Monthly Archives: June 2013

Real Good (Vegan) Chili Recipe

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OK, I can honestly say, I’ve finally created the best chili recipe this picky family has ever seen!

I battle with Crohn’s, my son is so picky he makes me look adventurous (which I am not) and my husband eats an only plant-based diet (fancy wording for vegan). So finding, then adapting, a recipe for chili has been a goal of mine. After a few flops, I’ve done it! Here is how:

Shell’s KickAss Chili
serves 8

1 onion (sweet yellow is nice)
1 jalapeño
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2t garlic
4 cans of beans (I prefer 3 black beans and 1 kidney bean)
15oz tomato sauce
2T chili powder
2t salt
2T pepper
1t Oregano
4 cups of liquid; this can be all water, I use 3 cups water, 1 cup vegetable broth
2T whole wheat flour

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Dice the onion, garlic, all peppers into small pieces. The smaller they are, the more they will disappear into the chili when cooking. (Great way to sneak it in without having to see it but can still benefit from the flavor).
In a large stew pot, sauté the onion and garlic with a touch of water until translucent. About 6 minutes. You can also use a bit of coconut oil if you want.
Add the jalapeño, green and red peppers and continue to cook on medium until all veggies are soft. Another 5-6 minutes.
Rinse the cans of beans thoroughly. The best you rinse, the less gassy they are later. (extremely important if you have Crohn’s or any digestive issues or, you know, a stinky spouse).
Combine all the beans in the pot with the softened veggies. I turn the heat down to low at this point so I don’t burn the beans.
Add in all the spices right on the beans. The chili powder is flexible. 1T is a nice mellow chili, where 3T is a bit spicier. You can also add a bit of cumin at this time (or chipotle) depending on the heat flavor you are seeking.
Add the can of tomato sauce (or purée) and mix well. Then add about 4 cups of liquid. I use mostly water with some veggie broth. Depending on how long you are going to let this simmer, you can adjust the water. If you have all afternoon to let it simmer, 4 cups is perfect. If you are going to rush this, then add much less.
At this point, I crank the heat to high. I make a super simple roux from 2T wheat flour with about 1/4 cup of warm water and mix until its a thick paste. Then I stir the roux into the chili to ensure the final product will be a nice thick hearty chili. Once it boils and bubbles, turn it down to low/simmer.
I cook mine all afternoon on an easy low simmer. I haven’t tried to speed cook this but it could be done. After about 45 minutes, it’s usually ready. I like to really slow cook it because the longer I cook, the more the veggies disappear!

Consider serving this with some delicious Mexican Rice. I modify a great recipe found here By not using any butter when warming the uncooked rice and instead either use coconut oil or just water you can make it vegan.

This chili freezes really well. It is ideal for making tacos and burritos. It’s great as an entree for either lunch or dinner. You could easily top this with tomato, avocado, salsa, whatever you might normally top your Mexican yummies with.

I really hope you can use this recipe to create your own masterpiece. I’d love to hear your take on chili. Even though I found this recipe to be Perfect, I’ll always be experimenting with additional changes.

Have a real good night!

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Comments to a Crohnie

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When you have a chronic disease, like Crohn’s, you hear some pretty crazy things. Here are some that have actually been said to me. For real.

I just had the flu so I totally understand what you deal with! (Yea, it’s just like that only different)

My friends mom has that and she’s fine. (Good for her)

You don’t look sick. (Thanks?)

So, what can you eat? (Do you mean today?)

What exactly is crohn’s? (Asked at the dinner table)

Are you really going to eat that? (Was going to)

(After a long bathroom trip) What were you doing in there so long? (Just sitting on my ass)

Are you just in the bathroom playing on your iPad? (Yes, the toilet is just so comfortable and I especially love it when my leg falls asleep, fun)

This is important to me, please don’t bail. (Well in that case, I’ll make my guts do what I want)

You’re not a very good friend, I mean, you are sick all the time. (Thanks, I wasn’t feeling crappy enough as it was)

Can’t you just have surgery? (Maybe getting inches of gut cut out doesn’t sound bad to you)

I get an upset stomach when I eat spicy foods, do you think I have crohn’s? (You should probably get a scope, they are fun, ugh)

My doc said I have crohn’s and I feel great, I don’t understand why you don’t? (I should see your doctor, he must have a magic wand)

OMG, I’ve heard of that! You could die from that! (Whoa, hope not!)

So, why isn’t there a cure yet? (When was the last time you raised money for IBD?)

Can’t you wait until we get home? Just hold it. (Do you really want me to poop my pants? In your car? Really?)

No big deal, everyone poops, right? (Yep, I just do it a dozen times a day)

I just take Motrin for my PMS cramps, have you tried that? Maybe that would help. (Good idea, it’s not like I haven’t tried every med out there already)

You take steroids? OMG, you’ll get all buff! (Nope, just get the ‘roid rage, grrrrrr)

Why don’t you just get some sleep? (Why didn’t I think of trying that?)

You have to go to the bathroom again? (While pausing the movie, again)

You can go, there are bathrooms there. (And all bathrooms are equal)

How can you be a good parent when you are so sick? (Hey, my kid loved having stories read to him in the bathroom)

Can’t you just take medicine? (More than the handfuls I already take?)

You know, you can’t expect special treatment. (Gee, really?)

You were in the hospital again? What for? (Just taking a little break, thought I’d have a little spa week. They wait on you hand and foot, especially after you ring for them eight times. The food is indescribable and I love sharing a room with a stranger. You should try it!)

Can’t the doctors do anything for you? (I’ve never asked)

You better not overdo it. (Just waking up today hurt)

You can have just a little, right? I mean, it won’t kill you! (Says the person who won’t be up all night in the bathroom crying)

You cry in the bathroom? Why? (No, of course I don’t cry. You can’t prove it.)

You make it out to be such a big deal. (Usually said by someone you haven’t talked to in weeks)

You know, when you get sick, it’s hard on all of us. (Like that ball of guilt will help?)

You can go, it’s just at their house. (And its always comfortable to ditch a small gathering for a half hour and kill another persons bathroom. Hope they have a fan, toilet paper, patience, sense of humor, everyone pretending you didn’t just do that)

Wow, you are still upbeat about it all! (Yes, I’ve found that kicking a toilet and screaming really doesn’t do anything good. Humor is my only defense)

My uncle only flares up when he’s stressed. (Either he is flaring all the time or he’s a monk)

Maybe getting crohn’s is a blessing. (Well, I do do a lot of praying – please please stop, I just want to rest)

When was your last flare up? (When have I ever not been flaring?)

You can’t have crohn’s and colitis. Only one or the other. (Really? Can you send that memo to my gut? Here’s the mail chute)

How do you handle it? (I don’t. It takes everything I have got to hide the pain, pressure, guilt, fear and anger I am feeling.)

You seem fine. (Then my acting has improved)

It will get better/easier. (When?)

Can we go on the trampoline? (The things we do for our kids!)

Yes, crohn’s suck. Any disease that causes pain and discomfort is horrible. The guilt alone that we face when we feel we are imposing on someone or causing disappoint eats us up. Like the disease. A good attitude really does help. (Insert eye roll if you’d like, but it really does)

When I was first diagnosed, I really lost all hope. I was sick non-stop for months that turned into years. It wasn’t anything like my mom’s crohn’s; or your aunt’s, his mailman’s, her dog. It was living hell. Trying a new medicine every couple of weeks only for it to fail and my hope would fall further. I spent so much time in the hospital, I knew which vein could last more than 12 hours, I knew the tricks for getting the better night nurse, heck, I could have set up my own IV and med machine. In fact, I already could disarm those blasted alarms. What I couldn’t do, is know what worked. What could I eat without dying afterwards? Why did action “a” only sometimes equal reaction “b”? It changed every flipping day. I swear, crohn’s is this spazzy little kid high on sugar bouncing from one thing to another, tearing down the walls and cackling. I’d go left, it went right. I’d make a play to get a handle on it, it would duck and hide. I could run, but it always caught me. It could run, and I’d never get close. It felt like I was battling myself in some epic sci-fi war where only one of us would come out alive.

Some nights, I let the crohn’s win. Some weeks it would win. I got depressed. I got angry, at myself. I was disappointed, in myself. I felt ripped off. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live a life with crohn’s. Then, I would turn it around and feel strong and feisty and ready to fight. Repeat and rinse.

Everyone said it would get better. I’d understand it more as time went on. I’d get it under control. After a few years, I still didn’t believe these Pollyanna types. Then, it changed, just a little.

I finally understood. Crohn’s Disease is only two words; not a sentence. It was some I had, it didn’t have me! I could beat this thing. Then I would flare and doubt would sink in again.

This would go on and on until finally the remission times between flares would be just a tad longer than the last time, allowing me to get that much stronger than before. Finally, I might be feeling pretty good for a couple months at a time. During that time, I’d have a positive attitude and feel like I won. When I flared, it would take more than a couple bathroom trips to knock me down and even then, it wouldn’t put me completely out of the game. Time did go on and it really did get better.

My crohn’s didn’t ever really improve. Sometimes a medicine might work or I wouldn’t flare for as long or as often but it basically stayed the same. It hated my guts and I wasn’t too fond of it either. However, the way I looked at it, my disease, did change. I couldn’t let it define me, control me, beat me.

I make jokes, like most crohnies. I deal with other auto-immune disease, like most crohnies. I struggle and adapt and keep moving one foot in front of another, like most crohnies. I research it more than any doctor I know, like most crohnies. I know medicines better than a pharmacist, like most crohnies. That’s when I understood, I’m just like most crohnies….except what works for you, might not work for me and vice versa. But we will try anything. Us crohnies, are a gutsy group.

So, keep your chin up. Face this flare up with smile. Sit on your comfy toilet (isn’t it sad we know toilet brands and features as well as a plumber? Oh, I do love the extra tall ones, and your seat is much nicer than my current one) and get stronger. Use humor when you can but cry if you have to. You do deserve special treatment, only it’s up to you to give it to yourself. Don’t overdo it, and don’t feel you have to explain yourself to others. If you can’t do something, just say that. Don’t feel you have to give reasons or excuses. You just can’t or don’t want to. Let the other person deal with it. Eat what you want when you can. Enjoy your life in any small segment you can. Even the worst crappiest days ever, can be dealt with if you don’t pile on the self guilt. It’s hard but I think that’s what people mean when they say it gets easier. The disease stays the same, gets better, gets worse but how you look at it and deal with it, does change.

Stay positive (when you can) and go kick your own ass!

Can I be a Real Vegan?

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I’ll be the first to admit my food choices usually suck. I’ve done some research and know how important eating healthy is. I’m the pickiest eater ever and I also have Crohn’s. Not every food choice I make, I can tolerate. What to do?!

My husband is vegan. My son is as picky as I am. We’ve watched enough documentaries and read enough books that I feel bad when I eat poorly and feel guilty when I feed my child poorly. We have improved a little. At least we don’t eat any fast food anymore!

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Here is a glimpse at our weekly groceries.
Our old  batch would have been full of name brand junk food!

My Crohn’s started its most recent flare about 9 months ago and has only improved by baby steps. I’ve lost a bunch of weight and after living a life determined to lose weight, I’m actually insanely now trying to hold on to the weight I’m at.

Losing weight is real difficult. I’m finding maintaining a weight is just as hard, especially when the weight came off fast and due to illness.

As my guts start to settle down and accept food, I’m being careful what I introduce. I’d love to go vegan and get quite a chuckle out of myself when I say that. I wouldn’t miss the cheese but ice cream, I’ve tried coconut “ice cream” and it’s nothing like real creamy good ole ice cream. Although, I do like sorbet….

I somewhat enjoy meat. I say somewhat because if I stop to think at all about it, especially when it’s still raw, my stomach turns and I really don’t want to eat it. Once it’s all cooked, it’s hard to resist. Somewhat.

I adore the Hungry for Change (www.hungryforchange.tv) advice of adding more and more “good” foods to replace all the “bad” choices. I’ve been trying that. As I add something like kale to my salad (has to be in teeny tiny pieces) then that’s replacing just plain green leaf or romaine. However, I don’t think that line of thinking is going to get me to my goal of being a vegan.

I highly doubt I will ever add so many veggie meals that one day I decide not to make my great grandpa’s beef stew. I’m going to have to give up animal products. Then, as I pathetically try to find foods I like, I’m bound to try and like something I can add. I hope.

What I afraid of? I love to blame my disease for my pickiness. Oh, my guts don’t like that. That definitely wouldn’t settle well. Ahhhh, but most things I have never even tried. My fear of food isn’t limited to healthy foods. I don’t like (read: I’ve never tried) any dipping sauce besides ketchup. No ranch, no sour cream. I don’t like (never tried) any toppings for burgers, or salad dressing besides 1000 Island. In fact, I have only ever eaten apple, strawberry or coconut cream pie. I’m too scared to try cherry, probably because I’ve never eaten cherries. I don’t like trying new ice cream flavors, candy bars, drinks. So the likelihood of me trying a vegetable has always been slim. I haven’t even tried hiding anything green into my fruit smoothie.

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I’m going to jump in, give up meat. That way I’m part way there. If I reduce my animal products like cheese and butter, then I’m even closer to my goal. My husband has asked me why I can’t do as he did and just jump straight into being a vegan. I’m scared. When I look for advice on picky-eaters, I get advice I can’t use on myself. I don’t want to make an avocado a face with cauliflower hair. I don’t see how I could sneak food into my own meal, what cover my eyes as I put in something slimy? I did read you shouldn’t bribe a kid with money, although a few weeks ago my husband paid me $10 to try asparagus and that worked, kinda. I tried to so I could claim my ten bucks and even sorta liked it. Not enough, I’ve eaten it again. Maybe, I should pay myself but that might also be an easy out, I mean, it’s still my money whether I eat it or not…..ohhhh, why was my mom picky and let me get away with eating Mac n Cheese all my life?

I’m part of a generation that’s been told what nutrition you need and how to look for that on the side of the box. Only lately, is it that I’m looking at things I don’t want included or better yet, buying items without a barcode. Being brought up with this mindset, I’ve been convinced, even though my research shows otherwise, that I won’t get enough nutrients if I give up meat.

I’m well aware that by eating a well-rounded vegan diet, a person will easily get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, protein, calcium, all that besides B12. However, that is what makes me fear being vegan: well-rounded. Well-rounded? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean a salad of green leaf with a couple of hidden pieces of kale and a carrot.

As long as I eat meat and animal products, I’m going to have this internal battle at every meal. I look at my husband’s colorful plate then look at my plate full of different white and beige and pout. I really want to eat what he is eating.

My son is just like me. He’s declared himself a vegan just about five times a week. Only, he’s afraid to try new foods too. He eats what I eat.  I have so many reasons (read: excuses) why I just don’t like (read: won’t try) certain foods.  They are lame ones, but I got a ton of them.

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I make a bunch of different veggie burgers for Mr Vegan,
Sir Picky and I don’t eat them (yet)

I also know there is a bunch of hypocrisy when I say I want to be vegan but then also feel better about eating only locally grown, grass-fed meats. The local cows don’t like that. I’m also aware that by saying I’ll eat vegan most of the time isn’t right. I mean, is it ok for a heroin junkie to just relapse once a week? OK, meat isn’t heroin but some would argue it’s a darn good comparison.

I also worry that by being vegan, I’ll need not only to try new foods but try things like faux meat, vegan cheese and things that are mimicking a non-vegan food. That sort of grosses me out. I mean, if I have trouble understanding mixing peanut butter with jelly, you can imagine my not being keen on tofu.

Last night, I did more research and made some tough decisions and without even thinking, sat down with a bowl of ice cream to think it over. That was one guilty snack. Guilty because if you do care about weight loss, then a midnight snack isn’t healthy. But more so because I was literally online researching vegan choices while I ate!

I’ve got to make the jump. The guilt will only get stronger.
Wish me luck!

Real Crohnie – Real Struggles

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I had already had several really bad stomach cramps. I had already pooped my pants in public. I had already spent hours and hours in the bathroom. I finally learned I had Crohn’s.

I did what I would advise people not to do. I looked up Crohn’s on the Internet. This was 1998 and I had limited knowledge of the web. Being exposed to pictures showing the worst of the disease was really not something I should have been looking at during work hours, well, ever! Don’t do it. Don’t look up some medical thing, especially images. Yet, we’ve all done it. And we’ll probably do it again.

So I sat at my desk and cried. Why I looked it up is still a mystery for me because I had grown up with a mother who has crohn’s. I already was familiar with the disease. Yet, when the doc scoped me and said it was the worst case of crohn’s he had seen and asked me how I was dealing with the pain, I freaked out.

My mom had been in the hospital twice when I was growing up. I knew she had to be careful with what she ate, she got tired easily and sometimes took pain meds. I also knew that she spent a long time in the bathroom. Even though she deals with it on a daily basis, she has a mild form of the disease. That wasn’t my case.

Within a few weeks of finding out, I had my first two week stay in the hospital. Immediately, the docs saw my case was anything but normal. I went anaphylactic on meds, I broke into rashes, my IV had to be changed every 12 hours, I absorbed pain meds like a junkie, and nothing seemed to want to work.

After 30+ hospital trips, featuring several different hospitals in two different cities, I can honestly declare that hospitals suck. Once you can eat, the food is gross. The nurses range from rock stars to “oh, man, please not her again”. Guests either never show making you feel lonely or stay too long, turning you into a hostess. It’s just rough on everyone.

I was the first person at my Oregon hospital to try Remicade, which had been approved for use only days before. It worked great….at first. Like all good crohnies, what works at first, might not later. Remicade worked well but I still had to take handfuls of other meds as well. In fact, I took meds to help with the side effects of other meds. Handfuls.

Around this time, working became impossible and I struggled to stay out of the hospital for two months at a time. Always staying at least two weeks, and once a whole month. Lots of people ask why? Fluids, pain management and usually high doses of steroids (fun fun).

This was before docs knew better than to prescribe 120mg of Prednisone, so I got slammed. I gained 80 pounds despite being unable to hold down food. I never slept. I got depressed then I went psychotic. I’m not proud of what I put my friends and family through, but I also totally blame the meds. After a couple of months, I was dropped to 100mg and stayed at that dose for a couple of months. Doctors misdiagnosed me as bi-polar because that amount of steroids was wrecking havoc on all aspects of mental functioning.

Meanwhile, I’m on this med and that med, getting Remicade transfusions and still visiting the nurses at the hospital every couple of months. My husband struggled with it but stood by me. In fact, he would come home on his lunch breaks to make sure I’d take my meds and get me some lunch. He’s so incredible.

My friends all but disappeared. After I bailed on plans, missed parties, couldn’t commit, backed out of promises, no one wanted to be friends with a sickie. I can’t really blame them yet, to be honest, I totally do. It’s hard to stay friends with people that only want to be around during the good times and split as soon as the admission papers are signed.

It was hard on my mom. She knew about Crohn’s in her limited experience and couldn’t understand why nothing that worked for her, would work on me. Oddly, during her third major flare in 30 years, the doctors removed some of her gut and she’s been great since. I say oddly because in all my battling, surgery was only mentioned once and not in a positive way.

Perhaps, surgery isn’t an option because the more they scope me the more complex my case becomes. I have crohns, but I also have colitis. I might have celiac disease but nothing has been conclusive. I also deal with all the crap those with autoimmune diseases deal with, fibromyalgia and symptoms that mimic other diseases. My disease runs from my mouth to my anus. I get mouth sore, nodes on my legs and bruising so bad, my husband begs me to wear long sleeves. (He has never ever put me in a box and tossed me down a hill, it only looks like that could have happened) I also have different doctors than my mom.

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I found out I was pregnant only a week after a dose of Remicade. I was scared. Some doctors warned me against carrying my surprise baby to term. Others said I was safe. I believed the latter. At 7 months pregnant, our little girl stopped breathing in utero and died. While its rare, I can’t directly blame the medicine either, but I totally do. I gave birth and promptly had the worst flare ever. A month long hospital trip was my prize.

Very quickly after I got my strength back, we tried for a baby. We hadn’t been ready, but losing my angel changed that. We got pregnant fast but my past miscarriages and then the stillbirth taught my not to count any chickens before the eggs were hatched. Like the pregnancies before, everything went smooth – except it was hard to control my anxiety at times. In 2002, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. And I stayed in remission!

After 10 amazing months of motherhood, I flared. They tried Remicade and it failed. They couldn’t give me high doses of steroids because I had developed Addison’s disease and my adrenal glands no longer produced cortisol so I take low doses daily. (Thanks first GI, hoped you learned from that little oopsy) We had tried experimental, traditional, basically anything ever suggested as a possible assist, we tried. I’d either be allergic, it might work for a few weeks before failing, or it never worked from the get go. I was hospitalized in a city 100 miles away from my baby. That was crushing.

After several more hospital trips, I got serious with my docs about limiting my meds and tried to make some significant strides. I had felt awesome when I was pregnant and not on any meds, yet felt like crap when flaring and placed on handfuls of drugs.

Some of my doctors are forward thinking, others like to play things safe. About 8 years ago, I tried TSO. That’s pig whipworm eggs. I’d digest them and they would hatch in my gut. My body would then fight them instead of itself and then after a few weeks, expel them and I’d start over again. That was the plan anyway. The vials came from Germany and were ridiculously expensive. I had to get so many approvals from places like the USDA, prove I wasn’t a pig farmer and so on. so when the FedEx guy tossed the package of glass vials on my porch, I prayed none broke. A program called, From Beyond, filmed me and my family for their Discovery Health show. It was an exciting time, I felt I had beat the odds. Then I flared again. And again.

Getting the Addison’s part under control helped a ton. Everything started to smooth out slowly. I was finally feeling better and wasn’t on a ton of medicines. I had a nice couple of years where everything was in a nice moderate stage. Nice. Then, boom, when Crohns wants to come out and play, it does. My crohns happens to be a spaz.

Last fall, my health went from pretty good to horrible in one day. All of a sudden, nothing stayed down. I threw up everything I tried to eat, spent hours rushing to the bathroom dozens of times a day, my body hurt. I did as I was instructed, except I wouldn’t go to the hospital. Flat out refused. I could push my on fluids, I didn’t want to rely on pain meds this round and I can’t take high doses of steroids so really, anything the hospital would do, I could do. It took tons of help from my husband and son to stay at home. They pretty much catered to my needs as I laid in bed for a couple of months.

I missed out on school events. I pushed myself then would slide backwards. As the holidays approached, I panicked and faked feeling better. Us, crohnies, we fake feeling better so well we really deserve an award. My health suffered and I lost tons of weight.

My husband has always been a yo-yo bouncing from one extreme to another. He had let his weight go and was eating really poorly. As a result, our son was eating only junk while I was still struggling to hold down jello. At the beginning of 2013, my husband went into a huge health kick. One that looks promising, like it might be a forever change, for real this time. (You can read about our story and his 70+ pound weight loss here: http://wp.me/p3CR61-1t)

I decided to once again, not follow doctors advice. Another thing crohnies get good at, practicing medicine without a degree. My GI has always suggested a bland, all white, processed diet; especially while flaring. I decided to eat healthy; fresh foods, fruits, veggies, basically everything off the do not eat list.

At first, my gut flipped out. Then again, it hadn’t really ever stopped flipping out since the flare began in September. I pushed through and my gut adapted! Soon, I wasn’t cramping as bad after meals. I was, but a normal amount. I was still going to the bathroom over a dozen times a day, but that has become my normal so food wasn’t really effecting that, negatively or positively. Then, I really ticked off my docs. I decided to come off some of my meds. For the first time in a decade, I was off my pain meds, off anything “extra” and off anything I didn’t think was helping.

I can’t say I’m in remission right now, but I’m also not in bed crying, or rushing out of a store with poop in my pants. I’m more active than I have been in the last nine months. I’m happier. I’m eating all the things the doctors stay not to eat. My doctor knows and is hesitant but I think she’s still mad that I refuse to go to the hospital, even for a scope and that I love to play doctor and make whatever changes I want. She’s dealing with my rebelling, I’m sure she would get along with my parents.

My husband has stopped eating all animal products and I call him vegan, he says he eats an all plant based whole food diet. Same dif. Now, I’d do that far and slowly I am trying. I know meat isn’t the easiest thing to digest and if I was trying harder to get my crohns into remission, meat and dairy would be some of the first things to go. But, I’m picky. I’m so picky that picky people make fun of me. I’m so picky, the idea of trying something new scares me. I run to the bathroom, ok, only to hide but still….what if whatever I try is so gross, I puke, on the table, in front of everyone??? What if…..

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I’m trying. I’ve been cooking and baking vegan recipes for my husband, Mr Vegan, like the one pictured above. (That’s @Engine2Diet Mac not Cheese, and one day I hope my plate will look like that) I’m trying it all to encourage my son, Sir Picky to try it as well. I’m finding I like some of them (beans, huh) or at least I can hide it in a salad (kale please pretend you are green leaf) Although, the concept of hiding yucky food in yummy food doesn’t really work on me since I’m the one cooking it. Even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I could spot a pea hiding in my noodle.

As I try to train my taste buds and get brave, I’m blogging. I’m hoping to share recipes, share my stories, learn from you and share what I have learned. Mostly, I’m hoping this crohnie will one day soon, become Mrs Vegan, for real.

Yo-Yo Dieting – Real Weight Loss

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the easiest thing for most people. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, half of which fall into the obese category. That means only one-third of Americans are of a healthy weight. Why?

Well, a lot can be said about food choices. The sad Standard American Diet at work. There are thousands of new food-like products being offered every year. Our society looks toward processed foods to nurture ourselves and our families. As if the packaged food that is enriched with vitamins is going to be better for us than the real deal.

What comes from this situation is a dieting frenzy. A new diet hits the market every time you turn around. TV doctors are promoting this way of eating, these exercises, that lifestyle. Meanwhile, most people will lose and gain the same chunk of weight over and over again. Yo-yo dieting is not only common, it’s practically expected. Some people will even say it is dangerous for your health, others say it’s better to yo-yo than to not. Excuses all around. But it is nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off if you are eating today’s highly processed foods.

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My husband has been a big yo-yo dieter most all his adult life. His weight has gone down, stayed average, ballooned up, drifted around, soared up, slid down for years now. He had run marathons, done half Ironman competitions, had transformed himself many times. At the end of 2012, he had decided once more that the Pizza & Beer diet wasn’t working. He was tired all the time. His back hurt, his feet hurt, actually, everything hurt. His health was hurting. He was hooked up to a CPAP machine while he slept. He was depressed and felt so overwhelmed when he thought of trying another diet. He also feared not trying one. His father had died of a heart attack when he was just 51, and this year he was turning 40.

The last straw was going into an IHOP for breakfast. Most booths at restaurants are comfortable, the table moves and adjusts for who needs more space. This table didn’t. It was in a fixed position and when he tried to slide in, he couldn’t. Instead of asking for another table, one he could fit into, he opted to stay there and uncomfortably order and eat his meal. That was difficult.

Meanwhile, my crohn’s was flaring away and had been for months. Stress was a huge factor in the home. I was in bed or in the bathroom more than anywhere else. My husband was falling asleep on the couch in middle of the afternoons. Our son, Sir Picky, was deciding which drive-up we should grab our dinner from. Heck, I didn’t care. It wasn’t like the food was going to stay down. He didn’t care, because really, what is just one more? Our son, he didn’t complain. It tasted great.

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Finally, the time came. My husband signed up to do the Biggest Loser challenge at his work. He pulled what he knew from different plans he had done in the past. He changed his eating to a “more healthy” diet. Anything was healthier than how the family had been eating but as he changed, Sir Picky and I really didn’t change much. Instead of red meat, my husband ate ground turkey or leaner slices. Instead of denying himself, he had a cheat day once a week where he, in theory, could gorge himself full of junk. Starting with McDonalds for breakfast and ending with a bellyache at night. To give him credit, with the Biggest Loser competition (and $500) on the line, instead of cheat days, he only ate cheat meals here and there and stopped all fast food.

A few weeks into the year, he started watching lots of food related documentaries. The one that told us a story flat out, in basic language, was Hungry For Change (www.hungryforchange.tv). I’m always supportive of anything my husband dreams up. So, I was watching the shows, researching meals, reading up on whatever he mentioned. Hungry For Change impacted the whole family. All three of us needed and wanted to change after watching it.

My weight had already been dropping. At that point I had gone from my pre-flare weight of about 165 down to about 130. Enough, that people started feeling comfortable to ask me what I had been “doing”. For me, life would have been so much simpler if I could have just grabbed my food, rushed into the bathroom and promptly flushed it. My crohn’s wasn’t tolerating anything. Not a great way to lose weight. In recent years, my weight had gone from a prednisone high of nearly 200 and a flare low of 135 and everything in between, twice. 130 was light.

As a family, we decided to start adding healthful foods – real foods – fresh foods. Then, started reading books. Anything that had been mentioned on the HfC film. We read books that those books mentioned. We consumed books. We finally learned. The more we learned, the more we realized that we had been looking too much at our food, and yet, also not enough.

We never really bought into the organic movement, now we do. More importantly, we now look for location. Is that grown nearby? Was it grown organically by farmers we agree with and want to support? Is it in season? We use to look at nutrition facts on labels, not at the ingredients. We looked at foods that would help us, live up to their claims but would still taste good. We weren’t looking for basic regular whole foods. How could an apple be healthier than this food created by scientists that did everything an apple could do, plus more!? Wow, we had a lot to learn.

In our research and reading, I began reading more about the food industry. (I highly recommend any book by Michael Pollan, I especially love his food rules. Another great is Fat, Sugar, Salt book by Michael Moss). Meanwhile, Mr Extreme became Mr Vegan. He watched the Engine 2 film, Forks Over Knives, and read their books. He read all about the China Study and started in on books by athletes that were plant powered (Rich Roll, Scott Jurek and tons more). He learned our bodies could not only survive, but thrive on a full plant based diet. He went vegan. (Yes, the V-word)

Many months later, here we are. He has not eaten any meat or animal products in several months and is loving life. Yes, he constantly gets those questions and advice, because everyone has something to say when they learn this little fact.

But we need meat, how are you going to get protein?
We are built to eat meat, see our teeth.
You need your milk otherwise you’ll get osteoporosis.
How will you get calcium?
Won’t you miss (fill in the blank)

I don’t remember ever having anyone approach my husband when he was eating pizza to tell him not to eat that. Or tell him to eat more of something. If anything, people were there offering him another beer, another burger, some chips. Cake to celebrate.

Now, I’m a bit more use to people commenting on my life. I have crohn’s so everyone has something to tell me.

My mailman has crohns and he is fine!
I had the flu once so I totally know what you feel like!
Are you sure you should eat that?

I am also picky. (OK, beyond picky) I recently heard the word neophobia and totally related. I am afraid to try new food. So people love to offer advice on that too. (I would like to say, I would totally know it if I tried to hide something I didn’t like in my noodles. Because, I made it! It’s not like I could later forget, space off and accidentally eat something gross. Ugh!) I will admit, my pickiest is embarrassing (who else keeps a PB sandwich in their purse during a dinner out?) and it unfortunately rubbed off on my son, Sir Picky. However, we are now trying.

Our lives are better and I believe the string on the yo-yo has been cut. I would love to keep adding foods until one day, I like enough variety that I could be a full-time vegan. For now, I season my meals with meat, sometimes. We try to eat plant heavy. Anything I bake, I make sure it’s completely vegan so we can all enjoy it. We research our foods and get to know where they come from and how they were grown. I planted herbs. I know the difference between chai and chia. We are still learning but standing strong, as a family. A real family that wants to make a real change.

Currently, I’m weighing in at 112 (5’3) and my husband is back to running races and training for a triathlon. He has gone from 265 to 193, consistently losing weight each week and can now see his goal weight (165) approaching (he’s 5’9). Our son is healthy, happy, fit and is also learning. Like me, he looks forward to the day our whole family is vegan plant powered.

Thanks for reading our story. Please follow me on twitter (@ShellJacobson) and my husband (@jake946) and be sure to share this blog with others. I hope to share with you my adventures on this journey as I explore and learn more about healthful living.

Have a great day and Happy Father’s Day.

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Michelle & Neal – June 2013

Planting herbs in containers

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As I do my reading, I’ve been trying to be really aware of where my food is coming from. I shop as local as possible, hit the farmers market, head out to the nearby farms, and buy from companies that are close. I try to get foods that are in season and fresh, organic is a bonus. While my husband is a vegan (yes, that dreaded v-word again), my son and I still eat meat. I feel (mostly) OK about that, because all the meat Sir Picky and I eat is from a local meat market that butchers meat fresh from a local family farm. I really am trying. So…..what about my spices?

I’ve decided to see if I can pull off growing my own herbs in some backyard containers. I looked on the Internet for local sources of good soil and starter plants. Luckily, I found some that were grown just a few miles from my home. I picked up some containers on sale. Grabbed some soil and compost and got it all ready to replant.

Now, I’m far from a gardener. In fact, looking at my thumb right now and it’s not even slightly green. But I have been growing mint for several months, which made me optimistic until I found out they grow like weeds. (Tastes great in lemonade or mojitos though)

I chose a small selection of herbs, trying to select ones we would actually use. I got basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. I also grabbed some more lavender for my backyard (great to add to the dryer cycle). I also bought a larger variety of rosemary for maybe toasting on the grill. Then, my son picked out a grape vine (eek) and a pink blueberry bush (?). Both are super anti-oxidants and I have hope that maybe my son and I will like blueberries better if they are pink. It could happen. Hopefully, all this has a better ending than my poor pathetic apple tree my son talked me into a few summers ago.

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I picked out these herbs with their health benefits in mind, but also how likely it was I would cook with them. OK, mostly based on which ones I had heard of and would cook with….but the health benefits actually rock!

ROSEMARY

Rosemary has many health benefits besides smelling great and making you happy. It’s tagged for helping people with their memory, migraines, pain (especially joint pain), is an anti-inflammatory and boosts your immune system (great for crohnies). It also has anti-bacterial qualities as well as help balance out your digestive system (yea). It helps with colds and congestion and has anti-aging qualities. All in all, great enough, I bought two!

THYME

Some consider thyme essential for good health. Besides preventing cancers and promoting good health, it is packed, and I mean PACKED with minerals and vitamins. Plus, lots of recipes team thyme up with rosemary.

OREGANO

Oregano has lots of bacteria fighting elements as well as loaded with vitamin K, Iron, and full of fiber. It’s a powerful anti-oxidant that also has lots of Omega 3.

BASIL

This is another herb that works as an anti-inflammatory. It stops some icky bacteria, promotes healthy bacteria we all need, all while packing in vitamin A, magnesium and increasing your blood flow. Without basil and oregano, your spaghetti sauce would just be plain ole tomato sauce (whoa, look at me all spicing up my foods).

PARSLEY

This little green sprig is actually rich in vitamins. Remember that old dude in the restaurant who would chew on it after dinner? Maybe you called him grandpa. Well, he had the right idea except maybe hide it into your salad for a fresh taste. It’s not only an anti-inflammatory herb, it boosts your immune system, helps even out your nervous system, reducing stress and joint pain while preventing some cancers. Full of vitamins and minerals, it’s powerful stuff. One of the vitamins it has a lot of is vitamin B12, hello vegans!

Now, I know what you are thinking. Ok, these little herbs are great, but how much do you think I’m going to eat? Does it matter how healthful these are or aren’t? Yes! I know you are only going to sprinkle some here, add a dash there, but wouldn’t you rather get some awesome benefits from these herbs than not get any at all? Heck, yea! I personally want to add things onto my plate that will help me, no matter how trivial it may seem. It all adds up!

I’m pretty excited and can’t wait to start cooking with my new treasures. They look cute and smell great, in fact, I’d love to roll around in the rosemary for awhile! (Don’t worry, I didn’t) Now I have real plants, real herbs and I will really know where and how they grew when I eat them.

Have a healthful day!

First Real Day of Summer

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School got out yesterday before lunch, which makes today the first real day of summer. Sir Picky is now a fifth-grader! To prepare for an awesome summer, we made a wish list of all the things we want to do. On the list were things like; make salsa, pick berries, learn to store food (like bears). There is also things like; go to the beach, to OMSI, run a race, play frisbee in the park. All in all, about 25 things. Today, we will not be doing any of those things because let’s face it, it’s just the first day. Since I am an at-home mom to an older child, summertime is really when my job becomes full-time.

So today we did some fun things. We started the day with some Wii Fit and called that a workout. Yesterday we had a water fight, but today the weather turned a little cooler so we opted to stay dry. We jumped on our large trampoline. My son had a friend over to “hang out”. We also hit the grocery store. I try to buy organic, as local as possible and healthful but again, 2 out of 3 of us are picky and still eat a small amount of processed junk.

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I know we can improve but here’s the groceries for this week. Not pictured is one small watermelon my son generously dropped onto the kitchen floor or the items I got at the local farm, Thistledown.

Here is a great recipe for black beans. It has a lot of flavor and is perfect with rice or in burritos. I’ve had a hard time getting enough spices in to really get a flavor. So, this recipe calls for quite a bit of spices because I have found you need a healthy amount to get them perfect.

* * * BLACK BEANS * * *

1 can Black Beans, drained and well rinsed
up to 1 can of Rotel (tomatoes with green chilies)
Cumin
Powdered onion
Powdered garlic
Oregano
Paprika
Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper (optional)

First really wash and drain your black beans. The more you rinse, the easier on your gut. Then add all the juice from the can of Rotel plus as much of the tomatoes and chilies you want. Add some water until the beans are about half covered. Then mix in the spices, adjusting the amounts to your taste. Just about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each. I just shake some on, lightly covering the beans with each spice then stir to mix it up. Place on a low heat until warm throughout.

Mr Vegan really loves the Beans Extravaganza from the Engine 2 website. You can find that recipe here. We have done it just as instructed and also made my black beans from the recipe above for a bit more flavor. In fact, if we have extra beans of another variety (navy, pinto, butter, etc) we use those. You can really turn their recipe into your own and it makes enough to freeze. Next time he has this, I’ll try it. Eek!

Enjoy and have a healthful day!

Trying new (super)foods

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Well, last night, true to my word, I tried some new foods. Instead of my normal salad of green leaf and carrots with my dressing on the side, I tried kale, spinach, green leaf with red peppers and cucumbers. I learned that really anything is edible with 1000 island dressing. Probably not ANYTHING!

My husband started getting fit again at the beginning of the year. I have been in a long flare up since last fall, so I was ready to try something/anything to get my stomach to chill out. After reading a few books (dozens) and watching some documentaries (tons), my husband went vegan. Ok, that is not what he calls it because I guess the “v” word makes people think of dirt-eating hippies or something. He eats a whole-food plant-based diet. Yea, that was easy explaining to my mom, who months later still doesn’t seem to understand why he isn’t eating steak. Or butter. Or eggs. The list goes on.

Going whole-food plant-based (dang, I might just use vegan, what the heck!) brought a whole new realm of recipes and lingo and conversations to the table. Literally and figuratively. My son, Sir Picky and I love love love the idea of not eating meat. But in reality, eliminating meat takes about half our foods away. So while I understand my husbands adoration for all things Engine 2, I’m going the more Hungry for Change route of adding new foods not eliminating. Hence, my wild salad! (baby steps)

Now, I’m trying hard to bake and cook without any animal products and trying to add foods while getting away from food-like processed nightmares. Still, super-foods? Goji sounds very Zsa Zsa Gabor; Spiralina is not Tinkerbell’s unknown sister; and there is no Big in front of Maca. What are these little treasures and what do they do?

Goji berries
You can find these in a dried form similar to raisins or as a juice like acai. Filled with antioxidants and rich in vitamin A, these little treats are suppose to help boost your immune system as well as make you a happy, calm, more athletic, mentally stable person that sleeps great. Wow is all I can think as I grab to try one. Not bad! It’s a yummy little berry very much like a cranberry/raspberry, only in raisin form. A little sweet, a little tart. Also known as the wolfberry, how can you resist? I have cooked with these for Mr Vegan but hadn’t tried one….I know, it’s a berry but it was still new. I’ve baked these into cookies and energy bars. I have tossed them into his salads. He also tosses them into his cereal. I can see why now. The only thing I did notice was a slight aftertaste of tea. Maybe, this was because I found these in the bulk tea section or because they are often used in tea. Here’s how:

* * * GOJI BERRY TEA * * *
Boil a mug full of water. Add in a small handful of dried goji berries and let it soak. The berries will rehydrate and become plump. Remove them at that time then enjoy them as a snack while you sip your fresh healthful tea.

Spiralina
This strong smelling powder is also found in the bulk section. It is super rich in protein and essential amino acids, as well as many vitamins and minerals. The research shows Spiralina is superior to plant proteins such as that from legumes. Protein-wise it is also very comparable to meat, eggs and milk. Calcium-wise, it has over 20 times more than milk. The list of all the health ailments it could help is impressive. From preventing toxins in the heart, liver, kidneys and many other organs. Again, Mr Vegan has this stuff. I can honestly say I have only seen him use it twice. It’s really pretty it the jar but man, does it stink. Sorry, but it does. Now, I am reading that you use it in smoothies, shakes and pretty much in anything you can stomach. It smells fishy but they say that it can taste differently depending on the source it came from. Spiralina from a fresh water pond should have a less harsh smell and taste. I’m not sure where ours comes from, but I just can not bring myself to try it. UPDATE: as I typed, my husband cracked a joke about me trying this. Then he proceeded to make the following recipe, probably thinking he could talk me into tasting it “for my blog”. UPDATE on the UPDATE: I tried it! It wasn’t horrible. Maybe over ice on a hot day, it could even taste good(?), maybe. After being mildly harassed, even by Sir Picky who gagged at the smell, I took TWO sips with a straw and can honestly say, if you want to drink Spiralina, it can be done.

* * * STRAIGHT SPIRALINA with HONEY * * *
1t Spiralina
1t Raw honey or agave
Fresh lime or lemon

Mix the spiralina and honey with just enough water to make paste when mixed. Once you have your paste, fill your glass up with water and squeeze a fresh lemon or lime. Instead of lime, you can also try cinnamon. Enjoy (?)

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Maca
Seriously, after not trying Spiralina, I felt guilty so I wanted to jump into the next supplement on my list; Maca. After researching and getting page after page explaining that it is an “acquired taste” and that it comes in pill form that “might” help. While it appears fairly safe, there is many warnings about it (goiters, eek). I have gathered that if you are looking for something to help with moods or something to boost your vitamin B12 (vegan alert) and proteins, this might help you. While good ole Maca-Maca is suppose to boost your libido, there really isn’t much proof in it. Again, I could be talking myself into not even having to try it since I am not a vegan looking for an aphrodisiac.

Next on my list: Chia Seeds (these I like)

Recommended websites:
Engine 2 Diet this website has great recipes and their books super resources.
Hungry for Change this website is one of my favorites. They have a documentary that is so good, I’ve watched it several times (Netflix!). I also have their book. They are the sister site to Food Matters who happens to have a great video on SuperFoods ~ ow.ly/lTMaF

Currently Reading: Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan)

Have a healthful day!

Please note: everything has some risk, so research how something may effect your own health and talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements or vitamins. Some foods may also interact to certain medications.

Meet the real me

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As I get older, I sound more and more like my mom. Realizing that it’s not a bad thing, must be what others call, maturity. I have similar worries, agendas, dreams. However, I’m raising my family very differently.
Like most of us, I was called inside to sit down at the kitchen table to eat a family dinner every night. My mom always set out bread and butter. We all drank milk, no exception. We usually had meat, veg and starch. The most adventurous meal my mom cooked was her Mexican casserole, which was Fritos and Nalley’s chili with some cheese (Velveeta).

When I was very little, I ate proudly like my dad. Trying whatever was offered. Then one day, I noticed my mom didn’t use salad dressing. I was about 5 and my baby brother had just been born, so to complicate life, I became the pickiest eater ever. Gone were the days of trying new flavors. Everything I ate was packaged, processed and plain. Potatoes became a vegetable and apples or strawberries were my only fruit. Meat had to be plain and usually nothing touched anything else. The only sauce I’d even consider was ketchup and even that I only liked certain brands. I let my diet become complicated by using my crohns as an excuse. It was the ideal excuse to hide behind because no one wanted me to be hospitalized. I found ways so I wouldn’t have to be adventurous, and so, I still ate very basic meals and snacked…a lot. Unfortunately, as I became a parent, my palate had not made many changes.

During my pregnancy, I took my diet very serious. I limited all sugary things. I didn’t have any caffeine the whole time. My crohns even took a vacation. Now, to say I watched what I ate would be pretty subjective. Compared to my per-pregnant ways of facing face first into a bag of Doritos, I was doing great. But, to compare my new foods to a truly healthy person, well, they would have laughed at my attempt. In the end, I did successfully have a healthy gorgeous baby boy.

I proudly made my son fresh organic baby food and he loved almost everything I served. That was a short-lived phase that went nicely into the processed food phase. Well, maybe era. He quickly realized that mommy and daddy ate differently. My husband will eat anything, and I won’t. My son picked up my habits and then improved upon them by finding new ways to limit his foods that I never even dreamed up. He gagged. Yep, he gagged anytime something was offered to him. This would include plastic pretend food. The goal of branching out began.

Whenever I asked my son to try something, to play fair, I’d try it as well. I’m not a very good actress, so when it was “gross”, it was really hard to talk him into trying it next. I found some foods weren’t so bad. However, I also found myself letting my son get away with being picky so I wouldn’t have to try it either. As a family, we ate the Standard American Diet, which really is sad. We knew it was bad for us but each meal can be justified. We are tired. Don’t have anything to make. Never enough time. Grabbing something is easier, faster and everyone can get what they want. We chowed through many bags of grease and constantly talked about how we were going to eat better soon. We filled our fridge full of foods that would spoil before getting used. We always had great intentions. I felt so much grief.

As a stay at home mom, dealing with a digestive disease, you’d think I’d have the time and inspiration to feed my family better than talking my husband into grabbing something on his way home. The guilt I had was compounding daily. Each food choice, I’d know was bad even as I handed it to my son, added another layer of guilt. Every time my guts rebelled, more guilt. Then my husband would go through phases that we didn’t follow. He’d be on some fad diet, usually restricting the heck out of everything, and eating foods I’d never dream of even trying. So, he’d be eating healthy and with guilt, my son and I would be eating junk.

Fast forward to now. We looked at what we had become and decided to make some changes. We have a son that loves music but would rather not play sports. My husband had worn out his excuse of having back surgery and was looking toward a new phase of going healthy, maybe. Me? Man, I’m always jumping into things only to drop it like a hot potato halfway through. You should see the half-finished ottoman I have in my bedroom.

Wish me luck.