An Update, Plus Creamy Poblano Pork Recipe

So at the beginning of the year, I started seeing this new holistic wellness doctor at the advice of several of my friends. See, I have some medical issues that western medicine has been unable to solve for me. I finally got fed up with being told the only way to get healthy was to take pill after pill after pill and went to see someone who would try to solve the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. Enter the allergen elimination diet.

For the past few months I have had to avoid about 25 different foods, drinks, and spices while my body works to heal itself. Apparently I’ve been eating things that my body can’t properly process all my life, and I didn’t know it was affecting my health until I got a blood test saying so. Of course, not all those foods are really hurting me, but I don’t know what the real culprit is because when I eat it, my body mounts an immune response not only to that food, but the other foods I ate with it. So, what started as maybe one or two true food sensitivities ballooned into 25 over a lifetime. Yaaaaaaaay.

With about 25 things I can’t eat anymore, you would imagine my diet to be basically rice and chicken, right?  Nope! It’s amazing what you can do with a little creativity and variety. I’ve had my share of food flops, but once I got into the swing of things, I found I eat just as good, if not better, than when I started this whole thing. The secret is being willing to experiment with new foods and researching alternatives like there’s no tomorrow.

I wanted to share my favorite recipe I’ve come up with so far. Throwing the “cream” in at the end was totally on a whim, but I am so glad I did because I think it took this dish to a whole new level.

Creamy Poblano Pork

4 boneless pork chops
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
1 large poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup cashew cream (or sour cream for the people who aren’t allergic to dairy)
Juice of 1 lime
3 tsp paprika
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, saute pork chops in olive oil, 1 tsp paprika, and salt and pepper until done. Remove from pan.

Add onion, poblano, lime, and remaining paprika along with salt and pepper. Saute in olive oil until onion is translucent and poblano is crisp-tender. Add cream, stir, and cook for 1 minute until heated through. If too thick, add a little water to thin out to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon over pork and serve immediately.

A Long-Awaited Post, and Pesto Pasta Primavera

Hello friends! Yes, I am aware that it has been well over a year since the last post. What can I say? Life happened. Since it’s been so long, here is a quick update for those of you I don’t talk to that often: 

  • I started volunteering with a local organization working primarily against domestic minor sex trafficking. It’s hard and emotional and I love every minute of it. Did you know the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13? And that 2/3 of children are approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of getting on the street? And that the average lifespan is 7 years after entry into the trade? Yeah, it’s a big problem.
  • I’m going to India this summer to help with prevention of – you guessed it – trafficking by teaching marketable skills like the knowledge of English to at-risk girls. I am so excited to go do something I’m so passionate about in a region I’m completely in love with! The trip can’t come soon enough.
  • I’ve gone gluten free as part of the long battle to get and stay healthy.

I think that covers the bulk of what’s happened over the last several months. Now, on to tasty food! I made this recipe up last night for a girls night and it was so amazing that I had to share it with my friends. I’ve made it as healthy as possible by removing gluten and dairy and using lots of colorful veggies.

Pesto Pasta Primavera

  • 6-7 baby zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 c shredded carrots
  • 1/2 c peas
  • 4 baby bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 c onions, diced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 oz. pesto
  • 2 c. dry white wine
  • 1 c Daiya vegan shredded mozzarella (if you don’t care about dairy, use parmesan)
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Italian herb blend
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium pot full of brown rice pasta (about 2 1/2 – 3 c. uncooked)
  • 5 slices prosciutto (optional)

Saute bell peppers, onions carrots, peas, garlic, and spices in olive oil until the onions are translucent, or until all veggies are cooked to desired tenderness. At this point, you should start cooking the pasta in another pot unless it’s already done, reserving the water to use if necessary. Add white wine and prosciutto, if using, to the sauteing veggies and simmer until the wine is reduced by about half. Stir in the pesto and cheese just until the cheese is melted, then remove from heat. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat evenly. If the sauce is too thin, stir in the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce thickens. If the sauce is too thick, add white wine until the pasta reaches the desired thinness. Serve immediately.

 

Simple Ways to Save Money Around the House

Over the past year or so, I have learned several things about saving money everywhere I can. I figured I would share a few of my tricks with the blogosphere, and maybe you guys will get a new idea you can implement to shave a bit off your monthly expenses.

Groceries

I shop at Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Tom Thumb. Granted, my Tom Thumb tends to be a bit more expensive than I would like, but it’s so much closer to my apartment than any other grocery store (except Sprouts) that it’s worth it for the few items I don’t buy at the other stores.

One of the ways I save money is super simple: make a meal plan (vaguely in your head or specifically written down) for the week and write down everything you need. I try to base my meals around sales and what I have in my pantry/fridge, but I don’t always do a good job of that.

Another thing I’ve found helpful is to watch for meat sales, stock up, and freeze. Meat is probably the biggest cost in anyone’s grocery budget, so if you can buy in bulk while it’s on sale and freeze what you won’t use quickly (I like to freeze the amount I usually use to cook a meal in individual freezer baggies), it will really go a long way towards reducing your expenses. I also like to buy frozen veggies. They’re just as healthy as fresh veggies, but they last soooooo much longer, which is great when you’re like me and tend to make lots of stir fry meals that use up only a half bag of baby carrots and last a week.

This one will be hard for most people, but it will help a lot with your budget AND health: do your best to cut out processed, refined, and fast food and cook meals at home from scratch. Whole foods are ALWAYS better for you and tend to fill you up more, which means you need to eat less to feel full. I also like to cook up big batches and freeze individual servings in freezer baggies for a quick meal when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t have time to make something from scratch. For example, I recently made these delicious whole wheat oatmeal apple muffins from scratch and froze them to eat when I feel like a change of pace from Luna bars. They’re about 150 calories each, low sugar, low fat, and I only need to eat two for breakfast and I’m fine until lunchtime.

Pets

I buy all of Hermione’s dog food and special treats at Aldi. Their big bag of dog is much, much better for my budget than the dog food the shelter was feeding her (seriously, fancy shelter, dogs don’t have to have organic food). The vet told me I needed to start feeding her Greenies for her teeth (she’s showing early signs of gingivitis), so I shopped around and found a big box of Greenies at a local feed store for 20% less than the prices at those big pet chains. As far as I can tell, the feed store’s prices for food and treats are also cheaper, but not as cheap as Aldi, so if you don’t have an Aldi nearby, try looking for a feed store.

For toys, I like to wait until a day or two after a major holiday and stock up on themed toys when they go on clearance at the big pet chains. I managed to get this cute little Valentine’s Day caterpillar toy that Hermione just LOVES for about $2. Not bad, right? She still hasn’t mutilated it, either. I figure it’s good for another month or so before she completely tears it up.

Cleaning/Hygiene

Did you know you can get one of those hand soap pumps and fill it up with water and a bit of antibacterial dish soap? It works just as well and is much, much cheaper. You can also use common (and cheap) supplies like baking soda and vinegar to:

  • clean drains (it’s like the old baking soda and vinegar volcanoes from elementary school!)
  • remove mold/mildew from shower tiles (vinegar + tooth brush=squeaky clean!)
  • scrub tough stains out of cookware (baking soda and a little water will make a cheap and effective scrub)
  • freshen up your carpet when you vacuum (sprinkle baking soda around, let sit for 5 minutes, and vacuum up)
  • clean your microwave (boil vinegar in the microwave and the cooked on crud will wipe away easily)
  • clean your coffee pot (run a cycle of vinegar through the percolator, then run two cycles of water to rinse)

I also make my own laundry detergent from Borax, washing soda, and bar soap. It’s been a huge money saver; I’ve made two batches since last March and STILL haven’t used up all the Borax and washing soda. I used about a third of each box and one bar of Zote soap (finely grated) for each batch and the batches last about 3 months for me (I do about 3-4 loads a week).

So, in recipe form, that’s:

  • 1/3 box Borax
  • 1/3 box washing soda
  • 1 bar Zote (or other) bar soap, finely grated

Mix together in a large bowl. Store in a cool, dry place. Use about 1 tbsp per full load of laundry.

Also, did you know you can use vinegar as a softener in the washing machine and a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer to get rid of static cling? I promise your clothes won’t smell gross. I’ve been doing my laundry like this for a year and so far have no complaints. And just think: in addition to cutting costs on ridiculously expensive laundry detergent, softeners, and dryer sheets, you’re also avoiding all those chemicals getting deposited on your clothes (and in your lint catcher)! It’s a win-win, yo.

Makeup

OK, so I don’t have a lot of advice here since I rarely wear makeup, but I do have a few tricks:

-Baby powder + cornstarch = cheap, effective shine remover.
-Use sensitive or unscented baby wipes instead of makeup remover wipes. They work just fine for removing everything except my waterproof mascara.

I hope these tips give you some inspiration! Comment below if you have other money-saving tips. I’m always on the lookout for good ideas. 🙂

Pandas and Peacocks and Elephants, Oh My!

So I walked a 5K yesterday morning with a group of friends from church. It was really fun, but also kinda tiring. This morning, my legs are pretty sore, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve been training for weeks to get ready and I have started to enjoy my exercise routine.

The course was through the neighborhood around the zoo with the last leg straight through a back gate of the zoo and out a side gate. It was fun to see the animals, even if I didn’t have time to linger.

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I did, however, stop to take a picture of the elephant.

Mile 1 was right after a large hill, so at that point I was thinking “what have I gotten myself into? Ahhh!” By mile 2, the endorphins started to kick in and my legs stopped hurting, so I started walking faster and passing people.

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Oh yeah, you’re in my sights, lady with the stroller!

Mile 3 was somewhere in the zoo, and I was bookin’ it, so I didn’t pay attention to the marker. There were a lot of zoo workers at random points through the zoo part of the course cheering us on, and that was pretty fun.

I made it to the finish line in an hour, which isn’t the best time in the world, but I am still proud of myself for doing my best and working hard to get in better shape.

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Afterwards we all went for brunch at a restaurant within walking distance. It took a while to get a table big enough for our group, but oh man that omelet was worth the wait.
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Who knew pandas and peacocks could be friends? ^_^

So overall, I had a good time walking the 5K, and I want to do it again next year. My goal is to run more of the course next time and do it in under an hour. I will not let asthma beat me!

Nothing Says 5K Like Sparkly Tulle

So I’ve decided to make an effort to eat healthy and exercise at least three times a week. I already walk my dog three times a day around the complex, but I’d like to walk further a few times a week.

As part of this plan, I signed up for my first 5K next Saturday morning. A bunch of friends and I are doing the Fort Worth Zoo Run and dressing up as different animals. I, as the group asthmatic, get to walk the 5K, but I will be dressed as a fabulous panda complete with sparkly tutu and ears the whole way. Oh you know I will rock that 5K like nobody’s business!

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Oh yeah, I am gonna be the sparkliest panda.

I just wish they would let me bring Hermione. Can’t you imagine us in matching sparkly tutus walking down the street? Hermione would be the cutest team mascot!