Sunday, July 24, 2016

Poached egg and Artichoke salad

Poached eggs has to be my second favorite way to have eggs - my first being fried over medium. Poached eggs, when done correctly, are positively divine. I find bringing salted water to a boil, with a splash of vinegar helps to prevent the egg white from separating from the yolk in the cooking process. I also swirl a large spoon to make a whirl pool in the boiling water before (Gently) dropping an egg in the water. Continue to swirl the water to keep the egg whites nicely tight together. Once the whites are set, strain the eggs on a paper towel.

To assemble I used a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, sliced cherry tomatoes, and two pieces of crumbled bacon. Low carb, low calorie, fully satisfying meal for brunch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anxiety - the ugly truth

The other night I had one of the worst anxiety / panic attacks that I've had in a very long time. I think the last time I had a panic attack like this was 12 or 13 years ago. I've been on and off anti-anxiety medication since 1999. It helps, somewhat, but really drugs only help to suppress symptoms - they don't fix root cause. And lets face it - I've had a lot of shit go down in my life that has added to this anxiety disorder. So, when I have one of these slightly scary attacks, it's a big deal. I've noticed in the past maybe 4 to 6 weeks I've been really on edge. Not over anything in particular, because these kind of disorders don't really like to follow rules or patterns - but I've been really "off". I've been way more bitchy the past few weeks than I have been in a long time - and it's been pretty evident in not just my personal life at home with my husband - but it's filtered into my every day life at work, with friends, on line, with myself, etc. To be honest, it's put me in a dark place inside myself that is a little scary for me to be. I become irrational, and agitated, vengeful, and jump to conclusions (whether right or wrong) quickly. But, I'm at least recognizing the signs that I'm some what spiraling out of control.

One of the biggest hurdles I still face is food addiction. Normally food has always been my best friend. It's been my comfort, my happiness, my sadness, my "shoulder to lean on", my excuse to continue being unhealthy. And the other night, while in the middle of this really terrifying panic attack - I thought about eating. I thought that if I just ate something - I would feel better. But I didn't.

I'll try to describe to you what having a panic disorder is like. I don't know that words can adequately describe it - but I'll try.

It's the loneliest feeling in the world. When the attack first started coming on - I was on line. I quickly went through my cell phone looking for someone to call. And there were people - but then this voice (the demon as I like to call it) repeatedly told me put the phone down. No one gives shit about you. No one wants to hear you sniffling, and whining, and your sorry excuse for a life. No one wants to be called at 10pm on a work night to be disrupted by someone as worthless and meaningless as me to talk me off the ledge, because I'm such a failure at being a well put together adult. It felt as though my heart was being strangled, and my chest was being crushed under slabs of stone, and that my brain was going to turn to sludge and fall out of my nose. This went on for a good hour. And I cried. I sat in my living room, on my sofa, starring at my phone. And I just cried. I felt so alone. And what's worse is I was making myself feel that way. But at the time, I felt so helpless to fight against this panic inside my brain. After about an hour, I went upstairs. Normally, I would just crawl in bed, and cry as quietly as I possibly can to not wake up Bj. This night, however, I didn't do that. I woke him up.

Bj has never had to experience a panic attack of this magnitude with me. I was in a fit of frenzy and hysteria - and I was violently convulsing. He tried to hold me down to stop the shaking - tried calming me - but that "demon" in my head just got louder, and louder, and louder.

And the thing that this particular "demon" likes to say over and over again is "YOU ARE WORTHLESS. YOU SHOULD JUST KILL YOURSELF".

The voice of that demon? It's mine. It's never some foreign unknown voice. It's always my voice.

Bj didn't let me go. He held me until I fell asleep, and it was the safest I have felt in a long time. Specifically, safe from myself. I find killing myself with food is my preferred way of "suicide". And I think, really, that's what I've been doing for the past 20 years. I've just been killing myself to shut that voice up in my head, and by proxy, killing "me". Food really had taken over my life.

The scary thing about being a food addict is - there isn't true "Rehab" from it. You have to eat. Humans require food to sustain life. I'm not saying that food addiction is worse than drug or alcohol or gambling, etc... I think they are all equally destructive. But the one difference is - you HAVE TO have food. You don't have to have drugs, or alcohol, or gamble - to sustain life. So for me, dealing with this food addiction - it's sometimes paralyzing. Finding a balance between eating food you like to eat, and eating healthy, is sometimes a hard balance to find.

But the fact that I didn't succumb to my desire to stuff my face to "eat the pain away" the other night - that's a big step for me. I have pretty weak will power most of the time.

I think that there has been such a negative stigma in society surrounding mental health issues that most people are afraid to talk about this kind of thing. But, I think as a society - the more we talk about it, the more we bring these kinds of disorders to light - the better chance there is for us to heal from it, and help others face and deal with their "Demons", too. I'm not ashamed that I have a anxiety disorder. I'm not ashamed that I have depression, and struggle with a food addiction. I'm not ashamed that I'm still struggling to find my feet in this world. It's my journey, and I'm not ashamed of that.

I've been thinking about getting a new tattoo for some time. But I didn't know what I wanted to get. Putting something permanent on your body is an expression of who you are through art. It should mean something to you - it's part of your story. And I finally found the perfect piece that I want to have inked on me.

This will be going on my inner left forearm. I think it's a good reminder to myself when I'm in these dark places in my head that it doesn't matter what lies this "demon" tries to tell me - I AM enough. I am perfectly imperfect. And I'm a work in progress. I will be free of this addiction. I will succeed at being happy. I will be me. Whatever the cost.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Low Carb Cauli-Tots - so delicious!

I can liken these to McDonalds hash browns... Lets face it - that's about the only good tasting thing at McDonalds besides their fries. I was craving tater tots in the worst way the other night, and my husband came up with this brilliant recipe. It is so good, and so satisfying. I will never have to sneak a McDonalds hash brown ever again.

Here's what you'll need:

3 cups cauliflower rice - steamed in microwave for 2-3 minutes
2 tbspn butter, melted
1 cup pork rind crumbs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch garlic powder
pinch onion powder
1 egg

After steaming cauli-rice in microwave, add melted butter and egg - beat well. Add cheese, pork rind crumbs, and seasoning - mix until completely incorporated. If the mixture is too wet - add more pork rind crumbs. Mold in hands into disks - and put on parchment lined baking sheet that was sprinkled with additional pork rind crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake 15 minutes 375 degrees, then flip over and bake an additional 5 minutes.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Chocolate coconut pinwheel sandwich cookies - Low Carb

There are days when all I want is to eat a huge chocolate bar, and while that is not an option - finding alternate ways of having the snacks you crave is possible. I love chocolate. I love cookies. I love cookies that are chocolate. From that love, these little chocolate pinwheel sandwich cookies were born.

What you're going to need:

1 Stick butter, softened at room temperature (salted)
1 Cup sugar substitute (we use Pyre which is a Stevia based sugar substitute)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 Large eggs
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Use the lowest carb one you can find - ultimately, unsweetened cocoa powder should be zero carb. Some have fillers - check for that)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla together until fluffy. Add cocoa powder. Mix. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Mix in coconut flour, and coconut flakes. Once this is all combined, see how stiff the batter is after sitting for 2-3 minutes. If it's really stiff - add 1 Tbsp water at a time to the batter to thin out to make a consistency that will work in a piping bag, but still hold form when piped.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. With a spatula, scoop cookie batter into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. If you don't have a piping bag and tips, just put the batter inside a large zip lock bag, push down into 1 corner, and snip the corner with a pair of scissors. Pipe 1 inch round cookies onto the parchment paper. You will get approximately 50 cookies. I actually got around 56 when I made this the first time.

Bake for 5-7 minutes. Check the cookies half way through - if they still have a shiny appearance they are not ready yet. Touch them, if they are dry but still springy - they are ready to be taken out of the oven. Allow them to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile... make the filling. You will need 1/4 cup sugar free chocolate syrup used for ice cream. I keep mine in the fridge which makes it really nice and thick. To that, add 1/4 cup butter, and 1/4 cup cream cheese. Beat together until creamy and soft. Do not melt the butter or the cream cheese. You need all the ingredients to be solid - not melted. Add 1 Tbsp sugar substitute at a time, and add until it reaches your desired sweetness.

Once the frosting is done, and the cookies are cooled - spread a little of the frosting on one of the cookie halves, and place a second cookie on top of that. Once all done, I put the cookies in the fridge to allow the frosting centers to set.

Each sandwich cookie is approximately 1.5 net carbs per sandwich cookie. These are a perfect little treat when you need something sweet.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I have brothers, three.

Because I'm the youngest of 4 children, it's no surprise that not many realize that I have three older brothers. Specially, half brothers if you look at blood lines and give a shit about those kind of definitions. I am ten years younger than my youngest brother, and 14 years younger than my oldest.

I only know one of my brothers. And to say I "know" him is probably a stretch. He is the one that I had closest proximity to growing up. I don't know what his favorite food is, his sports teams, his favorite band (I think Metallica?), his favorite color, or what his best subject in school was. I couldn't tell you what his dreams and hopes were growing up as a kid, and if the life he has now is all he dreamed it would be. And that breaks my heart. Because I love him. I love all my brothers. But I don't know a single one of them.

I've tried pushing aside for many years my disappointment in not having a tight family unit my entire life. And honestly, there have been times that I felt like the unwanted sibling. The one that kind of just showed up and changed their lives. I'm only their half sister - but I don't feel like a sister at all. And God I wish I did. There are so many times in my life that I needed (WANTED) my brothers to be there for me. To be able to pick up the phone and call them. To share with them my accomplishments, my failures, to seek advice - and most importantly, be part of their lives, and the lives they've built.

In the past few years my middle brother Bob (the one that grew up in Vermont with me) and I have been working on rebuilding our relationship - and I'm so grateful for that. I've missed so much - watching his kids grow up - watching them start to build families of their own. And those times that I've been able to spend with him, I feel the love that a brother has for a sister, and likewise, the love a sister has for her brother. I've missed that. I love the times I've been able to spend with him, and his family - I cherish those times, because they've been so few. I look at old family photos of when I was young, and my brothers were almost always with me in those photos.

My oldest brother didn't move to Vermont with us in 1982. He stayed in New Jersey. He was 16, and was finishing highschool, and had a life there. My two other brothers did move to Vermont - but my youngest brother moved back to New Jersey when I was 6 or 7. My memories of Richard are limited to me usually annoying the shit out of him, or him drawing. He was (IS) an incredible artist. I wish I had a fraction of the talent he has. My middle brother and I are the only ones that remained in Vermont. And I think that killed Bob a bit inside, to not have his brothers with him, too.

I look at us all now - grown adults with very different and separate lives - and I realize as much as I don't know them - they don't know me, either. I don't know if I make them proud, am a disappointment, or if they couldn't care either way. I haven't seen Richard in probably 10 years (maybe more), and my oldest brother Bill I haven't seen since 2012.

How is that I can miss people I don't even know, the way that I do? Is it the blood that binds? Or that inherent need to a family connection... It doesn't make it hurt less. In fact, it scares me that the older we get, and the more that time separates us - the less chance there is to build a family relationship.

I know I keep going back to this - but, it's the only thing I can compare to. Jordan, who passed away in March, was the youngest of the 4 Smith boys. His passing had such a profound affect on not just his family, but his community. Their family has a bond unlike any I've ever witnessed. And it terrifies me that some day - we're all going to have to attend one of our siblings funerals (because lets face it - we're not going to live forever) and I won't know what to say. I won't have funny stories to share, I won't have memories that will tie with any one else.

And they would not have anything they could say about me. I'm Tracy. I'm their youngest sibling. I live in Pennsylvania with my husband BJ. I have cats, and rabbits, and I like to cook. Beyond that, I don't think they have much else to go on. And it hurts. God it hurts. Because I so much want them to want me as their sister. And I don't know if I'll ever have that - and honestly - I'm so terrified of the rejection - I haven't reached out because I'm too scared of not being wanted.

A few weeks ago my therapist wanted me to write a letter to each of my siblings. I've sat down to write these letters more times than I can express - and the words just won't come. I love people who are phantoms to me. I miss memories that never happened. I long for a bond that I might never have. And I mourn the relationships that never existed.

I guess that's why I'm so intent on living in the here and now. I've already missed so much - I don't want to miss more. And even if I never get to build a relationship with Bill and Richard - I'm so very grateful to build one with Bob. He has no idea how much I've needed him, and wanted him in my life. And how much I've missed having that connection to another person who shares family history with me. I haven't been a perfect sister, sister in law, aunt, or cousin - and I can't reverse time to fix things. All I can do now is make sure I'm as present as I can be, and not waste an opportunity.

I have brothers, three. And they all mean so very much to me. I wish they knew... I wish I was important, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An open letter to the grieving

Three months ago my home town community lost a great soul. And that loss has been met with incredible grief, and compassion, and community. In the time since Jordan's passing, I've thought a lot about my life, my ambitions, my goals, my fears, my failures, and my successes. I've revisited old hurts, old anger, old fear... and what I realized is that I never worked through the grief.

Grieving is complicated, and it's messy, and it hurts - it's something that no one wants to feel or go through. It can be isolating, and suffocating, and unfortunately it seems to go on a lot longer than you anticipate - because there are no rules to grief. There isn't a set time frame to heal.

Grief is like an unwelcomed roommate that moves into your soul - constantly reminding you of the life you will never have because of what you've lost. Grief... it's painful. But it also has the incredible ability to heal.

Every day people post things on the celebration page that was set up in memory of Jordan. I am witness to so much love, and memories, and how much hurt people are carrying with them. Each trying in their own way to honor this person, to not forget, to not let go...

The one thing I do know about grief is that you can't run away from it, and hope you eventually get strong enough to face it. It will still be there, teeth sharp, angry, hopeless, riddled with guilt - waiting for you to acknowledge it's existence. But, it has to be felt. And I know that's terrifying... and I know that people will try to avoid those in the grieving process because they are afraid to upset the person, and not know the right thing to say. There is no right thing to say. Only true compassion and love can speak to grief. And you, the grieving, may not feel strong enough to face this. But you ARE strong. You've already lived through the worst moment in your life. You are strong.

I admit I haven't been all that strong over the years. But I can feel myself pulling up the bootstraps, and getting on with it. It's not easy, and it has been painful. But that's the thing about pain. It's a necessary evil that is part of life. A life well lived experiences both great joy, and great suffering - tears, and laughter. And just because you struggle, doesn't mean you've failed. It means you're human, and you're living the most real of all human stories.

I've experienced quite a bit of loss in my life - but nothing to the extent of losing a child the way Jordan's parents have - or losing a husband the way his wife Sarah has. And I honestly don't know what I would do faced with that loss. But these people... how they have rallied. There hasn't been a beat missed. There has just been more love, and honor, and giving since his passing - this small town community has been brought to life through the death of one of it's members. It makes me question - what was I running away from? That's rhetorical. I know the answer.

I absolutely loathe grief, but I am grateful for it's life lessons. This community knows love... because they have lost what they love. And I know what it is to hope, because I have lost hope before. We also know what it is to dream - because life isn't always going to lead us down the path we've dreamt of. Grief teaches us what is most important.

It can also open your heart. Once you've experienced a loss, and have gone through this process of grieving - you change. You become more compassionate, and understanding, and empathetic to others. You will walk with them, you will cry with them, and you will be their anchor not because you say the right things, but because of what you felt.

And I know that there are those of us in this community that fear we will never know joy again. That the tears will never stop coming. That this empty aching inside will never fill will love to make us whole again. Grieving is the prelude to joy. Mourning our losses, that is what will bring us back to happiness. Being happy doesn't mean that we're forgetting, or letting go of those we've lost - we're honoring them by honoring our lives, moving forward with open hearts, and living with great joy.

Happy Birthday, Jordan. Give 'em hell up there. We'll all raise a glass to you down here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Oh pizza crust, oh pizza crust, how I love to eat you

I would say that pizza is probably an average Americans #1 go to comfort food. At least, I know it is for me. I love me some good pizza. When you're living a low carb life style - pizza is a no no. It's VERY high in carbs - not only from the crust, but the sauce, the toppings, etc. Finding an acceptable, good tasting low carb pizza crust has been an adventure - but I feel that we've found several very acceptable ways to make a healthy, yet flavorful pizza crust that satisfies the need to feed the pizza monster.

This one is probably my current favorite. And it's stupid simple. 2 large eggs, 3/4 cup shredded Mexican style cheese, 1/2 tsp italian seasoning, a pinch garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Mix in a bowl. In a large non-stick skillet - spray with coconut oil or whatever oil you prefer, and turn onto medium high heat. Pour the egg / cheese mixture into the skillet, and cover. Allow this to cook for a good 5 minutes. Lift with a spatula to see if the underside is golden brown. If not, allow to cook another 2-3 minutes. When golden brown - flip over. Cook on the other side 2-3 minutes. Take your favorite marinara - in our case it is Rao's artichoke sauce (2 net carbs for 1/2 cup) 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, and your favorite toppings - we use a few slices of pepperoni - turkey or regular, doesn't matter. All tastes the same to me! Put a cover back on - and allow the cheese to melt completely. Once melted - slide out onto a counter to let cool and set for 5 minutes. Then slice up and eat!

This would be my second favorite recipe. This is the egg & cream cheese crust. You will need 1 8 ounce block of cream cheese. 3 eggs. 1 Ba g(2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese. 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Heat cream cheese for about 10 seconds to soften. Mix with a fork until smooth. Add in eggs, and beat until completely incorporated. Add cheese, and seasonings. Mix well.

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray with oil. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture onto the sheet with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Again, top with your favorite sauce and toppings, and return to oven until cheese melts completely.

This one is a little higher in carbs - but it is still a way healthier option than a regular pizza. This is the broccoli crust. I know it sounds weird, and slightly frightening... but just trust me on this.

Steamed broccoli that was pulsed into tiny bits in the ninja blender, mixed with 8 eggs, 2 cups almond / coconut flour mix, 1 1/4 cup shredded cheese, and seasonings - mix until all completely combined and not soupy. Spread out on a parchment paper lined pizza tray, and smooth out to even thickness with a spatula. Bake 375 until the top is brown and bubbly like this picture. I then flipped the pizza (but holding onto the parchment paper and placing the pizza tray over top of the pizza), and baked again for another 10-15 minutes until that side is all nice a bubbly.

Cauliflower crust. Yes, I know... vegetables. But it's actually really good - and I don't like cauliflower, generally. What you'll need is 2 1/2 cups grated cauliflower, 1 large egg, beaten. 1 1/4 shredded mozzarella, 2-3 tbspn asiago or parmesan, Sea salt, and black pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put grated cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, and nuke for approximately 8 minutes, until soft. Allow to cool. You're going to need to strain the living shit out of the cauliflower to rid it of excess moisture. Do this with cheese cloth or a clean tea towel.

Once you've strained the cauliflower, mix in the balance of ingredients until everything is well combined. Spread evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with coconut oil. It will make an approximate 10" round. Bake in oven 10-14 minutes until golden brown. Top with your desired toppings!

And finally, we have Meatza. The meat pizza crust. We normally use a mix of ground beef with pork, and season with our favorite pizza flavored seasonings. Press into a baking dish with high sides (because this will create a lot of juice that has to be drained) and bake in the oven 350 degrees until cooked through. You will need a meat thermometer for this. Once cooked - add your sauce and toppings! Voila! Meatza Pizza!