Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rewind: Tuna Noodle Casserole

As kids, my sisters and I would actually look forward to tuna noodle casserole at our house. In the few years that we had with Mom, this one still stands out as a favorite. Despite my efforts, I haven't been able to get it to taste 100% like Mom's did but I suppose that is something to say for "Mom's Home Cooking." Often duplicated...never to perfection. I've had the itch to try this again and when I saw Gina at Skinnytaste had posted her own version I figured I would make an attempt to mesh up Mom's recipe with Gina's and see how it went. I have to say, it turned out quite fantastically and reminded me a whole lot of my youth. This is a classic comfort dish! Perfect for these cold Winter days.

This recipe is very similar to Gina's with just a few of Mom's hints. One big difference with Mom's was the use of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Now, I have found a brand of mushroom soup that could work here but I decided to try the fresh mushrooms and it turned out so well I don't think I'd use the condensed in this recipe ever again.  Mom's also had crushed cornflakes or potato chips on top, but the breadcrumbs did the job for me on this one.  Here you go! If you try it, let me know what you think :)


Tuna Noodle Casserole

6 oz. no-yolk noodles (I like the extra wide)
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, minced fine
1 cup chopped celery
3 tbsp flour
1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup 1% milk
10 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas (thawed)
2 packs of albacore tuna or 2 5oz cans of tuna in water, drained
4 oz. reduced fat sharp cheddar
1 tbsp olive oil mayo
1 tbsp sour cream or 0% Fage greek yogurt
dash dry mustard
dash onion salt
dash celery salt
butter flavored cooking spray
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tbsp whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs (If you are local to Michigan I like Fishtown Crumbs

Cook noodles in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Set aside. 

Melt the butter in a large deep skillet. Add onions and celery and cook on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and a dash of dry mustard, onion salt and celery salt, then stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spray 9 x 12 casserole with butter flavored cooking spray.

Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined, increasing heat to medium and whisking well for 30 seconds, then add the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add mushrooms and peas, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and simmer on medium, mixing occasionally until it thickens (about 7 to 9 minutes). Add drained tuna, stirring another minute.

Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp sour cream and mix well until it melts. Add the noodles to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated. Pour into casserole and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
Spray a little more cooking spray and top and bake for about 25 minutes. Place under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp (careful not to burn).


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sloppy Lentils...oh and HI :)

It's been awhile since I've blogged but I'm here with a new recipe to share!! I'm trying to keep better track of all of the recipes that I try for my #foodprepSunday and this is the best collection I've got going. Might as well keep it going... So, here I am. 

Okay, so Sloppy Lentils! I have this wonderful group of women that I interact with on Facebook and we're always sharing our favorite recipes along with all sorts of other fun fitness chatter. My dear friend Maggie shared this recipe and I finally prepped it this past Sunday. It's a crockpot recipe which = an immediately smitten Em.  I love my crockpot more than any other gadget in my kitchen! It's just so useful and so EASY.  Perfect!

So, lentils...I love em'. They are technically a legume and grow in a pod like a pea does.  I like red and brown lentils the best. This recipe calls for brown lentils which are the most common kind. You'll find these in the grocery store with the other bagged beans and peas.  With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. (1) So, they are high in protein, fiber and they are just so darn good for you!! 

This is definitely a new favorite for EVERYONE in this house. The kids loved it too!! I like to top a baked potato, sweet potato or some rice with this wonderful dish. Add a little side salad and VOILA! It's a perfect vegetarian meal. If you wanted to un-vegetarian-ize (uh, that's a word, right?) this recipe you could add in a little ground beef or turkey too.


Sloppy Lentils

1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 small red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
2 tablespoons tamari or other soy sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or a natural sweetener
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a medium-sized non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, stirring to coat.

Transfer the onion mixture to a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. Add the lentils, tomatoes, water, tamari, mustard, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours.

Serves: 4 to 6

(1) Callaway JC (2004). Hempseed as a nutritional resource: an overview. Euphytica 140:65–72.

Friday, August 23, 2013

25 Years...The Anti-versary

Mom playing on the shores of Interlochen, Summer of 62'
25 years. Typically you hear those words combined with a wedding anniversary or a birthday or some other sort of celebration.  It's not so often you hear it spoken as it relates what I'm deeming as the "Anti-versary but that's what I'm doing here today.  You see, 25 years ago today, my Mom was taken from this Earth.  God called her home in a way none of us could have ever imagined. I still, 25 years later can't fathom how this has all happened...

I've written about my Mom before on this blog of mine.  Here.  Here. And Here. (Oh heck, just go to the Mom label if you want to read more :)  

I've talked about who she was and how much I miss her.  Today I want to get a little more raw. Because that's just how it is right now. Raw.

My feelings have been erupting this Summer and for the longest time, I couldn't figure out what it was. A busy everyday life, raising 2 kids, keeping the house...no, none of that quite brings the "raw" out in me. And then it hit. This was the 25th year.  The "Anti-versary." The one I've dreaded.  (What is it with me and those numbers anyway?!)

I haven't always been vulnerable with my grief. I like to do it in my own time when no one is around. I've been through many therapy sessions and I still have trouble just unleashing the fury of this pain.  I try to tuck it away and pretend it's not there. I mask it with a happy face when all I want to do some days is just scream my "WHY?" so the entire Earth can hear it. 25 years later and the wound is so fresh and open and real.  I'd like to say it gets easier, but somehow it's just doesn't. I want it to, I really do, but then I remember that there is absolutely nothing that could possibly fix this...that could bring her beautiful face back to this Earth. And sometimes I REALLY need my Mama. And she's not there. But I keep moving. One foot forward each day. Grieving periodically but ultimately remembering her spirit, her laugh, her voice, her penmanship, her cooking; HER LOVE.  So much love.  I have moved through my grief cycle but on this particular "anti-versary" the anger and denial feel like they are in heaving full force.

Last night I had the opportunity to do a little meditation centered around my Mom. Curtis was out of the house visiting with a friend and the kids were in bed.  I decided to pull out some old photo albums. The ones that have been tucked away for years just wishing someone would crack them open.  I read the special book that my Nana made for me with stories and pictures of her younger and happier days.  I wept as I read that book. Then I got mad. Mad because she was so brutally taken. Mad because she's not here to witness all of the wonderful things going on in my life. Mad because she'll never know her grandchildren or her adult daughters.  Mad because I should have never had to endure this pain since I was a mere 4th grader.  It's just.simply.not.fair. I am not going to sugarcoat that and I think you can understand why.  Losing anyone that is close to you is significant. It's heavy. It's unfathomable. It leaves a hole that will never be repaired.  I walk around with a huge wound on my heart that is just simply not going to close up.  Ever.

After I got mad (trust me, it took some time to get that out!) I started really combing through the pictures. Taking time to relish her smile, her emotions, her mannerisms.  I felt her staring back at me in those photos just like she was here today.  I prayed, as I always do, that God would grant me some peace. "....Like a River for my Soul..." The kind that surpasses all understanding. The kind that has made me this 34 year old Mother of 2, that has somehow persisted navigating through these murky waters that make up such a profound loss.  Because truly, it's faith and peace and hope that has sustained me and it's those things that will continue to do so.  So, I asked God for PEACE.

I found a letter that my Dad and Nancy had written to my sorority when I was a pledge.  It was a letter they had to address to me during my inauguration week. This paragraph that my Dad wrote brought me to my knees.

"Life wasn't fair for you, Emily.  You were only nine when your Mom died. Her death was a great loss and a life changing event for all of us. There isn't any easy way to get through and live with the death of a parent but somehow you managed to survive.  
In fact, you did more than survive, you began to blossom in spite of your pain." 

It reminded me of a quote by Hope Edelman: 
"I truly believe that the death of my mother has made me the way I am today. I am a survivor, mentally strong, determined, strong-willed, self-reliant, and independent." 

Here I sit, a survivor.  A blossomed flower that is still navigating these waters.  These sometimes-all-consuming muddy and ugly waters. It's not always pretty. I try not to let it harden me even though I know it has in many respects.  I know Mom would want me to move on with my life and enjoy what I have here despite her 25 year absence.  
I've always maintained that I would do just that and honor HER for the life that she gave ME 34 years ago.  

As I finished up my meditation I walked out on the deck to take in some fresh air.  It was a gloomy and rainy day here yesterday, but the sun was clearly doing it's beautiful thing in the West. The sky was a radiant pink and red just the way Mom loved it. And then there it was...PEACE. I felt such calm and reassurance. She's here, perhaps not in a physical sense, but she's with me always.  

I am who I am because of her.  

In her life and in her death.

Happy Anti-versary, Momma. I Love You

My post-script is a moving letter that was written by my Mom's co-workers at Klingman's, where she was a designer at the time of her death.  I love to read this note, because it perfectly sums up who she was to those that loved her

Christine Ann Hoekstra Lamberts
May 29, 1948- August 23, 1988

Some people we quickly forget. But others leave an incredible mark on our lives just because of a few attributes.  We see them at work and we may be down that day or maybe they too have some bad news but soon there is something to share and smile about.  Their neat attire makes you aware that they like who they are and where they are.  There is a beautiful scent when they are near.  They know how to work hard but just as importantly they know how to laugh---the deep chuckle kind. When these people are gone they leave an ache in our hearts and we truly miss them but thank God they came our way once for we are better for having known them.
Sometimes we'll think of her gentle smile,
her mischievous laugh.
We'll think of the elegant way she walked.
Some of us remember a funny thing she once said, or did.
"Remember the time Chris..."
Some of us think of her everyday.
And we think of her family especially
her 3 girls, and we'll pray for them.
She'll never be forgotten here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eating The Food---Continued...

So, where do I begin? It's been a couple of months since I've started my journey with ETF (Eat The Food).  I'm going to be really honest and share a little bit of my journey since I wrote this post in early April. I encourage you to re-read that to get a little bit of context for where I'm headed here.  I apologize for this lengthy post but it's best just to get it all out, right? :)

Taking us back to where I left off:  I hit a huge plateau over the Winter.  No matter how hard I was exercising (sometimes even burning 4000 calories a week), no matter how much I watched my food intake, the scale wasn't budging.  I'm not scale obsessed but every few weeks I'd hop on and see the exact same number. One thing about this plateau was that my progress in the gym also flat-lined. I was staying at the same weights in my heavy lifting sessions, my energy was significantly lacking and there were even a few months this Winter where my menstrual cycle started doing some weird things. Simply stated: My body was in starvation mode. 

Before we left for vacation, I decided to stop tracking my food, and to just eat a bit more intuitively.  Part of my journey, especially the last 2 years has taken me through to a point where I am comfortable with the foods that I eat. I know how to plan and prep. I eat what I enjoy. I know that fast food doesn't serve my body well and that certain foods just make me feel gross.  So, I've trusted myself these last 2 months to track occasionally (2-3 days a week) to be sure I'm eating enough and just eating the food; when I'm hungry, when it looks good, just eating.the.food.  In this process, I also increased my calorie intake significantly basically by eating more of the foods I was already enjoying. I was averaging about 2000-2400 on most days, so I decided to just bump it up by about 600 (and even as much as 1000!)  From reading Go Kaleo and getting to know Amber's philosophies a bit more, I started to understand that if I kept exercising frequently, lifting weights and eating what makes me feel good, that I could stop obsessing so much while still seeing changes in my body.

So what has happened in the last 2 months? 

  • For starters, my energy is back.  I feel like a whole new woman.  I'm also sleeping a lot better at night.  
  • My period is back in full raging, Aunt Flo force. (bah, humbug ;) 
  • I've stopped obsessing.  I learned the term "orthorexia." I consider myself to be recovering a bit from an eating disorder. Yes, you heard that right. I'm already a little OCD and this was just triggering that more and more.  My thinking was disordered and I feel liberated from that now.  Foods are fuel. They are nutrition for my body. There are no "clean" or "un-clean" (dirty?) foods. I eat what makes me feel good and don't stress about dietary labels. I also ditched my beautiful heart rate monitor. I still wear it here and there but I realized it was just one more thing I was way too worried about. 
  • The dreaded one: I gained weight. Yep, I let my body do what it needed to do. And instead of stashing my scale in the closet, I threw it away completely.  It was a process for me (as you've seen) to break up with my scale. But, I was finally ready to break it off for good. Was it the weight gain? Perhaps. More so though, it was the TRUE understanding that the scale doesn't give me any useful information anymore. I work hard, I eat well...nothing that the scale says shows my strength gains in the gym or my improvements everywhere else. It was time to say adios! I also learned that with each pound the scale was going down, I was likely losing valuable muscle. In fact, I know I was just based on pictures and measurements.  You can't be in a constant state of caloric deficit and expect to build a whole lot of muscle.  So, bye bye scale! (More on why the scale/BMI charts are ridiculous HERE)
  • The weight gain: A few things I've learned are that when your body is in a stage of "re-feed" or where it's been depleted, it's normal to gain a little weight. Is it all fat? Nope. Mostly bloat actually. Trust me when I say it's a mind game to walk around feeling HUGE all while trying to trust a process. I remember talking to my best friend a few weeks ago and I seriously felt and looked a few months pregnant. I was uncomfortable, I wanted to start restricting again, I thought I was making a huge mistake by doing what I was doing. I trusted the process and 2 months out the other side, I'm slowly getting back in my regular clothes and feeling stronger than ever. (I went up one pant size and have no idea how much was actually gained) I'm fortunate that I was not as restrictive with my 2000-2400 calories a day, but still for my height and weight, that was not enough food to sustain my high activity level. (More on Edema when coming out of restrictive dieting HERE)

I realize it's unfathomable to most of you reading this that eating as much as I am is a good idea.  3000 calories? You're kidding right? I can hear it now... "Won't you just get FAT again?"  We've been conditioned by a diet industry that feeds us a lot of, well...bull shit. It's not just the diet industry either, it's our society as a whole. Basing ideals off of how we look as opposed to what really matters about a person; their personality, their humor, their charm, their compassion for others, their zest for life... and on and on and on.  I'm in recovery from much more than just being a little OCD about my food. I'm in a mind-shift of appreciating people for WHO they are, not what they look like.  I'm over the body-shaming. Let's make it about body-love! For me, body-love started when I began to fuel for my activity level. I couldn't keep eating 2000 calories a day while burning 3500-4000 calories a week in exercise alone.  My body was telling me "enough already!" I'm active and as long as I stay that way, this range of calories is precisely what is suited best for me.  Sean Flanagan said this the other day on his Facebook page. It resonated big time with me:  

"I earn my workouts by eating. That's the logical thing. You save up a resource (calories) in order to be able to invest it.

"Earning" food by exercising is a disordered practice made popular. It's not a healthy way to view food...or exercise."

So where am I headed now?  Well, I'm still training for my triathlon at the end of July. I've had a few rough training runs, but my other training is going well. I'm also in the gym 2-3x a week lifting really heavy weights. Actually, I'm lifting the heaviest I ever have, and that's all thanks to the food I'm fueling with! I'm considering hiring a strength coach after my triathlon because I've realized that lifting weights (and biking and swimming) are what I love to do most. It's all about finding what you LOVE.  

The greatest take away from this process has been the absolute liberation that I feel.  I have been able to trust myself a lot these past few months. It's been rough mentally but I knew in my heart that this was the right path for me. I no longer find myself worried about social situations or having ice cream with my family ("I'm all out of calories, so no ice cream for me!" Nope, no more of that :) I still tote my healthy snacks and food when I feel it's necessary, but if there are burgers being served at a party, I eat the burger instead of eating ahead of time. Food is to be enjoyed, most especially in a social environment.  Do I head through the drive-thru each week like I used to? No. I have learned over the last 2 years what foods work for me. Drive-thrus aren't one of them.  I work hard in the gym for the fuel my body deserves and trust me, I've been fueling it well. I feel like a free little bird, working hard in the gym and in the kitchen.  This journey feels a lot like it's coming around full circle. I've had to learn some hard lessons along the way, and I'm not done learning yet.  I continue to soak up more information and learn as much as I can. 

Maybe this all sounds a little crazy. That's okay, you don't have to be on board with my methods, just like I don't have to be on board with yours. I'm all about sharing my journey and this is a major crossroad for me and needed to be shared. In fact, I might even go all "shout from the rooftops" if things keep going as well as they are for me right now.  

It's been a little bit of an epiphany, these last 2 months. Like "Eureka!" I found it. 
*Eat The Food. Lift Heavy. Love Your Body.* (and ditch the kool-aid! ;)

For more info:

I'm Calling for a New Paradigm   the blog post that made me go "hmmmm"

A Primer On Calories by Go Kaleo 

Calculator to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure  

"Taking Up Space" -- E-book by Amber Rogers, Go Kaleo. I highly recommend this book! 

"The Nourished Metabolism" by Elizabeth Walling Another highly recommended read.

*If you have questions or would like to chat some more, my email/phone/Facebook are always ready to listen. :)