Friday, July 31, 2015

Confession: I Suck At Keeping Gluten Free

The very first task I aim to tackle on my Crunchy Checklist is to just eat real food. I have been paleo full time in the past and know how well I felt all around when I was. Yet two years on, I still have a hard time getting and staying on the paleo wagon.

For instance, while I haven't been keeping strictly paleo lately, I had been keeping gluten free. Early in the season my allergies were getting really bad. It was taking me 2-3 allergy pills (meant to take just 1 pill for 24 hour relief) to get through the day, and still I was itchy and sneezy - just not as itchy and sneezy as I would have been without the medication. So I decided to see if going gluten free would help at all. Low and behold it did! Now, it could be the placebo effect, but then you'd think the placebo effect would have worked just as well with the allergy pill I was taking without necessitating a change in my diet. It didn't make my allergies completely disappear, but most days I didn't even need my allergy pill and on days I did just one pill was enough to completely alleviate my symptoms.

Then, just over a week ago, since the grass pollen season is all but over (and because I was craving a sandwich on chewy, yummy, gluteny bread.... *drool*), I decided to chance it with gluten. Over the last week I've had burgers, sandwiches, cookies and other snacks chock full of gluten. It was delicious.

Foodie Fridays - Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets and Honey Mustard

I've made a commitment, in an effort to both save money and eat more healthfully (no cheats), to cook all my meals at home unless I'm out of town and unable to do so. Which means taking time to make things I'd get at fast food or out of a freezer bag from scratch. It is worth the effort, in my book, because I know all real food is going into my food and the flavor can't be beat.

One of the things I've often been tempted to just buy is chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, most conventional nuggets out of the freezer section or at the fast food place are full of gluten, fillers, hydrogenated fats and tried in unstable polyunsaturated seed oils. No thank you. So this is my real food spin on a classic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Simple Living at the Library

Over the last several years I have worked hard at tackling my debt and living in a more frugal way. Living frugally is definitely one of the "crunchy" things I embraced pretty early on. On of the easiest ways I've found to cut back is on entertainment. Entertainment expenses can quickly absorb a lot of one's disposable income. There's the $60 internet/cable bundle with it's extra $30/month of equipment fees. There's your Hulu Plus, Netflix and/or Amazon Prime subscription on top of that at $10/month each. There's the monthly hockey game or football game during the season with tickets going for $45 or more. There's parking fees for a night downtown. There's bar tabs and dinner bills. The gas to get around. Ski passes, new books, gym memberships, etc. etc.

If you're really trying to live tiny, get out of debt or stay out of debt and build a more sustainable lifestyle, the library is your best friend. And this is why.

  • Movies & TV - Libraries have DVDs of popular films, documentaries and more without the licensing restrictions of Netflix or Amazon. If you like binge watching TV series and are willing to wait until the DVDs are released, the library has your back. Even Netflix shows like House of Cards release DVD version of their full seasons. Some libraries even have streaming movies available online with your library card. And all for FREE! I don't pay for cable or Netflix anymore, I just use my library.
  • Health & Fitness - Curious about the latest diet craze or want to try yoga? The library has you covered here too. You can check out the latest health book for FREE, and borrow your favorite fitness DVDs and books to build yourself an at home workout to rival any gym membership or system you have to pay for. You'll never get bored with all the variety available. Did I mention it's free?
  • Internet Access - If you're really trying to cut back and even not pay for internet access in your home, your local library almost certainly has public computers you can use and probably free wifi as well.
  • Free Programs - Many libraries host free programs on financial planning, learning to knit, adult craft nights, cooking classes, movie nights, yoga classes and even singles mixers. Have children? There are story times, book clubs, movies, craft programs, science labs, teen gaming nights and so much more for free, or at least very cheap, at your library.
  • Magazines - Most libraries circulate copies of popular magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic and regional magazines like Zone 4. Many also make magazines available for free online in print through their database access, or even full digital version through Zinio for Libraries. Cancel your magazine subscriptions and get them for free at your library.
  • Music - Want to listen to a new CD before buying it? Download music for free legally? Public libraries have you covered. Did I mention it's free?
  • Special Collections - Some libraries have special circulating collections, maybe your local library has something like this or would be willing to start one. I have seen libraries that circulate cake pans, power tools, toys for young children, story time kits and science lab kits. Check at your local library to see what they have - for free!
  • Books - Last but not least. Books are of course what libraries are known for. Rather than drop $24 for the newest bestseller that you'll only read once, why not check it out at the library? Before you commit to buying a non-fiction title for your personal reference, check it out at the library to see if it's really worth adding to your personal collection. There are ebooks you can borrow for free and audio books as well.
Can't find what you're looking for? Provided you're not wanting to borrow weapons grade plutonium, your library can often borrow copies of books, films and CDs from other libraries if they do not have them in your local collection. I have borrowed books from libraries as far away as Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas thanks to this interlibrary loaning system. 

Do you regularly use your local library? What is your favorite resource they have?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Getting Debt Free

While real food, health and wellness are a big part of my journey to embrace the "crunchy", another important part is living within my means - rejecting consumerism, being a producer and living simply.

huge part of simple living, or tiny living, is getting out of debt and staying out of debt. The average consumer debt is $15,000 per household in credit cards - that's not counting mortgages, student loans or other secured or unsecured debt. Add the $300K+ mortgage on a McMansion, a $200/month car payment on a newer model car and student loans of $20,000+ and it is no wonder so many people went into default during the recession. (Of course the spend, spend, spend model we see from our Federal Government is hardly setting a good example of fiscal responsibility).

For me, I got into credit card debt when my parents lost their jobs during my junior year of college. From the spring of 2006 through moving back to Colorado I worked part-time or full-time and lived cheaply, but still paid for many of my expenses with credit cards because my parents could not help me with them. On top of over $20,000 in credit card debt I was also $20,000 in the hole on student loans from my private Christian school undergraduate education. About a year after moving back to Colorado I had my own debt crisis when I was forced to shoulder the full monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment when I could not find a new roommate for a few months. Doubling my rent quickly sent me into a spiral of late payments and underpayments. Something needed to be done. Here is what has helped and continues to help me chip away at my debt. I still have some debts, but paying them off is my top financial priority. After paying for rent I pay my debt - even before buying food!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Stuffed Calamari

I originally posted this recipe on my old blog, hence the text in the picture, but I think it holds up. Enjoy!

1 large egg
1 tbsp. coconut or almond flour (gluten free or all-purpose flour will work as well)
2 oz. crab claw meat
6-7 shrimp, cooked, peeled and chopped
10-12 calamari bodies (tentacles removed)
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp. coconut manna (aka coconut butter)
Curry powder, sea salt to taste

Thaw and rinse your calamari bodies and set them on a plate. Beat 1 egg in a small mixing bowl, then stir in flour, chopped shrimp and crab claw meat. Then add coconut manna and green onions. Add a pinch of sea salt. Add curry powder last a little bit at a time to taste (you can always add more, you can't take it out once it's in though). The mixture should have the consistency of a thick paste or cookie dough.

Preheat oven to 350. You can try to stuff the calamari with a small spoon - but I found it easiest to just get messy and use my hands to stuff about 1 tbsp. of the mixture into each calamari. Then put them on a foil lined baking sheet, lightly salt them and then bake until firm (about 15 min). Serve them up plain, in lettuce wraps or over a salad. Make great appetizers or a nice seafood meal. Yields about 1 dozen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Amy's Almost-Edible Pit Paste

Part of this paleo journey I'm taking is minimizing my exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. While I still wear a conventional antiperspirant sometimes (like for Murph or a long hike with friends), I am moving towards all-natural deodorants for every day use. I tried some brand names, like Tom's of Maine and Jason's and found that, for me, they didn't succeed in deodorizing. After a few weeks of use my pits smelled garlicky or skunky, or both, in any case - not an attractive odor.

Then I tried making my own. Through some trial and error I came to the following recipe:

3 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. avocado oil
1/2 cup corn starch or tapioca starch
3 tbsp. zinc oxide powder (I just used store bought talc-free baby powder)
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. witch hazel
A few drops of the essential oil of your choice (I used grapefruit - I like the fresh citrus smell)

Melt the coconut oil first then mix in the other oils (avocado and essential oil). Then add the dry ingredients gradually mixing well until you get a smooth paste. As the coconut oil cools it will become more solid, the avocado oil will keep it at consistency that is spreadable (plus avocado oil is great for your skin). I just spread a dollop (probably about a tsp.) under my arms in the morning and it keeps me fresh all day - even when I walk to work in 90+ degree weather. A note for those with very sensitive skin: you can leave out the essential oil (fragrance) and/or baking soda. I found the baking soda to be a bit abrasive, so I don't put much in, but you may want to avoid it altogether.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What is Real Food?

The first item listed on my Crunchy To Do List was to "Just Eat Real Food", and I put it first for a reason. I know if I go crunchy in no other area of my life, just eating real food will make a tremendous difference in my well-being.

A couple years ago I had some attacks of abdominal pain that put me in the emergency room. Subsequent testing never gave me a firm answer on the source of the pain, but I was ultimately diagnosed with IBS-D. Since then I have researched several differing, but often overlapping, views on what foods would improve my health and well-being. All of the diets listed below are what I would consider to be "real food" - that is, based on whole ingredients (not processed and packaged junk) and traditional foods.

The one that ended up working best for me has been paleo, which is why paleo is included in the website address for this blog. Though I've not always been on the paleo wagon (and that's one of the reasons this blog exists - is to help keep me accountable by giving myself an audience) - the stricter I have been the better I have felt overall.

Depending on your situation one of these "real food" diets might work better for you than another  - but the common ground is clear - make pastured meat, wild caught fish, natural fats, and whole fruits and vegetables the cornerstones of your diet for better digestion, reduced inflammation, clearer skin, good energy levels, reduced disease risk and better holistic health for life. I like how Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz puts it as well.

Here is more information on all of these diets so that you can find the best option for you and your family.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Summer Zucchini and Carrot Bread

I love squash breads! I made this recipe for the first time a couple years ago and took half the loaf to work where it got rave reviews from the other library staff. It's super moist and just about as healthy as you can get for a sweet treat (short of a piece of fresh fruit). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

1 medium zucchini squash, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
3 eggs
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose baking mix
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup butter (or coconut oil) melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Spices to taste (I recommend cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger - I use lots of cinnamon!)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease two 4x8 loaf pans (or you can use a greased or lined muffin tin and a 9x5 loaf pan like I did). Combine sugar and eggs well. To this add melted oil (butter or coconut or both), vanilla and maple syrup. Once well blended add the dry ingredients and veggies to the mixture. The texture should be a thick, but not stiff, batter. Fill your loaf pans (or muffin tins) to about 3/4 full and then bake for 40-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How To Be Crunchy Checklist

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I have definitely got some latent crunchy/granola/hippie genes. I value real food, even if I don't always make food choices in line with those values. I value self-sufficiency, even if I can also be a pretty darn good consumer of things I could just as easily make myself. I value the great outdoors and conservation, but I do not always recycle or use the greenest products available to me. I value health, but I definitely have some chronic health issues common among populations in the developed world.

So how can I start living out these values I hold more consistently? How can I embrace my inner "crunchy earth goddess"? That is why I started this blog in the first place! To find out. To experiment. To try new things and to more fully integrate the beliefs I already hold into my daily life.

To that end, I have compiled a "Crunchy To Do List" of sorts. Compiling information from other natural and holistic health blogs, books I've read, etc. I have created a list of things to do to fully embrace my inner crunchiness. They fall into a few main categories: Food, Hygiene and Health, Household, and Lifestyle; though some could easily fit in more than one, and others don't quite fit where I've put them - that's where they are listed all the same. So here goes .....

Saturday, July 11, 2015

How To Be Crunchy?

I'm a young woman living in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Over my life I've dealt with various minor chronic health issues like allergies and IBS, which have become progressively worse over time. I am also overweight and, while I am not willing to compromise my health to lose that weight, I know that my weight probably reflects issues with metabolism and inflammation.

I definitely have some latent crunchy hippie genes, I am what some have called "scrunchie", but in a quest for holistic health and wellness I am on a road to fully embrace a crunchy lifestyle and all that entails. From just eating real food (and trying to decipher whatever that means) to natural fertility (because I may be single now, but I definitely want kids when the right guy comes along), reducing toxins (and trying to decipher what that means too) and trying to live more sustainably and simply. 

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too! Join me on my journey as I learn How To Be Crunchy!