Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's happening in my world...

I've been struggling since last week on what to write for this weeks post.  I finally decided to show you a little bit of the "behind the scenes" of my real life.  Fasten your seat belts, it will be exciting.  (Joke)  I've been hesitant to share too much, mostly because I'm a huge introvert, but I just had the urge to talk some more about my chickens and now I have a platform for it.  (if you aren't chuckling then you need to be).

So if you've read my About page you'll know that I live in the middle of nowhere, and I love it here.  Because we live pretty remote I get to spend a lot of time with this guy.  He's also know as "the hubby" "the hubs" and "the hubster" and my best friend.  He means the world to me and has made so many of my dreams come true.  At this time we've been married 19 years and I am truly grateful for him.

 The next tidbit about me is that I love smoothies.  I have several recipes for them here and here and here.  I  usually have a smoothie every work day of the week.   Smoothies are great for me because I'm terrible at getting out of bed on time.  This is a big problem for me.  I love to sleep.  I've always been a good sleeper, at least until I turned 36 then it all went down hill from there and I've been working hard to get that quality back in my life.  Also I drive about 45 minutes to the office one way so I have plenty of time to enjoy some portable food.  My drive time has turned into my learning time, I'm either listening to podcasts or books and I took something that I despised and turned it into a positive.  Plus everyday is a new smoothie concoction.  Some are better than others but it's a great way for me to get some much needed veggies into my diet.

  Another thing that is keeping me busy is the finishing of our house.  We started building our house in 2006, moved in 2007 but it wasn't finished.  The awesome thing about this is that we've taken our time in selecting the items that get added to the house.  There are very few changes that we would make because of this benefit.  The bad thing about taking so long to finish is that everyone makes fun of us for living in an un-finished house.  Well guess what, jokes on you because I'm happy as a clam over here in the middle of nowhere.  Plus now I know how to lay tile, grout, stain woodwork, distress wood, build a raised bed, how to use a nail gun, etc, etc,

Next on the agenda at our house is the garden.  Here in the middle of Illinois we've had more rain than we've seen in years.  Therefore, the garden is overgrown with weeds.  In the above pictures you'll where I've been weed eating the garden just to find the plants.  You'll also see the yellowing leaves of the broccoli because of the copious amounts of rain we've received.  Also above is a loverly picture of myself showing how cute I am after a couple hours of weed eating and picking green beans.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  

One of new all time favorite additions to our little farm is our 17 hens and 2 roosters.  We raised chickens when I was a child and we also butchered them so I'm no "romantic" when it comes to these birds.  They are here for a purpose to provide amazingly good quality eggs and eventually meat to our family.  However, I never dreamed how much joy they would bring to my life.  Watching them brings so much joy to my day.  Plus my husband calls them my posse because when I'm outside they follow me everywhere.  Hey, everybody needs groupies.

In case chickens weren't enough we also have 4 beagles that protect us, the chickens and the garden.  I've only shown two here because I'm missing some pictures of the girls.  Beagles are by far my favorite dog.  They are so easy to train, they love kids, and they are just so darn lovable.  Plus their super cute.  I love the picture above of Remi's ears flapping in the breeze.  Those ears are adorable.

 This week I started Emily Schromm's 21-Day Superhero Challenge for the second time.  Here I am donning my perfect score t-shirt from the May challenge.  I'm a sucker for a t-shirt.  Emily has put together a great on line challenge that gives you not only exercises but food recommendations, a Facebook community, daily video encouragement and a daily check in to keep you accountable.
I loved her last challenge so much that I dedicated last weeks post to it and you can access that here.
Another great thing about Emily's workouts are the modifications for beginners or those of us recovering from a multitude of auto-immune craziness.  I can do her workouts and not feel miserable afterwords and still get some amazing movement completed.

Here's me at my workplace trying to see if I'd like to have a standing desk.  Yes I'm using reams of paper under my monitors and yes that is an old box from a printer precariously holding my keyboard and mouse.  Hey, it worked.  It was actually pretty comfortable.  I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work and cheap but I'm in no hurry.
And lastly some gorgeous zinnias cut from my garden.  Normally every year we plant a thick row of zinnias as the first row of the garden.  We did that this year but very few actually grew.  The rain has been hard on everything.  So this year I won't have huge vases of them like I usually do but I'm still enjoying each one that I can. 

So that's a little about my life.  It sure sounds like a lot when you write it all out but I still have time to read, sit on the porch and watch my chickens, pet the dogs, and cook meals for the hubs.  Overall it's a pretty good life that I've been given.  It's not without it's down times but even those times eventually turn into something good.  It's really all about perspective.

Have a great week my friends and if your looking for any particular recipe converted to a gluten free or paleo recipe I'd love to figure that out for you so leave me a comment below and I'll do my best.
Till next time,

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: 21-Day Superhero Challenge

Are you like me and don't really care to go to the gym?  You know you need to workout but you think everyone is staring at you?  Or do you just prefer to work out in the privacy of your own home and you own a few barbells or kettle bells.  Do you need a way to keep yourself motivated and accountable? Then I recommend that you try Emily Schromm's 21-Day Superhero Challenge.  After completing the May challenge I knew I had to share this with everyone that I could because I found it so helpful and encouraging.  

I used to be an extremely active person until I had an adrenal fatigue crisis about three years ago.  I'm still recovering but I'm much better than I was.  During the crisis I couldn't take a walk without feeling like someone had beat me up the next day.  Therefore I quit exercising all together because of the added stress it put on my body.  

Fast forward three years and I'm wanting to get even healthier and possibly lose some weight since I've gained an extra 20+ pounds with all of the adrenal issues.  I'm not a New Years Resolution kind of woman so I don't even go there.  But this past April 16, 2015 I listened to the Balanced Bites podcast where Diane Sanfilippo interviews Emily Schromm. Balance Bites Podcast featuring Emily Schromm

Emily is a former reality TV show personality who learned how to love herself by way of the gym and through proper nutrition.  Her lifestyle change was so impactful she knew it was calling her to to help other people unleash their inner superhero.  She stared her own business, Unleashed Fitness in Denver, Co in 2012.  She is a certified in NASM (personal training certification) and a certified Cross fit coach.  She also is finishing her NTP program, running the 21-Day Superhero Challenge and filming for Women's Health Next Fitness Star DVD's.  This gal has it going on!

So let's get to the point of this post, the 21-Day Superhero Challenge.

Emily has put together an amazing program that lasts (as you guessed) 21 days.  You sign up on line at her website: Unleashed Fitness
and you select the type of plan you want to be a part of.  When i took the challenge in May there was only the Basic Plan and I loved it.  With her Basic challenge you get:

- 21 daily videos with an exercise and/or nutritional information
- 3 weeks of Meal Plans and Grocery List (super wonderful)
- The "Life After the Challenge" Guide
- Daily Accountability where you need to log points for day
- Access to a Huge Community Forum with like minded people
- And Prizes are awarded to those who achieve perfect scores.

The biggest perks for me in this challenge was the Daily Accountability Points.  I'm a tiny bit competitive so that really fueled me to stay on task and I love getting things for free.  Here's a couple of the items on the daily checklist: Did you refrain from alcohol today?, Did you take a fish oil supplement today? Did you complete the workout today? just to name a few.  That's not hard, is it?  But just having that little reminder that I needed to log on each day to get my points was wonderful for me, and on the weekends I was able to complete that from my iphone.  

Emily also sends you a daily email with a short video.  I believe that her longest video in the last challenge was 9 minutes, maybe 10.  So skip stalking people of Facebook for 10 minutes a day and watch a video that shows you how to complete the exercises of the day and get motivated by the sweetest, most talented trainer on the web today.  Also, for those of you like me who have fallen out of the workout world, she shows you how to do the exercises in beginner, moderate and advanced forms so know one is excluded.  I'll admit that several of my exercises were done in the beginner form but at least I was moving.  And last but not least you don't need anything but a couple of dumbbells or kettle bells, that's it, no special equipment.

And for those of you who struggle to know what to eat, Emily has it all figured out.  You get a weekly meal plan along with a shopping list.  She takes the time to make this easy for you so there are very few excuses left.  Once you take a look at the meal plans you get a really good idea of what's expected of you.  There's no meal package to buy but instead a focus on REAL FOOD and cooking at home as much as possible.  

What are the benefits to this challenge:
#1 The cost in minimal if you go with the Basic Plan
#2 You are being held accountable for your actions (assuming you can be honest)
#3 You don't have to think about what is next as Emily delivers it all to you daily
#4 You will have more energy, it will take a few days but you the extra energy will come.
#5 Your sleep will be better.  My sleep hasn't been that good in a long time.  I was amazed.
#6 You will feel better about yourself.
#7 You'll probably lose a few pounds, that wasn't my overall goal so I didn't track it carefully.  My goal is just to increase my overall health.
#8 She has the best hashtag #beyourownsuperhero

If you haven't guessed it I am signing up for the next challenge that begins on July 27th and I'm looking forward to it.  This time around Emily has added even more goodies: there is a Basic Plan, the Next Level plan, the You + Four plan, and an Intro Pack.  

The struggle for good health is a real one and when you fail to plan you plan to fail.  

Have you joined an on line workout challenge and enjoyed it?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

I hope you enjoy this review and find it helpful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mandarin Orange Chicken - Gluten Free - Primal

Comfort food.  
Sometimes you just need some comfort food.  Comfort food meant many different things to me before living Gluten Free.  Now my definition of comfort food has changed and changed for the better.  Now I crave things that are full of good things for my body, that have some substance to them and that taste delicious.  This Mandarin Orange Chicken recipe fulfills all of those qualifications and more.  Plus for me, chicken just makes everything better.  Unless it's steak, then steak makes everything better.  Unless... :) 

4 chicken breasts or thighs
salt and pepper 
2 T Avocado Oil

Add 2 tablespoons of avocado oil to a skillet on your stove top and turn the burner to medium heat.  
Add your chicken to the skillet that has been salt and peppered and cook until done.  (Deciding when your chicken is done will depend on if you use boneless or bone in meat, when the meat still has the bone attached to the meat your cooking time will need to be longer, please use a meat thermometer to know when your meat is truly cooked.) This post by the Global Post identifies the differences of cooking times and what the internal temperature should be when the meat is finished.

1 T Avocado Oil
1 cup freshly squeeze orange juice (prepared oj will work)
1/2 cup prepared orange marmalade
2 T Dijon mustard
1/2 scant teaspoon Rosemary (chopped)
15 oz can Mandarin Oranges (drained)
1/4 t orange zest
1 T arrowroot starch
1/3 cup liquid (drippings from the Mandarin oranges, water or more oj)

Cooking Tip:  Ever Try chopping dry Rosemary?  It's like herding cats, it's messy and hard to control.  Here's my tip for chopping some dried Rosemary and reducing it's ability to fly away with each cut of the knife.

Add your Rosemary to a cutting board, add a drop of liquid or oil, in this recipe you could use a couple of drops of orange juice and a few drops of avocado oil.  Use the tip of your knife or your finger to make sure all the Rosemary is covered in the liquid and then chop as desired.  The result will be nicely chopped Rosemary that is all still on your cutting board and not all over your counter and your floors.

- Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and place onto a serving dish.  
- Add 1 T of avocado oil to the hot pan and scrape of any of the brown bits left from            cooking the chicken.  
 This is flavor people, use those brown bits to your advantage as often as possible.  
- After scraping the pan for a minute of two add the orange juice.  
- Continue scraping the bottom of the pan until most of the bits have released and the  orange juice is almost bubbling.  
- Add the orange marmalade and stir until it has melted into the juice.
- Now add the Rosemary and the Dijon Mustard and still until combined.
- Allow the sauce has come to a simmer cook for about 5 minutes to let the flavors  combine.
- In 1/3 cup liquid  add the arrowroot starch and stir the starch mixture until there are no    lumps.
- Slowly stir in the arrowroot starch liquid into the sauce, stop adding the starch when the  sauce reaches your desired thickness, You may not need all of the starch mixture.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the drained Mandarin Oranges gently.

I serve this dish over white rice and add a vegetable.  You can skip the rice but like I stated before this is comfort food to me and I will be using Rice.

Why not wild rice?  For those of us still having digestive upset wild grain rice can be extremely hard for your body to digest.  Society tells you that you must have all that fiber and that's hunky dory for everyone else, but for me it causes me more issues than advantage.  When you have any type of intestinal issue: leaky gut, IBS, Crohns, etc your body needs a little extra help in the digestion department and that's why Dr's and Dietitian's recommend foods that are already partially digested.  
Ok, I know, that sounds disgusting but stick with me just a little longer.  Partially digested actually means cooked or steamed and not raw.  Have you ever noticed that when you eat raw broccoli you have extra belching, gas and even bloating but you don't have those symptoms when you eat broccoli cooked or steamed?  That means your body is having some trouble digesting the food.  I complained of gas, belching and bloating for years and assumed that was the way it was and that everyone had those issues.  In high school I had a dear friend even try to help me with the belching by watching the way I drank my liquids thinking that I was inhaling too much air while drinking.   BTW, it didn't help but isn't that just the sweetest friend ever?

Here's how I make white rice to give it a little more substance.
What's the secret???

Bone Broth

Use bone broth or stock instead of water.  Not only does it make the rice have some flavor it given your body nutrients and minerals that were released in the broth process.  I make my own broth pretty often and have even sourced some good beef bones locally.  
This post from Jennifer McGruther's site, Nourished Kitchen, tells you everything you need to know about bone broth, stock.   

2 cups of chicken bone broth or stock
1 cup of white rice
salt to taste

Bring the bone broth to a boil and add a cup of white rice.  Follow the package directions on the rice.  When the rice has finished cooking serve with butter or ghee for additional goodness.

To serve this dish I add a helping of rice with added butter or ghee, then the chicken, and then the finally and the gorgeous mandarin orange sauce thats smell will lift your spirit and whose sight will brighten your mood.  And for more orange flavor add a sprinkling of orange zest on top of the dish.  
Now sit down with those you love, take a deep breath, be grateful for your meal and take the time to enjoy this amazing food.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Strawberry Salad with Chicken and Homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette - Gluten Free

When summer comes around we are constantly looking for fresh and easy meal ideas that won't heat up the kitchen.  Summertime lends itself well to tons of salads.  The garden is exploding with greens and strawberries are producing big, bright, red beautiful berries with their enticing smell.  All you need for this dish is your favorite salad greens, chicken, and strawberries to make this simple summer salad.  The added bonus here is that you make your own dressing with some extra strawberries, some good oil (not that highly processed seed oil, that is just gross) and some delicious balsamic vinegar.  Salad dressing doesn't have to be full of empty crappy calories and with this one being so easy splurge and get the avocado oil for some high quality fat. Everything here is Gluten Free and Primal/Paleo so let's get to it. 

Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing

1 cup of strawberries, fresh
3 T Strawberry Jelly of choice
2T + 1 t of Balsamic vinegar
3 T Avocado Oil
1/2 t pepper
Pinch of Salt

Yields approximately 1 1/4 cups of dressing 

Combine all of the above ingredients into your blender of choice, I use my Nurtri-Bullet, and blend until completely smooth.  This usually takes me 30 seconds in my nutri-bullet.  Of course stop and check your mixture to be sure it is at a desirable consistency for your liking.  Taste the dressing mixture and be sure it is to your liking, you can adjust your flavors as needed.  
I'm sure you could use honey for the sweetener and up the berries to skip the jelly but I've had such amazing success with the current recipe I just haven't wanted to try anything else. 

For the chicken you can either cook up 4 chicken breasts, 4 chicken thighs or even use some leftover shredded chicken.

Simply add a little salt and pepper to your chicken if you are cooking it fresh and cook, bake, or grill until done. Cut into strips or cubes once the cooked chicken is cool enough to handle.

Plate up your favorite salad greens, we use romaine and spinach, add your sliced strawberries, then the chicken and lastly the pecans.  Feel free to add some red onion and feta to this salad, it's just as tasty with these added ingredients but i didn't have any on hand when I made this recipe for the photos.

Hope you enjoy this delicious dish and are having a fabulous summer!

***Note - this salad does not taste as good when you replace the chicken with a leftover homemade hamburger. LOL!  Hey, we eat what we have on hand and we ate all the chicken the night before.  Just keeping it real. ***