Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recipe Reviews-Day: Paleo Monkey Bars

Welcome to another installment of Recipe Reviews-Day. These posts are where, as the name implies, I review a recipe that I have made for my family. I am not one to create my own recipes; not at this point in my life right now anyway. The recipes have to meet our whole-food standards of eating. We don't prescribed to any one diet such as gluten-free, paleo, veganism, etc., but we do try to minimize processed foods as much as possible. Do we eat the occasional processed cracker, candy, or stop at a fast-food chain. Sure, life happens. But with some planning we can make those times few and far between. Without further ado, here is the recipe review.

This recipe comes from the site The Paleo Mom. Again, our family doesn't do paleo or primal eating exclusively, but that does NOT stop me from searching that eating lifestyle for some amazing recipes. I know I personally can't tolerate gluten or dairy, so these types of recipes are perfect for when I want to share in the eating festivities with the kiddos and hubby. Plus The Paleo Mom is right up my alley. She's a Ph.D. turned SAHM who is super dedicated, super smart, and makes some super delish food! 

Ingredients
  1. 2 overripe bananas
  2. 1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  5. 1 cup almond flour
  6. 3 tbsp coconut flour
  7. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life brand)
  10. **optional topping** -----> 1 oz dark chocolate
  11. **optional topping** -----> 1/2 tbsp fat (palm shortening, coconut oil, lard, butter, or ghee)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a rimmed cookie sheet with palm shortening or coconut oil, lard, or butter.
  2. Mash bananas by hand.
  3. Add all other ingredients except mini chocolate chips and optional topping ingredients.
  4. Mix until well blended.
  5. Cut in the mini chocolate chips into batter.
  6. Pour onto rimmed cookie sheet and spread evenly with a spatula
  7. Bake for 17-18 minutes and then let to cool.
  8. Cut into bars
  9. **optional topping** -----> If using topping, mix and melt your chocolate and fat together than then drizzle over already cut bars.

Review
  1. WHOA! These are like banana bread and cookie bars met and had a baby -- perfectly soooo good!! And we didn't even use the topping because I didn't have any more Enjoy Life chocolate chips. 
  2. I took the lazy/easy way out and made this entire thing in the food processor. I measured everything out, clicked on, and then drizzled the melted coconut oil down the feeder tube. Done.
  3. I did turn the batter out into another bowl, however, to add the chocolate chips, but I'm not sure you would have to do that. I didn't save any dishes doing it that way, but I'm okay with that.
  4. Next time I'll try with the topping, probably for Christmas, and eat them ALL myself. Yeah, they're that good. I personally like using coconut oil with chocolate as I think it sets better; however, the house has to be below 74°F so the oil hardens. 
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Last Fair & The First Leaves

This time of year is very special to us and not just because it's Fall and I love everything about this time of year. It marks the beginning of the end...the end of the year where the focus tends to shift from self to others, from inward to outward, and from me time to celebrated family time. While having some me time is worthwhile and important, the latter part of the year tends to focus on family. As I prepare for Halloween, my mental state starts to prepare for "the holidays" and I start to get the warm fuzzies that have crept into my life since having my babies.

The fall season for us usually starts with a trip to Adam's family in Ohio. It's the last county fair in Ohio and a visit that we look forward to every year. We've been going since Duders was only 10 months old. This year the boys were old enough and big enough to ride almost every kiddie ride. Of course we only got pictures on the merry-go-round and of those pictures, on one pic of one boy looking at the camera. After that all picture bets were off! Life with boys for sure! You might not be able to see, but Duders thought it was very funny to look at the camera and then look away at the last moment. This picture was probably Number 10, so Adam and I said, "uncle" and called it quits.




The next day we traveled back home to find that my in-laws lower yard was covered in leaves. This excited the boys so much they were ready to burst outta their skin. I was excited because they just sat in a car for close to 3 hours and needed to get that skin-bursting energy out before it got dark and they were confined to the house. The first order of business -- leaf pile construction. Typically a rake is used, but Duders likes a challenge. A snow shovel was just what the challenge demanded apparently.


And what do you do once the pile is built to yours and Dad's specifications? JUMP IN IT OF COURSE!! The boys, in all of their Wild Kratts glory, chose Cheetah power to get their best speed.



Adam could NOT resist the temptation to jump and wrestle his boys in the leaves, so in he went as well. This is our first year that both boys could really rake, jump, and wrestle in the leaves without the risk of one of them getting seriously hurt. They held nothing back!




JayBird even had to mosey down to see what all the commotion was around the leaf pile. He wasn't overly impressed, but he usually isn't. The fact that he thought enough to come and join us was proof enough that he missed his crazy pets while we were gone.


And after the initial excitement of the leaf pile wore off, we had our 3 second rest to recharge and regroup. Dad announced it was time for a hike and Pap also showed up for some added literally-thrown-into-the-pile fun. I'm not sure what he's thinking about in this picture, but I see this beautiful baby boy of mine and know how blessed I am. Just yesterday we learned of his impending arrival and today he sits and stares out into the family's farm. Adam's complete dream come to life. So yeah, those warm fuzzies that I'm feeling...they mean the world to me as does this time of year.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloween Night Preparations

Halloween is actually two weeks away as I post this little collection of thoughts halfway through the month of October. With that comes the getting of costumes, candy, and trying to find out when all of the trick-or-treat festivities will take place. Our family lives in an area where trick-or-treating isn't easy, so we always drive to a family member's house and spend the night there celebrating. Always have and probably always will. 

The boys had an opinion this year about their costume so Adam and I were nothing but happy to let them pick out their own digs. Alter-ego of choice this year: fire-breathing dragon. This was actually the second choice because we could not find a yellow or pink T-Rex and I don't the luxury of time this year to make one. We just grab buckets from the back yard, washed of course, for our treat buckets, so we're well on our way to missing the last-minute Halloween scramble. 


Halloween day always goes quickly, so I also like to have a crock pot meal ready to serve and maybe this year I'll just take it with us to said family member's home. I try to make something that I know everyone will like, which means chili is out. I know, I know. Who doesn't like chili? Adam, that's who. Weird - again, I know....but it is what it is. I found these three meals as I was scrolling the newsfeed one day and bookmarked 'em. Boom. Done. They all look divine to me, but Adam is so old school meat-and-potatoes that I'll most likely switch up his regular old pot roast with balsamic roast beef. 




And now that the boys are getting older, they understand the candy situation and what it's all about. Naturally, Adam and I are trying to educate them both about the pros and cons about all of this candy. Plus, most candy is made with ingredients that we don't like to have in the house let alone put into our bodies. Allllll that being said, it's Halloween and we're trying to {TEACH} them how to make the best decisions about food {THEMSELVES.} I know I don't always make the best choice presented to, so we just do the best can do. But when it comes to handing out candy, we CAN make better choices. Food Babe has a great list of what to buy instead of the traditional candy you'll find in your candy aisle. UNREAL gets our nod for fave candy. Let's keep in mind, however, that candy is still candy no matter how "healthy" it seems to be. If you ever go shopping with me when my family is in tow you'll definitely hear me say once or twice that organic junk is still junk. HuffPost ran a great blog post from Rachel Marie Stone and she shares my sentiments exactly. 

If you're not even into candy or are looking to cut back this year, here are some candy alternatives that will have the little kiddos just as happy!


Finally, let's face it -- the kids are gonna get a TON of candy this year just like last year and just like they're going to next year. We're thinking of trying The Switch Witch this year because we're seeing some problems with their teeth pop up and we don't need to exacerbate it with more sugar. We have talked here and there about it and think that 5 pieces of candy for each boy (enough for one night of the week) will be fine and then The Switch Witch will come and switch it out for something else. No, we're not going to the extent of having a Switch Witch, but she'll visit for just a brief moment. We're hoping for a book about Halloween and a book about Thanksgiving. I realize that ups my list of "things to get for Halloween" but it actually doesn't because we don't give out candy anymore....and who doesn't like a fresh, newly opened book?!? To me, it's completely worth it!

*links in this post are just that...links. enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Post: Breast Cancer Awareness Month - A Previvor's Story


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as many of you, I know several women who have faced, fought, won, and/or lost their battle with this awful disease. More recently, however, my experience with breast cancer went in the other direction. One of my good friends from high school, Nikki Menser Stilwell, was told she suffered from a genetic mutation called BRCA2. Many of you might remember the shock wave through the celeb-o-sphere when Angelina Jolie announced that she carried the genetic mutation and underwent prophylactic bilateral mastectomies, or pbm for short. Nikki was faced with the same decisions that Ms. Jolie had to face aAnd she was kind enough to share she story of diagnosis, decision, recovery, and support. I want to take this time thank Nikki for her courage in sharing her story as she is STILL going through her recovery.


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Why hello October and hello Breast Cancer Awareness Month, although everyday should bring awareness to the awful dis-ease, but as we have it, it's October. Just recently was a week that was dedicated to women like me, National Previvor Week!

Hi my name is Nikki Menser Stilwell and I'm a 31 year old woman who found out in May 2014 that I suffer from a genetic mutation called BRCA2.  Everyone has a BRCA2 gene as it's a tumor suppressing gene.  It tells a cell to stop growing if it starts growing out of control. Every person gets a copy from each of their parents. I inherited my mutated copy from my Dad as he inherited it from his Mom. She died from metastatic cancer that started from breast cancer. This mutation is also called HBOC-Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome. Having this mutation means for me that I have a MUCH higher risk of breast cancer (87%) and also a (60%) increased risk for ovarian cancer. Pretty gnarly odds that were definitely not in my favor.

My Mom has been the biggest support for me as she was the one who pressured me into having the testing. My genetic counselor first called me at work on May 20th and told me about my "positive genetic finding" and I cried, and cried, and cried A LOT! I quickly called my Mom since she was the one that coerced me to actually go through with it. The test was a simple blood test sent through to a genetic company named Integrated Genetics. After that phone call I continued on with life in a state of denial. No way did I have a mutation and if so I have lots of time to do anything about it were my thoughts. Fast forward to June 7th and my 2 weeks of Army National Guard training. My genetic counselor called to see how I was coping and when I planned on making a decision about what I was going to do. I had 3 choices - 1)take a drug daily called Tamoxifen (chemoprevention) that has nasty side effects like my hair falling out and possibly nausea-DAILY, 2) I could do extra surveillance with MRIs and added mammograms rotating every 6 months, or 3) what I had added ready chosen in my mind- preventive surgery. I told her that I would speak to my friend D (I will keep her name private) who had breast cancer at 29. She gave me the names of her BS (breast surgeon) and PS (plastic surgeon) down on Long Island. I trust D with everything that I have so I know these surgeons had to be on point. I called each and made subsequent appointments to see them. I saw each doctor and had my appointment for the pbm by July 1st.  I was ready; no looking back now.

My Mom and I watched as my Granny deteriorated in the end. I had almost 18 years with my grandma and everyday of those years I knew my Grandmother to have breast cancer, or be in remission waiting for the beast to rear its ugly head again. I never wanted to die like that, suffering while my loved ones would look at me and just start crying because they knew my end was near. It's the worst possible hurt - for me. We grew up living across the street from my grandparents so for those almost 18 years I saw my Granny everyday. I'm thankful for the time I had with her but at 59 she was stolen from me. My decision to have a pbm was an easy one.

On July 30th, 2014 I underwent prophylactic bilateral mastectomies to lessen my risk. Fortunately for me, I had small breasts to begin with and that allowed me to keep my nipples. This was instrumental in having the procedure because I was still able to "feel" normal. The closer your nipples are to a blood supply the less risk of them turning necrotic and having to be removed. I still have a bit of a risk for breast cancer but it went from 87% to about 5-8%.  The pbm consisted of having all to most of the breast tissue removed and putting expanders filled with a little bit of saline behind my pectoral muscles. Over the next few weeks every Monday, I would have about 60-100 ccs of saline injected into thes expanders. Their positioning in my body creates a pocket for the permanent implants I am to receive and it also gives them a more natural sloped look instead of looking like I have two half grapefruits just sitting on my chest. This has to be the WORST part. Imagine something wedged in between a muscle and cavity wall being ballooned out slowly over a few months. OUCH! I have my last "fill" on October 27th, 2014 and then I will be the size that I desire, roughly a 34C. I can't wait for my exchange surgery because I cannot sleep comfortably, and I also can't wear low-cut shirts because my chest looks wrinkled and non-moving/unnatural. On January 8th, 2015 I will have an outpatient procedure to switch my rock hard, uncomfortable, restless sleep preventing expanders out and my squishy, comfortable, permanent implants in. Recovery will be a lot easier than my pbm! It is an outpatient surgery that will take about 2 hours max. My initial surgery took 9 hours! 

Nikki pre-op

Nikki post-op

I had the prophylactic bilateral mastectomies done on Long Island at Stony Brook University Hospital and my Mom was with me. I was out of the hospital the afternoon after the pbm and the day after that I was armed with many pillows starting the ride back to my parents house in Pennsylvania. It was  painful. But the risk reducing surgery was worth it! Sleeping was difficult at first, I couldn't sleep on my side(and I'm totally a side sleeper). I also had 2 Jackson-Pratt drains -- one in each breast that I had to empty 3 times a day and monitor for about 2 weeks. The drains sucked, but again I was so happy to have the worst part over with and to have my Mom who was a rock for me. The first time since the surgery I can remember crying was when I was in my parents bathroom and looking down at my mutated body and thinking, "What in the hell did I just do?!" That quickly passed when I knew and felt the support from my Mom, husband, and friends.

Dr. Duc Bui (plastic surgeon) & Michelle Fromm (physician's assistant)
I'm really excited to have my exchange surgery because that's when I'm told I won't have so much pain. I joined a Facebook page called the BRCA Sisterhood which has about 4,000 members and is and completely closed page and super private. You pretty much have to show the administration proof of your BRCA mutation to even get in. This is where I draw most of my support from now. We exchange pictures, tears, worry, laughter, hatred for our expanders, and most of all we hear the words "me too". It's so comforting to know that somewhere out there, there are woman going through or went through EXACTLY what I have. I even met one of these ladies at a Burlesque show in NYC a month ago. I feel an instant connection to all of them because we all faced our mutation with courage and strength. Whenever I'm having a rough day I just send a message via Facebook, text, or viber (for my friend in other countries) and they all have some words that I need to hear. No one ever said this would be easy and it's not, but for me and my family, it's worth it.
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A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THIS WOMAN FOR SHARING HER STORY!