Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Morning Breakfast: Banana Nut Muffins

I hate wasting food, but I and my family are not big fans of eating brown bananas. The obvious thing to do with them was to make banana nut muffins, and they were delicious. Luckily I had a package of biscuit mix on hand (I just have to remember to replace it), and I always keep walnuts in the pantry. This recipe is super easy and adapted from my trusty Betty Crocker Cook Book:

Preheat oven to 400° F

2 large or 3 medium smashed bananas (you should have a cup to cup and a half)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large egg (have you noticed that "large" eggs are not nearly as large as they used to be?)
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups biscuit mix (I use a package of Weisenbergers biscuit mix, produced in Midway, KY.)
chopped walnuts or pecans (optional - but I use at least 3/4 cup of walnuts)

Mix well and place a couple Tbsp of batter in a 12-muffin pan (medium sized). Either grease the bottom of the cups with butter, spray, or oil, or use paper liners.

Cook about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Check to see that they are cooked through by stabbing a large one with a toothpick. I shared this trick with my daughter this morning.

Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.

Enjoy with milk and fresh fruit.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The worst things I ever did to my diet

Before I get started, I’d like you to know there are a few points of very personal information in this post. If you are not interested in my digestive system, then you may want to hit the little “x” in the top right corner. But ever since Oprah, Dr. Oz, and other personalities have gotten real about health, and poop, and everything else icky that goes on in our bodies, I feel the need to be real as well. Also, if you would like the skip all the history and details, go straight to the bottom for my conclusion.

A few posts ago, I shared how I had gained some weight back over the past two years because I let my old habits creep back into my life (Time for a Wake-up Call).  While not happy, that’s life. I know my triggers when it comes to overeating and not wanting to move beyond my office chair.

But this time last summer, my stress levels were out of control. I was away from home a lot because of work and all the kids’ activities, and I wore myself down. It made me sick. Very sick. Sick enough for several trips to an ER and an infectious disease specialist. I was treated for Lyme disease with a ghastly antibiotic, and I am convinced it did me more harm than good. After 3 1/2 weeks on the couch and in bed, I finally started to feel better. While Lyme disease was never confirmed and there was never an official diagnosis, I suspect I had the recently named Heartland Virus.

Why is this important? For one, I gained 8 pounds over the course of that sickness. Lucky me. The constant fevers wreaked havoc on my metabolism, and I started feeling a bit depressed and wanted to do something about it.

Unfortunately, I did not think that doing what has always worked for me in the past was good enough this time – eating less processed and fast foods, and working 20-30 minutes of exercise into my daily schedule. I started watching infomercials and reading about the latest gimmicks, and let a company convince me that I was not to blame, it was my aging body. Going against everything I believe, I bought some dumb supplement that supposedly convinces your body not to process carbs into stored fat.

I took these pills, full of cinnamon bark and other herbs, before every meal. After a month, I found that they did not deliver any results and my belly started to ache. I quit taking the supplement, and my gut continued to ache, nearly every day. Some days, the pain was not so bad, and on others, it was excruciating. I wasn't sure what was to blame. Was it the supplement? Was it from being sick and taking the antibiotic and eating ibuprofen and acetaminophen like it was candy? Was it stress? Was all of this causing me to get an ulcer?

During this entire time, and even now, I never once decided to take myself to a doctor. That was probably mistake number one. But the whole scenario reminded me of a conversation I had with John Moody, a local/whole food advocate who once shared a stage with me to debate GMOs. He told me that he had developed a very painful duodenal ulcer, and it healed once he removed processed foods. Great. Remind yourself that I work for corn and wheat farmers, which is in most everything that is processed. I was starting to let the “all processed food is bad” Kool-Aid work its way into my head.

In month 5 of my belly dilemma, I traveled to South Africa with my leadership class. I got to experience some wonderful food, and I had absolutely no belly aches the entire trip. So I began asking myself, “What did I not eat in South Africa that I regularly eat at home?” I had wonderful vegetables and meats, but even processed GMO corn in the form of “pap” was on my plate every day.  While there was not as much bread, I ate pizza and pancakes, and still no pain. What was missing was milk. I was not eating my regular breakfast cereal with cold milk as I do most every day of my life. Was milk the culprit?

Soon after my return to the US, the belly pains returned, and I decided that maybe milk was not helping my situation, and I could possibly be eating too much gluten (everyone is jumping on that bandwagon these days, so why not check it out). So I took a few no dairy or wheat days. I was shocked at how flat my stomach was within those days. No gas, no bloating. I even lost a few pounds. The pain was less intense, but my bowels were not moving. I was getting plenty of fiber from fruits, veggies and oatmeal, and drinking a half gallon of water or more each day. I had to resort to over the counter medication, and it did not help much. Once I started eating bread and fiber cereal again – with soy or almond milk – it was smooth sailing. New realization: wheat is still my friend.

My focus was back on milk. Maybe I had become lactose intolerant. Or maybe it was whey intolerance, or casein protein intolerance. I read about so many food intolerances over the course of a couple of weeks my head was spinning. And if you have ever read the symptoms of gluten intolerance, anyone and everyone have experienced one of those symptoms probably over the course of a week. No wonder everyone wants to cut it out of their diet (before those with Celiac disease jump all over me, I do realize that is a real problem).
I tried Lactaid milk, and found it absolutely disgusting and very expensive. It spoils very quickly as well, making it even more expensive. I called the local dairy group to see if any research had been done or if they had any resources about dairy intolerances. I did not like replacing my regular milk with soy or almond milk because of all the added sugar.

My belly pain once again started to diminish. One morning I felt pretty good, so I thought I would experiment and have a glass of milk. I was in so much pain that day – all day. Yup, it’s milk. Or was it the four chocolate covered donuts I ate throughout the day? Hmm?

I then resorted to keeping a food journal. That was about 3 weeks ago. I found that it was actually my healthier meals that were giving me the most trouble. After doing this for two weeks, I was able to narrow it down to one thing: cinnamon. And going back to when my troubles started… I was taking those super concentrated cinnamon supplement pills. Even when I stopped taking them, I still ate a lot of cinnamon because it is supposed to be good for you – cinnamon every morning in my oatmeal and on at least 2 sweet potatoes a week. I can't believe I had missed something so obvious. 

I finally decided to bring a small amount of milk and dairy back into my diet. My belly is not as flat for obvious reasons, but my bowels are the happiest they've been in a long time. I've decide the good outweighs the bad.


I have not eaten any cinnamon in the past week, and have not had one bit of belly pain. Now I’m going to dig out those supplement pills from the back of the pantry and ask for a refund. What I’m not going to do is tell everyone to get rid of cinnamon in their diet. Everyone is unique. I am surprised, however, at how quickly I was to blame so many other things and rushed to eliminate entire food groups out of my diet because of something I read. We are told regularly that quick and drastic diet changes are not good for our pets, so they are probably not so good for us either.

Based on my experience, here is my advice:
  1. If you are experiencing any type of digestive issue, a trip to the doctor should be at the top of your list. I have yet to do that, but it has taken me 8 months to figure out and address my problem.
  2. Keep a food journal, writing down everything you eat and when your pain/annoyance is the greatest. But keep it simple. If you are eating a lot of processed foods with many ingredients, it will be very difficult to narrow down the culprit.
  3. Ditch the gimmicks. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I let a fancy sales pitch play to my emotions – I was feeling bad about myself and wanted to be convinced it was nothing I was doing on my own. Just write “fool” across my forehead!
  4. Get rid of the stress in your life! You are the best to figure out how to do that, but stress doesn't do anyone a bit of good. Letting stress take over my life paved the way to a number of problems.
Thanks for reading, and may peace be with you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's National Chili Day - My Favorite Recipe

I have always loved chili, especially during the colder months. In honor of National Chili Day, here is my favorite recipe, developed over time with inspiration from my Pop, mama and husband (he introduced me to Rotel). I have been using venison steak only for the past few years, as I just think it makes it more rustic and more Kentucky!

Brown cubed venison or beef (venison will not need to be drained of fat)
Add a cup of chopped onion during browning
1 can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles (original)
1 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
1 regular can of tomato sauce (I fill can with water and add to chile - I like a thinner consistency)
2 can dark red kidney beans
Season with your favorite chili powder mix (I like McCormick's)
Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, then reduce to low for another 10.

My family insists on me adding spaghetti noodles. I will add about one serving size, al dente, just a few minutes before serving, sometimes. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. A dollop of sour cream if you wish.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Time for a Wake-up Call

Thank goodness for time to reflect. Last week I was feeling pretty lousy. Worthless, actually.

My daughter needed a few immunizations to be up to date with school. While at the doctor, they performed the various battery of tests for her 11-year checkup. I was thrilled that her weight was well within the “normal” range for her height, despite her genetic obstacles from both sides.

However, we were told she had glucose in her urine, which prompted a blood sugar test. It was higher than it should be. I was told that since this was not a fasting test, that we should not be too alarmed, but something to be careful about. A myriad of excuses went through my head: they fed her a bad lunch at school, she wasn't drinking enough water, and maybe she is just intolerant of refined carbs. Of course not one of these was based on any medical expertise, but I just could not muster that it was anything I had any control over.

The doctor then said that if any of the other tests were concerning, they would call and let us know.

I got a call the next day. Her cholesterol level was just a few points shy of being “high.”

My heart sank. I felt like a worthless parent. It had to be me. I got lax. I slowly started to let too much fast, fatty, highly-processed food back into our diet because we are just too busy. I wasn't encouraging play time and exercise as much as I should, because I was not making time for myself. I was doing exactly what I write about not doing. What a fraud I had become.

Now I guess anyone can see why this blog has taken a back seat for the last year. My heart just was not in it. I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. And it shows. I worked very hard to lose 35 pounds by just eating better and exercising more over the course of 18 months. Fifteen of those pounds have crept back on the past 12 to 18 months. And I am weak. I could easily do 25 push-ups (real ones) and run three miles. I can no longer get through my favorite Jillian Michaels video taking periodic breaks. She would be screaming in my face.

But this is not about me. Who cares if there was no way in Hades I was going to take a bathing suit to my trip to South Africa earlier this year. This is about my children. They are so important to me. To feel I have contributed to their bad health make me feel as if I am the worst mother in the world.

While I really wanted to crawl in a hole, I have instead pulled on the muck boots to make a plan. Or, I guess, revisit the old plan (Reinventing Our Plate) . There was absolutely nothing wrong with what we were doing before. I just let too many other not-as-important things move their way to the top of the list.

So here’s to a rebirth and unfailing commitment. My daughter seems to be all for it. She’s not fighting the healthier dinners, and we have a plan for one cheat meal a week, as long as we keep portions under control. The little one is happy no matter what food I put in front of him.

Last night we had turkey burgers sans bun, baked sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli. I will need to be creative tonight, as we have Karate practice (something new for son, but daughter said she also enjoyed the trial class), a small window for dinner, followed by a 4-H meeting. But I’m up for the challenge, again. 
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