Guest Post at Domestic Mamma

Today’s a special day here at sydneylikesfood because I have written my first guest post on another blog!  I feel very important, indeed.

Go check it out at Domestic Mamma (and get a special recipe I considered keeping for myself).  Tell Vicki I sent you.  She’s a cool lady, especially to let me take over her blog for a day.

Yes, there is a typo in the ingredients list.  Ignore the word “cup”, and we’re golden.

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Slowly Simmered Dreams

I have finally achieved one of my goals in life: I have a slow cooker. I know. I know. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a really huge development for me as a person.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

There are some things you just can’t make without a slow cooker. You can live without those things, but your life would be devoid of joy. You may think you are happy now, but there is happiness you can’t even imagine on the other side. CB asked me last night if our slow cooker has been off since we got it, and I was able to answer ‘yes’ only because I haven’t done any overnight experiments yet.

I’m convinced that my slow cooker can time travel (it is parked next to the TARDIS) or, at least, look into the future. When I first set it on the counter on Monday, I stared for a moment, contemplating what I should first make. It reached out to me, explaining that chicken noodle soup was truly the only option. I even had leftover roasted chicken from Sunday’s dinner! How did it know that, the very next day, I would feel bad and need something comforting and wholesome to eat? It’s magic!

One of the most appealing things about a slow cooker (and the real selling point for CB) is that I can make dinner at any time during the day. I sat down to write this post at 10:30am, and tonight’s dinner is already done. It is, honestly, a matter of practicality. In my ever-growing quest to understand my body, I had to realise that I don’t always have the energy to make dinner at dinner time. When it gets to be about 5pm and I’m not sure I can roll myself off the couch to cook, it makes the option for unhealthy take-away that much more enticing. If I’m brimming with energy at about noon, why not make dinner at noon? A slow cooker gives me the flexibility to create a healthy meal without undue strain on my body. I also already have three slow cooker meals in the freezer, ready to be thawed whenever we want them. I made almost an entire week’s worth of dinners in one day. One busy afternoon — without too much pressure because they didn’t have to be on the table at any particular time — and I had one dinner for that night, one for the fridge, and three to be frozen. I was inordinately proud of myself and intend to integrate it into a weekly ordeal.

Last night, I also made this apple pie risotto from our gfree life.  I added two tablespoons of flax meal to the recipe (I just can’t help myself).  It was amazing — sweet without being too sugary, dessert-y without being heavy, and filling enough that CB had some for breakfast instead of his usual porridge.

CB kept calling it "crumble" because that's what it smells like.

CB kept calling it “crumble” because that’s what it smells like.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken, pre-cooked and shredded or uncooked (It will cook along the way)*
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of cayenne powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 big handful kale, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli, in small pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried cilantro/coriander OR 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried basil OR 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped
Choice of noodles/pasta — I used 2 cups of brown rice shells; eyeball how much you need and remember they will expand when cooked

*You can use bone-in chicken if you take the weight into consideration and understand that you may get loose bones in your soup. It does add a certain richness in flavour, but I don’t like taking the chance.

Hardware:
Slow cooker
Measuring cups and spoons
Cutting board and 2 forks, if uncooked chicken is used

Directions:
Dump all ingredients EXCEPT noodles/pasta into the slow cooker. Stir together and cook on low for 6 hours.

Choose your own adventure:

A. If using precooked chicken, stir in your noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

B. If using uncooked chicken, remove it from the slow cooker at this time. Place it on the cutting board and carefully use the forks to shred the meat. Return to slow cooker with noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

I was so excited for this soup.

I was so excited for this soup.

Week Two Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

We had one beautiful, sunny day last week where we got the whole family out in the garden and had our green smoothies.  I’m reminding myself of this event partly because there were snow flurries yesterday and we got rained on in the wind today.

I think I assumed that, at some point, the benefits of the Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge would taper off. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years to reinvigorate and revitalize my body. I have been reading and researching treatments and natural remedies. I have been removing and replacing in my diet. I have been recognizing and responding to what my body says. I have been reintroducing foods and recording the results. I am now running out of R-words to use for the process.

I still believe that one of the biggest changes in my life came about when I found the right probiotic for my body. I started healing in leaps and bounds. With the exception of the ever-present need to look at labels and menus very carefully, I often feel good enough that I “forget” about being Celiac. I put “forget” in quotation marks because it is clearly still on the forefront of my mind as food is one of the defining characteristics of my life — Hey! That’s the tagline of the blog! Folks without dietary restrictions in their life, whether for themselves or for someone they love, whether self-imposed or required, rarely think twice about what all is in the food they eat. They don’t have to carefully plan outings based on where they can eat or when they can get home to make food. They don’t have to turn down food offered by a friend because they’re not 100% sure of every ingredient. They don’t have to have the same level of trust in companies, shops, and restaurants because of the consequences of cross-contamination. My point is that, at some point, these actions become second nature. We read every label of every food without thinking I am reading this label because it might have X ingredient that I cannot have. We just do it.

One of the big changes I have touched on before is medication. I carefully weaned myself off all my IBS medicines. I have now also taken myself off of all of my medications. Since my surgery in October, I haven’t taken anything to help me breathe or control airborne allergies. A few months ago, I realized that my body had actually healed enough that I didn’t need daily acid reflux medication, either. Not even two years ago, I was taking 21 pills a day just to do what little I did.

Here’s where the greens come into the story. I have had heartburn since making that decision — not everyday and not badly enough to think that I needed to start the medicine again. Since starting the green smoothie challenge two weeks ago, I haven’t had ANY heartburn. None. It’s gone. I have gone from feeling like my throat would catch fire if I even took my medication late to no medicine and no pain.  In addition, my energy levels have stayed up, I feel like I have lost more weight (I try not to weight myself often), I feel comfortable wearing jeans without fearing I might swell too large for them, and I have started sleeping more — this last point is a huge deal for a life-long insomniac.

It goes to show that, when you do right by your body, give it effective and personalized fuel, and listen to what it says, you never stop healing. I made my mother-in-law her first green smoothie this week to help kickstart her own positive changes, and I’m learning how to make my own green smoothie recipes to add variety to the program. This recipe is one I made for CB when he had to leave before the crack of dawn to travel for a conference. If possible, it’s best to make it the night before you want it and let it get really cold; you might want to blend in some ice if you don’t have the time to spare. It is thick and filling with enough fibre and protein for a great start for your day.

Sweet Green Porridge Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk (substitute with water or coconut water if you don’t have or can’t have almond milk)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon chia seed
1/4 cup gluten-free oats, blitzed beyond recognition in a food processor
1 handful spinach
1 handful collards
1/2 banana
1/4 cup frozen mango
2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
handful of ice (optional)

Hardware:
Blender
Food processor
Measuring cups and spoons
Freezer

Directions:
Put almond milk, water, chia seed, and greens to the blender and blend until there are no big chunks visible. Add the oats and give a good spin. Dump in all the remaining ingredients (banana, mango, peanut butter, cocoa powder) and blend to combine.

If you want to drink it immediately, blend in the ice and serve. If you will store it for later — my recommendation — pour into a freezer safe container and park in the freezer overnight. The ice will thin the smoothie, which you may like, but it is needed to make it cold enough to drink right away.

Our week in smoothies:

Week One Check-in – Green Smoothie Challenge

Week One of the Green Smoothie Challenge is complete! Here’s where I am:

1) I have really enjoyed all the recipes so far. I already know some things that don’t agree with me, so I leave them out to ensure I complete the challenge. There’s no sense sticking a whole knob of fresh ginger in that blender if I know I won’t be able to choke it down. As good for your body as ginger is, I think the important thing is to actually drink the smoothies you make.

2) I didn’t actually ASK my husband, CB, to participate with me. I wasn’t sure that he would do it. When I told him I was going to do a month-long green smoothie challenge, he replied, “I might have to miss a couple when I’m traveling for conferences.”

3) CB has referred to several of the smoothies as “yummy” so far, which I take as a higher compliment than, “It tastes good.” He has also requested that I balance the protein and fats in them to have nothing but green smoothies for an entire week. It also pushes me to discover and create new recipes to keep it from getting boring for our minds and mouths. I’m thinking it’s time to try things like peanut butter and GF oats . . .

4) The difference in my energy levels is incredible. I don’t get winded as easily, and, even when I’ve been stuck at a computer screen for work, I have WANTED to get up and do something.

5) My digestion has improved already. I have long wanted to find a way to incorporate more greens into my diet, but, as I have mentioned, they can be very difficult to digest when you have intestinal disorders. With the smoothies, my body has the opportunity to get all the goodness these greens have to offer without having to work so hard to process them.

6) Having what we need from fruits and veggies has leeched over into the rest of our food patterns. CB asked if we could have quinoa salad much more often. It was our dinner last night, and I loaded it down with more vegetables than usual.

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

7) Some of my running pants don’t fit anymore. I’m talking about the ones that fit last week. Yeah, those.

A few of the week’s smoothies (some were finished too quickly for photography):

Green Smoothies — Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge

Real Life means many, many research papers and finals in my field of vision.  They seem never-ending at this point in the semester.  Whether you’re the one tip-tapping away on your keyboard or brandishing your new red pen, the last few weeks of a term are often a low-energy and high-requirements time of year, and it’s easy to get down about it.

Harley is an efficient but very harsh grader.  The students hate it when I let her grade their essays.

Harley is an efficient but very harsh grader. The students hate when I let her grade their essays, but how else is it all going to get done?

Well, up, up, up we go!  May is officially my challenge month.  I am most productive when I challenge myself, and, since May is my first full month back in Belfast, I’m charging myself with being a new and better me.  What am I doing?

1. I’m running my first 5K on 2 June, which means May is hard-core, prove-yourself time for my running shoes.  I’m running to support Cancer Research UK and for my friend Neil, who lost his mother last autumn.  To find out more about my dedication and my mission to go from lazy-buns to look-at-her-buns-go, visit my JustGiving page.  Any support, even the kind that doesn’t involve dollar and pound signs, is very appreciated!

2. I’m doing a month-long squats challenge.  By the end of the month, I should be able to do 250 squats in one day — just not all at once!  I know it sounds silly, but squats are great for your body.  I have to pay close attention to strengthening my knees (especially when it comes to Challenge #1 up there), and squats can also help you acquire better balance.  AND (did you need an AND?), this point is going to sound really silly by the time I get to the end of it — just picture it — squats can help your body move things along that need to be moved along.  Considering the biggest enemy I have in my body is, ahem, in that area, I could use all the help I could get.

3. Even though I saved this one for last, it’s not much of a surprise if you read the title of the post.  I’m following Desi at Unconventional Kitchen in her Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge.  I love this challenge because it’s not a fast.  It’s not making you give up your favourite dinner.  It’s adding goodness into your diet, and the changes you make will happen organically.  I’ve already felt this magic taking place in the past two years, as I crave something green on every plate and my sweet tooth has almost disappeared as my body has healed.  It’s not too late to sign up for the program — it’s free, comes with a month’s worth of recipes plus extras, and has a built-in support group via Facebook.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that Desi is so sweet and encouraging. (PS. If you get there from here, let me know! Team!)

As Desi has publicized the first recipe from the Love Your Greens Challenge, I thought I’d show you exactly what we had today.  Believe me when I say that it was WAY better than I thought it would be.  We left the house as soon as we finished them, and I was daydreaming about having more for about a half hour.  I followed fairly close to her recipe, but she also permits making it your own, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about my switches.  I’ll be posting more about my progress with the challenge, but you’ll have to sign up to get any more of Desi’s great recipes.

Desi’s Basic Green Smoothie (Sydney-style)

Hulk Juice

Hulk Juice

Ingredients:
1/4 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup water, divided
1 handful of spinach
1 handful of collard greens (Tesco only labelled them as ‘greens’, but this southern girl knows)
1 banana (fresh or frozen — I went fresh)
1 cup frozen strawberry, pineapple, and mango (mixed to whatever combination you want to make up the cup)
1 tablespoon flax meal

Hardware:
Blender
Small cup or bowl
Measuring spoons and cups

Directions:
Mix together the flax meal and 1/4 cup of water in the small cup/bowl.  Let stand to hydrate.

Dump the pineapple juice, remaining water, spinach, and collard greens into your blender.  Blend until you don’t see any more big chunks of green.  Add the frozen fruit, the banana, and flax-water mixture into the blender.  Blend until you reach your desired consistency.

Taste it.  If it’s not sweet enough for you, blend in some dates or raw honey.  It was plenty sweet for us with the pineapple juice.  It’s so tasty and refreshing, you’ll forget it’s good for you.