Here’s To A Healthy May

I’ve signed up for a few daily health challenges for the Month of May. And while I’m not going to commit to blogging every day as well, I want to start posting at least twice a week again.

Those two sentences go together because I hope/plan to blog more about the challenges and getting “healthy” in general. In the past, I have found I am most committed to “healthy” lifestyle changes when I incorporate them into my writing. Previously, I’ve kept personal journals of my “healthy” transformations.  I think writing publicly will keep me more objective rather than just whining at the hard parts.

And this will be the last time I put “healthy” in quotes. You know why I’m doing that, right? Healthy looks very different to different people. Healthy has changed to me at least four times in my life and is probably not done. We learn new facts about foods and our bodies.  We learn new sports. We get older and require different nutrients.  We acquire new injuries.

Like 99.67% of the world, I want to go back to the 22-year-old me who could maintain a reasonable body-type living on pancakes and spaghetti and shake her pretty hard. BE HAPPY NOW AND APPRECIATE YOUR THYROID.

(Not that 99.67% of the world wants to shake 22-year-old Jessica; they want to shake their 22-year-old selves.  We all know Jessica-shakers are in much higher numbers).

I’m not looking for debate regarding what is healthy, although I do welcome ideas and discussion, sympathy and encouragement.

Currently, plain old weight loss is very necessary for me to reach a healthy lifestyle. I’m going back to some tried and true methods, trying some new ones (see 2 May daily challenges), and hopefully find a primary care physician who will listen and help with issues I can’t manage by myself. (I AM ONCE AGAIN LOOKING AT YOU THYROID.)

All that said, I have been meaning to share a recipe here for forever. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but I have never had a recipe be so much “mine” as this one. It is a casserole-type deal that you cut into squares to serve. It combines quinoa, cottage cheese, eggs, and a heap of vegetables with spices that take me straight back to my father’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

I sought out the original recipe and made all my changes in order to get more vegetables in our breakfasts, but this could easily be a side dish or casserole-and-salad lunch meal.

Quinoa Veggie Casserole


1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
7 stalks of celery (1/2 a…head? Of celery?  Is that a thing?), chopped
8 oz package of mushrooms, chopped
1 ½ cups thinly sliced carrots (for me, this was about 18 baby carrots)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4-8 cups fresh spinach leaves (This is because I usually use whatever spinach we have on hand)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups cottage cheese (I use full-fat cottage cheese because they do not add fillers/thickeners)
2-4 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried parsley (up to ¼ cup fresh chopped leaves if available)
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika

Optional: Breadcrumbs for the bottom of the casserole pan.

Please note: this can be done in many different stages.  It’s not that much work but it does require lots of chopping plus multiple pots and I’m a lazy dishwasher.  I’ve taken as many as three days to complete this dish.  (Cooked quinoa day 1, cooked veggies day 2, finished day 3)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 1:  Cook one cup quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside.

Step 2: Put a LARGE skillet on low/medium low heat and add two tablespoons olive oil.  You are going to sauté all the vegetables very slowly.  The onions and celery should sweat instead of caramelize.

Step 3:  Chop all the vegetables.  This is the most tedious part of the recipe but I find once I get the onions and celery cooking, I am highly motivated by the smell.  The smaller you can slice/chop, usually the better.  Except I like to just halve the cherry tomatoes and have them be bursts of flavor in the casserole.

Step 4: Sauté all the vegetables.  You want to put the vegetables in the skillet in a sensible order for how long they need to cook.  I usually add them as such:

-Onion, then celery.
-Let those start to smell yummy (5-10 minutes?) then add mushrooms and carrots.
-Let that cook until the mushrooms are done.  Add the garlic and cherry tomatoes.
-Let those sauté for just a minute or two, then put the spinach (and parsley if using fresh) on top and put a large lid over the whole thing so the spinach wilts.  I usually have to stir up the vegetables after a minute or so and then put the lid back on and reassess.  As long as the other vegetables have cooked long enough, the spinach does not need to be perfect.  It will almost disappear in the finished casserole.


Step 5: Combine the quinoa, vegetables, and all the spices in a big bowl.

Step 6:  Add cottage cheese and eggs.

Here’s where you are going to have to use your own judgment a little.  Both of these ingredients add protein and bind the casserole together.  Depending on how fresh and watery your vegetables are, you may need less or more.

My suggestion, based on taste, would be to use a full 2 cups of cottage cheese and then add one egg at a time until the contents of the bowl are a little wetter than a good meatloaf and sticks together very well.  I would never use less than 1 cup cottage cheese with 2 eggs and I would err on the side of too wet than too dry.


Isn’t this the most helpful and easy recipe you’ve ever read?

Step 7: Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10 x 14 glass pan.  Optional – sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom.  This is the best way to ensure you can cut “slices” of the casserole and maintain their shape.  But as bread crumbs do not add any nutritional or taste value, I have started to omit them.

Step 8: Spread the contents of your bowl evenly in the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  If the top is not golden brown by then, keeping checking in 5 minute increments.

I make this at night and we microwave slices for breakfast over the next week.  I cut the pan into 8 slices and I estimate a serving is around 300-350 calories, with 1-1/2 servings of vegetables per slice.  All while tasting like you are having Thanksgiving stuffing for breakfast.


Less Awesome

I have cellulitis again!  (And thank you spell check for wanting to change that to cellulite.  Yes, I’ve got that too.)

A very bad case of cellulitis in my groin area stopped our hike of the entire Appalachian Trail this summer.  It got me wondering about bumps I’d had previously and whether instead of being cursed to get so sick, I was actually very lucky that this was the first major illness I’d had from my skin issues.

This time it came on fast.  Within twenty-four hours I knew I needed antibiotics and possibly more.  This is scary for a number of reasons.

1) We live in the boonies now.  We’re actually lucky that we have two clinics and a hospital within an hour drive. But that is a far cry from the 10-minute commute to over a dozen doctors, clinics, hospitals, and specialists we had in Tampa.

2) We had no idea of the quality of care at these facilities.

3) Thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, Tom and I will be covered by a decent plan on January 1, 2014.  So far I believe cellulitis lurks in the shadows, striking at the most inconvenient times.

My saint of a husband dropped everything yesterday morning to accompany me to a clinic.  I had felt OK and gone to work. The cellulitis is in a crease of my left thigh and I would guess that the drive to work and sitting at my desk squeezed/inflamed it.  I then ended up at work alone, felt like shit REAL quick, and had a mild panic attack over trying to drive such a long distance feeling the way I did.

The clinic was nice and clean.  Everyone I saw was professional, knowledgeable, and sympathetic.  They only asked for a small amount upfront and then bill later so I’m unsure how reasonable the visit was.

I saw a Dr. Smith, who chided the previous health care I received on the fact they did not drain the infected area in August.  (Not in a mean way, but in a “I am a Dr who likes to see proper care given” way.) Then when he examined me, he realized he couldn’t drain this either.  (Cellulitis presents on me as very hard, not fluid at all, knots pretty deep under my skin.)

So I got some antibiotics, told to apply hot compresses almost constantly, and a request for a re-check in a few days.  Merry Christmas to me!

My favorite beverages are wine, whiskey, and water. Guess which one I’m allowed to drink right now!

Let’s start a new Christmas tradition of stuffing wet hot rags down our pants!  All! Day!  Long!

In reality, I’m aware I’m very lucky.  I caught this early enough (and crammed three servings of cephalixin in me yesterday afternoon) so that I haven’t had a fever.  The antibiotics to clear up the infection are generic.  I am able to work from home some so I don’t get too behind and can get paid to wear PJs.

And it’s taken me twice as long as usual to write this because I’m getting used to the keyboard on my brand new laptop that Tom insists was not a Christmas present but a “You need a new laptop” present.

Since I would have chosen one without a ten-key built in because HELLO all that space could mean less crampy-hand positions, I will accept this as a non-Christmas gift and expect multitudes of tangibles in festive glory tomorrow morning.  Just don’t be surprised when I jump up and down for joy if a rag falls out of my PJs.

Is That Broccoli In Your Pocket Because I Really Like Broccoli

It’s been a long day with an impromptu three-hour jaunt to/from Rhinelander.

It’s days like this where I’m happy I’ve instilled some healthy habits in our life.

No matter what diet fanaticism you follow, I think you will agree eating more vegetables is good for you.  Even Atkins allowed for tomatoes!

For me, I just feel better.  Whether it’s because it means I’m eating less of other things or directly receiving benefits from the fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants is – to a degree – immaterial.

I aim for seven servings of vegetables a day.  Here is how today broke down:

I woke up dehydrated and a little out of sorts.  I forgot how much I hate weighing the water need of a PM yoga class against my need to not get up in the middle of the night and pee six hundred times.  So I let Tom fix some animal of his choosing for breakfast and I added my go-to AM veggie solution of low-sodium tomato/veggie juice.  I probably drank enough to count as two servings, but only allow myself to count juice as 1 serving.

(I still am a huge fan of green smoothies and blueberry/spinach is in frequent rotation around here.  I pack enough spinach in one smoothie to count as two servings.)

I am trying to clear out some space in the freezer, so for lunch I had some crockpot potato soup.  Besides potatoes, it contained celery, onion, carrot, and spinach.  Maybe some squash too.  I forget now.

I generally count any soup/stew/chili with a huge vegetable base as 1 serving.  So on top of the soup I ate a cup (for two servings) of diced beets.  These came canned (not by me) and I’ll admit canned vegetables are usually not the best choice.  But you know what it’s better than?  Not eating vegetables.

While in Rhinelander, we were both really hungry and stopped at a pub I knew of for a snack/appetizer.  The vegetables – while whole pieces (mushrooms, onion, broccoli, and cauliflower)- were battered and fried.  That, my dears, counts as a big fat zero.

But it kept us from making an entire meal of fast food.  We were OK to come home and cook a real dinner.

I made our favorite go-to vegetable dish of roasted veggies with red pepper flakes.  This is awesome to make for so many reasons.  It’s easy.  You can make a lot at one time.  And if you are someone who doesn’t get a lot of variety in your diet, it’s a way to inhale a rainbow in one dish.  Tonight was broccoli (always a must), cherry tomatoes (ditto), and yellow squash.

(Cut up in a nice healthy chunks, toss liberally with oil, season a bit – you can always add more later, then bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Other vegetables that can work well in this medley are more soft squashes, onion, slices of peppers, and perhaps mushrooms?  Fennel?  I love roasted carrots but they will take longer.  Even baby carrots.  Do those with some harder squashes and other root veggies.)

I had three servings of that.  But then got another bonus serving of veggies because the main dish was chicken Marsala and we always go heavy on the mushrooms.  Which I count as veg because I do not yet have a fungi serving recommendation.

So that makes…eight servings?  On a day when I had to start with my default lame-o juice and didn’t get a chance to have choose a veggie snack like carrots and hummus or a salad.

I was inspired to write this post because I finished dinner and I just felt so….good.  (I’m also high off endorphins from a 30-minute exercise routine.)  It was a kinda hectic day and I definitely did not make the best choices always (Wisconsinites serve everything with Ranch dressing.  I didn’t even know I liked Ranch dressing!  Now I will dip your key fob in it and gobble it up).  But sticking to my goal to shove my face full of greens (and yellows, reds, purples, and oranges) paid off in how my body is handling the stress.

Thank you, Broccoli. For everything.

Cut To The Long Of It

Quickly, because…

1) My laptop booted up all “Desktop?  What Desktop?”  A nice quick re-boot to the head fixed it but now I am doing what every IT nerd does.  Frantically backing up all that stuff I swore I would set to automatically back-up.  (If my laptop does byte the big one and I don’t finish NaBloPoMo, is this the blogging equivalent of dogs eating homework?)

2) I’m back from an evening yoga class at a new fitness studio and I really need a shower.  (The studio has a sort of subscription rate for a series of six weeks of classes.  I don’t like paying up front like that.  I prefer a punch card/X # of visits type deal.  But the subscription comes with access to the gym during a few hours each day when classes aren’t in session.  This might solve TreadmillGate as it’s come to be known (at least by me) in our house.  Aaaaaannnd….end parentheses!)

3)  I have no three.  Oh wait!  I also need to recover from my first skid-out scenario while driving.  Sigh.  I am such an animal of instinct.  Yet at least I was going slow enough I had time to go through this entire thought: “I want to turn this way….I want to turn this way…I’m not turning this way…hmm…Aren’t you supposed to turn INTO the skid?…But I wanna go THIS WAY…Fine…I guess there is not much difference between plowing into the forest and turning into the skid at this point…Huh.”

Cut To The Finish Line

I think I am officially done running for the season.  I enjoyed running as it got colder – even running in snow.  I don’t have a ton of cold-weather exercise clothes, but I was making do.

I liked having to wear a sweatshirt because then I had an easy pocket to put my phone.  Only once did I go out in just sports bra and sweats then overheat and do my cool down like some weird walk of shame with my shirt pooled around my neck and my white belly scaring the wildlife.

But we’ve had several frigid days in a row here, where the high doesn’t get over freezing.  Add some flurries, and the pavement is icy to the point I slip while walking.  The side of the road is also now off-limits; who knows what ankle-turning hazards lurk beneath the white.

Getting enough exercise throughout the winter has concerned me from the beginning.  I’d like to try snow-shoeing.  Maybe find a convenient place to ice skate.  (I used to LOVE to ice skate as a child.)  But both of those activities will require some gear purchasing.  And some much colder weather than what we have right now.

So I’m looking to join the ranks of great clothes-hangers everywhere and find a treadmill or elliptical.  Luckily, there is a craigslist for this region (although you have to be careful because it’s for “Northern Wisconsin” and you end up drooling over something 4 hours away.)  And less used, a freecycle group for the nearest “big” town.

I am afraid the years of the free gym at the condo have spoiled me.  The equipment wasn’t always working, but it was damn good equipment when it was.  Any suggestions on brands/models to look for or avoid is appreciated.

Never Promised Shakespeare

I’m having quite a nice solo Saturday thus far.

For the third week in a row, I’ve attend a yoga class.  It’s at 8:15 in the morning.  Perfect way to start my day.  Except I haven’t figured out the correct wake-up procedure.  It’s Saturday!  I want to sleep in!  (Which for me means no alarm and waking at 7am.)

But to have coffee, breakfast, and get out the door in time for Sun Salutations is a rush.  Last week I managed some coffee and yogurt and left the “real” breakfast for a decadent french toast afterwards.

This week, I skipped the coffee.  And substituted veggie omelet for toast after the fact.

The class was hard.  It is always hard and will continue to be for a long time.  (Today is the first time she lead us through bow pose and the first I’ve tried in over a year.  It…well…it didn’t.  And that is hard to wrap my head around.  It is horrible and very anti everything yoga is about, but it felt a bit better that the other students fumbled too and we opted for one-leg stretches.)

Despite this humbling frustration,  I couldn’t help but wonder if I was…experiencing the hard better?…minus the caffeine drive.  Giving up coffee is something I’ve thought of several times but it’s never the “right” time.  Funny how it’s never the right time to inconvenience ourselves yet we (I) can over-complicate life so that all we are doing is running from one inconvenience to another.

When I got home, I made breakfast and then a pot of decaf.

So far, so good.

(I bet Tom is so glad to read those words far, far away from maddening crowd inside my head.)


Sunday Run Day

I just came back from a run.  I think about writing about running a lot while chugging down the road.  But in reality, a lot of what I think about writing is stuff I need to write down for myself – pep talks and assurances and what-not.

I was once in true athletic shape.  And while it is in general frustrating that I no longer can call myself that, it’s not an all-consuming frustration.  Usually I can use it as motivation or at the very least remind myself my body is capable.

But I am hitting a small  specific frustration regarding physical pains associated with the extra weight* on my body.  My tits and ass (your welcome) jiggle far more than is comfortable.  And the breast pain extenuates for hours after activity.  Of course, exercise will hopefully reduce the extra weight and extra jiggle.  But it hurts a lot to do it.  Thank you, vicious circle.

I suppose I could try and do more low impact things first.  But running has such appeal with the heart benefits, full workout in less time, and the mental high.

The changes from Florida to Wisconsin, and from weird part-time-on-call hours of physical dog washing to steady Monday through Friday office work, are requiring some changes to my faithful workout routines.  After years of sweating first thing in the AM, I am now an afternoon exerciser.

And somehow, after years of taking Sunday as a “day off”, I am now finding great pleasure in a Sunday afternoon run.  It is the perfect cure to the nagging “I really should do something with my day” feeling that Sunday’s afternoon always has for me.

That much, at least, seems worthy of writing somewhere besides “Dear Diary”.  If you too suffer from Sunday agitations, consider adding an exercise class, hike, or run to your routine.

(*I don’t know exactly how many extra pounds I’m carrying.  I’m not even sure from what weight I would add or subtract.  My ideal weight?  My athletic weight?  The weight after hiking?  In the past I’ve relied on calorie-counting and number crunching to get myself healthy.  I may have to do that again.  But I feel like part of the reason I have ended up unhealthy once more is that if I let the counting and tracking slip, everything else goes too.  I’d prefer to try a more holistic, how-do-these-pants-fit approach this time around in hopes that it will better instill habits in my life that don’t rely on a spreadsheet.)

At least I’m fast enough to startle one critter

Listen to Thyself, Dumbass

Hey!  Remember a few weeks two months ago when I complained about ongoing shin/foot ailments and said I probably needed new shoes?

I ordered some new trail runners, then realized I had a pair of not-quite-old trail runners I stashed away before the hike since I knew they weren’t going to last the entire trip.  I popped those on, went on my merry way, and didn’t even open the box when the new ones came in the mail.

For the past week or so, I’ve had some ankle/foot pain and can’t quite get my runners to fit right anymore.


Today I pulled out the (really, truly) new trail runners and broke them in with a 3 mile walk.

By mile 2, the pain was gone.

Evidently All I Write About Now Is Food

You guys?  I.  Am.  Exhausted.  And feeling a wee bit old.  Not only for wanting to go to sleep at 8:07 on a Saturday night (PAAARTAYYY), but because too many felines crept into the bed last night and I vaguely remember having to contort my body in order to get blankets.  When did I vaguely remember this?  On minute 11 of the elliptical this morning when I realized I could not continue due to hip pain.

Hip.  Pain.  Hi, my name is Gladys and I’ll be your 75 year-old for the evening.

Thank goodness I married Tom because he passed out a half hour ago so he makes me look like the younger, hipper (ha!) one.

He’s also in pain.  About a week ago he got a new bridge put in his mouth and he’s had bite issues/tooth pain ever since.  His bite has been adjusted twice and they say if he’s still in pain on Monday they’ll take a closer look at whether something in wrong with the tooth itself.

Have I mentioned we’ll get to take an itemized medical deduction this year?  I love him dearly, but if anything should ever happen Good Dental Genetics is going on The List.

Due to his tooth pain, I’ve made 3,678 batches of mashed potatoes this week.  This is part of why I’m exhausted.  My healthy twist on mashed potatoes?  No butter, lots of cottage cheese.  Great if you like tangy mashed potatoes.  I also made red-skinned mashed potatoes today so we got whatever nutrients are in the skins.  But I didn’t do that to be healthy.  I did that because I am so very over peeling potatoes.

(That potato stuff was in parentheses but I’ve been staring at the screen trying to move on from it and I’m stuck.  So, off with the parentheses and hello ending statement!  Except for this statement.  Which I added with parentheses.)

Did I mention tired?  And I’m heading out with Animal Warriors to do some cage building tomorrow so no rest for the wicked!