Thoughts about Food.

The Paleo Diet’s doing good things for me.

For a while there, I was not sure whether or not the paleo diet was making any real difference in my life. As of Valentine’s Day, I am sure that it’s doing good things. What significance does Valentine’s Day have? I broke diet for half the weekend. Chocolate. Sushi. Cheeseburger. Pad Thai. I was loving the break… until Saturday night (1 full day into the sugar and wheat binge), when I had so many time-travel seizures that even Adam lost count.

I am now trying to figure out if I have a problem with wheat (since gliadin antibodies are higher in folks with MS, suggesting a sensitivity to wheat), dairy (which would make sense since MS has been linked to consumption of cow’s milk), a combination of the two, or something completely different. I’m not too worried about legumes, since the only legumes I had were crushed peanuts in the pad thai, and that was during Saturday night’s seizure funfest.

I got back to sticking to the diet on Sunday, and had a total of 1 seizure that day, which was a simple partial. (No time travel!)

Splenda – not so sweet.

In the last several days, I’ve also been doing some research on Splenda. There have been a lot of hoaxes and half-true infographics circulating around FB recently, and I’m genuinely worried for my folks, who drink it in beverages regularly. I found a bunch of studies that claim that sucralose is totally safe for you as long as you don’t have too much. I was more concerned with finding peer-reviewed studies that were not funded by the makers of Splenda or a sugar corporation.

Here’s what I found:

Splenda is not an inert compound.
“Sucralose and one of its hydrolysis products were found to be mutagenic at elevated concentrations in several testing methods. Cooking with sucralose at high temperatures was reported to generate chloropropanols, a potentially toxic class of compounds. Both human and rodent studies demonstrated that sucralose may alter glucose, insulin, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) levels. Taken together, these findings indicate that sucralose is not a biologically inert compound.” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523#.UwFpL_ldUkZ

Splenda is immunosupressive.
“The cumulative suppression of Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10 levels induced by sucralose may contribute to the inability in mounting an effective humoral response when posed with an exogenous threat.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24063614

“[E]xposure to sucralose induces a reduced humoral response that may be associated with adverse effects on the immune system.” http://etd.uwc.ac.za/usrfiles/modules/etd/docs/etd_gen8Srv25Nme4_5780_1319022717.pdf

Splenda can reduce glucose absorption and can increase the presence of cholesterol in your blood.
“It could be concluded that consumption of sucralose didn’t induce oxidative stress, has no effect on insulin, reduce glucose absorption and intensify hypercholesterolemia in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Accordingly it is advised that diabetic people consuming high amount of sucralose must check their lipid profile to avoid diabetic complications.” http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=34006#.UwFqI_ldUkY

The more Splenda you consume, the higher your likelihood of developing leukemia.
“Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, and team fed 843 laboratory mice varying doses of sucralose from when they were fetuses until they died. Post-mortems showed an association between leukemia risk and lifetime sucralose consumption – the more sucralose they consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia.” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262475.php

Splenda is a known migraine trigger.
“This observation of a potential causal relationship between sucralose and migraines may be important for physicians to remember this can be a possible trigger during dietary history taking.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.00543_1.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

Splenda can negatively affect your insulin response, if you’re obese and haven’t been regularly using it.
“[S]ucralose affects the glycemic and insulin responses to an oral glucose load in obese people who do not normally consume NNS.” http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/9/2530.short

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a safe artificial sweetener right now. Thankfully, liquid stevia, raw honey, and maple syrup are ok.

Super Bowl XLVIII Paleo Recipe Roundup!

Welcome to Sup(p)er Bowl XLVIII (48)

I don’t think it was really a mistake a moment ago when I went to type “Super” and instead typed, “Supper.” Whenever I think about Super Bowl parties, I pretty much only think about the food. Happily, I am not alone in this. There are several paleo food bloggers who also look forward to celebrating. Here, I’ve compiled content from PaleOMG, TheClothesMakeTheGirl, FastPaleo, NomNomPaleo, PaleoSpirit, & PaleoGirl.

Deviled Eggs
Bacon Jalapeño Deviled Eggs
Bacon and Jalapeño Deviled Eggs
Bacon Deviled Eggs

Chicken Wings & Nuggets
Chile Lime Chicken Wings
Jalapeño Lime Chicken Wings
Buffalo Chicken Wings
Restaurant Style Buffalo Wings
Devil Wings
Sweet n Sassy Chicken Wings
Sweet and Sexy Wings
Tackling Tso Wings
Chicken Wing Jerky
20 Wing Recipes by Paleo Grub
Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets
Paleo Chick-Fil-A Nuggets
Chicken Satay
Chocolate Chicken Lollipops
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Chicken
Touchdown Chicken Tenders
Crispy Chicken Dippers
Cilantro Chicken Nuggets

Fries & Potato Skins
Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Double-Coverage Nacho Fries
Garlic Dill Sweet Potato Wedges
Rosemary Sweet Potato Fries with Homemade Ketchup
Carrot Fries with Garlic Aioli
Roasted Carrot {Fries}
Baked Zucchini Fries with Bloomin’ Onion Dipping Sauce
Zucchini Field-Goal Fries
Avocado Chorizo Sweet Potato Skins
Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato Skins
Rosemary Citrus Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Bacon Basil Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Meatballs
Meatballs Cups
Bacon Meatballs with Mango Honey Mustard Sauce
Spaghetti and Meatball Bites
Asian Meatballs
Bora Bora Fireballs
”The Grub” Meatballs
Bacon Wrapped Pork Meatballs
Big Tim’s 4 Bees Meatballs
Mmmmm. Morrocan Meatballs
Cevapčići

Nuts
Smoky and Spicy Candied Cashews
Roasted Rosemary Almonds
Chili-Lime Spiced Almonds
Savory Paleo Granola
Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Almonds

Stuffed Mushrooms
Touchdown Stuffed Mushrooms
Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Paleo Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Paleo Shrimp-Stuffed Mushrooms

Other finger foods
Raw veggies dipped in: Sunshine Sauce  | Creamy Italian Dressing | Tahini Dressing
BBQ Bacon Asparagus
Baby Pizza Bites
Zucchini Pesto Roll Ups
Smoked Salmon Stuffed Sweet Peppers
Paleo Chips
BBQ Baked Kale Chips
Spicy Salmon Cucumber Bites
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Tomato Bites
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed Jalepenos
Chili Pepper Poppers
Guac Poppers
Pear & Bacon Bites
Bacon + Guacamole Sammies
Devils on Horseback
Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto
Flatbread Pizza
Prosciutto & Basil Wrapped Shrimp
Paleo Pigs in a Blanket

Dips
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip (Paleo & Vegan)
Chunky Pineapple Guacamole with Grilled Sweet Potato Chips
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Paleo Taco Dip
Paleo Buffalo Ranch Dip
Roasted Eggplant Hummus/Babaganoush

Chili
Smoky Bacon Chili
Chocolate Chili
Pumpkin Chili
Big Tim’s Primalized Chili
Paleo Chipotle Chili

Burgers
Southwest Turkey Sliders with Avocado Slaw
Triple Protein Burgers
Maple-glazed Burgers Stuffed with Bacon, Stuffed with Jalepenos, Stuffed with Dates, Stuffed with Almonds
Bacon Beef Burger
Southwestern Chorizo Burgers
Beast Burgers
My Kind Of Sliders

Main Dishes
5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie
Pulled Pork Waffle Sliders
Spicy Shepherd’s Pie Chorizo Meatloaf
Buffalo Chicken Pasta
Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Pork Avocado Cream Enchiladas
Boneless Pork Short Rib Breakfast Tacos
Plantain Nachos
Stovetop Pork Carnitas
Mexican Meatza
Riceless, No-Soy Sushi
Jalapeño Dijon Chicken
Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Casserole
Primal Pork Patties (Thai Style)

Ribs
Roasted Beef Ribs
Jamaican Jerk Baked Ribs
Dry-Rubbed BBQ Pork Ribs

Salads
Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad
Deconstructed Gyro Salad
Herb “Rice” Salad*
Muffaletta Salad

Slow Cooker Recipes
Crockpot Pulled Pork Chili
Crockpot Sweet Potato Basil Soup
Crockpot Pork Green Chile (Chile Verde)
Easy Shredded Beef
Epic Pig
Big Tim’s GROK Pot Pulled Pork
BigTim’s Crock-pot BBQ Beef
Crockpot Meatballs
Oven-Braised Mexican Braised Beef
Slow Cooker Kalua Pig
Slow Cooker Barbacoa
Barbacoa
Ancho Chile Pulled Pork BBQ

Desserts
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls
Double Chocolate Energy Bites
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bon Bons
Paleo Snickerdoodles
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts
Triple Chocolate Truffles (nut free)
Brownie Batter Pancake Skewers
Cookie Pie Ice Cream Bites
Coffee Chocolate Caramel Bars
Magic Brownie Bars
Chocolate Pumpkin Sunbutter Treats
Pumpkin Cream Donut Sandwiches
Chocolate Cupcakes
Apple Pie Nachos
Caramelized Coconut Chips
Sweet & Salty Fudge Bombs
Fruit Crisp
Banana Nut Balls
Paleo-fied Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Covered Pecan Pie Balls
Chocolate Covered Bacon
Zucchini Brownies
Maple Bacon Ice Cream
Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream” Bon Bons
Nom Nom Chocolate Truffles
Almond-Blocker-Bars

So which team are you rootin’ for?

This year’s match is between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. I think I have 1 friend in Seattle. Maybe 2. Denver, though? That’s a whole other story. I have so many friends there, you’d think I actually lived in that city at some point. (I haven’t.)  Most importantly, however, my brother Daniel lives in Denver. And everybody knows, you gotta stick with family. 🙂  That’s why, even though I don’t give a crap about football, I totally want the Broncos to win.

Hope everyone has fun today! Stay safe on the roads! Don’t let you friends drink & drive. ❤

Paleo Mexican Chicken Tortilla-like Soup

mexican-soup

A New Take On An Old Favorite

One of my favorite puzzles in life is figuring out to take leftovers from one meal and transform them into something new and delicious for another meal.

Yesterday, I found myself looking at about 2 pounds-worth of leftover Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken*, trying to figure out what to do with it. We’d already used a pound of it as meat for fiesta nachos. Back when we weren’t keeping a Whole 30, we would use the meat for soft tacos and then use the leftovers to make Tex-Mex Chicken Soup (inspired by Tex-Mex Turkey Soup). Since this soup contains sour cream, corn, and beans, I knew we had to try a different recipe.

I searched the web for “paleo mexican chicken soup”, and immediately found a winner: Paleo Commfort Foods’ Chicken Tortilla-less Soup. I figured, since our chicken was already flavored with salsa and spices that we could skip the part of the recipe that talks about fixing the chicken. I was primarily interested in using the recipe to figure out  how much broth to use and what other vegetables to add. It served as a great inspiration for the soup I actually made.

Paleo Mexican Chicken Tortilla-like Soup

(Whole 30 compliant, Serves 8)

Ingredients

  • About 2 pounds of leftover Slow Cooker Cilantro Chicken
  • 4 cups of chicken stock or broth
  • 3 tsp (6 cloves) of garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP granulated onion (or 1 medium onion, diced)
  • 28 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded & diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded & diced
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded & minced
  • 1 orange bell pepper (red or yellow would work too). seeded & diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Procedure

  1. Chop up all of your veggies and aromatics.
  2. Put all of the ingredients in a large pot (12 c. or greater) and stir to combine.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Enjoy!

I thought about some other flavors that we might add the next time. I think carrots would be a good addition because they’re sweet like corn. I’m also debating yellow squash.

* – When Adam and I fix Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken, we don’t use taco seasoning packets because of the extra, unnecessary stuff in most of them. Here’s what we do. The only difference now that we’re on the paleo diet is that we use salsa that doesn’t have any sugar in it. Tostitos medium is a good one. Trader Joe’s has a few good ones as well.

Woah, We’re Halfway There! Woah-oh, Livin On A Prayer!

15 days down, 15 to go.

It’s January 15! That means we’re halfway done with our Whole30! That rocks my socks off. So far, the thing that my meal plan has been best for is pulling up recipes to make grocery lists. We haven’t even kind of stuck to what meals we planned to have at what time. We buy ingredients for 5 meals or so at a time, and have really enjoyed many of the dishes.

Here are the dishes that we’ve liked the best:
A surprise favorite: Not Beanie Weenie – We never would have tried this recipe if we hadn’t found the Whole30 approved hot dogs! It’s a solid recipe, but it tastes even better if you add some yellow mustard. Best part — it’s a 1 pot meal.

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie – Our recipe was inspired by this one. It’s one of our favorites because it’s really straightforward and easy. It also was very comforting and tasty!

Baked Pork Chops with Apple-Thyme Gravy – So Good! The gravy itself was more like a sauce than a gravy because it wasn’t thick. You couldn’t really taste the apple, but it was still so full of umami goodness that it was worth mentioning.

There was only one real problem with this recipe on its own. The cooking time suggested on the recipe’s website is cah-rayzee. Pork chops should never take an hour and fifteen minutes to cook in an oven set to 400 F. If you leave them in that long, you will end up with hockey pucks instead of pork chops. Instead, we stuck a meat thermometer in the thickest chop we were using and took it out of the oven when the pork’s internal temp reached 145 F. We let the meat rest for a few minutes, and it came up to 150 F, which is ideal for food safety. It took maybe 20 minutes, which made this meal both mouthwatering and quick. We paired it with baked sweet potato.

Last, but certainly not least, last night, we really enjoyed Tropical Grilled Flank Steak – Possibly the easiest and best tasting recipe we’ve tried yet. Instead of adding minced garlic and chopped chives or scallions, I coated both sides of the flank steak with granulated onion powder and granulated garlic powder. Also instead of mincing the ginger, I grated it, so that it would stick to the steak better. It was so much less work than the update I made to my Mom and Grammy’s flank steak recipe, and it was just as good. This will probably become a part of our regular meal rotation even after the Whole30 is over. We paired it with steamed broccoli.

Our Favorite Snacks

One of the most important things for us has been having snack food, for those moments when you’re totally hungry and don’t have time to fix something. Here’s what we’ve been enjoying.

Dried, Non-Sweetened Organic Mango Slices
Honeycrisp Apples
Navel Oranges
Dried, Salted Plantain Chips
Sunflower Seeds
Unsalted Cashews
Homemade Beef Jerky

What’s Next?

With the Whole30 being halfway through, I have a much better handle on how to cook for it. If a recipe has more than 5-6 non-spice ingredients, I usually don’t have the time or patience to make it.

So what’s on the menu in the next several days?
Our chili recipe, which I’m planning to make tonight. (I’ve gotta get off this computer and go shopping for the ingredients!)

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken – an old favorite that we ate even when we weren’t paleo! We double Adam’s Taco Seasoning and add it in place of the packet of taco seasoning in the recipe. We’ll definitely make some paleo tortilla chips to go with it, and probably some guacamole too.

Keeping with the slow cooker theme, we’re also slated to try NomNomPaleo’s Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs and Slow Cooker Cheater Pot Stew. I’m a little worried about the pork stew, just because Adam doesn’t like cabbage usually. Sometimes, he digs bok choy, though… so I’m hopeful that this recipe passes his palate’s test.

We’re also going to try Buffalo Ranch Chicken Meatballs, which, when paired with celery sticks, looks like something easy and yummy for supper. I’m thinking of adding some paprika and cayenne pepper to the meatball itself, for a little extra kick.

This food isn’t gonna buy or cook itself, so I’d better wrap it up and get to the store. Hope everyone’s having a great day!

What to eat when you’re sick and keeping a paleo Whole 30.

Being Sick Is No Fun.

Last week wasn’t such a great week, health-wise, for my husband, Adam. He was diagnosed with strep throat and a flu-like virus that completely took him out of commission from Wednesday night until about mid-day Sunday. Miraculously, even with an immune system that’s operating at 60%, I did not get sick! I am praying that I am not in an incubation period, and that I don’t end up ill in about a week or two.

Sadly, we couldn’t go to the gym on Monday or Tuesday of last week because of the polar vortex making temperatures in Chicago dip to forty degrees below zero. The gym was closed! Adam was diagnosed Wednesday, and he wasn’t feeling better until yesterday – so that’s a whole week of working out that we lost. 😦 I guess it’s better for us to have let our bodies rest and been considerate of the other gym-goers than to have pushed ourselves for the sake of keeping with our plans.

Speaking of keeping with our plans… we ran into a hard time on Friday. When either Adam or I have gotten really sick in the past, our diets were incredibly grain-heavy — noodle soups, fresh bread for dipping, Chinese food… that used to be the order of the day. But, you can’t do that when you’re paleo.

My Ginger Garlic Chicken Soup

Thursday and Friday for lunch, I made my ginger garlic chicken soup, which was great. I cut up about 12-15 baby carrots, 3 stalks of celery, and 2 chicken breasts, grated about a half inch of fresh ginger and 5-6 garlic cloves, and added 4 cups of organic chicken broth, 3 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, 1 TBSP of granulated onion (you could always sub 1 medium onion, chopped), a half tsp of poultry seasoning, some kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I let it simmer together for an hour or so, and we had some really comforting, delicious soup.

Unfortunately, that was all I had in my bag of tricks. I became slightly panicked on Friday night because I couldn’t think of anything else that was Whole30 compliant for me to make for dinner that would soothe Adam’s cold.

The Foodee Project & Chowstalker to the Rescue!

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a research fanatic. The first thing I did was to Google “paleo while sick” and “whole30 while sick” to get some results where I could see what others who were keeping this diet do when they’re feeling ill.

I was shocked and saddened to see that there were few answers or suggestions for anything other than scrambled eggs and bone broth. Heck, some people even advocated fasting. I thought that was crazy. Fortunately, there were a few more helpful suggestions on TheClothesMakeTheGirl – she suggested zucchini noodles with ghee and mashed potatoes. Both are very respectable suggestions. Unfortunately, Adam wasn’t in the mood for any of that.

So, I hit up Chowstalker and The Foodee Project for Whole 30 recipe suggestions. I found a lot of good options, and I thought I should share them with you! I need to add all of these to the Paleo Compendium.

Soups

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Roasted, Curried Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Soup
Curried Apple Soup
Sweet Potato Basil Soup
Indian Spiced Sweet Potato & Bacon Soup
Beef & Mushroom Soup
Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup
Smoky Mexican Tortilla-less Chicken Soup
Tuscan Chicken Soup
Ginger Chicken Soup
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Golden Cauliflower Soup
Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup
Avocado Soup with Cucumber
Gazpacho With Zucchini Pasta
Squash & Crab Bisque

Not Soup


Fall Harvest Mash

Butternut Squash & Yam Mash
Turnip-Cauliflower Mash
Lemon Cucumber Noodles with Cumin

Feeling Better

Today is Monday, and Adam is back at work. The sun is shining, and temperatures are back up above freezing. That means that tonight, we’re definitely headed to the gym, and that I need to get something started in the slow cooker about… now, actually. (Geesh! Better finish this entry.) Tonight, we’re having Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken & Sweet Potatoes.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Change is scary… but scary is good.

This year has been very important to me. I learned many lessons that I think will help me live a better life overall.

I learned about Automatic Negative Thoughts and how to challenge them. I learned about the importance of staying busy, even if it means doing things that I don’t particularly enjoy (like doing dishes or folding laundry). I was able to break my cycle of suicidal thinking, and I have learned that it is not only safe, but sometimes completely necessary to get out of the apartment and rely both on public transportation and my own direction sense.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
-Maya Angelou

Since January, I have experienced far fewer seizures than I did during 2008-2012. When I finally stopped taking Cymbalta and Abilify in December (which was very difficult), I went from having 30+ seizures in a day to having them only when I’m dealing with a relapse or pseudoexacerbation of my MS.

At first blush, and in truth, this seemed like a wonderful thing… but it created a strange emptiness that was immediately filled with obsessive thoughts of my worthlessness and a desire to end my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pining for seizures – but suddenly, I saw what my life had been for 4 years — primarily Facebooking and doing very little else, sitting on the couch — and often sleeping through days. I suddenly had a lot of free time where I wasn’t either shaking or needing to sleep. And that was a good thing.

Nowadays, I am able to be a mostly-effective housewife. I do dishes. I do laundry. I clean. I grocery shop. I cook. Having the ability to do these things has made me feel as though I am finally a productive member of this family, and not someone who simply needs to be cared for 24/7.

Thanks to working with a great therapist, I’m now able to say (and genuinely believe) that I am worthy of life and happiness simply because I am a unique human being, and there will never be another one of me in all of time and space. I no longer think that what I do for other people or how much money I earn is an appropriate test for how “good” a person I am.

For several months this year, I tried to get back into the working world with no success. I sent out at least 3-5 resumes a day, and I got 1 phone interview in 6 months. 1. I could blame the economy… I could blame the fact that it’s been 5 years since I had “real” work. I could blame this blog “outting” my MS status to the world…but at the end of the day, I really believe that things happen the way they need to, as opposed to the way that we want it. Adam’s job pays enough for us to live comfortably, without me needing to add the stress of work (and getting to and from work) into the equation. As a housewife, I’m able to make the act of coming home into something genuinely pleasant for Adam, and I appreciate that he values my efforts.

The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.
-Leo Tolstoy

One of the good things about my lack of employment is that I won’t have to worry about when to go on maternity leave. I don’t have a job dictating when Adam and I can start a family. Unfortunately, I am on a lot of medication… and none of those medications are pregnancy-friendly.

When I stopped taking Cymbalta and Abilify, it was for 2 reasons – 1.) because I wanted my Video EEG to be as accurate as possible and 2.) because I wanted to get pregnant. If I hadn’t wanted to have a baby, I might not have had the willpower to quit, and I’d still be having seizures multiple times per day. Wanting to be a mother has helped propel me to do things that have been very good for me.

Now that Adam and I are really serious about it, I’m looking at what else I have to quit, and I have to admit I’m a little scared.

I have to quit Gilenya and wait at least 2 months before even trying to get pregnant, or else it will negatively affect the fetus. …so no DMD slowing down my MS during the pregnancy. I also can’t take it after the baby is born if I want to breastfeed (which I do). Fortunately, MS is supposed to be better during pregnancy. I can only hope. I just received my Gilenya for January, so I am planning to stop taking it either at the end of this pack or the next.

The daily omeprazole that I take for GERD has a category C rating by the FDA. This rating means that it is not known whether a particular medication will cause harm to an unborn baby if the medication is taken during pregnancy. This also means that, if possible, other alternative therapies should be tried. So, I’ll be asking my doctor about finding a new drug. I really hope there’s something to help with GERD that is pregnancy-friendly. I also know that breastfeeding while on omeprazole is a no-no.

The nightly 50 mg of nortriptyline that I take for MS pain has not been formally assigned to a pregnancy category by the FDA. Limb reduction anomalies (meaning babies being born with short arms or legs) have been reported in humans exposed to nortriptyline, however, no firm association has been made. The prevailing wisdom is that nortriptyline should only be taken during pregnancy when there are no alternatives and benefit outweighs risk. …so I need to get off this too. I also know you can’t breastfeed on it. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage the sometimes intense pain that I have in my legs and back without this, but I’m willing to hurt if it means that our baby will be healthy.

Then there are my hypertension medications – Hydrocholrathiazide and Amlodipine. Hydrochlorothiazide is considered category B by the FDA (same as Tylenol). Retrospective reviews of data have shown an increased risk of malformations associated with thiazide diuretics, so the drug should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. Amlodipine has been assigned to pregnancy category C by the FDA and should only be given during pregnancy when benefit outweighs risk. This means that I need to stop taking both of these medications, but I still must have my hypertension in check if the pregnancy is going to go well.

I am trying, right now, to get my blood pressure under control through diet and exercise. That’s a big part of why Adam and I are doing a Whole30 in January and are committing to 45 minutes of daily exercise. Science suggests that by eating less than 2000 mg of sodium a day and increasing my physical activity to 45 minutes of cardio at least 4 times a week, I should be able to conquer my hypertension. My cardiologist wants me to try to aim for 1500 mg if I can. I’m going to do my best.

And then, lastly, and most obviously, there’s my birth control pill. I think I’m most excited (and least afraid) about quitting this. I’ve been on hormonal birth control since I started getting ovarian cysts when I was 12… so it’s been 20 years. It feels like time. I am not, however, going to stop taking it until after I’ve already been off of Gilenya for 2 full months. I’m 2 weeks away from the end of my current 3 month pack, so I figure I’ll get it refilled one more time, and we can start trying in April, if everything goes as planned.

For everyone playing along at home, that means that at the absolute earliest we’d be due in January or February of next year, which feels like forever, even though it’s only a year out. To be really honest, I don’t expect to get pregnant in our first month or two of trying. Thinking this way is the only way I can convince myself that I’m on a good schedule and that I won’t be due during the coldest months of the year. However, since God has a totally sick sense of humor, I’m fully expecting that I’ll be due in late August or early September, in 100+ degree weather. I’m praying for a due date in October or June. I’m pretty sure those are the only 2 months that are genuinely nice in Chicago. Then again, I’m also pretty sure that the baby won’t care what it’s like outside, and it’ll come when it comes.

Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.
-Clint Eastwood

Aside from taking a disease modifying drug to slow progression, there’s not a whole lot that a person with MS can do to improve their physical condition. Sure, exercise is good, and it definitely helps with dealing with muscle spasms and weakness, but it won’t slow down progression. The same is true of diet. For several months in 2011, and a few months here-and-there since, I kept a paleo diet in an effort to reduce inflammation in my body and to be healthier. In early 2011, I was without Copaxone and was trying to manage the disease through diet. I found out that the paleo diet doesn’t stop progression either, but it did help me lose weight and have less pain.

Because of this, Adam and I have made the commitment to a January Whole30 and 45 minutes of daily exercise in an effort to both jump-start our fitness and to help prepare me for coming off of all of these medications.

The secret to making it through a Whole30 is good planning. I’ve created a 30 day meal plan to help us (and others) have a successful month. It’s not 100% finished yet. I still need to add a few meals to the last week. I’ve also left lunches open because I figure that we’ll either have leftovers or a salad of some sort. I’m not sure when we’ll have leftovers and when we won’t, or whether I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch or Adam will, so I didn’t add anything there. The emptiness is intentional — a feature, not a bug! 🙂 I also left off dessert/snacks because I figure everyone who is doing a Whole30 knows that they can have fresh fruit or veggies whenever they want them. I thought the plan needed some wiggle room for spur-of-the-moment personal desires.

As for working out, I’ve been dividing my cardio time among the elliptical trainer, the stationary bike, and walking on the treadmill. I’m not sure if we’re planning to weight train during January as well. That’s kind of up in the air at the moment. I’m also hoping to add swimming to the mix.

When I finish with the meal plan, I’m going to create weekly grocery lists, and I’ll share those here too.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
-Amelia Earhart

When I think about the life I’ve lived so far, the best and most important things I’ve ever done have made me truly afraid. And rather than the acts themselves, it was the experience of conquering the fear that made me feel truly alive. I remember a time when I couldn’t sing in front of people without throwing up afterwards. I remember when I was terrified of living in an apartment by myself. I remember how scared I was the first time I drove a car… So, when I think about actually giving birth, and the earnest thought alone gives me goosebumps and makes me queasy, I’m pretty sure that means it’s going to be one of the most important things I will do in this life.

And every step towards it is another opportunity to kick fear’s ass.

I made much better tasting mayo today.

I made mayonnaise again today, but modified my original recipe. What it created was at least 10 times yummier.

Rae’s Homemade Miracle Whip-like Paleo Mayonnaise

Yields 4 Cups

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. Get out your food processor and put in the sabatier blade. (That’s the “S” shaped one that spins towards the bottom.)
  2. In the processor bowl, place the egg yolks, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, and salt.
  3. Turn the machine on (not on pulse, but in the “on” position) and as slowly as you can, start to drizzle in the oil, drop by drop until the mixture starts to look like mayonnaise, then a slow steady stream of oil can be added.
  4. Turn off the food processor.
  5. Use a flexible spatula to scoop the mayonnaise out of the bowl and into a container that is suitable for the refrigerator. If properly refrigerated, homemade mayonnaise can be used for 2 weeks.

It’s about time for an update…

It’s been a while since August 8. Lots of things have happened. That’s life!  I figure that it’s time for a good update.

What’s new with my MS

The last time I took any kind of disease modifying drug to help slow my MS progression was July 11th, when I quit Tecfidera. For those of you who are not inclined to do the math, that’s about 6.5 weeks ago. I wasn’t even on a therapeudic dose long enough for it to be helpful for me, so if you really want to know how long it’s been since I was on medication to help my MS in any meaningful way, we’d have to look at when I stopped Copaxone, which was on June 2nd. This means that my MS has been running amok for almost 3 months. That’s an entire season!

Honestly, I miss Copaxone. I never thought I would say that, since I hate giving myself injections, but I haven’t been enjoying the come-and-go nature of my MS symptoms which are more pronounced since I stopped. Numbness and tingling on my left side and on my back has been annoying, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. Fatigue has been significantly worse. Bladder/bowel stuff has been annoying but not disabling. Fortunately, I stay pretty close to a bathroom at all times. I’d hate to already be needing Depends. I’ve had spells of time when seizures returned with force. Last night, for example, was pretty tough, but today has been fine.  I’ve noticed that getting enough sleep (which for me is apparently about 14 hrs a day) is absolutely necessary to proper bodily function.

By and large, I’ve been alright. I’ve enjoyed not dealing with any side effects from meds. I’ve enjoyed not injecting myself nightly, and I’m actually surprisingly optimistic about starting Gilenya (a once-a-day pill for MS) on Thursday of this week.  I have to be at the hospital at 8 a.m. for the administration of my first dose. I’m hoping that the 6-hour observation period goes smoothly.

What’s new with the Paleo Diet

Well, first of all, I feel like an ass-and-a-half for sharing those ketchup recipes with you. I was so proud of my work at the time — but I’m really not pleased with what’s come after the first day. I’ve been using the stuff that I made for a few weeks now — and the first thing that happened with it is that the condiment got super thick, just like tomato paste. I have to dilute it with water every time I use it.

I intend to make another batch using a different recipe.  This recipe is based on Heinz ketchup, and has gotten good reviews.

Ingredients

6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth.
  2. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove pan from heat and cover until cool. Chill & store in a covered container.

To make it paleo-friendly, I’m just substituting honey for the corn syrup and sugar. Because honey is 1.5 times as sweet as sugar, I’m only adding 1/3 c. for the whole recipe. I know agave nectar would be a better 1-to-1 substitute for corn syrup, but it’s also a high-fructose syrup (90% fructose, 10% glucose).  Honey has a better ratio of fructose to glucose (40% fructose, 30% glucose, 30% other).

Several folks commented on the recipe that they subbed honey with good effects, so I’m hopeful that my next batch of ketchup lives up to my expectations.

As for other paleo-ness: Adam and I decided not to join in on August’s Whole30. I started making a meal-planning calendar and it just got too overwhelming. Right now, I’m just focusing on yummy, simple recipes. I promise I’ll share more.

What’s new with life in general

Well, this past weekend was all kinds of freakin awesome. My parents and my brother all came in town to visit me.  It still weirds me out to think that Mom and Dad are in the rural sticks of PA and that Daniel is in Denver, CO. Some part of my brain still acts like I’m in college and they are still living together in our home in Collierville, TN even though we’ve all moved on with our lives. We’re all still really close and talk frequently, so it feels like we should just be able to hop in the car to see one another, but that’s not the case. We actually hadn’t seen each other since Poppy’s funeral last year.

This weekend was pretty great because we made a commitment to being relaxed. We went out for delicious (and very non-Paleo) meals, and otherwise, we just hung out – no pressure.  Sure, my type-A personality required me to put together a wicked long list of things we could do, but it was more so that we could acknowledge that we had options and feel good about our decision to do nothing. 🙂 All that any of us cared about was just being together. So, Dad and Dan got to play chess while I showed Mom my Sims 3 game one day and after walking through a 4-story mall and hitting a bookstore, we watched a few episodes of Too Cute: Puppies back at their hotel room the next.  I feel like I made out like a bandit, honestly. I got to spend time with people I really, deeply love, was treated to fantastic meals, and Mom even got me some nail polish and mascara. (BTW – I totally endorse Maybelline’s Volum Express Falsies Big Eyes Washable Mascara. It is the shit. It adds volume and length without being clumpy, and it doesn’t flake off.)

Other than that, life is good and simple.

I’ve graduated from cognitive behavioral therapy. My therapist is so pleased with how I’m doing that I only have to have a visit with her now if something comes up and I need to call her, which is great.

I’m no longer afraid to take public transportation unless I’ve had a seizure in the last 24 hours, so I can get out of the house fairly easily, and I actually do have places I want to go to from time to time.

As for other activities, I’m currently working on writing a novel — an activity which is simultaneously frustrating and entertaining.  Currently, I’m only 2 chapters in, but I have faith that in time I’ll get through the whole story.

Adam and I are still working out at the YMCA at least 3 days a week, doing weightlifting on resistance machines and cardio on the elliptical or a treadmill.

And I’m still adding recipes to the Paleo Compendium every day, always in an effort to make my relationship with food easier and yummier.

I’m still butt-crazy in love with my husband after almost 3 years of marriage and 3 years of courting, and our dog is at least 5 times cuter and sweeter than he is a pain in the ass. 🙂  I really couldn’t ask for more out of life.

Right now, I feel very lucky.

Makeover Success!

Grammy Would Be Proud.

After I posted the recipe “Mom’s Flank Steak” on this blog, I found out from my father that the recipe was actually not originally Mom’s, but my Grammy’s!  (Grammy was my Dad’s mom. I called my mom’s mom “Grandma” for anyone who’s curious.) Apparently, Grammy gave my mom the recipe before I was even born! Boy am I glad she did. Dinner tonight was *fan-tastic*.

20130808_193754

Flank steak with mashed potatoes & broccoli… 100% paleo. It doesn’t get a lot better than this. 🙂

Monday, I had to pick up more ingredients, so Tuesday, I made the paleo ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. This morning, I made the Catalina dressing, and tonight, we had (in the words of my hubby) “fuckin’ delicious” flank steak.

I *did* have to make some revisions to one of the recipes, though!  I promised you that I’d let you know if we had to make any changes, so here we go!

Paleo ketchup that makes the grade!

(Revised!)

This was adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in the fridge.

Recipe makes about 5½ cups

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stick of celery, chopped
½ fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves
30 ounces tomato paste
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1½ c. cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the contents of the frying pan, and put it all into a food processor.
  4. Blend into a paste.
  5. In a large (preferably glass) bowl, stir the green paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  6. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  7. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  8. Transfer to a container (or a few containers) that is (are) good for refrigeration.
  9. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

 

I hope you enjoy!

Paleo Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Every once in a while, when it was a special occasion, my mom would make us flank steak. It’s one of my most positive food memories, so it’s no surprise that I’d want to create a paleo version of it.

This recipe makeover’s not as simple as quick substitutions. There’s soy sauce in it – and that’s an easy fix. (Wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos) But then, there’s Catalina dressing, which Kraft makes with high fructose corn syrup. Not one to give up, I found a great recipe for Catalina dressing… and found out that it is made with ketchup (not usually paleo) and Worcestershire sauce (also not usually paleo).

Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Here is my mom’s amazingly tasty flank steak recipe, in its original glory:

Mom’s Flank Steak

Ingredients: 
1 to 1.5 lbs of flank steak
1 small bottle of Kraft Catalina Dressing
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ginger Powder

Directions:

  1. Cover the flank steak with equal parts garlic and onion powder (the steak should almost be white)
  2. In a bowl, mix Catalina dressing, soy sauce, and ginger powder to taste.
  3. Pour dressing mix over flank steak and marinate for at least 3 hours. (24 is best!)
  4. Grill the steak, reserving the marinade.
  5. In a saucepan, bring the remaining marinade to a boil to remove any possibility of bacteria
  6. Serve the steak in thin strips with hot marinade on the side as a gravy.

Let’s make it paleo.

The flank steak is fine. So is the garlic powder, onion powder, and ginger powder (though I’ll probably want to use fresh). I’ll be swapping the soy sauce for wheat-free tamari. (I just don’t like coconut aminos.) Now, to make the rest!

Paleo Catalina Dressing

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup paleo ketchup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon paleo worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender (or use a handheld blender) and process until smooth.
  2. Add the oil in a slow steady stream with the machine running until the mixture comes together in an emulsion.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

This recipe makes approximately: 1 ½ cups — about the right amount for my mom’s recipe.

But I need paleo ketchup and worcestershire sauce… and they don’t sell that at the grocery store.

Paleo Worcestershire Sauce

Adapted from http://paleodietlifestyle.com/homemade-paleo-condiments/ (Their recipe contained soy sauce, and I’m just not willing to make the concession.)

Ingredients

½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or coconut aminos)
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a bowl while stirring frequently.
  2. Let simmer for about a minute for the flavors to develop.
  3. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Paleo Ketchup

Adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in a cool dark place. (I haven’t made this yet, but it’s what I’m going to try. I’ll update and let y’all know how it is.)

Recipe makes about 8 cups

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 stick of celery, chopped
½ fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped
24 ounces tomato paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 c cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the contents of the frying pan into a paste.
  4. In a large bowl, stir the celery, fennel, and ginger paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  5. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  6. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  7. Transfer to a container that is good for refrigeration. (a sterilized jar would be perfect!)
  8. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

The Plan of Action

Tomorrow, I will be making the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Catalina Dressing, and finally, will start marinating the steak, so we can eat it on Tuesday. Updates will follow.