Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bored walking on the treadmill? Not since I got my Kindle holder!

Walking or jogging on the treadmill never really bothered me much before, as long as there was something decent to watch on TV.  Since there's not much I care to even watch on television nowadays, it's become more of a chore.  Even if there is something on that doesn't rattle my morals, I have to crank the volume up so that I can hear it over the noise of the treadmill, and I'm sure my three dogs don't appreciate that too much.

It got better when I got these awesome in-ear headphones or earbuds or whatever you want to call them, and could listen to my audio bible app or my pastor's sermons that I missed,  They're very good quality and the sound is amazingly crisp.  Still, I'd rather be watching something while I walk or jog on the 'dreadmill', rather than just listen.  I do use the earbuds extensively when I walk outside, though.

Although I swore I never wanted a Kindle, much preferring to turn the actual pages of a book, I broke down and ordered the Kindle Fire just before Christmas when they were on sale.  It turned out to be a wise purchase for me, and money well spent, as I was able to use it while traveling over the holiday, and in most cases it got a better connection than my slow, cheap laptop did.

When the weather turned much colder and now that there's snow added to the mix, much of my walking is indoors.  To keep from going batty, I needed to find a shelf or holder so I could fire up the Kindle and read while walking.  Of course I went straight to amazon, where I found this exercise mount for iPad that had decent reviews and didn't cost an arm and a leg, so decided to give it a try.

At first I didn't think it was going to work out because the prongs that hold the mount on the treadmill weren't wide enough to fit over my console panel.  If it didn't have a secure hold, I was worried that it would bounce around and make me dizzy, or worse, fall off and BOOM - there goes my new Kindle Fire.

After playing with it for a few days, I realized that it's pretty secure, and I've been using it for between 4-10 miles of walking every day for over a month now.  Even at a slow jog, it doesn't shift or move at all, even though my cheaper treadmill isn't nearly as sturdy as better, higher-priced models.  My eyes and equilibrium definitely appreciate that the words aren't bouncing around on my Kindle screen!

© Marie Anne St. Jean

I'm in the throes of a huge challenge on Leap4Life, and this tablet holder has been a lifesaver for me as a Kindle bookshelf.  I just make sure I have at least one good book to read and set my treadmill to a pace to either walk at a steady clip or a slow jogging pace, and off I go, letting my mind wander off into whatever depths the plot takes me.  With a really good read, my feet and legs don't even realize how far they're carrying me, and my mileage has increased greatly.

So if schlepping along on the treadmill is incredibly boring to you, find a way to make the experience just a little brighter.  The earbuds and treadmill bookshelf make a huge difference to me.

~ Marie Anne

P.S.  While my hat has surely seen better days, my Kindle screen isn't cracked.  It's the reflection of my ceiling.

P.P.S.  I did receive the earbuds at a reduced price in order to review them on amazon, but this blog post is just an afterthought, and not influenced in any way by the discount.  I purchased both the Kindle Fire and the iPad holder at full price and am not receiving compensation for mentioning them here.  If you happen to make a purchase after following one of my links, I might make a few pennies.

Whole30 Compliant Applesauce Salad Dressing - For More Than Just Salads

Applesauce Salad Dressing
© Marie Anne St. Jean
I love to eat a big green lettuce salad with button mushrooms, sharp cheddar cheese, and apple chunks, and usually had it with ranch dressing.  Since starting Whole30, I can't have the cheese, and I can't have my usual dressing. What to do?  I had almost two full heads of lettuce in the fridge that I didn't want to waste, and really needed it to add another vegetable to my rotation. I tried making a compliant Dump Ranch dressing and it didn't come out very well, or at least I didn't care for it. I thought it to be very bland, and almost bitter, and I needed something a little sweeter to dress my salad.

Realizing that unsweetened apple sauce is compliant on the Whole30 plan, I wondered if I could somehow use it to make a dressing that would satisfy me?  Apple chunks in my salad were sweet, so perhaps an applesauce dressing would do the trick.  Off to the interwebz to search!

I found this recipe for Awesome Applesauce Salad Dressing that looked pretty good, so decided to give it a shot.  I didn't have mint leaves, but didn't see where that would be a big deal.  The first time I made this, I couldn't get my jar of minced garlic open, so I substituted a compliant garlic powder instead, and it was fine.  I did used the minced garlic from a jar the other times I've made it, and it's amazing.  Dried basil got tossed into the mix instead of fresh, but it still worked.

After mixing the ingredients in the amounts listed, I found the apple cider vinegar to be a bit overpowering, so I added more applesauce, a little at a time, until I settled on a taste that was palatable to me.  If I had to guess, I'd say I ended up with more like 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce, but stayed with the amounts listed in the original recipe for the other liquid ingredients.  I also used my new stick immersion blender instead of dragging out the big one, and it worked fine.  Super easy cleanup? Bonus!

Since I couldn't wait to see how it worked on an actual green salad, I filled my bowl with torn iceberg lettuce and sliced a couple of good sized button mushrooms on top.  I decided to omit my usual apple chunks since I was using the applesauce dressing.

The verdict?  I loved it!  No, it wasn't the same as my apple and cheese-topped salad, but it was Whole30 compliant, and it was good.  I don't like tomatoes, so just the lettuce and mushrooms was fine with me, but you could add just about anything else you wanted to this and I'm sure the applesauce dressing would be just as tasty.   It still had a bit of a punch with the apple cider vinegar, but not so much as to make you pucker up.  I would imagine if you like any sort of vinaigrette, you would enjoy this applesauce dressing too.

As I dished out the rest of my meal, I had an a-ha moment.  What would the applesauce dressing taste like on my chicken breast and red potatoes?  Only one way to find out!  I drizzled the dressing lightly over the chicken and potatoes and put it in the microwave for just a few seconds so that the dressing wouldn't chill the rest, and called it good.

Chicken/veggie mix with applesauce dressing
© Marie Anne St. Jean
The whole thing was delicious!  I enjoyed it so much that I poured it over breakfast this morning too (which consisted of the leftover chicken, a couple of cubes of sweet potato, and some steamed broccoli ... who said breakfast had to be eggs?)

This applesauce salad dressing will be a staple in my kitchen for sure.  The majority of my meals end up being a mix and match stir-fry kinda thing from whatever I have in the fridge, and I think it will be tasty over both beef or pork as well as chicken, and most any vegetable.  I don't think I'll try it over eggs, but the boiled shrimp I'll be fixing in the next day or two will definitely get a drenching.

Since there is a good amount of olive oil in this dressing, it should count as a fat if I use enough of it over my meal, which is also a bonus for me.  I struggle with getting enough fat from regular foods, and didn't want to rely on my homemade ghee (clarified butter) for every meal.

If you try my version of applesauce salad dressing, please let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear how it works out for others.

~ Marie Anne

Updating:  I've been using this applesauce salad dressing on EVERYTHING!  If I'm working out in the morning, I chop a hard boiled egg and add a little of this dressing and that gives me the little bit of protein and fat before I get on the treadmill.  I use it on salads (of course), and just about any meat and vegetables that I throw in the skillet to stir fry or make a hash, this applesauce salad dressing goes on top after I dish it up.  Since apples go well with pork, this dressing makes an AWESOME-SAUCE (see what I did there?) to go on pork chops as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ghee, it's not so hard to make after all!

My biggest problem with the Whole30 program is still getting enough fat into my meals.  Sounds like a good problem to have, right?  But it's not.  I need GOOD fat, and there's only so much olive oil and coconut milk I can handle.  It's easy to add nuts to the mix and get the fat in there, but you're supposed to use nuts sparingly on the Whole30 plan, and I've been trying to stick to that.  I knew I needed butter to put on my potatoes and other vegetables, so that meant making my own ghee (also called clarified butter).

I'd have made it earlier this week when I started the plan, but I didn't have anything to strain the milk solids out of the butter with.  They say you can use cheesecloth, but I didn't have any, so I ordered these nut milk bags from amazon and they came in today.  I couldn't wait to rip open the box and put them to use.  I needed my ghee!

© Marie Anne St. Jean

The Whole30 book says to cube four sticks of butter, but I didn't see where it would make any difference how much you used because you're just melting the butter by itself, not adding anything else where a ratio of one ingredient to another might matter.  Not wanting to waste a whole pound of butter if I messed it up somehow, I decided to start with just two sticks.

So... here's how to make your own ghee.

Simply cut the butter into chunks and put into a small saucepan and melt it on medium/low heat, and don't stir it.  Once it melts down and starts simmering, white stuff will float to the top - that's the milk solids that you DON'T want, as they're not Whole30 compliant.

© Marie Anne St. Jean

After it's simmered for a bit, take a spoon and skim the white stuff off the top of the melted butter and discard it.  That should get rid of most of the milk solids, but you'll still need to strain it good to make sure you got it all.

© Marie Anne St. Jean

My nut milk bags were kinda stiff, so I had to think about how best to approach this step of the process.  I decided to try putting the empty bowl to catch the butter inside the nut milk bag and pour it through that way.  It was a bit tricky as it wanted to roll around on top of and off the side of the bag, but as soon as I poured it on top, I lightly pressed my finger down over the bag to make a slight indentation, so that it would flow through that spot over the bowl.

© Marie Anne St. Jean

It might not have been the best solution, but it worked.  As fine a mesh as the bag was, it didn't seem like it caught much of anything, so I drained it through a second time.  It still didn't catch much, so I guess I must have done a good job when I first spooned out the solids.

After straining, I poured it into a glass measuring cup to make pouring easier, and put it into a large baby food jar to cool.  The two sticks of butter that I started with yielded slightly more than the baby food jar full.  I still needed to make something for dinner, so I used what little was left in the measuring cup, so I didn't need to scramble to find another jar.

Here's the clarified butter just after taking off the stove -

© Marie Anne St. Jean

And after it settled for just a few minutes.  You can see at the bottom of the jar that it's already starting to solidify.

© Marie Anne St. Jean

After more cooling and settling, into the fridge it goes, ready to add to my next meal!

© Marie Anne St. Jean

It really is as easy as that.
  • Cut butter into chunks
  • Melt and simmer slowly until white stuff appears
  • Skim white stuff and discard
  • Strain to get rid of more white stuff
  • Pour into glass jar
  • Allow to cool, then refrigerate

I'm so happy that it's such a simple process, because I doubt I'd make it the full 30 days of the Whole30 without it.  This solves a huge problem for me, and I can't wait to try ghee on my breakfast veggies in the morning!

~ Marie Anne

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dump Ranch Dressing, First Attempt

My stick blender arrived this morning so I immediately grabbed what I needed to make Dump Ranch dressing.  Without it, I've been having a hard time finding the fat required with my meals when following Whole30 so I've been anxious to try it.  This Dump Ranch recipe uses olive oil and coconut milk, both compliant fats on Whole30, so if I use this in salad or as a sauce over vegetables, I'll meet my fat requirements easily.

I didn't have everything on the ingredient list, so I modified mine just a bit.  I didn't have red wine vinegar and was afraid regular red cooking wine wouldn't be compliant, so I just omitted that.  My herbs were limited, so I just added what I had - a little oregano and basil.  The garlic and onion salts that I have on hand aren't compliant (both have other fillers in them - ugh), so I went with just salt and pepper, and a little chopped garlic.  Sigh - more things I'll have to add to my ever-growing shopping list.

My immersion blender didn't fit down into the neck of the jar that I had planned on storing the Dump Ranch in, so I used a large glass measuring cup, then poured the results into my jar when done.  No biggie, just means I had one extra thing to wash.  I chunked everything into the measuring cup and commenced to blending.  Everything whipped up just fine and looked great, so I did a taste test by dunking my finger in it.

Hmm ... kinda bland.  I added a little more garlic then grabbed an onion and cut a very small chunk, minced it, and tossed that in too.  Tasted again; still needed something.  Added more salt and pepper, and then it ended up too salty.  I poured just a tad more coconut milk into the mix and called it good.  It's not the tastiest thing I've ever made, but poured over other foods, it'll be fine. It'll sure beat the coconut  milk I added to my tea this morning.

I do miss the sweetness of a store-bought dressing, but maybe the red wine vinegar will help with that.  I probably won't miss it as much in my salad because I add apple to that, which will add quite a bit of sweetness.

All in all, I feel I've realized a modicum of success in my first attempt at making Dump Ranch dressing.  I expect I'll be experimenting with this basic recipe as I go along and will be sure to write about my successes (and failures).  I've never used fresh herbs much, but plan on seeing what I can find locally.  Maybe I'll even try growing my own.

Veggies will be on my plate with lunch, and salad is on the  menu with dinner tonight, and I can't wait to try this!

~ Marie Anne

Whole30 R1D1 Done!

Woo-hoo!  I completed Round 1, Day 1 of the Whole30 program, and lived to tell about it!  It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be.  I've done the (extreme) low-carb thing in the past and the first few days were pretty rough, but I didn't have any major issues yesterday at all.  My biggest fear was that I'd run out of energy, and I had a fitness goal to meet.  Thankfully, that never materialized.  I got two decent treadmill sessions in and logged a total of 83 active minutes, and managed to get almost 15,000 steps (6.2 miles) in before the day was done.  Go me!  I didn't feel overly tired or hungry at all, which really surprised me.  I know that can change drastically as I move forward with the program, but I'm ok with it.  I know this is where I'm meant to be right now, so I'm going to see it through.

I'm anxious to get my stick blender in today so that I can make some dump dressing and mayonnaise that I can use as my fat on vegetables and such.  Right now I'm struggling to get enough fat in my meals because I don't have the means to make my own ghee (clarified butter) yet either (my nutbags to strain the milk fat out of the butter will be here tomorrow, I think).  I'm using coconut milk and olive oil where I can, but don't really care for the taste of either of them plain, so I'm using them sparingly.  I've added a few nuts (pistachios, almonds, or walnuts) to round out my meals if I feel I haven't added enough fat elsewhere.  Nuts are supposed to be eaten in moderation, but are ok here and there, but I want to avoid using them as a crutch.

Breakfast this morning was a small hamburger patty fried in a little of the fatty solid of coconut milk, a two-egg omelet (frittata?) with a bit more coconut milk, fresh mushroom, and broccoli.  Extra broccoli on the side, a few almonds, and half of a fresh pear completed the meal, washed down by a cup of tea with a splash of coconut milk (which I don't care for, but wasn't really spit-it-out gross, so I'll suck it up).

The photo isn't pinterest-worthy, 
but the meal was tummy-worthy!
© Marie Anne St. Jean

I made country style pork ribs with roasted red potatoes yesterday for dinner, both with drizzled olive oil and chopped garlic, and there's enough left for at least one more meal, maybe two, accompanied by another vegetable, so the rest of today's fare will be a little easier to put together.  I'm going to try to do as much prep ahead of time as I can, especially cooking meat that will last for a few meals.  I can throw white or sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time, and that will help too.

So ... R1D1 is in the can, and I'm ready for day two food-wise, and will hit the treadmill for my first session shortly to take care of the fitness end of things.

~ Marie Anne

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Whole30 Decision Time - I'm Going In!

After finding out about the Whole30 program, the other night, I knew this is what I needed to get my eating under control, as well as some health issues that I'm facing.  Anyone who knows me knows that when I decide I want to do something, I want to do it RIGHT NOW, in pretty much every area of my life.

Whole30 was no different, and once I read a little about it, I wanted to start right then, on January 1, to begin the New Year on the right foot.

After further exploring the program, I knew that it wasn't smart to tackle such a severely limited regimen without some prep work first, so I put my first idea on hold for a bit.  They actually recommend that you put a lot of thought into your start date so that you don't set yourself up for failure, so delaying my decision lined up with that.

But ... I'm ready now!  I'm going to start tomorrow morning, Monday, January 4, 2016.

Today I made my shopping list of foods that are compliant on Whole30 and off I went to Aldi, Sam's Club, and Walmart to pick up enough for at least the first few days of the program.  I don't normally buy much meat so just the big pack of hamburger and country pork ribs just about put me over my food budget for the month, and the $10 jar of almond butter almost made me cry, but all three of those things will last quite a while, so I just chucked it in the cart and moved on.

I already had eggs, oranges, lettuce, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and chicken at home that are compliant, so the only other things I bought today besides the meat and almond butter was coconut milk, white potatoes, pears, and a cucumber.  The apples and bananas at Walmart sucked and they didn't have any grapes, so I'll pick those up elsewhere this week.

Breakfast tomorrow will be interesting since I don't have any compliant breakfast meats, but I'll make do.  Omelette made with eggs, coconut milk, mushrooms, and broccoli sounds like a good start, and I might throw in a handful of ground beef with it.  I can mix up a sauce of some sort with the coconut milk and drizzle that over the egg to get more fat in, and have a pear or half an orange (I have to watch the citrus since my ph level was pretty high last week).  A splash of coconut milk in my (usually black) tea should complete the meal.

I'm not big on fixing fancy meals, so lunch and dinner will most likely just be a serving of meat with sweet or white potato, and other veggies with a compliant sauce or salad with dump ranch dressing.  I see a lot of repetition in my future, but I do that now anyway, so it's not a big deal.

So, I'm off and running, and ready to do this thing.  I'm determined to do the Whole30!

~ Marie Anne

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Day and I've Already Failed?

I'm putting myself on report.  I just made a resolution yesterday and have already blown it within the first hours of New Year's Day.

Ok, maybe not a failure, but at least a setback.  And to be fair, I do have a valid reason.  A couple of them, actually.  Let me explain.

I blogged yesterday that while I've increased my walking/jogging mileage greatly in the last couple of months, the weight still wasn't coming off, so I was going to make a concerted effort to cut back on the junk food (easier said than done when you're a true carb addict, but I digress).  That part of my resolution still stands.

Later in the day I learned about the Whole30 program, which is much more strict and cuts out just about everything except fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables with no added anything.  Convinced that this is what I need to do, I went on record with a second blog post about Whole30 and was going to start it this morning.

After some voracious reading about the Whole30 plan last night, I realize that starting the full plan today isn't the best idea for me.  I have several foods in my house that I thought were on the Whole30 list of acceptable foods, but I was wrong.  Money is more than tight right now and I can't afford to not eat this food that I already have, at least the stuff that's barely been opened.  I'm still going to get rid of the true junk food (no candy, cookies, etc), but will finish eating the small amount of cheese I have, and the big bag of frozen breakfast sausage patties I just bought a few days ago.  I just can't afford to replace those items right now with something that is on the Whole30 list.

I thought the sausage patties were going to be ok, but the ingredient list does show a small amount of sugar.  The Whole30 plan doesn't allow for ANY cheating whatsoever, no matter how insignificant  you think it might be, so I'm doomed before I even start.  They recommend you plan ahead before starting the program, and get rid of things that aren't acceptable, and stock up on those that are so that you're ready to go on Day 1.  I'm not ready.  Rather than say I'm going to start today and then lie about it (which won't do ME any good, which is the goal here), I'm going to put it off for a few days.

So my new resolution is to avoid the really bad stuff altogether, but finish up some of the stuff that might not be so bad, yet isn't allowed on the Whole30 plan.  I might not wait until the whole bag of sausage and every loaf of bread is gone, but I'll see where it goes.  I won't have any extra money available until later in the month to stock up on the good stuff, but will be able to pick up a few necessary items in the next few days, so I'm going to do a modified plan for now and pick a firm start date when I reevaluate what I have in my cupboard and freezer.

I really want to follow the plan exactly as it's designed for the full 30 days, and if it takes pushing back Day 1 for several days or a week, so be it.  I don't want to set myself up for failure right out of the gate, and I want to be true to the Whole30 program's design.

I did throw away the rest of the chocolates I got yesterday, though.  Go me!
(I won't tell you how many were left, however).

~ Marie Anne

Do I Need to Drain Cucumbers?

Because of their high water content, cucumbers are a great low-calorie vegetable to include in side dishes or eat as a healthy snack.  Th...