Whole 30 Summer Edition

Whole 30 Summer Edition

After a super-successful Whole 30 in January of this year, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and do it again during the month of August.¬†Take a look at my 2015 health timeline and you’ll see why:

January– Felt great, lost 17 pounds. Not only that, but James and I began the practice of making Sunday our family day where we do fun things out of the house together. Whole 9 life style in full swing!

February, March and April– kept up the good work while allowing a few indulgences, and still lost another 10 pounds. Skipped a few of our Sunday outings, but on the whole these were good, healthy months.

May– took our mega trip to England and Wales. We had a blast! And we ignored all healthy eating habits and tried all the food. Because Europe.

tea
Afternoon Tea in Bath. OMG those scones.

June and July– Despite my best efforts, the sugar dragon is back!¬†Lots of parties and a few long weekend vacations did not help (even though they were super fun!). Sunday family day outings have¬†all but disappeared. Gained 10 pounds. Decide it’s time to take action.

What’s different this time:

It’s summer! That means we have way more access to in-season fruits and veggies than we did on our January Whole 30. We’re grilling almost every night, and we’re enjoying more sunshine and Vitamin D. We’ve resumed our Sunday family day outings, and we’ve gone ahead and scheduled them a month in advance. Being summer, this means we’ll be doing things like fossil-hunting at Calvert Cliffs, visiting the zoo, and watching our beloved O’s at Camden Yards. And we’re eating crabs. Because Maryland. (Honestly, if crabs weren’t Whole 30, I don’t think I could do this during the summer). In fact, we celebrated the start of our adoption process and the start of our Whole 30 with crabs.

crabs

Based on my 3 months of good eating after the January Whole 30, I’m expecting August to carry me into the holidays, and I’ll probably need another Whole 30 in January 2016. I don’t have any idea if I’ll lose any weight this time, but I’m really hoping to at least make a dent in those 10 pounds I gained this summer. And I’m hoping the energy I get from this food will help me to get the house in order for our home study. Maybe the positive attitude this lifestyle brings will give me the boost I need to get my career in order too. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.

Here’s to Round 2!

Radiating Fruitfulness: Hospitality

Radiating Fruitfulness: Hospitality

In this series, we’ve been exploring what it means when the Catechism states that all marriages can “radiate a fruitfulness of charity, hospitality, and sacrifice.” If you missed the beginning, check out part 1, Radiating Charity.

I have to admit, writing part 2 has been a real challenge. What exactly is “fruitfulness of¬†hospitality”? Honestly, I had to do¬†a lot of background reading and thinking to even have an outline for this post. I’ve wondered about this question for an entire decade.¬†Why did I expect to have this figured out in a week?¬†Am I¬†in over my head? Oh but I have to write this. Ok. Here we go:

 

Part 2: Radiating Hospitality

What does hospitality mean, anyways? Let’s start with the Google definition.

hos·pi·tal·i·ty
ňĆh√§sp…ôňątal…ôdńď/
noun
  1. the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

The Old Testament includes a number of stories that illustrate the sacred nature of hospitality. Angels disguised as house-guests are a recurring theme, and God continually rewards the generous heart.

These stories reflect a culture in which hospitality was held as a sacred virtue. We see this lived out in the life of Jesus. There are many stories of him visiting people and having dinner at their homes. We know he ate with¬†Levi, Zacchaeus, Peter’s in-laws, Mary and Martha, a Pharisee, and many others. Much of his teaching was delivered over a dinner table. His first miracle was supplying¬†wine to a wedding feast. Another miracle involved feeding¬†5,000 people. He made breakfast for his friends after his Resurrection. The night before he died was spent breaking bread with the apostles, giving his own flesh as bread for the life of the world, and commanding them to “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus invites us to his table, where he¬†gives himself to us in the form of bread.

At our wedding homily, the priest¬†talked about how heaven is described as a wedding feast. It’s everyone together, happy, celebrating and full of love. Only minutes old, our marriage was already fruitful in that it was bringing all those people there together. This continues, not only in the parties we host or the dinners we share, but in our desire to let our home be a safe harbor for others. I really do believe that “radiating a fruitfulness of hospitality” means that the love you share spreads¬†to create a welcoming environment for those around you. Just like the dinner scenes in the New Testament, your new family (even if it’s a family of two) can be a place where others can experience the warmth and healing comfort of God’s love.

When two people marry, their home becomes each other and the love that is shared between them. Marriage brings forth a new life, one that is designed to be open and welcoming. The grace of the sacrament fosters an environment for sharing, visiting, and loving one another. This is how marriage radiates a fruitfulness of hospitality.

RadiatingFruitfulness

Check out Part 3: Radiating Sacrifice

Previous: Part 1: Radiating Charity

Why I’m Doing the Whole 30

Why I’m Doing the Whole 30

As someone who has struggled with weight loss since elementary school,¬†food is such a sensitive issue. I hate counting calories. I hate exercising on machines. I’m sure I have real¬†psychological wounds from 20+ years of worrying about what I eat. That being said…

Last summer I tried eating Paleo for a while, and I loved it. Experimenting with new ingredients, making almond flour baked goods and trying new veggies was fun! I felt wonderful and full of energy. It was a lifestyle change that I could truly embrace. As a bonus, I lost 9 pounds in the first couple of weeks, and the weight stayed off- that is, until I came home from vacation and unintentionally went back to dairy and grains over the holidays (Oh, December, the best of times and the worst).

On January 1, James and I started the Whole 30. Basically, it’s a very strict Paleo program (no grains, no dairy, no legumes- AND no Paleo desserts) where you eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit, good quality proteins and no sugar for 30 days straight, no excuses.

Today is Day 16, and I feel great. The best part of this program has been that James is doing it with me. Having my husband by my side is HUGE! There is no way I could do this without him. He feels great too, and says he would like to continue eating this way, long-term. We love clean food!

The hardest part about this program has been the social engagements. Having to ask my mother-in-law and now my sister-in-law to please excuse us while we eat our own food we bring to their house is kind of uncomfortable. I feel rude and awkward and weird. This is the one part of this program I will not sustain after day 30. Starting in February, I will allow myself to be a nice house-guest again.

What do I plan to sustain after day 30? Everything else. Here’s how:

1. I WILL REMEMBER how much energy I have when I eat Paleo.

2. I WILL REMEMBER how rewarding it feels to know you are making healthy choices.

3. I WILL REMEMBER that a “healthy” American diet doesn’t work for me, and that the sugars in dairy and whole grain foods make me crave more food and make my body feel weighed down.

4. I WILL REMEMBER that even if I do not lose weight, the “happy healthy energy” feeling of Paleo/Whole30 is a reward in itself, and that my body deserves to feel this way. And my soul¬†deserves to know that I am eating as healthily as possible.

And finally,

5. I WILL REMEMBER that if I lose my way, there will always be the Whole 30 to get me back on track.

 

 

Hope and Lemonade. Or Limoncello.

Hope and Lemonade. Or Limoncello.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

One of the greatest consolations in the world is getting a glimpse of God making lemonade out of your lemons (or limoncello, paisan).

I finally know¬†why I have MRKH/infertility. It’s because of the Fall of Man and the general evil and sin existing in the world from the beginning. That’s it. That’s all. That’s why.

What has recently become therapeutic for me is exploring the what now.

I’ve been dealt a lemon, thanks to the existing evil in the natural world. How am I going to give this lemon to God and let Him create something beautiful with it?

I’m coming to believe that this is what “hope” means for those dealing with suffering or grief. We get so hung up on “hope” meaning waiting for a baby, a miraculous cure, or whatever kind of candy we can get from the miracle store. But that’s not how it works. Hope means believing that there will be something beautiful to come. God¬†will turn our lemons to lemonade, and our limes into Key Lime Pie. If we place our hope in Him, God¬†will make sure that our suffering is used to create¬†a greater good.

The best part is when you being to sense the wonderful things coming from His kitchen.

How I’m Getting My Life on Track

I am a list-writing fanatic. A compulsive lister.¬†Whenever I feel stressed out, I find myself frantically making lists. To-do lists, goal lists, lists of things that make me happy, lists of things not to eat, lists of future lists to make… it goes on. Last night, I finally figured out why.

Last night, my mom and I dinner with our cousin, who happens to be a health coach. We’re going to start a 6-month program to get ourselves healthy. The great thing about this program is that it’s not just about dieting. It’s about taking your whole life into perspective and realizing what you need to do to be healthy mentally and physically.

During this meeting, I figured out why I gained 15 pounds in the last year. Prior to Nov 2010, I was a freelance SEO writer, I worked out daily (often at the local park) and I cooked a LOT¬†(usually healthy food) to relieve stress. Now, I have a sedentary¬†job that¬†I don’t love, I don’t have a home to go back to, and¬†if I want privacy with James or with my mother I have to go out to dinner. I no longer have a private kitchen to cook in so now¬†when I get stressed, I give into cravings. WOW. What a life style change! With¬†all the stress making me feel¬†hopeless, making lists is my frantic grasp at taking control. I try to organize my life on paper since it’s so disorganized in reality.

So what now?

I’m really excited to have a health coach for 6 months. I’m looking at¬†this as having¬†someone to help me stay on track with exercising,¬†choosing healthy stress-relief¬†outlets, and learn some new, better ways of eating.

The minute I got home, I made a list (no surprise)¬†of healthy stress-relievers: exercise, prayer, writing, blogging, organizing my room,¬†and making lists. I’m so excited to start this new¬†program. 6 months from now, I’ll be interested to see the final results!

Christmas and the promise of a new life

Another Christmas Eve is here, and all I can think about it how different it’s going to be this year. I’m in a new place in life: James and I are engaged, he’s finally done with college, and I was fortunate enough to have a steady job all year. Sure there were plenty of problems this year, but all of that is ok for now, because James and I have each other and the promise of a¬†new life together starting sometime soon.

This year, for the first time in 5-6 years, I’m not cooking. I was really bummed at first, since I love cooking our major Italian feast we do every year. Today, though, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about 15 eggs worth of fresh pasta and can just go to James’s parents’ house and relax this evening.

Why is it that life is nothing but one change after another, yet humans still can’t get used to it? Something about the holidays always highlights this feeling. People always long for those golden years, whenever they were, when Christmas was perfect and the same every year. Christmas is way different for me this year, but it’s going to be ok. Despite everything else, one wonderful change is that we’re engaged. Even¬†though we don’t have a date, we’re getting married soon. I think at Christmas, like every other time of year, we just have to have faith that everything is going to work out for the best. Maybe that is what Christmas means anyways. The day Jesus was born was not the day that he saved us, but it WAS the day that we receive the promise of hope, that God has a plan, and that all things will work out for good in the end.

Merry Christmas!

Awesome Easy Portobello Panini

I was in the mood for a Portobello burger today around lunch time, so I came up with this amazing sandwich. It feels like you’re eating a ton of food because the mushroom is so big, but at the same time, it’s all veggies so it’s good for you and relatively low-cal depending on how you do it. Here’s what I used:

1 Portobello mushroom cap

1/2 small avocado, sliced

2 slices honey wheat bread

1 slice tomato

a little lettuce

salt/pepper

And for the chipotle mayo:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce

about 1/4 cup mayo

Here’s what you do:

1. Drizzle a little oil (i¬†prefer olive oil) in a grill pan on the stove, and turn it up to medium high heat. While that’s heating up, make the chipotle¬†mayo. Basically, slice open the chipotle¬†pepper, scrape out the seeds (this cuts down on some of the heat) and chop the pepper into tiny little pieces. Then add your chopped pepper to the mayo, and there you go, chipotle mayo (and enough for tomorrow, too). You can play around with the pepper to mayo ratio to suit your taste.

2. Grill the mushroom. You can scrape the gills out first, but it doesn’t matter too much. It also doesn’t matter which side you place on the grill pan first: I’ve tried it both ways. It needs to cook about 3-5 minutes each side.

3. While that’s happening, spread margarine (or butter) on one side of each slice. Place the slices butter-side down in the grill pan. They’ll get really soft right away. After about a minute, when the cooking side is getting nice grill marks, flip the bread to toast the un-buttered side. This will just make the bread a little stiffer and stronger so it can hold the sandwich. This only takes about a minute so be careful not to burn it.

4. One the mushroom is just about done, place a piece of cheese on it while it’s on the grill pan so¬†the cheese¬†has time to melt.

5. Build¬†your sandwich. Spread chipotle¬†mayo on the bread. The stack the mushroom, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato slices, a little pepper and salt, then the second slice of bread. Cut it in half so you can admire the amazing looking cross-section and Bon Appetit ūüôā

American Cooks may be the Ones to Beat, Finally.

Tonight I just made Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce. It was delicious. A pound of penne and a pound of shrimp–what could be better? The sauce involved cream, white wine, clam juice, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley. My family fell in love with it too. “Dinner was Dynamite,” I believe is what my father said. “Connie Ann, anytime you want to cook, it will be fully funded” – my mom’s words.

I saw the picture on foodnetwork.com and decided to make it. I’ve been wanting to do something special with penne lately, and in today’s 100 degree heat, seafood sounded fantastic. So, off I went to Harris Teeter. I love H.T., really. I fell in love the moment I stepped in the door. The selection there is amazing.¬†It’s catnip¬†for foodies like myself.

I was thinking today, and really it’s true that the Food Network has really done an amazing job of elevating the quality of food in American home kitchens today. While it might have been Julia Child who started the movement, the Food Network has become the primary¬†light-bearer in a dark world of boring processed food. The real¬†exciting part is this: ¬†

The Food Network is creating a definable American cuisine.

Not that we didn’t have American cuisine before the Food Network, but it was hard to define (or else the box was too small?).¬†Yes, there was apple pie and regionally-influenced hot dogs, but (while those are still delicious) that was the America of the past. Today’s American food is the fulfillment of the “melting pot” metaphor. The Food Network has created awareness among every-day cooks about ingredients and dishes from across the country. Thanks to new ingredients,¬†whimsical combinations, and good ol’ American ingenuity, modern American cuisine is the world’s most exciting culinary frontier (however unexpected and unorthodox that statement might be).

So to all you American cooks out there, in the words of Jaques, ” ‘Appy Cooking!” and may the force be with you.

Following Jaques…

I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. When I was supposed to be working on a writing assignment, I ended up making salad dressing instead. Strange, I know, but it was really fun.

Inspired by my new idol, Jaques Pepin, I pulled out all my spices and base ingredients and began work on creating 3 salad dressings: Creamy Southwestern, Honey-Dijon, and Honey Sesame Vinegarette.

For the Creamy Southwestern, I had vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro,¬†onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little¬†sugar. I can’t tell you the exact measurements because I kept adding a little of this and little of that until it tasted PERFECT.

My Honey-Dijon began with olive oil, vegetable oil, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Then I added a big squirt of dijon mustard, some honey, black pepper, and (here’s the most important part) Oregano and Garlic. At the end I added a little more oil and sugar to cut down on the bite of the mustard, and then at the very end, a tiny tiny bit of mayo for texture. It was perfect.

Honey Sesame Vinegarette was the easiest – Vegetable oil base, tiny bit of sesame oil (a little goes a LONG way), a small amount of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of honey, black pepper,¬†and a bit of hoisin sauce and sugar. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but i would have added them as well, mostly for cosmetic reasons. Anyways it tasted perfect.

Salad dressing took up my morning, so I didn’t really get any work done.¬†Hours later, I’m¬†just now¬†settling down by my computer with beautiful looking cup of coffee. Being a rainy day, I decided to get fancy¬†with my drink, just to have a little fun.¬†I actually used white chocolate mocha flavored creamer and a squirt of chocolate syrup, and topped the whole thing off with whipped cream and red sprinkles – smells like Christmas.¬†Sometimes a girl’s gotta do little things like this.