Nine Months Later

I’ve been reading blogs since 2011, and started thinking about writing one in 2012. But what actually pushed me to commit, was reading Amy’s vulnerable, honest and hopeful post about her journey with Lyme Disease.

Even though she wrote it a few years ago, I only read it about nine months ago, when I learned that I was going to have my gallbladder out.

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This isn’t the same as having a chronic illness. This was a simple surgery with few incisions that lead to some changes in my body that I’m still trying to figure out. But the candor and truth that Amy spoke with made me realize how many people are probably facing a surgery like mine, or a new diet like mine.

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There’s a lot I didn’t understand about how my body works when I decided to have the surgery. Do you know what your gallbladder does? I didn’t get it and then I read this and a lot of things started clicking together for me.

I am still working on shifting my diet to less processed and more whole foods. It’s definitely complicated to find the time and brain space to make new things, and stay focused on how what I eat connects to any digestive distress I have. Some of the complications I’m encountering have to do with having both IBS and TMJ, which both limit what I can and can’t eat.

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Nine months later, I’m still learning, still growing, still working on understanding. My belly is usually still bloated by the end of the day, and I’m trying to get a handle on that first, since it’s the most uncomfortable thing.

And then I realize that that’s the most uncomfortable thing. Nine months ago, sitting was the most uncomfortable thing. Sitting and walking and breathing deeply all hurt. And here I am, uncomfortable with this one thing mainly. That’s amazing!

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There’s not a lot out there about what happens to your body after you have your gallbladder out. Maybe people don’t struggle as long as I do. Or maybe we’re all just uncomfortable posting pictures of our bloaty, scarred up post surgery bellies (y’all – it’s seriously making me super uncomfortable but I’m trying to just be honest about my body and what happened). I think I need to talk about it, so I’m going to keep doing it. I think more of us need to talk about our bodies regularly. Maybe it will help us love them more.

What do you think?

A. Rose (1)

Learning to Can, Part 1

This post is part of a series on teaching myself how to do home canning. I decided to do this series in part because the reflection that’s part of learning is really interesting to me, and because I think it’s amazing the things we can teach ourselves when we’re dedicated to it!

Learning to Can, Part 1

For one of my classes this semester, we have to do a Self-Directed Learning Project. We got to pick any topic and we don’t have to be successful at it, which may seem strange. The idea is that by attempting to teach ourselves we’ll understand the limits of ourselves and the limits of this method of teaching.

Not being successful at something isn’t a process I enjoy. Sometimes I wish that weren’t true, but like most things with identity, you can turn it down, you can’t turn it off.

I spent a long time going back and forth between two topics: quilting and canning. Obviously, I live in the 1800’s….

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My mother is a quilter and I always admire the beautiful works of art she creates by sewing. But, with all the recent health issues I’ve had with my tummy, I thought canning would be a more beneficial way to go. This way, I can control what goes into the container, and save some money at the same time.

So, I bought this book:

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Y’all. It’s amazing. I had absolutely no idea that canning required such a wide knowledge base. I’m keeping pretty detailed notes on what this learning process is like, and am excited to share this with all of you.

I set a timeline and some goals for myself, which include an increased knowledge of the health and safety of food preservation. The more that I’m learning about this, the more I am really excited to take control of another area of my diet that laziness has allowed me to throw to the wayside.

Every day, I feel like I get a little bit closer to feeling like I have my pre-no-gallbladder life back.

A. Rose (1)

Non-Dairy Smoothie!

I wrote a little about some of my tummy struggles a little while ago, around the time I had my gallbladder removed. Since then, I’ve been on the yogurt struggle bus.

Honestly, I’ve probably been on it forever and I’m just paying more attention now.

My standard breakfast, since I was 22, has been yogurt, fruit and granola.

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Lately, I’m less interested in chewing. haha. Sometimes that happens though, yah know? I don’t really have the time to sit down and eat breakfast, not even while I’m working. So, I’ve been rocking the smoothie! It’s been pretty great, actually. but I found that the dairy in the yogurt was still really bugging me. I found a great non-dairy yogurt and thought I’d share my little, non-specific, super simple recipe with you!

Please forgive my 5:45am lighting in my window-less kitchen. 🙂

Non-Dairy Smoothie

You could totally change up the ingredients in this; and ice would make it more … granulated? icey? smoothie-y?

I start by putting the frozen mixed berries in.

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I use about… that many. It’s two shakes of the bag, usually, depending on how hungry I am. Then I add in a broken up banana and about 1/2 a cup of oatmeal.

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This oatmeal is not cooked – it’s just straight up dried oatmeal. Then I add about 1/4 cup of flax seed.

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over which I pour about a cup of the star of today’s show: Good Karma Dairy-Free Probiotic Drinkable Yogurt (the strawberry kind) and about 1/4 cup of Chocolate Almond Milk. You could probably do not chocolate, buuuuut… I’d rather have the chocolate. #letsbereal

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It looks really gross until you start blending it up:

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I love this color! And the taste is super delicious!

I usually make a little too much, so I store the extra in a mason jar for the next day, that way I don’t have to make breakfast every morning:

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That’s it! Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!

This is, by far, my favorite breakfast. I have a 30 minute commute to work, so being able to drink my breakfast is a great time saver. And since I’ve switched to this non-dairy yogurt, I’ve had absolutely no troubles!

I’m really excited to try other combos as simple as this one. What are your favorite smoothies made out of?

A. Rose (1)

Three Months Later

It’s been a little over three months since I had my gallbladder removed.

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I keep trying to find the right words to describe the difference between now and before. I can’t find them. Or, I can’t find them well.

My abdomen feels better. My circulation (maybe?) feel better. I’m not sluggish and sad like I was. But…

I still don’t really understand what’s going to make me sick.

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Cauliflower bites

It seems like it would be easy to say “stick with fruits, veggies and lean meats.” And it is. Except onions hurt. And apples. And sometimes kiwis but not always. And honestly, sometimes I just really want to eat some goldfish crackers. Or a bagel. Or some coffee.

So I eat them. And pay for it for a few days.

Some days, I bloat enough to be two sizes larger than usual.

Some days, the idea of figuring something out to eat is too complicated so I just don’t.

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Other days, I’m floored with the idea that my body has lost two organs (gallbladder and appendix) and still functions!

What modern medical marvel! What incredible feat of human evolution and engineering! How lucky am I to have a body at all!

Other days, I realize it’s been four days since I last got sick or put on jeans that didn’t fit.

Other days, I find a way to stay centered on gratitude for what I have, rather than what I lost.

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If you’re getting ready for this to be done, or if you just had it done: it’s just like everything else in life. It’s what you make it. It’s differently complicated. It will make you re-examine your relationship with your body on a regular basis and nobody will really understand what you’ve felt or are feeling except other people who did this.

It will be fine, if you can find the good in it. If you can keep yourself from getting bogged down by all the not-fine of it. And eventually, your life will level out again and you’ll get used to the four little scars on your belly.

You may even grow to like them, because they mean feeling so much better.

30-Minute Breakfast Pizza

Disclaimer: I have gotten this recipe down to 30 minutes. It took some practice and patience and a commitment to this not taking a lot of time for me to get there.

This recipe is based on this one, but modified to feed two people…and because I have a limited amount/style of kitchenware.

What You Need

Food Required:
Four eggs
Some milk
1/2 Tbspn Butter
1/4 onion (cut however you want)
2 cloves garlic (cut however you want)
Frozen Crispy Crowns
Ground sausage (you could probably use bacon too, or spinach; whatever you like!)
Salt
Pepper

Equipment Required:
Oven
Stove
Bread Pan
Large-ish Frying Pan

How to Make It

Step One: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
IMG_3677.jpgI feel like this is pretty straight forward. I will share, though, that I learned that when you live in an old apartment that has a gas stove with no preheat indicator light, preheating takes about 10 minutes, or the length of time it takes me to complete Step Two and begin Step Three.

Step Two: Line your pan with Crispy Crowns while the oven is preheating.IMG_3678.jpg

Oh, Crispy Crowns is apparently a brand name.. I had no idea until just now.

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So, put tater tots on the bottom of the pan. Pretty easy-peasy. But you want to go up the sides as well.

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This looks confusing. There are two rows of tater tots along the side of the pan. This doesn’t have to be perfect. Just do the best you can to get as many on there without them all toppling over.

Set this pan aside.

Step Three: Saute the good stuff: garlic and onion, while the oven is still preheating.

If you don’t like garlic and onion, you can skip this step. I tend to add it to everything.

First, with your stove on medium-low, melt some butter.

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Then, add in the onion.

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Stir the onion around until it’s coated with the melted butter (maybe two minutes), then add in the garlic.

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Stir that up to. Coat everything in delicious butter.

Your oven should be preheated by now, so pop in your tater tots.

SET THE TIMER FOR 15 MINUTES. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Step Four: Add the sausage.

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Once the onion and garlic start to get soft, add in the ground sausage. You can buy it in that like, uncomfortable tube of sausage (that’s what I buy) or you can actually just buy sausage crumbles from the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

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You just want to brown it, because you’re going to keep cooking it for a while.

Step Five: You can do step five while you wait for the meat from step four to brown. Stir in eggs, milk, salt and pepper.

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I use four eggs. You can use as many as you want. You also don’t have to use a square food storage, I’m just in a constant state of not having enough bowls in my life.

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Add a splash of milk (literally turn the carton so it pours then lift it upright), three or four shakes of salt and three or four shakes of pepper. If you’re not a milk fan, then don’t add milk.

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If you’re fancier than I am and actually own a whisk, you can whisk the egg/milk mixture. If not, use a fork. If you don’t own a whisk or a fork, let’s talk. I’d like to learn more about you.

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Pour the eggs into the meat that’s been cooking. Using your egg fork, keep the eggs moving. You want them to still be a little wet when you add them to the tatertots.

Step Six: Get the tots ready while the eggs cook.

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By now, your 15 minute timer has probably gone off. When it does, pull the tots out. Using a non-egg fork, mash them a little bit. You’re not trying to do anything other than create less space between the tots since they’re round and supposed to be your “crust.”

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Add a big handful of cheese on top of the tots.

Step Seven: Combine!

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By now, your egg mixture should look something like the above photo. Awesome. Add it to your tots.

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This part is kind of gross because eggs are a weird texture (just in general, but especially when they’re half-cooked). Just put them in the tot basket and pretend it’s fine.

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Use the back side of your spatula(?) to flatten out the eggies and make a clean top. It should end up looking something like this:

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Add another handful of cheese. Or don’t. I didn’t get a picture of the second cheese layer. I’ve done it both ways. Personally, I prefer the extra cheese, but that’s always the case for me.

Step Eight: Bake at 425 for another 12-15 minutes.

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The end result should look something like this, with soft, flavorful eggies and crunchy tots.

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This is a staple meal in my house. If you don’t mind reheated eggs, it keeps fine for two days, but I wouldn’t go beyond that because, well, eggs.

Hope you enjoy!

 


 

Ingredients
Four eggs
Some milk
1/2 Tbspn Butter
1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Frozen Crispy Crowns
Ground sausage
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a bread dish with Crispy Crowns and bake for 15 minutes.
2. Saute garlic and onion in a pan with butter. Add ground breakfast sausage and cook till browned.
3. In a bowl, stir eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add mixture to breakfast sausage until eggs are partially cooked.
4. Remove Crispy Crowns from oven after 15 minutes. Add a layer of cheese, then add egg and sausage mixture. Cover with cheese. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
5. Enjoy!

 

Let’s Talk About Meat

Meat: one of my least favorite subjects. When I was 12 I announced to my mother that I was no longer going to eat meat. And I didn’t, for about three weeks. Eventually I caved because of a combo of not understanding what I was doing and my mother not being 100% on board.

Then, when I was 18 and in college, I mostly ate in the dining hall, and the meat was less than desirable, so I cut it out and stuck with it for about five years years until one day, I really wanted a turkey sandwich. Then I stopped again a few years later for a few years… I’ve gone back and forth like this for most of my life and learned a ton about nutrition and myself throughout the process.

Now, I eat meat two to four times a week, depending on the season. I would prefer to be meat free, but I have a series of competing GI issues that makes getting adequate protein from plants complicated, so I eat it.

I talked in this post about how I buy meat once a month, but I didn’t say much else about that. I came to that in part because of my relationship and in part because I found that I either end up spending more buying smaller quantities or I end up having more trips to the grocery store because I’d underestimated what I needed. Those last two things got old REAL quick.

So, about a year ago, I started buying it once a month and putting it in the freezer. But then I ran into two problems: 1) my freezer was full of meat and not much else and 2) defrosting things takes forever and is a pain in the tail.

And then I remembered the “book stacking method,” as my mother calls it, where you flatten everything out and stack it.

Say what?

I’m going to show you using a package of almost five pounds of chicken.

Step One: Figure Out How Many Meals You Can Get from One Package

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This is the pack of chicken I typically buy each month. It’s about 4.5 pounds and will turn into about six bags worth of meat, with each bag weighing a little over three quarters of a pound.

I’m using chicken as the example because I’ve found it’s actually the most complicated of meats.

Step Two: Label the Bags

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Every time I do this, I do it a little different. I always put the date, and sometimes I write chicken. Sometimes I write how the chicken has been cut. Usually it’s pretty easy to distinguish chicken from other meats, but since I do this every month, sometimes there’s leftover meat from the month before. So I always make sure to write the date down so that I know which bag needs to be eaten first.

I open all the bags up after they’ve been labeled so that filling them will be easier.

Step Three: Trim the Chicken

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If you like the fat on the chicken, then don’t do this. I don’t care for it so I always end up trimming it off. Rather than having to do that when I go to cook it, I go ahead and trim it off before I bag it up.

This is the most time consuming step in the whole process. You want to make sure that you’re getting all the white parts off the chicken. It should end up looking like the picture above.

Disclaimer: I’m not a spectacular chef, but I do alright. And I didn’t go to culinary school or anything like that. I’m sure there’s great ways to cut the fat off chicken that are much more precise than I do. I just know that the white parts taste yucky so I cut them off.

Keep going with it, and you’ll end up with two stacks: one of chicken and one of grossness.

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I’ve found that if I cut the plastic off the top, so just take my knife along the inside edge of the container, I end up with a good place to put the fat.

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Step Four: Cut the Chicken

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Once I have a little stack of chicken breasts, I start to cut them in different ways. Some I’ll leave at whole breasts (or I’ll cut one in half to be able to split between packages). Those will be for crock pot meals. Some I fillet and some I turn into cubes or strips to go on salad.

Since I’ve already done my meal planning when I did my grocery shopping, I have a good idea of what I’ll be using the chicken for. I’ve found it’s easier to cut ahead of time, since I’ve already got the cutting board, etc. out and I’ll have to cut it anyway to make it fit evenly into bags.

Step Five: Wash the Cutting Board

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I’ve heard many different kinds of things about using a wooden cutting board. It’s the only one I have, so it’s the one I use. I don’t put it in the dishwasher. Instead, I wash it by hand three times with dish soap and scalding hot water (I highly recommend wearing gloves if you’re not used to that). I usually also scrub it with sea salt after the first wash. I don’t actually know if it helps, but it makes me feel better.

I’ve had this cutting board for eight or nine years (when an awesome friend gave it to me for my birthday) and I have yet to get sick using it, so I think whatever I’m doing is probably just fine.

Step Six: Bag and Flatten the Chicken

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First, I put all the chicken into the bags they’re supposed to go into using one hand. So, keep one hand for bagging and one hand for touching chicken, or get someone to help you. Then, I wash my hands.

Once my hands are clean, I hold the top of the bag and hit the bottom on the counter a few times to settle the chicken to the bottom. Then, I lay it on the counter and press it into the corners of the bag. With full chicken breasts, I don’t do that. I just let them be what they are. But with everything else, I make it as flat as possible and then seal the bag.

Step Seven: Repeat Step Six

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I keep going with this process until I’ve filled all the bags.

Each month I also buy pork chops, steaks and ground beef. I tend to buy the small pack of pork chops that has six in it and only two steaks. Those are already cut and typically already trimmed so I just put two in each bag and place them so they’re lying next to each other when the bag is flat on the counter.

For ground beef, I usually buy over three pounds and make four bags. Once the meat is in the bags, It’s pretty easy to just flatten out.

Step Eight: Admire Your Handiwork

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A) It felt really weird to take a picture of the inside of my freezer and B) that’s basically taking up no space. Each bag stacks on top of the other. It’s pretty easy to tell from the colors which meat is which so pulling it out takes two seconds, rather than sifting through packages and floppy bags.

And, best of all, I’ve found that it takes about 10 minutes in cold water to defrost chicken, ground beef  & pork chops (steaks take longer because they’re thicker). It used to take almost half an hour! And, if I’m really on top of my game and pull it out the night before and it’s guaranteed to be defrosted by the time I get home from work.

I never thought I’d reach a point in my life where I was doing this or thinking about this. I got overwhelmed a while ago by the amount of food in the house that was coming in when I started shopping monthly. I was frustrated all the time by the freezer and the process of having to wait to defrost what I was going to eat.

This kind of prep (I guess it’s prep?) takes me about 15 – 25 minutes. That’s it. But making this change has saved me money, space and both cooking time and emotional time.

What the heck does low FODMAP even mean?

Note: I have absolutely no medical training of any kind. I don’t even remember whether or not I took a Science class in college. This post contains some educational elements, but please refer to the actual cited sources and your doctor for additional information.

I really like food that’s bad for me. I think a lot of people do. It’s the American Way.

I also really love fruits and veggies and lean proteins and things made of whole grains. Most days I eat plain greek yogurt, fruit and granola for breakfast, a salad for lunch and give myself a lot of wiggle room for dinner, which usually is one thing – an egg, tatertots, peanut butter toast – or I eat with a man who eats like the stereotype of an 1800’s farmer. Neither of those are great choices – one doesn’t have sufficient nutrition and the other has too much nutrition for someone who works at a desk.

I love yoga and running and bike rides through the woods. I shop the smallest size at Torrid (so I fall into the “full figure” category) and have spent a lot of time and effort on ensuring that my heart pumps well, my blood pressure is low, my physical comes back in good shape (except the weight part).

So I occupy this strange space, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. My fridge usually looks something like this:

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There’s a lot of fruits and veggies there, and a ton of stuff that’s made with cheese, because cheese is delicious.

About two months ago, I was at a conference in the amazing city of Philadelphia.

While I was there, my tummy started to hurt very badly. I assumed it was just the combination of traveling and being slightly overworked. I held on to that assumption for two and a half weeks. Everyone kept suggesting that it was morning sickness, so I saw my OB, who thought maybe dehydration, but that I should go see my Primary (also – totes not pregnant). I made it to my PCP a few days after ending up in the ER.

ER

At the ER they told me I had gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach. They gave me some medicines and I started feeling somewhat better. My PCP ran some more detailed tests and that’s how I found out I have gallstones, which evidently 80% of women get! To treat the gastritis, the doctor recommended a low FODMAP diet.

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Homework Snack Time

So, what does that even mean?

Basically, I have to eat food. Not processed things that are made out of chemicals and sold as food; I need to get as close to the farm as possible. I also have to be really careful about which foods I do eat and keep a food log. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to start reintroducing other foods, to figure out which ones are making me feel so icky.

Why did this happen?

Well, the gastritis is largely due to a combination of stress and bad food choices. The gallstones are a result of a lifetime of bad food choices. So, I’m making some changes and tweaking things and trying again and changing them and keeping on. I also will be having my gallbladder taken out. I’m actually really excited for what I’m learning about my body, and for new ways to handle stress. I am so excited to start feeling better! And, this has been tremendously humbling.

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I like to take on everything all at once and make it look completely effortless while I do it. And, I can’t anymore. For now, I need to listen to my body and rest when it’s time to rest. I have to go slow and cut what I would normally do in a week in half because it’s not going to get done. I came to this blog through that: through knowing that I needed to do a better job of accepting what is; my body is literally rebelling against me not doing that. But that belief is a story for another day.