Real Talk: Food for Thought

As you know, I recently hit the 17 mile mark (ahem, 18 mile mark!) in my training program. That means I’m officially past the half-way mark. Holy moly! It’s going to be marathon weekend before I know it!

I’m finding that I need to be more careful about what I eat. Not only the day of my long runs, but the few days before and after.

I’ve also found that I’ve hit a point where I need to have something extra during the run. 17 miles (or for me, over 3 hours) is a long way to go with just water. This really hit me during my last two long runs.

I asked some of my friends (on twitter, myfitnesspal and in real life) what they use for long runs.  Thanks to all who responded!

From my running guru friend, Kristy:

Water. I never brought anything with me…When I ran the marathon I had orange slices, part of a banana and a gu. They all agreed with me.

From some MFP running friends:

I’ve used GU gels in the past. They work well for me if I’m going for more than an hour.

I usually take sport beans on long runs.  Anything over 10 miles gets a clif bar halfway.

I have not really used anything. I did try some energy gummy things but they left my throat phlegmy which was pretty gross. The thought of eating actual food during a run isn’t very appealing to me.

Energy Bits every 5 miles and after 10 dates or a slice or two of fresh mango!

I’ve used GU gels in the past. They work well for me if I’m going for more than an hour.

Gu gels or powerbar energy blast chews.

I use Gu gels also. It’s worked the best for me the last couple of years. I’ve tried clif blocks and they work ok (for me).

And from Twitter:

 Jess @Mywalkonmoon:  @IslandBoost is nice b/c I don’t have to take it w/ h2o & not heavy on the belly @HoneyStinger chews for caffeine

Skora Running @skoraRunning: Drink to thirst. Cals from @honeymaxx and regular MCT oil mixed in, couple hundred cals per bottle.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Clif Shots and Bloks I had leftover from a race have worked… but my finicky stomach isn’t happy after the runs, especially immediately after. They work well in a pinch, and heck, they were free! So I can’t complain…but I don’t want to use them all the time. I don’t think my digestive system could take it.

Needless to say, I’ve been searching for something easier on my stomach and a bit cleaner. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I shy away from long/weird ingredient lists and I am not big on artificial/man-made colors, dyes, and ingredients.

Enter ENERGYbits.

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I had heard about this product before from two of my favorite blogs and was actually thinking of trying them. (Shout out to Zee Lemons and Healthy in Detroit!)

Not gonna lie, the only thing that stopped me was the price-tag. $115 for a bag of 1,000…. which, broken down by serving (20-30 bits), isn’t really that much…but to buy a product without trying it…and then getting stuck with something I didn’t like…well, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then, I recently participated in my first #runchat on Twitter and was tweeted by ENERGYbits when I posted something about long runs.

Long story short, I was sent a sample and was able to try them on my 17 mile run.

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Before I give you the dirty details, I have to say, I love that this a US company. I also loved that it was founded and is owned by a woman. Not only that, but the staff is so passionate about what they are doing. They truly love and believe in the product they are promoting. To me, that’s a very good sign. Further, ENERGYbits are 100% organic, non-gmo and have 1 ingredient. O-N-E. That’s it!

Here are the nutrition facts (check out all of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids!) taken directly from their website:

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And here is a comparison chart to other popular products:
Nutritional Comparison Chart

Anyway, I received my sample about four days after my twitter connection. The packet I received was full of information… I was still a bit skeptical because, well…it all sounded too good to be true. I’d read about the benefits of spirulina but… I still wasn’t convinced.

You’re probably wondering, how does algae taste?

Well, as Farmer Ben put it, “it kind of tastes like fish food.” The nice thing about the bits is that, because they come in pill form, you can swallow them as such, with a big glass of water. You can also chew them, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I swallowed about 10-15 at a time with a few good gulps of water.

In all honesty, taking these during my run was a bit hard. The initial smell was hard to get past…but they didn’t upset my stomach, which is a major plus. Taking these on long runs is going to take some getting used to, but the effects on my digestion are non-existent compared to what other products do.

So, here is what happened:

  • I took 30 bits about 40 minutes before my 17 mile run.
  • I took more about 9 miles into the run (I also had some Clif Shots on this run).

I feel the need to mention that I had worked both jobs the day before. This means that I worked from 8 am until after 11:30 pm. It also means that I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, which I mentioned in my 17 mile post.

I also feel the need to mention that after my post-run shower, I received a phone call from my boss begging me to go in to job number 2. And it wasn’t an easy night. I, once again, didn’t get home until late. You can imagine how thrilled I was to be called into work after running 17 miles.

  • I took the last of my bits about 30 minutes after arriving at work and didn’t stop moving all night.

I won’t tell you that I felt an immediate surge in energy, because I didn’t. BUT, I made it through a 17 mile run on very little sleep. I also made it through a (super insane) Saturday night dinner shift after running the furthest distance of my life. I did both of these things without crashing.  Yes, I was tired…but I made it through an extremely long and strenuous day better than I should have.  I still had pep in my step–after 17 miles and a night spent entirely on my feet.

I will also tell you that, although I was sore, I wasn’t as sore as I expected. I’ve felt worse after shorter runs.

I recovered faster from that 17 mile run than I have from some 6-8 mile runs.

All of these things speak to me.

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Love this!

I recently ordered a full bag of ENERGYbits with my own money and am applying to be an ambassador for the company, because, well… I’m finally convinced.

Side Note: I ordered these on Friday afternoon, standard shipping. They arrived today (Monday). LOVE THIS!

Will this be my only pre and during workout fuel? For short runs, yes. For long runs, not yet…but maybe someday. BUT you can bet that I will be incorporating this into my regular regimen. I am not big on powders, vitamins and supplements…I’d rather get my nutrients directly from the source.

This is a food, and your body digests it as such.

If you have any questions about ENERGYbits, feel free to comment or shoot me an email and I will answer as best I can…If I can’t answer it, I will find out for you.

If you’d like more information about ENERGYbits, visit their website: http://www.energybits.com/

UPDATE: If you’d like to order ENERGYbits, you can use discount code “NoellesNotebook” for 25% off your total order.

Have you ever tried algae? What did you think?! What is your favorite way to fuel?

*DISCLAIMER:  ENERGYbits provided me with a sample of their product for review purposes only. All opinions are my own.*

UPDATE: If you order ENERGYbits using my discount code, I do receive a little bit of money, however all opinions are still my own.

I am not a doctor, I am simply writing about my personal experience, as with any food or supplement, don’t forget to consult with a medical professional.


Um, What are you Drinking?

I finished Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.

Awesome book. Great story-telling, interesting (and tasty!) recipes. Great information. In all honesty, I probably would have finished it in a day or two, but my schedule hasn’t allowed for much down time…regardless, I enjoyed it…I’ll probably end up buying this book.

Am I going to immediately go vegan now that I’ve read it? No.

But I will be adding a lot of his recipes to my current rotation. Scott’s “Holy Moly Guacamole?!” Anytime, anywhere. I whipped up a batch the other night…Farmer Ben and I had devoured it by the next day!

After last night’s run, I made a little refresher Scott named the “Coco Rizzo Cooler.”

This drink is surprisingly light and not-too sweet with just a hint of coconut. The chia seeds add a fun texture. Scott recommends this for before, after or during a long run. I don’t know if I’d drink it during…but it is tasty for an after run treat. It’s got some really good stuff in it!

I had a serving this morning in place of my usual coffee pick-me-up.

The really good thing about this is that it’s great on it’s own…but I can see it being equally delicious with a variety of other ingredients (crushed ice and rum, maybe?)…experiment!

It’s not very pretty, but it’s fun!

Mason Jar Tupperware. It's a thing.

Mason Jar Tupperware. It’s a thing.

Anyway, I didn’t have the exact ingredients…so here’s my version:

Coco Rizzo Cooler

Adapted from Eat & Run

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup plain cooked rice (I used jasmine)
  • *1 cup almond-coconut milk (I always get Blue Diamond’s Unsweetened Variety)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or  maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds

*The original recipe called for coconut milk… either way, be sure to read the label. Buy the milk, NOT the drink.

What to do:

  • Combine all ingredients except the chia seeds in a blender. Blend until completely smooth. (I had a few chunky bits because I overfilled my blender and had the beginnings of a  Coco Rizzo disaster…oops.)
  • Pour into a large container that has an airtight lid (I used two giant mason jars), add the chia seeds and give it a good shake.
  • Keep refrigerated. Serve chilled and  shake again before drinking.

Can be poured into a glass or bottle, if you are on the run. Makes 4-5 servings.

Enjoy!


The Daniel Fast-The Experience

So now that you know the details of the Daniel Fast and what we ate, I suppose it’s time to tell you what I got out of the whole thing.  

As I said, I’ve been a bit hesitant to write about the experience because it’s definitely not something for everyone…and I really don’t think some people will get it…which is totally fine.

While Ben and I were doing the fast, we only told 1 or 2 people. If someone asked why we weren’t eating certain foods, I told them that we were just watching what we ate.

What were some of the every day trials?

As I said, there were a few social situations that were a bit difficult to navigate, but we managed. It was especially hard this time of year because of the constant influx of candies, cookies and baked goods at the office. I passed by the back counter in the office every day and had to avoid the temptations of the season.

To be honest, I’d usually go over, scope out the goods and then scurry away before I got too close. And really, I didn’t feel like I was deprived in the dessert department.

I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t the sweets, or even coffee,  that I missed the most. I actually missed cheese and products with yeast more than anything. I am not a huge bread eater (anymore), however I absolutely love sandwiches of any kind–subs, wraps, paninis, burritos/tacos, etc.

In the second week, we started eating matzos with peanut butter. This was a nice change and was a great substitute for crackers or chips. Love crunchy foods!

I found that I could survive without caffeine but I missed the feeling of drinking something hot. In order to manage this, I started drinking mugs of hot water. Sometimes I would add a lemon.

 Working in a restaurant–especially a steak and seafood restaurant–is especially hard when you’re on a special diet–vegan or not! The last month has been full of parties, tasty treats, appetizers, specialty items, cheeses and dips…and I couldn’t eat any of it!

The biggest thing was that we needed to plan ahead. The nights we worked at the restaurant, we’d pack the ingredients to make dinner. The fast also forced me to pack my lunch each day (luckily, I have an amazing husband who does way too much for me and takes amazing care of me) because it’s so difficult to eat out.

The days I wasn’t prepared were difficult and I found myself scrambling to find a snack–vending machines are pretty much off-limits and it’s hard finding time to run to the grocery store, especially since you have to pay attention to ingredient lists.

So what did I learn?

I learned that I am a lot more patient than I give myself credit for. Yes, I still have some work to do, but I’m getting there. Doing the fast took a lot of planning, time and preparation and I was surprised that I was able to do so well.

Again, Farmer Ben was a big help and those three weeks were a great reminder that we can lean on each other for support and encouragement…or just to vent about how badly one of us wants coffee or cheese.  

I also learned that I can go without, and practice self-control, something that can definitely be applied to my every day life. I found that, even though I was restricting certain foods, I was still getting everything I needed and I wasn’t starving to death by any means. He takes care of me and continues to provide for me, even if I don’t always get immediate gratification.

We saved a lot of money during this time…and that was perfectly okay.

I won’t go into my personal reasons for doing this, but I definitely learned a lot. There were a few verses that I kept in mind during this time period–something to focus on if you will–and they were so encouraging, especially on days when all I wanted to was  a cheeseburger and a beer…or something of the like.

It was a much-needed push to take time out of my day for prayer, studying The Word and reflection. I’ve always struggled with this aspect of my life and I feel like this journey has helped me refocus.

I will admit that some of the lessons from the Daniel Fast were not what I was expecting, but they were valuable nevertheless.

I managed to lose a few pounds…it’s amazing how much your calories are cut when you aren’t eating certain foods. I didn’t do this to lose extra weight, but it was a side effect. I have to say, some days I was hungry most of the day and other days I could barely eat.

It was very strange and my body is still trying to balance out the changes. I’ve gained back a few pounds, but I’ve also noticed that my appetite and cravings have changed. I’m not hungry and I’m wanting to eat different things than I did before.

After 21 days, my head was clearer, my body was cleaner and my spirit was calmer.

Would I do the fast again?

In a word, yes.

I definitely think that deliberately setting that time aside to plan, refocus, and organize your mind, body and spirit is a necessity.

I will tell you that I usually get very stressed out between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This time, while I did still have some stress, I was at peace and was ready to take on all of the activities that come with the season.

I can tell you that you need to go into this time with an end purpose, a goal of learning something, having a prayer answered or making a change. You need something to focus on. If you don’t, you’re not doing it for the right reasons.

It’s amazing what you can do when you take yourself out of the everyday hustle and bustle and set aside time for a higher purpose.

I cherish the three weeks and continue to remind myself of the small lessons I learned along the way.

So, any questions? Have you ever thought about doing a fast? What would be your biggest obstacle/item you’d have a hard time cutting out? What would be your focus?


Crunchy Quinoa Granola

I went a little granola crazy this weekend. The hubs and I decided to do snacks and foodie items for Christmas this year, so I made two batches of granola. It went fast.

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Wholesome Crunchy Gift Giving

The first was adapted from this recipe by Joy the Baker.  I also got the mason jar idea from her. Genius.

Not gonna lie, I wasn’t sure about the goji berries, but they were awesome! 

The second was something  I sort of made up on the fly because I was running out of oats. And it was absolutely amazing.  It was also super festive because I used red quinoa, cherries and pistachios. Did I mention that it was delicious?

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Totally festive, crunchy, protein packed granola. No big deal.

This is a super savory granola, but if you want to sweeten it up, feel free to add more agave nectar. I don’t think it needs it…

The quinoa and cocoa nibs give this an awesome crunch and the coconut oil gives a super savory, rich flavor. I think this is my new favorite granola!

Look at this recipe as more of a guideline than something set in stone.

Crunchy Quinoa Granola

Ingredients

4 cups rolled oats.

2 cups red quinoa, uncooked–be sure to rinse and drain it!

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

3/4 cup cocoa nibs

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut-I like the flakes because it adds some awesome texture

1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped (I chopped mine a little too much, you’ll want big chunks for that beautiful green color!)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 pinch smoked salt

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 1/2 cups dried cherries

What to do:

Preheat oven to 325.

Line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Combine all dry ingredients except the cherries in a large bowl, give it a good toss to make sure it’s well mixed.

Heat coconut oil and agave nectar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until combined. 

Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Add to dry ingredients and mix well, ensuring the mixture is well coated.

Pour granola onto baking sheets, making sure to spread evenly.

Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, pulling out twice to toss mixture (so it doesn’t burn).

Let cool completely and add dried cherries. Granola will last several weeks in an airtight container. Serve over milk, yogurt or by the handful.

Enjoy!

Happy Wednesday!


Daniel Fast-The Plate

In my last post, I spilled the beans on what the hubs and I have been up to for the last three weeks. I also gave a brief explanation as to what the logistics of the Daniel Fast are… In my next post, I’ll discuss my personal experience.

This is the fun post. I’m talking about the food.

So, what’s been on my plate?

As you probably know, I am a huge breakfast person…as in, I can barely survive if I skip it. That being said, I stuck with oatmeal most days of the fast.

Because you can’t have dairy or sugar during the fast, I would just cook with water, then throw in some apples, cinnamon and peanut butter to spice it up a bit. Other days I would do bananas and pecans. It all works.

Toward the end of the fast, I started cooking the oats in (unsweetened) almond milk to add a little more calcium and iron. I’ve been tracking my food on MFP for a long time and was noticing that I wasn’t getting enough of the two. The almond milk definitely helped. 

My main snacks were popcorn, apples and matzos with peanut butter.

The key to making this fast work is to plan your meals. It’s possible to go out for lunch or  dinner on this plan, but it’s very difficult–Mostly because you never really know what restaurants are putting in your food.  Thus, you want to plan ahead and cook a  few meals at a time.

I tried to snap pictures of what I was eating throughout the 21 days. Apples and oatmeal aren’t very pretty, so here are a few photos of other meals.  Keep in mind, these are all meat and dairy free; Vegan, with more restrictions. 

I’d say we still ate some pretty delicious things!

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Burrito Bowls: quinoa, beans, vegan sausage (ToFurky Brand), onions, tomatoes garlic peppers, olives and guacamole

 

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Skillet Meal (makes multiple servings): Corn, black beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and peppers served over volcano rice. Great with a splash of hot sauce.

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Veggie Packed Miso Soup: Red Miso, Water, rice noodles, peas, broccoli, sprouts, tofu

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Veggie Packed Tabouleh: sprouts, carrots, avocado, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, scallions, cashews, lemon juice, parsley served over romaine

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Tofu Breakfast Scramble: tofu, curry powder, potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli and spinach.

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Mostly Plain Pasta: Organic Bow-tie Pasta, Olive Oil, smoked salt, black olives, parsley and some secret spices

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Fresh Tomato Sauce and Pasta: Whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, olives, garlic, onion, basil, parsley, capers and peppers

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Salad and Latkes–kind of: greens and broccoli with balsamic, shredded potatoes and onions, olive oil and leftover tomato sauce.

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Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao): One of two times we ate out, veganized for us.

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This was probably one of my favorite meals-more salad with balsamic and a Moroccan chickpea stew over rice. YUM!!!!

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger (I adapted the Lean Green Bean’s recipe) over greens with Tabasco sauce

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Veganized Minestrone with rutabega, kale, potatoes, carrots and loads of other veggies.

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Popcorn: my snack of choice for the fast, popped on the stove in the trusty old cast iron, seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and smokey paprika.

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Thai coconut curry soup with lots of veg and tofu

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The other time I ate out-a burrito less the shell: rice, peppers, onion, tempeh, black beans, tomatoes and roasted potatoes, with salsa. Yum!

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Another pasta sauce with vegan sausage. Onions, garlic, peppers, basil, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

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Tofu Tikka Masala

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Another breakfast scramble.

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Another salad, matzos and peanut butter ( another go-to snack)

Again, this isn’t everything, but it’s a good description of what our diet was like.

We ate a lot of beans, dark leafy greens, pasta, potatoes and rice. I’m not complaining. I love all of these things. We also ate a lot of tofu and tried tempeh in a few meals.

Peanut butter and apples became a staple (not that both of these weren’t before..but it was more pronounced).

We also experimented with seasoning and made sure to pack in a lot of veggies in almost every meal. I noticed that the amount of fat, sugars, and cholesterol I was eating dropped a lot, not that it was high before, but it was even lower in these three weeks.

I mentioned before that we didn’t have any coffee… I tried to trick myself by drinking hot water out of my coffee mug. It worked about half the time.

Anyway, stay tuned for my next post where I will give you a look into my personal experience with the fast.

Do you have any favorite vegan staples? Do you think you’d be able to give up meat, dairy, drinks and sugar for three weeks? What would you miss the most?  Let me know!


The Daniel Fast-An Explanation

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 Rules:

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.

Other Information:

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.

The Book

The Book

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.

Stay tuned!


Hotter Than….

Jalapenos. I love them. Especially fresh out of the garden.

That being said, we are currently trying to figure out what to do with all of them! I’m in pepper heaven.

They’ve been pickled, sauced, jammed, fried and added as toppings to almost everything I’ve eaten lately.

Two nights ago, I stumbled upon a brilliant idea… I don’t exactly know how I came up with this… or why I never thought of it before. Sigh, so much wasted time!

Jalapeno Hummus. It’s spicy, tangy, smooth, hot. Delicious. And I think I have a new food addiction… no big deal.
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You’re welcome.

Jalapeno Hummus:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large can chickpeas (you can also use dried and soak overnight)
  • 3 fresh jalapenos, seeds and stems removed
  • 2 cloves garlic (the bigger the better)
  • A pinch of sea salt-or to taste
  • A few cranks of crushed black pepper
  • About 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Roughly 2-3 tbsp. tahini

What to do:

Drain chickpeas and dump into food processor. Add in jalapenos, garlic, sea salt, pepper and olive oil (I roughly chopped my japs before doing this).

Process until the mixture is smooth, with some chunks. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon (and some zest if you’re feeling adventurous!) and tahini.  Blend until desired consistency.

Serve with your favorite snacking vegetables, crackers or as a sandwich spread. Hummus will last, sealed and refrigerated for a few days…if it lasts that long.

Happy Friday!