Tag Archives: food

A Recipe for Hunting Season

30 Sep

Hunting season is in full swing here in Minnesota, and Travis’ family’s annual elk hunting trip to Colorado is coming up in just a week. This recipe for elk chili has been a staple at elk camp for the past 5 years or so, AND it won our church’s chili cookoff twice. The first time it won was the first time I had ever made it! So it started off as a great recipe, and after making it three dozen times or so, I’ve made a few tweaks that have only made it better. I almost always use elk meat, but this chili can be made with any ground venison or even ground beef. It’s a great thing to serve hungry hunters after they’ve been out searching for their prey, or a tasty way to cook the fruits of their labor. Best part, it can be made in a crockpot or on the stove. Enjoy!

Elk Chili
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 4-5 hungry hunters

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb ground elk meat
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp butter (only if cooking on stove)
30 oz tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Brown elk meat in a large skillet and drain excess fat.
2. (Skip this step if using a crockpot.) In separate pan, melt butter over low-medium heat and saute onion until tender.
3. Combine drained meat, onion, and remaining ingredients in a crockpot or in a large pot on the stove. Stir well.
4. If using a crockpot, set temperature on low and cook 6-8 hours. If cooking on the stove, bring to a simmer and cook 1-2 hours.
5. Serve hot and enjoy! We like to eat ours adorned with sour cream and cheese, with a side of yummy cornbread, but it’s delicious on its own too!
image

Happy Hunting!

A Word on Moderation in Food Fads

13 Aug

These days, it seems like eating healthy is no longer just as simple as eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lowfat dairy. It’s not even as simple as choosing organic. It’s about food that is “sustainably raised”, “raw”, “sprouted”, “free range” and “unpasteurized”. There are supplements like wheat grass and hempseed, drinks like kombucha, and companies like Advocare that have 200 “nutrition” products that will make you feel like a million bucks.

It’s enough to cause a nervous breakdown for someone like me who wants to eat healthy but also doesn’t want to 1) Eat a bunch of foods I’ve never heard of before 2) Stop eating the foods I like and 3) Spend a bajillion dollars doing it. 

It may just be my strong dislike of anything even remotely resembling a bandwagon, but a lot of the food fads going around right now seem like just that – fads. They’ll be replaced by something else in 6 months and in 12 months, they’ll discover that they were wrong, and that food is actually bad for you. 

I’d be fine to just eat my dirty grapes and pasteurized cheese in silence and let the food-trend mayhem occur without my interference, except for one thing. The peddlers of the food-trend mayhem will not accept passivity. You’re either with them, or against them. You’re either eating healthy (like them), or feeding yourself and your family pure poison. It’s amazing we haven’t all died already.

Here’s what I propose: Go ahead and talk about the health benefits of whatever new thing you’re into. But don’t trash everything else that people have been eating for decades as absolutely horrible for you and wonder why anyone would eat that. You know why “we” eat that? Because we don’t want to spend $10 on 1 oz of cheese. Because I’d rather take my chances with non-organic grapes than not be able to afford them at all. Because I don’t want to spend 50% of my income on food. 

My angry tirade is actually a cover for feeling insecure and overwhelmed at thinking that I’m feeding my family crap by letting them eat regular whole wheat bread (NOT sprouted grain or ezekiel bread!!!) and Kemps milk and coffee creamer (not from a local farm!!!). Oh and I buy Foster Farms or Gold ‘n’ Plump chicken – we’re all going to DIE!!!!

Obviously, I exaggerate. But after reading some of the blogs and articles I do about healthy eating, that’s seriously how I feel. 

BUT IS IT TRUE?!?!?!

That’s the question I always come back to. Is all of this true? It’s really hard to know what to believe when many of the supposed “sources” of these “facts” are quite obviously writing from a huge bias. They are writing about what they themselves eat, and of course, it’s the best thing since juicing. And then there’s the fact that even medical professionals don’t always agree on this stuff.

Bringing faith into the picture, I know that if I tried to start eating all of the fads, it would be a reaction out of fear and not faith. It’s like with the Christian life – sure, you can serve in the Children’s Ministry at church, sing on the worship team, have people over for dinner every night, host a missionary family, volunteer at the local food shelter, and knit afghans for the pregnancy center. But are you called to? Just because other people are doing 1 or more of those things, does that mean you should do them all? No, it doesn’t. God leads everyone to do with their life what He calls them to do.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” (1 Corinthians 7:17)

I believe that God has called me to a live of moderation. And that applies to what I eat. It may be that in time, I’ll come around to see that some of the foods that are trendy right now really are valuable, and start incorporating them into my diet. It may be that I’ll start buying more organic produce. But it’s just as likely that I’ll continue in my moderately healthy ways and buy traditional foods, like all-purpose flour and Wheat Thins. 

Because while I do believe that our bodies are gifts from God and we are called to be good stewards of them, for me it ends up being unhealthy in other ways to spend more time than I currently am thinking about what I’m eating. When I concentrate on it so much, it becomes an idol. And Jesus did say, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12:23) I’ve finally gotten back to my pre-pregnancy eating habits (and weight) and I’m feeling good. 

I would be amiss, however, to not mention that God has created some people to truly, deeply and passionately care about what they eat. And I do believe that you can be passionate about food without it being an idol. I just ask that they be passionate without condemning the choices of the rest of us. 😉

Schedules, Lists and Plans

6 Mar

First off, I’m sorry that I’ve been completely MIA from my blog and from reading your blogs. My head is spinning with everything that is going on right now, and blogging/reading blogs has fallen way down on the priority list. But I will get caught up eventually!

In the midst of the current chaos, I have been maintaining my sanity by keeping schedules, lists and plans in various areas:

Meal-Planning:

Whenever I get busy, lazy or tired, dinner is one of the first things to go. Poor Travis has had to deal with more than his fair share of frozen pizzas, ‘whatever you can find’ and ‘breakfast for dinner’ dinners. Add to that a complete lack of inspiration for dinner ideas and it was a mess. Then two things happened: I heard of ZipList, an online tool that lets you file recipes and add the ingredients to a shopping list organized by aisle. And I was also inspired by nHerShoes to assign each night a dinner theme, thereby giving a little more structure to what to make. Added bonus: more variety!

I have been doing this for about 3 weeks now, and while it unfortunately hasn’t helped me spend less on groceries (need to start working on that too!), it has been a huge success in helping me make actual dinners, and get away from my handful of rotating recipes (which are great to have, but we needed to mix it up badly!).

Budgeting:

I mentioned back in January that I’m taking over the finances in our family. Well, we haven’t had time to sit down and go over the bills and stuff, so Travis is still handling that. But I have been tracking our budget and spending! After my mind exploded trying to track our credit card, checking account, bills, income, etc. via an Excel spreadsheet, I was inspired by Mel at Winners Wear Yellow to use Mint.com. So. Much. Easier. And it has a nifty button you can check to carry over any unspent funds to the next month, taking the guesswork out of those expenses (like auto and house maintenance) that typically are spent in large chunks, but (ideally) saved for monthly.

We use US Bank and because of security measures for logging in, Mint.com can’t automatically update our account balances and activity. But I can still manually update it, so it works out. It has helped keep us on track and while we are still going over in some categories, we were a lot less over than we were before. Progress!

Running:

I’m training! For a race! I’m 3 weeks in to a 10-week training plan. My longest run so far has been 4 miles – which used to be nothing, but now was the longest run I’ve done since July 2012. I’ve also been doing some cross-training via videos at home and I have to say, it feels GREAT to be back working out regularly. I’m averaging only about 3 times a week, but it’s been nice.

A few things about the race (Hot Chocolate 15k on April 19 in Minneapolis) though are cramping my style:

1) I realized it’s on Easter weekend. We were going to have the race weekend be a little husband/wife getaway sans baby but we have to be with her on her first Easter! So boo on that.

2) Travis is studying for the California Professional Engineers exam, which is like the Colorado PE that he took back in 2012, except even more intense. So he’ll be studying a lot between now and the race, which means I’ll have to watch Emma.

3) It’s still winter in Minnesota. Like, majorly winter. And the town where Travis’ parents live doesn’t have an indoor track, so I’ll be relegated to running on the dreadmill. I don’t know if I can handle that.

Needless to say, with all of those factors, I’m not absolutely dead set on running this race. I’m still going to train for it as much as I can, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’d still like to run a race before getting pregnant again (ahem…), but flexibility is the name of the game right now.

And that’s all I have time for! I’ll be back tomorrow for Emma’s 11-month update!

* I was not compensated by ZipList, Mint.com or Hot Chocolate 15K for this post. All opinions are my own.

6 Weeks Postpartum

22 May

This past Monday, I had my 6-week postpartum checkup. Everything looks good and I’ve been officially cleared for exercise. Yay!

At 6 weeks postpartum, here’s how things are going…

Physical Recovery

The weird tightness in my upper abdominal muscles is now officially gone. My abs are still fairly weak, though all the bouncing on the exercise ball that I’ve been doing to calm Emma down has helped to regain some of my core strength. I could notice a difference during the 2 runs I went on this week.

Yep, I went on 2 runs this week! Emma has been sleeping better at night (more on that in Emma’s 7 week update) so that has allowed me to go running in the morning instead of catching up on sleep. I thought about doing the Couch to 5K program but it seemed to be a little bit more conservative than I’d like. So I’m just doing my own thing. I covered 1.5 miles in 20 minutes on Monday and 2 miles in 30 minutes today, doing run/walk intervals. I mostly ran because I’ve missed it so much, but I know I need to listen to my body and walk when my legs feel tired or tight. Don’t want any injuries!

This week is the first that I’ve really been back at it with exercise. After that initial run at 12 days postpartum, Emma started getting really fussy and workouts fell very low on the priority list. I tried to get out on walks as much as Emma and my energy levels would allow, but that wasn’t very often. I’m glad that things are turning around now!

Body Weight / Image

I have about 7-8 pounds to go before hitting my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m trying to transition out of wearing maternity clothes but it has been hard. My boobs have grown so much from breastfeeding and my stomach is still ’round’ enough that I’d say about 75% of my pre-pregnancy shirts don’t fit – they’re either too short or too tight. About 90% of my pre-pregnancy pants, shorts and skirts don’t fit, also due to the stomach. I have been able to fit into a few things again (though not without causing major muffin top action) and I bought a few new things from the thrift store that fit me better. But overall, this is still an extremely frustrating part of being postpartum.

postpartum_comparison_2Maternity jeans on the left, pre-pregnancy jeans on the right

As a person who loves fitness and feeling in shape, it’s hard to be comfortable in my own skin when I feel so flabby and blah. I know that my body will never be exactly the same again but I’m looking forward to the day when I get to a place where I like how I feel and look again. I know that having clothes that fit will help me feel better, so I’m hoping to go shopping again in the next couple of weeks.

I also know that I need to be better about my eating habits. When we had family out here visiting after Emma was born, we ate pretty well-balanced, healthy meals. But when it’s just me and Travis, convenience is king – which means a lot more processed foods like frozen waffles, deli meat, cereal, etc. Being dairy and soy free really limits what I can eat (and drives up our grocery bill!) and I’ve found myself eating a lot of carb-heavy snacks/meals, like Rudi’s whole wheat toast with Earth Balance spread and raspberry preserves. Not horrible, but that kind of thing shouldn’t be the mainstay of my diet. Instead of relying on processed, expensive convenience foods, I need to be more intentional about eating whole foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat and nuts. They’re cheaper and healthier.

Emotional

My emotions are still a rollercoaster, but a bit more intense than when I posted my postpartum update at 2.5 weeks. They vary from day to day, morning to night, hour to hour. Not surprisingly, they are heavily influenced by how much Emma is crying and sleeping. When Emma is minimally fussy, easily comforted, and sleeping for 3-5 hours at a stretch, it’s a lot easier for me to feel hopeful and enjoy this season than when she is crying inconsolably, refuses to sleep and wakes up after 20 minutes. Then I feel a ball of despair wedge itself in my throat and my minds fills with lots of untrue, very unhelpful thoughts, and I wonder how anyone has ever enjoyed being a parent.

It is because of God’s sustaining grace that I haven’t given up. He provides grace in little ways each day: Emma finally going to sleep when I thought I couldn’t possibly shush or bounce anymore. Emma staying asleep when I thought for sure she had woken up as I put her down and left the room in a huff (which happened last night). Travis and I working as a team to figure out how to do the things we enjoy doing while taking care of a colicky baby. Emma sleeping so well in the baby carrier that we can still do stuff – like clean, grocery shop, go on walks – even when she demands to be held.

I’ve called to mind these evidences of grace whenever I’ve been tempted to dive back into self-pity and discouragement. God does see, and He is actively providing for us. He may not be taking the situation away completely, but He is being faithful in the midst of it. And that has to be enough for me – because joy comes from accepting what He allows, not from demanding what I want. (So easy to say, but so very hard to do!)

Anyway, things are slowly getting better – if anything, Travis and I are learning to deal with the situation better, even if Emma is still quite fussy. That’s something!

Dealing with a Colicky Baby

10 May

So we’re pretty sure that Emma has colic, whatever that is. A colicky baby cries or fusses for 3 hours a day, for 3 days a week, for 3 weeks. It hasn’t been 3 weeks yet but Emma fusses every day, so I think we qualify. I’ve been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and the author says that fussiness is more characteristic of colic and defines fussiness as “an unsettled, agitated, wakeful state that would lead to crying if ignored by parents” and that colicky babies have “long and frequents bouts of fussing” which would lead to crying if it weren’t for “intensive parental intervention.”

Story of my life.

This week has been a blur of feeding and getting Emma to go to sleep and stay asleep. Who needs to work out when you spend hours a day bouncing a fussy baby on an exercise ball? Seriously, my legs and back are TIRED.

After a little research, it appears that Emma is getting enough sleep, but most of it is in 1-2 hour chunks, with a few 2-4 hour chunks thrown in from about 6 pm to 1 am. The time of day she sleeps the worst is from about 1 am to 8 am. Last night, I just threw in the towel and stayed up watching Modern Family on my iPad instead of trying to sleep through her grunting. It was definitely our worst night by far. She was grunting within 15 minutes of when I put her in her swing.

I finally called our pediatrician’s office the other day and talked to the triage nurse. I told her about all of Emma’s symptoms:

  • Cries after feedings, sometimes during, like she’s frustrated
  • Swallows a lot of air from gulping milk
  • Gets hiccups often, spits up quite a bit, has a lot of gas
  • Wants to eat every 1-3 hours
  • Often wants pacifier after eating but has plenty of dirty and wet diapers
  • Grunts almost all night long, seems to be uncomfortable from gas
  • Yawns all the time, even when she has just woken up, but it still takes a lot of effort to make her go to sleep
  • Generally only sleeps for an hour at a time except for evening – then she’ll go 2-3 hours and every once in a while, 4-5
  • When she seems happy and alert, it lasts for maybe 10-15 minutes before she melts down
  • Goes from happy to screaming in a matter of seconds
  • Often cries for 10-20 minutes no matter what you do, calms down after that but only as long as you’re doing something very specific

The triage nurse was very helpful and gave me these tips to try:

  • Express milk before feeding Emma to minimize gulping and swallowed air.
  • Interrupt her feedings often to burp her. Burp her for several minutes before resuming.
  • Keep her upright for 30-45 minutes after eating.
  • If it’s been less than 2 hours since a good feeding (lasting 20-30 minutes), comfort her in a way other than nursing (since it takes about 2 hours for a full belly to be metabolized). If her last feeding was short, I can feed her when she seems hungry.
  • Eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine from my diet for a week.

Pumping milk before feeding Emma will take a little getting used to, especially since it’s pretty tough to predict right now when Emma will want to eat. And when I know she wants to eat, she wants to eat NOW. I can hold her off with the pacifier, but she can’t keep it in her mouth herself, so pumping is kind of a circus act while I juggle the breast pump bottles and her pacifier.

I do think pumping, combined with me reclining during breastfeeding, is making a difference – at the very least, Emma is drinking slower than before. She’s not usually a huge fan of being burped mid-feeding (or at all), unless she’s really uncomfortable. But she settles back down pretty quickly once I put her back to the breast.

Sometimes she likes being upright on my or Travis’ chest and she sleeps pretty well in the Baby Bjorn. But other times, she thinks being upright is horrible. That was the case this morning. Surprisingly, though, she was content laying on her back on the changing table. So I let her lay there for about 10 minutes while I talked to her. (This has inspired yet another idea we’re going to try – putting her on her changing pad mattress in the cradle. She seems to be able to pass gas a lot better laying flat on her back than sitting reclined like she does in her swing.)

As far as the dietary changes go, I’m going to eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine like the nurse suggested (which is so sad because those are almost all of my favorite food groups!). I have been avoiding cheese, milk, yogurt and ice cream for the past week, but I was still eating chocolate and processed foods like granola bars that contain milk. So I’m finally going to cut those out too. 😦 Then last night, I ate a Boca burger for dinner and on the off chance that the night went so poorly because I ate soy, I’m also going to cut out soy products. And since peanuts are a well-known allergen as well, I’m thinking that I might switch to eating almond butter instead of peanut butter. I’m also going to avoid eating tomatoes and any tomato-based sauces and condiments, since those have triggered acid reflux for me in the past, and while I’m at it, I might as well cut down on the gluten I eat (since a lot of products that are dairy and soy free are also gluten free). Can you tell I’m desperate to find a solution to Emma’s crying?!?!

In a way, this change will be good for me and Travis because we’ll be forced to eat a lot more whole foods and less processed crap. The only drawback is that whole foods generally require more work than processed foods, and well, time in the kitchen is not something I have a lot of right now. But we’re going to try. 😉 So what will I be eating?

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Rice and rice pasta
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Olive oil
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Udi’s gluten-free products
  • Larabars
  • So Delicious ice cream and yogurt
  • Amy’s Organic Foods
  • Earth Balance spreads and nut butters
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Almond milk (which is SO not the same as cow’s milk!! I miss it dearly)

The nurse said that if these changes haven’t made a difference in Emma’s fussy behavior by Monday, then they’ll have us come in to have Emma checked out and make sure there isn’t something else going on besides colic.

On a positive note, I haven’t felt as frustrated with Emma the past couple of days. My emotions have switched to just being frustrated with the situation, with an understanding that Emma isn’t being fussy on purpose – she’s just uncomfortable. Poor baby. I keep assuring her that Mommy wants to make her happy and is trying everything she can think of to do so.

But I did just about lose it on our walk this morning with the dogs. Emma had fallen asleep so I thought I’d take advantage of it and go on a longer walk. Well, just 20 minutes into it, she woke up. I turned right around, even though it was earlier than I had planned, because I just had an inkling that she wouldn’t be content very long if she was awake. Sure enough, about a minute later, she started pouting and then crying. She was content if the pacifier was in her mouth, but again, I have to hold it in there. So I ended up tying the dogs’ leash around my waist, taking Emma out of the carseat and holding her while I pushed the stroller all the way back to the house, and keeping the pacifier in her mouth. That juggling act made me feel like a real mom. And it made me vow to not take both the dogs and Emma on a walk again until she outgrows this stage, or Travis comes with.

Do you have any tasty, easy snack ideas that are dairy and soy free?

A genetically mutated potato.

27 Sep

This morning, nothing we had at home sounded good for lunch so I planned to make a repeat trip to Jason’s Deli for the Best Lunch Ever. I was planning to order a whole bowl of the broccoli cheddar soup, instead of just a cup like I had last time, but as I was looking at the menu, the Spud Au Broc stood out to me.

 

The combination of my two current loves – the best broccoli cheddar soup in the world and a potato. Naturally, I got the full size potato because I’m pregnant and was starving.

Well, the potato was so monstrous that I’m convinced it was genetically mutated:

No worries though. I took it down.

I’ve been paying for it a bit since lunchtime with a very uncomfortable stomach (whether from eating too much or eating cheese, I’m not sure) but it was worth it.

My only complaint? That I burnt my tongue since I couldn’t wait for it to cool off before digging in.

And bonus points: there’s my veggies for the day. 😉 Never mind the calorie count of that bad boy. Ahem, 1,510.

 

 

Pregnancy Update: Weeks 5-7

21 Sep

Compared to many women, my pregnancy has been very easy so far.  I’ve had the typical first trimester exhaustion and some nausea and feelings of ickiness (like I have an upset stomach all day) but no morning sickness. That is a huge blessing because it has allowed me to keep working like usual.

Week 5

I went to my first prenatal appointment the week after I found out. My pregnancy was confirmed and the nurse practitioner said I was measuring correctly, around 5-7 weeks (they couldn’t know for sure until an ultrasound, since my cycle isn’t the typical 28 day kind). I also got pricked with a needle 3 times trying to give blood – it didn’t want to come out!

Symptoms: Bloating!  and exhaustion.

 

Week 6

During Week 6, I bought my first maternity clothes. No, I didn’t need them BUT I did find some good deals (like a shirt for $5 at Target!) and they are items that I can wear during the awkward stages and post-pregnancy, as well as when I’m early in pregnancy but clearly showing (they may not fit when I’m 8 months along but I’m ok with that). I realized that I don’t own many loose-fitting tops and with all the bloating, I definitely needed them!

Symptoms: Moodiness. Exhaustion. Sore boobs.

Cravings: Anything unhealthy (hello Taco Bell, Chinese and McDonalds). Ice water. Burgers.

Aversions: Coffee. Anything sweet. (I’d much rather eat a burger than a bowl of ice cream).

Weight Gained: Zero.

 

Week 7

During Week 7, I ate my favorite pregnancy meal so far. I was craving soup like crazy so I went to Jason’s Deli during lunch all by my lonesome and had a cup of broccoli cheddar with half of a tuna melt. The soup was to die for. Seriously. I must go back soon. That lunch started my soup craving. What I’ve discovered since then: Progresso makes a pretty delicious Chicken Wild Rice. But anything cheddar/broccoli/potato that comes from a can is disgusting. Don’t waste your money – go to Jason’s Deli.

One night during Week 7, I was awake for hours with horrible cramps and nausea. The next day, I realized it was probably because I was completely backed up (if you know what I mean). Seriously, you don’t realize how wonderful it is to be consistent until you aren’t.

I also discovered this week that I had more energy at night if I took a short nap after work, rather than trying to power through until bedtime.

Symptoms: Bloating, constipation, waves of nausea/upset stomach all day, exhaustion, acne breakouts

Cravings: Sleeping on my stomach; fruit and fruit-flavored things, like oranges, fruit snacks, lemonade and yogurt; deli sandwiches (toasted or tuna); soup and Spaghetti-O’s

Aversions: Vegetables of all kinds (except potato chips!), Mexican food

Weight Gained: Zero.