If you haven’t read my post yet about my journey to more anti-inflammatory eating, definitely do so. It was the launching point for my new experimental dive into cooking, which you may have seen on my Instagram stories. While I’m not a total pro, yet, I’m really proud of how far I have come in the cooking game.
I’ve been working with Sue Levy, from Savory Living, on little behavior changes that I can implement in my life that can make a big impact on my health. I’ve been in tune with my body and what feels good for me, so that I can actually customize what I’m eating in order to feel the best I can. Sue has been helping to walk me through these little changes and helping me learn how to cook so that I can own the knowledge of what I’m eating. The whole program is online and takes less than an hour or so a week so it was easy for me to add into my already crazy schedule. Sue and I can communicate through the website directly so it is super efficient and she can give me advice and direction as I am working through recipes and new foods, day by day.
Throughout these first few weeks so far, I have gained a lot of confidence in my cooking abilities for the first time in my life and I have realized how delicious the food I’m able to make. It took me 27 years to take an interest in cooking because it took me until now to have someone explain it to me in a way that clicked with my brain.
Sue introduced me to this really cool concept called flavor balancing. It’s all about adding elements to your dish that are acidic, sweet, salty, and bitter until it tastes like a balanced and artful combination. This really demystified things for me because it reminded me of any other artful practice like interior design or fashion. It is all about balancing all of the elements of a room or an outfit so that one piece doesn’t overpower another. If you find you are decorating a room with a lot of heavy pieces, you need to add in some airy, textural accessories to balance it out. That is the same with food.
This was a crazy realization for me to the point that I called my mom to explain how making dinner was like designing a room. The confidence built since I felt like I had almost a secret formula that would make my food taste good. After I got the flavor balancing concept down, Sue gave me her holy grail of flavor balancing…. Her global cuisine flavor chart which basically teaches you what to balance to create any type of flavor you are craving. For example, if you want to make something with a Greek flavor profile, her guide literally lists exactly the different items you can mix from each flavor category to create a perfect dish. It also tells you exactly what proteins, fats, veggies, and herbs to add in. It is basically a formula that you can’t mess up for making great tasting dishes. She also has a lot of other guides that are formulated in this same way, like her guide to making your own vinaigrette at home which, in case you were wondering, I totally nailed. There are also videos that you can follow along to, so really, I couldn’t mess this up.
I just can’t fathom that it took me so long to learn to look at cooking this way but I am so thankful that I finally “get it”. It has also made my grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier. A little hack on how I’ve been planning out meals lately is, I pick a flavor profile that I want to focus on that week and I buy the herbs, vegetables, protein, and fat that fit with that “formula”. It’s nice because I can mix and match the ingredients, I know that they actually go together, and I can create different meals with the same core ingredients. This has actually saved us money because before I would find a random recipe online, buy all of the ingredients, use them once, and they’d go bad. Now I’m actually using our food to its full potential and appreciating the many ways in which I can incorporate it into a meal.
Here is an example… last week we were in the mood for some French flavors so we stocked our house with the essentials.
Now that I’m experimenting more with flavors, I’m realizing what I like, as well as new combinations. I improvised a meal to surprise Matt the other night - scallops pan seared in butter/garlic and seasoned with parsley, salt, pepper, lemon. I baked asparagus and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and some parmesan cheese on top. I’m learning that no matter what the flavor profile, I pretty much like parmesan and garlic with almost everything. The meal was a hit and I was, not going to lie, super impressed with myself.
I’m going to continue to share these meals I am making…. Like tonight’s, shrimp scampi with broccoli and gluten free red lentil pasta. I’m not sharing to show off, okay maybe I am a little, but I love sharing how easy these concepts are and how I’ve been implementing them into my life. I wish I would have had this “I get it” moment years ago so I’m shouting it out to everyone I know!
This was only the second session of the program and I just started the third this past week. Each session is teaching me new skills to build on top of each other. This week I’m working on crowding my diet with greens and learning how to cook said greens properly. This is a must needed skill for IBD sufferers because leafy green veggies can be hard to handle if they aren’t cooked. As I’m adding onto my skills in the kitchen, not only am I feeling more confident but I am feeling better physically and mentally, and I’m saving money.
I was on the phone with Sue on Saturday raving about all of these things she has taught me. We chatted for almost an hour about this and she just is a wealth of knowledge about these tips to create lifestyle habits that support the best you. I’m SO excited, because she offered to get on a 20 minute call with any Crohnically Blonde readers who are in need of some of some of these personalized tips. She is offering to do this totally for free which is incredible! Shoot me and email or message on Instagram if you want to schedule a call with her and I can send you her link to do so! If you do chat with her I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on her tips and the passion she has about helping others!
Stay tuned for more of my cooking adventures…..
Food and I have always had a love/hate relationship. I feel like that’s sadly too often the case in people with IBD. Throw constantly working to stay in recovery from an eating disorder and you’ve leveled up to a status that “It’s Complicated” can’t even begin to cover.
Over the years I’ve tried a plethora of food related remedies to help with my digestive issues and seen plenty of nutritionists for both that and my eating disorder. I’ve tried the keto diet, low FODMAP diet, removing dairy/gluten, liquid diets, Chinese herbs…. a lot of things. Some of them have stuck, like I now know what foods don’t agree with me, but I don’t feel like I’ve developed a truly sustainable and enjoyable way of eating. Plus, I still have a variety of issues leading back to autoimmune and inflammatory problems and I still have no way to fix those things.
Over the years I’ve developed such a stress surrounding food and meals. What is going to make me sick? Will this make me gain weight (on top of the weight I’ve gained from my medications)? Is this food really good for me? How the heck do I actually even cook something properly? I am a hot mess when it comes to anything in the kitchen.
I’ve had such a stress around food preparation that I never really learned how to cook. Like, I’m really, really not great at it. Matt doesn’t even want me to cook our Sunbasket deliveries alone because he’s concerned for my safety. I wish I was kidding. I love enjoying good food though; I get that part. The marriage of flavors, the textures, the balance. Creating a successful dish is just like putting together a well-designed room or outfit. It is a science and an art, just one that my heart has never been behind.
I never made it a priority to learn how to properly cook for or fuel myself because I have always just gotten by with my half-assed attempts. My life has been so busy that there was always an excuse as to why cooking simply wasn’t for me. It is funny how you can make all of the excuses when it involves you, but when it involves others the game changes. Let me explain……
Sue from Savory Living reached out to me to connect about her unique online experience. The goal is to help you eat right for your body in a way that is customized to you and lifestyle. At first I was skeptical because I can’t tell you HOW many people have reached out to me telling me that their special diets or products would cure my Crohn’s Disease. That a shake would rebalance my immune system. That eating only raw vegetables would revive my digestive system. The list goes on and on and I always called bullshit, especially after all of the years of desperately trying whatever I could.
I looked into Sue’s company, Savory Living and I was pretty impressed. Savory Living is an online experience that, in 12 sessions, helps you develop healthier habits that YOU choose, teaches you how to cook food that is good for you, tastes good, and gives you the “why” behind adding in those certain foods. It is focused on mindfulness around what makes you feel good, showing up and committing to yourself, and ADDING good foods to your plate instead of focusing on elimination. The program slowly guides you to make small changes over time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Baby steps to set you up for success. I am ALL about this and have tried to do this for myself but the thought of what the heck I’m supposed to eat gets too daunting and I run out of the grocery store in a cold sweat.
I had a long call with Sue and we connected immediately. Hearing her story of how she’s thriving as a mom and entrepreneur, and crushing a rare disease that was determined to hold her back, was super inspiring. She explained how she made lifestyle changes for herself (and her family!) that really stuck and helped to create a drastically healthier life and an increasingly good prognosis for her health conditions. By the end of our conversation I was in awe of how much she really just wants to share her knowledge and experience in order to help others who were suffering from chronic ailments.
As she walked me through the program I was really drawn to how education focused it is. The whole goal of the program is to help you discover how to eat right for you (getting anti-inflammatory eating to solve the issues you are experiencing) and to guide you through the change to make it easy, manageable, and fun. Then she hit me with something that SHOOK ME….Sue explained that we teach our kids how to walk and talk and read and write but we never teach them how to eat.
THIS. RIGHT. HERE. Is what got me. If I don’t learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and figure out how to best fuel my body, how would I be able to teach my kids? The thought of leading my future children down the complicated food path I have traveled completely horrified me. This thought played over in my brain all day after our conversation.
So here I am. I have finally committed to learning a bit more about food, food preparation, and the “why” behind what we put in our bodies. I am starting an online program with Savory Living in hopes of creating a better lifestyle that I can pass onto my future kids and my family.
The program is a total of 12 sessions with two weeks in between to implement your new tricks. During those two weeks you implement three different changes to your life that are positive and trackable. You log what you are eating each day in the Savory Living portal so that you can be aware of any correlations the food you eat is having with your body, mood, energy level, etc. The classes are only 25 minute long videos which are easy to digest (haha get it….) and to the point, plus there is a ton of food ideas, cooking content, and other resources that you can explore. It is super interactive and personally I can’t wait to try out the recipe videos! You also have a coach who is helping to hold you accountable and advise you as you go through the program. This means a built-in person to help you if you are having a grocery store meltdown. Sorry in advance, Sue.
I am hopeful that educating myself more on food and nutrition instead of turning a blind eye, because it’s just too stressful to think of, will help me to feel better physically and mentally. I am hoping what I learn can help me adapt my lifestyle and feel excited about eating and cooking instead of treating those actions like a dreadful chore.
As I go through the programI am going to share my thoughts with you, as well as some bits and pieces of knowledge I’m getting. I’m going to track how I feel as I implement these lifestyle changes and you can come along on this journey with me. Since each program takes a full two weeks, I’ll be posting a “check in” every month or so to track progress and see how things are going.
One of my intentions I set for the year was to be more mindful and I am excited that this program and support are going to help me be more informed about what I am putting in my body and more mindful of how those things make me feel. As always, if you have any questions as I start the Savory Living program, drop me a message, and make sure to follow along via Instagram for even more updates along the way.
I am BEYOND excited that the Sprouts Ellicott City location is finally open! Yesterday I had the pleasure to tour the brand new store and experience all of the amazingness first hand.
Let me tell you, this exceeded my expectations in every way. There are seriously so many great things I want to share with you I don't even know where to start.
The selection of products is truly extensive and they really do focus on organic products so you feel good about anything you choose to purchase. I really appreciated the amount of specifically gluten free items they carry and this was definitely highlighted in the bakery section. The amount of gluten free bread selections they offer are more than I have ever seen. The baked goods are the same story; tons of delicious options.
There is a huge focus on produce so contrary to most grocery stores, all of the produce is in the dead center of the store! The fruits and vegetables that are in stock are plentiful and the options are vast enough that you can find even the most obscure ingredient from a Pinterest recipe. Not only is there a ton of great produce but it is actually decently priced. Now, I was definitely skeptical when I heard that Sprouts had 'great deals'. I feel like every store says this but rarely delivers. Sprouts is not messing around though. I was SOLD when I saw that avocados were 2 for $1. And, get this, they were actually ripe. Another rare situation in my grocery shopping experiences recently.
Moving on from the produce, there are a ton of other food sections to explore. There are ample selections of kombucha, fresh juices, cheeses, packaged goods, frozen meals, dairy, and just about anything you can think of. I usually try and stick to fresh foods but my hectic schedule sometimes leaves me staring in my freezer trying to see what the heck I have that I can heat up in three minutes. Luckily Sprouts is here to save the day with a selection of healthy, frozen meals (that are gluten free) and they even have frozen pizzas with cauliflower crust. Oh, and all of the frozen food was 20% off when I visited. WHAT!
The customizable approach they take to grocery shopping is something I really love too. Sprouts not only has a make your own trail mix area but also a wide variety of coffee beans you can select by amount and type, and just about the coolest thing ever, a spice counter where you can purchase the exact amount of certain spices that you may need. This helps to not only reduce waste but also helps to save you money because you don't have to buy a whole container of an exotic spice for one recipe.
If you're looking for some fresh, healthy food to grab on your lunch break they have a station where you can purchase freshly made sandwiches, prepared sides, and they have a delicious looking salad bar. While you're there, you can even pick up a fresh cut of meat for for dinner from the in house butcher.
The thing about Sprouts is you can literally get everything from this store. As if the amazing food selection wasn't enough, the vitamin section and the beauty are swoon worthy. There are vitamin experts on site that can provide you with any guidance you may need. And you may need it because the selection is super serious. I mean, I am a probiotic/supplement/natural remedy fanatic and this place really left me speechless. There are a ton of natural remedies which I struggle to find elsewhere and things like liquid chlorophyll that most people have no idea what the heck I'm talking about when I rave about it, but Sprouts gets me. The beauty products are another story because they also have such a selection I could get lost for hours. I did come home with a bottle of jojoba oil to cleanse my face with....
Overall, I had just an amazing experience at Sprouts and I was super impressed with their selections, their customer service/knowledgable employees, and their prices. Where else can you find Perfect Bars buy one get one free at $2.99 a pop? The answer is nowhere.
I can't wait to head back there this weekend to stock up on some new items for the week ahead. I can definitely see Sprouts becoming my regular stop for grocery shopping because it is just that darn good!
Sprouts in Ellicott City is open everyday from 7am to 10pm everyday so make sure to visit them ASAP, and chances are you may run into me there. Most likely piling the whole shelf of Topo Chicos into my cart (:
First off, if you haven't read my post from last week on Sprouts, STOP AND GO NOW.
Seriously, if you live in the Ellicott City/Baltimore/ surrounding area this news is a life changer. Sprouts is opening their first Maryland location in Ellicott City and they have just about everything you could ask for when it comes to catering to dietary restrictions, trying to eat healthy, or just putting delicious food on the table for your family. Oh, and its ALL super cost effective and in one place. Very efficient. I am already a fan.
As if I wasn't already excited enough about Sprouts coming to the area they totally HOOKED IT UP and sent me some delicious (all gluten free) Sprouts brand products to try. Can I just say…. They pretty much read my mind/taste buds/ stalked my Instagram or they are just super lucky and got it right with all of my favorite things. Not only did they send me some tried and try essentials: dijon mustard, almond butter, olive oil cooking spray, honey; but they also sent me some delicious snacks to try that were right up my alley.
A few of my favorites were:
Chocolate Coconut Rolls - They're a great gluten free sweet treat that’s light and easy to pack as a snack for work or on the go. I also am a real big coconut advocate so that played a lot into my love for these.
Organic Popcorn with Himalayan Sea Salt and Coconut Oil- Popcorn is one of those things that once I start eating I literally cannot stop. Like it is a problem. Its one of my favorite snacks and sometimes the only way to keep myself awake during a movie. Not kidding with that one. This stuff actually has a movie theater popcorn taste without all of the butter and stomach aches.
Organic Ghost Pepper Salsa- I love spicy things, I love Mexican food. I love salsa of any and all types. When I was in Key West years ago I insisted on going to a hot sauce tasting so I could try ghost pepper sauce. Very spicy. And I loved it. This salsa is probably one of the best salsas I have tasted and definitely the best one I've had not in a restaurant. It isn't so spicy that it burns your mouth but it has a great kick at the end that. I cannot wait to try this on taco salads to add some heat and I will most definitely be serving this at my next game night.
On top of the staples and yummy new snacks they sent me some of the Sprouts body wash and hand soap to try. They are both lavender scented which is super calming. Both are non drying and even my husband approved.
This last product is a MUST HAVE in my household. I literally use it for everything so when I got a new jar I danced around my kitchen. Seriously. COCONUT OIL. Not only do I use it every time I cook, I also use it as part of my daily beauty routine. This is a whole other post in and of itself but I use it for wiping off my makeup, moisturizing my skin, and cleaning/moisturizing my lash extensions. I always like to have a jar in the kitchen and on my makeup table 24/7. This needs to be your first purchase when you walk into Sprouts if you aren't on the coconut oil train yet. Then the Ghost Pepper Salsa….
Let me go on the record here and say, you will find no shortage of Sprouts Brand products (there are over 2,000 different kinds) and they are always adding new items to try. The best part is they have a ton of options that are natural and organic, as well as gluten free, vegan, and non- GMO.
As I experiment more with these products I will share some more of my favorites and recipes but for now you can find recipes and tips at SproutsBrand.com.
So I know I started this post talking about how not only great but also affordable Sprouts is. I have got you covered on even more deals so you have literally no excuse not to try all of the deliciousness that they have to offer.
First off, the Grand Opening deals at Sprouts Ellicott City are going to be out of control. On March 14th (opening day) the first 200 shoppers to checkout will receive 20% off of their total purchase, every 15th shopper will receive a coupon book, plus there will be samples and free reusable bag available to all shoppers!
If you can't make it in for the Grand Opening you still have time to save during the opening weekend. On Saturday (3/17) the first 200 customers to checkout will receive coupons for five free deli items. On Sunday (3/18) upon checkout, every 15th customer will receive $5 off their next purchase of $15 or more.
The Grand Opening isn't the only time you can save, which I am super thankful for since I probably will be there at least twice a week. More than a third of the store is rumored to be on promotion at any given time so you are already set up for budget success.
Three of the ways that I will be keeping up with promotions are:
Sprouts Mobile App - With the app you can clip coupons on your phone and easily scan your custom barcode during checkout to apply them.
Deals of the Month- You can access this flyer easily online. It highlights all of the 2,000 plus products that are on sale so you can proactively plan your grocery list/ meals for the week based on what deals are going on before you get to the store!
Weekly E-Circular- You can subscribe to this online to hear about the weekly deals and sign up for the eNewsletter to be the first to hear about special sales and promotions going on at the Ellicott City location.
If were being honest, usually specialty food stores are not cost effective so the fact that Sprouts actually focuses on providing these great savings is so refreshing. No matter what your budget is, everyone deserves to be able to eat good quality food that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
I am so excited for Sprouts to open in my area so I can continue trying their products and sharing my favorite finds with ya'll. I also have the pleasure of checking out the new location for their Grand Opening Party next week so I will be sharing all of the details and giving you the inside scoop.
If you are in an area where you are lucky enough to already have a Sprouts, let me know all of your favorite things and things I should try. If not, let me know which of the products I mentioned you are looking forward to trying.
Living in Baltimore, we have the advantage of be driving distance to so many cool day trip or long weekend destinations, one of my favorites being the Big Apple. My short stint living in NYC mad me realize two things, 1. that I could never actually live there long term, and 2. that New York is still one of my favorite cities ever. While I am more of a suburban girl as far as living arrangements, the appeal of NYC never faded when it came to visiting and experiencing all of the life that that city has. For the past few years my mom, sister, and I have made it a tradition to visit New York at least once a year during the holidays. I try and visit more often because it is home to some of my favorite stores, restaurants and other hidden gems to visit but that doesn’t always fit in with my schedule. I always know that I can look forward to a long weekend around the holidays where I can not only enjoy time with my mom and Amanda but also indulge in some of my all time favorite places to eat and drink!
I wanted to put together my list of favorite spots to eat and drink from our most recent visit so that you can enjoy NYC how we did next time you go. My picks are based on food, drinks, and definitely atmosphere. One of my favorite things about visiting another city’s restaurants is experiencing new atmospheres, and let me tell you, New York has quite the array of ambiance.
I hope you guys try some (or all) of the places on this list because, I promise, you will not regret it! I made sure all of the places are dietary restriction friendly and accommodating so that you can relax and feel taken care of! Make sure to drop me a message and let me know where you have tried from this list and where your favorite New York City spots are!
I can’t wait!
373 Park Ave S.
This is one of my all time favorite Mexican food places. I love any place with good guacamole, tacos, and tequila and Dos Caminos does not disappoint in any category. It has been a tradition for years that every time we visit the city we have to go to Dos Caminos. We usually go to the Park Ave. location which has a fun atmosphere as well.
As far as good goes— the salsas are to die for and are delivered to your table ASAP. Aka a hungry girl’s dream. I usually forgo my usual tequila/ soda water/ extra lime combo and splurge to try one or two of the margaritas on the cocktail list. I definitely recommend getting the fresh guacamole because in all of my guacamole sampling I’ve only found one place that I think gives them a run for their money. At this point I'm pretty full but leaving without trying their tacos would be a travesty. Even ordering an order for the table (they come with three) is perfect because you get a little taste of the deliciousness. I’ve tried quite a few of their tacos over the years but my tried and true are the fish tacos.
For everyone with food allergies they are seriously accommodating and will make sure you are taken care of. This makes dinner infinitely more enjoyable when you know you can trust the kitchen and relax.
No lie, I’m going to dream about their guac tonight.
230 Fifth Rooftop Bar
230 5th Ave.
My mom and sister came across this rooftop bar when they were visiting the city two years ago. I hadn’t been before so this year my mom insisted we go so that I could check it out. After taking an elevator to the top of the skyscraper you walk out onto a heated rooftop deck, complete with heated igloos to stay warm in! We were there during the holiday season so there was Christmas music blaring, fake snow falling, and a view of the Empire State Building lit in red and green. I can’t imagine this is a place where locals frequent but that means more room for me to bask in the holiday cheer. I’ve always been so anti “touristy stuff” because I was scarred from a long semester of working in retail in Herald Square. This place really changed my mind though. My mom who loves anything holiday and anything themed was completely living her best life.
They have a variety of delicious beverages, most of them hot which is needed when you are at the top of a building in the dead of winter. The spiked hot chocolate was mouth watering but I stuck with a white beach Bellini.
I definitely recommend checking this place out if you are visiting and if you are a local and haven’t been I recommend it to. There is something to be said about playing tourist in your own city!
THE FLYING COCK
497 3rd Ave.
This was a really, really good brunch spot. Pitchers of bottomless mimosas and Bellinis were flowing, the food was amazing, and the music/atmosphere was upbeat. This place is definitely worth a visit but you have to get there and get in line prior to opening to ensure you get a table, especially if you have a large party (they don’t take reservations). Depending on the day the wait time varies but I would recommend getting there at least a sold 10-15 minutes before opening.
The music is fun and the servers are great and so friendly. They make sure to keep your drinks constantly full which is a big accomplishment for a busy, bottomless brunch spot. The menu has a variety of options from classic egg dishes, to salads to burgers, to breakfast sandwiches, and some more unique picks as well. I am in love with the baked eggs in tomato sauce which is something I’ve made many times at home but never found one at a restaurant that I really like. Well, I found it.
174 Elizabeth St.
To be honest, before I visited this place I thought it was just an Instagram fad. I mean, what 90’s girl doesn’t love a place that feels like a real live Barbie Dream House but was it really more than that? It is.
The cozy environment with limited seating makes Pietro Nolita feel wildly exclusive and the all pink decor makes you feel like you are in a dream world. We stopped by here for drinks and were not disappointed. We sat at the bar and tried a few cocktails that were as pink as they were delicious (very pink, very delicious). My favorite was the Voiletta which was lavender vodka mixed with elderflower, lemon, and honey. This is definitely a place to grab cocktails or brunch with your girls. With the husband? Not so much. Matt thought the drink were good but the overpowering pink and lack of draft beers had him wishing he was back at The Flying Cock (ample beer there!). My sister, mom, and I absolutely adored it though.
550 LaGuardia Pl.
Usually I am not a dessert lover. Every now and then I will go for a creme brûlée or gluten free chocolate lava cake, but I am usually craving something salty instead. The raw cookie dough craze has been something I had pretty much ignored due to the lack of gluten free option and just overall lack or interest but when I hear about Do I actually really wanted to give it a try. They have gluten free options which are surprisingly delicious and a line that runs out of the door that boosts their credibility to those passing by.
I got a small gluten free chocolate chip scoop and couldn’t even finish because of how filling and rich it was. Definitely yummy and worth a taste but I recommend splitting with someone because they give you quite a decent amount.
WHILE WE WERE YOUNG
183 W. 10th St.
I love this place. LOVE LOVE LOVE. The decor makes me wish my whole home looked like the inside of this restaurant and the drinks were so freaking delicious. While We Were Young, like Pietro Nolita, has a small but exclusive seating area. The booths are blush colored velour and the tables are a clean white marble which, like I said is the dream of what I want my home to be. The bar is very cutely decorated and the bartenders were insanely friendly which made this a pleasant place to pop in to grab a few cocktails before our trip home.
I became seriously obsessed with their ‘Too Good For You’ drink. It is tequila, kale, lime, agave, and cucumber. I also had them add chili to it, extra chili if we’re being honest, to make it spicy. I felt like I was drinking a refreshing kale juice spiked with a bit of iced tequila. The other drinks that I sampled were just as delicious, not too sugary, and had unique ingredients mixed in. This place just screams Sunday Funday spot for either you and your girls or even a date (Matt’s verdict was the pink here was a lot more manageable).
It has been a while since I have done a 'Meal Talk Monday'... mostly because the holiday season had me so busy I was scrounging together whatever leftovers or random things from my pantry I could to try and make a meal. Now that things have calmed down I have made it a priority to put aside to cook for myself and my husband more often.
As much as I joke about how much I hate cooking, there actually is something really special about serving a home cooked, healthy, and delicious meal for you and your hubby. For our entire relationship, Matt has been the one who has cooked 90% of the time so now that my skills have been slowly but surely improving I am trying to show off a little bit.
Recently, I heard about these 'Better Than Foods' from the F Factor Diet and from Heather Dubrow's podcast and figured I should give them a try. They are gluten free, no carb, fiber packed, and super low calorie alternatives to rice, noodles, and pasta. I was super skeptical at first but I didn't have much to lose. I already replace all of the delicious, gluteny carbs, with still carby but not as delicious alternatives. If I could find something that either tastes better or is better for me then I was willing to make the switch.
I got a sample pack of the rice, noodles, and pasta AND I AM OBSESSED. This stuff actually tastes like the real stuff... or at least what I remember it to taste like and it at least trumps most of the other gluten free alternatives. They are packed with fiber so at first I was uncertain about the effect they may have on my sensitive stomach but I have had zero issues and actually felt pretty great after eating the meals I have made. Not kidding, this stuff tastes so good I was researching it so much to make sure it was legit. Well, based on my research and experience, it definitely is. The secret is that they are made with konjac flour which you can get all of the details on here. So far I have tried the rice and the noodles in two different 'Asian takeout inspired' dishes that have been big hits in my house.
Matt and I are suckers for some good old take out but it is hard to, number one, find options that are gluten free, and number two, find options that are healthy. Luckily this stuff makes it a lot easier to check both of those boxes.
Last week I made shrimp fried 'rice' which Matt said was a winner and this week I tried out a shrimp Pad Thai which was even more of a win according to the super picky husband.
I used this recipe for skinny shrimp Pad Thai from skinnytaste and modified it slightly. I swapped out the rice noodles for my Better Than Noodles and I swapped out the bean sprouts for brussels sprouts mainly because I couldn't, for the life of me, find bean sprouts in the grocery store. It was a debacle that turned out well thought because they tasted great in the Pad Thai and added a nice crunch.
This recipe was surprisingly easy, didn't take long to make, and was relatively easy to clean up-- a lot easier than the rice at least. The rice situation was not great and somehow I literally made it explode all over my kitchen. I suck at rice. Big time. Not even kidding, when I was little my parents would make me eat rice in the bathtub if I wanted it because I was a terrorist when it came to eating it. I also really enjoyed using chopsticks which probably contributed to the problem. Yikes.
Anyway.... I think this shrimp Pad Thai was a serious success and it will probably become a staple in our house. I am so excited to continue my cooking journey and start getting down in the kitchen a lot more often now.
Make sure to check out skinnytaste for delicious and nutritious recipes as well as Better Than Foods to get some skinny noodles for yourself!
Happy Sunday ya'll!
This weekend was incredibly relaxing for me which I needed after the chaos of the holidays. I also was starting to get sick so I needed to sleep it off, hydrate, and load up on Vitamin C. It was also so damn cold here in Maryland so I rejoiced that I had a reason to stay curled up in the house.
I spent today prepping for the week and getting myself ready to crush it. I've been slammed at work with a ton of projects so getting set up on Sundays to make my mornings and my week go as smoothly as possible is so key.
Something that I always have struggled with is my morning routine. I love maximizing my sleep time which means I get up at the last minute possible to make it to work on time. I've tried to change this about myself but I just have accepted the fact that mornings aren't my thing. I get so stressed scrambling around trying to get a smoothie together and pack my vitamins, snacks, waters, for the whole day. To be honest I usually grab the quickest thing possible and bolt out the door.
This leaves me with not the greatest breakfast and trying to remember to take all of my supplements when I get home. Smoothies are such a great way to pack in veggies, fruits, and supplements/powders that make up for what you aren't getting throughout the rest of your day so I had to figure out a way to make this work.
After I listened to The Skinny Confidental podcast a couple weeks ago with Dr. Mona Vand, my life CHANGED. It seems so simple but it just made so much sense and how the heck did I not think of this before. Mona said that she preps her smoothies in pre portioned bags for each day so that she doesn't have to scramble in the morning to get ingredients together. THIS MAKES SO MUCH FREAKING SENSE.
So I've started doing this and it is a true game changer.
I wanted to show you guys what I put in my smoothies and how seriously freaking easy it is. I also have been doing this with supplements. If you have Crohn's or any chronic illness you know taking your supplements are crucial to keep your body functioning so forgetting them and not being organized with what you are taking can really screw things up.
So here are the detAILs.
Make it SUPER easy.
I usually break it down by:
Boom. Out the door.
My favorite combination is one handful of spinach, one handful of blueberries, chia seeds, maca powder, and spirulina powder. You can add regular water or coconut water if you are feeling crazy. Sometimes I mix up the consistency by adding some ice.
This is a great way to pack in nutrients at the beginning of your day and start things off the right way while not having to stress out in the kitchen in the AM.
I will do a separate post about what I am doing with my vitamins and what vitamins/ supplements I've been taking but I will just saw this for now, pre packing them for the week is a game changer.
I also have been testing out some supplements that you can just add into your water, stir, and enjoy which is also another lazy girl tip I will be sharing with ya'll once I narrow down my favorites.
All of the lazy girl tips will be coming your way so stay tuned.
While you wait, I'm dying to know what your tips and tricks are AND what are your favorite morning smoothie add ins?
If you guys haven't noticed I've really embraced Instagram Stories after a long while of shying away from anything following the Snapchat model. I never jumped on board to Snap bandwagon just because to me it honestly just seemed like a whole lot of work and set up for little to no ROI. Let me explain.... you have to make a conscious effort to make sure you are promoting yet another user name on another platform for your brand, you have to make sure you are keeping up adding brands you are going to promote on both Instagram and Snapchat, and it just was another app that I had to deal with. Sounds high maintenance but I also just couldn't get into the whole sharing every little thing in my life until I realized there was actually value I could add by doing so. I still don't share everything but I do get to share quick tips on products, funny things about my dogs, and give people a look at what my non curated life looks like. Not only does this leave my Instagram feed freed up but it also has helped me to connect with readers/followers of CB in a whole new way. I just love it now. I like that Instagram is already something that I utilize on the regular so adding a new feature is easily integrated into my social media habits. I love that I can just tag brands that I already love without having to go find and follow on another site and I love being able to see updates from not only my friends but businesses and bloggers I follow along with. Instagram you did it right. There are a whole lot of other things that I do not like about you right now but I will save that for a different post..... (in case you haven't heard, Google "Instagram algorithm" be prepared for lots of shade).
Basically the point of this whole rant is that I've been utilizing stories to share real time updates and finds so I think I have slacked a little on sharing them on here. I DO want to get back to doing that though because I think it really is important to have posts to go back to that round up the top content you are sharing day to day. So, takeaway #1- follow me on Instagram to see real time updates, #2- enjoy this new, updated post of all of my favorite new and now finds that I can't get enough of.
I absolutely LOVE decorating for Fall. That being said, though, I don't like veering from my neutral color scheme and the usual fall colors don't go with my whole "look" I have going on at home. In the past I have been all about the white pumpkin decorating craze that dominates Pinterest but this year I switched things up to green pumpkins! They aren't AS basic as the white pumpkins but still fit my color scheme requirements. I picked up some cute decor for Fall (including green pumpkins, at Hobby Lobby and Target).
FARMACY LIP BLOOM
I got a sample of this product at Sephora the other day and have been so obsessed ever since. It is super moisturizing, tastes amazing, and adds a perfect finish to your lips if you are going for a natural look (which I pretty much always am). I can't get enough of this stuff and have been recommending it right and left to pretty much every person I meet. You can get it for yourself HERE. You won't regret it.
LE PEN PENS
I am so OCD about office/school supplies and the pens/pencils that I write with so when I found these I was skeptical at first but soon made a believer. I ordered these bad boys off of Amazon (I have the multi color pack) for writing and color coding my planner and for organizing my notes at work. The thin tips make it so easy to write neatly and the color selection is amazing. You can get them on Amazon and have them at your house in two days. Score.
BRUSH ME ORGANIC WHITENING TOOTHPASTE
I did a whole Instagram post on this stuff but to give you a quick rundown.... this stuff is a miracle for whitening teeth painlessly. It is made of clay, it is organic, it is pain free, and you can get 30% off of your first order with my code "M30". Click here, you are welcome.
This stuff has become my go to. So far I have tried their Pinot Noir and the Rose and both have been heaven for my tastebuds. The wines aren't too sweet and definitely gets you a little buzzed with your first class (or is that just me?). Did I mention that they come in cans? Yup, cans. So they are great for bonfires and other outdoor Fall events. Especially for us gluten free folk who can't drink beer, these are a cool alternative so you don't have to look like the asshole drinking out of a wine class while everyone else has Miller Lite cans.
I always see Moon Juice products featured by The Skinny Confidential but haven't been totally sold. The other day I gave in and tried this Brain Powder one morning at work. I was pretty surprised that about 20 minutes after drinking the powder (I mixed it with caffeine free mint tea) I was more alert, awake, and focused. Usually it takes me a couple cups of coffee to get to that point but if this powder can get me amped up that quickly without the negative gastro effects from coffee then I guess it is worth it! Get yours here.
I am always on the hunt for products that will hydrate my skin without making me break out or have a reaction from it. ThirstyMud is heaven for skin transitioning seasons. I put it on for about 20 minutes while I am taking a bubble bath and when I take it off my skin feels plump, moisturized, and so smooth. A little of this stuff goes a long way so you can make the jar last.
KONG DOG TOYS
Charleston is obsessed with toys that we can stuff treats into and those things will keep him busy for hours. Kong toys are a lifesaver when we are trying to get things done around the house and need Charleston to be occupied. Rhaegar is a little easier to entertain. We put him in front of the window and he can stare for hours. I like to browse the different Kong toys at my local pet store to decide what is best for my boys. There are different ones for different ages and strength of chewers.
BLACK BEAN PASTA
It all started with Red Lentil pasta from Trader Joe's and then when I saw this stuff I had to give it a try. This has quickly become a dinner staple in my household especially when I need to whip something up quickly. While I usually opt for zoodles or spaghetti squash for a gluten free pasta alternative, this pasta is a great way to get your carb fix while still packing in protein and keeping gluten free. I usually just make this quickly with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt, and parmesan cheese. Perfect come home late from work week night dinner.
BUTTER LONDON WINK EYE PENCIL
I was going through my makeup to organize it the other day and found an unopened Butter London eye pencil that I got for free a while ago and never had the chance to use. What! So I started using this in Earl Grey and have become kind of addicted to it. I like that it is a softer color than the black I usually use. It blends easily and is long lasting so I don't have to worry about it smudging throughout the day, even when my eyes are watery from allergies. I've used other Butter London products, all of which have been great, so I wasn't surprise when this stuff exceeded my expectations. You can get yours from Ulta.com.
MARLEYLILLY MONOGRAMMED BALLET FLATS
I am a Tory Burch flats girl through and through. Call me basic, but I love how comfortable and durable they are. I have worn some variation of a Tory Burch flat almost everyday to work for the past year or so. My black flats are on their last leg so I wanted to replace them but try something new. I have been loving monograms lately, especially with my new monogram (I am so corny, I know). When I saw that I could get monogrammed flats from Marleylilly I had to place an order ASAP. I am so picky about my shoes but these definitely are up to my standards. They are cute, comfortable, and unique to you.
I can't wait to hear what you guys end up trying or have tried from this list! Also, please feel free to message me any recommendations on new things to try! I am always game for a new product.
I am so excited for today's post! It is full of a ton of valuable information for people struggling with IBD or digestive issues of any sort and explains the true importance of having a registered dietician as part of your care team. Lucky for me, one of my childhood friends, Raquel, is a super knowledgable RD who deals with Crohn's patients on a regular basis. On top of her day job she also has a blog that is full of recipes that are not only nutritious but also super yummy. Raquel is also extremely passionate about fitness and overall helping people learn to live happy, healthy live!
She offered to answer some FAQs for Crohnically Blonde readers to help us navigate the wild world of trying to figure out what we should and should not be eating. All of her tips are extremely helpful and are very easy to incorporate into your daily routine. I know for me this information really helped to clear up a few things that I had questions about. In addition, it really made me realize that I need a Registered Dietitian that I can utilize on a regular basis. I hope you all enjoy and find a ton of value in this post, just like I did!
BEFORE WE START... HERE IS A LITTLE INFO ON RAQUEL/ SINCERELY-NOURISHED.COM
Raquel Redmond is a Registered Dietitian working in acute care in Philadelphia. She is an advocate of eating well and being well without the pressure. She can help you reach your goals! Browse recipes and nutrition tips, or reach out to work with her to assess your dietary needs on her blog. Sincerely Nourished (http://sincerely-nourished.com/blog) is a source for nutrition advice and ways to improve your quality of living focused on healthy eating, disease prevention & management.
I, personally, love her blog and keeping up with her meal suggestions via her Instagram (@dietitianraquel). My favorite thing about her recipes and suggestions are how doable they are. Not only does she feature original recipes but also suggests meals/snacks while you are on the go and meal ideas for eating out. Go give her a follow! You will not be disappointed.
NOW FOR THE GOOD STUFF.....
CB: It seems like everyone I talk to has different "trigger foods" that spark their symptoms. Is there a specific science behind what foods are truly the worst for Crohn's sufferers or does it really depend on the person?
SN: Unfortunately, there is no science behind it! The best thing you can do to avoid symptoms is to eat well. You may not be able to digest or absorb all the nutrients you eat so it is paramount that you stick to a healthy diet and get enough fluids. People with Crohn’s and UC are at risk for malnutrition due to diarrhea, loss of appetite, decreased intake and/or malabsorption, corticosteroid use, and inflammation. Make sure to eat every 3-4 hours and try to avoid skipping meals. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks and try not to use sugar substitutes.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but try keeping a food diary that also includes your symptoms. You may find that certain foods give you symptoms on a consistent basis and should limit or avoid them. I have found that people who are strict about keeping a food diary are able to control their symptoms better.
The Low FODMAP diet may be an option for you if you continually have symptoms. Talk to a Registered Dietitian to find out more!
CB: What are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat either during a flare up or to prevent one?
SN: Anti-inflammatory foods are fruits such as berries and oranges, green leafy vegetables and tomatoes, fatty fish and nuts, olive oil and turmeric. You definitely want to avoid foods that promote inflammation such as fried foods, soda, simple carbohydrates and processed meats.
When you don’t have symptoms, include whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This way you will get a variety of anti-inflammatory foods. You may want to take a chewable multivitamin daily! If you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, then you should take a chewable calcium supplement with vitamin D.
P.S. Supplements could contribute to your GI symptoms. It is important to check the labels, read the ingredients and make sure that there is no interaction between the supplement and medications you are taking. You should consider eliminating unnecessary supplements from your routine.
CB: Often times Crohn's patients get put on liquid diets (either clear or full). What are some ways to still make sure you are getting enough nutrients and protein to sustain you throughout the day?
SN: As you probably know, it is extremely hard to meet your calorie and protein needs while on a clear or full liquid diet. In an acute care setting we generally recommend supplements (i.e. Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast etc.) to help people meet their nutrient needs. If you are able to tolerate supplements I would recommend you drink them while on these diets. At home you will have more options and probably tastier options than while admitted to the hospital. A dietitian can help you come up with more options and recipes.
Clear liquids: jello, broth, juice, water ice, a clear supplement
Full liquids: anything on a clear liquid diet, cream soups, ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, cream of wheat, smoothies, regular supplements
CB: What foods/drinks are the best for getting an added dose of probiotics?
SN: Probiotic food trends are on the rise! A probiotic supplement may not contain the strain of probiotic that works best for you. Supplements contain only the most common strains of probiotics. But, you can totally get probiotics from food! Try kombucha (my favorite), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods to eat your probiotics. Yogurt is also a good source. Probiotics may increase gas and bloating so try these foods in small amounts.
Sometimes the Crohn's friendly food options are limited when traveling or attending events. What are some tried and true snacks that you recommend to throw in your bag before leaving the house?
Some of the best grab and go snacks are the same for people with and without IBD. A handful of nuts or nut based bar (think KIND bar) is easy to put in your purse or pocket. A piece of whole fruit is also easy on the go. If you have a lunch box and ice packs you can get a little more creative. Yogurt, fruit cups, cheese sticks or hummus are all good options. A Registered Dietitian can give you even more options that work with your body.
CB: Does Crohn's/UC change the way your body absorbs or metabolizes food?
SN: Yes, IBD can change the way your body absorbs and digests food. Most commonly it may negatively impact the absorption of nutrients. Due to mucosal inflammation your body may not absorb everything you eat. This is why it is so important to maintain a good nutritional status while you don’t have symptoms!
CB: I lot of people I know suffering from IBD (me included) are constantly on steroids. These are notorious for causing weight gain. What are your tips for staying slim even while on high doses of these medications?
SN: If you are taking a steroid you should stick to a low fiber diet. While having symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea you should remain on this diet. When symptoms decrease you can slowly add small amount of whole grain foods and high fiber fruits and vegetables. Don’t continue adding more fiber into your diet if you start having symptoms again.
Steroids can also increase your blood sugar. You may need to pay attention to how many carbohydrates you are eating. Carbohydrates include fruits, dairy products and starchy foods. A Registered Dietitian is trained to help you control your blood sugars through diet while you are taking steroids if this becomes a problem for you.
P.S. If you are taking Methotrexate or Sulfasalazine you should take an extra 1 milligram of folic acid daily except on the day you receive Methotrexate.
CB: Why is it so important to have a Registered Dietitian to work with if you suffer from Crohn’s/UC/IBD?
SN: Working with a dietitian can help ease the burden of constantly worrying about what to eat! We can’t totally prevent flare ups, but in addition to your medications we can help make eating a more enjoyable occasion. If you would like to work with me – please reach out! I can also make a referral to a dietitian in your area.
You know when you keep hearing about something in a really short timeframe that you have never paid attention to before but all of a sudden it seems like everyone is talking about it and you don't know how you've lived your life without knowing about it?
That is how I feel about the Keto diet. Within a few day timespan I heard about it through two people randomly at work, randomly on social media, and through Matt's mom. Coincidence? I think not.
After some research I realized that this has been a "thing" for quite some time now and it isn't just a fad diet that is used to drop pounds quickly. It has been used to treat serious medical conditions such as epilepsy and migraines, and overall has proven to decrease inflammation in the digestive system. Have I been living under a freaking rock?
No. But sort of.
If you have been too then here is a rundown on what Keto actually is.
I usually try and steer myself away from getting to engrossed in different eating patterns due to 1. my sensitive digestive system and 2. my past with an eating disorder. After years of ongoing cognitive behavioral therapy telling you that diets are silly and counterproductive, there has been nothing to really stir the pot like Crohn's Disease. Having Crohn's means you 100% have to change up your diet in at least someway and be way more aware of what you are putting in your body. For the past couple of years I have just been adhering to a strict gluten free diet which has helped but at the same time not gotten me into remission yet. I made a conscious effort to eat decently healthy but carbs, sugars, and unnatural crap still littered my diet probably more than it should have.
When I went in for my Remicade infustion the other day, I was completely at my wits end about what to do. I saw a different doctor than usual and she made a suggestion that spurred a serious realization for me. She said that if I want to stay off of steroids on top of my Remicade I should just really try and buckle down and watch my diet. I always just convinced myself that I was doing enough when it came to diet but this conversation was enough to make me realize maybe I wasn't.
She suggested that I cut out dairy if that is something that seems to be an issue and to go back to following the low FODMAP diet. All of this seemed irritating but necessary. I figured I would mention to her a Ketogenic Diet instead just to see what she thought about it. She said that is definitely an option and we sort of left it at that.
I continued to Google and research everything about dairy free/low FODMAP diets and a Ketogenic Diet. Keto just seemed to make sense. It eliminates/limits so many inflammatory foods, how could it not be good for my situation? The problem I kept debating was the dairy piece of it. Is dairy really my problem? Or is it all of the other crap that I'm ingesting. Who. Freaking. Knows.
What I did decide is that SOMETHING needs to change. Clearly whatever I am doing isn't working for me. I've decided that I think I'm going to go for it and make that change. Not necessarily hardcore Keto because with the lifestyle I have, let's be real, I am never going to be able to follow it perfectly. I like to think it is more of a Keto inspired situation. I talked to Matt and got his nursing expertise. He said that a trial period can't hurt and if the dairy seems to be negatively effecting things then we reevaluate and if not then we keep going. Over these past few years I have grown continuously more in tune with my symptoms so I am using this as an experiment and gauging my response. I'm making a conscious effort to decrease sugars, processed foods, and unnecessary carbs. Carbs and Crohn's can be a rough situation. I crave starchy things when my stomach feels acidic and during my liquid diets I often resort to processed soups which contain additives and often times hidden sugars. These things are completely counter productive to my end goal. While I am limiting these things I will be upping my healthy fats, protein, and veggies (cooked of course to save my stomach!).
I know it seems a bit extreme to be on a Keto Diet long term so I'm not planning on doing that by any means. I'm really just trying to find an eating style that works for my situation and that I can adopt long term. I think that doing a type of lower carb and sugar stint will help me determine if these are things I should implement long term. Like I said, this is an experiment that hopefully I can come to some conclusions from. I am all about balance and adhering to such a strict diet can take some of the fun out of life. Coming from a place of unbalanced eating this can definitely be a challenge. I am an all or nothing kind of person. There is no 'sort of' with me, it either it is or it isn't. That being said, life is a huge gray area and I find that completely terrifying. If I box myself into "good days" and "bad days" I just start a downward spiral of judgement and frustration. That is why I am taking a fun approach to this. I am striving for more balance, more mindfulness, and more compassion for my own body. I shared my concerns with Matt and he is committed to hold me accountable if I get too crazy into this. That is a great partner right there, thanks babe!
No matter what I conclude from this shift in mindset and new health journey, I see this as being a positive experience. It is forcing me to reconnect with what I am putting in my body and really making sure I am doing everything I can, and more, to combat Crohn's the best way I know how.
This is the second day I have implemented my lifestyle change and I actually feel like I have more energy. It could be just the good weather or who knows... this thing really could work. I haven't been craving starchy things, just sugar, and I have been extremely thirsty but that has forced me to drink probably twice the amount of water (if not more) than I usually drink each day. As for stomach issues... absolutely NONE the past two days. Coincidence? Placebo effect? We shall wait and see.....
I will continue to keep you all updated on my progress through this and I would love to hear from anyone who has done Keto or has suffered with Crohn's and what styles of eating they have adopted. Any of the above! As always, your thoughts are always greatly appreciated.
SPOILER ALERT: Crohnically Blonde has an awesome guest post coming up that couldn't have happened at a more perfect time. Right in the middle of my food crisis, we are lucky enough to have a blogger whose job it is to deal with food crises on a daily basis! All of her knowledge will be featured on the blog later this week so STAY TUNED.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.