Eat

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipes, Vegetarian on
September 17, 2018

Baked Falafel Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

In junior high school I had a friend who would bring a delicious looking homemade lunch every day. I would stare longingly at her lunch as I ate my daily peanut butter and honey sandwich. My mom made a lot of homemade meals, we weren’t deprived, however I was raised in a sandwich for lunch everyday kind of family. One of the things that always caught my eye was when my friend would have pita bread with vegetables and these odd little circular patties. I remember one day I asked what they were and that is the day I learned about falafel. Now I didn’t go on to try falafel for several more years, but once I did, I knew it was something I needed in my life regularly!

Now if you are like me in my junior high days wondering what the heck is falafel, let me tell you! Falafel is a Middle Eastern staple made out of chickpeas, fresh herbs, garlic, spices, and onion. Falafel is filling, full of protein, and is absolutely delicious paired with tzatziki sauce (we will get to that later), or thrown in a pita, or on a salad. Today I am going to teach you how to prepare falafel with a salad and tzatziki dressing. Traditional falafel recipes call for uncooked chickpeas, I prefer to use cooked or canned chickpeas in my falafel because I prefer a more moist falafel.

Now about that Tzatziki dressing- first, for those who have never heard of this or maybe you’ve seen it on a menu or another recipe and you thought how in the world is tzatziki pronounced, here you go: “Tah-see-key.” Tzatziki is a tangy yogurt sauce with cucumber, lemon, and dill. It is so creamy and is typically served with Greek gyros.

My recipe today will combine a green salad with crisp veggies, my baked falafel, drizzled with my tzatziki dressing, and topped with feta. Well enough is enough, let’s get cooking!


Baked falafel salad with tzatziki dressing ingredients:

Green leaf lettuce

Cucumber slices

Grape tomatoes halved

Carrot slivers

Red onion

Falafel (recipe below)

Tzatziki dressing (recipe below)

Feta crumbles

Instructions:

Chop salad vegetables, prepare the baked falafel and tzatziki dressing. Plate everything together, drizzle with tzatziki dressing, and toss on feta if you like.


Time: 20 minutes to prepare

           30 minutes in the oven

Yield: 18 falafels

Falafel Ingredients:

3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans chickpeas drained

½ C fresh parsley leaves

½ C fresh cilantro leaves

1 small yellow onion (chopped in half)

4 small cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

¼ C flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Instructions:

1)      Preheat oven to 375 F.

2)      Combine chickpeas, parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, small yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil together. The easiest way I have found to do this is by using a magic bullet and using the largest cup option. If you do not have a magic bullet use a food processor. Everything combines easiest if you do it in 2-3 batches. If you try to stick all the ingredients in it will either not fit or it will give you a ton of trouble trying to blend it together. Just work with it, you will get everything well combined eventually. If some of the chickpeas and herbs are still a little chunky, no worries.

3)      Once you have the above ingredients combined put it in a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, flour, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper and stir together.

4)      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil it up to prevent sticking. Scoop out 1 ½ inch balls of the falafel dough and roll into a ball, set it on the baking sheet in rows (they do not expand so they can be close together), then flatten each ball slightly with your hand.

5)      Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on 375. Check to make sure they are not getting brown.

Tzatziki Dressing Ingredients:

1 C Greek yogurt

1/4 of a cucumber

Juice of ½ of a lemon

1 tbs dried dill

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1)      Combine all ingredients in magic bullet, blender, or food processor. Enjoy!

 

In Blog, Food on
September 10, 2018

How to eat well on a shoestring budget

If you couldn’t tell already, food is one of my favorite things in the world. Food connects people, food is creative and vibrant, it is comforting and exciting, and trying new foods can bring you a sense of adventure, and so on and so forth. I am a foodie through and through and one of my greatest joys in life is making sure that my little familia is well fed.

Another important thing about me is that I live on a very tight budget. My husband is working on his doctorate degree and also as a research assistant which means we are on a student income. I work part time from home which also brings in some income, but not much at the moment. So how do we eat as well as we do when we actually barely make enough money each month to cover our bases? Today I will share 8 of my best tips with you so that you too can eat well on a tiny budget!

1)      Plan out your grocery list in one week increments

Pick a day to sit down and plan out everything you are going to put into your and your family’s mouth the next week. If that sounds overwhelming to you, it might be the first and second time you do it but in the long run it will save you so much money because you took the time to plan it all out. It works best if you plan to eat the same breakfast all week long, eat the same or similar lunches each day for that week, and cook enough dinner that you can split it between two nights (less time cooking!), and plan to make or buy a few snacks everyone can munch on in between meals if necessary. You can read how I meal plan right HERE.

2)      Buy one specialty item a week

I titled this how to eat well on a shoestring budget because I want you to literally feel like you are eating an exciting variety of foods and trying new things week to week. Each week pick one special or more expensive item to incorporate into your weekly cooking/eating. For instance that could mean a fancy cheese to eat with crackers, or an organic chicken to cook for dinner that will last two nights, or perhaps you want to try an intriguing Asian dish that involves forbidden (or black) rice. These items are a little bit more of a splurge, but if you buy only one item a week like this it makes your cooking more exciting and keeps you on budget.

3)      Don’t be afraid of clearance food items or discounted produce

Just because food or produce is in the clearance or discount section that doesn’t mean it’s gone bad or it is going to make you sick. In fact stores would not knowingly mark an item down that has gone bad to sell to a customer because then they might get in legal trouble. If it’s bad, a store will toss it. I have found specialty olive oils that the store maybe just isn’t selling well marked down from $20 to $5, organic seasonal tomatoes marked down from $5 a pint to $2 because they are getting a little bit soft, and coconut milk yogurts that will have their sell by date coming up within the next couple days for 50 cents instead of $1.78 each. You can find some nice quality, normally expensive items for a great deal if you just look.

4)      Eat seasonally as much as possible

Seasonal items, most specifically produce, is cheaper because there is more of it to go around during its season, thus stores sell it for a cheaper price. For instance zucchini and squash will likely be cheaper in the summer because that is the best season for it to grow. Butternut squash and pumpkin will be cheaper in the fall because that is their growing season. Another great option is to find a local farm/orchard that has open picking hours. It is berry season right now up in the upper peninsula of Michigan and we have berry farms all around where we can go pick a pound of berries for a fourth of what they would cost in the store. It really is so fabulous!

5)      Buy staples in bulk

It is often cheaper to buy basic staples in bulk. The cost upfront will be more but over time you will save a lot of money. Many stores will have not only the price of the product but the price per ounce. For instance a 1 pound bag of rice might cost you $1.48 and a 5 pound bag will cost you $3.32 which means the 1 pound bag costs .0925 cents an ounce and the 5 pound bag costs .0415 cents an ounce. What will save you money in the long run? I buy rice, beans, nuts, honey, and dried fruit in bulk and we save money each year because of this.

6)      Look for the cheapest option and compare the ingredients to the most expensive option

Let’s say you are looking for a can of coconut milk for a recipe. You get to the store and there are four options of canned coconut milk. Is there a difference in ingredients that makes it worth it to buy the more expensive one or will the cheapest one work? Sometimes the cheaper option will include a filler or an undesirable additive, but often times the cheaper option is the exact same thing as the expensive option. Look at labels, look at ingredients, and don’t just assume the more expensive one is better.

7)      Set a budget and ACTUALLY stick to it

Sit down and analyze your income and what you can spend on your groceries each week. Pick a budget that works for you and stick to it. It is as simple as that!

8)      Try to make half of your meals plant based each week

When you eliminate the cost of dairy and meat you end up saving a lot on your grocery bill. If you are open to trying a more plant based diet try planning at least half of your meals to be meat free and dairy free. There are so many wonderful plant based recipes for every meal of the day that you can find online.  Cooking with beans, nuts, vegetables, grains, fruits, and spices is healthiest for you, the environment, and your budget!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian on
August 30, 2018

Vegetarian Parmesan and thyme Shepherd’s pie

Happy Thursday Folks! What are your thoughts on meatless “meats?” My thought on this is that if I am going to make a meatless meal, I typically embrace the creativity of working with vegetables, legumes, tofu, and grains, etc. because we don’t miss the meat so why try to fake it with a look alike? Ok, well while that is my typical line of thought with meatless meats, I recently discovered Gardein’s Beefless Ground and it is AMAZING! It has the color and texture of beef and it is comprised of minimal and recognizable ingredients, mainly water and soy protein. We eat a lot of beans at our house and when you eat a lot of beans you typically get the toots and such (why am I sharing this with you?!) so I am excited to find a bean free option to throw in the mix from time to time!

Today I am sharing with you my tried and true Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I typically make it with lentils but this time I used Gardein’s Beefless Ground. This dish incorporates veggies that have sautéed in butter and red wine,  then the beefless ground and fresh thyme come in to add an amazing aroma, lastly it is topped off with fluffy, buttery, parmesan red potatoes. Can you just feel the joy in your heart thinking about how comforting and delicious this dish is?

I have full confidence that this Vegetarian parmesan and thyme shepherd’s pie will become one of your family’s new favorite meals. It comes together quickly in one pan and bakes for 15 minutes in the oven and then voila, dinner is served, laughs and good conversation is shared, everyone is happy and then everyone has the best sleep of their life that night. What a dream, eh?

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

3 lb bag of red potatoes

1 package Gardein Beefless Ground ($3.97 at Walmart!)

1 yellow onion

2 carrots

4 cloves garlic

4 tbs butter (can use vegan butter if desired)

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs tomato paste

1.5 cup vegetable broth

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1.5 cups shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

  1. Boil the red potatoes until soft and penetrable with a fork.
  2. While potatoes are boiling add 1 tbs butter to a large skillet over medium high heat. Chop onion and carrots and add to skillet with butter, sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Chop garlic cloves and add to skillet with the veggies. Stir together for 1-2 minutes then add in red wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, vegetable broth, 1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves, and a dash of salt and pepper. Let this all come to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer.
  4. Add in beefless ground, peas, and corn and stir. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  5. While everything is simmering on the stove drain your potatoes. Put into a stand mixer bowl if you have one, if not just a regular bowl and fork to mash, add in 3 tbs of butter, 1 cup parmesan, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste and then mix together.
  6. Add the potatoes on top of the veggies in the skillet. Top with the remaining parmesan and thyme sprigs.
  7. Put in your preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Vegetarian on
August 27, 2018

Summer squash and lemon rosemary goat cheese empanadas

A few months ago I posted a picture of these wonderful little summer squash empanadas on my Instagram and the crowds went wild! And what I mean by that is I had a small handful of messages asking me to share the recipe. I am excited to be back in the blogosphere and delighted to be sharing this as my first recipe after a 3 month break.

So what the heck is an empanada, you might ask? An empanada is a Spanish or Latin American pastry filled with wonderful things, either savory or sweet. Today, my empanada recipe is a savory one. It is the end of summer and any good summer gardener has a garden overflowing with happy summer squash (yellow squash and zucchini) ready to be eaten. The only problem is, you have too many! What to do with all of the summer squash? Well friends, here is an idea- you make my delicious summer squash and lemon rosemary goat cheese empanadas. Wow, that is a mouth full of a recipe now. And it will be a delicious mouth full in about an hour from the time you read this to the time you have one of these lil guys in your mouth.

With empanadas you can go big or go easy. By that I mean you can make the empanada dough yourself or you can buy frozen ready to go in a nice flat disk empanada dough at your local grocery store. I have always bought Goya frozen empanada dough and never had an issue finding it in Texas because, well, Texas. But since we moved up to the tippy top of Michigan I haven’t found it. So sad! So I made my own empanada dough for the first time and it was more time consuming, sure, but it was straightforward and tasted great! I will link the recipe I used for that for any brave empanada dough making warriors.

Alright, let’s get on with the recipe now! Wonderful roasted summer vegetables along with warm goat cheese and the most pleasant rosemary and lemon flavors bursting out of a crisp baked empanada along with a side of my 5 minute hummus for dipping- let’s go!

Yield- 10 Empanadas

Time- 50 minutes

Ingredients:

1-2 zucchini depending on size (1 if its giant, 2 if they are smaller)

1-2 yellow squash (same rule applies as above)

1 yellow onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves minced garlic

*juice of 1 lemon OR Meyer lemon infused olive oil *see note

olive oil to lightly coat veggies

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4-6 oz goat cheese (depending on how goat cheesy you like it)

Make my 5 minute hummus for dipping. I promise it will add SO much to these!

*note: I found a delicious Meyer Lemon infused olive oil which I used instead of adding lemon juice. You can find it HERE or you can use any lemon infused olive oil. Otherwise juice 1 lemon and lightly coat with olive oil. I have done it both ways and it always turns out great.

Instructions:

  1. If you are making the empanada dough, click here for the recipe I used.
  2. If you are using frozen empanada dough, set it out to defrost.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Chop onion, zucchini, and yellow squash into small pieces.
  5. Toss onion, zucchini, and yellow squash with lemon juice, olive oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper and lay on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  6. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Once vegetables are done pull out and let cool for 5 minutes. Then add in the goat cheese and mix.
  8. Now it is time to assemble the empanadas. Scoop a hearty amount of the veggie/goat cheese mixture onto the empanada disk but make sure you don’t overstuff it. It will be hard to seal if you put too much in. To seal the disk carefully fold in half and press the edges together with your fingers. Fold and twist the dough as nicely as you are able or use a fork to press and fold the edges over.
  9. Put the assembled empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.
  10. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before digging in. Don’t forget to make the hummus because it adds so much to these yummy empanadas!

 

In Blog on
August 15, 2018

When it rains

Would you believe me if I told you that in one year’s time we moved from south Texas to north Texas, moved into a fixer upper, I watched my dog get attacked and killed in front of my eyes, adopted our miracle daughter, my husband dealt with a threatening boss who had zero regard whatsoever for him or our family’s wellbeing,  found out I had a giant tumor on my ovary and had surgery to remove it, was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer, by the grace of God quickly overcame ovarian cancer, found out my husband lost his job which thus resulted in him to not be able to continue his schooling, helped sell earlier said fixer upper, and then we got a crazy opportunity only the Lord could have cultivated and it moved us up to the tippy top of Northern Michigan, in the Keweenaw Peninsula, straight across from Canada. Would you believe that? I mean I don’t blame you if you don’t because I lived it and I can hardly believe it myself.

This was a year straight from H-E-double hockey sticks. And by that I truly believe it was a year that Satan tried to weasel his way straight in to our lives to screw up good things. A healthy marriage, healthy bodies, belonging to a healthy and thriving church, adding our daughter to our family, and growing new vibrant friendships and community in our new North Texas town. He saw a good thing and tried to mess it up because that’s what he does. But we trusted God, we leaned so hard on our faith because that is THE ONLY THING that can get you through a hell year. Well, faith and community- family, old friends, and new friends- our community- they came in and prayed over us, cooked for us, cleaned for us, and spoke words of life and encouragement into our aching and tired hearts.  But the other part of the honesty is that it did break us in some areas, not so much in ways that couldn’t be repaired- but it brought a lot of stress and tension into our marriage and that led to so much of our conversations being strictly business trying to work through all of the mess that this year caused. It led to me working through some super low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and depressive thinking. It led to me not working out for a little over 6 months. It led to having less patience in my parenting. The cancer didn’t shake my faith one bit but the job loss and uncertainty of our future caused me to feel so angry and confused with God and why he was “letting” this happen to us. It’s only fair to share that while we made it, we didn’t do it beautifully all the time.

We have been in our new home here in Michigan for a little under three weeks. I already feel like we are taking a big long breath. I have to choose if I will look at the past year with sorrow and anger or if I will use it to grow into a better person. I choose the latter. I choose to share our story of this past year because it is a testament to the fact that while it sucked and we wondered why the heck it was happening, God was there each tiny step of the way. He was there lovingly. He didn’t “let” this happen to us, He wasn’t mean and making us suffer- no, He loved us. We live in a fallen world and this is why crap happens. The Lord knew this was going to happen and he prepared beautiful community for us and the most loving family to walk beside us during this. He arranged Evy’s adoption to happen in the most perfect time before the crap hit the fan. He held our hearts and heard our cries and he sat gently with us and whispered “you’re gonna grow because of this. You’re gonna shine and make a difference in this world for me.”

I heard this quote recently that I am kind of obsessed with right now from Glennon Doyle “first the pain, then the rising.” Now it is time to take every ounce of pain I experienced this last year and feel gratitude that it helped to mold me into who I am capable of being. Now it is time to rise.

There is beauty after the storm.

 

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian on
May 2, 2018

Naan Pizza

I grew up with a mom who made homemade pizza- we rarely did pizza delivery from big chains- no, she made the most amazing dough from scratch, chopped tomatoes and herbs and simmered homemade tomato sauce on the stove, cut fresh veggies, and baked the pizzas to perfection. I would definitely say I have high pizza expectations because I was spoiled in this way! Homemade pizza has actually become our family’s Christmas eve tradition. My mom preps the pizzas, we leave for Christmas eve service at church, and we come home and bake them, chow down, and then watch Elf. It is one of my very favorite traditions.

Well, about a year ago I had a hankering to make homemade pizza but I don’t have a bread machine to make the dough like my mom does so I googled and googled for recipes but didn’t find one that satisfied. I have been making a homemade naan bread for years now and I had a brilliant idea to make pizza with my naan bread and boy it did not disappoint!

Pizza is fun because you get to be as creative as you want with it. So many options for sauces and toppings etc. I am going to share my naan recipe below and how I like to build my pizzas. Once you’ve made the naan you can pick and choose how to dress it all up.

Get ready to unbutton your top pant button cause you’re gonna want to eat a lot of this, folks. Enjoy some photos and scroll down for the recipe.


Ingredients: 

Naan-

1.5 C warm water

1 tbs sugar

1 packet of active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

1 tsp salt

3 cups whole wheat flour (or regular flour)

Pizza-

A jar of your favorite tomato sauce (I love Bertolli or DeLallo)

Pesto adds a beautiful, bold flavor

Fresh chopped veggies- I love bell peppers, onion, artichoke, pepperoncini’s, tomato, spinach

Cheese- I love using fresh mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, feta, or goat cheese

a small drizzle of olive oil + dash of salt and pepper on top is amazing

Instructions:

Naan-

  1. in a bowl combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. No need to stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes and when you come back to it, it should be all foamy.
  2. add salt and flour. Mix. Once all of the ingredients are incorporated turn out onto a floured workspace. A silpat baking mat is best. Knead dough into a ball and add back into an oiled bowl which prevents the dough from sticking to the sides. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise for 45 minutes (not necessary but helpful to be in a warm area).
  3. once 45 mins is up the dough should have risen about 2-3x it’s size. Turn it out onto your floured workspace and separate into 3 even balls. With a rolling pin roll out the 3 dough balls to a circular shape (sometimes they are misshapen and that is totally fun. It still tastes the same, I promise).
  4. Add a small amount of olive oil to a stove top skillet and heat over medium heat. Add one thing of dough and cook about 1-3 mins on each side.

***If you have a stand mixer with a bread hook use this once all ingredients are incorporated!

Pizza Assembly-

  1. add a nice layer of tomato sauce to the naan and dot with pesto if desired.
  2. add on your veggies
  3. add on your cheese
  4. add salt and pepper if desired
  5. Bake on 350 F for 15-25 mins or until cheese is melted and slightly golden/beginning to brown.
  6. ENJOY!

 

 

 

In Blog on
April 25, 2018

January 27th, 2015: A dream deferred

January 27th, 2015

This was the morning I woke up and wrote these words in my journal.

“Last night Steven and I got on the same page and we agreed we feel ready to start our family. I know we have only been married a little over a year and we thought we would hold off a few years having kids but it just feels right! We long to be parents so what is the point in waiting any longer? I am so excited for this journey and can’t wait to be a mom.”

Oh how I wish I could go back to that version of myself on that morning. Oh how I wish I could sit down with her and tell her it was going to be a long, hard, painful, unexpected, grief filled journey. How I wish I could take away the naivety that it would happen so easily and so quickly and that I would have a baby in my arms in my timing. It makes me so sad to think of that Adrienne: excited, hopeful, expectant that my body would “work the way it should” and get pregnant and bring my husband and myself a healthy biological child. That my body would give us our dream come true of being parents and getting all of the beautiful moments every parent dreams of. It aches me to mentally go back to the places I drudged through. The emotions, the pain, the longing, and what never was. So much hope, so much anticipation, only to be grief stricken every time. It is so painful to put myself back in the shoes of wondering if I would ever be a mom. My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t get that gift.

Friends, if you are someone who got to start your family easily, that is such a precious gift that many do not receive. Do not take it for granted. There is an unspoken population that suffers through infertility. People who are living in the pain of not getting the experience that many people believe to be a right, to be parents, to experience the miracle of a kicking baby inside their body, to give birth, to cut up cute little sandwiches, to wipe up sticky little faces, to get slobbery kisses, to cheer on and point at their kid on the field saying “that’s my baby!”, to help with homework, to go on family trips, to experience the magic of childhood all over again, to watch them walk across the high school graduation stage, to walk them down the aisle as they marry their soulmate, to get a lifetime of memories that only being a parent could give you. Some people long for this and never get it. Or maybe they do get it but it takes YEARS of expensive, heart wrenching, body aching, treatments. If you’ve never spent time crying and wondering if you would ever get to experience these things, lucky you. I hope you don’t ever have to deal with it. Thankfully more and more people going through infertility are coming out and sharing their stories. The pain is slightly more manageable when you realize you aren’t alone.

Infertility is a pain that I have warred with and by the grace of God alone found healing over it. This is not everyone’s story who deals with infertility. My healing came through a dream deferred. By processing every emotion of my infertility, by letting go of my dream of having a biological child and saying to the Lord, I’m done, this is too hard, you do what you want with this and help me to trust you. My dream was deferred but given to me through the beautiful gift of adoption. For some, adoption is not the answer and please don’t push that idea on someone suffering through infertility. That is my story though and while I would never wish infertility on someone, my journey through it has shaped me as a person. It has shaped the way I love people through hard situations, it has shaped my faith, it has shaped who I am as a wife, as a woman, as a friend, and now as a mom.

If you are going through infertility, my heart is with you. It is often a pain that can’t be spoken. Every single tear is reasonable. Don’t you ever feel silly for how hard this is on you because it is freaking hard. I hope the Lord answers your prayers. He answered mine. I didn’t expect him to answer my prayers in the way he did, but oh am I grateful. May infertility bring unexpected miracles into your life in the best way possible. May it shape you into a better person- someone who is more caring, more grateful, more faithful- someone who has a story to share that could change someone’s life.

                                                                                                                                                           

In Blog, Cancer, Infertility, Mama on
April 18, 2018

Surgery, recovery, and anticipating life changing news (that time i had cancer pt. 2)

 

Hey friends. There’s been an awkwardly long gap in between posting about my health journey and cancer diagnosis. Life has been crazy and we’ve had a major unexpected thing happen that we are trying to sort out. I know that is so dang vague and I’m sorry but until it’s sorted out I don’t want to share about it. I will say that we are all healthy, no one is in trouble, and we are striving to find joy amidst a confusing and stressful time. ANYWAY all that to say, I already feel so far removed from my cancer journey because we have this new crazy thing we are dealing with. But I definitely want to sit down and share the rest of my cancer story, so here goes part two.

I left you off last with this “It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.”

I called and they didn’t have an appointment open until a week later.  I asked if they could get me in sooner and she shared they couldn’t but if they had a cancellation she would call me. God is so good and not but 10 minutes later I got a call back that someone cancelled and I could be seen in two days! My appointment day rolled around and my doctor was great. She sat and listened to me and my explanation of my odd symptoms and then did a physical exam. She touched my abdomen and immediately made a shocked face and asked if I had a family history of cancer. Wow that’s not a great question to be asked so quickly. That definitely freaked me out but as the appointment went on and she affirmed me more and more that it was so unlikely it was cancer. She sent me off to get some ultrasounds and bloodwork done and ordered STAT results so that we could find out immediately what we were dealing with. An odd thing while I was getting one of the ultrasounds is when the tech said “did you know you have a retroflexed (backwards) uterus?” I replied I didn’t because going through infertility I had a pretty good knowledge of what my uterus was like (lol) and it was not retroflexed (turns out my tumor was so big that it flipped my uterus backwards. What.).  Anyway, the next morning came around and I was headed to a play date with some of my mama friends and our babies. I was just about to get out of the car when my doctor called. She shared that I had a 21×21 centimeter ovarian cyst with some concerning dark features. It did not surprise me. Something was obviously going on down there. I had what looked and felt like a pregnant belly but definitely no baby inside. We made another appointment to talk about surgery and talk options and then I nonchalantly strolled into the play date and shared the news with my friends. They were shocked that I was so chill about it but after going through all of the crazy reproductive health issues I had this seemed super unideal of course but not shocking.

The next day I went to my appointment. My husband came too because we knew it would be a big appointment with some big decisions to be made. My doctor shared all about the tiny so small eensy weensy chance that my giant ovarian tumor could be cancerous. We talked about all of my options. Seeing an oncologist, getting my surgery with an oncologist, my doctor doing the surgery but making a 12 inch incision in my abdomen so as not to rupture the tumor, or just trusting that the crazy one in a million odds of this thing being cancerous were so low that we would just do a simple laparoscopic surgery with my doctor and she would drain the cyst and cut it up inside me to get it out so that I wouldn’t have an intense multiple month recovery. She talked with the oncologist too about this and he agreed I was probably fine, had me do tumor marker blood work which all came back normal, and then left us with the decision. Ultimately we chose to do laparoscopic with her because we have a busy life and a toddler and we felt so comfortable with the incredibly low odds of cancer that it seemed overkill to do any of the other options.

Surgery day rolled around. The surgery went well and I awoke to the news that my ovarian was in fact a dermoid cyst which is so weird and rare. Y’all.  It had hair, teeth, and rib cartilage in it. What. WHAT.? Fascinating but ew! Oh and we wouldn’t find this out for another week or so but it also had cancer all up in it too. I stayed in the hospital for most of the day and was finally released to go home that night.

The first 3 days of recovery were HORRIBLE. I was in so much pain and so dang nauseous. I guess when you have a 21 cm part of your body removed you don’t feel too cool for a bit. Anyway, we had amazing family and friends doing everything for us. I was on strict bed rest the first 2 weeks so I couldn’t do much of anything for myself or my family. The love we received in form of babysitting, food, gifts, and house cleaning was so beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up. People were SO kind to me and my family and I am forever grateful for that in our great time of need.

 

Where I spent my time recovering.

One week and one day passed. It was a Friday morning and I was lying in bed reading when I got a phone call.  A phone call that changed everything and took away my naïve sense of being totally fine and healthy. It was my doctor’s nurse. She called and said “the doctor received the pathology results and she would like to see you today at 5 when her office closes.” Sucker punch to the gut. I simply said “ok” and said I would be there and hung up. I was so scared. I was too scared to ask or say or hear anything else. My doctor had assured me multiple times that I didn’t need to be seen or looked at until my two week  post op appointment but now all of a sudden she is in a rush to see me on a Friday at the end of a long workday for her with my pathology results. I knew exactly what it meant. I immediately felt like I was dying. Mentally I went to the worst case scenario thinking “my daughter has already lost one mom and now she is going to lose another.”

Friday March 2 was a curveball. One of those curveballs that will forever change your life. Friday March 2 was one of the most difficult, emotional, anxiety ridden days of my life. I was alone most of the day with the knowledge that I was probably not ok but I had no idea what exactly was wrong with me other than it was something big. It felt like a lifetime waiting from 9 am when I got the call to 5 pm when I got to my doctor’s office.

After many hours of the kind of anxiety that takes away your breath and stabs your stomach I told my husband that I just wanted to have an hour with our little family. It was a gorgeous perfect spring day outside so we went to a nearby park and this was also my first time outside in over a week. I chose to block the impending doom of some unexpected diagnosis that would radically change my life just for that hour. To exist, to be a mom, a wife, a person who loves soaking up the sun and gorgeous spring days. We took that hour together and it was perfect. We needed that before all of the crazy hit.

A treasured photo taken during this time at the park.

 

 

In Blog, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian on
April 9, 2018

Chickpea balls with coconut curry peanut sauce and cauliflower rice

I have wanted to post this recipe for a while but life has been quite crazy lately. 2018 has been really rough for us so far. We’ve had some pretty big blows but funny enough I feel like so far this year I’ve experienced a lot of joy and through all of this hardship we’ve made some really great friends and got to spend a lot of sweet time with family. It’s not always easy but you can absolutely choose joy through hard times.

ANYWAY- back to the main event. The reason why you’re here- THE CHICKPEA BALLS, well really the coconut curry peanut sauce cause dadannnnng y’all it’s good. Like slurp spoonfuls straight out of the saucepan good. This recipe is one you could feed the naysayers who think you can’t eat a proper meal without meat or if you are a meat needy naysayer (jk I still love you and I eat meat too sometimes) who would like to possibly venture into the world of plant based cooking. This recipe is filling, delicious, and super flavorful.

If you have a food processor with a cheese/veggie shredder piece you are in luck because that will make your life 12302930x easier with this recipe. If not, well best of luck. You can still make it work one way or another!


Ingredients:

Chickpea balls

2 15 oz can chickpeas

2 carrots shredded or finely chopped

½ red onion shredded or finely chopped

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 tsp soy sauce or coconut aminos

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut curry peanut sauce

1 tbs minced garlic

1 tbs minced ginger paste (or minced ginger with 1/4 tsp olive oil)

1 tbs red curry paste

1 15 oz can full fat coconut milk

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 tbs coconut sugar or maple syrup (depends on how sweet you want it)

Cauliflower rice– 1 head of fresh cauliflower or you can purchase pre riced cauliflower

Instructions:

Chickpea balls

1) In a food processor or blender mash up chickpeas. It doesn’t have to be a fine paste, there can be chickpea chunks, you just want to make sure they are ground up enough they will stick in balls.

2) Shred or dice your carrots, onion, and cilantro.

3) Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix together well.

4) Form 2 inch balls and put on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet.

5) Bake for 20 minutes or until outside is crispy on 350 F in the oven.

Coconut curry peanut sauce

1) Heat a small sauce pan on medium heat and add in garlic and ginger paste. Whisk and let the two mingle for 1-2 minutes then add in the red curry paste and whisk, let them all get well acquainted for 2 more minutes.

2) Add in the can of coconut milk, peanut butter, lime juice, and sweetener and mix well. Let it heat all together on medium low and whisk occasionally. Sauce will thicken slightly then remove from heat.

Cauliflower rice

1) Take your fresh head of cauliflower and cut it up so that it will fit in your food processor to rice it through the veggie shredder. If you do not have this then buy riced cauliflower.

2) Add 1 tbs of water or olive oil to a pan over medium heat and add cauliflower rice. Let it heat thoroughly for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Assemble your meal by laying down some cauliflower rice in a bowl, add chickpea balls on top, and then pour on the coconut curry peanut sauce. Enjoy!

In Cancer, Infertility, Mama, Mi Familia on
March 25, 2018

When you get the best of the worst: that time I had cancer pt. 1

Hello dear friends. It’s that time, that time where I sit down and tell you all about my unexpected cancer diagnosis in the last month. That time where I sit down and tell you about my journey through hearing those three little words “you have cancer.” That time where I tell you why I chose joy through the whirlwind of shocking news. That time where I tell you about my God who answered prayers and performed miracles. Wow. Wow. Wow. I put off writing this post for a while because honestly I have been kind of at a loss for words for all that has happened in the past month. I sat down with the intention of this being all in one post but I quickly realized I have a lot of words on this to share, so I am going to break it up into three separate blog posts. Part one (which is this post here) will be about my symptoms and everything that happened before seeing a doctor. Part two will be from the time I saw a doctor, to getting surgery, up to before my cancer diagnosis. Part three will be from the time I was diagnosed with cancer to now. This series of posts might come across a little more dry than my typical writing style because I am sharing a lot of facts. My hope is to share my story for a multitude of reasons some being- I would like to share my signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, to encourage you to see a doctor if you are having obvious concerning issues, to share how and why I could choose joy in a crappy situation, and just because stories are powerful and maybe this will mean something to someone.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I have PCOS and a history of developing less than ideal lady issues like painful ovarian cysts and uterine polyps and I have had surgery twice in the past for these things. Well, in November of 2017 I noticed every time I would pee I would have a super intense crampy feeling, it was always quick and momentary so I ignored it for a while but after a few weeks I told my husband about it and scheduled a doctor appointment. We prayed over it and guess what, it went away. Like immediately. For the next few weeks I didn’t get this crampy feeling anymore so I canceled my appointment in faith that God had healed me. I’ll explain in the next paragraph why I was so quick to cancel my doctor appointment. I didn’t continue to have this symptom but a couple of weeks later I started having intense cramping again off and on but not related to peeing, it would just randomly happen. I felt pretty discouraged because we had prayed and God had taken away the pee cramping, why was I experiencing this new pain? So yet again, we pray, I am fine the next day.

The most concerning symptom started becoming obvious around mid December. I work out a lot and like to stretch, and also like to lay on my stomach on the floor and I started to notice it felt like something hard was in there. I was also having a hard time bending over to put on my shoes without feeling out of breath and I noticed my pants weren’t fitting well. My first thought was could I possibly be pregnant…? Likely not knowing my infertility history but I needed to rule that out so off I went to buy a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was negative. That was fine. I was not sad, I have processed, accepted, and come to peace with my infertility story. So now I knew I wasn’t pregnant so why in the actual heck did I have this weird hard feeling in my abdomen? This is not a normal thing. Well friends, we are in this stage of life where we are kinda pretty poor, (but we are rockin it and making it work) my husband is back in school and I am working part time to stay home with baby girl. Instead of doing the wise thing and scheduling a doctor appointment with this obviously concerning issue I decided I would wait until my annual appointment in March so that I wouldn’t have to pay for it. Well, in hindsight I would do that differently knowing what was really going on (yikes).

Ok, fast forward to the end of January. The feeling in my abdomen is becoming more and more weird and obvious. I even felt like I was starting to actually look pregnant too and I worried I was just gaining weight and I was super frustrated about this. Well the straw that broke the camel’s back finally happened- I went to work out on a Friday morning at 5 am. At the end of the class we were cooling down and laying on our backs and the instructor told us to pull our knees into our chest and clasp our arms around them. Y’all, I used to be a dancer- this is something I have done thousands of times. Well, I could barely even touch my fingers together, I was so uncomfortable, and so out of breath. I came home confused and kind of worried. I laid down on the ground on my back and had my husband come look at my stomach and push around on it. He immediately felt something hard and from that moment on I went into panic mode. I felt like I was dying, I felt like I had a monster inside of me, I wanted it out right that very second. It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.

Not a pregnant belly..

To be continued.