For a minute there, I lost myself.

11 Sep

I am 20 and I have to get to Art History class. I stop off at the gas station and am pumping my gas, WHFS blaring out the windows, when the lady in the car next to me jumps out of her car. She is clawing at her hair, running around the pumps, screaming, “they’re attacking us! THEY’RE ATTACKING US!” I immediately think that she’s a mental case and am afraid of what she’ll do if I try to calm her down.

It’s at that moment that the DJ cuts in, voice dripping with bewilderment, and states, very simpliy,

“A plane has just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.”

I don’t know what to do, because now the lady that’s screaming isn’t crazy, isn’t someone to be ignored, she’s sane, she’s real, she’s human and yes… yes they are attacking us, whoever “they” are. I finish pumping, I get in my car, still listening to details I can’t even remember about planes crashing, towers burning, people jumping. The only thing I can do is drive the 15 minutes to school, because what else can you do?

The instance that I pull into the parking lot, the DJ announces that a second plane has hit the South Tower. I sit in my car, stunned, momentarily catatonic, not knowing how to react, whether I should run home or go to class like usual. It feels like the whole world is still, quiet and at the same time vibrating with fear.

The DJ dedicates a song to whoever’s responsible. It’s Karma Police by Radiohead. This song will forever be tattooed on my mind, an indelible reminder when I wake up, because, in a sense, it is absolutely perfect. “This is what you’ll get when you mess with us.” It’s angry, vengeful, bewildered, all the of the real, honest feelings that flood human beings in the moments after you’ve processed the unthinkable.

I end up walking to the quad to try to find someone, anyone I know. I find some friends and we herd together in the cafeteria, crying, holding hands with strangers, hoping our prayers can somehow buoy tons of steel and keep towers afloat, holding back the inevitable. The air leaves the room like a kick to the gut as we watch the South Tower collapse, our eyes glued to the tiny, crappy TV that UMBC put in the cafeteria to amuse us while we crammed over late nights and steak and cheeses, now elevated to some holy relic we gather around like a herd.

Somewhere in this timeline another plane hits the Pentagon and I remember my brother-in-law is working there on a contract job and ice floods my veins. It stirs me away from my catatonic staring at the cafeteria tv and I stumble away, finding another friend to ramble to non-stop in a stream of consciousness as I try to call my sister. The phone lines are jammed, no matter how many times I press “send.” I pray, because I do pray to something, that he’s OK, that everyone’s OK even though I know they’re not, that somehow I’ll get through and I’ll at least have family to cling to. It feels like the Big Bang happened again and the world is spiraling out in a million directions, but I’m still stuck right where I am.

Some time passes, I don’t know how long. Why I don’t go home immediately makes no sense, but I walk around school, talking with anyone I can recognize, trying to weave together facts. While walking around I notice that a few students who look even vaguely Middle Eastern are wearing signs around their necks that say, “I’m a Sikh.” I can’t understand why anyone would need to do this, then I realize that they are doing what they can to tell everyone else, “I’m not a terrorist.” This goes on for days. In the first moments though, all I can do is be completely dumbfounded as it sinks in that people are HURTING people just because they look like the might be “terrorists.” And I don’t know what to say to the sign-wearers, because it’s so beyond wrong and because I don’t have the words to say, “I’m sorry,” because I have no words for this day beyond the brain-vomit I share with my friends.

I get back to Tim’s parent’s house at some point, where I’m living, and we glue ourselves to the TV. I get in touch with my sister and she’s freaking out, like she should be, because she can’t get in touch with her husband and doesn’t know if he died in the Pentagon or is stuck in D.C. somewhere. Another plane went down in Pennsylvania that day, full of people who fought back in a way I can never imagine having the strength to do and all I can do is watch the screen and pray to wake up and find out it’s all not real.

My brother in law gets home and, having secured my family circle, I feel somehow safer, but still confused, scared and bewildered. The days bleed together in my memory now, a steady stream of TV news reports, the same images over and over again of burning buildings, jumpers, people running the streets of NY and the glass walls of safety I always took for granted growing up as a U.S. citizen being forever shattered. I can also remember a million and one tiny kindnesses, strangers holding my hand in a cafeteria room and the ways in which I witnessed people helping their friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and anyone who needed it heal a bit more.

I write this, I post this, because every year I remember. And while wounds heal, the memory doesn’t.

“For a minute there, I lost myself.”

(Kind of) Grilled Berbere Chicken with Veggies

4 Aug

I do this thing where I try to make copycat recipes for food I eat out in the wild. Ethopian food is right up there among my Favorite Foods EVER because it meets my top three requirements: 1) It’s spicy, 2) it has a complex range of dishes that compliment each other and 3) you eat it with your hands. And on the very top of my list of Ethopian food yumminess is berbere paste, basically a magical mix of spices and flavors that makes any form of meat (or tofu…omg it’s good on tofu) taste amazeballs.

Let’s take a moment here to address the fact that I could, very easily, just buy berbere seasoning online. The Magic of the Internets means I can now get this beautiful mix anywhere and easily whomp up some for dinner. But this is me we’re talking about and I have the gumption of a wizened old pirate and the geek passion to recreate things like this without a recipe like Alton Brown on crack, so we know where this is going… I challeneged my brain to crack the code of berbere and won!

This is 100% for Jessy, who asked me for this months ago and I kept promising I’d write it down. She and Mario came over and were my taste testers for this experiment and assured me it was delicious (and they wouldn’t lie, I assure you). Well, finally, here it is (I swear it’s worth the wait).

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Beezers’ (Kind of) Grilled Berbere Chicken with Grilled Veggies

Serves: 2 people

Prep Time: 3 hours (2 hours to marinate, 1/2 hour-ish for making the mix and chopping veggies, 15-20min grilling)

Berbere Mix Ingredients:

  • 1 can tomato paste (yes, this is my weird addition. I like it)
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt (or 1 tablespoon salt)
  • 1/8 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Ras Al Hanout (yes, also weird and not traditional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (again…what I said above. Not traditional, just yummy)
  • 1 tablespoon Harissa (you can get this pre-made in a jar. Or omit it if you’re feeling like it’s all too much. I just throw this in for extra spice).

Veggie Coating:

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (to coat)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/8 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoon Herbamare (magic herb salt stuff… or just substitute for 1/2 tablespoon onion powder, 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder)

The Rest of the Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 lb Chicken Tenderloins
  • 1 vidalia onion (sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices)
  • 1 zucchini (sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inc slices)
  • 1 eggplant (yep… just like above. I suggest a mandoline, but you can do it by hand, too)

Directions:

Make the berbere paste by mixing all of the ingredients together until well blended. Pro Tip: I sometimes do 1.5 times the recipe so I can set some aside for putting on my fried egg in the morning. Sound weird? NOOOO! It’s goooood!

Let sit for 10-15 minutes while you trim excess fat and remove tendon from chicken tenderloins (yeah, I’m anal retentive like that). then take each tenderloin and smother it in berbere, tossing into a gallon ziploc bag until every one is done. Then throw it in the fridge and let sit for 2 hours (or more if you’d like).

Cut up the veggies and put in the fridge (without the coating) after you’re done with the chicken. Pre-cutting things is a great way to be super prepared so you don’t have to rush around like crazy when grilling the chicken. Mise en place, bitches.

Now, go do something else until about 1/2 hour before you want to eat dinner. Have fun!

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OK, is it almost dinner time? Good. Let’s do this thing.

Preheat your oven to warm/200 degrees. This is where the chicken will hang out while you’re making veggies.

Heat up your grill (I use a cast iron grill/griddle combo. If you don’t have one go buy one your life is meaningless without it) to medium and grill those chicken tenders for 5-7 minutes a side, depending on thickness. Go ahead and sacrifice the fattest one to the culinary gods and cut it in half to make sure it’s cooked. Uncooked chicken is a sin.

Meanwhile, take the zucchini and eggplant, thrown in a gallon bag and add olive oil and 2/3 of spices. Toss it up and set aside.

Once the chicken is done, remove and set on a plate in the warmed oven so it doesn’t get all cold.

Then take the onions and lightly coat with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them and add a shake or two of herbamare (or spice mix). Doing these separate helps to keep them from falling apart, which makes them annoying to grill. Leave on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side, then remove and set on a plate.

Now grill the rest of the eggplant and zucchini for 1-2 minutes a side or until properly charred to fit your desires.

Once you’re done you’re ready to eat. Take 2-3 tenders a piece, as many vegetables as you like and go to town. You can also eat this with a grain of choice, but since I’m Paleo-tastic I’m all like EFF A GRAIN. :)

Enjoy. Post below if you make it and let me know what you think!

Whole30, Wrap-Up: Staying the Course in Healthy Eating

1 May

I made a choice not to post every day about Whole30. Partially, I did this because I didn’t want to have to write a blog post every day (busted!) and partially because I want to take a break from the obsessive mindset that comes with sticking to a strict eating regimen. You know what I’m talking about… the anxiety that comes with having to plan out every meal, think through what you’re eating, read the labels, frantically search a menu at a restaurant for a dish or a way you can make your meal diet acceptable? Yeah, I didn’t want to write about that brain and you didn’t want to read it, trust me. So, to spare you all of that, here’s weeks 2-4 of my Whole30 challenge, summarized in a few quick sentences.

Week 2: You won’t miss things you used to love eating as much as you think. No, really. I thought I’d be dying for some cheese, a cupcake, ice cream or Doritos (dear sweet baby Jeebus I love Doritos), but you know what? It didn’t happen. I coasted through week two without any major food cravings or issues. The only real obstacle was continuing to find meals for the husband and I to share that didn’t take hours to prep. Here’s the takeaways:

  1. Pinterest is your friend. Go there often, search for “Whole30 dinners” or breakfast, lunch, snacks, you get the point.
  2. Read It Starts With Food while you’re on the journey. Pacing myself and reading the “Whole30 book” while on the challenge helped to remind me why the challenge was important and keep me on track. Even if I don’t agree with all of it, making sure I read a little each day was key to staying on-course.
  3. Buy Well Fed for a slew of delicious, healthy and easy-to-make recipes. Sure, the meatballs take a bit of prep on a Sunday but then you’ll have tons of them and will have at least 2-3 lunches or breakfasts covered for the week. Not to mention her “Perfect Chicken” really is damn near perfect.
  4. Get simple with your meals. My “typical lunch” shifted from a grand outing at a fast food or local restaurant to grass-fed/organic lunch meat, a half avocado, an apple, a handful of olives and water/kombucha (yeah, I like that weird stuff), or leftovers of last night’s dinner. When I forgot lunch because of crazy life-stuff, I ran out to my local organic marketing (yay MOM) and grabbed a few things.
  5. Have a support group. Join a Whole30 Facebook group, talk to friends or family, but find someone to vent to if you need it.
  6. Don’t get on the scale! Don’t weigh yourself. It’s not about that. Stop it!

Week 3: It’s your choice, it’s your experience. Don’t let shame ruin your game. Yes, OK, I admit…I cheated a few times. And not just because I ate things that I didn’t know had something off-limits in them (which I did a few times), but because I chose to.  The concept of cheating and the shame of not staying on-plan goes back to the whole psychological reasons for my doing the Whole30, so I made one big choice: I wouldn’t feel shame if I cheated and I wouldn’t beat myself up. This was a huge learning experience for me that came in the 3rd week. I had a couple of work events that involved taking people out to eat and I had the opportunity to eat things I loved, that were great quality food and made the choice to stray. And you know what? It didn’t ruin my Whole30 journey. I was fine. I didn’t feel guilt and, more importantly, really enjoyed myself. I also learned that a few of those foods I wanted weren’t as good as I thought in the end, which was also worth the lesson.

  1. Use the cheat-sheet decision chart to determine if you really should break from the Whole30. This was a great resource for my last few weeks.
  2. Don’t be freaked out when you stop needing snacks. I found this happened around week 3. I all of a sudden went from starving every 2 hours to be able to go 4-5 hours between meals. Awesome!
  3. Make sure you buy or make Ghee. That stuff is AWESOME.
  4. Modify The Average Betty’s Perfect Shrimp recipe by subbing aminos, ghee and making your own hot sauce (or just using sriracha). It takes 15 min to make and was a great go-to for nights we were tired or too stressed to make a big meal.
  5. Drink tea, water and more water.
  6. Turn into an Old Lady/Old Man and get enough sleep. I made this a priority in Week 3 and it made all the difference.

Week 4: Just because you can see the finish line doesn’t mean you’re finished. The last week was the hardest for me, because I’m an inpatient gal at heart. I wanted it to be over so bad, to see what my physical benefits were and pat myself on the back. That made my brain allow for me to open up to splurge items (wine) and derail myself a little bit. I picked myself back up and was fine, but I had to check back in with myself to reiterate that the final week is still a week where you’re not allowed to slack.

  1. Stay on-course and don’t plan for “the day after Whole30” before it’s here. Planning how you’re going to totally splurge makes living that last week hard.
  2. Be proud that you’ve made it to week 4. This is no joke!
  3. Don’t let yourself slip on the “little things” like getting enough sleep, water, etc.
  4. Try not to be a jerk to your significant other when they start planning to eat “bad things” again.
  5. Enjoy this last week and mindfully look back on what you’ve done. It’s awesome.

And now, that brings me to today, the day after Whole30. Here’s the final “bullet points” on where I stand, my results, and my plans going forward: My Whole30 Results:

  1. I broke some negative habits, like needing to have dessert every night and comforting myself with food.
  2. I learned that I can trust myself to self-regulate.
  3. I learned that no one can make me eat something I don’t want to.
  4. I learned that people can be oddly defensive about their food choices when talking to me about the Whole30. Forgive them.
  5. I learned that I can survive without eating out with people and still have a social life.
  6. I learned to be a total jerkface and make restaurants sub healthier stuff when I’m out. Because you know what? I’m paying for it.
  7. I sleep better and feel less stressed, even though my job has gotten busier and life has gotten busier.
  8. I lost 12 lbs. 

My plans for going forward:

  1. I will add back in dairy (cream in my coffee), legumes once in a while, and cheese once in a while.
  2. I will still shun grains, breads and manufactured carbs (except the occasional Doritos…maybe).
  3. The only sugars allowed will be 1x/day on the weekends, if that. Cutting out sugars has been epic in my life. And even then, I’ll go for honey and agave, because even thought Whole30 says it’s all the same, I don’t agree.
  4. I will make it to the gym 3x/week. This is a new goal for this month.
  5. I will do the Whole30 again, 1 or 2x/year, to help reset myself.

And that’s it. It’s over. First Whole30 down. Yay!

Whole30,Days 4-6: Preparation is Key

7 Apr

Swanson TV Dinner ad Bayswater97 FlickrIf there’s one lesson I’m really getting in the last few days, it’s that preparation is the main way to ensure you eat healthy. This isn’t just true for the Whole30 Challenge, but across-the-board in life. Whether you think paleo eating is awesome or crazy, whether you embrace carbs or hate them, be you vegan, vegetarian, carnivorous or something-in-between, there’s a real correlation between being prepared and having a plan about what you’re eating and avoiding unhealthy habits and foods (or non-foods, as it were).

No, I didn’t slip. I’m very proud to say that I’m still without a black spot on my Whole30 Challenge as of this date and I intend to be the whole time through. But I have had some harrowing moments and have subject the Awesomest Husband Ever to some stressful situations from underestimating how much you have to plan, prepare and devote time to being healthy.

That last part has been a huge eye-opener for the hubby and I. It takes so much more time and planning to eat well. No, seriously. You have to do things like creating a healthy meal list for the week, planning out all snacks, lunches (even if it’s leftovers), sides and treats. And then, when it’s time to cook, there’s no such thing as a “10 minute meal,” unless you already spent a few hours on the weekend to prep everything in advance. Once you eschew the pre-packaged, manufactured foods, you find that actually creating meals takes time. And when you have a young kid and both parents work like crazy, like the hubby and I do, well… that’s rough.

Which leads me to my first Soapbox Moment… one of the first “eye-openers” I’ve had is how we (aka the societal we) are setup to eat crappy, poor-quality, cheap and manufactured food versus whole foods. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to get on a Major Judge-y Moment or anything here. I love Doritos and will not ever give them up (you hear me, Paleos!!1S::D@!!), although I may indulge much more infrequently now. But seriously… we live in a society where a majority of us are so busy, stressed and running around like crazy that finding time to actually cook our meals in a healthy way is rough business. So how do big food manufacturers respond? With marketing that constantly says, “you’re too busy to put a home-cooked meal like momma used to make. Here, don’t worry, grab a box of Hamburger Helper.” In the past few days, I’ve started really paying attention to commercials, to what’s being sold to me. And they’ve honestly got me pegged. Food companies show me a mirror of my life: busy mom, constantly running around once she gets in the door, busy husband also constantly running around, kids running around, busy busy busy and no time to do all the “homemaker-y things” that my mother did. Then, comes the sell: why be stressed about your food? Life is hard enough, you hard-working mom. Your food should be easy for you, should make your life less stressful and yes, come in one easy package with everything in it so you can just heat and eat. Because who has time, really?

And yes, it’s not incorrect, we are all busy.  But the other side of this bargain is that now, when I’m more educated about my food, I’m starting to read labels, take to Google for the ingredients I don’t know, and am looking at my own body and health issues and realizing what’s really behind the bargain: you can save time, sure… all you have to do is sacrifice your own health eating crappy, cheaply-made, non-nutritive food that’s full of salt, sugar and well…crap.  Really though, that’s the gist of it. You can’t have that easy, breezy, 10 minute meal without paying the toll.

Let me back up and say I’m not saying big food companies are to blame. My mom and I had a really great talk today and she said something that resonated with me: “we ASKED for it, Brookie.” While I can sit here in my Born-In-The-80s snobbery, my mother’s picture of how we all started eating quick, cheap, crappy food is very different from mine. From her perspective, there came a time when everyone wanted to start doing more, when life became faster and boundaries were stretched. Women wanted out of the house and into the workforce, our societies moved from more insular ones to ones with limitless boundaries, connections and interactions. We wanted food that satisfied our fast-paced nature, that allowed us to be as mobile and rushed as we wanted to be. TV dinners were born and fast food was created. We started going out to eat and wanting canned foods, soups, quick meals and snacks. It was interesting to hear her take on it, not blaming the food industry (as a lot of the books I read do), but showing how a symbiotic relationship was created, how we got ourselves here.

Phew, ok. I know, a lot of tirade there, but it’s been a very interesting couple of days for me. I still can’t say who’s to blame. I think when I first started this weird journey and got my angry moments (like finding out mayo has sugar in it…WHYYYYYYYYYY???) I was quick to blame “big food” for it all, but maybe Mom is right. Maybe it is that our society changed, we changed and then big food stepped up to meet us. While it makes sense to me, there’s one thing that’s clear- my own attachment, reliance and yes, addiction at times to cheap, crappy food is no bueno.

No matter who’s fault it is, here we are and I for one have to do something about my part in it. I have to save myself, as it were, and my own health. Does this mean I’ll never eat another manufactured food again, hell-naw. No, I don’t agree with that, nor do I think that would make me truly healthy. But my blinders have been peeled back a bit by the Whole30 experience and for that I’m truly thankful, even if it is a few days in. I am working to break myself from the binds of buying into the whole “I’m too busy to eat well” thing and the “I’m too busy to exercise” thing, too. Just because lots of marketing is out there to make me believe it so I buy diet products and cheap, bad food doesn’t mean I have to do it anymore.

So, what does that tirade have to do with preparation? Well, because prep takes time. It takes time to plan out meals. It takes time to read labels at the grocery store for hidden stuff. It takes time to chop up veggies, to peel fruits, to get yoru mis en place handled so you can cook up food. It takes time to roast and pick a chicken, to make stock (thank goodness my hubby is the best cook ever and loves to make stock), to prep a steak and marinate a protein. It takes time to dehydrate kale chips and apple chips and other healthy snacks. It even takes time to prep some hot tea instead of cracking open a soda.

And I used to use that “time” principal as an excuse to why I couldn’t eat healthier, but then I discovered something else this past week… I do have time. I have time where I didn’t know it existed. When I got off the couch, stopped vegging out and stopped pigging out so much, I had a lot more time to do the prep I needed to eat better.

Case in point, my mornings. I used to think I didn’t have time to eat well and pack a good lunch so I’d Lean Cuisine it. Then, when I started Whole30, I got up at my normal time and said, “where can I trim time?” I realized that I spend a solid hour each morning reading blogs, checking Facebook, etc. Well, that had to go and once it did, I ended up having…well you can guess it… the time to actually make breakfast and lunch for the day. Shocker.

Turns out I have time all over the place. I have time on top of time and even time to still get to sleep on time. I was just spending it in the wrong ways.

Does that mean I’m not busy? Nope. But when you stop being a slave to food (and in my case, my own depression at my lack of self control when it comes to food), you can get a lot done.

So much of whole eating is about preparation. It’s the antithesis of fast-food, it’s slow-food. And while finding that time has been the greatest struggle at times in the past week, it’s also been the easiest feat… and the most liberating.

Days 2-3: Where’s the Grumps, Whole30?

4 Apr

I have to admit, I’m waiting for the letdown. I’m reading on forums and in articles about how the second and third days of going on the Whole30 are the worst: sleepiness, crankiness, temptation, frustration. But to tell you the truth, I’m not there at all. I’ve actually been really enjoying all of the awesome foods I’ve been eating and haven’t hit the wall yet. I’ve heard it’s coming, and don’t get me wrong I’m definitely nervous. Since my reasons for doing this are more psychological than anything else, I guess you could say I’m waiting for my own mental backlash to giving up “comfort” foods. But for now, I’m feeling G-O-O-D good about myself in so many ways and you know what…I’m fine without the Grumps.

Points of Pride:

  1. I hosted two days of training on-site at my job for people around the country where we served pizza and subs for lunch. I was also surrounded by cookies, sodas, potato chips (even Doritos… my downfall) and I didn’t touch a single one. I ate my own lunches and avoided that stuff LIKE A BOSS.
  2. My husband and I kicked out some amazing food (recipe links below) that made enough for lunches each day. I was actually shocked, since a lot of paleo meals are not…well…fantastic.
  3. I’ve been getting great sleep. No, really. Way better than I normally do. Maybe this is just my memory-foam Mattress o’Awesome, but I think it may be due to me cutting out my nightly sugar snacks and wine.
  4. I’ve actually enjoyed my “funny lunches,” AKA my term for the bizarre paleo picnic I bring to work most days: some form of leftovers, part of an avocado with lemon/salt/pepper, slaw and olives.
  5. I’ve been drinking water like crazy. I don’t really mind water, but it’s not usually my first choice. But it’s been good and I haven’t had a terrible soda craving, yet…
  6. Finally…I have been around Eostre candy and I haven’t even caved once. Boo-yah!

I’m coming to the end of my work week, though, and will have to take on my first weekend. I’m a bit nervous since I’ll have to hang around my hubby and daughter, who are both not doing Whole30 (she’s 4, so…). While both of them (or at least the hubs) aren’t trying to throw me off-course, they still snack on stuff, eat naughty things and drink beers around me (the husband folks, the husband!) and it’ll be a test of my resolve for sure.

But I got this. I really got this. Right?

Recipe Hit-List

  • Chocolate Chili by The Clothes Make the Girl. Seriously, I could hug her. Get her recipe book, NOW.
  • Asian Mango Slaw by Kelly. Make tons of this. Eat it ALL THE TIME.
  • Moroccan Meatballs. These take FOREVER but are so worth it. Make on a Sunday (not a Monday like we did).
  • Asian Flank Steak. OK, I made this recipe up. Here’s the recipe (works best if you do this in the AM before you leave for work):
  1. Get a flank steak about 1 inch thick (thicker steaks are ok, but they cook longer).
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together: 2 tbsp coconut aminos, 1 tbsp cashew butter, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp ghee (not melted), 1 tsp onion powder, 1 dash sea salt, 1 dash ground pepper. Mash it all together until it forms a paste, then rub that steak down!
  3. Put the steak in a tupperware container and marinate while you’re at work.
  4. Heat a grill pan to medium, then slap that steak on. Cook 3 min a side (more if it’s thicker), then let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
  5. Cut on the grain and enjoy the nomz.

Snack List:

  • Avocados, raw. Yeeeesss! Sliced in half with lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper, eaten with a spoon. 
  • BerrySnax: 4 strawberries, a handful of blueberries…basic and awesome. I’m adding in a handful of shaved coconut today to see how it goes.
  • Apples because they’re highly portable and awesome.
  • Olives because they’re salty and full of yum.
  • Pears pretty good, pretty good. I didn’t even remember I liked these.

And on to Day 4. Phew. Good luck out there.

Whole 30 Challenge: Day 1- Anticipation

1 Apr

Those of you that have been keeping up with me on Facebook know that I kicked off the Whole30 Challenge plan today. No fools, folks, for real. I’ve been an off-and-on-again paleo and decided it was time to embark on a stricter challenge to amend some bad behaviors. For those not in the know, the Whole 30 Challenge is basically a strict paleo eating plan whose main goals are resetting your body (esp. as far as hormones, blood sugar and inflammation are concerned), discovering and changing psychological patterns (this one is important, more below) and eating no man-made, processed “non-foods” of any kind. There’s more to it, and I fully suggest clicking on the link above and reading all the finer points if you’re interested in learning more, but in the essence of brevity I’ll leave it at that.

This is not a weight-loss regimen. It’s about revamping eating patterns and changing the quality of what I put in my body. One of the top rules of Whole 30 is no weigh-ins, we’re only allowed one at the start and one at the end. I’ve done my weigh in today and I’ll be back in 30 days, reporting any change. In the end, I’m not doing it for weight at all, although my weight is a physical manifestation of my food issues. The real reasons are a bit more involved.

Why Am I Doing It?

I decided to take the challenge in O’Hare Airport last Wednesday while on a one-day work trip. I’d gotten up super early, eaten whatever I could find while rushing between flights all day, had a pretty good lunch at the station I was visiting (I’m a social media manager for a bunch of news stations… read BUSY LIFE), then had a very lavish dinner with same station friends before hopping on my 7:50pm plane. This is pretty par-for-the-course since I took this job about a year ago, and while it sounds like Fancy Jetsetter Life, it’s been taking its toll on me. Namely, I’ve put on a few pounds, I’m feeling more stressed, I have tons of self-judgment about what I’m eating when I’m on the run and I just feel blah about myself in general. I was chatting with two of my friends on Facebook about being more serious about whole eating and proposed the wacky idea that the three of us try out the Whole 30 together, starting April 1. Since one of said compatriots was already on the Whole 30 with her hubby, she was an easy win. The other friend joined up as well, with a similar mix of anticipation, excitement and fear/loathing as I had. That’s how this whole thing got started in the concrete sense.

I want to take a moment here to say that I in no way am saying my ways of eating are better than anyone else’s choices. I’m not trying to go on a paleo tirade, or try to shame you or anyone else into going along with me. Your body is your temple and you feed it accordingly. That outta the way? Good.

Back to our regularly-scheduled program. OK, the main reason I’m doing it has very little to do with what kind of food I’m eating. It’s more about my psychological issues with food and needing to finally confront and change some bad habits.

Food: My Bad Romance

If I’m being honest here, it’s not as simple as my crazy work life that made me want to try this challenge. My issues with food go way back, all the way to when I was eight years old. That’s about the time that, thanks to a messy divorce and a lot of upheaval at home, I began eating as a means of psychological comfort. More specifically, I’d hunker down on the couch with a bunch of snacks and would proceed to watch TV while chowing down. It was a way of turning off my brain, turning off my emotions and letting food be my solace for emotions, ideas and realities I was too young to deal with. I began gaining weight and became a “chubby kid” at school, which led to ridicule, teasing and yes, more emotional issues. While I never let it get so full blown that I was horribly obese, I was definitely a chunker. And to make things worse, my family then began a non-stop torrent about how I needed to “eat better” and “exercise” so I didn’t “keep getting fat.” Rather than my parents looking at the situation and realizing that what I was doing was related to what I was enduring psychologically due to family upheaval, their approach was to tell me to not get fat. This started a spiral of shame, which led to more issues, which… you can guess where I’m going.

While I was lucky enough to grow really tall and therefore “even out” once I hit my teen years, the bad romance with food was still there, just under the surface. I became a vegetarian during high school, which I believe helped to give me a sort of control that kept some of my issues at bay, but I would still fall back on binge eating habits when times got rough. What was worse was that I started getting a lot of extra attention and praise at my newly “acceptable” body weight and model-esque height, which put pressure on me to keep it. Just like I felt my stacking on of weight was something I couldn’t control in my younger years, I also had no clue how I had all-of-a-sudden become “ideal” in my family’s eyes. I just woke up overnight and went from a body that was to be admonished to one that deserved praise, to no credit of my own.

So, the bad romance continued. When I went to college, I found myself stressed out, battling anxiety and full of the same fear about the future, desire to achieve and lack of clear direction that most of my friends experienced at that age. The difference was that now I was on my own, completely left to my own devices and without any of the negative body focus I was used to. I found that I easily fell back into my nightly “relaxation” routine, buying junk food and liters of Coke, cookies, sweets, etc. which I’d go nuts on when the going got rough. I gained my Freshman 30 and continued putting on weight as I spiraled further out of control. With each new gain of weight would come more self-loathing, more judgment, more upset at why I couldn’t just control myself and, of course… more need for food as a comforting mechanism. The cycle lived on.

Since that time, a lot has changed.  I’ve had a child, which was awesome. I’m married, love my career and eat really well, most of the time. But what hasn’t changed is my using food as a comfort mechanism and a reward. I’ve held on to those habits and continue to live out the cycle of: eat well during the day, eat well at dinner, then sit on the couch and eat a bunch until I’m ready to go to bed, then wallow in shame, sleep, wake up the next day. I can no longer blame my parents, my upbringing or any of those instances for what I’ve carried over into adulthood. I’ve run half-marathons, I’ve grown my career, I’ve completed yoga teacher training and have accomplished so much that I’m proud of that there’s no excuse to hold on to this bad romance with food. It doesn’t serve me, it hinders me.

So for that reason, I’m committing to Whole30. I’m doing it to amend my thinking, to finally confront my psychological eating issues and do something about them. By committing to break my habits and deal with them, I am going to utilize this month-long process to make healthier mental changes, especially when it comes to eating.

OK, that’s easy to say… but doing it is a whole other thing. So here’s how I plan to combat my psychological am

  1. I will not eat on the couch. I can drink water and tea, but no eating. No more associating eating with relaxation, TV time, etc.
  2. Instead of watching TV when I feel like I’m facing struggles sticking to the plan, I will: do yoga, clean something, practice dance, meditate, knit, read, go for a walk/run, or take a bath. These are my coping strategies for when the going gets rough.
  3. I will journal and document my experience here to express my feelings and discoveries.
  4. I will reach out and  talk openly with my family, friends and community about my struggles.
  5. I will not slip, not once. I can do this. Breaking patterns is hard, but I’ve got this.

And that handles the mind, for now…

I’m a Hyper-Hypo

The other reason is all physiological. Several years back, I dealt with a period of reactive hypoglycemia that was no fun at all. You can click on the link to read up on it in depth, but the long-story-short is that when I’d eat a meal with sugars or simple carbs in them, I’d fall into a mini-coma state and would black out while my body adjusted. This was caused by my already having low blood sugar, then having a hiccup in my body’s insulin processing wherein my pancreas would over-produce insulin and would spike so high that my brain would freak out and shut down my body. This was a pretty hard condition to live with and required some serious changes in my life. I had to give up all processed crap food, sugars and anything that would set me off. The good part? I lost tons of weight and felt better than I ever had. The bad part? I felt ostracized from society, with no opportunities to eat out or participate in “normal” food culture. There was also the “fun” reality that if I accidentally ate anything with sugars in it, I’d be down for the count. While it was happening, I prayed constantly for it to be over, for my body to reverse itself.

And when I got pregnant, that’s exactly what happened.

At first I thought it was great. I could eat sugar, YAY! I could eat out, DOUBLE YAY! I could finally eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without recourse. It was awesome because I was liberated, but terrible because it made all of those old habits come back… with a vengeance.

Which leads me to my physiological reason. I believe that my body was seriously trying to tell me something during my hypoglycemia days. I believe it was my system’s way of forcing me to cut out all the negative ways I was consuming food and bad, non-foods I was addicted to. Sure, it was a crazy, no-fun, absolutely bad way of getting the message across. And no, I don’t want to be back there, either. But I do think I was healthier and more in control, more aware of what I was eating then and that even though my body was sick and in a no-good place, the medicine (aka eating whole foods) I administered holds value for my system. While I don’t have as big of a reaction to sugars and processed food as I used to, I definitely feel worse when I eat them. Beyond the mental concerns (food shame, etc.), I physiologically feel worse when I eat these things. Likewise, I feel better when I eat mostly protein and veg, fresh, whole foods, no alcohol, no grains or pasta. I wholeheartedly believe that across-the-board dieting recommendations are crap. I believe our bodies are unique and respond to different foods and fuel differently. Well mine doesn’t like processed foods or sugars, it’s just that simple.

So that’s reason 2: to eat the way my body wants me to eat, not the way I feel I’m forced to eat.

How will I achieve this and still stay somewhat sane?

  1. I will plan out my meals, snacks and emergency snacks a week in advance.
  2. I will keep my fridge stocked with veggies, whole foods and healthy items that fit the rules.
  3. I will keep my car, office and travel bags stocked with healthy snacks to stay on-point.
  4. I will exercise regularly and will take time out to honor my physical self.
  5. I will commit to daily yoga and meditation practice to help me along my path.
  6. I will drink tea and water, both of which I’ll have on me at all times.
  7. I will not cave to peer pressure or eat bad foods because those around me are doing it.

My first thoughts are that the physical is going to be easier than the mental, but we’ll see. I’m glad I have a few friends going through this with me so I can complain to someone, beg for help and have a friendly ear when I need it. I’m already afraid that I’ll cave in to peer pressure at social gatherings, so I’m planning to avoid them and beat the urge, no matter what. If you see me this month, ask to look in my purse. I bet it’ll be a funny sight. Like Marry Poppins’ great paleo snack factory or something.

Day 1… here we go.

Beezers’ Super Fast Thai Chicken Soup

17 Feb

tomkaI have an obsession with Tom Kha Gai. It’s a creamy, citrus-y, spicy, astringent soup of awesome that warms me up on the coldest of winter days. It also has a ton of ingredients and is one of those soups that you have to really commit to in order to get it right. And sometimes, babies, you just don’t have the time to craft a soup as intricate, beautiful, developed and time-intensive as Tom Kha Gai. Sometimes you just need something warm, citrus-y, spicy, creamy and ultra tasty in your belly in under 15 minutes flat.

Enter my Thai Chicken Soup. This soup is not Tom Kha Gai, my friends. It’s not even gonna play around like it is Tom Kha Gai, it’s got too much self-respect for that. But what it is is a damn good substitute if you’re looking for similar flavor notes, richness and spice in a fraction of the time. It’s a soup born of desire for Tom Kha Gai, but no time to devote to it and the stubborn, impetuous nature I possess that says, “well.. if you can’t be with the soup you love, love the soup you’re with.” And just like fancy Tom Kha Gai I would drink this all day, every day in winter if I could. I’d bathe in it. I could get an IV with it. Seriously, just take my advice here, shut up and make this soup.

For more fun, turn this into a WOD and see how fast you can make it. You haven’t truly PRed until you’ve bested your TCS (Thai Chicken Soup) PR.

Chili Garlic Sriracha… so NOT Paleo but you know what… there are some things I refuse to give up, dammit

Serves 4, unless you’re mad hungry

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cup shredded cabbage (purple is prettiest, but whatever you can get)

1 can full-fat coconut milk

3 cups chicken stock

2-3 tbsp of sriracha garlic chili sauce (noooooom)

1 tbsp fish sauce (you can omit if you’d like)

1 tbsp soy sauce (or aminos)

1/4-1/2 pound shredded chicken (or shrimp or pork… or all three if you feel frisky)

Juice of 1 lime

Ground black pepper to taste

Sea salt to taste

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Let’s Make-A Da Soup!

In a large soup pot, turn the stove onto medium heat and drop the coconut oil in. Once the oil is heated, add the mushrooms and cabbage, cooking until the cabbage starts to become translucent and the mushrooms start to soften (but each should still be a teeensy bit raw). With the mushrooms still in the pan, throw in the coconut milk, chicken stock, chili sauce, aminos/soy, fish sauce and lime juice, stirring it all together.

Bring the soup to a simmer, then let it go for about five minutes to marry everything. Toss in the shredded chicken (or protein of choice) and let it go for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Divide into four bowls (or one GIANT crazy-ass bowl for you because you are a soup eating beast), top with fresh cilantro and you’re good to go.

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