Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekend Send Off

It's Friday! Is there anything better than Friday?

I love Fridays. The weekend holds so many possibilities. Most of the time, though, Mitch and I spend it having "Lazy Saturday" and "Lazy Sunday" with the kitties.

Today I decided to share with you a video.

Please disregard my loud dishwasher and my messy home. And my laughing.

Happy Friday, Friends!


video

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The End Is Near

We're coming up on the end of the diet and that means the biggest challenges. And by biggest challenges, I mean the last things you add in are the big guys. The ones that really have the stuff that could cause a reaction. For me anyways.

It's common for gluten, eggs, and dairy to be connected with arthritis and joint pain. And those are the three big guys I talk about. Corn also has a place in this phase. As do others. Here's the full Final Challenge Phase list:

- gluten grains and their flours (wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley)
- oats
- millet
- bread
- yeast
- dairy products
- eggs
- corn

(This is a good website that explains more about food allergies and this diet. Check it out. It probably explains the whole thing better than I ever would.)


Nourishing Meals says that by this time in the diet most people are feeling so fantastic that they don't even want to add these foods at all. Well, I'm not most people. I wanted to give it a try, and I was especially missing pancakes for breakfast. And baked goods of many sorts.

The perfect pancake. Oh that's beautiful. It's been so long.

With the end of the diet and adding the final foods, it's recommended that you space the food out as long as you can. Reactions could be delayed and it's important to keep a close eye on your body during the time when you add these foods. (Though don't ask me what millet is. Wait . . . I'll Google it. Oh. Ok I'm good.)

This part of the diet has been especially hard for me. You're so close to the end! You can see it! You can smell the bacon cheese burgers and corned beef and hash! But you're not there yet. You still have a few more steps up the ladder to take.


When can I finally eat a piece of Boston cream pie or a strawberry crêpe with cream cheese and drizzled with white chocolate? Not yet. Those come after it's all over, if you can manage them.

So what have I ruled out? So far bread seems to be fine. Want to know how I figured this out? Well I didn't exactly follow the rules.

Mitch bought me a loaf of sourdough bread. And I ate it. I ate the whole thing. Ok, Mitch helped with some of it, but I take credit for that baby. It was beautiful. And delicious.

The diet recommends that you eat everything separately first. So you have to test gluten first, then yeast, etc. I just went all out and ate a loaf of bread. I hope the Elimination Diet police don't come for me. But my perspective was - if I have a reaction to the bread, then I will go back and cleanse, and then test each thing separately.

Excuse me a moment while I go wrangle Tesla - she's going crazy this morning and I heard crashing in the bathroom.


Another thing I can check off the list. Dairy. Well . . . let me take that back. The jury is still out on Dairy. I've had a little more pain than usual when I have had dairy but I really haven't had much yet. It's only been a scoop of gelato here, a miniscule amount of butter there. Really nothing huge. (By the way - that photo above is from the gelato place next door, and the gelato on top is an avocado cream flavor. It was AH-MAZING!)

Funny how Easter came and went and I didn't eat one egg. 


So what now? 

Power through it! 

I've come so far I can't quit now.

Yeah I might be taking a faster pace through it than usual. And I might not be doing everything perfectly. But that's just me, I guess!

Soon I will end this journey with a final overview of the diet. What have I taken out of this experience, what kind of outcome did I have, etc. I'm sure the anticipation is killing you.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Spend A Beautiful Day

I had to . . . just HAD to write about the gorgeous weather we had a few days ago. It's been rainy on and off for a while now. Spring has been a fickle and I would prefer warmer weather but I'm not getting it. Luckily, when the sun does decide to come out and the temperature rises, we take full advantage of it.


And we definitely enjoy the beautiful place we live in. Who knows where life will take us, but right now we can't get enough of beautiful Bellingham. I've mentioned how much I love living by the water, right? Any kind of water.


The first day was beautiful. Mitch had his 40 hours in for the week so he got off work early. We went to a park, Lake Padden. Mitch had gone on a bike ride there a week before and wanted to take me on a walk there. And it was absolutely beautiful, but I gotta say, going for walks takes a lot. Is that sad? Those of you with RA understand, I'm sure. Between having all around low energy and nervousness about my knees, I have to really be in the mood for a hike.


But once I was out there . . . it was all worth it.

 

The walk was through the green forest around the lake. That's one of the things I love about Western Washington - it's so green! There are so many trees, it almost seems like the oxygen tastes better here. Breathing in the air is amazing and when you look at your surroundings and see how bright and colorful everything is, you really appreciate everything you have.

 

Afterwords I had to rest. That is one thing that is frustrating sometimes - the fact that I always have to take it easy. And I think it can be a hard thing for people to fully understand. I feel bad because my husband is such an outdoors-y person and loves to be active, and as much as I love to be active as well, I just have to take it slow. Sometimes it takes a lot for me to get up and going. But it almost always makes me feel great when I do!

 

Day Two took us to the local Farmers Market, which I had not been to yet this year. One thing I loved about living in Salt Lake City was that we lived across the street from a huge farmers market that went on every Saturday. It took place in a park that was a whole city block wide and the market filled the entire thing. The market here in Bellingham is a much smaller version, and I think they need to expand it because Bellingham soaks up that stuff. We love our locally made products and organic produce here!

 

After the market, we were feeling so good soaking up the sun without a cloud in the sky that we went to yet another lake! This time a little south of here to Lake Samish.

 

How beautiful is this?!

Don't you wish you lived on this lake? I do! I have house envy when I go there.


 

This time, Mitch and I took a blanket, some San Pellegrino Limonata drinks and our books and settled out on the dock at the park.

 

I'm reading the book Water For Elephants and so far I love it. I won't talk about how the part of the book where he talks about how frustrating getting old is because his body doesn't work the way he wishes it does I end up relating to. Yeah, I said I can relate to a 90 something year old man in a novel. Whatever.


 

But it's times like these where I truly enjoy life. How perfect is it that my husband and I can run off to a park with a dock on a beautiful lake, lay out in the sun and have the entire place to ourselves. We can talk and laugh and read our books for hours and have a perfect afternoon doing so. Nothing is better. Who cares about a little arthritis? Not me!

I'm fighting through it and living life as carefree as possible! Yep! Taking a moment for yourself to enjoy your life and your surroundings will be a liberating experience. Give it a try and let me know how you do!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quality Family Time

It has been since Christmas that my family was all together. That's a lie actually . . . it's been since Thanksgiving. My brother wasn't able to make it to Christmas and we missed him! And it's still been since Thanksgiving that we've all been together. But on Easter Sunday my parents, Mitch and I went to my sister's house to spend the day with them and my nieces. We wished my brother could be there but unfortunately he had to work. But that's also a lucky thing since I wish I had to work sometimes.

But Easter Sunday with the fam. Now that's a good day. There's nothing like hanging out with kids on Easter! It's the best. Something about hiding Easter eggs for them to find just made me happy.


Filling plastic eggs with jelly beans and coins and then hiding them in my sister's front yard . . .


Mitch and I hid 24 eggs, . . . and I then forgot where I put a few of them. Hey, I've always said I have a terrible memory. I don't know how it's so easy for me to memorize an entire play script but forget where I put something five minutes ago.


And my nieces are my favorite little people in the world. I love making them smile!


Plus any time I can be with my family I'm happy. It seems like lately it's been so difficult for us all to be together at the same time. Between work and our busy lives, it seems easy to let these things go. But it's important that we spend time together. It's necessary to make it a priority.


Who knows where any of us will be in a few years. Heck, Mitch and I could run away to the Bahamas and I could be a beach bum for a living. (Hey that doesn't sound half bad! Think we could do it, Mitch?)


Whenever my mom, sister and I are together we thrive. The three of us are the closest friends. It seems like it's been so long since we've done anything just us girls. So on Sunday we decided to make that a priority as well!


Have I introduced you to my sister yet? I think I mentioned her in a blog post before. She's the beautiful brunette in the middle. Summer has always been there for me and I can't get enough of her. I need to talk to someone I can trust? She's there. Who has my back? She does. I also owe a number of clothes in my closet to her own closet. Yeah, I love me some hand-me-downs.


Mitch and I love spending time with my sister and her husband Jeff. The four of us always seem to have way too much fun together.


There's nothing better than some family time with food as well. Summer and Jeff supply the clams (and the kitchen!), my parents bring the steak and chicken, and we bring the dessert. (Oh yes, I'll write about that later.) It all equals delicious family bonding.

Yeah, I couldn't help it. They wanted a picture of us all holding knives. 
Logic isn't exactly normal in this group. 

You know what else is a great thing?


Viewing some husband and father QT. Anytime I see my two favorite men hanging out, chatting and laughing, my heart is just happy.

Also getting some play time with the kids makes me happy too.


And the day was just about perfect. Except for the moment when my knee gave out while I was walking down the stairs and I ended up tumbling down. The next day I woke up with an ache-y, half swollen knee, but it was all worth it. Family fun is important and I would go through any cartwheels down stairs to get to those lovely people!


What was your Easter Sunday like?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Secret Is Out - Fruit Nut Bars

I had a few different ideas to blog about today. First was a blog about my weekend excitement, a beautiful weather Friday-Saturday, spending Easter Sunday with my family, baking a delicious something for said family. But instead, I decided to blog about a recent request. Multiple requests actually. The recent one from my father who doesn't believe that this recipe could possibly be on the healthier side of desserts and treats.

My fruit nut bars.

They are famous around these parts.

People worship me for them.

They pass out after eating them because they are so amazing.

That or the fact that I lace them with somethin' good.

I kid, I kid!


I first made these around Christmas time this year. I normally spend countless hours and calories baking frosted sugar cookies for my friends, but this year I decided to go a healthier rout. I wanted to send something special to my friend Jennifer down in Salt Lake. She was the one who got me hooked on the Paleo Diet, so I wanted to send something to her that was sweet and festive, but also totally Paleo. I also wanted to send something to my brother, who is vegan.

So my search began to find the perfect Christmas treat! I originally got the idea for fruit nut bars while reading a Martha Stewart holiday cookie recipe magazine. In it there was a recipe for vegan fruit nut bars, but I got a headache just reading the ingredients list.


(First of all, anyone who reads Martha Stewart's magazine, watches her show, or checked out the website knows that her recipes are ridiculous. They have a million ingredients and usually about half of those ingredients are things that can't be found at your average grocery store. You have to go forage for them yourself. And you people know me, I'm lazy. I don't want to spend my precious time hunting for ingredients when I could be snuggling with my kitties watching The Addams Family on HBO.)

So I took to the internet to find an alternative. And I found quite a few.

In the end I had to alter a few recipes, take from one and add to another, in order to come up with the perfect mixture. And from my many fans, it turned out pretty dang good.

Now I tossed and turned over the idea of sharing this recipe with you. It's been my little secret for a while now and I kind of like that control . . . "you want fruit nut bars? Well you're not getting 'em until I say so!"

Oh I'm mean. . . darn.

But as I packed little copies of my recipe in with my Christmas care packages, I realized that it will just give me more motivation to come up with something even better for next year. And hope that there are some other lazy people out there that will still beg me to bake for them! One of my favorite hobbies :o)

So here it is ladies and gentlemen!

I give you . . .

Delicious Paleo/Vegan/Raw Food Diet/Whatever . . .

Fruit Nut Bars


Ingredients

1 Cup Slivered Almonds
1 Cup Pecans
1/2 Cup Almond Flour (you can use any nut flour you like)
1/2 Cup Almond Butter
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup of Dried Fruit, chopped into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 Cup of Coconut (optional)

Notes and Alterations:

The latest batch (pictures were taken of) was made for my dad who has recently turned to a vegan diet, and absolutely no refined sugar. I shared some with him a while back and he loved them, and I was planning on making a batch for him much sooner, but I'm forgetful in my old age (ha) and kept forgetting to either pack them or make them at all. This was a last minute batch where I used what I had in my kitchen to work with.


First the nuts. I always use almonds but not always pecans. Pecans are definitely sweeter so they give these a more dessert-y taste. I have used walnuts instead, which is what I used this time because I didn't have any pecans on hand. The bars are still sweet, but the walnuts give it a bit more of a saltier taste.


Like I said, as far as the flour, I like to use Almond Flour or Hazelnut Flour (which I used this time) but I'm sure any nut flour you like can be used. It's all to your taste!


Almond butter is my favorite for this, but you could use peanut butter if you so choose. I recommend using something simple without a lot of added sugar. Also, sometimes I used creamy, sometimes I use crunchy. Both work great, but again, it all just depends on how you want the bars to turn out.


I didn't have any vanilla on hand so I didn't add that either.

As for the fruit, any dried fruit works well. For this recipe I used cranberries, grapes and apricots. Use whatever you feel like!

  
Step 1:  Toast the nuts.

Place the slivered almonds and pecans on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until they're golden brown. Stir them occasionally. Keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn.

I skipped this part because I was in a hurry. They still taste good.

Step 2:  Toss the nuts into the food processor until they are coarse.
 

Again, this is something you can alter to your own preferences. Sometimes I have left a lot bigger chunks for added crunch.


Step 3:  In a medium bowl, mix the nuts and the almond flour together.


Step 4:  In a microwaveable bowl, warm the coconut oil and the almond butter for about 20 seconds in the microwave until liquid-y. Stir together well.


Step 5:  Stir the agave nectar, vanilla and salt into the liquid mixture. (You can use light or dark agave nectar.)


Step 6:  Add the liquid mixture to your dry mix. Combine well.


Step 7:  Add your fruit to the mix.


You can add the coconut in at this time if you chose to use it. Or you could use the coconut to coat the top of the bars.


Step 8:  Lay parchment paper down in an 8x8 inch baking pan. (I didn't have parchment paper so I used foil and added a little coconut oil to keep from sticking too bad. Dang . . . maybe I need to go to the store, I seem to be out of a lot of things!)


Pat the mixture into the prepared pan with your fingers, making sure it is all good and snug in there.


Step 9:  Leave in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 1 hour.

And that's it! When ready to eat, take out of the fridge and cut it up into bite sized pieces (or whatever size you want!) It's good to keep them cold or else they have the chance of melting. They don't freeze to be hard as a rock if they are left in the freezer either.


When I sent these in the mail to my friends, I just left a note on the top telling them to put the bars in the freezer/fridge immediately, and as far as I know they stayed intact.


The consensus was that these turned out great. My dad tells me he doesn't believe they aren't totally awful for you, but there is no refined sugar in them! The agave nectar and the fruit make them taste so sugary. The nuts, though, give it a salty taste so it's the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

So there you have it. My secret is out. Let me know if you make these how they turn out for you. I hope that your family enjoys them as much as mine!