Black Currant Dijon Brussels Sprouts

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It took a while for me to come around to the joys of brussels sprouts. Once I started experimenting, though, a whole new veggie world opened up to me.

A few months ago, I received a jar of fancy stone ground Dijon mustard infused with black currants. I opened it up, took a sniff and immediately started dreaming up a new brussels sprout recipe.  I tried it out, tweaked it, changed my method a few times, deconstructed it,  and recreated it without the fancy mustard.

Heres the final product  hope you love it as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp stone ground Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp all-natural fruit preserves
  • salt and pepper

 

Directions

  1. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, and toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  2. Place flat side down on an olive oil greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
  3. Remove from oven, put into a bowl and mix with pine nuts, mustard and fruit preserves. mix thoroughly.
  4. Return sprouts to baking sheet, sprinkle with a small dark of salt, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and eat immediately.

What’s your favorite way to eat these great veggies?

 

 

Hi Honey! Chocolates

HiHoneySeaSaltChocolate

I’m going to level with you.  I really hate the Hallmark bullsh*t.  I hate that Valentine’s Day is about buying and spending and doing crazy commercially driven activities, like fancy dinners and extravagant gifts and weekend spa packages with rose petal facials. (Okay, maybe I don’t hate the spa thing).  But I do resist the traditional consumerism of Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like planning and doing special things and I look for every opportunity to celebrate.  You found a pair of jeans you like?  We’re throwing a party.  You ruptured your appendix?  I’m bringing soup and balloons to the hospital with a handful of confetti and a jar to bring that bad boy home in.  Your poetry was published in an obscure magazine in Newfoundland? We are popping corks and eating brie ALL NIGHT LONG.

But I don’t feel loved or celebrated when my husband gives me a dozen, over-priced roses or some expensive chocolates in heart-shaped box.  I feel…icky.  I feel like I’m a part of the machine.  And now that I’m a parent, I want this to be a family and fun-centered day, without the Hallmark trappings.  So, my husband and I are committed to thinking outside of the heart-shaped candy box and creating traditions without unrealistic expectations of what this one day should be.

When we were engaged, L and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition.  We lit candles, and poured cheap wine in regular kitchen glasses. We set up a fondue picnic in the living room, complete with hot cheese, toasted bread, veggies, fruit, melted chocolate and cubes of cake to dip it in.  We set a $15 price limit and gave each other gifts from our hearts.  We’ve carried that tradition throughout the last decade and it’s one of my all-time favorite things we do together.  Some of our best conversations happen over that fondue pot, and we end up giggling like teenagers and eating way too much.  It’s the happiest kind of celebration.

Tomorrow, we will start the day with heart-shaped pancakes, make cards with our son, E, and deliver these homemade chocolates to our friends.  Then we will share wine and fondue with our friends in the evening, welcoming them into our tradition because the whole point of Valentine’s Day is to share the love.  Okay.  And maybe make the love, too.  But just the two of us.  No one else is invited.

Um, now it’s awkward.

Here’s a recipe for chocolate. Because chocolate.

Hi Honey! Chocolates

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup raw, organic coconut oil (I like Nutiva brand because I can buy it at Costco.)
  • 1/2 cup high quality cocoa powder (My favorite is Rapunzel cocoa.)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (scant)

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt coconut oil.
  2. Remove from burner whisk in honey, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.
  3. Pour mixture into silicone molds, or a parchment-lined pan if you’re making bark.
  4. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt, and refrigerate until hardened.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to consume.  These chocolates melt at room temp!

For Maple Bacon Honey Chocolates: Follow directions above, but substitute honey for Grade B Maple Syrup, and add 1 Tbsp cooked, chopped bacon.

These were made in a bacon shaped silicone mold.  Unfortunately, they don't look like bacon.
These were made in a bacon shaped silicone mold. Unfortunately, they don’t look like bacon.

For Curry Honey Chocolates: Follow directions above and add 1 tsp of curry powder and a pinch of salt.

These definitely look like hearts.
These definitely look like hearts.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Thinking Outside of the Heart-Shaped Box,

Carrie

Doing TED: Why I Hate Gluten-Free Anything

GlutenFreeChampagneLady

Do you ever just want to punch people when they say they’re gluten-free?

Yeah, me, too.

Turns out, I’m wanting to punch the chick in the mirror because, while I’m thoroughly annoyed with myself about not eating gluten, the simple fact of the matter is, I’m a better person without out it. But I will make no bones about the fact that I would much rather eat wheat than not. So here it is, Internets:

I miss gluten.

I miss croissants.  I miss cake. (Especially on my birthday…which is today.)  I miss crusty artisan bread and fluffy, buttery biscuits.  I miss gluten-laden foods and get irrationally angsty about my inability to eat waffles with my friends at brunch or a even a bite of birthday pie at a party.  I want to shout it from the rooftops.  I MISS YOU, GORGEOUS GLUTEN!

I’m on a Total Elimination Diet (TED), which should also be called Eating in Purgatory because it is one step away from hell.  Okay. Maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but gluten hasn’t passed these lips in almost a year and I’m sad.  Gluten-sad. Which is the saddest food-sad of all.

I’m not doing TED for my own benefit, even though I’m a LOT nicer in a general sense when I abstain from glutenous goodness.  I’m doing this for my son who has a severe reaction to gluten in my breast milk.  And oats.  And chicken eggs.  And peanuts.  And….the list goes on.  It’s okay.  I won’t bore you with it.  But suffice it to say, I’m really anticipating digging into a plate of Eggs Benedict and a jar of Justin’s peanut butter with a spoon for dessert when my son is fully weaned.  Which will be sometime before college, or so I’m told.

As people stuck in Purgatory are prone to do, I’ve bargained.  I’ve tasted and tried and pushed the limits.  I’ve regretted the very few times I’ve strayed, mostly because it sets my son back in his health journey.  And if I’m being transparent here, gluten kind of makes me testy.  I get irritable.  Irritable isn’t the right word.  Horrendously Bitchy is a better description. Approximately 30 minutes after I consume gluten, I start to feel weepy and angry and crazy.  My head might actually start to spin. Gluten and I don’t really get along, and before I know it, I’m not getting along with anyone else, either.  My husband (who is also sensitive to gluten) and I start to pick and snip and snap at each other, and then we both need a nap to recover from the gluten indulgence. Except we are too busy to nap, so then we just melt down. Crazy, right? Turns out, TED is good for everyone in my family at the moment. Dammit.

So, as long as I’m doing TED (that phrase makes me giggle every time because I’m really 14), I’m committed to making food that makes me nice-ish, and making it well. Because if I’m going to get in the kitchen and go through all the effort to prep, cook, eat, and (eventually) clean up, then it’s gotta be a total food win.  I need to feel like I’m not damned to food purgatory.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that TED has inspired me to make.  And thanks, TED.  My baby, my husband, and my soul are eternally grateful for lighting a fire and moving us one step closer to gluten-free heaven.

Sunbutter Brownies made with a few ingredients and easily adaptable for low-sugar diets. You can also use other kinds of nut or seed butters if you’re feeling adventurous.

Who needs fried chicken when you have crispy skin and robust flavor?  This is my all-time favorite chicken recipe, and it’s so simple.

I have a secret love affair with cereal, but I can’t find any that agree with TED.  So, I came up with this grain-free granola recipe and I like it way better than real cereal.

BREAD.  I don’t think I need to sell you on this one.

And Hummingbird Cake for my birthday.  Because every birthday needs cake.

Finally, when I’m feeling fancy and energetic (which happens about once a year on the same day) I go for this Brown Butter Crumble recipe.  Because butter.

What are your favorite gluten-free recipes?
Yours in Gluten-Free Purgatory,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

Measuring Worth: Why Weight Doesn’t {Really} Matter

Weight GraphicSo, I have a confession to make.

I’m overweight.

Pretty mind-blowing, right?

I have another confession to make.

I’m overweight and health is my passion.

Okay. I’m sorry. I know I just blew you out of the stratosphere with that second confession. But since we are all gathered around this table, unpacking our stuff and laying it all out for each other to see, I’ll let you in on my journey. I’m passionate about helping people restore their health, vitality and well-being, and…

I’m not a perfect picture of health.

Several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. Like, I could have been on the cover of People Magazine’s “How They Lost XX LBS!” issue. Something powerful shifted for me when I turned 30. I decided to stop caring about my weight as a means to measure my success, beauty and worth as a woman. I gave myself permission to care for my body, and to care for the woman inside that body first. Those were the first steps to decoding the destructive message I had been telling myself for three decades, and more importantly, to accepting my worth without attaching my weight to it. I had viewed my body as The Enemy, and the scale just let me know how badly I was losing The War.

I was ready to stop waging The War and start nurturing myself.

The nurturing began with saying nice things. Out loud. To my own face. Things like:

  • “You have a warm heart.”
  • “You have a wicked sense of humor.”
  • “Your blood pressure is PERFECT.”
  • “Those upper arms are pretty tight.”
  • “Nice boobs.”

I focused on the things I liked about myself already. I even borrowed a couple of attributes my husband and best friend liked about me. And you know what happened? Nothing at first. They were just words. But then the words started to feel true and I gave myself permission to believe them.

Over the course of the next three years, I changed my eating habits dramatically, worked with a doctor to balance my hormones, (which has been my Achilles’ heel since I was first diagnosed with PCOS in my teens), and began learning the value of self-care. I did other things, like choosing to work somewhere for less pay but in an environment where I thrived and was treated with kindness and respect. We made a major move, even though that meant sleeping on a futon for four months in a couple of different guest rooms in order to save enough money to make it happen. I started taking classes to expand my knowledge of nutrition and health. One nurturing and kind act of self-care began a snowball effect in my life, and weight loss rolled up into it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had to be intentional and work hard to reduce my weight, but it felt like a natural step in a series of steps.

I was in the best health of my life when I got pregnant nearly three years ago for the first time. I gained 10 lbs immediately. Sadly, I lost the pregnancy very early on, but the weight stayed. Two months later, I got pregnant with E, and gained a about 25 lbs throughout the 9.5 months of incubation. I lost most of what I gained in the following nine months post-partum. I wanted to lose a little bit more to be in my comfort zone, and felt hopeful. I knew how to do this safely and my postpartum body was agreeing with me.

Then I started taking Domperidone for my milk supply and shot my hormones straight to hell. The weight stopped coming off and starting coming back on. It was disheartening. I take Domperidone to provide milk for my son, E, who has FPIES. My milk was the only safe thing he could eat for over a year, and I shouldered the tremendous burden of feeding him exclusively. Since it was quite literally a matter of survival for my son, I resigned myself to doing whatever it took to feed him now, and doing damage control later.

I’ve never been thin. I’ve been fit and healthy, but I have to do unnatural things to get below a size 8. And by unnatural, I mean I can’t eat dark chocolate and I rely on a diet of black coffee and salad (no dressing) and must work out 10 times a week. Soooo not worth it for me.  In fact, it is unhealthy for me. I’m okay with never being a size 6. In fact, a size 10 is where I feel the best about myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I feel strong, comfortable, and confident and I don’t have to do unnatural things to maintain it. I can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and eat the occasional bowl of (gluten-free) pasta. But I’m not a size 10 right now. I’m a size 16. As long as I’m on this medication, my hormones will continue to be profoundly affected and my waist will continue to expand. And guess what?

I’m still healthy.

Who gives exactly zero thought to what size pants I wear?
Who gives exactly zero thought to what size pants I wear? This guy.

I exercise. I eat whole foods. I limit sugar and processed junk. I get regular blood work done every six months, and check in more often than that with my doctor. I take gentle, kind, and loving care of myself.

I’m overweight and I can still be healthy and encourage other people to be healthy, too.

When E no longer needs my milk, (which I hope will be one day very soon for many reasons that aren’t weight related), I know what steps to take to help my body recover. It’s also likely that when I drop a few pants sizes, I’ll have some loose belly skin and stretch marks in weird places. I’ll feel more comfortable in some ways, and less in others. I don’t love the semi-deflated way my body looks at a size 10, or the saggy skin. But I love the way I move. I love the extra energy, and I love knowing that my body doesn’t have to work harder to be healthy. I love that I determine what feels good, most of all.  And it has nothing to do with what anyone else deems I should feel or look like.

In the meantime, until my body no longer belongs primarily to my child and for many moons after that, I will extend kindness and acceptance to myself. I will continue to say nice things like:

  • “Damn, your hair is luscious!”
  • “Your legs are powerful enough to crush beer cans.”
  • “Excellent job sustaining two human lives for 30 months in a row!”
  • “You chose not to judge yourself, even though you were afraid other people were.”
  • “You had a regular period this month.  Keep it up, Uterus!”
  • “You have everything you need in this moment.”

Because those words are true. Even if I wear a size 16 forever, or grow even rounder, those words are always true.

I have to consciously release myself from perceived judgement. That effing scale and the size of my jeans do not determine my happiness, enjoyment of life, well-being, or level of professional competence. It does not determine my ability to be a connected, loving, and active mom or human. It does not disqualify me from sharing my hard-earned knowledge of nutrition and health.

My weight does not determine my worth. And it doesn’t determine yours either.

I am fortunate. I wake up thankful to be a woman in this world who has a voice and a mission in the wellness field. I wake up thankful to be my husband’s wife. I wake up thankful to be E’s mom. I wake up thankful for the extra weight because I know, for now, it means my son is thriving. I won’t waste a single moment feeling regretful for what my body looks like, or worry about changing it in the near future. It is enough. I am enough.

And so are you.

Brown Butter Sage Spaghetti Squash

SpaghettiSquashA few months ago, we stumbled across a fantastic little indoor farmer’s market.  It’s on the cusp of suburbia with a select variety of foods from local farmers and suppliers at a really low cost.  It’s almost ridiculous how cheap it is.  We’re talking $0.38 a pound for organic Jazz apples.  Granted, you have to be ready to consume the produce quickly since it’s definitely the last stop before becoming compost, and you have to be very discerning about what you put in your basket since some of it should actually BE in the compost heap already. But, hey!  Any steps we can take to reducing our family’s toxic exposure and consume organic produce at a super low price is a definite win. And since the indoor farmer’s markets carry seasonal produce, it’s an even bigger win because I can feed my family what our bodies naturally crave during a particular time of year to provide optimal fuel for our immune systems.

I found two spaghetti squash the last time I was there and experimented with how best to prepare them.  Confession: I’ve tried making spaghetti squash a few times and always found it to be either crunchy (i.e. underdone) or super watery (i.e. over-steamed).  Either way, the squash was pretty flavorless and, well, sad.  This time, I decided to infuse the squash with as much flavor as possible and change up my cooking method.  And it worked! The new method I tried was something I read about over at Elena’s Pantry.   Instead of steaming it, or trying to wrestle and butcher the squash before it’s cooked, you cook it first.  Revolutionary, right?  Poke holes in the raw squash.  Roast it.  Cut it.  Scoop out the seeds and discard, then scoop out the perfectly cooked squash and consume.

This changes EVERYTHING.

Ingredients:

  • 1 largish spaghetti squash
  • 3-4 Tbsp brown butter (see below for directions)
  •  6-8 fresh sage leaves
  • cheese cloth, or double-fine mesh strainer
  • S&P to taste


Directions:

  1. Using a fork, poke two sets of holes in whole spaghetti squash.
  2. Place squash on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 80 minutes.
  3. While your squash is baking, begin preparing your brown butter. In a small sauce pan, melt 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter on medium-low heat (4 of 10) and allow to simmer slowly.
  4. When squash is finished baking, cut open lengthwise to make two halves, then scrape out seeds and discard.
  5. With a fork, scrape out the sqaghetti squash into an oven safe dish.  Cut up your sage leaves and sprinkle them over the top of the squash.
  6. Check on your melted butter.  It should start to brown a bit by now, with the solids falling down to the bottom of the pan and turning golden brown.  It will also smell amazing.  Be careful not to let it burn, which requires watching it fairly closely.  :)
  7. When your butter is a dark golden brown with a caramely-nutty smell, remove it from heat and filter out the milk solids by pouring the mixture through a cheese cloth or double-fine mesh strainer.  You’ll be left with a clear, golden brown butter and a strainer full of  brown crunchy milk solids.  :)
  8. Pour butter over sage and squash, give it a gentle stir, and return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes until ridiculously tender, the sage is soft, and the butter is soaked in.
  9. Remove the squash from the oven.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

You will NOT be disappointed, my friends.  Unless you hate butter.  But I can’t help that.