Friday, October 19, 2012

The Experts Weigh In: Listening To Your Body!

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In my mind, I’ve always been a ‘healthy’ person. I’ve exercised and eaten right as long as I can remember. 
I've run 5k races, lifted weights and tried to eat a balanced diet. I mean of course there were a few little pounds that I always wanted to get rid of, but overall I was doing really well. So you can imagine my surprise when almost two years ago my doctor told me I was becoming pre-diabetic. Truth be told, I was shocked! Let’s rewind a minute so I can tell you why I was at the doctor to begin with. I’m currently 29 years old, but at the time, I was only 27 and was just feeling off... 'slow' might be a better word. I was hungry all the time, I never had enough energy, I was slightly overweight (about 5 -10 pounds), and I was often getting dizzy between meals.  For a 27 year old it just didn’t feel normal, and I knew something was wrong. None of my friends were having these problems and honestly, I didn’t even want to go to the doctor in the first place but did after pressure from my husband and parents. I just figured I would go in and find out I needed to eat more often, lose a few pounds and maybe drink more water. I was already exercising regularly (5-6 days a week) and watching my diet, so really what else could this be? I definitely wasn’t expecting her diagnosis, but I have to say, I wasn’t completely surprised because my family has a history of diabetes.

My doctor gave me two options for treatment: “You can try this medicine and possibly be on it for the rest of your life,” she told me “or you can completely change your diet and see how you feel". At 27 years old, I didn’t even want to entertain the thought of taking medicine for the rest of my life so I opted for the harder of the two choices (or so I thought). I thought I ate well before, but I was completely wrong! My doctor advised me to cut out all white starches and sugars, which turned out to be harder than I thought but worth every moment of emotional struggle.

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Now my diet is 100% whole wheat/whole grain and low/no sugar. This means I don’t eat white starches like rice, white potatoes, white flour and no white sugar. That’s really all it is. Instead of these ingredients, I cook with things like whole wheat flour, quinoa, brown rice flour, sweet potatoes, raw honey and agave nectar.

The first few weeks were really difficult because I had to change my perspective on food and eating.  Before my diet change, food was celebratory and social, meant for enjoyment. Now I had to focus on food being fuel for my body. Believe me, I spent many a moment in front of the pantry and fridge yelling at my husband “there is nothing I can eat!”. Looking back I’m sure I sounded pretty silly then. 

The truth is, it wasn’t that terrible to change my eating behaviors, and I can’t imagine my life any differently. Now I’m spending my free time trying to convince others to join me in this diet, which is why I started writing a food blog. I feel great and I have my diet changes to thank for it all.  I truly believe that a similar healthy lifestyle change can make the difference for others too!

I started by writing Simply Whole Kitchen for my friends and family who were supportive but didn’t know what to make for me when I was around. Once I became more comfortable with my diet, I wanted to switch to a blog title that was better representative of me and didn’t focus on my diet alone, which is why I started Pidge’s Pantry, my current food blog and digital recipe box. 

I want to show others that ‘better-for-you’ eating isn’t difficult and can still be the social thing that it's always been - only better because you don’t have to follow your meal with a serving of guilt! 

I’m not a medical professional or nutritionist. I’m just sharing what has worked for me and hoping my readers find that better-for-you eating can be enjoyable too. So, come join me in my kitchen, grab a fork and stay for a while.  You are always welcome!

Pumpkin Chai Latte Cupcakes with Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 c plus 2 tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp all-spice
2 eggs
1 c pumpkin puree
2 tbsp honey
6 tbsp vegetable oil

Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 c heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all-spice. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, pumpkin, honey and vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Divide the batter between the cupcake liners and bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
While the cupcakes cool, add the softened cream cheese to a bowl. Mix the cream cheese for 1 minute. Add the maple syrup, honey and vanilla and mix for another minute to combine. Slowly pour in the cream (1/4 c at a time) while mixing. Mix until the frosting doubles in size and thickens. Slow the mixer down to the lowest speed. Add the cinnamon and mix until combined. Top the cupcakes with the frosting and refrigerate to stiffen the frosting.

Beet Chips with Avocado and Goat Cheese Dip

3-4 large beets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the beets into thin slices.  Toss with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lay into one layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp.  Cool on a wire rack until completely cool.

Avocado and Goat Cheese Dip
1 large avocado
2 tbsp fat free sour cream
2 oz of goat cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.

Mini Quinoa Bites with Goat Cheese Pesto

3 c cooked quinoa
3 tbsp chives, chopped
1/2 c carrots, diced
1 c zucchini, shredded
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tsp dried parsley
4 eggs
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/4 c olive oil

Prepare your quinoa to package directions and let it cool.  In a bowl combine the quinoa with the chives, carrots, zucchini and parmesan cheese. In a small bowl, whisk your eggs with the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley and dijon mustard.  Pour the egg mixture into the quinoa mixture and mix well.  Add the breadcrumbs 1/4 c at a time (you want the mixture to be slightly wet).

Preheat a large skillet on medium heat.  Add 2 tbsp of your olive oil.  Using a tbsp measuring spoon, scoop the quinoa mixture.  Then use damp fingers to flatten into a small cake.  Cook the mini cakes in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes per side or until browned.  Once cooked, drain on a paper towel.

Goat Cheese 'Pesto'
1 c of fresh basil
1/4 c of pecans
4 oz of goat cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until nuts and basil are chopped and all ingredients are combined.  Either spoon onto the top of the quinoa bites or put into a piping bag and squeeze onto the bites.

Sweet Potato Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3/4 lb ground turkey
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
 1 15 oz can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
 1 tbsp garlic powder
 1 tbsp onion powder
 1 tbsp salt (or more to taste)
 1 tbsp black pepper
 1 tbsp (+) chili powder
 1 tbsp cajun seasoning

In a large, deep, pan preheat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the diced onion and cook for 2 minutes until slightly translucent.  Add the ground turkey (or beef, bison, lamb, pork, chicken, soy) and cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring frequently until almost cooked through.  Add the diced sweet potato and cook for 3-5 minutes to brown the potatoes.  Stir occasionally.  Add the crushed garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and the rinsed and drained beans and stir to combine.  Turn up the heat and bring the chili to a simmer.  Reduce the heat and add the chili powder (more if you like it spicy) and the cajun seasoning.  Cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes (a low simmer).  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (add more salt, chili powder, etc) and serve with mashed avocado, diced chives and sour cream.

By day, Sara Warner is the Marketing Director for the Campus Recreation Center at Georgia Tech, but by night, she’s the voice behind the blog Pidge’s Pantry, a resource for those trying to eat healthier by implementing a 100% whole wheat and low/no sugar diet. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a double major in Broadcast News and Art History, Sara confesses that she dreams of going back to school to get her Masters and PhD so that she can become an Art History professor! In addition to her love for art, Sara finds pleasure in weekend trips to the farmer’s market and cooking for her family in the kitchen. She confesses that her favorite foods are chocolate and peanut butter, so you can be sure she features both on her blog! If Sara could give one piece of advice to her younger self (or you!), she suggests not being so serious all the time. “(In the past) I focused too much on the future and how I was going to get there instead of focusing on the now and enjoying my life in the moment. I would tell myself to not be so hard on myself. I think that is also a part of enjoying life a little more… letting go of the silly stuff.”

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