October 14, 2014

Fall Chocolate Pumpkin Cake-S

You know how you'll be all geared up to try a new recipe you find online, and you totally get set on making a treat right now only discover you are missing at least one, if not more, major ingredient?

Well, that is kind of the story of my life.  But if I let it affect me then I'd never try anything new.  I've learned that adapting and just giving things a go tend to be how I learn best.
Yes, I hate to waste ingredients, but usually the results are at least edible, and if I learn something about the whole process then I am usually good.

I was all geared up to make an amazing coffee cake.  I don't often make treats or sweets as they just aren't my thing, but was in the mood for a little, sweet snack.
I get out the flax seed to grind.  I have just enough coconut flour.  But there are no almonds to grind for flour and I don't buy almond meal as a rule due to price.

So I actively pull out my seed and nut stash and it is kind of bare.  Like really bare.

The one thing that I do find is pumpkin seeds.  Pepitas.
I quickly google them and find very little information on their use, but what I do find mentions them as a good substitution for almond meal.

Pumpkin meal is gluten free and is a true seed so those with nut allergies may use it.
It is low in carbs with a very low glycemic index and high in fiber  It is higher in protein than many flours, and the fat content makes it a definite S ingredient.
It is heavier when mealed and the texture is very similar to almond flour with the main outstanding feature being its green color.
It should not be used as a thickener as it doesn't have the same absorption that many grain and bean flours have.
I also buy the seeds in bulk locally and the price is about 1/3 of what bulk almonds cost.  With the trend in gluten/allergy-free baking increasing, I'm sure the prices will go up.
I buy the whole seeds in bulk, and as I do with most seeds due to their oil content, and grind them as needed.

After the success of the coffee cake, I was inspired to make a sweeter cake.
With the green color of the pumpkin meal I thought chocolate would be a good choice.  And pumpkin seed meal just naturally seemed to call out for pumpkin.

It is also a big day at my house when everyone likes the same one food.  It doesn't happen as there is always a dissenter it seems.  The Fall Chocolate Pumpkin Cake was enjoyed by all, adults, teen, tween and toddler too.

In the directions I'm showing the amount ground, but since I start and measure whole/pre-ground, I'm giving those amounts as well.

Fall Chocolate Pumpkin Cake-S

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine dry ingredients:
1-1/4 cup ground pumpkin seed meal (3/4 cup whole.  I did 1/4 cup each grind)
1/3 cup ground flax seed meal (3 TBSP whole)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup stevia baking blend (I use one that measures twice the sweetness of sugar.  As stevias can vary in formulation, check to make sure yours is in the right ball park.  My recipe would be equivalent to 1-1/3 cup of sugar)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix dry well to integrate.
Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients.
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup coconut oil
15 oz can of pumpkin

Stir all ingredients together.  It will take a bit to really make sure it is mixed well.
Let it sit for a few minutes to let the moisture soak into the flour.
Grease the pan you choose.  This makes a 9x13 pan, or you can split it and make muffins or a smaller loaf.
This will not rise much when cooking so you won't have the smooth muffin tops if you go that route.

Bake mini muffins for 15-18 minutes.
A small loaf bakes for 30 minutes.
A 9x13 pan will take 35-38 minutes to bake.
It should feel firm to the touch and not too springy.

I like to frost these rich treats with a cream cheese frosting:
8 oz lower fat cream cheese
dash of pure stevia concentrate
a dash of nutmeg

Beat with mixer till fluffy.  Serve on the side or frost.

October 13, 2014

Keeping It Real-Running

Sometimes the truth hurts, but sometimes it can be a way to see how far we've really come.

I started running about 5 years ago.  I loved all kind of exercise and activity and had tried many things, but there was just something about the feeling I had with running.   I knew I wasn't going to win any races, but I was comfortable where I was.

Comfort can be both good and bad however.  
It can make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but then you realize that complacency is smacking you in the face.
It was one thing to allow my weight to hold me back from running.  I didn't by the way, but I had become comfortable with being heavier.  After all, I had tried diet after diet and increased my running and activity with no change in how I looked.

I was looking back on some old photos earlier today and found one after I had completed Couch to 5K back in October of 2010.  I remember being so proud of myself.  I'm still proud that I did it actually.  But I look at the photo.
I was a good 25 pounds overweight and had become comfortable with the thought that it wasn't going to change.  I had made peace with the fact that I was going to weigh 172 pounds and that it was where my body wanted to be.
I would diet.  I would starve and could last about 3 days before I gave in and binged and regained the few pounds I had lost.

The THM boards on facebook are filled with NSV, or non-scale victories.  This morning I remember thinking, My arms sure look defined lately.  When I saw this photo I realized how I was so happy at being able to run, but had decided that being chubby was a part of who I was.  
I remember the morning of my race how I refused to drink anything and then went to the port-a-potty about 5 times and wore a jacket tied around my waist so that any incontinence accidents wouldn't be noticed.
Today I get up and just run.  The stress incontinence is gone with the belly fat.  It is a non-issue for me today.

So that, along with being able to see definition in my arms, is my NSV for the day.  

And just to keep it real, this is me this morning alongside 4 years ago, almost to the day.  No makeup, hair isn't done, and I probably smell worse than I look, but I'm wanting to show the real me.

I'm still not incredibly fast, and I'm not in a competition with anyone.  I'm just wanting to be open to change and that there are boundaries that sometimes need to be pushed.

October 8, 2014

Hot Stuff- Pepper Powder

That's a lot of peppers!
This was a huge year for me as far as peppers.  This is quite the big deal as I didn't actually plant any peppers.
It seems that just leaving plants to compost in a raised bed for the winter and then adding new soil over top can lead to this.  I was so surprised, pleasantly, when not just one or 2 plants popped up, but several of them appeared.

And not only did they make a few, but it was more of a pepper explosion.

The irony is that if I were a better gardener I'd be saving seeds and documenting what species I had planted, but it was more of a surprise.  And who doesn't like a surprise?

I will say that they were hot.  I recognized the jalapenos pretty easily, but still haven't decided if the others are serranos or cayenne.  They might even be some of both.  The point is that they all tend toward the hot side.

So we've made salsa, frozen some, added them to smoothies even (not me, but my husband is kind of crazy like that?).  I've got enough fire cider set up for a few seasons as well (but I used about 20 peppers, not 2?).
So what to do with all these peppers.......

Then I had a great idea (Funny that is sounded a lot like the voice of my husband in my head).

Dry the peppers and powder them.
Make your own red pepper or chili powder.

It seemed so simple.
And it actually even turned out that way as well.

To make Pepper Powder:
It took about 5 days for the peppers to dry in my dehydrator.  Yes, I could string them up in the attic and go old school, but I'd probably forget about them until 2020.
I picked the peppers when they were red and ripe.  There are only green ones in the photo from the plant because I had already picked the red ones.
After drying them I got my handy grinder that I use for grinding small amounts of grains or herbs, and after wiping it out well, I crumbled the dried peppers into the grinder and processed them into a powder.
I used protection.  These peppers are hot and you know how you only cut up a jalapeno bare-handed once?  Well, I wasn't going to fall for that twice.  These things are potent, so I donned eye protection and wore a mask as well.  (no photo as it was really just me in my bifocals with a kitchen towel pinned over my face).

After processing the ground pepper was strained thru a sieve and put into a clean jar.
I started with about a gallon of peppers and ended up with 1 pint of powder.
Any large pieces got put back into the grinder for a second run.
MAKE SURE TO THOROUGHLY CLEAN YOUR GRINDER AFTERWARDS!  You will regret it when your muffin in a mug has a kick, unless you tend to just like red pepper muffins.  Hmmmmm. Now I might have to try that.

How will I use this now?  My plan is to use it as I would any cayenne or hot pepper.  This means additions to chili, soups and stews, some smoothies, nacho or fajita meat.  I figure that anywhere I want a little kick of heat, this needs to be there.

And it was cheap (free, even) and beyond easy.

October 6, 2014

By the Numbers, and Why I'm Not Worried

I'd like to think that I'm a pretty honest person, but I am also very private.  I like to share things that work for me, but tend to leave out the messy, personal parts.
This is my attempt to be open about myself in a more transparent way.
I am pretty lucky in the genetic department.  My family has no real issue with heart disease or diabetes.
Yes, I see a lot of it as a nurse, and I realize that genetics only gets you so far in life.

There comes a point when you have to accept that your choices and lifestyle make a huge impact on what your life will look like.

Before discovering Trim, Healthy Mama in November of 2012, before pregnancy and my baby, I had been on a low-fat, vegan diet.  And I loved it.
I loved how I felt, I loved how I had energy and was eating healthy, living foods.
One of my main reasons for eating this restrictive way was because I wanted to be the healthiest I possibly could be.  Like the authors of THM, this led me for a time to a raw, vegan diet.  I'm not here to debate the good and bad of veganism.  Like most things in life, I believe that there is a valid time and place for vegan.  I also think that a focus on vegetables in your diet, and adding more, is never a bad thing.
But I wanted to ward off disease and lose weight and have a better cholesterol, but even as a vegan, I had always struggled in the weight department and often the lab one as well.  So adding the low-fat aspect to it really changed how I ate and lived.
I did, however, see an amazing change in my lipid profile.  The numbers looked amazing.

My cholesterol had always been a bit high.  Not horrible, but usually from 200-220.  I'd had doctors mention statins in passing but only if things changed for the worse.  I figured it was just the "in" drug and just didn't think any more about it.

I was kind of wondering what my results would look like now.  Would they be higher, better?  After all, I'm down about 25 pounds from my vegan, pre-pregnancy weight.  I'm exercising more.  Eating more good fats and good carbs.  How would THM really look as far as the numbers?

It took a while for me to process my results actually.  Some time to wrap my head around what it all meant.

This is where I was and where I currently am.
*All values in mg/dL
My initial reaction was a bit of a freak out. 
Having an amazing doctor helped.  His recommendation was to do nothing.  He feels that this is a great result when you look at the big picture.  This also goes along with the current physician guidelines from the American Heart Association as well.

Now I'm not out to diagnose anyone, including myself.  It's a matter of understanding what each of these numbers represent and see how they all have a meaning
There is so much information available with each specialty group having its own spin on the results.  WAPF will tell you a high cholesterol is fine and that low is a danger.  The authors of the China Study will tell you the exact opposite.
I figure the truth is probably somewhere in the middle?

My total cholesterol is high.  But I want to look not just at a total, but at what makes up the panel.  Generally we are told eat less meat, less processed foods, exercise and quit smoking.  But what if we already do most of that?  What if we do all of these things?

My diet is great.  I also exercise.  This is shown in my HDL, or high density lipoprotein.  Thinks "H" for healthy.   This is the number you want to be high as levels above 60 are associated with lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

LDL, or low density lipoproteins, are the bad cholesterol, and yes,  mine look kind of scary to me as well.  This is the one I'm currently working on by adding more E meals and fewer really, heavy S meals.  I've also consciously added in more fats for S meals from vegetable sources.  Think coconut oil, red palm oil, avocado and nuts.  More olive oil, less butter.  Also consider cutting some of the convenience foods with hidden white carbs?

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood.  Mine are in a great place.  Triglycerides can be affected by fats in food, refined/white carbs in food and alcohol.  Fish can help to lower this level and maybe this is the result of my almost daily habit?

The thing is, most of these numbers are mainly altered by what you eat and how you live.  Things like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute.  Sometimes they are related to genetics and how your body processes things.  
It is also important to take into consideration that there are ranges (I did not post).  Sometimes levels can reach dangerous places and intervention might be required.

Yes, my LDL is very high as is my total cholesterol, but the good HDL and triglycerides are in such great places it makes me not worry that heart issues or stroke are in my immediate future.
Doctors also look at the ratios between the values.  Mine are in a good place.

I work at getting exercise and maintain a healthy goal weight, I eat a  a pretty healthy diet based on whole-foods.  I also will add that I have a great resting heart rate and my blood pressure and blood glucose are ideal.  I have no chronic disease or issues that I am dealing with.
I think having knowledge guiding your choices is a good thing.  I think that early intervention is a very important thing, and I will be making sure that I focus on getting exercise regularly 3-5 days a week and adding more low-fat E meals.
Knowing that my levels can be better are making me aware that there is room for change through diet and puts that burden of responsibility on me.

If my overall picture of health starts to change, then it would be wise to re-evaluate, as it isn't just a set of labs, but the big picture, that can affect your health for the short- as well as long-term.
There is always room for improvement and I hope to see a drop in the total and LDL at my next check, but as long as the over-all picture remains the same, I still think I'm on the right track.