Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken & Sweet Potatoes and Practicing Good Posture

(*Disclaimer: I wrote this post over a week ago and never got around to posting it. Good news is that I have tried many other new things since writing this and hopefully I will get around to writing about those as well!)

So far 2013 is off to a good start.  Last week I tried a new meal in my crock pot. I have a very large crock pot that seems to cook at a very high temperature even when set on low.  Actually, there seems to be no difference between the low and high setting.  It has been hard to find recipes that are 1) healthy 2) don't burn in my crock pot and 3) I actually enjoy! This one is a keeper!

Crock Pot Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
(you can also do 1 sweet potato and 1 large russet potato... that what I did in these pictures)
1 sweet onion chopped
2 carrots washed and cut into 2 inch chunks
At least 1 large chicken breast
I am sure there are many other things you could add... 

Put all the ingredients in the crockpot.  Then mix 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp curry powder, and 1 tsp garlic powder into one cup of water.  Pour this mixture over the top of everything.  Cook on high for 4 hours. I lifted the chicken out and cut it into chunks but it could also be shredded.

I loved the sweet potatoes.  Everything was perfectly cooked... not to mushy and not too firm. 

In my fight against Occipital Neuralgia one of the many things I have been trying to do is hold my head properly. Like a lot of us I jut my chin forward and carry my shoulders up and forward. This actually shortens the back of my neck and applies pressure at the base of my skull and possibly aggravates the occipital nerves.  All through out the day I am trying to remember to bring my chin down and back and to lift through the crown of my head. I catch myself the most in the car.  
I am also trying to stay aware of this during spin class.  Lifting my chest up (from the front and not the back as I often do), aligning my neck and head and dropping my shoulder blades down and in.  It relieves the pressure at the back of my head and helps me to breathe properly when my heart rate rises.

What do you do through out the day to try and have good posture?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day Smoothie (Dairy and Gluten Free)

Happy New Year's!!

I have never been one to get excited about New Year's but this year feels different. I am happy to be starting a new year with a tremendous sense of gratitude and filled with hope for the year to come.

I know everyone has their favorite smoothie recipes and there are hundreds on the Internet but I figured I would share mine as well.  It is dairy and gluten free. I have always struggled to eat lunch and I definitely do not eat enough fruits and vegetables so making a smoothie for lunch seems like a good solution!  This recipe makes enough for me with a small bit leftover for my daughter. (Along with the smoothie, I try to eat some meat or humus and these delicious lentil chips for a more substantial lunch)

Mommy Boler's Dairy and Gluten Free Smoothie

1 cup apple juice
Splash of coconut creamer
1/4-1/2 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen... I sometimes do half and half)
4-6 frozen peach slices
3-6 fresh strawberries (Optional... I use them if I have them)
1 banana sliced
1-2 cups spinach
1 tablespoon coconut oil

I usually put the juice, creamer and banana in first.  Then the rest of the fruit and the spinach on top.  Typically, I fill the rest of the blender with spinach. Today I measured and it was almost 2 cups worth.

I have an old blender but it seems to do the job well. I start on low and work my way up through the speeds.

I would like to add more protein to the smoothie but gluten free, dairy free protein powders are expensive!! I am thinking about experimenting with pasteurized raw egg whites.  Brenda at swears by the raw egg whites and I am working up the courage to try them!

I also plan on trying some make ahead oatmeal smoothies with Monica's recipes at  My husband loves the smoothies and keeps asking if we can save them for later or if he can take them with him to drink right after his workout. These make ahead smoothies seem like a great option. I will let you know how they turn out!

What is your favorite smoothie recipe? Do you add extra protein?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year in Review and a Hopeful Look Forward

When I started this little blog I only intended to share recipes and meals being cooked in my kitchen.  Over the past nine months I have enjoyed discovering other similar blogs and what I have appreciated most is the combination of delicious recipes and personal stories.

I am going to branch out and follow the lead of some of my favorite blogs with a reflection of the past year and list some of my intentions for 2013.

A year ago I was in chronic pain and feeling hopeless.  There were so many blessings in my life (my husband, my daughter, we had recently moved closer to family etc.) but I had been in chronic pain for a year and was paralyzed with fear about what might be wrong with me.

It started as a sharp, stabbing headache at the back of head but quickly developed into a daily headache that wrapped around my entire head and spread across my face.  I woke up with it and fell asleep (or tried to sleep) with it. I woke up every hour or so through the night and continued the cycle the next day. The pain caused me to feel anxious and worried most of the time and I felt unable to enjoy the obvious blessings in my life.

Last January I finally saw an ENT (for months the headache had been diagnosed as "allergies" but allergy treatments had no affect) who referred me to a neurologist.  After a battery of tests she diagnosed me with occipital neuralgia and prescribed me Lyrica.  The good news was that the Lyrica gave me some relief from the headache.  It was finally manageable. I could sleep through the night. The headache decreased from a level 10 to a 2-3.  If I missed a dose it flared up again but for the most part the Lyrica masked the pain.

The bad news was that I could not try to conceive another child while on Lyrica.  This immediately led me to pursue any other possible treatments. Not much is known about occipital neuralgia. My best understanding is that the occipital nerves, which originate at the back of the head and wrap around the front, become aggravated by muscle spasm, swelling, lesions or tumors. Tests had ruled out lesions or tumors so that left spasm and swelling which in my case may be triggered by stress and scoliosis.  I sought help from a wonderful group of practitioners at a wellness clinic which provides chiropractic care along with massage, nutritional counseling and physical therapy.

Through dietary changes (mostly cutting out caffeine and sugar), vitamin supplements (extra vitamin D and B12 complex), chiropractic care, massage therapy and exercise (I now attend Pilate's and spin classes regularly) I have managed to cut back to half of the amount of Lyrica I started on but have not been able to come off entirely.

The other benefits I have received from all these treatments have been AMAZING!! I sleep better, have more energy, feel emotionally better and my posture is greatly improving. All of this also led me to address a lifetime of intestinal troubles.  This meant another round of tests which thankfully all came back negative but gave me no real answers.  With out a specific diagnosis I have cut gluten and dairy from my diet and have never had such a regular digestive system!

At the beginning of this month I tried a series of Botox injections to help the headaches. The theory is that the Botox relaxes (or paralyzes) the muscles around the nerve endings which will reduce the aggravation and hopefully eliminate the headache. Apparently it has been a very successful treatment for migraines.  Unfortunately, it did not work for me and I actually feel like it made the frontal headache worse.

Even though I still have a daily headache, I am feeling very hopeful about 2013. A year ago I was afraid and not very hopeful.  Today I am grateful for my journey with chronic pain, all that it has taught me and the positive changes it has caused me to make in my life.

I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions but several blogging friends have been listing their intentions for 2013 and have inspired me to do so as well.

My Intentions for 2013

  1. To remain dairy, gluten, refined sugar and caffeine free
  2. To attend Pilate's class at least once a week and be able to do a roll-up with out assistance
  3. To attend spin class once a week and increase my resistance and sprint speed 
  4. To incorporate more high-protein vegetarian meals into our routine by trying at least one new recipe a month
  5. To continue to seek alternative treatments for occipital neuralgia and stop taking Lyrica
  6. To blog at least once a week about new (or new to me) recipes and treatment of my chronic pain
  7. To take time each week to read or watch something inspirational (I would love to say once a day... but I want my intentions to be realistic and attainable!)

I am feeling very hopeful as I look forward to 2013! What a difference a year can make.

Do you live with chronic pain? What natural treatments have you found helpful? What do you do to stay positive?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fun in the kitchen... even when the recipe flops!

So I had grand plans for baking tonight. We were going to make yummy muffins, make a huge mess and have a fun in the kitchen.  We accomplished two out of three goals. We had a blast and made a HUGE mess but the muffins were a complete flop. Even after almost an hour in the oven they were still soupy.  Not quite sure what I did wrong... however I thought I would still share photos of how my daughter helped me every step of the way.

First we needed chopped apples and I am so excited about my new food processor that I decided to use it to chop the apples. (this may be were the recipe went awry because they turned out more like apple puree..) My daughter is fascinated by the food processor.  After making sure it is unplugged I let her put the apples in the bowl (what toddler doesn't love transferring objects from one place to another?) Since the machine isn't too loud she also loves pressing the button and watching everything whirl around!

Then we measured out all the dry ingredients and put them in a bowl. She likes to know about all the ingredients and must touch each of them before dumping them in the bowl!

She tells me that hand mixing is the best technique and the messiest!

Then we dumped in all the wet ingredients. This is the maple syrup going in. Somehow she managed to keep it all in the bowl!

The whisk seems to be the easiest tool for her to use when mixing wet ingredients.  The spoon is still a little too hard to get around and usually ends up flinging batter around instead of mixing.  She of course wanted to use the spoon...

Next time I may let her use a small measuring cup to help me fill the muffin tins.  

These smelled so good but unfortunately they just didn't bake well.  We had a great time making them and left me with a sink full of dishes!

What is your favorite thing to make with your little one?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Curried Coconut Carrot Sweet Potato Soup

Last week I mentioned I was going to try two new recipes for lunch.  I didn't get around to trying the soup until today... and it was well worth the wait. Can't wait to have it for lunch again tomorrow!!

I was inspired by this delicious and simple ginger carrot soup but I didn't have ginger or a shallot so I had to improvise. I did have a package of frozen sweet potato I wanted to use and so here is what I came up with...

1 bunch carrots (I had about 8-10 medium carrots)
1 bag frozen sweet potato (or maybe 1 large diced sweet potato)
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup Coconut Creamer (unsweetened)
Salt and pepper to taste

First dice the carrots and sauté in the sesame oil in a large pot. When the carrots begin to soften (about 5-10 minutes) add the frozen sweet potato and sauté for another 5 minutes. 

Once all is warmed through and softened add two cups of broth and the curry powder.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Then add coconut creamer and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Finally transfer mixture to a food processor (you may need to do this in several batches) and pulse until you have a rich, thick creamy soup! Serve warm and season with salt and pepper. Mine came out quite thick but I like soup that way. You could always add more broth to make it thinner.

What's your favorite soup to make with a food processor??

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toddler in the Kitchen!!  (and this week's dinner plan)

My daughter has been spending A LOT of time in the kitchen wanting to "help" mommy.  As soon as I start rummaging around in the kitchen she flashes a big grin, grabs her little blue chair and excitedly rushes into the kitchen.  It is very hard to say no... even if there really isn't anything for her to do. So I have started to get creative about coming up with tasks for her.  They may add a few minutes to the prep time for a meal but these are precious moments we get to spend together and I hope the beginning of a life-time joy of cooking for my daughter.

She loves to watch me chop things.  She takes the rules with kitchen tools very seriously.  Knives are grown up tools and she is very good at keeping her distance from the board.  When I've finished she loves to put the pieces in the pot or if I'm putting them in a hot pan I have her put them in a small bowl and then I transfer them. "Here you go Mommy... I helped!"

She also loves to pour water.  Even though it is easier to put water directly from the tap into the pot I will use a measuring cup and have her pour the water in. The best part is if a little spills. "Whoopsie Daisy Mommy! We need to clean up!"

I've also been trying to do more recipes that she can help with.  Lately one of our favorite things to make are the cookie dough balls from our friend Laura a mommy run fast.  We really like the chocolate coconut ones. This week we will be making halloween treats for her friends at school. I will be sure to post pictures of that!

This is the last week of the October menu planning challenge.  While I have had a hard time finding the motivation on Sunday's to plan (maybe I should plan on another day!) I have appreciated seeing all the other plans and enjoyed pushing myself to try new recipes each week.   This week I am giving myself an additional challenge. I am going to try to make two new recipes for lunches. I have a hard time taking time to eat a good lunch so this week I will try to make this delicious spaghetti squash and jalepeno casserole (with non-dairy substitutes) and with my new food processor I will try this ginger carrot soup! I will try to post updates about these recipes.

Here is this week's dinner plan. 

Tuesday: Left overs
Wednesday: Dinner at a Halloween Party!
Thursday: Pork chops with rolls and green beans
Saturday: Left overs
Sunday: Pork roast

Thank you to Laura and Jill for this great month long challenge! It has introduced me to many new blogs and helped me discover some new delicious recipes!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu Planning Week 4 - Searching for Inspiration

Before I get to this week's meal plan I have to say that last week's birthday celebration was epic! My daughter and I had a blast baking a green cake for daddy's birthday. I promised photos so here they are. You can't really tell but the inside of the cake was green too!

Then my husband and I got to go away for a night. We went to the movies, slept in, went shopping... it was a blast and much needed! We came home to a very happy girl who had a great time with her Nanny (my mother-in-law) and then we were off to a cousin's first birthday party! I ended up not cooking all weekend and actually loved the break.

When I sat down to menu plan yesterday I felt like I had "menu-planning" block. Even after looking at all the amazing link ups I still couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to make! Does this ever happen to you??

After spending too much time searching the Internet and looking through recipe books I came up with a plan and did the grocery shopping for the week.  Of course today I woke up full of inspiration so next week's plan will be easier!!

link up here

Mondaycreamy penne pasta bake with zucchini

Tuesday - leftovers (or pork chops)

Wednesday - Pasta Bolognese (double batch so I can take a meal to a friend)

Thursday - pork chops

Friday - Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (with non-dairy substitutes)

Saturday - leftovers

Sunday - Pork Roast

That is the plan.  Several new recipes I am excited to try out.

Also, I received a food processor for my birthday. I am so excited but can't decide what to make first!! 

What is your favorite thing to make with a food processor??