Mayo Madness Turns Very Vege

Whenever anyone I’ve met decides to go on this healthy lifestyle diet, they (including me) have at least one or two favorite foods (or ingredients) they trip up over and go into shear agony knowing their cravings will no longer be satisfied. For me, it was Tillamook cheddar cheese and mayonnaise. I would eat them separately or together, it didn’t matter. I always kept a healthy supply in my frig for whenever I got the urge to indulge. Mayonnaise, I could eat by the spoonful. I have never been shy about generously slopping it onto sandwiches and burgers, or mixing into salads and dips. (Oh, and deviled eggs! Yum.) So when I was told about this mayo alternative—Vegenaise—all I could do was sigh. An alternative?! Give me a break. Nothing can replace the goodness of real, artery-clogging mayonnaise.

But out of desperation and commitment to giving this diet every chance for success, Grapeseed Vegenaise was one of the first items to go in my shopping cart at Whole Foods. I was anxious to rush home and give it a try, which is exactly what I did. And I haven’t looked back. I was so pleasantly surprised to find that it is so similar in texture, color, and flavor, I believed that Steve wouldn’t even notice it wasn’t mayo on his dinner salad that night. And he didn’t.

What’s really been exciting is, I can eat all I want, guilt free. It’s actually good for your body in many ways. Here are some things I’ve learned:

Vegenaise is egg, dairy, and gluten free. It’s also corn, yeast and starch free. It is low in sodium, very low in saturated fat, has no cholesterol, and no hydrogenated or transfats. The kind I enjoy (there are 4 other kinds) is made with grapeseed oil which is known to raise HDL (good cholesterol), and in turn, lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Grapeseed oil is also an excellent source of natural vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

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I am hooked for life. I gave my brand new giant jar of mayonnaise from my last Costco trip to my neighbor. I almost felt bad for giving it to her. To me, it was trash—to her, it was treasure. (It’s amazing how a lifelong perspective on something can change so drastically once you do a little research and experimentation.) But I didn’t want to throw it away! I will need to share this post with her. Later. After she’s eaten it up. J

Here is one of my favorite salads made with Vegenaise. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Turkey Salad

3 cups chopped turkey breast

1 cup mango, cubed

1 cup purple grapes, halved

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 cup coarsely diced celery

Enough Grapeseed Vegenaise to nicely bring the ingredients together

½ tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the cumin and salt & pepper into the vegenaise and mix into the meat mixture. Spoon over a bed of fresh baby spinach and arugula.

Bon Appetite! 

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A SALUTE TO CAREGIVERS

Week before last my husband had major surgery on his neck—he had two disks replaced and three vertebrae fused together. He’s had to wear a Darth Vader-looking neck brace and was instructed not to stoop, twist, turn, bend, lift, lean or lay more than 30 degrees in any direction. So I, of course, embraced the role of caregiver, as well as chief cook, washer, bather, errand runner, house cleaner, and encourager. I also brought work home to ward off falling behind on my deadlines.

No problem, I thought, I am good at multitasking and I like to serve (especially someone I love). But by mid-week last my usual sense of control and tower of strength crumbled, and, piece by piece, it fell into an abyss of weariness. My spirit felt defeated and exhausted. I actually felt bewildered—so very unusual for me.

As my inner crumbling started, I couldn’t help but think of what full-time caregivers face. The mom of a special needs child; the wife or husband whose spouse has a long-term illness or handicap; the adult child who cares for their aging parent.  Every single day is filled with constant tending to the needs of another, with no break, let alone time for them self.  I’ve only had a taste of what they go through day-to-day, and I found myself teary eyed with new-found compassion. They have captured my heart. They have my grandest wishes for all the hope they can find for respite, for a helping hand, and for physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal. They are all heroes in my eyes and, hopefully, the eyes of those they care for.

During one night of calling out to God, Psalm 34:18 came to mind. I clung to the words because, well, deep in my heart I know they’re true: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (niv) Even though my heart isn’t really broken (my husband’s condition is temporary), I know that there are many caregivers whose hearts are.  I imagine they have a list of broken dreams and visions of what they thought life would be like before their new role. And if they’re like me, they’d have broken hearts for the person they are caring for—surely the afflicted have dreams that got shattered or wiped off their road map of life. But we have the lasting hope and comfort of knowing He is near, and that alone is enough to get each of us through another day.

By this last weekend Steve began to show sudden and great improvement. A bright new light began to shine on both of us—we knew we were both moving on to healing and relief. So to celebrate the week on a high I asked Steve what he’d like for dinner, and he said “Stroganoff! I would love a bowl of your Beef Stroganoff!” So that’s what I made. It’s normally something we enjoy in the fall since it’s so rich and creamy, but this would be a willing exception. And I even took pictures and wrote down my recipe so I could share it with you today.

I must say, it was delicious, and it was especially grand to see that ear-to-ear smile on Steve’s face while eating it. So here you are, my Beef Stroganoff, gluten-free of course. And maybe when you give thanks for what you are about to receive, you can offer up a prayer for any caregivers you know. Maybe even take them a batch to lighten their load for one evening.

Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs. stew meat, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 ½ lbs. mushrooms, stemmed and quartered

1 large sweet onion

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup beef broth

1 16-oz sour cream

2 Tbsp. GF flour

Coconut oil, grass fed butter, sea salt & pepper to taste

GF wide egg noodles, cooked to package directions

  

Directions:

Melt about 2 Tbsp coconut oil in a large skillet on high heat. After the pan is really hot, add 1/2 the stew meat and let sear for about 2-3 minutes without stirring. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Once the meat turns crusted and brown on the bottom, give a quick stir to cook for another minute. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. (It’s okay if you still see a little pink—the meat will continue cooking.) Add the second ½ of the meat and repeat. Right before you give the meat a stir, add the minced garlic. Stir and let cook for about a minute. While it cooks, turn the burner down to medium. Remove meat and set aside.

Now sauté the mushrooms, adding butter as needed, until they are a rich brown color. (I cooked my mushrooms in 3 batches so as not to crowd the pan. You don’t want them on top of each other or else they won’t brown properly and produce the rich and toasty flavor you’re looking for.) Once the mushrooms are done, add more butter as needed and cook the onions until they begin to turn translucent.

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When the onions are done, turn your burner to med-low and add the meat and mushrooms back into the skillet, along with the beef broth, and stir. When the burner temp has had a chance to reduce, add the sour cream and gently stir to mix.

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The sauce will be slightly too liquid for clinging to your pasta, so, in a measuring cup, add enough water to your GF flour until it’s the consistency of pancake batter—easy to pour but still thick. Mix until there are no lumps. Add a little of the batter mixture at a time, stir, and wait to see your sauce thicken. Add batter until the sauce is a nice and rich consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon over your pasta and enjoy!

MOOD MAIDEN TAKES A CRUISE

About 10 years ago I started experiencing some strange and new changes in my moods and behavior. It felt like my moods were more in control of me than I was of them. One minute I felt calm, the next I felt literally panicked. The next minute I was ready to injure someone, and then I’d do a quick spiral into depression. That just wasn’t me—I was used to staying pretty calm under most circumstances. I was used to being more in control. I also had other physical symptoms that were foreign to me, so I went to the doctor and he matter-of-factly said, “You’re in the beginning stages of menopause. You can expect to deal with these symptoms for at least the next 15 years. Have a nice day.”

Well, a giant light bulb went off in my foggy brain as I recalled this woman or that woman whose behavior and rationale seemed a bit “off” to me at the time. Now I knew why they were the way they were! Then I went home and told my husband. He was walking toward me when I told him the news and he suddenly froze—he didn’t even blink. I asked him what was going on, and he said he was pausing. He said, “That’s why they call it menopause—men must take pause to try and figure out what the “beep” is going on!” Okay, I had to laugh at that one. I knew I was handful, and, actually, he was (and still is) very sweet and tolerant and understanding. Unlike some men.

A few days later I was at work researching titles online and came across what I thought was a hilarious video cover. It fully showed the degree of mood swing I could experience in a matter of seconds, and it didn’t take much to set it off. After laughing out loud over the cover, I decided to print it off and tape it to the door to my office, as a joke. Below it I wrote: Enter at your own risk!

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I found it interesting that when men entered my office, they’d have a look of fear, worry, and caution. They seemed braced for a blast and wanted to be ready to run. They didn’t see the humor (maybe it hit too close to home). But when women entered, they’d walk in briskly and burst out laughing—they knew. They got it. And we’d each have a good laugh of camaraderie and sisterhood kinship.

Well, over the years I’ve, of course, tried numerous remedies for having more even-keeled and predictable moods, and some things have helped a little, but nothing transforming to write home about. Until I began this new lifestyle eating change. Since weaning off of caffeine and eliminating gluten, sugar (I’ve never been a big sugar eater anyway), and dairy, one of the most significant changes I’ve noticed in myself are my moods. I seem to have only one most of the time, no matter how stressful or crazy my day gets. Think of a flat line on a heart monitor. No I’m not dead, but that’s how level my emotions and moods have been for the past several months. It’s been smooth sailing and I’m lovin’ it. (So is my husband.) I don’t have an office with a door anymore, but if I did, I’d post this cover on it:

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So if you’re having playful thoughts about whether you might try this lifestyle change for yourself, consider the benefit of emotional calm. Like lying in a hammock on a sunny day, every day. It’s totally worth it.

I’m Having an Affair . . . with Coconut Oil

You read right. I’m officially in love . . . with an oil. I feel as though I should hang my head in shame that I’ve let anything capture my thoughts and admiration and desires other than my husband. But I just can’t help myself. The more I learn what coconut oil is and does for my body, the more I want to indulge in its pleasures.

It was definitely not love at first sight. I was actually repulsed, literally, at the thought of cooking with anything other than the old standbys, canola and olive oil. But when Jennifer assured me, what, four to five times, that cooking with it wouldn’t make my food taste like coconut I hesitantly decided to give it a try. And . . . she was right! It didn’t taste like coconut—it didn’t taste like anything. It didn’t even taste like canola oil, which is something I’ve come to appreciate.

So once I became comfortable with the cooking aspect, Jennifer then said you can eat it. Straight or laced with a nut and agave. She actually said it’s good to eat up to three tablespoons a day (although she confessed she didn’t do that)! Okay, I was officially grossed. Steve was pretty grossed by the thought as well. You should have seen us standing huddled in the kitchen, jar open, spoon full (the dog was even watching), looking at each other saying, “You first!” And after a few chides the spoon went back in the jar, lid closed tight, then a mad rush to the couch to indulge in Swamp People for comfort.

Then Jennifer said that if you can’t handle eating, rub it—you can actually use it as a body moisturizer. And even as a sunscreen. What?! Okay, now that I was over the “eating” episode trauma, I soon found myself drying off from a shower and about to apply some creamy Olive Body Butter when I remembered Jen’s words of dare. Sigh . . . okay, I would give it a try. My skin is (or was) so dry, I felt I had nothing to lose (and at least it didn’t involve the mouth). So back to the kitchen for the jar I went. And on my body I rubbed. It felt fabulous. If you rub the solid oil between your hands, it quickly melts to liquid form and absorbs right into your skin. Very nice. I haven’t looked back.

Since then I’ve done my own research online (organicfacts.net is my favorite site) and have found a myriad list of benefits. Here are just a few: it helps hair, skin, digestion, bones, heart, blood pressure, and kidneys. It also helps maintain good cholesterol, increased immunity, healthy bowels, and even brain function in people with Alzheimer’s. Personally, my skin is no longer dry and my bad cholesterol has dropped 22 points in the last three months. I give two teaspoons a day to my dog, and she sheds significantly less than before. (She loves eating from the spoon. J)

So now I’m spreading the love . . .  If you haven’t tried using coconut oil, I hope you will. Do like I did—start small and build from there. If you are already a fan, post comments to let others know what they’re missing. It may be just enough of a push to convert yet another soul to the point of no return.

Happy oiling!!

NOTE: Only use organic, cold-pressed coconut oil (from the Philippines), never hydrogenated.

I LOVE BIG BERRIES AND I CANNOT LIE

My name is Lisa and I am a gluten-free glutton.

I sit in the cubicle next to Jennifer at work and I can confirm that she did, indeed, reach the height of whininess when she started the Dr. Woo Woo lifestyle change. (I don’t like calling it a diet because when I do, people instantly think it’s a diet to lose weight—and that is not the motivation behind this, although weight loss is one of the benefits.) I’d also like to confirm that I was not the least bit annoyed by her antics. If anything, I felt terribly sorry for her. After all, she could no longer receive the emotional comfort that came with eating macaroni and cheese, chips and cookies, and blue cake pops. (Can we all identify?) We’re talking sustenance for the soul here, and, to me, having that taken away is the lowest of lows one could experience.

I also admired her. It takes courage to make a major life change, especially when no one else around you is making those same changes. Any kind of change is flat-out hard, so it’s doubly hard when you’re not surrounded by others who are on the same quest and who have the same conviction. There was one person in our department, her name is Molly, who had a very clear idea about what Jen was experiencing—Molly is a professional GFG, but Molly doesn’t sit near Jen like I do, to give instant support and encouragement that only a true comrade can give.

Well, about a month after this new lifestyle quest started, pity and admiration for Jen slowly evolved into curiosity for me. The curiosity turned into asking questions. And more questions. And before I knew it, I couldn’t wait to arrive at work and ask for the latest milestone she had reached, as well as see what she brought for breakfast and lunch. It became an adventure. I’d never heard of kale chips or blue agave syrup or coconut oil. Coconut oil! Ewww.

At the same time this adventure was happening, my dear, sweet husband of 17 years (his name is Steve) had been experiencing a long, 18-month string of health issues. And while his doctors tried to pinpoint a diagnosis, they got prescription happy and prescribed drug after drug, none of which helped—they actually made him worse. Well, one morning while listening to Steve describe in vivid detail how terrible he felt, and seeing his tired, discouraged eyes from being in chronic pain, I blurted, “I wonder if you should go to the doctor Jen is going to.” Then I began to explain some of what I’d learned about Dr. Woo Woo and the success stories I’d heard at work. After only a few minutes of downloading, Steve got up and called for an appointment. I was so glad.

Now, after witnessing Jen’s experiences I knew what Steve was in for, and a wave of panic quickly hit: if he goes on this lifestyle change, I should probably go on it too. For support. Okay, well, I thought, I can do this. IF JEN CAN DO IT, I CAN DO IT. Then the panic quickly changed to shock when I realized I was going to have to quit drinking coffee. I’d been drinking coffee—strong coffee—for 35 years. I didn’t know how not to drink coffee. And if you think that’s bad, it was two weeks before Thanksgiving. (Did I mention it’s good to have a sense of humor when embarking on a journey like this?!)

Thus began my own journey of completely upside down, inside out way of eating and living. I say living because what I’ll be sharing—what we’ll all be sharing—will change how you see, think, prepare, and cook food. And after only the first 3 months, I’ve lost 10 lbs, my bad cholesterol has dropped 24 points, and I’ve never felt better in my life, physically and mentally.

Before I go, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with big berries. Well, nothing actually. I confess I just thought it was a hilarious title. 🙂