake choc chip cookies for my husband, I tend not to eat too many. It’s the salty snacks that get me every time!

One thing I noticed was that I tend to cater the weekly menu to my husband’s tastes – rather than my own. This is probably one factor which impedes my success, as the foods I really crave are spicy – and there are a multitude of spicy recipes that are healthy – I just have to make a dish or two each week to keep me interested.

I love sprinkling chili flakes on my food as well as including a spicy salsa with most meals. I’m going to make a pot of spicy lentil soup and some tandoori chicken next week. Here’s a recipe I’m going to try (from Indiamarks):

Tandoori-chicken-recipe

Tandoori Chicken Recipe
This is an authentic recipe for Tandoori chicken. It is best served with long grain/Basmati rice, onion, lemon wedges and cucumber salad and eaten with Tandoori Rotis or Naan (Indian Bread). This recipe is best if left to marinate at least 8 hours or overnight.

INGREDIENTS:
* 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
* 1/2 cup plain yogurt
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1 tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
* 1 tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
* 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
* Vegetable oil, for brushing
* Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
* Slices of cucumber, red (Spanish) onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish

PREPARATION: Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a nonreactive large, shallow dish.

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt.
Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (Do not marinate for longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

The chicken may be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.

If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.

Serve with sprigs of cilantro and slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato, and lemon.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving (without cucumber, red onion, tomato or lemon, for garnish): 303 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 45 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, .54 gram total fiber, 11 grams total fat, 124 milligrams cholesterol, 707 milligrams sodium.

Until next week – stay healthy and happy (and I’ll strive to do the same!)

 

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Back on Track

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Alright – it’s whip-cracking time again! I’ve been ever so naughty in the past few weeks – being haphazard in my exercise regime. Even though my weight has stabilized – and I feel like I’m still (slowly but surely) losing weight – I know that the scant exercising is affecting my health. I can feel the chest pains creeping back in, the lethargy, aches and pains – all associated with not moving enough.

I could easily say that it was all “part of the plan” – like an experiment to prove how exercise is necessary for good health – but it was all due to me just letting go of the reins. I did the occasional set of planks here and there but I’ve been slack and it’s time to get back on track.

Leaving my day job to become a full time author and freelancer was the best thing that ever happened to me – in terms of my career, mental health and happiness. It also did what happens to most of us who finally step out of the rat-race: made me feel like I can do what I want when I want – without any structure. I planned and had good intentions, but they fell by the wayside when I “reasoned” with myself that I shouldn’t have to play by the rules anymore; that I was imposing restrictions on myself – in place of the restrictions that others had placed on me when I was working a 9 – 5 job.

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The result? Feeling like I’m wandering around the desert with no boundaries. At first – I was ecstatic about having the freedom to do what I wanted – when I wanted – but therein lies the rub. It’s not about needing boundaries and structure to feel “secure” or “safe” – it’s about keeping an even pace and maintaining a steady work ethic – just as I stated before I embarked on this leg of my journey.

It’s funny how one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing – in terms of knowing and doing what is right for you. I went on automatic pilot – believing that I would achieve my goals by meandering and just feeling my way around. When it comes to my freelance work and my writing – I’m on track – getting good jobs with great feedback and completing two novels so far!

I’ve had many ideas for future projects and I’m eternally grateful for having this opportunity – after having spent many years with my nose to the grindstone, working jobs I loathed and trying my best to write with the measly amount of time I had left. I hate griping about crap that only I can be blamed for – when there are many humans and animals living in war-torn countries and dealing with horrors I can only begin to try to fathom.

That’s why I have to remind myself that – on the one hand: I am not responsible for anyone but myself – but on the other hand: elevating myself to a position where I can help others (in whatever capacity) should be a part of my goals in terms of success.

That all starts with me feeling happy and healthy enough to ensure that I can give my best – which means that charity begins in the home, as they say. When I feel better about myself – I can give back to the world a level of “service” that is more satisfactory – rather than a sloppy, half-hearted attempt – like a broken door hanging on a rusty hinge.

Okay – back unto the breaches! Today I am getting back on the elliptical for my 25 minute stint – followed by 10 x 15 second planks. I will do so every morning and will continue eating healthy foods. Luckily – the “training” over the past year has settled into my consciousness, in regards to healthy food choices and mindfulness over what goes into my body.

Now – are you ready for a Kombucha horror story? I apologize if the following picture grosses you out – but my scobies had a field day (or week) – as you can see!

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This was my second batch and I nearly fell over when I “unveiled” it on the 10th day! I’m wondering if I need to cut it in half but I’m producing enough for myself and don’t know who to “gift” the other half to. (And I’m not sure who would want it!) The two scobies joined together in unholy matrimony – and I’m worried that my kombucha tea is too strong, as it was quite tart – even acidic. However – awesome for the stomach – with the probiotics and other goodies acting like drano!

Here’s a picture of the second batch – after sliding off the monster scoby for preparation of my current batch. (Which is half natural and half blueberry!)

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Here’s a picture of the blueberry Kombucha – after three days of carbonation:Kom 3

As I stated earlier, it was a little tart, which apparently happens when you leave it to ferment longer than 7 days. (I left it for 10 days.) The longer you leave it, the more sugar the scobies eat – so therefore it’s not as sweet and becomes more tart. I’d rather tart than sweet anyway – but today I’m going to bottle my third batch – which is one day less than 10 days. Also, as the monster scoby was double the size of the original one, I put a little more sugar in – for its “food” – so we’ll see how they pan out!

Okay – here’s my menu for the week – followed by a recipe to try and make up for the shocking horror of the monster scoby!

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Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients
• 1 pound lean beef
• 1 sleeve of Crackers, crumbled
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 1/3 cup milk
• 1 tbsp butter
• 2 tbsp olive oil, divided.
• 1 egg
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 pinch allspice
• 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Step 1
Place the crackers in a medium mixing bowl with the milk and combine. Set aside.
Step 2
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent. Remove from heat. Scoop the onions out of the skillet and add to the mixing bowl.
Step 3
Add the meat, egg, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice to the bowl with onions, milk, and crackers. Mix together until well-combined.
Step 4
Using a tablespoon, scoop out equal portions of the meat mixture. Roll each scoop into a ball by rolling in the palm of your hands. Place on a cookie sheet or other large pan until ready to cook.
Step 5
Return the skillet to medium heat. Place a batch of meatballs in the saute pan. Turn to brown on all sides and continue to saute until cooked all the way through. Remove each batch from the pan and set aside. Start another batch, continuing until all of the meatballs are cooked, and setting them aside once done.
Step 6
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to skillet pan. Once warm, add flour and stir for about 1 minute to cook.
Step 7
Slowly add chicken broth to saute pan. Stir constantly until sauce thickens. Add sour cream and stir until warm. Return meatballs to pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.

I’ll post the picture next week. Until then – stay happy and healthy!

Brewing and Stewing

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I didn’t post last week (sorry!) as I was snowed in and snowed under with freelance work and getting my new novel out there. If you’re interested in a literary romance with colorful characters in a magical town – then get “The Willow Lake Group” – and let me know what you think of it. (Shameful plug – I know!)

Here’s the link: (Kindle and paperback)

The Willow Lake Group on Amazon

Here’s the book trailer (I made it myself!):

Okay – on to brewing and stewing!

I started my Kombucha tea (fermented probiotic tea – which I’ve talked about in previous posts) on Sunday 1/17/16. Here’s the “flow” – recipe is at the end.

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I bought my scoby online (live culture – like a slippery disc) – seen in the clear plastic bag in the picture above. I used a bottle of plain Kombucha for the starter and 8 black tea bags. (The recipe called for 4 black and 4 green, but I only had black.)

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The recipe calls for a total of 14 cups of water (filtered – 3.5 quarts) – so I boiled only 2 cups to start with – to reduce the wait time for the tea to steep and cool down. Before the teabags went into the hot water – I stirred in a cup of brown sugar – even though the recipe calls for white sugar. Don’t worry about the sugar content – as the scoby “eats” the majority of it by the time the tea is ready to bottle.

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Then I poured the cooled, brewed tea into a large glass bowl and topped it up with the remaining 12 cups of filtered water and the starter tea, before gently sliding the scoby in.

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I then covered the bowl with a couple of layers of paper towels and secured the cover with a rubber band. After draping one of my black tea towels over it, I put it in a dark corner of                    the counter and left it to ferment – undisturbed for a few days. (The total time for fermenting is 7 – 10 days.)

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On 1/24/16 (the 7th day) – I carefully uncovered the Kombucha to check on its progress. You can see a new scoby forming (the circle of bubbles) – with the active scoby having sunk to the bottom. I gave it a taste test but I wasn’t satisfied with the level of tartness. (Apparently – the longer it brews the less sugary it is – which is fine with me!)

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Now – I know this looks like a gross science project – but I wanted to share what the scobies looked like after 10 days of brewing/fermenting. The compact scoby on the left is the original scoby and the blob of “matter” on the right is what I pulled from the top of the tea. I nearly threw it out, until I researched it and discovered that this can be another scoby for me! (I was very careful scooping the scoby from the bottom of the bowl. Remember – it’s a live colony of bacteria! Yay!)

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So – this is what I was left with after I removed the scobies on the 10th day.

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Okay – I just had to show you one of my Pinterest fails. I followed the recipe for a concoction that’s supposed to remove labels “in a jiffy!” Being a cheap-ass, I decided to use the bottles I’d kept. After submerging them in a sink of hot water, baking soda, dishwashing liquid and white vinegar – the fizzing stopped and the labels refused to budge. I left it until morning and they still wouldn’t budge. At least the bottles were spotless and clean – ready to be filled with my Kombucha.

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So I tore and ripped what labels I could manage to remove and decided to make half the batch with lemon juice and a few rinds – and left the other half plain. The recipe makes six bottles of Kombucha (approx 16 oz each). The lemon Kombucha has a whole lemon’s worth of juice in each bottle. (You can insert other fruits if you want or ingredients such as grated ginger – at this stage.)

At the moment – my babies are hiding in a dark cupboard – for a total of three days. I bottled them on 1/28/16 – the 10th day – and have tested the “carbonation” by opening a couple to see how they fizzed. A tiny hiss could be heard – but I’ve decided to let them sit until tomorrow, before placing in the fridge to chill for approx 4 hours. The Kombucha lasts for a few weeks in the fridge, but I drink one every day – so they’ll be gone in a week – when my next batch will be ready!

This recipe has been modified from the one I found at “The Kitchn.”

Kombucha Tea

Ingredients:

3 1/2 quarts filtered water

2 cups plain Kombucha (store bought or from your previous batch)

1 cup Brown Sugar

8 bags of black tea

1 scoby

Equipment:

I large glass or ceramic bowl

Measuring jug

Funnel

Six x 16oz bottles – washed good and proper!

Method:

Bring two cups of the 14 cups (3 1/2 quarts) of filtered water to the boil, stir in the sugar and then place the tea bags in to brew. Once it’s completely cooled down, take out the teabags after squeezing them and pour into the bowl, along with the pre-made or store-bought Kombucha tea and the remaining 12 cups filtered water.

Then carefully slide the scoby onto the surface (don’t worry if it sinks) and cover with a couple of layers of paper towels and secure it with a rubber band. (You don’t have to drape a tea towel over it – I just wanted to as I wasn’t putting it in the cupboard.) Leave in a dark place – away from direct sunlight – and leave undisturbed for 7 days.

On the 7th day, gently pour some of the liquid into a cup to taste it. If you’re happy with the levels of tartness and sweetness – you’re ready to bottle. Otherwise – cover and leave for another 3 days. When you’re ready to bottle, gently take the scoby (and the new one – if it’s grown) and slide them onto a plate – to be used for the next batch (if you want to do it again. Why wouldn’t you? I know I did!)

Then pour the tea into your bottles with a funnel (this is the stage when you can place fruit etc if you like) and cap them tightly with the lids. (Leaving at least an inch of room at the top.) Place the bottles in a dark cupboard and leave for up to three days – testing occasionally for carbonation. When ready, place them in the fridge for at least 4 hours to chill – then enjoy!

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This is Vali – Thor’s sister – doing her best cutesie-pie routine. She was trying to get my attention when I was bottling (on the counter on the other side of the kitchen – where the cats don’t go – and for those who freak about animals in the kitchen: I wipe our table down every time we use it.)

Fitness update:

Yeah whatever – did it sometimes (exercised) – but still losing weight and normalizing now that I’m settling into the life of a freelancer. It’s amazing how stress had a lot to do with me overeating (at times) – essentially fighting a losing battle for a long time there – even though I was slowly losing weight.

Food update:

Mostly good – although blips on the radar included takeaway and a day of movie watching with chips and chocolate! (I ought to be spanked – really!)

Here’s a soup I made – apparently close to one of Olive Garden’s.

Zuppa Toscana

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Zuppa Toscana Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, hot or mild
4 oz bacon, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 small onion, minced
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 medium russet potatoes, skins washed and sliced thinly
1½ tsp sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper
2½ cups half and half
1 cup packed kale chopped into bite size pieces (I used Swiss Chard)
1 cup finely shredded Romano cheese for serving

Instructions
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Crumble sausage (remove casings) and cook, breaking large clumps apart, until sausage is fully cooked and browned. Add diced bacon and saute for about 5 minutes. Add onion and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Saute until the bacon is cooked through (not crunchy) and onions are soft, about 5 minutes more. (Then tip off the excess fat.)

Add the chicken broth, water, sliced potatoes, Kale or Swiss Chard, sugar, salt and pepper to the bacon/onion mixture. Bring soup just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove excess fat from the surface with a large spoon or ladle. Stir in the half and half. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of cheese over individual servings. Garnish with seasoned croutons if desired. Serve.

Mars

Chicken Masala

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
3 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms (I only used approx 11 oz of Shitake)
⅓ cup Marsala wine
½ cup Swanson 88% fat-free chicken broth (I used chicken stock since it was all I had on hand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

INSTRUCTIONS

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make 4 cutlets. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Put the flour in a shallow bowl and lightly dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off any excess. Reserve the remaining flour to use later.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of the butter and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil to the pan and swirl the pan until the butter has melted. Add the chicken and cook until slightly golden on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm. (Preheated to moderately hot.)

Add the remaining ½ tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil to the skillet. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until soft and golden, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and a pinch of black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the reserved 1 teaspoon of flour and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the Marsala wine, chicken broth, and parsley.

Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet with the mushrooms, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer in the sauce to let the flavors blend, about 4 to 5 minutes.

To serve, put a piece of chicken on each of 4 serving plates. Spoon the mushrooms and sauce evenly over the top, and serve hot.

Spirit Update:

Okay – for those of you who know that I re-dedicated myself to the pagan path on Halloween last October, I’d like to share some interesting developments and observations.

At the time, I was still working for the State and stressed to the max. I called on Kali (to help cut my negativity) and Ganesha (to help with my writing career). Even though I lean towards atheism or at least – agnosticism – I understand how ritual and visualization speaks to the subconscious, in order to program ourselves for whatever purpose.

Over the next few weeks, certain “anomalies” became known to me. Whether or not it was wishful thinking – the following occurred:

  • I inadvertently swapped my handbags out – switching to my black leather satchel that has a skull design on the front. After a couple of weeks I realized the connection to Kali.
  • Elephants became prominent in my web searches, TV and movie watching, etc.
  • My energy stabilized and I conducted myself well when dealing with “snakes in the grass.”
  • My husband advised that he was earning enough for me to leave my job in early December ’15 – so we made plans and I handed in my resignation on 12/21/15. I’d already started picking up freelance work, so the transition was almost seamless.
  • I started getting reviews for my books and people coming out of the woodwork – willing to help with promoting me and my work.
  • I have repeat customers with my freelance work – with great feedback

and many more that I can’t think of right now. (I’ll update next week!)

Okay – I’m done! Catch up next week and until then – stay happy and healthy!

An Authentic Life

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People have been going on for ages talking about living the authentic life. As soon as you hear it, you either think of it in terms of spirituality or as a call to action – to shrug off your old skin and reveal your true purpose in life. Sometimes it’s both. Other times – you want to bitch-slap the easy/breezy mouth it comes out of – as you’re taking it as an indictment against your own “run-of-the-mill”, boring, “inauthentic” existence.

The first time I heard the phrase – a light bulb went off in my head. I can’t remember if it was Oprah, Dr Phil or some other self-styled Guru – but I felt it deep in my solar plexus. Having always felt like a traitor – working in jobs that sapped my energy and precious time (notwithstanding the fact that all jobs are vital when it comes to paying the bills and putting food on the table!) – the concept of living an authentic life appeared to me as the Holy Grail.

I do believe that in essence – even when working a job until we find the job – most of us are still striving to be as authentic as we can be, whether as honest individuals or being true to ourselves and our desires. For the most part, we spend a lot of our time living up to other’s expectations, like a mouse on a wheel – keeping things going for the sake of our families and to keep the “status quo.”

The idea of living the dream and making a crust doing what we love is foreign to most of us. There’s something solid about a “proper” job, where we can count on a steady income and not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. (And that’s for those of us who aren’t living on the breadline!)

Some of us don’t even entertain the concept of making money outside of a traditional job – especially when it means going it alone and becoming self-employed – utilizing our skills and turning our hobbies and passions into a livelihood.

I’ve seen and heard many people react in a variety of ways when in the presence of someone talking about breaking free and making it on their own. They tend to huddle together and nearly hiss in protest, making statements such as:

“Oh, it’s nice for some, isn’t it?”

“The bills still need to be paid.”

“It’ll never work – too much competition.”

“I need a steady wage – I couldn’t possibly chuck it all in!”

“Well, it’s fine to be a dreamer, but who’s going to pick up the pieces when you fail?”

I could go on and on – as I’ve heard it many times before. I’ve worked in many industries – in factories, in corporate offices, in nursing homes and fast food. Every job I held was of course necessary at the time, but in my spare time I was writing and researching – honing my skills – as I knew that one day (even if it meant when I retired), I would be a full time author.

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I’m one of the lucky ones, who has a partner working a job that could back me up if I’m ever short. (Although I’ve planned my finances carefully so I don’t have to lean on him.) Some of us are single parents (I was for a long time), so the luxury of drifting into the sunset – following our hearts – seems like a frivolous pursuit, at best.

Some of us are struggling even with both partners working – sometimes two or more jobs – just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our children’s stomachs. Then there’s college fees, health insurance, gas, etc. The idea of living an authentic life seems like a slap to the face, when just breathing and keeping our heads above water is the main focus each and every day.

It all boils down to three things:

  1. Can you make money doing what you love?
  2. Can you plan and organize a strategy to cover all contingencies?
  3. Can you set realistic goals and recognize when it’s not working?

The best back-up plan is to have a job waiting in the wings – in case you need to crawl back. (I don’t have this – but I’m confident that I could find a job within a couple of weeks of realizing that my plan’s not working.)

The biggest fear for anyone breaking free and going it alone – is just that. In a traditional job we have structure – which is usually set for us – by business imperatives and operational requirements. We know when our paycheck’s are coming and we know that we can rely on the security and stability that comes with a “normal” job.

But if we really think about it – no job is ever 100% secure. The bottom could fall out from any market at any time. Even if the company is secure – our position within it might not be. At best – when the chips are down – there’s redeployment or reduced hours, to name a couple. At worst – we could be let go – even if there’s every likelihood that we’ll be called back at a later date.

For me, the bottom line was not wanting to continue dragging my feet every day to a job that meant nothing to me. Pretending to care about new initiatives and office politics – especially when coupled with unsavory people and work practices – was soul destroying, to say the least. I’ve known for a long time that I have what it takes to succeed – even as an author. It was the idea of letting go – venturing out of a self-imposed comfort zone that masqueraded as “security” – that kept me locked up and gritting my teeth.

It’s daunting – to finally make the decision to leave a traditional job. I kept thinking of the Tarot card “The Fool” – feeling very much like the boy about to step off a cliff.

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I’d like to report – however – that things are looking better and better, thanks to Outsource and Upwork (where I get my freelancing jobs from) as well as my dogged perseverance and some opportunities that may not have come along, had I still been working 9-5.

A previous employer has asked if I would be interested in doing some occasional writing on a contractual basis, for things such as bids for funding, ideas for programs, etc. (Thanks Linkedin!) Also, a couple of the freelance jobs have turned into ongoing work and future opportunities, as well as the sales of my books increasing.

I received a lovely review for my erotic novel, “The Ninth Window”.

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You can buy it here (if you’re so inclined!):

The Ninth Window by Kelly Proudfoot

 

Now, let me fill you in on how my “regime” has been going. (I promise I won’t use Gif images! I know I can be random sometimes!)

I’ve been freelancing for nearly two weeks now and I can safely say that I’ve been slack with the exercise. I haven’t been feeling too good, but that’s no excuse. It’s a two edged sword when you stop something that’s good for you – even if it’s due to being ill – as it compounds how bad you already feel. I am getting back on track this week and will forge ahead.

  • 25 minutes per day on the elliptical
  • 10 x 15 second reps of planking
  • Healthy Smoothies when I’m craving ice cream or sweets
  • Eggs as a morning snack
  • Kombucha tea (probiotic)
  • Zero carbs after 3pm
  • Only two slices of bread or six crackers per day
  • Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic)
  • Lots of soups and healthy casseroles, etc
  • Homemade where possible – such as granola bars, etc
  • If eating out – healthier options

I’ve been steadily losing weight but with the last two weeks – I feel like I could easily slip back to my old ways. Being at home all day actually makes it easier for me – in terms of avoiding fast food and not being sucked into eating wonderful snacks and treats brought into work by colleagues! Also, I’m not the type of person who will go out and get a burger etc if I’m at home.

This weekend I am going to start making my own Kombucha tea! My poor scobie keeps looking at me through the package with its hands on its little hips! I will take pictures and post them over the next few weeks.

I decided to ditch the gluten free bread – unless I find one that isn’t made from rice. (Rice shoots your sugar up considerably – whether brown, white or otherwise.) I really don’t want to eat gluten, as it’s one of the problems affecting my thyroid and it clogs my plumbing! Also – I found gluten-free bread quite unsatisfactory – being at least a third smaller than regular bread and quite dry (almost like a dried out sponge.)

I made Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk – quite delicious and tender. (Although I did mine in the crock pot – after browning it – for about 3.5 hours on high.)

JOCIM

Click for recipe

I’m going to try this recipe – apparently it’s Chuy’s Salsa – which I love!

Salsa

Ingredients:

6 or 7 tomatoes
1/3 white onion
2 or 3 serrano peppers
Huge handful of cilantro
1 or 2 limes, squeezed
salt to taste
Optional: garlic powder to taste
Optional: 1 small mango, peeled and seeded

Method:

Start chopping or throw it in the food processor. If you have a food processor, give everything except the cilantro a rough chop before tossing into the processor. Use the pulse button, and watch closely. It takes just a few seconds, and if you let it go too long, it will be pureed. Taste, and adjust as needed.

Link to recipe

Here’s an interesting image re: Sugar content –

1ceee40f46557d3fa15d6682f5725b63

 

I haven’t done my menu plan yet – I’ll try and post it tomorrow.

Until then – Stay healthy and Happy!

A Wavering Eye on a Distant Prize

flame-sunset-1393682

I didn’t post last week due to lack of time. Robert’s company held a Xmas party and they paid for everything – including a room at the Embassy Suites in Nashville. We had a great time and I was careful with what I ate but I had three glasses of Pinot – divine!

We stayed overnight and had a wonderful breakfast before heading back home. I was too busy with catching up on housework etc, and had to focus on my writing projects during the week as well as working, blah blah blah.

I will have some exciting news to share in a couple of weeks – so stay tuned for that!

I tried an experiment for the last two weeks, after reading about how exercising can drain your adrenals – even though it wasn’t like I was over-extending myself. I stopped doing the elliptical and planking, which seemed to have zero effect in terms of weight gain, however I felt the lack.

I started getting tired in the afternoons and had less energy, with the breathlessness creeping back in. In general I felt more fatigued so I started back up yesterday. Felt better immediately – so – there you have it.

Most days, I was drinking Kombucha tea in the mornings and felt better for it. I’m going to start making my own, so I saved the bottles and will purchase the alien-looking scobie next week. I continued with alternating smoothies in the mornings – fruit one day and green the next – but I’m starting to find it incompatible with the weather changing.

Cold mornings call for a hot breakfast, so I’m going to start preparing it the night before. I just have to get up a little earlier to eat it before I leave the house. (I’ve been drinking my smoothies on the way to work, which is convenient.)

Here are a few breakfast ideas I’m going to try:

wild-mushroom-and-tatsoi-bowl-with-a-poached-egg-eatandrelish
Wild Mushroom and Tatsoi with a Poached Egg

IMG_9048-PM600sqc

Broccoli Cheese-Quinoa Bites

(I’ve made these before – scrumptious!)

coconut-pancakes

Low Carb Coconut Pancakes

 

(I would use Coconut milk as Almonds give me headaches.)

I’ll also be making frittatas and on the weekends we’ll have scrambled eggs or tomatoes on toast, etc.

I’ve been sticking to the plan I spoke about last time – with two eggs around 9:30 a.m. It’s amazing how they curb the cravings – especially for carbs – even though it’s been tempting of late, regarding the goodies that my co-workers bring to work. Tis the season – but that’s no reason to stuff myself stupid!

I’ve been far better at only having a sliver rather than a slab of cake or other naughties. There have been several times where I’ve walked away from the table or avoided going near it.

I’ve also started making my own granola bars as Robert discovered (after years of eating store-bought granola bars, even though they are zero High Fructose Corn Syrup) that he might be allergic to them. When he stopped eating the store-bought ones, his allergies reduced dramatically. We love my granola bars – which I’m calling:

Kelly’s Seedy Oat Slabs!

Ingredients:

2 Cups Old fashioned Oats

2 cups Raw Sunflower Seeds

1 Cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 Cup Honey

4 tbps Peanut Butter (I use creamy, but crunchy would be just as good)

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/4 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt (Optional)

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Sesame Seeds for sprinkling (Optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan (or thereabouts)

Spread the oats, coconut and sunflower seeds over two baking trays. Place in oven and toast for approx ten minutes, checking halfway and stirring them up if toasting is uneven.

Meanwhile, melt the honey, peanut butter, vanilla extract (with salt, if using) in a small saucepan.

Take the trays out of the oven and tip the contents into a large mixing bowl. Stir the honey mixture through until combined. Spread in the greased pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional). Then grease the bottom of a glass or flat-bottomed jar (they make the rockin’ world go round – sorry – couldn’t help myself!)

Using the glass or jar, press the mixture down into the tray to make a compact and even surface. Then place in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes – unless you prefer crunchy – in which case you’d need to leave it for another 2 – 5 minutes or so.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely before cutting into bars.

Here’s a picture!

Seedy Oat Slabs

They are delicious, if I do say so myself! No flour or eggs. You can cut them smaller, to suit yourself. One of these when I get to work (after a smoothie) has been a nice filler which keeps me going until around 9:30 – 10 a.m. Sometimes I save it for the afternoon, depending on how my appetite is going.

Here’s a picture of my Zucchini Crusted Pizza –

ZCP

Recipe posted here:

Scroll down for Zucchini Crusted Pizza recipe

I doubled the amounts for the zucchini crust – as I find the normal amount too thin. For the toppings I used:

Half a small can of tomato paste, mixed with a tsp of dried oregano and two garlic cloves – chopped. (Sometimes I just spread slices of tomato – sprinkled with oregano and garlic.)

Then I sprinkle some Romano cheese over the tomato (just a small handful), then I spread a layer of pepperoni, followed by half a chopped onion, red and green bell peppers (half each – depends on how much you prefer), black, marinated olives (pitted – I used Greek), and a generous handful (or two!) of cheese – whatever you fancy.

I’m not posting my menu this week – too busy – so here’s a picture of a Red Tailed Hawk we saw from the window at work this week! (Awwww!)

Hawk

Pity he didn’t have a beautiful forest to look over!

Well – until next week – stay healthy and happy!

A plan worth sticking to!

bullseye-1555995

I know that I said previously that I didn’t have time to post an update on Shapeshifting – due to promoting and marketing my new book “Totem Shift” (Storming Archives – Book 3)  – but I thought I’d do a quick one here to let you all know how I’ve finally found the healthy eating plan I was looking for!

After months of researching, deliberating, trial and error – I’ve discovered the plan that works for me. Here it is in a nutshell:

Food and Ex plan

The three main things that I feel have made a difference are:

Eggs, Green Smoothies and Probiotics.

Including getting up earlier to exercise, prep my smoothie and lunch for the day, eggs have made the most difference – especially when it comes to my voracious appetite. As soon as I’ve eaten the eggs – I’m satiated – right up until lunch time. I even find that I take a later lunch some days, seeing as my appetite has been quelled by the eggs.

(If I don’t feel like seeds for an afternoon snack, I have celery sticks and Baba Ghanoush.)

I’ve become an avid fan of green smoothies, although I still love my fruit smoothies, so I’m alternating every day.

GS3

At the moment – I’m making two different types of Green Smoothies. Here are the recipes:

Kelly’s Creamy Greens

Large handful of spinach

Small handful of curly leaf parsley

One inch of fresh ginger – chopped roughly

One avocado – peeled and chopped

One cup coconut Milk

Two tbsp Tahini (raw, unsalted, organic)

Two tbsp Flaxseed meal

Blend (I used my immersion blender) spinach, parsley, ginger and Coconut milk first. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

Kelly’s Spicy Greens

Large handful of spinach

Small handful of curly leaf parsley

One inch of fresh ginger – chopped roughly

Half cup fresh pineapple

One cup Coconut water

Two tbsp Tahini (raw, unsalted, organic)

Two tbsp Flaxseed meal

Two – Three pinches of Cayenne pepper (Suit yourself)

Blend spinach, parsley, ginger, pineapple and Coconut water first. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

You could mix it up or change the amounts for your own tastes – but I found them wonderful!

I’ve discovered probiotic drinks and Kumbacha tea. OMG!! Delicious and nutritious! Soon I will endeavor to make my own Kumbacha tea – when I can get past my squeamish reaction to using Scobys! (Live bacteria). I thought I was looking at a fleshy jellyfish!

Here are two I particularly enjoyed:

LemonCayenne_OPENHEX_L_7-23-15

I drank this on the way home from shopping last week – nearly ran off the road. Talk about an energy shot – I was electrified and felt like doing backflips by the time I got home. So delicious!!!

http://kevita.com/

Also:

product_yuzu_lemon

I’m a lemon freak so I haven’t tried their other flavors. I drank it at work and everyone thought I was drinking alcohol! Refreshing and delicious – I felt better as soon as I started drinking it.

http://www.mybucha.com/

Here’s a link to an article about how probiotics help you lose weight – especially belly fat:

http://authoritynutrition.com/probiotics-and-weight-loss/

After only one week of following this regime – I can actually tell that I’ve lost weight. My belly is noticeably smaller (I’m sure that the planking helps) and I feel so much healthier. I’m not saying that this regime is for everyone – but I’m pretty positive that with a bit of tweaking to suit yourselves – you’re bound to lose weight and feel so much better.

How thankful I am that – after all these months – I’ve finally drilled it down to a workable plan that shows results. Along with not eating added carbs after lunch ( I mean bread, pasta, rice, cookies, crackers, cakes etc) and avoiding crap like High Fructose Corn Syrup, it seems like I’ve found a perfect solution to my weight loss and healthy lifestyle issues.

The smoothies seem to squash my craving for sweets, but if I feel a slight “twinge” at night – I make a mug of hot coconut milk. Here’s my recipe:

One cup of Coconut Milk

2 pinches of Nutmeg (You could have Cinnamon)

Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the nutmeg. Heat on high, stirring occasionally until just before it boils. Take off the heat and pour into your mug.

Wonderful!

Here’s my menu for next week: (Some meals are from last week as I changed my mind about a few dishes)

Menu 112815

I just want to mention the chance to receive “Totem Shift” on Kindle Scout again:

Totem_Shift

“Totem Shift” is live at #KindleScout!

Your vote = free copy if picked up by #KindlePress #Kindle

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/KEW3HB1SKO25

Also – get Book 1 and 2 of The Storming Archives

for free until midnight 11/23/15!

Freeby

and

Until next week – stay healthy and happy!

 

Cracking the Whip

Indy's_whip
Photo courtesy of Legendary Classic on Flickr

I started last week with good intentions – more planking but less elliptical – with smoothies every morning, boiled eggs for mid-morning snacks and brought my lunch in to work (at least for 2 days!) On the other 2 days, I ate out with colleagues (ate good food, for the most part) – but we had takeaway for 2 nights as well. It wasn’t a total wash-out but I feel bad for it.

I was like a petulant child – bucking against my self-imposed regime and shrugging my shoulders in defiance. I had a bad toothache for two days and became cranky – which was an excuse I used for not wanting to cook. What fed into my petulant attitude, was that I’d bought two pairs of boots (online – as I just can’t find what I like in the local stores) – and they didn’t fit my muscly calves!

Robert told me that it was probably due to working out on the elliptical – which is fine as I like that exercise – but I was annoyed with my calves. It wasn’t until I realized that I could get the zips up when I was standing. Sitting down made my calves bigger – somehow! Anyway – it’s time to get back into it and bring back the willpower. (At least I can see that the planking is working – and I still enjoy them – but I need to increase my time from 20 seconds per plank to 25 next week.)

One of the things I researched was inflammation, as I’d been dealing with intermittent, low-grade fevers. The other thing that piqued my interest was adrenal health. I realized that some of the symptoms related to me, like: low energy, fuzzy brain and lack of concentration. It was also interesting to read how adrenal fatigue can negatively affect your weight. Here’s a great link:

http://familyhomeandhealth.com/2015/02/heal-adrenal-glands-lose-weight-no-dieting-needed.html

I was a bit perturbed about the statement re: exercising working against you, but I don’t think I exercise too much, so it’s probably not directed at me.

Two great sites with great info on adrenal rescue:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/340770-foods-that-heal-adrenal-glands/

http://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/adrenal-fatigue-diet/

I did discover that certain foods are good for adrenal health, such as:

  • Bone Broth
  • Seaweed
  • Fermented drinks

Here’s a recipe I’m going to try to help heal the adrenals:

(found here: http://www.drscottlittle.com/uncategorized/how-and-why-to-make-beet-kvass/)

bigstock-Beetroot-juice-Healthy-drink-23145587

Beet Kvass

1-2 medium sized beets, sea salt, purified water, whey, and a quart jar. (Whey is optional)

1) Chop up your beets into 1/2 inch cubes. (Peeled or unpeeled)

2) Put them in a quart jar with about 1 Tbs. sea salt.

3) Fill the rest of the jar with water, put the lid on, mix it up a little, then set it on your counter or in a dark area, at room-temperature, for a few days (3 or so). After 3 days, you may drain the kvass and either make another batch using the same beets, or just shred them and put them on a salad.

4) Place the drained kvass in a container and refrigerate. It will be ready to drink in a day or so, but best if let to continue to sit for a few more days, or weeks.

Drink 4-8 oz. per day, and don’t be surprised if your your urine and feces are purple.

I also read that a coffee enema is good for de-toxifying your body. The thought of a speedy poop-shute frightens me – so I might leave that until last! I am determined to clean myself up a bit – from the other end – especially since inflammation is an issue for me and apparently is the number one killer in the world!

I’m going to incorporate Turmeric in my diet – as well as other foods that are supposed to be good for fighting inflammation. (I was happy to see that I already eat a lot of the foods they mentioned.) Here’s a recipe I found for:

Anti-Inflammatory Ginger Turmeric Tea

For 1 cup of water use 1/3 tsp ground turmeric and 1/3 tsp ginger, (or 1 tsp each if fresh and grated)

Add raw honey to taste, and a slice of lemon if you want.

Preparation

In a small saucepan, bring water to boil. Add fresh grated turmeric and ginger, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. If using ground turmeric and ginger, boil for about 5 minutes. Then strain the tea and add the honey and lemon to taste.

“In order to increase turmeric absorption in the body (studies have revealed that turmeric has low absorption and rapid metabolism that lead to relatively low bioavailability in the body), once the tea is ready, you need to add a little bit of fat to the tea, such as a teaspoon of coconut oil or flaxseed oil for example. Another option is to add a little bit (1/4-1/2 tsp) of black pepper that contains piperine which aids the absorption of curcumin.”

Once the tea is ready, add the coconut oil or black pepper to increase turmeric absorption.

How much and how often

“There are no official dosing instructions exist for ginger and turmeric tea. You can drink 1 cup of it on days you feel extra achy.”

Side effects

“Although these herbs are considered safe and without significant side effects when used appropriately by adults, each may interact with certain prescription medications. For example both may not be safe if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning drugs. Therefore talk with your doctor before deciding if one or both herbs might be useful for your situation. Also taking these herbs by mouth in medicinal amounts is likely unsafe in pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

Original recipe and info found here:

post2585-300x300
Click for link

I’m going to incorporate this into my morning routine, as a warm drink in the morning – even just lemon and warm water – can get your organs moving and help you get into the day with a spring in your step. Here’s another recipe from a great site for Green Smoothies – which I will also be doing.

Morning Tonic

“Hot water and lemon in the morning is one of the best things that you can do for your digestion. The lemon not only promotes alkalinity in the body, but kick-starts the liver into action for the day, encouraging the release of digestive fluids. Adding the cayenne and ginger not only bring warmth to the tummy, but also boost the metabolism and circulation. Parsley is an optional add on to add some extra alkalinity and nutrients.”

INGREDIENTS
1 cup filtered water
1-inch fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of cayenne pepper
¼ tsp Turmeric
Fresh parsley (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bring water to a boil.
2. Add sliced ginger, lemon juice and hot water to a mug.
3. Pour hot water into the mug and allow to steep for 3 minutes.
4. Add a dash of cayenne, and parsley (if using).

They have a great recipe book for smoothies and detoxing:

http://rawkstarmarketplace.com/

I also discovered that 1-2 glassed of red wine helps with inflammation – but if you drink more than that each day, it actually worsens inflammation!

I’m going to increase my B group vitamins, to help battle inflammation – but when I checked all the foods I’d need to eat (some I already eat) – I realized I’d be eating all the time or hard pushed to incorporate all of them without raising sugar levels. Then I remembered Vegemite – which is rich in B group vitamins – so I’ll be tucking into that, taking notice of the amount I use as it’s quite salty. Leafy green salads, garlic, ginger, zinc, magnesium and protein will also help.

I looked into the glycemic indexes of fruits and found out that you should really keep the count under 11. (A banana has a score of 11 – and I mix it with other berries in my fruit smoothies – so I freaked a little. The total measurement for my smoothies is a cup of fruit – so I may have to re-think my amounts!)

Fruits with low G.I. are:

  • Limes and Strawberries (count = 1 for 120 grams)
  • Lemons and Apricots (count = 1 for 120 grams)
  • Watermelon (count = 4 for 120 grams)
  • Blueberries (count = 5 for 120 grams)
  • Apples and Pineapple (count = 6 for 120 grams)
  • Prunes (count = 10 for 60 grams)
  • Grapes (count = 11 for 120 grams)

Here’s the site for more info:

http://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/fruits-lowest-glycemic-load/

I took one photo of the food I made last week, which was a scrumptious Normandy Pork Casserole. I don’t want to include the photo here as it wasn’t flattering. (I guess last week was a total wash-out!)

Here’s the recipe:

Normandy Pork Casserole

Ingredients

• 50g (2oz) butter
• 1kg (2lb 4oz) shoulder of free-range 
British pork, cubed
• 200g (7oz) lardons or chunky streaky bacon, chopped
• 16 shallots, peeled and left whole
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 celery sticks, chopped
• 300ml (½pt) dry cider
• 300ml (½pt) chicken stock
• 6tbsp half-fat crème fraîche (or half and half)
• 2tbsp cornflour mixed with 2tbsp water
• 2tbsp Dijon mustard
• 2tbsp fresh tarragon leaves

you will need:

• large, flameproof casserole dish
Preparation
1. Heat the oven to 170 C, 150 C fan, 325 F, gas 3. Heat half the butter in the casserole dish, add half the pork, season and fry for about 10 minutes until thoroughly browned. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the rest of the butter to the casserole and fry the rest of the pork for 10 minutes until evenly browned.
2. Meanwhile, in another pan, dry-fry the lardons until crispy. Remove, set aside, then fry the shallots, onion and celery for a few minutes, to soften slightly.
3. Combine all the pork, the lardons, shallots, onion and celery in the casserole. Pour over the cider and chicken stock to cover. Cover the dish and cook in the oven for 2 hours until the pork is tender.
4. Add the crème fraîche, cornflour mix, mustard and tarragon to the pan. Heat on the hob and stir until the sauce has thickened slightly

Here’s my menu for next week:

Menu 112115

Until next week, stay healthy and happy!

Clearing a path out of the Haze

misty-morning-1365737

After a great weekend, I pulled a muscle in my back on Sunday while doing housework and cooking. I didn’t know it until I sat down after it was all done (I’d been going for six and a half hours!) When I went to get up – I was like a pretzel. I walked like I was trying to transform into a question mark and my back was killing me. I suspect that it was due to an older injury which I’d sustained using the ab roller. In any case – it was so painful that I took two days off work and tried different things – like the heating pad, Icy Hot spray, ibuprofen, massage, hot showers etc. On Tuesday I went to the docs and got a shot. It cleared up – but then I felt like I was getting sick again, with fevers and feeling like crap.

I did my best to continue exercising but could only manage planks (still 10 reps of 20 seconds each) and little bursts on the elliptical – due to sleeping in and not having enough time. I slid backwards a little – in regards to food. We had take-out two nights and on Thursday we had an all-staff meeting where lunch and snacks were provided. I did discover that having eggs for breakfast helped stave off the hunger and that smoothies just couldn’t cut it. So I’m having a smoothie every now and then as a snack – once per day, every other day.

Last night I came home feeling like I was going to collapse. (According to the doc, allergies and viruses have been on the increase, but he tested me and found that at least I don’t have the flu.) After crashing into bed and sleeping for a few hours, I got up starving, so Robert kindly ventured out and got me some kind of a Jalapeno burger. It was awesomely delicious – but I had to try not to think about the carbs, salt, fat etc. I watched some t.v. for a while and went back to bed. When I woke up this morning I felt a lot better – with little to zero fevers! Then it dawned on me. Chili peppers have anti-septic qualities.

red-hot-models-1188724

I love spicy food – so it will be a no-brainer for me to include it in my cooking, although Robert doesn’t like it too spicy. Without having to cook separate meals, I will simply make my own relish to use as a condiment – or will marinate my meats with chilies etc.

According to Webmd.com:

“…Peppers have a lot going for them. They’re low in calories and are loaded with good nutrition. All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Plus, the spicy ones liven up bland food, making it more satisfying…Green peppers are harvested earlier, before they have a chance to turn yellow, orange, and then red. Compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C…

Capsaicin: Found in hot peppers (including chilis and cayenne powder), capsaicin has been shown to boost metabolism as well as suppress appetite, at least slightly. Over time, this effect might give you an extra edge when it comes to weight loss. But it won’t melt the pounds away. Research shows that people who don’t typically eat spicy foods are most likely to benefit from turning the heat up a notch. Capsaicin seems to affect metabolism by raising body temperature, which uses up more energy.”

According to Nutrition-and-you.com

“…capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals…They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions…

Chilies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure…Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish…

Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance):

240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid),
39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine),
32% of vitamin A,
13% of iron,
14% of copper,
7% of potassium,
but no cholesterol.

…capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese persons.”

Here’s a recipe for Hot pepper relish I found at: Chilipeppermadness.com

Hot-Pepper-Relish4

Hot Pepper Relish Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups chopped hot chili peppers – You can use a mix of peppers if you’d like, anywhere from mild bells to superhots like Morugas or Scorpions, though I like to keep the thickness of the peppers about the same so the overall consistency is even. Lean toward hotter peppers. For this, I used some sweet Italian peppers but included a couple ghost peppers.

3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
Salt to taste

Cooking Directions

Add all ingredients to a large pan and heat to medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a light boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer about 25-30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced and absorbed into the mixture.
Add to a jar and allow to cool. Serve!

Now – I’d like to explain why I called this post, “Clearing a path out of the Haze.”

This healthy lifestyle journey has been an education and a half. I’ve learned so much, so far – and I know that it will continue to be an education for the rest of my life. Having said that, I will say that I have found myself wandering in a haze, in regards to what food is best to eat for health and weight loss. I’ve see-sawed up and down and zig-zagged back and forth over pro’s and con’s.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to obsess more about food, now that I’m focusing on a healthier diet. My menus have been – for the most part – filled with complicated and “fancy” recipes, that require a lot of obscure ingredients and complex steps that take up a lot of time and energy. While I was deviating from the path last week, I contemplated a simpler menu that includes easy recipes which I’ve used in the past.

I decided that – even though I’m still up for experimenting and trying new things – it might be more beneficial to keep it simple and manageable, with only one or two complex meals per week. This is not so much for cost – as it’s mostly about time and ease of preparation – so I can go off and spend more time doing what I love. Writing!

I thought about soups and casseroles – now that the weather is getting colder. Even though I wouldn’t be satisfied with soup for dinner every night, I decided to make two – three soups for the week, which can be eaten on alternate “soup nights” – with a casserole or simple meat and three veg or vegetarian on the other nights. My breakfasts will now include eggs – as I have proven to myself that I am more satisfied and less likely to snack in between meals. Here’s an article that helped change my mind about eggs every day – as I was worried about cholesterol:

http://authoritynutrition.com/eggs-weight-loss-food/

I also discovered the Happy Egg company – where the eggs are from hens that are free to roam outside – not just cage free: http://thehappyeggco.com/

egg-carton-2015

They have some great recipes – including this one (although I would probably use ham instead of bacon and fresh, grated potatoes rather than hash-browns):

http://thehappyeggco.com/recipes/cheesy-easy-breakfast-casserole.html

EBC

One of the things that has frustrated me is the idea of filling up on fats to keep the carb cravings away. I don’t want the added problems associated with eating a high fat diet, even though I enjoy building up on the proteins to feel more satisfied. I’m substituting turkey where a recipe calls for other meats (especially when making an omelette or sandwich).

I’m still trying to only eat red meat once every two weeks or once a month and will be incorporating more sardines and fish, as well as vegetarian recipes. I need to get back into doing a full program of planks and the elliptical – so I’m going to try and get up a half hour earlier during the week to be able to do so.

I’d like to note that my dreams have been more vivid and easier to remember – since my ritual last weekend. The messages seem to tie in with my purposes – so I will probably start writing for my dreaming blog again. (See: http://yourfaceinmyhands.com/) Also – the synchronicity has been interesting – with opportunities and insights seeming to link directly to my ritual. I don’t want to go into it here – but I might share at a later date!

Here’s my menu for the week:

Menu 111415

Until next week – stay happy and healthy!

My Samhain Re-Dedication

Altar and Anc incense

This post will mostly be about the spiritual side of well-being (for a change!) – although I did make a “feast” and will post a couple of pictures of last week’s food. Last night was Samhain (Halloween) and I conducted a ritual for my re-dedication to the path. It’s been an odd week – feeling off-kilter, battling what I assume is a sinus infection, dealing with sneaky and odd people, strange dreams and so on.

I’d like to start by saying that I felt like a caterpillar struggling to break free from the cocoon. The Atheist side of me battled to be heard over the Pagan calling. Like I stated in last week’s post – I’ve always maintained a kind of Agnostic attitude towards the path. As I researched info for my ritual, I sensed a “plugging” in or a settling which was like slipping into a comfortable skin, while my mind did its best to pull in the other direction.

All the details slotted into place like it was meant to be. Everything made sense and some things happened to me that solidified why I needed to re-dedicate myself. One of the main things was due to my own lackadaisical attitude that seems to raise its head every now and then. I am usually very careful about my wallet, but on Friday – I lost it – twice! I will explain how interesting this was in a minute.

First – we were having a Halloween celebration at work and I’d agreed to pick up donuts from the Donut Palace in Springfield (the best!) I don’t remember not putting my wallet in my bag – but when I got to work and started rifling around for it – I discovered that I didn’t have it. I panicked a little, hoping that on the one hand it was still in my car – and on the other hand – hoping that it wasn’t somewhere visible, as I park at the Walmart near my home to get the bus to work. I had visions of someone breaking a window to get to it (even though I only had a dollar note and some change!) All day I worried about it, until I got to the car park and found it on the floor of the back seat. This is not like me, but I was relieved and tucked it into my jacket pocket.

Me as a Devil woman and my friend Malinda as Minnie Mouse on Friday
Me as a Devil woman and my friend Malinda as Minnie Mouse

Then I went shopping at Walmart to get a few things for the ritual and got back into my car to go and get some wine. When I got to the liquor store, I got out of my car and went to get my wallet from my jacket pocket. It wasn’t there! I assumed that I’d left it in the car, but I remembered feeling for it when I put my shopping in the trunk at Walmart. It had been in my pocket when I checked then, so I’d assumed it was okay. I nearly tore my car up looking for it – including the trunk and under the seats. It was nowhere to be found. I marvel at the fact that I didn’t carry on and cry or call Robert in a freak-out. I remained calm – although worried, nonetheless.

I got back in my car and drove to Walmart, then to the spot where I had parked earlier. I got out and paced up and down as it started getting dark. I saw the guys getting the shopping carts and asked them if they’d seen it. They were polite and said no, but that I should check inside the store. That was when I got my phone out to call Robert, but something told me to check the car again. I put my hand under the driver’s seat and pushed right to the back. There it was!!! It was then that I remembered Ganesha and how he is the Lord of Obstacles. He can clear obstacles for you but he also places them in your path if there’s a lesson to be learned.

I realized that it was a lesson regarding being too careless and not being present in the moment. Now, I could easily say that it was just a busy day for me and I had been zig zagging around too much and not paying attention. I think it’s interesting to note the apparent connection! I went back to the liquor store and found a lovely wine for the ritual – keeping a focus on my wallet at all times!

Vampire Pinot Noir
Vampire Pinot Noir

From a Californian winery (that started in Transylvania!)  http://vampire.com/

When I saw it I had to have it. It was like I was drawn to it – as I ventured away from my usual aisle in the store. I felt that it was fitting for the night and the ritual – seeing as I invoked Kali for her powers of transformation and clearing away my negativity. (Also – it was a waning moon on Samhain/Halloween.)

I won’t go into detail about the sneaky and odd people I had to deal with – as it was at work and I’d rather not be fired – not that any of them read this blog. (I assume!) For the most part – I stuck to the healthy eating regime – although I broke it on Friday. (Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!) Here are a couple of photos of the food I prepared for the week:

Chicken and Couscous Cold Fighting Soup
Chicken and Couscous Cold Fighting Soup

This was more like a stew – but very satisfying!

Chicken and Couscous Cold Fighting Soup

Ingredients
1 cup chopped onions (about 1/2 of a medium)
3/4 cup sliced leeks (about 1 medium, white and light green parts only)
1/2 cup sliced carrots (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped celery (about 2 ribs)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (or paste)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cups chicken stock
8 ounces cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1 cup pearl couscous
1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions
Heat one tablespoon of the stock in a 4 to 5 quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium. When it begins to sizzle, add the onions, leeks, carrots, and celery. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, and heat until aromatic. Sprinkle the turmeric over the vegetables and stir.
Add the stock, chicken, and couscous, and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer; cook for 15 minutes. Squeeze the half lemon into the soup, taste, and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Top with parsley before serving.

Broccoli Quinoa Bites (or Muffins)
Broccoli Quinoa Bites (or Muffins)

These were a great breakfast or snack – more satisfying than the egg muffins I tried the week before. They were great cold or warm – with hot sauce. (I mixed some ketchup – with no High Fructose Corn Syrup – and Sriracha sauce. Lovely!)

Broccoli cheddar quinoa bites

Ingredients

¾ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1½ cups water (or vegetable broth or chicken broth)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups broccoli florets, finely diced

1 cup yellow onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

½ teaspoon paprika

Crushed red pepper (optional) to taste

Instructions

In a medium sauce pan, combine quinoa and water (or broth) and cook according to package directions. Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, eggs, broccoli, onion, garlic, cheese and paprika.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

Put a heaping tablespoonful of quinoa mixture into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes and then gently remove from pan to cool completely.

With the exercising – I increased my plank time to 20 seconds x 10 each day. I’m really happy with this routine – along with the elliptical – and find that it works the abs wonderfully. I’m already noticing the difference after two weeks!

Now – the ritual:

Preparation
Preparation

I made incense for Kali, Ganesha and my ancestors (family who have passed – as Samhain is a time to pay homage to them.) I consecrated candles for each – with oils I blended myself. For Kali I used Red Sandalwood, Chili pepper, Yarrow and Dragonsblood for the incense and my “Expulsion” oil. (See the dark red bowl in the photo.) For Ganesha I used Star Anise, Cinnamon, Dragonsblood and Mistletoe for the incense and my “Shapeshifter” oil. (See the green bowl in the photo.) For my ancestors I used some old incense (to signify resurrection – as I need to heal old wounds) and added Damiana, Dittany of Crete and Coltsfoot, with my “Sorrow” oil. (See the clear bowl in the photo.)

Ganesha's Incense
Ganesha’s Incense
Kali's Incense
Kali’s Incense
Altar and Ancestor's incense
Altar and Ancestor’s incense

I won’t be posting my ritual here – as it was personal – although I’m sharing the experience through pictures and other details I feel are either interesting or relevant. Robert lit a fire in the pit for me, as it was a little chilly. As soon as I started setting up – an owl started hooting (which we’ve never heard here before) and a creature we decided must have been a fox trying to imitate it. (Foxes usually do this in order to travel undetected. They mimic another animals – like dogs or cats – but their sound is distinctive. I’ve heard this before, and you can tell that it’s a fox due to the strange chattering in the back of their throats!)

I had been up since 2am and didn’t do the ritual until 10pm – so I was exhausted afterwards. I only ate half the “feast” – which I’d spent the afternoon preparing as I listened to music. For Kali – I was drawn to heavy metal – which I’m sure a lot of Hindu’s or other witches would find offensive. I’m very much an eclectic witch and follow my instincts. I was going to choose something Indian or some folk music, but it felt like she was telling me “No – I’m a Goddess of Battle!” Before I knew it, I was listening to Soulfly and charging through the Spicy Lentils! When it came time to prepare the rice (sprouted, brown, organic Basmati) and the Dark Berry Crumble, I switched to the lovely music of Faun for Ganesha. I was following my instincts and it just felt right!

Sauteed Zucchinis, Spicy lentils and Rice, Dark Berry Crumble
Sauteed Zucchinis, Spicy lentils and Rice, Dark Berry Crumble

I also put together a playlist for the ritual:

Music

When I lit the candle for my ancestors – the rain started falling gently. It was beautiful, with no wind to speak of. I meditated on their effect on my life and how much I missed them. I started to weep quietly and contemplated how I need to focus on mending the rift. Here’s the chant I wrote for the ritual:

“Heal the heart, Mend the rift, Pave the way for us to shift.
Back in the arms, Back in the fold, The warmth of the family thaws the cold.”

My family who are now in the Summerlands (Pagan term for the afterlife).
My family who are now in the Summerlands (Pagan term for the afterlife).

The first photo is Nona – my grandmother on my mother’s side. She was a dancer in a travelling troupe, in the early part of the 1900’s. She had a total of eleven children and died giving birth to the last two – who were twins. (I never met her – although I’ve been told I take after her. The middle photo is my brother Peter, who died of a heroin overdose in 1997. That was year of deaths for our family and friends – but the grief I felt for Peter was the first time I’d felt it. Grief is so different from normal pain or misery over a broken relationship. It hits you in the guts like a cannonball and you can’t control it. You fold up like a dead flower and just have to let it take it’s course.

The last photo shows my Nanna and Pa. Such a great couple. We lived with them when the divorces were going on, in my early years. They had a wonderful sense of humor. I love them all.

Ancestors/Family's candle - flared up in the photo!
Ancestors/Family’s candle – flared up in the photo!
Ganesha and Kali
Ganesha and Kali – thank you for your energies!
Thor - sticking his nose into my preparations for the ritual
Thor – sticking his nose into my preparations for the ritual

Anyway – I haven’t put together my menu for next week. Too tired!

Until then – stay healthy and happy!

Food and Ritual

aroma-smoke-1185419

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).

kali
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:

I130540 (1)

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!

Menu 103115