Archive | April 2013

My first Grain free cooking “Power Hour”

One of my biggest challenges is cooking grain free meals in a timely manner.  I still consider myself new to grain free cooking even though I’ve been grain free to five months.  What’s especially difficult is coming home late on a week night, and pulling off a grain free dinner while still having time to grade papers, and take care of all the other little details here at home.

timerLast Saturday I decided to set the timer on the kitchen stove for two hours and see how much grain free food I could make within that period of time.  I didn’t wash any dishes, do any laundry, or anything else.  My only job was to prepare grain fee meals for two hours straight.

An average grain free meal takes me between 45 minutes to 90 minutes from start to finish.  Way too long!  I miss the days when an easy night would be grilled chicken a Cesar salad!  I was hoping that during my power hours, I’d be able to prepare  a few meals for during the week since I had some meetings scheduled.

I began by fixing a salad for the party that I was attending that evening.  Even after the lettuce was broken, washed, dried, and the veggies were diced it had only been 15 minutes.  I grabbed some shredded cheese, tossed it on top and wrapped that baby in saran wrap.  One salad, done!

I set some chicken tenderloins on the stove and cooked them in coconut oil.  While the chicken was

Sweet potato, chicken, and broccoli casserole topped with a butter maple glaze!  YUM!

Sweet potato, chicken, and broccoli casserole topped with a butter maple glaze! YUM!

cooking I diced some sweet potatoes and lots of onions.  Once the chicken was cooked, I cubed the chicken, and began layering the chicken in a casserole dish with the sweet potatoes, chicken, and some steamed broccoli.  When I had filled the casserole, I melted some butter in a sauce pan, added ¼ cup maple syrup, some raisins, craisins, cinnamon, and chia seeds.  I heated this mixture until all had been coated and the raisins started to puff up from the moisture.  I topped the casserole with the delicious maple-butter glaze!

I remembered I had a left over steak from during the week in the fridge.  So I took out my slow cooker, cubed up the steak, and threw it in.  I added some tomatoes, a can of kidney beans, a can of black beans, some fresh cilantro, some of the chopped onion, lots of chili powder, and some cumin.  I set the slow cooker to low and let it cook for about 6 hours.

Earlier I had chopped enough onions for my next recipe, meatloaf.  This whole grain free cooking in quantity thing was working out pretty well!  I mixed some ground beef, eggs, onions, parsley, and crumbled a few slices of my grain free bread into the mixture.  In no time I had grain free meatloaf!

By the time the meatloaf was finished I had about 20 minutes left on the clock.  I had no clue that would have any time left.  So I gave up, and started cleaning!  By the time two hours had passed, I was completely cleaned up and had emptied the dishwasher!

Needless to say, the grain free “power hour” is here to stay!

Join the Movement, the causes of infertility affect us all!

awareness ribbonWhat do I know? I’m just a blogger living with infertility.  Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis and ovarian dysfunction,  there were a few times when I actually thought I was pregnant.  I was so excited!  I knew it was too early to test, but I researched everything I could about how I should take care of myself during pregnancy.  I committed to making dietary changes immediately.  I was certainly surprised by the list of restrictions!

Have you ever looked at the list of foods that pregnant women are discouraged from eating?  You may be aware that they’re discouraged from eating raw or undercooked food.  That makes sense, as bacteria might make mom and baby ill at a time when they both need to put their energies into growing and developing.

  • Unwashed fruits, veggies, and salad bars as well as raw eggs and rare meats

Okay probably not so healthy either food does need to be properly cooked in order to be safe.  Not to mention the pesticides and chemical that are used for growing them.   I’ll admit, raw eggs and rare meats can carry bacteria, they’re probably not the best for a mom and growing baby to consume.

mercury levels

  • Fish heavy in mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and albacore tuna

Hum? These fish are heavy in mercury.  Doctors believe the mercury could damage mom and baby’s development.  I wonder, what effects might this mercury have on my developing ova every month?

 

  • Soft cheeses and cold cuts

What?  Apparently they’re a breeding ground for listeria, a bacteria which can only be killed by heating it to a certain temperature.  This bacterium is linked to miscarriage and still birth.

·         Anything packaged in plastic containing BPA (Bisphenol A). 

This chemical has recently been removed from many plastics we come in contact with.  However unless a container is labeled BPA free, it probably contains this chemical.  In 2010 the EPA stated that there are “substantial uncertainties” about the effects of BPA on human health.  YIKES.   My doctor recently informed me that BPA is also used to seal the lids of canned goods.  Be careful, this chemical is everywhere.

  • Anything containing Aspartame.

Aspartame which is a new name for an old product which was once called Nutrasweet.  This product was once pulled from the market because of a high incidence of cancer in rats. Yes it was determined to be dangerous to rats and is the leading sugar substitute in the US.  It’s everywhere!  You’ll find it in yogurt, sugarless gum, beverage mixes, seasonings, cookies, diet foods, and it’s one of the first foods that doctors discourage pregnant women from eating.  If it’s bad for rats it’s probably not so good for your average human either!

 

The doctor I see has added to this list.  He recommends nothing with soy, no matter how small of an amount.  This includesforms of soy while you’re trying to conceive and while you’re pregnant.  He says that soy contains so many phytoestrogens (the plant form of estrogen) that as a woman it puts your hormones out of balance (this is the same reason why menopausal women were encouraged to consume soy for a while, the estrogens in soy replaced the estrogen that their bodies could no longer produce naturally).   If there isn’t a proper balance between your estrogen and progesterone levels, your body can’t support or sustain a pregnancy.  Soy also disrupts your immune system and your digestive system.  You may have heard that Asians have been consuming soy for centuries and have no negative effects.  There’s a bit of an untruth to this.  Asians have been growing soy for centuries and using it for animal feed.  Soy was considered UNFIT for human consumption with the only exception being during times of famine when it was fermented into tofu.

I’m wondering, what are the effects of all these foods and chemicals are on those of us who are trying to conceive?  It seems to me that the health of a developing ovum is just as fragile as that of a developing baby.

Avoiding all of those chemicals and bacteria is a huge task for half the population to undertake, it’s probably even impossible for some.  There’s a bigger issue here.  If these chemicals are proven to have negative effects on fast developing cells, why are they even used at all?  They’re dangerous to mothers and babies, and they may just have something to do with our infertility, as well as the overall increase in poor health over the last few decades.

Whether you are living with infertility or you know someone who is, the causes of infertility affect us all.  Demand change.  Join the movement.

join the movement

Waking up from surgery

I enjoyed a nice long nap during which my surgeon removed the endometriosis that was strangling me from the inside.  I awoke to a blurred image of my surgeon telling me that I had stage I/II endometriosis and that it was wrapped around my blury docovaries, tubes, colon, and intestines.  I was pretty woozy and it felt as if I were dreaming.  After an hour or so, the nurses decided I was ready to head up to the same day surgery recovery unit and asked if I had any food allergies before they ordered my meal ( I was not allowed to eat anything after lunch the day before and I was pretty hungry).  I tried to explain that I have an allergy to grains and soy, but I don’t think I was very articulate as I was still a bit woozy from the anesthesia.

The nurse thought I said I had a gluten allergy, so I tried to explain that gluten is the protein in wheat and that while I have a gluten allergy, I’m also allergic to the proteins in all grains including those in corn.  Looking back on this, I probably sounded like a drunken nutrition professor as I tried to explain it all.  The nurse and I weren’t able to work it out so she decided  the nurse in the recovery unit could deal with this and sent me upstairs.  At least I got some ice before they sent me up.

In the same day surgery recovery unit, I was blessed to have the best nurse ever, Marlene.  The transport up to the same day nurse & patientsurgery recovery unit made me a bit nauseous, so when Marlene asked if I wanted to eat, I refused because of nausea.  Marlene wasn’t having that.  Within a minute she had some anti-nausea meds in my IV and within 5 minutes I was hungry.

Like the nurses in the recovery room, Marlene asked if I had any food allergies.  This time I was able to explain myself much better.  Marlene understood, but she had some difficulty explaining it to the folks in the kitchen.  Finally, she gave up and went down to the kitchen herself.  When she returned, she brought chicken, green beans, broth, and potatoes.  She was a God send.  After she brought me dinner, she helped me dress and got me on my feet.

After I was up and walking for a few hours and had passed all the usual bench marks for discharge, we headed back to our hotel.   After covering my incisions with gauze, I went right to sleep.  The next day, I awoke without eyelids, okay not really.  Because of all the IV fluids, I was swollen and bloated beyond belief and truthfully, you couldn’t see my eyelids they were hidden inside my puffy face.

In addition to being puffy from fluid my body was bloated with the gas they injected into my abdomen.  The gas moved around and it was a bit painful.  Thankfully, included in my post-operative instructions were some hints on dealing with the pain from the gas they injected into my abdomen.  The paperwork suggested that drinking tea and walking around would help the gas stay in my abdomen.   Well, I drank tea like no one ever had before.  In those first 24 hours I must have drank at least 14 cups of tea and walked 5 miles around my hotel room.  It worked; the IV fluid made its way through my body quickly, the gas stayed put and within 36 hours it was gone.  Truthfully my first 48 hours after surgery couldn’t have gone better.

Even a grain free girl needs cookies!

Special thanks to Meara for sharing this recipe.  It got my mouth watering right away, oh the possibilities!

I was born with a sweet tooth.  Chocolate, cake, ice cream, candy, cookies, bark, cupcakes, canoli, zeppole, pies, pastries, you name it, I love it.  Oh.  I recently found myself forbidden from eating anything with grains.  Not good.

I learned that if I were going to cheat then I’d cheat on dessert.   Of course this also meant I’d gain two pounds from half a slice of cake.  I’d end up puffy, bloated, fatigued, and extra hungry the next day.  Not a desirable way to live.  I spent Thanksgiving drooling over the delicious desserts I couldn’t have.

Even though I made some cookies from a gluten free mix, they tasted way too much like garbanzo beans.  Cookies are not supposed to taste like beans!

I’ve tried mixes, and various recipes, but the best one I’ve found so far has come to me from a follower named MeaIMG_0377[1]ra.

Ingredients:

– 2 1/2 cups almond flour

– 2 tablespoons coconut flour

– 2/3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)

– 1/4 cup RAW honey (melted)

– 3 whisked eggs (include yolks)

– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

– 2/3 cup roasted macadamia nuts

– 2/3 cup chocolate chips

– 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cover baking sheets with aluminum foil and set aside.
3. Mix dry ingredients together (almond flour, coconut flour, shredded coconut, baking soda, sea salt)
4. Mix wet ingredients together (coconut oil, honey, eggs, vanilla extract) Make sure your coconut oil isn’t too hot or it will cook the eggs.
5. Pour wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and mix well. (Do this quickly, as coconut oil will rapidly return to its solid state if room temp is below 76 degrees).
6. Fold in macadamia nuts and chocolate chips to mixture.
7. Grab 2 tablespoons worth of mixture and turn mixture into a ball. Place on baking sheet and flatten the ball mixture with your hand (to create a cookie shape). (I used a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop for this.  I
8. Once mixture is all gone and cookies are ready to be baked, place baking sheets in the oven for about 18-20 minutes [Check at around minute 16 to make sure bottom of cookies are not burning]
9. Let cool and enjoy! So yummy!

* Makes 18-20 Chocolate Chip n’ Macadamia Nut Cookies

Perfectly browned and delicious!  I almost ate a dozen making sure they were safe for everyone!

Perfectly browned and delicious! I almost ate a dozen making sure they were safe for everyone!

* Nutritional Information (per cookie): 270 calories; 21g fat; 14g carbohydrates; 4g protein.

My variations:

I never make a recipe by following all the directions.  What fun would that be?  The frugal girl who will keep her grocery budget below $60 per week or die trying does not approve of running out to buy ingredients for one recipe.  I happened to have craisins  on hand, so I decided to use them instead of macadamia nuts.

I like the idea of using this recipe as a basic recipe and substituting other ingredients in place of the nuts and chocolate chips.  The guinea pigs who I shared this recipe with agreed that with some cinnamon and raisins this recipe would make a killer substitute for oatmeal cookies.  Hope you enjoy it!  If you make this recipe, let us know and post a pic if you can!

Happy Grain Free Baking!

Love,

Catherine

Surgery, the moment I’d been waiting for:

As my surgery approached, my body decided to make sure that I followed through with things in case I might back out at the last minute.  My pain intensified by the day.  In early October, I needed Advil during three or four days before menstruation.  By late December, I was taking 6 per day from ovulation on; and this was keeping the pain dull, not keeping it away.  At my pre-surgery appointment with Dr. C. he told me I could increase the dose to 12 a day if I had to.  That kept the pain away for a while, but it was back in January.  Two days before surgery, I was taking 12 Advil to keep the pain dull.  My body was not giving me the option to back out.

My husband, Frank, and I made the four hour trip to the hospital and arrived at my pre-op consultation.  I had an ultrasound and was SURGERYexamined by the surgeon.  The ultrasound showed that my uterus was very thick at some parts.  My surgeon was suspicious that there might be something else going on besides the endometriosis.  I was scheduled for a laporoscopy to remove the adhesions, a hysteroscopy to look inside my uterus, and an HSG to make sure my fallopian tubes were clear.  Dr. B, my surgeon, said that he’d check into the reason why my uterus looked so thick on the ultrasound during the hysteroscopy.  Dr. B also suspected that I might have PCOS due to my grain allergy and weight gain, he said that he’d be able to get a good look at my ovaries and see if they were enlarged, as that would be a sure sign of PCOS.  He explained that if they were, he could wedge them, thus reducing their size and helping them function more normally.

I was psyched, well as psyched as a woman can be when she knows she’s going to be cut open in 14 hours, can’t have dinner, and must spend the evening doing a bowel prep.  As queasy as you just felt reading that last sentence, I assure you, I was equally thrilled about the whole thing!

neg pregnancy testThe morning of the procedure, we made the trip to the hospital and checked in.  They asked that I take a urine test just to make sure that I wasn’t pregnant, apparently the ultrasound the day before wasn’t enough.  Didn’t they know that infertility was the reason I was there in the first place?  I laughed, gave them their sample and got myself into that awesome hospital garb they gave me.

Once I was dolled up in my hospital gown, no skid socks, and surgical blue hat, a nurse explained what would happen during and after surgery and then started an IV.  I was terrified.  I mean, I was in a strange state, with people I had never met before, and I was going to let them cut me open all because it would make me healthier and might let me conceive.  Yeah, that’s how bad I want to be a mom.  IVAnd since the hormone treatments had nearly killed me, I was ready for them to open me up, and work their surgical mojo.  I remember being taken into the Operating Room and scooting onto the operating table.  I remember the anesthesiologist loading my IV with the good stuff, and then that’s about it.

Monthaversary! Celebrating My First Month of Blogging:

birthday cakeMy first thoughts are, “Wow this has flown by quickly!”  That’s not something I’m used to.  Sometimes it seems like each day is an eternity when you’re in the two week wait.  Blogging has given me a purpose for sharing all this.

I’ve been able to connect with some amazing people!  Some whose struggles are similar to my own; and others who need a friend they can talk to on their journey.  I feel truly honored to be that friend.  I know what it means to have someone who you can spill your guts to without fear of being judged.   Thank you for trusting me.

It was my friend, Jordan, who turned me on to NaPro Technology.  Words cannot express the debt of gratitude I owe to her for having the guts to open up about her own struggles with fertility.  Blogging is my way of sharing this blessing with others.

Even though it’s been a month, I feel like I haven’t told you as much about myself as I had planned.  In the coming posts I’ll fill you in about my surgery—a laporoscopy to excise endometriosis, and how much better I feel as a result of my NaPro Doctor’s advice.  Notice I said advice, not medication.  No crazy fertility meds for me.

I feel so blessed to be on this path towards better health and hopefully conception.  Thanks for all of your support.  Your company on this journey has made it seem shorter already!

Here’s the part where I beg for your feedback.  I started Baby Steps And Tears hoping to make information about NaPro Technology and Grain free living accessible to others.  I’d love it if you’d post a question or two to answer in a future post.

Thank You and God Bless!  Love, Catherine.

The Infertility Poker Face

As I mentioned in an earlier post, infertility is pretty taboo.  I don’t like to talk about my journey for fear of judgment from strangers.  I realize it’s rather ironic that I can share my story with strangers but the anonymity of my pseudonym makes it possible for me to share my story without the risk of being judged.

When my husband, Frank, and I meet someone new, after the introductions, pleasantries, and small talk,kids there’s always that question: “Do you have any kids?”  My usual answer to this question is “Our kids have four legs and tails.”  We laugh, I redirect the conversation and it’s usually no big deal.

Every once in a while I’m engaged in conversation with someone who is dumb as a stump  and doesn’t observe my need to change the subject.  At that point, what can I do?  I’m not going to discuss my infertility with a complete stranger.  I try and keep the poker face up till I can get the heck out of the situation.

Once out of the situation, I’m fine.  Life goes on and I forget about it.  Every once in a while there’s an occasion where I just can’t escape the questions.  Wedding receptions seem to be the most common place because usually I don’t know half the guests and since I can’t seem to shut my mouth, I usually mingle quite a bit.

The last two weddings I’ve attended have hit me pretty hard.  At one the bride was pregnant and asked us when we were going to have a child so her baby would have someone to play with.  It was the first time I had been asked that question so directly.  I had no answer.  I was a deer in headlights.  After what seemed like an eternity of silence, I feigned a laugh and said “Only God can answer that question.”divine light

I booked it out of there as fast as I possibly could.  It didn’t help that this happened after our second failed IUI cycle.  I cried the whole way home.  Nothing that my husband Frank, or any of our dear friends said could help.

Recently, I ended up sitting next to a couple with an infant who was conceived through IVF.  Understandably, they were exuding joy over their child’s birth.  They flashed pictures, and gushed over how wonderful the kid is.  I listened politely and agreed that he is quite adorable.  Once I had enough, I excused myself.

When I returned to the table it started again.  This time the grandparents talked about his cute little clothes and how mom and dad really needed this day out at the wedding reception.  I got my courage up, a couple of glasses of wine may have contributed to this courageousness, and explained that I understood their joy as we are working to reverse our infertility through NaPro Technology.

I thought they’d back off and remember how sensitive they were at one point.  I was wrong.  They started to tell me how IVF was wonderful and they actually got pregnant by “accident” with IVF.  Seriously?  I’m not so sure if you call harvesting eggs, growing embryos, and insemination accidental.  But perhaps I missed something.

I couldn’t stand the IVF talk.  I wasn’t going to be so bold as to say that there’s a higher incidence of special needs children conceived by IVF than by other methods; but I was unwilling to nod politely and let them think I’d consider it.  I went NaPRo.

I explained that because of endometriosis, I’m not healthy enough to conceive at the moment; even after surgery it will take between nine and twelve months for my body to become healthy.  I went into the NaPro stats about 80% success with anovulatory women, 60% success with Endometriosis, etc.   I talked about how my health has improved since surgery, less fatigue, minimal pain during menstruation, more energy, and better mood overall.   Mom then told me she got healthier too; she lost a few pounds and quit drinking coffee.  That is clearly the same as surgery and 12 months of intense doctor’s care based on your own individual bio-chemistry.

I did all this with a stoic poker face that didn’t convey a single emotion.  This time, I didn’t cry on the way home.  I spoke up for myself.   I don’t know why it was easier to do this with strangers than it is to tell my own family the details.  But I know that I’m getting better at living with infertility and spreading the word about NaPro.

Grain free bread making

IMG_0297 - CopyAlthough man cannot live by bread alone, it’s pretty tough to live without it!  It would be great if I could just stop at the grocery store and pick up some grain free bread, but I haven’t found any nearby.  There is a company in California that will ship you bread, but it’s a bit pricy and paying $10 for a loaf of bread is way out of my price range.  I felt like I had no choice but to make my own.  I started with the gluten free recipes that came with my bread maker.  I thought that I might just be able to substitute grain free flour and boom I’d have bread.

I was wrong!

After almost 5 months of baking bricks, doorstops, and crumbly loaves, I think I’ve got a recipe that I can live with.

My Guidelines for Grain Free bread:

  • Must be able to slice into ½ inch slices
  • Must resemble grain based bread in appearance and taste
  • Must stand up to the grilled cheese test, toaster test, and French toast test.
  • Must be a recipe I can make in my bread maker
  • Should not use too much almond flour (bad for autoimmune diseases like endometriosis & arthritis)
  • Should not taste too “beany”, “almondy”, or “coconutty”
  • Should absorb liquid like grain based bread so I can use it for bread crumbs and stuffing
  • Should use ingredients that require minimal prep.  No use of extra appliances to prepare ingredients.
  • Should cost less than $3 per loaf to make.

 

Yes, I want it all!  I want grain free bread that I don’t know is grain free!  I want to feel normal!  I’ve been working like crazy for the last 5 months, adapting recipes, trying different flours, and I did it!  This week I cracked the recipe for grain free bread that meets nearly all of the above criteria!

Ingredients:

1 ½ c Milk,  Almond Milk, or coconut milk

¼ c olive oil (if using coconut milk or whole milk omit oil)

4 eggs

1/4c honey

1 3/4c of my grain free flour blend *

1 Tablespoon yeast

2 ½ teaspoons xanthum gum

1t baking powder

1tbaking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:  Add wet ingredients to pan.  Top with dry ingredients, sprinkling yeast on top.  Use gluten free course on bread machine.  Bread is ready in 2 ½ hours!

*my grain free flour blend: 1 c coconut flour, 1c almond flour, 1c tapioca flour, 1c white bean flour,

Scoring Grain Free Recipes on Pinterest!

 

pinterest pic I needed help finding recipes.  I wasn’t looking to buy another cookbook, and I wasn’t even sure if they made cookbooks for folks looking to eat a diet free of grains.  I decided to try pinterest.  Oh my!  I scored great recipes!  I was astounded that other people had the same struggle as I.  Most importantly, other people had already done the work to make everyday foods like bread, pudding, and pie grain free!  Oh, I was overjoyed!

Then reality hit!  I guess it was pretty foolish of me to think that it would be that easy.  Recipes called for ingredients that I had never heard of, others included way too much work, or just sounded weird.  My goal was to find recipes that used grain free ingredients to mimic grain based foods.  I set a goal of making one new recipe each week, that way I wouldn’t go broke and wouldn’t have to change my entire life overnight.

If you’ve ever tried to live grain free then you’re aware of the price difference between grain based and grain free foods.  My husband and I agreed to a one-time $50 expense to stock our pantry with staples such as chia seeds, almond flour, coconut flour, grain free bullion, potato starch, arrowroot starch, white bean flour, and almond butter.  To stretch our funds as far as possible I purchased most of these staples from vitacost.com, a website that offers these items at about 50% off their retail price.  I referred a few friends and had $20 in coupons to add to my purchase.  The end result was about $130 in grain free staples for $50.

I’d really like it if you’d join me in this challenge by posting grain free recipes that you find.  My plan is to devote one blog post each week to a new recipe no matter how right or wrong it goes.  I plan to cook my recipes on the weekend and post recipes and pics on Mondays.  Please post your suggestions in the comment section after this post.

Here a grain, there a grain!

Okay, so corn is a grain and doesn’t agree with me, got it.  Didn’t need to learn that lesson twice– I needed to learn it a thousancorn IId times.  I’d be doing great with my weight loss and then all of a sudden I’d start gaining. After two months, I had successfully weaned myself off grains, or so I thought.   The weight wasn’t coming off!  I was eating spaghetti squash, making my own bread using wheat free & rice free flour.  I’d lose a few pounds and then, boom!  They came right back.

By this time I was familiar with the effects of grains on my body.  When I’d cheat, I’ would notice it immediately!  I’d gain at least a pound just from eating two chocolate chip cookies, not to mention the digestive issues that grains caused.  I did not doubt that grains were my problem, and I started to question if I had eliminated them all.

I started to read labels, and not just the labels of foods with carbohydrates.  I was finding grains in the strangest places!  Who would ever think there would be grains in kielbasa, bullion, and tomato sauce? boullion cubes Certainly not me!  But there they were.  Every time I turned around there was a grain hiding somewhere.   Even the flour that I thought was grain free contained sorghum, a less known grain.  There was no way I would ever swear off bread, pasta, and pastry.  Life wouldn’t have much taste in it if I did that.  I had to find some recipes that wouldn’t use grains but would taste like grain based foods.