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.

Running on More Than Empty

I did it. I honestly wasn’t sure I would, but I did it.

I ran 5k.

If I’m honest, I’ve never run 1k before this year.  I’ve never wanted to run before this year.  Despite all the nay-saying — entirely in my own head — I got myself up on Sunday morning and ran 5k for Cancer Research UK.  The most amazing thing is that I only felt like dying a little bit along the way!

As soon as I woke up, I knew I wouldn’t get far without a green smoothie.  I’m not a morning person, which is primarily due to the fact that I don’t believe in sleep.  I used to average about 3 hours of sleep a night, and I never felt worse for wear for it.  After cutting out gluten, I added about an hour a night.  After my nasal surgeries, I added about 30 more minutes.  I still have difficulty actually falling asleep, and my anxiety gets the best of me when something important is happening the next day.  It was no surprise when I was staring down the clock at 2am, only 8 hours before the race was scheduled to begin.

Why a green smoothie, though?  Well, I learned a lot in the 30 day challenge, especially about what my body needs.

  • Fruit sugars are important fuel because they are unprocessed and unrefined.  They feed your cells to keep you moving.
  • Hydration is desperately important in physical activity.  Even if you’re like me and don’t sweat much, your body burns up moisture and releases it through your breath, as well.
  • The fibre in the greens and whole fruit keep things moving in your system — the last thing you need is to feel a big lump in your belly as you’re running!
  • I put a banana in almost every smoothie, and the potassium it contains helps to prevent and repair muscle tears, cramps, and spasms.
  • Chia seed and flax meal are easy additions to add protein to maintain muscles.
  • Coconut water as a base lends more than just water as it is high in electrolytes, which combat dehydration.  Choosing one with added sodium means that it’s a bit more processed, but studies have shown that it hydrates at the same level as sports drinks.
  • You need calories to burn as you run.  They might as well be from real food sources.
  • Green smoothies taste good.

Fuel in and shoes on, my mother-in-law picked us up to drive to the Stormont Estate, the home of the Northern Irish Assembly and the 5k.  They didn’t release a course map, so I did not expect that big hill in the front would actually be part of it.  Equally, I didn’t know that the gorgeous paths through the woodlands trail would be included.  I’ve never run on loose gravel, in mud, or up a giant hill, so there were a lot of firsts in that day.  I didn’t exactly have a good run time, but it was more a matter of showing myself I could do it at all.  It’s a success in my book.

30 Days Complete!

30 days complete!  You may have noticed that I didn’t post a check-in for week four.  What can I say?  As the end of the challenge was so near the end of week four, I figured it was better to wait and report in at the end.

I’m happy to say that we finished all thirty days of the green smoothie challenge.  I reminded CB today that the challenge is over and asked if he wanted to continue incorporating them into our diet.  He shrugged and said, “Yeah. Well, why wouldn’t we?”  I think his response shows how much a part of our daily life they have become.  A special thanks is due to Desi (and her helpers) at Unconventional Kitchen and all the folks that I’ve met along the way in the Facebook community.  Having a support group is an amazing help!

In addition to the smoothie challenge, I did my 250 squats today to complete THAT 30 day challenge. I’m gaining stamina in running, too, which is none too soon considering my 5k is on Sunday. (If you find yourself wanting to donate to Cancer Research UK, you can still do so at my sponsor site.  I have met and exceeded my goal, but every single penny goes toward a great cause.)  I can’t wait to get out there and prove that I really can do it . . . mostly to myself, if I’m honest.

Here is the last round-up of smoothies.  Two days are missing.  The first was a day where I ate something that truly disagreed with me; I spent the evening sprawled on the sofa, and CB made his only smoothie of the challenge, serving it up to me in the dark.  The second missing picture is when we knew we were going to have a completely mad day — there have been a lot of them lately as May has been a particularly stressful but, hopefully, fruitful month — I made a double batch on the day before.  I tucked our smoothies away into small coconut water packages.  This tactic kept them fairly fresh but rendered them unphotographable. (I mean, I could have photographed them, but you wouldn’t have known what was in them.

Week Three Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

It appears that the green smoothies are having an unintended (or, at least, unexpected) consequence for both CB and me. Whenever we eat food that I haven’t made in the house, we feel sick. Have the green smoothies made us picky eaters?

My best explanation (and please let me know if you have any other information and/or theories!) is that, as our bodies are getting more good things, we are satisfying the cravings we mistake for wanting bad things. When we want sugar and are giving it full fruit sugars with the fibre with which they are meant by nature to be consumed, our bodies are sated. We give it what it wants in a more healthful form and also make it work for it. I also know that, when your body is missing or not getting enough of certain nutrients, it tells you to eat things it shouldn’t because, well, your gut is good, but it lacks a brain. This phenomenon is often cited as the main reason pregnant women crave non-edible things — a baby requires a lot of the vitamins and minerals in a woman’s body, and her body is begging her to replace them without being able to actually articulate what’s needed.

I’m getting away from myself. My point is that I’m giving my body good things, and it’s starting to forget about the bad things. Why does that means that we’re not feeling well when eating outside of the house? Well, even though I carefully police everything I eat for gluten/other allergens, not everyone has the same standards for quality food as I do. When home, I try to make as much “real food” as possible. I try to balance foods without depriving us of what we want. You can have sugar, salt, and fat as long as you use the right sugar, salt, and fat in the right amounts. Assuming that every bad thing we eat does a tiny, tiny amount of damage means that we should assume that every good thing we eat does a tiny, tiny amount of repair work. I am suddenly thinking of Wreck-It Ralph. If you have more Felixes (Felii?) than Ralphs, the building is more quickly repaired. (If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph, repair that now.) A building that is in good shape requires less daily repair, and I can only imagine the same must be said about our bodies. If our bodies are in constantly better shape by all the little good things we eat, the bad things have less of a chance to wear us down, make us tired, and make us want more bad things; however, you also notice a broken window in an otherwise pristine house faster than you can count the broken things in a derelict one.  When something is wrong, it will let you know right away.  It may sound bad, but wouldn’t you want to know about the problem before it has the chance to cause more damage?

In addition to having more things like magnesium and manganese, I have also realised that eating these raw fruits and veggies provides my body with more prebiotics for my probiotics, making them that much more effective. If you think I’m just talking nonsense now, let me tell you about these -biotics. I’ve talked before about probiotics, and you’ve no doubt heard about them from countless other sources. They are helpful, good bacteria that your body often depletes in poor health. They can also be killed off when you take antibiotics because the medicine can’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria. Less talked about are prebiotics, but they are just as important as their pro- friends and come in more bright and shiny flavours. While probiotics are only found in foods with live cultures like yogurt, prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates found in some fruits, most whole grains, and foods like honey, onions, and garlic. (Bonus tip: yogurt and kefir actually contain both prebiotics and probiotics and are “complete” in that sense.)

While you can’t digest prebiotics, guess who can: probiotics. Prebiotics are used as fuel for the probiotics (are you still with me?), which allows them to grow, thrive, and repopulate your gut. We tend to eat prebiotics even when our body has depleted good bacteria, which confuses our body because it can’t do anything with it. It spends a lot of energy trying to digest the indigestible, and we can get tired just from eating food. Balancing pre- and probiotics works to your advantage because you get the fuel you need to go about your day, and your helpful bacteria get the fuel they need to help you do what you need to do.

All right, I’ll take off my teacher hat. It is summer, after all, and I know you only come here for the cute animal pictures.

She sure knows how to work an angle.

She sure knows how to work an angle.

All that up there is to say that, while I might feel poorly after eating something junky or not to the same standards as I would make at home, I feel better as soon as I have my smoothie. It’s like it magically makes everything inside me better. With all the new and varied prebiotics I have had by eating whole greens and smart fruits like bananas, my probiotics seem to have kicked into high gear and worked even harder to heal my body. I may be becoming a picky eater in the meantime, but I think it’s really just listening to what my body really wants, and that can’t be a bad thing.

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.