Two Favorite Healthy Recipes

By Rachel Sircy

So, in early 2017 I discovered, thanks to some lab tests, that I had high cholesterol. I resolved to start taking charge of my health. Well, the truth is that I did and I didn’t take charge of my health. I was pretty good, by which I mean that I was better than I had been in previous years and I started taking fish oil. I never did get a good exercise routine down, which I think is due in part to the fact that I absolutely hate the aerobics dvd that I have. That is no fault of the exercise program on this dvd, it’s just that I hate doing exercises that hurt and make me sweat in the first place and I really hate doing them if I’m stuck indoors watching a video of people who are way, WAY too excited about “sweatin’ the fat away.”

Long story short: I’m still overweight and my numbers, while much better than last year – they were only borderline high as opposed to high – are still not where I’d like them to be. As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on food as medication lately. And, according to what I’ve read about the latest research in lowering cholesterol is that you have to change your diet first and then begin to exercise, not the other way around. Anyway, I’m trying to avoid too much meat and when I do eat meat, I try to pair it with dark, leafy green vegetables. Here are two of the tastiest recipes where I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully they will be of use to someone out there who is trying to lower cholesterol (or blood pressure or whatever) without sacrificing flavor:

  1. Sausage and Kale Soup: This recipe is slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups book that my mom gave me some years ago. Basically, the adaptation is that I add twice as much broth as it originally calls for, but if you like less liquid, you can always add less. It is my family’s go-to soup for any time we don’t feel well. Somehow it always makes your recovery time shorter if you have a cold. It’s a great cold weather soup, but I like it the year round. And, given the weather we’ve been having lately, you might want a good cold weather option for the dinner table:

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb fresh kale trimmed and chopped (I always get the bags of pre-washed and chopped kale from the grocery store, it makes my life so much easier)
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ lb fully cooked Kielbasa (Polish Sausage)
  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth and the potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, slightly mash them with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
  2. Add the kale (don’t freak out if it seems to take up all the room in your pot, just mash it down), the beans, the sausage and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. Boil with the lid on until the kale is tender.

This soup is absolutely delicious. Below is a picture of it as I was finishing cooking some this afternoon. The picture is a bit hazy because of the steam coming off of the pot. It’s going to be so good later…

Pic 1

 

  1. Mediterranean Tuna Salad: This salad is one that I found on the internet years ago and it is really, really good. I think it’s from some Mediterranean Diet cookbook. I’m not a seafood lover, I’ll be honest, but this salad has made me able to eat tuna. You can also substitute canned salmon in place of the tuna – I sometimes do this because I find salmon a bit less fishy than tuna. If you use tuna, I would recommend the solid white albacore. Also, my husband can’t stand mayonnaise and so sometimes I just mix a can of tuna with the dressing for this salad (olive oil, lemon juice and grainy Dijon mustard) and he can use it to make a tuna sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 5oz. cans water packed tuna
  • 1 15oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 ½ cup diced cucumber
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (honestly, I don’t always chop it)
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBS grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarse ground pepper to taste
  • 1 TBS capers (optional)
  • Avocado chunks to garnish (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado if desired.

Seriously, how easy is that recipe? It’s just chop and mix. It’s also delicious and it’s good for you. Here’s a picture of the finished product…

Pic 2

Happy Eating!

Here’s an idea …

By Jeanne Reynolds

Tube lights? Really? (imagine vomit emoji here)

That was pretty much our reaction when the architect designing our new home suggested placing lights on the top of the exposed beams in our main living area. We pictured large, ugly tubes like the florescent lights in many garages. How could this respected (and frankly, pricey) architect make such a hideous recommendation?ceiling beams

Well, it turns out they weren’t tube lights like that at all. They’re long, thin strips of tiny light dots that shine upward, creating a subtle, radiant glow toward the high ceiling. You can’t see the lights themselves at all. And guess what? We. Love. Them.

It’s funny looking back at our quick and extremely negative reaction to an idea that’s ended up being one of our favorite things about this home. There are some good lessons embedded in that experience. In no particular order:

  1. When you hire experts because they’re, well, experts – listen to them. We contracted with an architect because our marsh-front lot, while lovely, is awkwardly shaped. Flip through the big book of Southern Living plans and plop one down on the spot? No such luck. It took a lot of skill to fit what we wanted in the space available. Yes, it’s our home, and the architect’s Frank Lloyd Wright modern vision sometimes rubbed against our old Southern farmhouse tastes, but the end result still thrills me after three years.
  2. Be open to new ideas. The beam lights are far from the only example of ideas the architect pushed for, we resisted – and now love. There are the half-tint ceilings (aren’t ceilings supposed to be white?), the kitchen cabinets that are actually drawers (what in the world would I want that for?) and the dark green garage doors (can’t even remember what I assumed there, but it wasn’t that). It doesn’t hurt to at least listen (see above) and consider another viewpoint, even if you ultimately decide …
  3. It’s OK to say no (thank you). Work with experts and listen to their ideas, but know your deal-breakers and your bottom line. We didn’t need or want high-end light fixtures, designer appliances or drawer pulls costing thousands of dollars (there are a lot of drawers and cabinets in this house) when good-quality, attractive alternatives are available at the hardware store or through discount retailers. We were up front about our budget limitations and weren’t intimidated into getting in over our heads.

 

I wish I could say I’ve learned these lessons once and for all, but I seem to have to keep wash-rinse-and-repeating. At work, at church, even on the golf course, I’m still a slow learner:

Golf pro: “Try that long chip with a hybrid.”

Me: “What? That’ll never work.”

Me again: “Oh, wait, you’re the golf pro and I’m paying you for this coaching. OK, I’ll try it.”

If only I could get those tube lights for my brain.

Easter is on its Way

Hunting eggs, reciting speeches, dressing in your Sunday best, having dinner with family, and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ – that’s what Easter is made of.

Risen

Easter was such an eventful holiday weekend as a kid. It was that one time of year that I’d get my hair straightened, usually the Saturday night before, but I remember at least once struggling through the process on Easter Sunday morning while constantly trying to avoid the steam from the hot comb. After we decked out in our new Easter attire, we’d pose in front of Grandma’s beautiful azaleas or other flowering shrubs and plants for the annual Easter pictures captured with either a Polaroid, a Kodak 110 or a disposable camera, depends which was trendy at the time. Families have it so lucky now. No more having a roll of film sitting around for weeks, or even months, before it gets developed. Just smile, snap and share them immediately with family and friends via text or social media before heading to worship.

I can’t even remember learning an Easter speech, though I’m sure I did, but I do recall the years after I was too old to recite a speech. I dreaded sitting through the two-part program when kids got up and bashfully recited those classic speeches. Do any of these ring a bell?

  • Happy Easter Day! (This one was the backup speech for any kid that didn’t get a speech or forgot theirs.)
  • What you looking at me for? I didn’t come here to stay, I just came to say happy Easter Day. (Or something like that. Who came up with that one?)
  • Christ arose on Easter Day and that is all I have to say. (Cute, right?)
  • All I came to say is Happy Easter Day!

Sadly, the only Easter egg hunt I recall is one we had in our yard. Kids love this annual tradition and I get to see their faces light up next Saturday during when my church hosts the fun event. Sunday will be one of the longest days because we’ll have “Son” rise service, the annual Easter program and morning worship. They all make for a long day, but the unmatched sacrifice of Jesus Christ makes it all worth it, for our risen Savior is the one Christians reverence on this special day and every day.

Happy Resurrection Day!

 

Pizza: My Favorite Veggie!

By Mary Pat Baldauf

I’m always on the lookout for good, healthy, easy meals, and I recently found a winner at my local Kroger store: CAULIPOWER, a ready-to-cook, cauliflower-crust frozen pizza.

Caulipowered

CAULIPOWER pizzas are made with real cauliflower, are nutrient-rich and gluten-free. While they taste like conventional recipes – my sister compares them to our mom’s homemade pizzas — they have less sodium, calories and sugar, and are higher in vitamins than most conventional and gluten-free frozen pizzas.

CAULIPOWER is the brainchild of Gail Becker who made the jump from a globally recognized corporate career at Edelman to the world of entrepreneurship. After both her sons were diagnosed with Celiac disease, she was frustrated by the poor nutritional value of today’s gluten-free options and wanted to create one product that could go beyond just ‘gluten-free’ to be craveable and delicious to anyone.

“I was really taken with the idea of bringing a concept that was born on the internet to life,” said Gail Becker, founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER. “I knew there was a large segment of the population that want to eat healthier, but may not have the time or resources to make those foods from scratch. My vision for CAULIPOWER is to advocate for accessible nutrition, that’s easy and even a bit unexpected.”

caulipower

Creating a vegetable-forward meal in under 15 minutes, CAULIPOWER pizzas are available in three guilt-free varieties:

  • Three-Cheese Pizza – a delicious mix of mozzarella, white cheddar and parmesan atop a signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • Veggie Pizza – features ripe red, yellow and green peppers atop a thick bed of mozzarella cheese and savory signature sauce
  • Margherita Pizza – honors the classic recipe with freshly diced vine-ripened tomatoes, abundant mozzarella cheese, and signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • And with there is a plain crust option, too, which is a blank canvas awaiting culinary artistry.

I found CAULIPOWER by glorious accident at Kroger on Forest Drive, and I’m hooked. They also sell at select Whole Foods and on Amazon.com, as well as other grocers throughout the country. To learn more about CAULIPOWER and where to buy it, visit CAULIPOWER.net or follow them on Facebook.

Not Saying Good Luck

By Shannon Boatwright

 

I don’t say “Good Luck”.

I say “Make it happen. Earn it. Be excellent.”

Brendon Burchard

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Alright, so I like to inspire others – as much as possible. But I am also easily inspired. I like to find my own personal inspiration in the little things, the big things, the random things…you name it. A little inspiration can carry one a long way and have a priceless, lasting effect on someone. Therefore, it is my belief that an opportunity to inspire someone is never a wasted effort.

That being said, I came across this quote from Brendon Burchard and it has hit me hard, in a most positive, touching way.  I find myself telling others “good luck” all the time! Like seriously, when really thinking about it, I say this a lot to people. But does saying good luck really provide the support and encouragement that I’d like to provide to people in my life? Honestly… No.

Now that I think about it, I myself certainly don’t want to rely on chance or this idea of luck. We must create our success and allow positivity to guide us to our real winnings in life. Most things are just not a roll of the dice, or a scratch card, luck of the draw kind of situation. If I want positive things to happen in my life, I have to take a stand, share my voice, use my talents, and work for it to make it happen!  So I don’t want to encourage others to wait on or put stock in any kind of hope that they’ll simply “get lucky”.  I plan to make a conscious choice to not say “Good Luck” to others and instead, like Brendon Burchard, I will say “You got this! Be excellent, earn it and make it happen!”

Will you wait for good fortune to knock on your door? Or will you work hard to be excellent and make it happen?  How will you encourage others?

Learning to Listen to Your Gut

By Rachel Sircy

This post is going to be short, since it’s basically a personal story without a whole bunch of evidence to back it up. I will start off by saying (as I’m sure I’ve said before), that I am a big believer in going to the doctor if you feel that something is wrong with you. I would strongly advise against anyone who thinks they have a gluten sensitivity beginning a gluten free diet without going through the proper tests first. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly the reason is that if you have celiac disease, you could also have a whole host of other problems that sometimes go along with it. If no doctor really diagnoses you, then no doctor will be looking out for your other symptoms either.

However, there are times when you need to listen to your gut. I am in the middle of learning this lesson myself. You see, some people with celiac disease can eat oats while others can’t. When I say “oats” I am talking only about the strictly certified gluten free oats. No one with a gluten sensitivity should eat just any old oats. Oats and wheat are often processed in the same factories, stored in the same silos and grown in adjacent fields. All this means that cross-contamination is inevitable in regular oats. Certified gluten free oats cost more than regular oats because they are grown in fields away from wheat and they are also stored and processed in gluten free facilities. So, when I talk about oats, I mean ONLY the oats with a label that claims that they are certified gluten free.

Okay, that being said, some people with celiac disease cannot digest even the cleanest, most certifiably gluten free oats. I am going to give you a basic run-down of why that is, though I may need some correction here. I really haven’t seen many articles on this that haven’t been really technical and scientific. There is a genetic component, I think, that is the cause of the additional sensitivity. There is a protein in the oats that is not related to gluten, but which some people are extremely sensitive to. I believe you can either be allergic to this protein in the oats or intolerant of it. (the same is true of gluten – some people are allergic, while celiacs like me are not allergic, but intolerant)

To be perfectly honest with everyone, I have thought for a number of years that I have an intolerance to oats, but I go back and forth on whether or not to eat them. There are two reasons that I have not made up my mind about whether or not to give oats up forever. Firstly, I LOVE oats. When I was a kid (many years before my celiac diagnosis), I would sneak into the pantry and grab handfuls of dry oats from the Quaker Oats box and eat them plain and uncooked, like a horse. I could eat oatmeal every day of my life and not grow tired of it. I could also probably give up desserts entirely if I just ate one of those dark chocolate chunk Kind granola bars instead. The second reason that I have hemmed and hawed about giving them up is that I figured that there was no test to prove that it was oats that I was allergic to. Plus, everything I read online about celiac disease and even about how to manage high cholesterol seems to indicate that we should eat oats. The arguments are that celiacs need more fiber in their diets and oats are the perfect way to get that fiber. The fiber that you get from oats is also really good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.

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However, for several years now, I have cut most oats and most oat containing products out of my diet – though I’ll admit I’m not a saint. I have relapses. Each time I relapse and eat my way through a box of gluten free granola bars, or eat oat-based cereals or crackers, etc. I get sick. I start having the same symptoms that I had before my celiac diagnosis: bloating, nausea, severe stomach cramps, fatigue – you name it. My most recent relapse ended last Wednesday when, after eating granola on my morning yogurt for about a month straight, I collapsed on the couch after work and just didn’t have the strength or energy to get up. My husband panicked, thinking I was either pregnant or sick with the flu. When I told him that I had been eating oats again, he just put his head in his hands and said “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” And I finally realized that it was time to stop. I started looking online for answers about oat intolerance and, as it turns out, there is a test for it. So, my next step is going to be to speak to my doctor and try to get tested. A printout of lab results always makes me feel better. Those pieces of paper confirm that I am not a hypochondriac and my symptoms are not just in my head.

As I get further into this life lesson, I will be writing updates. Meanwhile, if anyone out there is a celiac and you’ve been on a gluten free diet for a long time and aren’t feeling any better, try cutting oats out for a while and seeing how you feel. Oats are an excellent source of nutrition if your body can handle them, but if you don’t feel good, they may not be good for you. Just food for thought.

Move over to the sunny side of the street

By Jeanne Reynolds

 

I’m a fairly focused, goal-oriented person. And although I don’t take myself too seriously, I do take what I do seriously. So I’m not one of those people walking around with a big smile all the time (and I so hate it when someone, especially a stranger, says “Smile! It can’t be that bad.” I mean really, how the heck would you know whether it is or not?)

That doesn’t mean I’m not happy most of the time. Even joyous occasionally. Able to see the humor in most situations. And overall, pretty optimistic. Which is great, because it’s … (drum roll, please) … National Optimism Month.

hand-cutting-paper-with-scissors-with-impossible-written-on-it

Lucky for me, optimism isn’t about walking around with a goofy grin on your face or spouting Pollyanna-ish sayings all day. Optimism is about seeing the positive in situations — you know, that glass-half-full thing.

There are plenty of good reasons to look on the bright side:

  • Better health. Optimists tend to have healthier hearts, making them less prone to attacks and strokes. Being optimistic in a stressful situation can raise your immune response, increasing your ability to fight infection and disease. And we’ve all heard stories of patients who stayed positive bouncing back faster from illness and injury.
  • Higher achievement. Researcher Martin Seligman found athletes and teams that are more optimistic perform better than pessimistic ones. That’s one reason some employers seek out optimists as job candidates.
  • Longer life. If optimism and good health go hand-in-hand, no wonder research shows links between optimism and avoiding early death from heart disease, cancer infection and other diseases.

Even if you’re not naturally super-optimistic, there are ways to cultivate a more optimistic mindset. Try these:

  • Examine your habitual thought patterns. Do you pay more attention to complaints than compliments? Often describe things with words like “always” and “never,” and tend to jump to conclusions with all the information? These are all signs of negative thinking. Techniques such as cognitive restructuring can help you learn to challenge your negative thinking and replace it with more optimistic thought patterns.
  • Develop optimism-enhancing habits. Try keeping a gratitude journal (Oprah does), a coincidence journal or a vision board.
  • Get outside and get moving. Exercise is proven to alleviate symptoms of depression, and completing that walk, run or tough class will feed your sense of positive accomplishment. Plus, it’s hard not to feel a sense of wonder and awe when seeing a beautiful sunrise, a shooting star on a clear night or the first brave buds of spring about to open.
  • Laugh at yourself. The ability to see the humor in a situation can go a long way toward dissolving stress, disappointment or embarrassment. Add more laughter to your life with a funny page-a-day calendar or watching silly movies.

Now, ready to break out that happy dance? (And it’s OK if you can’t help smiling while you do it.)