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Quarantine 5, 10, 15…

I’m trying to decide if I’m worried about the 3-5 pounds I’ve picked up since quaranteening. It’s been about 9 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m not moving around as much as I used to working at an office.

I adjusted my Fitbit step goal weeks ago because I just couldn’t retain a high amount of steps when I’m moving around in this small space as opposed to a 3-story, government building with large parking lots and hallways.

Because I weigh myself a few times a week (used to be daily), it’s been one of my strategies to keep my weight in check. If the scale teeters upward for over a week, I adjust my food intake and exercise regimen. However, I’ve learned over the years, it’s much easier to control your food intake rather than trying to burn off the extra calories, especially as you get older. I also can’t overlook that I’m on a new steroid medication to help my lungs. This could be contributing to extra pounds.

It’s no wonder that I’ve become more lax in my food choices with all that’s going on in the world as COVID-19 is at the forefront of everything. I know I’m not the only one. We did celebrate a big take out, Italian feast for Mother’s Day. I’ve been generally eating more convenience type foods like fish nuggets from Trader Joe’s and Panko breaded shrimp from Costco.

My family can’t get enough of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfort food and I think most everyone’s heart and soul needs comfort right now.

Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. LPC

So I got on the scale this morning and it was up a little. My weight tends to fluctuate daily, which is why I stopped weighing myself daily. However, I’ve noticed an upward trend. I decided to do some meal prep today and tend to focus on vegan and vegetarian foods if my weight increases in the slightest. Meal prep helps me set myself up for success because I still struggle with taking breaks during the day to eat since I’ve been teleworking. I’ll share a couple of meals I prepared this weekend.

Turkey chorizo egg muffins. LPC
Turkey chorizo egg muffins ready for the oven. LPC
Sauteed turkey chorizo…my 1st time trying. LPC

I was inspired to make the chorizo variety from the Pioneer Woman herself- Ree Drummond from the Food Network. I’ve made what I call “lil egg muffins” many times in the past using whatever ingredients I have. I knew I could remake this for way less money than the frozen item and I knew it would be delicious. I also chose to use turkey chorizo instead of pork which helps with the calories.

I tend to be low in protein and iron, so these egg muffins will be a great protein snack I can quickly warm up in between my back to back meetings.

Fennel Lentil soup. LPC

This soup is one of my ALL-TIME favorite soups to make and it’s VEGAN. I’ve posted pictures of it in previous posts. Soup is so comforting to me. This one will fill me up without lots of calories. I’m getting plenty of iron from the lentils and spinach.

Baked sweet potato, broccoli, sauteed onions and fried plaintain. LPC

Sunday’s brunch was a vegetarian play on the steak dinner I made last night. It would be vegan if it weren’t for the parmesan I sprinkled on the broccoli when I baked it earlier in the week.

Thin cut New York strip steak with sauteed onions, rice and peas with fried plaintain. LPC

I’ve restarted menu planning a couple of weeks ago mostly because we are well stocked on groceries and I want us to use them. I don’t cook Haitian foods often although it’s in my blood, so I decided to devote at least one day a week to Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans is a Haitian staple.

I made a special trip to the grocery store to purchase steak since I’ve been craving it. This could be a sign my body needs the iron so I listened. Saturday night’s steak dinner was delicious.

Marinade for two different types of steak.

A fresh marinade I tend to whip quickly in my mini food processor is fresh parsley, lots of garlic, lemon, green onion, a hot pepper of sort, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. You can use this marinade with any protein, but it’s especially good with chicken.

Sunday small portion dinner: steak, plaintains, and premade salad kit. LPC
Roasted garlic parmesan carrot fries. LPC

My husband misunderstood when I asked him to pick up carrots from Costco. He got me two large bags of baby carrots when I asked for just carrots. The expiration date was upon me, so I had to do something because I was tired of eating raw carrots. The carrot fries were good, but I think they would be better with a dip, which I haven’t found a recipe that peaks my interest yet. I’ll keep looking.

I think I have a solid plan for food this week. The only thing is my birthday is in a few days and I know what’s on the menu. I’d like to celebrate without worry. My plan is to stick to my healthy options the other days of the week and then splurge a little on my birthday. I’ll talk about exercise in a different post. I’ve been experimenting with various exercise platforms for a few weeks and it’s been fun!

Am I worried about the few extra pounds? I am a little, but in the big scheme of themes, my life is great because I’m healthy, happy, and loved by the people who matter. I’m being proactive and that’s what matters.

How are you coping? What’s one healthy habit you’re committed to doing every day?

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Foods that heal me

I might be awaiting the results from the COVID-19 test I took on Thursday, 4/9/2020, but I’m not going to lay down and let this respiratory illness kick my butt. My husband, Bryan, helped cook our delicious Easter dinner, but I also want to share the meals I made this past week that have been helping me heal.

Easter Meal small plate April 12, 2020. LPC

I haven’t had much of an appetite today, but I made sure my family had a delicious Easter dinner. With the exception of the turnip greens and cabbage medley, these aren’t necessarily the foods that heal me, but cooking does help me feel better. And dinner was simple because I couldn’t do too much. I’m grateful Bryan stepped in to complete what I started. Ham, potato salad, turnip greens and cabbage, Mexican corn, and corn bread rounded out a delicious meal.

Chicken noodle soup April 2020. LPC

Chicken noodle soup does wonders for respiratory illnesses. I made this soup on Friday and this one BLEW my mind it was so good. It consists of my homemade chicken broth, roasted chicken, egg noodles(bought at an Asian Market), mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, fennel, red pepper, jalepeno pepper, and spices including turmeric and ginger. Do I really need to tell you why this soup is so nutritious? If you don’t know, look up the amazing wonders of each of the ingredients I listed. I have a big bowl of leftovers to carry me through a few more days.

When you need a spoon and a fork for your soup, then you’ve done good. LPC
Triple berry yogurt parfait April 2020. LPC

Gut health is so important because it impacts so many other areas of health that you wouldn’t think are connected to your gut. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ve learned there are many benefits to probiotics. And plain, organic greek yogurt is my favorite food for probiotics. I defrosted about 1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, added a dab of maple syrup, a packet of stevia, and topped with organic granola. This parfait certainly gave my immune system a boost.

Sausage, squash, spinach, and peppers medley April 2020. LPC

The nutritional benefits of powerhouse greens and fresh produce in general is almost endless. I strive to eat mostly plant based foods. I was craving spinach and remembered I still had some beautiful organic yellow squash to add. This dish also has red peppers which contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and onions, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth, and spices. This could be eaten with rice, quinoa, grits, or with no side at all. It could also easily become a vegan dish by omitting the sausage, adding extra greens and/or squash, and using vegetable broth or water.

Mango orange green smoothie April 2020. LPC

Of course, I drink a daily green smoothie, but when I’m particularly under the weather, I load up on produce with high concentrations of Vitamin C. In this batch, which produced 3 mason jars of smoothies, I added 2 cups of dethawed mangos, frozen bananas, an orange, chia seeds, flax seeds, collagen powder, ginger, almond milk, and organic spinach. My appetite was low today, but sipping on this green smoothie in the morning ensured I was hydrated and getting some nutrition. Drinking out of my cute owl jar also made me feel better.🦉

Cod sauteed with spinach April 2020. LPC

My main two choices for hearty fish are cod and salmon. I buy them fresh in large packs at Costo, then I portion and freeze in ziplock bags. We were done cooking and eating our Easter meal around lunch time. For dinner, I ate half of the portion of cod pictured above. I needed a good source of protein and Omega 3s and this cod is packed with both.

Hydration (water and teas) and sleep are a couple of other areas I’m also focusing on. I might be sick, but I’m doing all I can to get better. I’m looking forward to feeling better really soon.

What are you cooking this week? What are your favorite healing foods?

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Cooking in the midst of ‘shelter in place’

I was made for this pandemic. As a breast cancer survivor, I believe I’ve already faced the most horrific news anyone could bare. And I survived it along with treatment. As the bread winner in my household for a couple of years, I’ve been diligent about planning our grocery shopping and meals within a budget. We will survive this COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m not gonna lie: it is a little unnerving to see empty shelves at the grocery store. There’s certainly a new normal of buying what you can find. Grocery shopping is like a scavenger hunt now. The brand of flour I like is not on the shelf. In fact, there is no flour on the shelf, except at Costco. Items that you take for granted are gone. Lysol wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, hand sanitizer (I barely used the stuff) are the highest commodities right now. Of the items noted, last week I was only able to find paper towels.

Our Grocery Cart at Costco 3-31-2020. LPC

Our grocery shopping strategy was different for April. I decided to do most of my shopping at Costco having gotten a peak at the grocery store shelves in our neighborhood stores. Empty shelves is the theme. I have the storage capacity to stock up on freezer items and pantry staples, so I took advantage. We purchased extra food. I do this type of shopping every month, so it’s not new to me. I’m just thankful I can do it.

For those who follow my site, you know I mostly cook homemade meals. Our household budget doesn’t allow much room for eating out, so we’re not missing much with the restaurants being closed for dining. However, I’m sad for all of the people who have lost their jobs, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industries. There are many people who have lost their jobs in other industries also.

Chicken salad on naan. LPC
Sunday dinner 4-5-2020: Chunky potato soup and chicken salad. LPC

In uncertain times like these, I hone into doing what brings me joy such as cooking. I love feeding my family. My son asked me last week to make chicken salad. He actually wanted me to buy canned chicken. I was like, “NOOOO!!! Are you kidding me! I don’t make my chicken salad with canned chicken.”

Since I was craving a version of my potato soup with my homemade chicken broth, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I put a whole chicken in a large pot with water and added aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, celery, and spices. I let that boil for almost 24 hours. Then I removed the chicken from the pot, shredded it, and added the shredded chicken to a dressing of mayonnaise, chipotle mustard, pickled jalepenos, yellow bell pepper, diced celery, a dab of relish, and spices.

For the soup, I roasted 2 russet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. In a stock pot, I sauteed onions, celery, fennel, yellow bell pepper, garlic, in olive oil. I sauteed about 2 tablespoons of flour in the mixture with a pad of butter. Then, I added my fresh chicken broth. I diced up the roasted vegetables and added them to the pot along with fresh parsley. I let that simmer a bit then added about a half cup of cream. I let it all simmer while I did some step aerobics.

Codfish sandwich and homemade french fries. LPC

My daughter’s school was providing free lunches to families a couple of weeks ago because school was out and they didn’t know what to do with the food. At that time, the schools were planning to reopen on 4/6/2020…so they thought. Although my daughter didn’t want to go because she doesn’t like their food, we made her go with us anyway. We explained that there is no shame in getting free food, especially since the school didn’t know what to do with the extra. We went about 2 days. There were other families too.

If you have no other options for food, I can see how this would be a valuable resource. My family ate the food both times that we went. However, we opted to not return. Other families need it more than we do and I’m conscientious of feeding my family more healthy options. I did greatly appreciate the fruit. The bun pictured on my fish sandwich is from one of the school meals. It took a matter of minutes to saute a small portion of cod to make that fish sandwich. It was so good!

In uncertain times such as these, I’m safe, surrounded by the people I love, and have endless options for cooking delicious and filling meals for my family. And I’m full…in more ways than one.

What do you plan on cooking this week? How are you coping?

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Bowls of self-care

We are living in strange times indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic is one for the history books. The silver lining is we’re being forced as a human race to collectively slow down, which I hope allows for lots of self-care.

My type of self-care is nourishing myself with nutritious foods. Three of the four people in my household are high risk if we somehow catch this virus. I’m focusing on our health.

The epitome of comfort in my book is a bowl of soup.  As I’ve written many times, the activity of cooking is soothing to me. On Friday, while teleworking, I made two nutritious and delicious soups: chicken tortilla and black bean. I let my homemade bone broth simmer for hours. My pantry and freezer staples helped me rise to the occassion.

Black bean soup. LPC

In these coming months, I hope you make time for self-care and whatever that means for you. I’ll continue to cook and share, hoping you get inspired by my recipes and even share some of your self-care ideas with me.

What steps are you making to care for yourself?

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COVID-19 Chronicles: Adventures in grocery shopping-new normal?

Plan. I planned it a week ago after my experience last weekend. Give the people one week to get the panic shopping out the way, don’t succumb to the panic, arrive at grocery store at the new opening hours (7:00 am) on Saturday morning, get one pack of toilet paper (one more pack will make me feel better), paper towels, a few other miscellaneous items, and then go home.

Preparation. On Saturday morning, I got up early and prepped my morning tonic of hot water, lemon, apple cider vinegar and honey. I threw on some warm exercise clothes because a cold front came through the day before. I grabbed my jacket, travel mug, and purse and headed out the door to my car. Randall’s, one of my favorite grocery stores, is about 5 minutes away from my home. I arrived to a full parking lot at 7:07 am. It was still slightly dark outside.

Observation. Randall’s had a lot of activity for what would otherwise be a quiet, Saturday morning. As I drove up at 7:07 am, I saw a few people already walking out of the store with toilet paper in tow. I was greeted by a mound of toilet paper towards the front of the store with a sign indicating “Limit 1”. There were also lists throughout the store with purchasing limits on certain products. Although there was a plentiful amount of toilet paper (generic brand) in the display, I decided to go to the paper product isle to see all of the available options.

Product availability. To my dismay, there wasn’t much left. Most of what was left was the “value corner” brand of toilet paper and paper towels. Most all other name brand products were gone. I’m making this point not because I’m one of those people who feel compelled to purchase name brands. I’ve had to stretch my grocery budget on one income for over two years, so I started buying more store brand products years ago. Randall’s doesn’t have the best deals on name brand paper products on a regular day, but I could see people didn’t care. People purchased most everything despite the costs. The store did not bother marking sales from the weekly sales ad either. I gratefully picked up two of the main items on my short list because there weren’t any a week ago.

Randall’s Paper Product Isle 3-14-2020

Shopping strategy. I had a short list because as I’ve shared with my readers before, I purchase 90-95% of my groceries and household items in the first few days of the month. My monthly grocery budget for my family of four is between $500 and $630 depending on if there are holidays and which bills I have to pay that month. I split the shopping between Costco, Randall’s, Trader Joes, and Sprouts (in order of amount spent at each store, highest to lowest). I had no reason to panic as it became clear COVID-19 was becoming a pandemic. Officials began telling people to purchase 2 weeks of extra supplies. I knew my family was fine since I had already shopped for the month and tend to keep a well stocked pantry.

Some products I purchased on my shopping trip for March 2020: tuna, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. LPC

Plan Execution. I actually started typing this post as I waited in the long, line that extended down an isle at Randall’s. This was my first experience of waiting in such a long line at this store. I had perused the isles to pick up a few other items on my list and could see the store was busier than normal. Some isles/shelves were bare or getting there: pasta, canned goods, dairy, eggs, meat, frozen foods, and cleaning products. The produce section was plentiful. In my grocery cart (cover photo), I purchased: Almond milk (lady was just restocking when I walked up), bananas, frozen spinach (for my smoothies), bleach, 2 boxes of Ritz crackers (on sale 1.49 each), a package of paper towels, a package of toilet paper, and a container of bleach. I felt accomplished.

Pandemonium. Upon initially learning about the corona virus, I didn’t believe that it would affect me at all. However, the news stories kept evolving and it was clearly getting closer to home. Despite posts from my facebook friends of the long lines at grocery stores, I remained calm and told myself I was not going to succumb to the panic. There’s also been a frenzy at work. I work for a large public health agency, so I couldn’t downplay what was happening anymore. My agency has since required a number of staff who can telework to do so. Schools have closed, universities are resorting to online courses, restaurants are barred from in-store dining, and gyms are closed, to name a few of the recent changes. People are losing their jobs.

High demand, limited supply. I will say, having experienced with my own eyes how people are shopping as if there will be nothing left tomorrow, is unsettling to say the least. Some grocers spoke on the news about how there is not a food shortage and they are doing everything they can to replenish items. Either people are purchasing the products so fast that they are all gone after 10 minutes of the store opening or grocers are not restocking the shelves at a pace necessary to keep up with the demand. Perhaps, it’s both. We attempted to go to Costco to pick up another 2 cases of water. The line was wrapped around the outside of the store. We also observed they were only letting a few people in at a time. It was so unsettling, we drove off and vowed to try again on Tuesday.

Think of your neighbor. My heart goes out to the people who are not able to purchase supplies, let alone extra, because of their finances. Some are not finding what they need, especially for their babies. For the people that are going overboard, I understand ensuring your family is covered, but what about leaving some for the next person, who could be your neighbor. I have to admit, after experiencing what I did yesterday, I wondered what it’s going to be like when I do my monthly grocery shopping for April. Will I be able to get what I need? Will arriving to the grocery store at opening hours and waiting in long lines for whatever products are available be our new normal for a while? I think what’s happening is a reflection of the U.S. masses not having faith in what they’re being told. At the onset, we were told this was a hoax, and now the whole nation is practically on lock down as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.

Light at the end of the tunnel. We haven’t hit the worst part yet, but I have a strong faith in God that we’ll get through this. We’ve been through so many other notable viruses and tragedies as a country, so I know we’ll get through this one. In many ways, I believe I was built for this. There are opportunities for everyone to slow down, reflect, recharge, reconnect, and start fresh. At the end of the day, the message we should all receive is preserving life is more important than all the other things. Let’s take the time to be grateful and look out for one another.

What have your experiences been with the COVID-19 pandemic? How do you plan to make the most use of social isolation? What lessons do you think you’ll get out of this experience?

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2020 Health Chronicles

This time of year, I’m usually vegan, but I’m vegetarian for right now because I enjoy a little cheese and plain, greek yogurt on occasion. I’ve been craving a GOOD veggie burger. Alas, it’s that time of the month where eating out is not an option, so the next thing I knew, I found myself searching online for black bean quinoa burger recipes.

Homemade black bean quinoa burger. LPC
Black bean quinoa burgers with shredded cheddar & sauteed onions & jalepenos LPC

This recipe was easy & super tasty. Since this isn’t a cooking blog, I don’t normally provide the step by step instructions. You can do an online search for recipes yourself. My main goal with sharing my food is to inspire you to cook at home and enjoy more plant based foods.

I will say that sauteeing onions, peppers, and spices in coconut oil prior to adding to the bowl of drained, smashed black beans added a flavorful touch. I also added bread crumbs, an egg, and more spices such as cumin, chilli powder, smoked garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little dab of liquid smoke.

I’ve blogged about setting yourself up for success to achieve your goals. In like fashion, I prepared another one of my vegan staples for the work week.

Vegan hash cakes ready for the oven. LPC

I got the hash cake recipe from one of my vegan cleanses. I love them because they satisfy my savory and crunchy desires. I plan to eat these throughout the work week atop a salad with a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil. The ingredients for these hash cakes are similar to the black bean quinoa burgers in that they have quinoa and beans (garbanzo and peas). The difference is the hash cake recipe includes fresh herbs (parsley and mint….I used cilantro in place of mint) and the binder is chia seeds soaked in water instead of an egg.

Roasted carrots, macaroni & cheese, french green beans in balsamic glaze. LPC

For Sunday’s dinner, I made a pot roast for my family along with the sides pictured above. The pot roast (not pictured) looked divine, but I didn’t have any. The sides were delicious.

I took advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual exam. I saw my oncologist last month. My primary care physician walked into the office asking me if I’m still doing Zumba. Everything looks great….just waiting for the blood work results. I talked to my doctor about how I work hard to stay healthy.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting through my mail. I had a paper bag full of paper for the recycling bin. It’s difficult to explain, but since the time I was in graduate school (2009-2011), I’ve lost interest in sorting through mail. I think during the time, since I had to narrow my focus to survive my grueling schedule as a working mom and student, I decided to put the mail on hold. I left it to my husband, and although he means well, he isn’t nearly as detailed as I am.

Sorting, reading, and filing the mail continues to be something I’ve ignored over the years. I could blame it on graduate school and having a demanding job and family. Whatever the case, it’s time for this habit to stop.

In an effort to improve my whole health in 2020, other goals of mine are to improve my financial health and get on top of this mail.

What are you cooking up this week? What are your top goals for 2020? How’s your progress with sticking to your goals?

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What’s next on this 2020 health journey?

Now that I’ve completed the 10-Day green smoothie challenge, what’s next for me on this health journey? Well, for starters, I will use this momentum to continue to cook and eat healthy meals.

Canned goods for Sunday soup. Mango Madness green smoothie in the background. LPC

I used my homemade chicken broth (collagen benefits) as a base for my delicious vegetable soup called Flat Flush soup. Soup is my ultimate comfort food. Flat Flush soup is full of nutrition. You can do a search on the internet for Flat Flush soup recipes.

Soup prep LPC

The ingredients in my soup are: onions, garlic, a variety of peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, canned tomatoes, beans, parsley, cilantro, lots of spices, and chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth). Whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand for this soup will work. The cover photo was taken prior to simmering for 2 hours.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that cooking healthy meals is not just about keeping my physical body healthy, it is a soothing, essential part of my self-care routine. I particularly needed self-care yesterday after sitting in the emergency room for hours with my husband, Bryan. I was reminded then (not that I needed the reminding) health is beyond physical health. Physical health is very important, but in order to take care of our whole selves, there are other aspects we must attend to.

Health is a state of well being that includes physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, occupational and environmental health.

It’s essential that we all take care of our whole health. It may not be feasible or make sense to tackle everything at one time. This is where goal setting, planning, and execution comes in.

On a special note, I’ve adopted a new perspective on planning in the midst of the realities of life. I’ve been following Pastor Tony Evans out of Dallas, Texas. He wrote the bible lesson plan on Detours. He says to by all means plan, but plan making a space for God’s will. Plan acknowledging, “if God wills it”. That way when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we won’t be so crushed because we know God is with us and we’ve made a space for Him.

So in 2020 I’m looking forward to setting more goals, planning, and taking care of my whole self, my whole health, bit by bit.

How about you? What are your health plans/goals for 2020? What steps have you made thus far? How are you setting yourself up for success?