Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spaghetti Spaghetti

Hi y'all. I'm short on time this weekend, but I didn't want to leave you hanging. Here's a new, healthy, and light take on traditional spaghetti and meatballs. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Spaghetti

Ingredients for the spaghetti
1 package of gluten free spaghetti (I used the Viviana brand)
1 spaghetti squash 
Sea salt and pepper for seasoning
Olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice spaghetti squash in half. Place spaghetti squash, face up, in cooking pan with 1/2 inch of water. Use enough olive oil to cover both inside halves of the spaghetti squash and sprinkle a little sea salt on it. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Prepare the spaghetti pasta as instructed on the box. Note: I waited until the squash was about half way done to cook the meatballs and make the spaghetti, that way everything was nice and warm together.

Ingredients for meatballs / Recipe taken from The Garden of Eating by Chef Rachel
This recipe might look familiar from this post a few years back. Chef Rachel and her books are some of my favorite to cook from!

¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats aka oatmeal
¼ cup almond, soy, cow or goat milk
1 medium to large egg
1 ½ teaspoons dried herbs or 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs ( Italian blend, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil or combo)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground chipotle or black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
½  to 1 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt or 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
½ cup minced onion
1 to 1 ¼ pounds of 90-96% lean ground beef, turkey or lamb

In a medium bowl combine oats and milk, eggs, herbs, cumin, red/black pepper, garlic, parsley, salt or tamari sauce, and onion.

Crumble meat into bowl with these ingredients. Mix with hands, pulling mixture apart rather than squeezing and packing to evenly distribute seasoning. Bake meatballs on parchment lined baking sheet, or baking sheet lightly coated with coconut oil, in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 mins. Shake pan occasionally until done.

When everything is done cooking, combine spaghetti and spaghetti squash in a large bowl (this should serve 6, so a bowl big enough for that). Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper. Stir. Add the meatballs on top and voila! Delicious dinner is served. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Mantra: Polishing Dark Spots in My Soul

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: I love my life

It's in my nature to be pessimistic and introverted more than outgoing and positive. This, I do not consider a bad thing. A thing, however, to pay attention to.

While I don't necessarily think one way - introvert or extrovert, pessimist or optimist, dark or light - is better than the other, I do often have to remind myself that these darker parts of me help balance the lighter parts, and that all of them equally need time, understanding, and patience.

That all parts of me, you, everyone - dark or light - need love.

I'm reminded of this every time I doubt myself, question myself, beat myself up for anything and everything.

I was reminded of this when I recently watched the Life in a Day documentary that had been sitting in my Netflix queue. At about 10 minutes in, I see a father caring for a son in a very messy house, to say the least. As I watched this man care for his son, I kept noticing large blown up pictures of a woman displayed in random places, all over the house. On the floor in the hallway, outside the bathroom door, propped up on tables and books and anywhere a picture could be placed. At the end of this small piece of the film, I realized just what has happened. Why the house was so messy, why the pictures were there. The  wife of the man, the mother of the boy, is gone. She has passed away and this is now their life.

It struck me so hard I re-watched just that piece three times, while bawling my face off. It was almost painfully obvious, how much he missed her, how he was barely coping, yet how important to him it was to make sure his son remembered her.

It's moments like that, when I see that other people, too, have darkness, sadness, and that they try and fail, when I have to remember to love my own life.

My new mantra in those moments of doubt, darkness, or judgement is this: I love my life.

I love my life.

It is perfect. It is exactly the way it is supposed to be for me. It is mine and I will cherish all parts of it, good and bad.

Follow Up: Something Inside

Recently, I posted about changing myself, doing something to make some kind of a difference with people who need it. My first step was to put together a Homeless Kit that could be carried around in my car at all times, ready whenever it was needed. It had blankets, food, anything that would be beneficial.

One week after I put the kit together, I had an opportunity to use it. Never having done anything like this before, I was a little nervous and awkward as I walked my box of items over to the homeless gentleman, who thanked me as I placed the box in his hands.

When I turned to walk back to my car, a new vehicle had pulled off the side of the road. In it I saw a man who was trying to get my attention. He rolled his window down and made it a point to thank me for what I had just done. He told me what a nice thing that was and how now, he too, was going to do the same thing. 

My nervousness and awkwardness left me after that moment and I knew this was something I had to keep doing. 

I guess this is what Paying It Forward looks and feels like, when you do one small thing and others join in too. It's how one act of kindness can be rewarded with a thank you, and how that thank you can suddenly be the most priceless item you possess.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Allergy testing saves lives. I might just be proof of that.
For more on M.S. click here
Two weeks of wellness? Well, yes. Because I read an article that hit home pretty hard and I wanted to share it with all of you. Wellness is important, after all.

A couple of weeks ago I read this article - Gluten Brain: Wheat Cuts Off Blood Flow to Frontal Cortex - and immediately started thinking of how that implied to me. All the ways I felt, all the things I thought, when I was eating gluten yet not aware of my allergy. Or even when I was aware but in a huge state of denial and still eating gluten. Fool, I know. Anyway, this article talks about research being done to show how the effects of gluten on the brain…are you ready for this…lead to schizophrenia. Or, by avoiding it, help overcome the disease.

Wow, right?

Gluten. One tiny thing that can do so many wrong things to me, you, everyone affected.

Then I read an article in my favorite gluten free magazine, Delight, the March-April edition, on the ties to celiac disease (a much more severe reaction to gluten) and Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.), the disease my dad died from, and I had a panic attack. Of course, I had to Google my little heart out and found that there is a ton of research linking these two diseases together, yet I had never heard this before. Never. This shocks me based on the fact that this information could actually save my life. And yours. And the lives of people you love.

At some point in my very young life, after my father had passed away, my mom took me to our family doctor in an attempt to get answers that didn't exist at that time. It wasn't hard to notice the panic in her voice as she attempted to calmly ask our doctor if there was any chance I could get M.S. If there was any possibility it could be passed down to me genetically. If I was in danger of dying from it.

I remember everything the doctor said because I also understood what all of that could mean for me. What it could do to me. How limited my life could be if I had anything as severe as my dad did.

It's funny how that feels equally like a lifetime ago and yet just as clear as if it had happened today. I guess this is how everyone feels when they get news of this nature.

Our longtime family doctor said no. While they didn't know what caused it, they were pretty sure it was not a genetic thing. Even though I thought it was odd that they were so certain I was somehow safe, I did feel a great sense of relief, no matter how misguided. Now it's the opposite. Now they say I have a much better chance of having it because I am a first generation family member, regardless of the gluten.

However, I think it's important to note that to have celiac disease, in particular, you must carry one of two specific genes. This doesn't mean you will get it, it just means that, genetically, you have the potential to. This is just me pondering, but it does raise the question that if by carrying one of those genes for celiac does it somehow increase your chances of having M.S. because, as they now think, it can be passed genetically? (Note: While I think a tie to celiac/gluten and M.S. makes sense, based on on-going studies of the disease there are still other possibilities as to why people get M.S.) All of that being said, I am beyond glad I was tested for the gluten allergy and able to combat it sooner rather than later. Who knows what later would have held for me if my body had continued declining in health.

M.S. is a very, very, very difficult disease to have, to live with, to help someone with who suffers from it. Regardless of the gluten ties, there is still a lot of research to be done and many unknowns still exists, but knowing how horrible I feel when I eat gluten and how wonderful I feel when I don't, I can't help but wonder how close those ties really are.

The immune system is a powerful yet fragile thing. When you have an allergy like gluten and are unaware, you continue consuming the foods that contain it and you cause inflammation internally. After doing this for too long, your immune system can begin to attack your own body. With M.S. your immune system responds abnormally and also attacks you. See the similarities in just that alone?

That's a hard thing to realize. It's a hard thing to sit here and think my dad's life could have possibly been saved if more information had been known about celiac disease and that by avoiding certain foods he could still be here today.

Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about wellness. Maybe that's why I'm always talking about how food affects you and how important it is to understand what the foods you're eating are doing to your body. This is one very good example of why. Of why you need to understand that what you eat can and will harm you. That it is up to you to do research on yourself if you feel like something is wrong and to ask for tests, to demand results, to never give up until you know what exactly is causing your illness. And how, in more cases that we want to admit, most of our problems begin with, and can therefore end with, food.

Before I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, I was only vaguely aware of what it was. All I knew was that my hair was falling out (eyebrows and eyelashes included) and my hands would ache like I had arthritis or feel swollen for no reason at all. Not to mention all the tummy troubles I'd had my entire life. After I was diagnosed, I didn't really know what to think. Only 5 small years ago it was hard to be gluten free. For myself and everyone else out there who suffers from a gluten allergy or the more severe celiac disease, I think I speak for us all when I say how thankful we are that being "gluten free" has become mainstream. Let's keep it that way. Please.

For us, and for more and more people with more and more diseases being linked to it, being "gluten free" is not a trend. It is not a cool thing to do. It is how we have to live just so we don't hurt, so we don't die.

It's not a choice. It's our only option.

So what the heck am I trying to say from all of this? Get tested for gluten intolerance.

There are so many different ways your body could be demonstrating an allergy to this (hair loss, intestinal issues, fatigue, migraines, depression…the list goes on) and by having one little test done you could fix everything. One little test.

Plus, it's no longer hard to go gluten free. It's a piece of (gluten free) cake!

Go get yourself tested. It could change your life.

P.S. I want to apologize to everyone who is having issues with my site because it keeps taking you to some crazy-ass phishing scam page. I've contacted Blogger 3x and will continue to until they get this doggone thing off of here. DO NOT click on anything it takes you to. Hit the back button until the page stops reloading. Seriously, I want to punch whoever put this thing on here. 

P.P.S Sadly, no one played along with my Pay It Forward initiative (except my work husband and he was just being supportive) so I have no winners to announce. I  might be tearing up, y'all. Alas, I hope everyone is paying it forward in their own way. Go out there and do good deeds!


Update: In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts on allergy testing, specifically for gluten, and how that can help with other diseases such as M.S.  I met with my ND (Naturopathic doctor) who's a genius, by the way, and talked all of this over with her. She gave me a couple helpful things I wanted to share with you. 

First, it is very beneficial to get tested for food allergies for a wide range of reasons, all of which tie back to immune system health. In this case, with M.S., it is imperative to know what food allergies you have so that you can avoid those foods and give your immune system a good, solid chance at fighting off the illness. A weakened immune system is one of the key signs in M.S. 

Also, take your vitamins - vitamin D, specifically. She said that a deficiency in vitamin D is one of the leading thoughts of cause of M.S. This too, my friends, is something you can and should get tested for (on an annual basis). Why? Well, get this. Two years ago my vitamin D levels were 80 out of 100. That is amazingly good, for the record. I skipped testing my levels last year and this year, guess what. My vitamin D level is 20...20 out of 100. I don't even know why, because I still take the supplements and I live in the sunniest state ever, but it dropped. She suggested D-Mulsion 1000 (Seroyal Genestra) liquid vitamin D3. The liquid is twice as effective as the capsules. Also, if you want to do your own vitamin D testing it's very easy. Check out Grassroots Health and follow the steps to order a test. I've used them several times and can personally recommend them. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday Mantra: Something Inside

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Something inside of me needs to change

Lately, I've been thinking about people less fortunate than I. People that are homeless, starving, need help in some way, somehow. My heart feels heavy with the thought that I haven't done enough of anything for them. 

I donate money monthly to organizations I know are solid, reliable, that use the money the right way, but I need to do something more.

I know that thoughts on this vary, as to when to help, why to help, why not to, but for me it's something I need to do. 

I've decided to put together a kit in my car. Blankets, matches, food…things I can easily carry around and give out whenever the opportunity arises. It's a first step. 

I hope it's a good step.

I've also decided that I need to apply this same thought to animals and my fist idea is to help out at an animal shelter at least once a month. I can't handle seeing one more image of some poor, broken animal without doing something about it. 

I want the burden inside of me lifted. I want to help lift their burdens.

I hope you as well can find a way, whatever way that works for you, to help the less fortunate.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, March 3, 2014

In the World of Wellness: The Sacrifice of Having It All

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: How best do we model what Having It All means?

I recently read a couple of articles that resonated with me:  this article on Daily Worth about these great women who have found happiness in their dream jobs, their family life, and their daily activities, but at an obvious cost of sleep, and 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Work Too Hard, which talks about the lack of work/life balance in America.

Reading these made me think about one thing in particular that didn't get mentioned in either article; how these behaviors that we model have an impact on our families, our children, our coworkers, and our employees. How we show them, through our actions, how they should work to achieve this goal of Having It All.

On one hand we know that hard work is vital to success. It's an important step in learning about responsibility. Depending on your personal situation, having more than one job or working long hours day in and day out may be necessary. To those of you that fall in this category, I know that you are doing everything you have to do right now and I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. On the other hand, there are those of us who do too much just because we wrongly think we have to. We make sacrifices chasing after the American Dream. There is such as thing as trying to Have It All and risking your own health and time with loved ones when it's completely unnecessary.

The question is then this: At what cost do we work towards Having It All? The women in the article from Daily Worth (who are amazing, dedicated, and deserve the utmost respect for all they do) sacrifice sleep. From the countless studies done on sleep deprivation (you need at least 7 hours a night) we know that without adequate rest our bodies are negatively impacted. Everything from brain function to emotional stability to metabolic function. And these are important things that you need just to survive day after day.

We don't just sacrifice sleep, though. We sacrifice our home lives, our friendships, and our health. We think the company will fall apart if we don't do X, Y, and Z - but it won't.

We shouldn't sacrifice the important things in life. Time with our families, time to rest and recharge, time for ourselves. If Having It All means we're making sacrifices to these things, then we don't truly have anything. 

We also have to consider how, by doing these things, we're teaching people to treat us as well as teaching our children or our employees how to act. In many cases, we are the models that they mirror. If we show our children that the only way to accomplish everything is to deny ourselves adequate time to rest, we've simply taught them that they have to be exhausted to make it in this world.

If we show our peers or our employees that by only working a gazillion hours a week can anything be accomplished, we've taught them that the key to success is putting your family, your health, and your well-being last on the list of important things.

We've taught them how to fail at the some of the most important things they should be successful at in life. 

If you are someone who does any of these things, I'm not trying to beat you up. I've been you. I know what it's like. I simply want you to realize the true value of your sacrifices and the behavior you model to others. Demonstrating the behaviors of a workaholic is no different than demonstrating the behaviors of someone who suffers from an eating disorder to achieve the all illusive perfect size. You're establishing for others who may look up to you, through your actions and demonstrations, the cost of what one must have in life to Have It All.

How do we change this? First, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.

Am I someone who models these behaviors? What do I want the people around me to see and absorb? What is my healthiest vision for them? What is my healthiest vision for me?

Then, it's time to make changes toward a healthier balance in life.

It's time for you to decide when it's okay to say "I'm going to do this and this and this, but I'm going to get realistic with the time I have in one day. I'm going to take care of myself first so I can take care of everyone and everything else appropriately without running myself into the ground." This means finding a balance between what you must do, what you love to do, and what you need to do for your own health.

At the end of all of it, when you look back, I want you to have no regrets about the truly important things in life.

Take care of yourself. It's the only way you can take care of everything else.

Image via Pinterest