What Have I Been Up To?
The last three weeks have been a bit of a blur. The hubby and I have just completed a crazy journey. We’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and working to better our minds, bodies and spirits.
This is part of the reason why I haven’t been blogging as much as usual. I needed to temporarily shift my focus. I can tell you that it did me (and the hubs!) a world of good.
It’s been a time of reading, listening, writing, meditation and prayer, but it’s also been a time of cleaning house, if you will.
We just completed the Daniel Fast.
I have been hesitant to write a post about this because I honestly don’t think a lot of people would get it or understand our reasoning to try it. It’s something very personal and obviously not for everyone. As hesitant as I was to do a post on this, I feel like I have so much to say!
This isn’t a typical “fast”, rather it’s a restrictive diet based on scripture. Fasters are to follow a very specific diet.
The best way to describe it is “vegan, with even more restrictions.”
The fast consists of limiting any and all meat and dairy products. So no animal products, period-this includes honey and you’ll see why in a moment.
You are also cutting out any added sugars/sweeteners (including honey, stevia and agave nectar…etc.) and processed foods.
Basically, you’re doing a lot of label reading-if there is any type of sugar or un-whole item in the ingredient list, it’s out. For us, this even included a vegan vegetable stock!
This plan really forces you to eat real, “whole” foods. And to experiment in the kitchen. Always a good thing!
No bread. Or anything with leavening agents (yeast, baking powder, etc.). So again, lots of label reading. No crackers.
On top of that, you can only drink water. No soda, no tea, no alcohol, no juice. No coffee. Yes, I did not drink any coffee for three weeks. And I lived to tell about it!
Typically, you do the fast for 21 days, but you can extend it or shorten it depending on your goals and needs. We did the full 21 days.
To say that it was tough would be an understatement…but it wasn’t hard for the reasons I thought it would be. There were a few social functions that were a bit stressful, but we got through.
There is a book by the creator of the website, Susan Gregory, I haven’t read it but I linked the image to her site.
I can tell you that I spent plenty of time perusing the website and I did sign up for her daily devotionals. The devotionals were really good to have, and I received one on each of the 21 days. Some days it was a bit spooky because the subject would go hand in hand with something I was going through that day.
If you do sign up for the devotionals, you will get a few extra emails as well… but it’s easy to unsubscribe. I haven’t gotten another email since we completed the fast.
The website also has a blog and some recipes, as well as a place to buy some of the books written by Susan Gregory. It also gives a detailed explanation of the fast, tips, advice and a comprehensive guide of what is and isn’t allowed. Obviously, if you have any health issues, consult a doctor before beginning this fast as you would any other health plan.
Again, we didn’t do this as a “diet,” we did it as a refocus. Yes, our eating habits changed a little bit, but for the most part it wasn’t a huge shift.
Because I have so much to say, I’ll be writing two more posts about the experience. The next one will focus on food and the last will be an overview of my personal experience.
Lately, I haven’t been eating as well as I would like. It’s partly because I’ve been eating on the run and partly because I’ve been lazy about planning ahead.
It’s been all about beef, bacon, nachos, potatoes and cupcakes. Granted these are all grass-fed/local/from the garden…but I admit, I have been over-indulging.
Don’t get me wrong, I love greens but I have just wanted something a little more… meaty and cheesy.
So, in an effort to cut down on my carnivorous binge, I made some veggie burgers. I served them over greens with a quick yogurt sauce (greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, dill and garlic powder).
These are super easy to make AND go really well with salad….so you’ll have plenty of room for shredded beef nachos later on… I’m only sort of kidding…
Lentil burgers are also totally good for you-packed with iron, protein, potassium, fiber and good fats!
Anyway, I used orange lentils in this batch but I would advise using black lentils instead–they are a bit firmer and will hold up better to mashing/mixing. You’ll need to rinse your lentils before cooking them to make sure any little stones are picked out.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
2 cups cooked lentils (I cooked mine with our favorite Thai Stock from Wegmans)
1 15 0z can beans –I used great northern beans- garbanzos, black beans or pinto beans would also work
4 large eggs
1 to 1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
a few good cranks/pinches of black pepper and sea salt
Parsley-I used about a tbsp
A few squeezes of lemon
1-2 tsp. Smoky Paprika
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
- Olives–Ben and I stumbled upon Lindsay’s Naturals Green or Black Olives and they are amazing! We had a can in our cabinet so I threw some in for some added texture.
- Jalapenos–I’ll probably make these again just so I can throw in some fresh japs from the garden! YUM!
- Your favorite cheese-I used about 1/4 -1/2 cup of Cabot Mozzarella
What to do:
Combine lentils, eggs and salt in a large bowl– use your trusty dough blender or a fork to combine until your mixture is still slightly runny but chunky-it’ll look like really wet/chunky hummus. (You can also use a food processor).
Add in remaining ingredients (except olive oil), stir until just combined. Let sit for a few minutes so the breadcrumbs absorb excess moisture.
Your mixture should be wet, but still able to be formed into patties. If necessary, add in more breadcrumbs a little bit at a time. Or, for more moisture, add in more water/egg.
(I mentioned using black lentils instead of orange-I found my moisture to be REALLY wet/mushy with the orange and was out of breadcrumbs, so I added in some unbleached flour-it worked just as well).
When you have the right consistency, heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, form patties and add to skillet.
Cook covered until bottom begins to brown-this took about 7 or 8 minutes. Flip and cook another 7 minutes until other side is lightly browned.
Serve over your favorite salad or on a bun as a veggie burger.
Makes about 12 burgers ~177 calories per burger. You can store uncooked patties in the fridge for up to a week.
Wow, it’s hard to believe that our mini-getaway was almost three weeks ago! I guess time flies when you’re crazy busy!
So, what have I been up these last few weeks?
We successfully took our road trip to visit the fam. Ben finally met my oldest sister, which made me super happy! We also indulged in Wegmans, family time, coffee, tons of delicious food, grilling, 80 degree weather, Wegmans and more Wegmans.
Then we came back to reality. And went back to work. Le sigh.
I made these amazing cupcakes. One of Ben’s co-workers liked them so much that he hugged me. Twice.
I also made this ridiculously easy-and crazy good dip.
And then I made some more tortillas, some tasty pasta and yummy egg salad (sunflower seeds are an excellent addition. Who knew?)
Oh! I also went to a pretty awesome benefit for a friend (Hi Brenda!). It was so nice to see people come together for an outstanding cause…I even took home a fantastic (giant!) drying rack for laundry…it may take up half of my living room when it’s unfolded. And… I may have gotten third place in the karaoke contest, not too shabby!
In our down time, Ben and I have been making random trips to the co-op and grocery store, and ordering giant crocks and sauerkraut stompers from Lehmans. No big deal.
I’ve also stumbled on a new food obsession. Spinach Smoothies. Don’t hate.
I like to mix it up, but my typical creation is this; you take a cup of milk (I’ve been experimenting with my milks, I’m currently on almond milk), a spoonful of peanut butter, half a banana (frozen works best), a couple spoonfuls of flax seed meal and a bunch of spinach, throw it all in the blender and blend til combined. Enjoy! I have also been known to use nutella instead of peanut butter or add in some kale/berries…I love it because it takes little effort to make and helps me get a nice kick of fruits/veggies in the morning. I also LOVE the bright green color. Anyway, try it. Mix it up. It’s worth it.
Speaking of blended veggies, I tried a few of Zee Lemon’s juice concoctions over the last week. I have to say, I was a huge fan. Head on over to her blog and check out her “take-over” posts. Pretty interesting stuff. And some great ideas.
Another concoction I came up with?
An apple-peeled, a kiwi-peeled, about a cup of broccoli, about a cup of berries and as much spinach as you can fit in the blender. Surprisingly, very good. It also has a gorgeous color. I had this for breakfast on Friday and it was one of the only times that I wasn’t starving a few hours later.
Let’s see…what else have I been up to? We spent yesterday with Ben’s best friend’s family and had a great time. Good food, great conversation and lots of relaxation. I’d say it was a win. Ben even got Preston to eat his veggies. No small feat.
I’ve also been running and going for walks. And not drinking a lot of coffee. I don’t know how I stay awake. I picked up a sweet pair of kicks and have a date with two good friends from good ol’ RSC tomorrow. Super excited!
Anyway, that’s all for now. Are you going through any weird food phases? Share them below!
I love pasta. I don’t know if it’s my Italian roots or the fact that you can put pretty much anything in it and have it taste good, or something else… whatever it is, pasta makes life better. I also love red wine. One of my favorites is Seven Deadly Zins (it’s a red zinfandel by the Lodi Brothers).
Last night I had some time to make dinner and decided that pasta was a must. I was dying to make a nice chunky tomato sauce….and that’s what I did. Here’s the recipe:
Red Zin Tomato Sauce:
serves 6 people
What you’ll need:
1 to 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium-large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 large can of whole peeled tomatoes
Red Zinfandel (or your favorite type of red wine)
A few basil leaves (about a tbsp.)
1 small can of tomato paste (I think it’s normally 10 oz.)
2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1 package Italian Style Chicken Sausage (I use Bilinski’s-it’s pre-cooked) or your favorite kind of meat
A few good cranks of black pepper
A pinch of salt
What to do:
Chop onion, garlic, and basil. Set aside.
In a large skillet/pot, add olive oil, bring to medium heat. Add onions, cook until softened.
*Note: if you are using meat besides pre-cooked chicken sausage, cook it first, drain off any excess oils and set aside, then cook your onions*
In the mean time, chop up your chicken sausage-if you’re using it.
Add garlic and chicken sausage to the pan. Let cook for a few minutes, stirring once or twice.
Pour in can of tomatoes-do not drain!
Using your spoon, crush tomatoes up, leaving a few chunks (If you don’t like chunks, you can also puree the tomatoes before adding them to the pan.) and stir into mixture.
After a few minutes, add a few good glugs of wine (I’d say somewhere between half and three quarters of a cup) and stir.
Next, add in your can of tomato paste and the basil.
Stir the mixture until combined. Sprinkle in oregano and parsley. If needed, add salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes (until some of the liquid is evaporated), stirring occasionally. *For a more intense flavor, let simmer longer-just be sure to stir once in a while to avoid burning.
Serve hot over pasta- I used whole wheat penne with milled flax seed. Top with Parmesan cheese…or maybe some of that homemade ricotta? Dream come true!
This sauce is savory enough that it can be made without meat, while still being versatile enough to pair with chicken, beef or sausage. The sky’s the limit!
I made ricotta cheese. Yeah, put that in your spoon and eat it…. seriously, this stuff is delicious! I’m pleading with you to make this ASAP.
I used the Smitten Kitchen Ricotta Recipe. I love Deb because she makes you feel like you can conquer the world with whatever you’re making…granted this was a whole heck of a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, but her advice always helps. Plus, she reads every comment and is quick to answer reader questions and concerns. Super woman? I think so.
I didn’t have a thermometer so I ended up picking one up at the hardware store for about $8.00. It’s a meat thermometer but it works (side note: if you don’t have a thermometer, scroll down and read the comments section on the SK post, Deb gives a good description of what the milk should look like when at temperature).
I went with the 3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream combination and it did not disappoint. For the lemon juice, I just squeezed the juice from one lemon, so I may have had a little more, but it gave the cheese an awesome hint of zest. Heavenly. And none of those weird gums or stabilizers that they add to the store brand!
This recipe yielded a little over a cup. We are using it for lasagna, but I seriously had to talk myself out of just eating it by itself. It would also be scrumptious with a nice crusty bread.
So basically… I will never buy ricotta again. Life changed.
Although it is only Wednesday, I have come to a number of realizations this week. Super important stuff, let me tell you.
1. Don’t wear a sweater to the second job on Trivia Night. It gets way too hot.
2. Don’t drink coffee while wearing a white scarf.
3. I really need to stop forgetting my hat and gloves.
4. Breakfast makes life so much better.
5. So does homemade bread.
6. Annie’s Mac and Cheese is delicious when substituting Greek Yogurt for milk. New obsession? Probably.
7. I really want to make this Cheeseburger Salad.
8. And these Roasted and Shredded Beef Sandwiches.
9. I must consume this soup sometime soon (veggies and beans). For reals.
10. And these tacos (black beans and sweet potatoes), oh my sweet lord.
11. I think I am addicted to food blogs. Or just food. Maybe both. Help?
12. No matter where my media naranja is in the world, she totally gets me. ChocPBPretzels. Ugh!
13. My husband is at home baking bread right now. I am the luckiest woman on the planet.
14. As much as I am not a morning person, I love seeing the sunrise everyday on my way to work.
15. Lunges really kick my butt (ha).
That’s all for now!
Until next time….
I have been having a lot of fun lately. Whether it be ice skating, updating my food journal, planning a workout, perusing food blogs, watching old 3rd Rock episodes with Ben, cooking/destroying my kitchen, watching Ben cook and not destroy the kitchen or working too much, I’m having a good time. In short, 2012 has been good so far. No complaints on my end.
As you know, I go through food phases. For some reason, the last few weeks have been missing meat. It wasn’t intentional and I’m not complaining, it just worked out that we ate a lot of veggies/beans. As much as I love my veggies, I am ready for some beefy deliciousness.
This weekend I finally had some red meat; Ben made this crazy good (and super easy!) goulash. Basically, it was a mish-mash of what we had in our fridge. It was also a one-pan meal. The best kind.
Here is what he did, I apologize for not having exact measurements …or photos, as I was just watching Ben work his magic.
Fridge Emptying Goulash
To start, Ben chopped up a couple of carrots, a tomato and 2 cloves of garlic (normally, we would add onion, too… but for some crazy reason, we were out) and threw them in the trusty iron skillet with some olive oil over medium-low to medium heat.
After a few minutes, he added a pound of (local, grass-fed) ground beef. He browned it, stirring occasionally.
Once the meat was browned, he added in some leftover tomato sauce, maybe a cup or so? After stirring, he put in one small can of Muir Glen (Organic) tomato paste.
For seasoning, he kept it simple; cracked pepper, onion powder (due to the lack of chopped onion), marjoram, some chili sauce (a few tbsp.) and some smokey paprika. This can be adjusted according to your own tastes.
He let everything simmer for a few minutes and added about half a can of V8-as much as I love V8 juice, I was unsure about this. Thank God I trust Ben’s judgment.
After the V8, he gave one more stir and let it cook a little longer-covered, until the carrots were tender.
We served it over pasta with a dollop of sour cream and a few slices of Cabot pepper jack. So good.