Monday, June 20, 2011

Oh, Splenda!

I just read an article this morning that was disheartening.  I've heard for years about artificial sweeteners being bad for you, but I'd also heard they were okay, and hey, I'm already giving up so much!!!  Don't make me give up diet A&W, too!  Well, this article has me convinced that I at least need to do an experiment avoiding all sweetners.  I'm not starting it until the end of July or so, because I'd like my daughter to do it with me (and I'm the one that convinced her to drink diet soda for her blood sugar!).  But, I thought I'd post the link to the article here and quote the things that disturbed me the most.

I actually forwarded the article on Facebook, and a friend of mine said in Japan, they consider Splenda a poison and won't approve it for human consumption.  Lovely!

From the study (yes, I know I'm not using MLA formatting here; had I mentioned that I'm an English professor?):

The animal study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found that Splenda:
  • reduced the amount of good intestinal bacteria by 50 percent
  • increased the intestinal pH level, and
  • affected a glycoprotein that can have crucial health effects, particularly if you're on certain medications
Artificial sweeteners like Splenda are commonly recommended for diabetics, since sucralose will not influence your blood sugar levels. However, what they fail to realize is that Splenda is not all sucralose… Remember, most of that packet is actually sugar—only about one percent is sucralose!

  • 100 percent of the industry funded studies supported aspartame's safety, while
  • 92 percent of the independently funded studies identified at least one potential health concern

The symptoms are so numerous I can't include them all, but the following are common symptoms, usually noticed within a 24-hour period following consumption of a Splenda product:
Skin -- Redness, itching, swelling, blistering, weeping, crusting, rash, eruptions, or hives (itchy bumps or welts
Nose -- Stuffy nose, runny nose (clear, thin discharge), sneezing
Heart -- Palpitations or fluttering
Lungs -- Wheezing, tightness, cough, or shortness of breath
Eyes -- Red (bloodshot), itchy, swollen, or watery
Joints -- Joint pains or aches
Head -- Swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, or throat; headaches and migraines (severe headaches)
Stomach -- Bloating, gas, pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloody diarrhea
Neurological -- Anxiety, dizziness, spaced-out sensation, depression


Gee, a lot of those sound like fibro symptoms, don't they?  I'll post on my experiment when I decide to do it.  Maybe I'll do it without my daughter, after all.  I have to mentally prep for this, though.  Give me at least a few days.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

News and Two Recipes

So, I have big news- kind of incredible news, actually.  A year and a half ago, my tramadol (ultram) wasn't really touching my pain, but I couldn't just up the dose.  It's a controlled med and highly addictive.  I found this out by losing a few pills (my hands would never work, so I'd drop them and then I couldn't get down on the floor to find them) and then having to wait two days for a refill.  I found out that I could only skip two doses before full-on withdrawal started.  So, as I've gotten my pain down from eating better and didn't always need the pills, I would have to take part of one anyway occasionally to stave off withdrawal.  I really didn't like being on these pills, but I am grateful to have had them when I needed them.

However, since my pain has gone down significantly, I decided to taper off of them a quarter pill per week and see if I could get off them all together.  And I did!  I've been off them for a week now.  In fact, today I didn't even need an Aleve until noon (and it was raining today- weather changes usually kill me).  That is amazing to me!  

Now, a couple of important points:  1.  I still had withdrawal for about four days, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the time I suddenly ran out.  I did have to cancel class on Monday, however.  2.  I concede that not taking a prescription may not always be possible.  I may need to get back on them or something else at some point in my life, but for now, I'm just on Aleve, and that is a wonderful feeling!

Ok, to the recipes:

Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Sherry Vidalia Onions

My friend, Bridgitte, sent me this one the other day from  I modified it by just not using a bun.  Also, remember what I've said about store-bought mayo.

YIELD: 4 servings (serving size: 1 burger)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices Vidalia or other sweet onion
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 cups loosely packed arugula
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
2. Combine 1/2 cup blue cheese, mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon thyme, and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl; stir well.
3. Divide beef into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Sprinkle beef evenly with 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and salt.
4. Brush oil evenly over both sides of onion slices; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place the patties and onions on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cover and grill for 3 minutes on each side. Set patties aside; keep warm. Place onion slices in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 5 minutes; toss with remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and vinegar.
5. Spread evenly with mayonnaise mixture. Arrange 1/2 cup arugula, top with 1 patty, and 1 onion slice.
Tony Rosenfeld, Cooking Light
JUNE 2011

Hamburger Dip
This needs a better title, because it sounds awful, but it is actually amazingly good!  I either eat it with a spoon or with corn tortilla chips, but the chips are a liberal diet splurge.   It does have tomato in it, but honestly, this is one time I don't care (and my avoiding tomatoes is based on a theory, not the diet anyway).  This one is from my Rival Crock-pot Slow Cooker Cuisine cookbook.  I love crockpot recipes that I can eat for 3 meals in a row... yes, I do that.
-2 lbs lean ground beef
-1 cup chopped onion
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-salt to taste
-16 oz tomato sauce
-1/2 cup (sugar-free, in this case) ketchup
-1 1/2 tsp oregano
-2 packets of Splenda (instead of 2 tsp of sugar)
-16 oz cream cheese
-2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 tsp mild chili powder

In a skillet, brown ground beef with onion, discard fat.  Pour browned meat and onion into Crock-Pot.  Add garlic, salt, tomato sauce, ketchup, oregano, Splenda, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and chili powder.  Set Crock-Pot on low until cream cheese has melted and is thoroughly blended, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning if desired.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lemon Cream Chicken and Yoga

Not together, but I got your attention.

Lemon Cream Chicken
This is super fast.  I had it for lunch.  I didn't even bother making vegetables with it, because I was hungry and tired and didn't care if it was balanced.  So there.  This recipe is for 1-2.  I ate it all, truth be told.

-2 chicken breasts
-butter, maybe 1-2 T (I know, I know, but I warned you I don't measure)
-1 T lemon juice (I use the little plastic lemon containers with juice in them, because, frankly, it hurts my hands to squeeze a fresh lemon)
-1 cup cream
-salt to taste

Heat the pan to medium.  As it is heating, I just stand a stick of butter up in the pan and let it melt down a bit, which is why I don't know the measurement.  Sauté the chicken breasts in the butter until each side is a little golden.  Mix the cream, lemon, and salt in a bowl.  Add to the pan with the chicken.  Lower the temperature to low.  Stir occasionally.  Let bubble and simmer until the cream mixture looks a bit like carmel (at least in color) and the chicken is cooked through.  Ta-da.  Quick, indulgent lunch.

Afterthought: sautéing onions with the chicken first would have been awesome.  I will do that next time.

So, yesterday I was in a bad mood.  My daughter is at her dad's, and that's always hard.  It's that time of the month- yes, TMI, but it explains part of my mood.  I didn't go to the gym for a couple of days because of this mood, which didn't help.  So, I went out and got a shake.  I know better.  And I knew I had a church meeting at 9 am that I would likely miss if I went and had a shake (I got onion rings, too, as long as I was blowing it).  Really dumb.  So, half-repentant before I went to bed, since I really didn't want to miss church, I thought about the yoga classes I have been going to lately.

I have noticed that when I do yoga, my pain decreases.  So, for instance, when I am eating perfectly, I usually still have lingering pain in my hands and forearms; that's just how it is.  I'm used to it and most days it isn't unbearable.  But, after yoga, sometimes it goes all the way away.  Same with pains other places, if I'm having them.  I've also noticed that on days my gym has yoga right after Zumba, if I do both, I don't pay for the Zumba class like I normally do.

Anyway, back to the story.  I ran through some poses before bed, and I actually woke up early (usually, I will sleep 2-3 extra hours for something like that) without a hangover or any extra pain.  Now, one miracle yoga session is not a scientific study, and I'm not positive if I want to do one, unless my daughter wants to make it her science fair project or something worthwhile.  I AM NOT advocating screwing up your eating and then doing yoga to save you, because there are several reasons why this is a bad idea.  I won't go into them, because by now, I'm sure you know what they are.  But, I am saying that yoga has helped, and it really helped me out last night.  So, keep that in mind.

And here's an article I read recently that backs me up:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Spoon Theory

Today I'm not adding a recipe.  I probably should, because I've spent the last few days on the liberal diet instead of the strict with an occasional oops added in, so it would help me focus if I'd put a couple of recipes down here, but it's late and I'm tired and worn out.  I've had a few stressful days, and like most people, it's harder for me to care about what I eat when I'm stressed.  In fact, I prefer to eat poorly then as a "reward"- why do we think this way?  I don't know, but most of us do.  I've actually done marvelously compared to what I would have done even six months ago at the same level, so even without perfection, I'm pretty pleased with myself overall.  It's important to praise yourself, by the way.  If you tell yourself you're a jerk and worthless or if you tell yourself you rock, you'll believe it.  Your brain believes what you tell it, so you'd better tell it something worth listening to.

So, anyway, I ran across The Spoon Theory about 2 or 3 years ago in my studying about fibromyalgia.  It is THE best story to explain to someone who doesn't have a chronic illness what it is like for those of us who do, particularly those of us with "invisible" chronic illnesses, since we often don't look sick; many times I have felt guilty about having to use my handicapped parking tag, even though getting from the car to the door of the grocery store took a monumental effort a year ago, but because I didn't look sick, people would look at me like I was using the system.  It made me tempted to limp to placate their judgments.

The lady who wrote The Spoon Theory has lupus, but the story is pretty much the same for people with things like fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness.  In fact, a lot of us with fibro spread this story around and consider ourselves "spoonies".  I even put a spoon in a frame on my wall to remind me to slow down and listen to my body (which includes what I put into it, actually, even though that isn't the point of the story).  All of this will make more sense after you read the story:

The Spoon Theory

My spoon on the wall

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mc Cormick Recipe-Inspirations

The first time I saw these little spice packets, I thought, "What a gimmick!  I can just use spices I already have and do the same thing!"  But, here's the coolest part about these: The back has a pop-out recipe card that you can keep, so the first time, you use their spices, and then after that, you can either buy the pre-measured (likely fresher) spices, or you can use what's already  in the house.

I've made two of them regularly, although there are many options.  The one shown above is wonderful!  I've substituted other vegetables for the potatoes (even though I'd rather have the potatotes, sigh), and then it's a legal recipe.

McCormick Rosemary Roasted Chicken (with potatoes- but I don't use them for obvious reasons)
Prep time: 15 min; Cook time: 30 min; 6 servings

Package includes: 
-2 tsp. paprika
-1 1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary leaves
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1/2 tsp. pepper

You will need: 
-2 T. olive oil
-1 tsp. salt
-6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (abt. 2 lbs); I always use breasts, though.
-1 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes (if you are going to be bad or if you have the will-power to cook them only for the rest of your dinner party)

Mix oil and all spices in a large bowl.  Add chicken (and potatoes); toss to coat well.  Arrange in single layer on foil-lined pan (foil... I never read that part, dang it).  Roast at 425 for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

McCormick Caribbean Grilled Steak

Prep time: 10 min; Refrigerate: 30 min; Cook time: 15 min; 6 servings

Package includes:
-2 tsp. minced garlic
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-1 tsp. minced onions
-1 tsp. oregano leaves
-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)

You will need:
-1 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 lbs. flank steak or boneless beef sirloin steak
-3 T. olive oil, divided
-1/4 c. fresh lime juice
-3 cups pineapple chunks (not on the list, and I've never used it when cooking it; it doesn't take away from the recipe at all).

Mix all spices except red pepper in small bowl until well-blended.  Stir in red pepper to taste, if desired.  Brush steak with 1 T. of oil.  Rub with 2 T of spice mixture.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer.  Stir in lime juice and remaining oil into spice mixture.  Thread pineapples on skewers, if you are using them.  Grill skewers over medium heat 5-10 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally and brushing with 1/2 of juice mixture.  Grill steak over medium-high heat 6-7 minutes or until desired doneness, brushing with remaining juice mixture.  Slice and serve.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Few Good Dinners

Recently, I decided that my teenager needed to pick four recipes that she feels comfortable cooking on her own, so that if I needed her to make dinner, she would feel prepared and not just go for frozen taquitos (which, by the way, are a really good quick meal on the liberal diet- I will eat them in a pinch, since I'm still on the strict diet.  But, it's much better to cheat by going to the liberal diet than to just blow it all together.)  She's not that comfortable cooking yet, has hypoglycemia herself, and isn't great at spontaneity- she likes a plan.  So, my four-recipe plan for her came into being.  This way, she doesn't have to get overwhelmed.  She just picks one and does that.

That's kind of the point of this blog.  Even though I'm a lot less hungry on this diet, when I am hungry, I'm typically hungry NOW; I think I let my blood sugar drop just a touch too much quite often, because I'm not craving carbs and snacking all the time anymore.  So, I'd rather do stuff than eat most of the time (I NEVER would have guessed this was possible, by the way... so, if you are thinking that would never happen to you, I can tell you it will.  I spent most of my life always thinking about food- even when I was young and thin- and wondering how other people didn't.  It's because I had a cycle going with carbs that I didn't realize.  My body apparently never functioned at that "normal" level that some others get to enjoy).  As I've said before, if I let it go too long, I can't decide what to do about food.

Sometimes, um, often, this results in me grabbing food out, but the problem with that is that besides tacos and taquitos, there are very few things that are fully legal for me to eat, at least through a drive-through, so I end up eating a mostly-legal meal (or sometimes not at all), which means I end up in more pain.  But, if I have a plan for the next meal, or at least have an arsenal of choices, I do much better.

Now, this is not to say I'm awesome at this all the time.  Just yesterday, I ended up eating Hermie's onion rings and fried zucchini for dinner.  And I woke up with my arms hurting and rolling my eyes at myself (it's almost always my arms and hands for some reason).  The dumb thing is, I could sauté zucchini and onion in butter at home, and it would be just as satisfying, but I don't think to do it.  Ever.  In fact, I didn't think of that one until just now.  Sigh.

So, here are a few good dinner options:

Mustard Chicken and Broccoli (or Asparagus)
This one is so easy and yummy, it's ridiculous.  I never liked asparagus until I had it this way.

-Stone-ground mustard (read the label to avoid sugars).
-Olive oil (or mayo- remember that most mayos have sugar- see SF recipe on another post)

Mix stone-ground mustard and olive oil in a bowl- about 4/1 ratio.  Spread this on chicken breast and roll the vegetables in it.

Lay everything on a baking sheet and cook at 350 until done- about 20 minutes or so.

Steak with Bleu Cheese
Steak is an easy option that is easily forgotten.

-Bleu cheese

Cook your steak however you like it.  Add bleu cheese to the top for a couple of minutes at the end.

Baked Onion
I haven't made this in ages, but I would periodically eat it for dinner.  It doesn't have protein in it, granted, but if it hadn't been too long since I had some, I can get away with it.  Or, it can be eaten with something else, like steak. This is kind of like sauteed onions, but it's a lot faster.


Take a whole onion and peel the skin off.  Wrap it in paper towels, or you can buy a little onion-shaped plastic container at the store for this very thing.
Cook the onion on high in the microwave for 1-2 minutes- depending on your microwave.  Cut into it to make sure it is soft all the way through.Put it in a bowl with some butter and/or salt.   Eat with a fork and knife.

Braciole (pronounced "brock-YOH-leh" (or "brah-zhole" in my family)
I forget to make this, and it is really, really good.  Of course, I'm avoiding tomato sauce because it seems to cause inflammation, so maybe that's part of it; I think it's just my memory, though.

-Tomato sauce (meaning Italian red sauce; many jar sauces have sugar.  Hunt's has a SF version.  I can add my recipe for Italian sauce if anyone likes.  Just let me know.)
-flank steak, pounded to a 1/4 thick
-about 2-3 boiled eggs per steak
-pine nuts (pinoli)
-olive oil
Optional additions: parsley, parmesan cheese, raisins (though not technically allowed), garlic,  etc.; I've seen lots of versions of this.

Salt steak.  Lay eggs and any other ingredients on the steak evenly and roll up (so it looks like a sushi roll) and tie with string.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and sear slightly.  Heat tomato sauce in a pot.  Put the braciola (singular roll; braciole- plural) slices in the sauce and simmer.  I don't know for how long.  You can keep it in there for hours or just long enough to cook the meat through.  When (you're) ready, take it out and slice into 1/4 inch or so slices.

Red Lobster's Shrimp Scampi

If you want to make Red Lobster's Shrimp Scampi at home here is the recipe, straight from the master chef himself, Michael LaDuke. (My note: alcohol is not allowed on the diet, but I don't know if it is an issue when cooking it.  I, personally, might cook with a splash of wine, but this much makes me think it might affect me, so I'd avoid it.  You can cook scampi with no wine at all. I do it all the time.)
-1 Pound of Medium Shrimp - Peel it and remove the vein.
-1 Tbsp of Pure Olive Oil (don't use extra virgin oil)
-2 Tbsp of Finely Chopped Garlic (you can also use some already prepared chopped garlic from your local grocery store)
-11/2 Cups of White Wine (preferably a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay will work fine)
-A 1/2 cup of Fresh Lemon (use the juice only)
-1 Tsp Italian Seasoning mix
-A 1/2 a Cup of Butter (preferably softened)
-1 Tbsp of Fresh Parsley (chop it up fine)
-Flavor with Salt and Pepper
-1/2 a Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (if you want to garnish dish)

1. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet and then add in the olive oil, and do not allow the oil to smoke. Add the shrimp and cook it until tender and it's no longer translucent.
2. Next remove the shrimp from the pan and decrease heat slightly. Add the garlic and cook it for 2-3 minutes. Try not to brown the garlic as this will render a slightly bitter flavor. Once the garlic is cooked, add the white wine.
3. Squeeze some juice from the lemon into the pan, and reduce the wine by half. After it is reduced, next add the Italian seasoning blend.
4. Now reduce the heat to low, and slowly add in butter, 1 Tbsp at a time. The butter should slowly begin to dissolve into the sauce and create a nice creamy texture. If the pan is too hot the butter will separate.
5. As soon as the butter is assimilated, add the shrimp back into the sauce, sprinkle the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Serve the dish with the garnish of fresh cheese if so desired. For a great accompanying dish to Scampi add fresh pasta.