Drastically cutting sugar from my diet has been easier than expected. What has not been so easy is the cutting of the processed carbs, primarily breads. For the most part I’ve managed, but with the stresses of life and especially when I’m hormonal, I still find myself occasionally looking for comfort in the form of food.
I don’t want to be one of those people who stands on a soapbox and looks down, telling people how they should and shouldn’t eat. It’s true, I have some pretty strong opinions on what passes for healthy eating in western culture, but I also believe that there is accurate information on the Internet available to someone truly wants to know how certain foods affect the mind and body, and possesses a modicum of common sense. I write this because I want to clarify that anything you read on this blog is written from my perspective and pertains to how it will affect me. If it helps anyone else along the way, anyone who might be feeling the same way that I do, or who is sharing similar struggles as mine, then I am ecstatic. But I respect the notion of free will, including everyone’s right to feed their bodies in the way they desire.
With that out of the way, let me share with you another simple and healthy take on a classic comfort food: Grilled Cheese! I have been a fan of grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato since I was a child. I still have fond memories of heading to Friendly’s Ice Cream Shop in my teens with my grandfather and grabbing a quick lunch of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches with crinkle fries and a Coke.
As it’s become evident that I absolutely cannot lose weight without omitting bread from my diet, grilled cheese has been something I’ve had to give up as well – until now. I’ve recently discovered that while my body cannot handle bagels, pasta, crackers, waffles, cookies, cakes, or any other foods that contain flour, it seems unaffected by breads made from sprouted grains. In doing research to figure out why, I discovered that most sprouted grains on the market are made from ancient grains, grains that have not been genetically modified and have not changed for thousands of years. These include spelt, quinoa, amaranth, millet and sorghum. When the grains are sprouted and then ground to make the bread, you’re essentially eating vegetation, not flour! In many cases – not all, read your labels carefully(!) – these breads may be preservative and gluten free.
Admittedly, the texture is much rougher than your average soft-fluffy white bread, so I find that toasting or grilling the bread adds tremendously to the enjoyment of it.
In my local grocery stores, Food for Life sprouted grain breads is the brand most commonly available. At nearly $5.00 a loaf it’s not cheap, but the composition of the bread gives you the advantage of being satiated on less product, unlike conventional breads. The Food for Life brand also comes in a variety of flavors including sesame or cinnamon-raisin, and even different forms, such as English muffins. My favorite is the 7 Sprouted Grains loaf that comes in a red package but on my last trip for bread, I was only able to find the Ezekiel 4:9 loaf in the orange package and that’s what I had on hand for this recipe.
Additionally, I chose to use organic grass-fed butter from Ireland, Kerrygold brand being my favorite; and Kerrygold aged cheddar cheese. I’m enjoying these products immensely and still losing weight. There is a good amount of information available online to support the benefits of using organic butter from grass-fed cows to aid in weight loss. Here’s a link to just one source for this information.
The tomato in my header pic might look a bit off, but is actually a Kumato tomato, which originated in Spain, is brown in color and packed with flavor! But feel free to use any tomato you have on hand, or even omit if you desire.
The method for putting together the grilled cheese sandwich is no different than your classic one. Heat a nonstick pan (I love the porcelain-coated) to medium, thinly slice your cheese and tomatoes and put together your sandwich, liberally buttering the outsides of the bread slices. Grill the sandwich on one side until the bread is browned and crispy. Flip the sandwich over and cook the other side as well. When the outside of the sandwich is your desired texture and your cheese inside melted, your sandwich is ready to eat!
We’ve already established my love of cake and baking, right? Well, I’m coming at you with another great recipe. This one is a bit exotic though, and not for everyone. Are you ready? Here goes: Fluffy, moist, lemony cupcakes with delicate lavender-infused buttercream icing. Can you handle it? If so, read on!
This very simple recipe starts with a delicate white cake flavored with real lemon juice and lemon zest, then topped with a basic American buttercream infused with perfumy lavender. Now admittedly, I am not a huge fan of lavender in food, but my husband and daughter just can’t get enough. What we can agree on, however, is that the contrasts in flavors between the zesty cake and the sweet icing perfectly compliment each another.
Here are the ingredients:
For the cake:
Helpful Hint: For optimal results, please let all of your ingredients come to room temperature. This allows everything to mix well without separating, and really helps your cakes to get a good rise!
• 2 cups of cake flour (the low gluten content of cake flour makes this cake super fluffy, so for best results, cake flour is necessary)
• 1 ½ cups of sugar
• 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• 2 large eggs
• ¼ cup whole milk
• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
• ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
• The juice and zest of one large lemon
• One tablespoon organic dried lavender (I got mine at Whole Foods Market) and/or good quality food-grade lavender essential oil (I get mine at Vitamin Shop or Whole Foods Market or my local co op)
I use a stand mixer, but you could certainly use a hand mixer if that is what you have.
After lining your muffin tins with muffin papers and preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, start by combining flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
Add in your butter and coconut milk and beat for a good 2 to 3 minutes in your stand mixer (or with your hand mixer). After 3 minutes, your mixture should be smooth and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and whole milk together, add in your grated lemon zest and lemon juice. Make sure your lemon is also room temperature to get the most juice. I also like to roll my lemon firmly on the counter a few times just to release the juices and oils to get the most from it.
Add your milk, egg and lemon mixture into the fluffy batter and mix just until well incorporated. The less you mess with eggs, the softer and fluffier your cupcakes will be. Just make sure they are well incorporated into your batter.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill your muffin tins ¾ of the way full. I’ve made the mistake of overfilling my muffin tins before and the mess is a pain to clean up.
Once filled, tap muffin tins gently on the counter to release air bubbles, then place in preheated oven and bake.
I managed to get 17 cupcakes from this batter and they took 12 minutes to bake, but I highly suggest relying on your eyes than a timer to tell you when these cakes are done. Their little domed tops should still be fairly white with barely a hint of color around the edges and the top should spring back when you gently press with your fingertip. This batch pictured was a little overcooked, resulting in an almost crunchy top, while the cake underneath was perfectly moist, tender and fluffy. I should have pulled them out at 11 minutes, maybe even 10. A mere minute can make a huge difference, so really keep an eye on your cupcakes.
After letting them cool completely on a rack, mix up your favorite buttercream frosting. I didn’t include a recipe in this post simply because I’ve experimented with several different icings, they all work, and everyone has a favorite. For the classic American buttercream icing, simply warm your whole milk or cream (whichever you use) gently with the dried lavender. Then pull off of the stove and let the lavender steep for 20 minutes. Strain the milk/cream through a fine sieve to get rid of the lavender bits and incorporate into your buttercream mixture. If you prefer a stronger lavender flavor, put a drop or two of the essential oil into the mixture. A little goes a long way, so always start out with less and incorporate more as you need. I ended up using the lavender-infused cream and the essential oil. I would have been fine with one or the other; my family loved the stronger flavor.
I also made a version with a Swiss meringue buttercream and just used the essential oil. Both versions were a hit with my friends and family.
If you desire, you can put a drop of lavender food coloring (or combine a drop each of red and blue) to give your buttercream color.
Top your cupcakes and enjoy!
With all of the bonfires my family has been attending this fall, it’s been a challenge coming up with something different to bring to each one, so as not to bore our friends.
As the bonfire we had gone to about a month ago had included mostly teenagers, it seemed only fitting to bring something that would cater to their incessant desire to be standing close to the blaze, sticks in hand and continually poking aimlessly into the alluring flames. What better than roasting marshmallows to give them a sense of purpose whilst fulfilling their innate pyromania?
Now I’ve made marshmallows before (and let me confess, I’m really not a fan of the things), but these marshmallows were such a hit that well before the kindling had ever been lit, the packages of Hershey’s chocolate bars and boxes of graham crackers I had piled on top of the giant plastic container full of these fluffy chocolatey, hazelnut wonders were discarded early on, and children and adults alike were snacking on my marshmallows with their chips and dip. Can you blame them? I mean who doesn’t like Nutella?
Admittedly, my intention initially had been to make these ‘mallows solid Nutella, but after the first batch were spread in the pan, I was disappointed by how thin and flat they were. That’s when I got it into my head to make another batch of plain vanilla ‘mallow “batter” to see if spreading it on top of the Nutella batch was feasible. I didn’t want to risk wasting any precious Nutella on a hypothetical. But as it turns out, adding a layer on top of another works splendidly, and so for the sake of aesthetics I simply made an additional batch of the Nutella batter, layered it over the vanilla, and Voila! My Nutella-vanilla-striped marshmallows were born!
I was not only surprised by how much everyone loved them, but also how nicely they toasted and melted, making the gooey s’mores the highlight of the evening. Best of all, they’re so easy to make! Let’s get started!
Each recipe makes one layer of the marshmallow. I suggest doing each sequence three times if you are planning on layering as I did.
**For the second layer, the vanilla, Simply omit the Nutella.**
If you’re feeling really confident, I suppose you could simply triple your recipe and stir the Nutella by hand into 2/3 of your batter, but work quickly! The batter begins to dry pretty speedily and may get too rubbery to spread. I found that it was just easier to repeat the recipe for each layer.
You will need (for each layer):
3 packets of plain gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided in half
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract. I love the appearance of all the vanilla bean bits in the paste)
4 tablespoons nutella
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Place the gelatin in a clean bowl of your stand mixer and cover with half a cup of cold water. Let it sit.
Place the rest of the water, the granulated sugar, salt, and the corn syrup inside of a medium saucepan with a lid. Place over medium high heat, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
After 4 minutes, uncover the mixture, place your candy thermometer on the side, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees.
Once mixture reaches 240 degrees, immediately take off of the heat.
Place your whisk attachment on your stand mixer and turn on low.
While mixer is going, slowly pour the sugar mix into the bowl.
Once all of the sugar syrup is added, turn the mixer to high, and let it continue to mix for about 12 minutes until thick and glossy. While stand mixer is running, mix together the corn starch and powdered sugar.
Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and dust it with some of the powdered mixture. Make sure all sides are covered. Place the leftover powdered mixture to the side to use for later.
Place the 4 tablespoons of Nutella in the microwave and heat for about 10 seconds to soften.
Pour in the vanilla and let mix for 1 minute, then add the Nutella and and let it swirl into the marshmallow mixture for about 1 minute.
Turn off mixer, and with an oiled rubber spatula, pour the marshmallow mix into the prepared pan. Put in refrigerator while next layer is being mixed.
Repeat the above steps for each layer, simply spreading on top of the previous. (For vanilla layer, simply omit Nutella).
Once the final layer is spread in the pan, lightly dust the top with your corn starch and powdered sugar mixture and place pan in fridge to set. Some recipes day to let set overnight, while my marshmallows took only an hour to set.
Alternatively, you could just triple the recipe, including the Nutella and just make them straight Nutella flavor. Nobody would complain!
After the marshmallows are set, turn them out onto a cutting surface and cut them into your preferred shapes and sizes, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Be sure to put the remainder of your corn starch-powdered sugar mixture in with the marshmallows to prevent them from sticking to one another.
It’s a rainy, chilly fall day here in NC, and while I am fully aware that this will become old really quick, for now I am enjoying it. I’ve been missing the autumns I enjoyed when I lived in the North, but the trees lately in NC have been glorious!
On the weight loss progress front, I have not much to report, so I will hold off numbers and photo until next Tuesday. My no-sugar streak lasted 16 days. I had a party to attend on Saturday that included cake and alcohol and while I never had any cravings or intense desire for any sugar, I did modestly partake. I was handed a couple drinks containing vodka and juice and I drink them. Also, I had a little cake. I was surprised that I stopped myself at a little, because it is commonly known to my friends and family that I LOVE cake.
What was even more surprising to me, however, was the effect that the sugar had on me. I came home and had the most difficult time sleeping. My body was buzzing and my heart was racing until about 7:00 Sunday morning, when I finally managed to fall asleep. I woke up at about 11:00 a.m. Sunday with some crazy heartburn that lasted most of the day. I am happy to say that I am now back on track and off the sugar, ready to aim for a full 21 days at least.
Before I go, I want to share a picture of the little squirrel my husband put on one of the cakes for the party last minute. He modeled it (and the acorns) in minutes out of homemade modeling chocolate and it was a real hit!
Have a wonderful day!
Good morning! It’s time again for an update on my weight loss progress. I’ve posted a photo wearing my traditional Transformation Tuesday uniform of my denim shorts and Guinness shirt (Oh my, what am I going to do when it gets really cold?).
Since my last weigh-in and since I’ve cut sugar and sweeteners from my diet completely (13 days ago), the scale has recorded a 4 pound loss. At first glance that can be disappointing, and quite honestly, the scale has been up and down the past two weeks. That means that my weight has been recorded between 316 and 320, a total of 14 pounds lost since the beginning of this journey (which has been side tracked quite a bit). I’m not doing any formal exercise (something I intend to remedy), but since eating like this, I’ve had a lot more energy and so I am on my feet and busy much more than I had been.
The telling aspect for me is how my clothes are fitting, in particular, my pants. I have one pair of jeans that I normally have to wiggle my way into and then lie on the bed, suck in my breath and push down my fat stomach in order to zip up. This week, however, it was just a matter of sucking in my stomach and pulling the zipper up (while standing!). The denim shorts I’m wearing in the photo above can now just be pulled up over my hips and belly without even undoing the button or zipper.
I’m not seeing much of a change in my liver roll, that fatty roll that started right beneath my boobs and is migrating downward. But the roll beneath that, my stomach roll, is definitely disappearing, and when I compare this photo to the last photo, it’s much less perceptible in the new one.
Over all, I feel better than I look, and so I will not discredit my progress. I have more energy, I’m sleeping better, I have no more regular sugar/carb cravings and I’m getting a lot more nutrients in my body with the raw greens and veggies and moderate protein and organic grass-fed dairy.
On occasion I make cakes for different events and I’ve got two coming up this weekend. I started this week on some aspects of the cakes, such as the modeling chocolate decorations, and I was surprised to find how easy it was to avoid consuming any of it. The desire is just gone and the smell of the sugary sweets is a little sickening to me.
I feel like any time now, things will start moving faster as I maintain consistency. As lame as it sounds, 13 days of anything is quite rare for me. They say it only takes 21 days to form a habit. I really want to see this out.
Thanks for checking in and I hope you have a wonderful week and achieve all your goals!
I know I keep disappearing and popping up again out of the blue. It’s annoying, even to me, and I sincerely apologize for it. But I think things are going to be different from here on out. I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough.
As I alluded to in today’s earlier post, I’ve immersed myself recently in some education and research about nutrition and the effects of processed sugar on our health. I’m not, nor have I been (recently, anyway) ignorant about what it takes to be healthy and lose weight. However, like so many others I’ve had some seemingly inexplicable mental block that prevents me from accomplishing my goals.
When I first started this weight loss journey, I said I was going to limit my sugar intake and schedule myself “cheat days” where I could eat anything and everything I wanted. This is not an uncommon practice, and many have successfully achieved weight loss doing this. I received an email from a young woman who successfully accomplished her weight loss goals. She tactfully advised me that I was setting myself up for failure with this approach. Acknowledging that processed sugar is a huge stumbling block for me, she reminded me that my body and brain would need sufficient time to wean itself from sugar and acclimate to all of the good wholesome nutrients being put into it.
I weighed her advice, but in the end I chose to continue with my plan of action.
Guess what? She was absolutely right.
Almost 2 weeks ago at the urging of my husband, I finally made time to sit and watch a couple of documentaries on the effects of processed sugar on our health, “That Sugar Film” and “Fed Up.” It was obvious to me before I ever saw the films that sugar is toxic and addicting, but watching the films really drove the point home for me.
After taking a day or two to think about it, I decided to cut the sugar completely, as well as flour, rice, and pasta. It seemed extreme, especially when I realized I was eating a little every day (usually in a bit of wine, or a flour tortilla or a little chocolate here and there), hoping that my huge intake of greens and protein would balance out the effects. But for the first time, I was really strict with myself. Further, I severely limited my fruit intake. Natural sugars in fruits, eaten in their natural state (not juiced!) are fine for most people. The fiber in the fruit slows the absorption of the fructose into the system, keeping insulin stable. But I realized getting rid of the mental desire for something sweet was just as important for me as conquering the cravings my body was signaling. This meant that I would have to omit anything sweet to my palate, including artificial sweeteners (We don’t touch those anyway, right?) and lovely, juicy fruits.
It was hell the first couple days; I won’t deny it, but so worth it. I’m now on my ninth day of sugar free eating and I feel pretty great. I’m sleeping better at night, my energy is up and my clothes are getting looser, so there has been some definite weight loss, which I will happily share with you next Tuesday after I finally weigh myself and snap a picture. My skin is crazy soft. My cravings for sugar have completely gone! I went to an artisan street fair in nearby Greensboro with a couple friends last night and was not tempted one bit by the funnel cakes and other goods being dispensed from the many food trucks present. Better still, I’m craving greens daily. I look forward my daily consumption of salads, raw veggies, nuts, eggs, cheese, butter and the occasional fish or meat. This way of eating is completely sustainable, especially now that the cravings are gone, because I just do not want the bread, cookies, cake and chocolate, even when it’s right in front of me!
I know this is not the end of sugar in my life for eternity. I still love to bake for others and I love drinking socially. But I’m not dependent on it and right now, that is a huge accomplishment.
Needless to say, I’m excited and hopeful about the future!
It is with agonizing humility that I return here to pick up where I left off. I realize it’s almost 2 months since my last post, and every tortuous Tuesday that has passed by with my own radio silence has rung out as silent defeat to my ears. I’ve had on and off (mostly off) days/weeks. Sugar-fueled weekends turned into weeks, and the internal rally to get up and move! went largely ignored by my senses, dulled by idleness, wine, chocolate, and angst over the minutia of life.
But I’m nothing if not persistent. I’ve not given up. I’ve renewed my renouncement of my drug and have managed to conquer 3 whole days with no sugar, with Day 4 just hours away from being ass-whooped.
And so it was, with little enthusiasm but a hopeful heart, that this morning I donned my Guinness T-shirt and jean shorts, took a jaunt to the scale and then outside for my Transformation Tuesday photo.
Surprisingly, I’m 10 pounds lighter than when I first started this journey. I’m currently at 320. So that means that I must have managed to rid myself of 3 pounds during the past couple months. My initial reaction to this photo was incredible disappointment, but then I took a moment to compare all of my progress photos thus far, and I observed something: My fat rolls are definitely creeping south, drastically so. So there is either less fat or less water retention buoying those puppies up. It’s a snail’s pace but beyond my expectations, so I’ll take it!
I started my weight training regime again two days ago (a maneuver that instantaneously improved my sleep quality), and the intention is to continue building muscle whilst managing my eating.
Can I just tell you that I’m headed out of town for a beloved cousin’s wedding this weekend and I’m terrified? I know it’s going to be a wine-and-cake kind of weekend and I will let you know up front that I will be partaking. It’s how we celebrate everything and it’s been so long since I’ve seen my family. And I want to. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it?
Do I have a plan? Yes. Well, sort of. Just jump back on track Monday. I’ve already recruited my husband as my accountability partner, a task he seems to be all too eager to take on (I suppose I’ll forgive him), as well as committed to updating you the following day, Tuesday, August 25, 2015.
So until then, thank you for sticking with me and have an incredible week!
Nope, it’s not a hokey movie sequel. It’s been my life of late, and let me tell you right out of the gate that I am just not the kind of person who can maintain a healthy lifestyle during times of distress.
Two weeks ago my family lost a very dear friend after a year-long battle with cancer. It’s still such a challenge to wrap my head around the fact that he is no longer.
That same week, I attended a wedding wherein my husband was the Best Man and my daughter, a bridesmaid. The marrying couple and bridal party were also rather connected with the friend who had passed away just days earlier. In fact, one of the groomsmen was actually the deceased man’s son. As you can imagine, the weekend was just emotional all the way around.
Last week, another friend of ours was mowing his lawn when he was apparently stung by a wasp and went into anaphylactic shock and died a day later. So much turmoil in such a short span of time!
Finally, my husband’s spirits were sunken by the news that a founding member of his all‑favorite progressive rock band Yes, Chris Squire, passed away yesterday after a short bout with Leukemia. Of course he didn’t know the man personally, but when you’ve become so connected to one’s art for as long as my husband has been, the loss is still profoundly felt.
Despite having an incredible support network of the dearest friends imaginable, I still found myself reaching for my usual comforts: Sugar and alcohol. But after a tear-fueled beer, wine and cake fest, I’m again back on track. Have I ever told you that I’m an incredible optimist? I’ve always been. In the words of Chumbawumba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” I’m sorry. I had to go there.
So that’s the update as to where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I woke up this morning and started back on health eating plan, which, just to reiterate, is tailored to my body type of estrogen dominance and subsequent hypothyroidism. Heavy on the raw greens, moderate on the protein, moderate to high on the healthy fats, and void of sugar and processed carbohydrates. It sounds unpleasant, but I assure you that after two days, the sugar cravings are gone and I actually have started to crave the greens and vegetables. There has been no formal exercise to speak of, but I spent this past Saturday helping a friend move from one apartment to another, both on the second floor, and my already-massive calves seem to be in a permanently contracted state from running up and down stairs carrying furniture and heavy boxes for hours.
Anyhoodle my friends, I got this!
Look for an update post with a photo very soon. Until then, have an awesome week!
Today is Wednesday, so I’m a day late with my Transformation Tuesday post. I apologize for the delay, but crummy weather and irritating circumstances prevented this post from going up yesterday.
Do we know what the link is between extreme humidity and water retention? I couldn’t find anything concrete on the Internet. Despite the past five days of very clean eating, I’m retaining so much water. My rings don’t fit my fingers and buttoning a pair of jeans this morning was more torture than usual. I haven’t been drinking as much water as I really need to, so I can’t really cry foul yet. But I’m not drinking soda or alcohol and aside from the occasional sip of black coffee – no sweetener of any sort either – I just can’t seem to release the water. So I will up my intake of H2o and see what comes of it.
The scale is showing no change. At all. I’m trying not to be too disappointed as 1) Numbers aren’t everything; and 2) The aforementioned water retention. The past five days have been kale and spinach salads with cashews, olive oil, and lots of fresh veggies; grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed by yours truly; and roasted salmon and green beans. Sunday night I had a setback of three Oreo cookies and a bag of microwave popcorn; and Monday afternoon while babysitting my nephews, I had a mini pack of peanut butter crackers, so I’ve not been strictly clean.
I’ve noticed that the challenge with food comes between late afternoon and evening before I go to bed. I tried to combat this yesterday by making a batch of kale chips, for the first time. I got the dinosaur kale variety from my mom’s garden, washed and dried the leaves, tossed with olive oil, salt and Italian seasoning and laid the leaves out onto the racks of my dehydrator. I actually forgot all about the kale until this morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The “chips” have the texture of seaweed or nori wraps, but a much better taste. I think I can happily eat these when I get the munchies.
Exercise has been light to moderate. No heavy weight training like I had intended. The walking has been sparse as well. The weather has been extremely hot and humid, and we’ve gotten a lot of storms and rain as well, which keeps me indoors.
Here is the result:
The shirt I’m wearing in this photo shows my fat rolls in all their glory, much more so than the black shirt in the previous photo. But until I do something about it, it is what it is. I have noticed that the subcutaneous fat in my belly and hip region has gotten a lot mushier and sags more. From what I’ve read, this is a good thing because it means that toxins are being moved out of the fat cells. If anyone knows any differently, please feel free to let me know.
Thanks for reading and until next time, have a great day!
Recipe time! I’ve got cake on the brain, can you tell? In fact, I think it would not be a stretch to say that I am smitten with it – obsessed. My nearest and dearest know this and hence, I’ve been the go‑to when it comes to making cakes for their events, including a wedding cake for a dear friend next month.