Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fall is in the air

     Well its Sunday early evening, with a crisp smell of fall floating through the windows; another weekend has flown by and is coming to an end. Saturday morning I had a chance to sit outside at Whole Foods and enjoy a coffee and "Emerald Necklace Smoothie" after a great BalletFIT class. The rest of the day I was busy doing errands, babysitting, and the routine chores around the house. 

     I am just sitting down now after spending about 2 hours in the kitchen prepping for the work week. I have two new cooking magazines to read and I can’t wait to find some more recipes to add to my collection. My latest creation was a spin on something that has seemed to take over Pinterest and on the go breakfast recipe collections- egg muffins. I made mine with a mix of the vegetables I got in my CSA this weekend; eggplant, red bell pepper, corn, hot pepper, and an organic zucchini I picked up at the store the other day. I mixed 7 egg whites, with 2 egg yolks, ¼ cup of plain unsweetened rice milk, S&P, and crumbled feta. I roasted the veggies for about 20minutes at 400 °, and then filled silicone baking cups ¾ of the way with a scoop of them. I topped each cup off with the egg mixture and baked at 350° for about 30 minutes until they were set. I have to say I am pretty psyched about breakfast this week, and I might even have one tonight for dinner! Throw one of those in between and English muffin and you’re in business on a rushed morning.

     On my last post I mentioned at the end that I would clue you in in my upcoming posts about why the graham crackers I made were gluten free. I am not gluten intolerant, nor did I test positive for celiac disease, but I have been having some digestive issues for quite some time.  I have been to just about every doctor imaginable, and after no concrete answer I began researching on my own.  I found my symptoms most closely resembled fructose intolerance-which I had never even heard of until about two months ago. Fructose intolerance involves many different fruits, vegetables, grains and sweeteners that have a higher percentage of fructose than glucose. Fructose intolerance encompasses a few parts: the process in how sugars affect the “gut” and are digested, as well as the many different types of sugars within fructose.

The Monash University in Australia is responsible for these findings, and have created an acronym FODMAP that helps break each sugar down- (each person is affected by each sugar differently)

The process through which gut bacteria degrade undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide)
    Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) found in; wheat, rye, onions and garlic
    Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in; legumes/pulses
Lactose found in; milk, soft cheese, yoghurts
Fructose (in excess of glucose) found in honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups
 Sugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners

After finding out all I could about Fructose intolerance, and low FODMAP diets, I decided to find a nutritionist to help guide me with the diet and also confirm my self diagnosis. She agreed I exemplified many of the symptoms of fructose intolerance and decided to have me begin an elimination diet. I am about 6 weeks in on the elimination diet, and I feel so much better. So currently my diet is free of wheat and dairy, and I have adjusted my cooking to support it. In a few weeks I will begin the challenge phase in which I will test bringing back different foods to see what I can and cannot tolerate.  For a better explanation and a great resource, I highly recommend you visit

Well I hope I didn’t bore you too much, and hopefully helped a few of you out there who might be suffering from the same thing! I am off to finish my chores, check out my cooking magazines, and catch up on some reading.. . .I am about ¾ of the way through Michael Pollen’s Cooked and am on a mission to finish it! What did you cook/do this weekend?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Humpday and Graham Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches

    So it's Hump day, I've finally decided to get over the hump and commit to this blog.  I don't know why but I've been dragging my heels about getting it started, even though I have so many things I want to share.  Maybe because it seems like another task to add to my day, but then again sitting here writing this doesn't feel much like a task! So as you've read from my first posts, a little over 2 years ago I had jaw surgery, but that isn't all that defines me; so here is a little bit about what does.  
     I am in my late 20's, I am a health nut, I love to be creative in the kitchen, and I am in the dance studio, pool, weight room, or on a running trail 6 out of 7 days a week- I don't really exist without cooking and exercising!  I wasn't always as active in as many sports as I am now, from elementary school to college I was solely a swimmer.  I never felt confident in gym class, and the pool seemed to be the only place I did. About 10 years ago or so I signed myself up to run in the annual Turkey trot in my town.  It was a 5k and I was petrified of running it, I didn't even like people seeing me run because I thought I looked weird doing it. Once I ran that first race I haven't stopped (well until my recent knee surgery- I apparently can't get enough surgeries!).  Running gave me a new found happiness - the same empowering feeling swimming did, and with it a boost of confidence in my athletic abilities. Now I'm not saying I feel like I'm on cloud nine every time I run, it hurts and it's hard, but I love challenging myself and the awesome feeling you get at the end of accomplishing a race or a distance you never have. So when I moved to Boston 7 years ago, I had running going for me but no pool was close and I tried spinning but I just didn't love being a gym rat.  Two years into living in the city I decided I wanted to get back into dance which was also a big part of my childhood.  I happened upon the greatest studio one could ever happen upon, and have been there ever since! 
     When it comes to cooking ever since I mixed the most awful concoctions in bowls sitting on my grandmother's kitchen floor and made everyone try them I have loved stepping outside of a recipe and seeing what I can create. When I first began cooking with my mom she always used to yell at me about following the recipe as I often threw in a little of this and a bit of that, and rarely measured correctly. This doesn't always work, especially in baking but I invite you to experiment- worst case scenario? You have to throw it out and start over. . .or give it to the dog J!

.    My cooking skills have continued to grow and have been a great asset in the past few years as I've done a 180 with my diet and have found a true love for all foods that are whole and free of process and preservatives. It was a slow transition, and while I was never extremely unhealthy and always had a balance of lean protein, veggies and a starch on my plate, my cabinet and fridge were full of more boxes and processed yogurts and cheeses than I care to admit. I started slowly, buying more organic fruits and vegetables (only the organic for ones that I eat the skin), organic whole grain breads and crackers, and I purchased a lot of all natural frozen meals like Amy's or Blake's for nights when I would get home late from work and the gym. A few years passed and I realized I had almost stopped cooking except when I invited friends over, the frozen meals became my go to because I just wanted to relax and watch tv- how classically American! This past year I slowly phased out the frozen meals and began prepping for a few hours on Sunday so that I would have fresh meals cooked and stored in the freezer at the ready. 
     Enter in Pinterest and a few great bloggers I follow. I've started making EVERYTHING I would normally buy.  Tonight I even made my own graham crackers! It's pretty awesome to be eating crackers and know that you made them, and even better that you know EXACTLY what's in them.  If I ever do buy something, my new rule is it has to have 5 ingredients or less. Well I won't ramble on any more, but I will try to post regularly, and hopefully you will enjoy reading and recreating the recipes I post in your own kitchen. Happy Humpday!

Homemade gluten-free graham cracker
PB Banana “ice-cream” sandwiches

More about why they're gluten free next time!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My go-to tools for surviving Post Surgery

My Top Picks - Tools for surviving Post Surgery

These are a few things I purchased before surgery that I feel I most definitely could not have lived without during my recovery:

I am sure most of you have a blender, but if you don’t I would recommend purchasing one. It doesn’t have to be a VitaMix, although that is my dream blender-even after surgery. Right now I have a regular Cuisinart model that works just fine! Although I recommend having a regular blender on hand, surprisingly I didn’t end up using the blender very much in the first few weeks post surgery; the one thing that really saved most meals was the immersion blender I purchased one through a Groupon deal I received. While they don’t make the particular model I currently own, this one is pretty similar and is close in price to the Groupon deal I got. 

If you are a Groupon or LivingSocial subscriber keep your eyes peeled for deals on them. I, well I should say my mom used this for every meal I ate with the exception of the first few days where I was on mainly clear broths. She made soup and pureed it with the immersion blender in the cup provided, or right in the pot. She made mac and cheese, added some chicken broth or milk, pureed it with the immersion blender, frozen fruit and milk same thing- it is awesome! I will make sure to post all of my go to recipes J.

Pureeing every meal can get tiring, I know from watching my mom go through it after every meal she prepared and washing all the parts for the next meal. Also it isn’t always an option when you’re on the go. So when we didn’t have time to make a homemade meal, Orgain was one of my go to’s. It’s portable, healthy, full of protein-which is an important part in healing, and pretty filling (especially the first week out of surgery, I could barely get through half of one). I purchased several twelve packs on a few weeks before my surgery, and they lasted me the whole six weeks. My favorite flavors were vanilla and chocolate, although I love coffee the Iced CafĂ© Mocha flavor would not be on my list. 

Aside from the nutritional components necessary to your recovery, something I found extremely helpful, and they might even give you in the hospital is a wrap that you insert icepacks in and tie around your head. No it’s definitely not a fashion statement, and you will not look runway ready, but luckily the icing is needed only the first week or so while you’re hidden behind the comforts of your own walls (it’s just the wheelchair ride out of the hospital and walk from the car when you get home that you get to sport this look in public). I was given a wrap in the hospital that I could insert my own ice packs in, but here is a similar one that would do the trick:

If you don’t’ purchase the above item and just use what the hospital gives you, it brings me to my next favorite item. . peas! No not frozen peas from the freezer, these are moldable, refreeze-able, gel ice packs that are amazing.
I don’t have to tell you after surgery you are really not going to want anyone or really anything touching your face. Hard ice from the freezer pushed against your chin/jaw will melt, and will not feel good. These ice packs are soft, mold right to the shape you need, and they’re great for any other injury you might have in the future. I got them at CVS for a pretty reasonable price. I purchased two but would recommend purchasing four so you can swap them out. Since my surgery, they've come out with a heatable and freezable option:

My last pick is to help you breathe at night while you sleep. If you had upper jaw surgery, they will most likely prescribe you with nasal decongestants and sprays, since you will not be allowed to blow your nose for a few weeks. This can be challenging especially if it’s winter, or the air in your room is really dry. I purchased this humidifier and aside from the soothing blue light to see by for nighttime medicine doses, the moist air truly helps.

I know this all might seem like a lot, and things can add up quickly, but if you purchase these items slowly throughout the time you learn you will be having the surgery it won’t seem so overwhelming.

Have any questions, comments, or suggestions? Let me know!