05/23/18

Low Carb Escalloped Cabbage and 17(ish) truths!

Here are a few truths about me:
1. When I graduated from high school, I chose teaching children as a profession because I thought it was the only thing I would be good at. 

2. I LOVE teaching children. And teenagers. And adults. And friends. And you guys. And everybody! 

3. Pizza is, and will always be, my favorite food of all time. Period. Cliche, who cares. Pizza is FANTASTIC.

4. I’m loyal, and sentimental, love to feed a crowd and bring people together. I honor the idea of building people up, checking in, speaking my truth, helping others, and passionately protecting my joy. I believe in self-improvement, self-worth, self-love, positivity, growing, learning, evolving, and never, ever pretending to be someone I am not- especially for approval. And I have a mutual expectation of these qualities from family and friends. If I ever drift apart from you (yes, even if we are tied by genetics), it’s because I no longer feel that those qualities are mutually shared, and I will walk away in order to honor my own peace and my own healing. Being negative and toxic is not good for your health. Instead, give others, and yourself, authentic strength and love. Try it. It’s never too late. 

5. I love soapboxes. 

6. Did I already mention my love for pizza? 

7. We took a lot of road trips when I was a kid, and I still prefer them over flying anywhere to this day. 

8. I don’t like sports. Well, only baseball. 

9. My husband is a sports enthusiast.

10. We’ve got that whole “have separate interests” thing down pat. 

11. We do share a love of police shows. 

12. And Dave Matthews Band concerts. 

13. And pizza. 

14. And chickens. 

15. I am still on a grief journey, but there are days when I forget I even HAVE a grief journey. Life is so rich, and full of zest and love that there is no more room for daily grieving. I think of my mom everyday- the memories, the fun times, the traditions- but I don’t grieve for her anymore. Thinking about her is much different than grieving for her, because I feel as though grieving means I’m longing for what once was. Now, I understand that things are different, and that it’s OK to be different than it was. It’s OK to not feel a longing or a huge gap in my life. It’s OK to just LIVE, and to walk onward, and to be lifted by her spirit and by her memory. It’s OK to be reinvented after loss. It’s OK to create your new normal. It’s. All. OK. I promise. 

16. Still here? Yippee! I’ve got a recipe for you. Are you ready?

17. Bonus truth- I love, love, LOVE The Pioneer Woman. I loved her blog before she started her Food Network show. I want to visit The Merc and #buyallthethings. I love her family, her outfits, her recipes, her dish ware, pans, and knives! I want to cook with her, and chat with her, and be her 2nd best friend (I think Hyacinth will let me in). I just adore Ree! 

18. I wonder if Ree will ever read my blog?

19. Maybe.

20. I was watching her the other day and she made a delicious looking recipe from her aunt Edna Mae’s archives that I couldn’t wait to whip up: Escalloped Cabbage! 

21. Then I remembered: I hate cooked cabbage. 

22. Crap.

23. I’m going to make it anyway. It has cheese and jalapeƱos on it.

24. I love cheese and jalapeƱos. 

25. And I could easily make this low-carb and keto friendly! Done. Making it. 

26. Flash forward to today: It was SO good. Not as good as pizza, but GOOD. You should try it. All you can taste is the cheesy goodness and the cabbage just melts in your mouth! I served it alongside this recipe for chipotle slow cooked pork loin (minus the honey the recipe calls for- you won’t miss it!). 

27. Here’s the recipe!

28. Happy Wednesday! 

Low carb, keto friendly Escalloped Cabbage
Serves 8
A low-carb take on Ree's delicious escalloped cabbage from her aunt Edna Mae's original recipe!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 whole head of green cabbage sectioned into 8 wedges, leaving the core on
  2. 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  3. 2oz. full fat cream cheese
  4. 1 cups of heavy cream
  5. 1 cup of freshly grated Monterey jack cheese
  6. 1/4 cup jalapeno pub cheese (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
  7. 1/4 tsp. salt
  8. 1/4 tsp. pepper
  9. 1/2 whole jalapeno pepper, sliced into rounds, seeds removed
  10. paprika for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9in x 9in baking dish.
  2. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Parboil the wedges of cabbage for about 3 minutes. Drain very well, slice off the cores, then arrange in the buttered dish. (You could also steam them in a steamer basket for 4-5 minutes).
  3. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt and stir the butter, cream cheese, and pub cheese until melted.
  4. Whisk in the heavy cream and cook for a minute or two. Turn off the heat.
  5. Stir in the shredded cheese, salt and pepper, and let it melt until smooth.
  6. Pour over the cabbage. Dot with the jalapeno slices, and sprinkle on some paprika.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Notes
  1. 4.5g total carbs per serving (2.3g net carbs per serving deducting the fiber)
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
http://orangespoken.com/

 

04/22/18

1 year

We said “I do” exactly 1 year ago today!

What a beautiful year it has been. 365 days of adventure, travel, giving back, quiet moments at home, markets, projects, growth, friendship, fun times, challenges to overcome together, and so much love- more love than we could have ever imagined. 

People say marriage is hard work. But after waiting so long to find one another, after loss (we have both lost a parent), after previous heartaches, there is just no time for anything less than joy. 

Everybody should feel like that. Everybody should feel deep, authentic, joy in their hearts from a partnership. Everybody deserves to love that fully. 
I thank my lucky stars every day that we found each other. And I’m even more thankful for the experiences we had to go through before getting here. Without them, our paths might have never crossed. 

When you share more than just a marriage certificate- when you share a friendship, when you deeply honor and respect one another, when your love is true and unconditional, when you lift one another to achieve great things, when you release anger and baggage from the past, when there is kindness and forgiveness, you’ll find that problems are short-lived, troubles come and go like waves in the ocean, and good times are abundant and overflowing. 

And to us, that is what marriage is all about. 

It was so fun looking back at pictures taken during our first year as husband and wife. We have made the best memories not only in and around our home here in Tampa, but also in the places we have visited this year- Chicago, New York City, Boston, the beach, and the mountains of north Georgia!

And we cannot wait to discover what’s next. 

Cheers to a lifetime of more sweet moments of love and joy! 

04/15/18

Low carb, keto friendly blackberry lemon muffins

It’s berry season here in Florida!

From December-March it’s strawberry season.

And from about March-May is blueberry and blackberry season (with blackberry season starting a little later than blueberry season)! 

All throughout those months you can find the BEST berries around Tampa by venturing out just few miles to surrounding cities like Odessa and Plant City for both berry buying and berry picking!

I love berries, let me tell you.

They’re sweet, juicy, flavorful, versatile, AND low carb/low sugar!

You can enjoy them as is, toss them into you favorite mixed green salads, puree them with stevia and freeze them for sorbet, serve them with a bit of whipped heavy cream, or make (my favorite) muffins! I love berries and picked up some blackberries and raspberries this weekend from my local farmer’s market (pictured above). Aren’t they just gorgeous?! 

Before I started the clean ketogenic way of eating 7 months (and 50lbs) ago, I made muffins all of the time. With a few modifications, I’ve created an awesome crumbly, moist, and delicious blackberry muffin that will make even the non-low carbers in your life smile! 

This recipe makes 8 moist, tender, crumbly, and delicious cupcake sized muffins, or 24(ish) mini muffins. And if you don’t like blackberries, no worries! You can use blueberries or raspberries! I’ve used this recipe with all three berries and they were a hit each time. The lemon zest, however, is a MUST. It just takes these muffins to new heights and is certainly missed if it’s not there! So zest away!

At just 4g total carbs (2g net carbs) per muffin, you can enjoy one of these with butter for breakfast, a snack, or dessert! I was able to reduce the carbs in these little guys by using oat fiber to replace some of the flours in the recipe. Oat fiber has no effective carbs and works really well in keto baking! It’s not a 1:1 substitute, however, so be careful when experimenting with it. If you don’t have oat fiber, you can still make these! There are a few tips and modifications in the recipe to guide you.

If you’d like to purchase oat fiber for your low carb, keto life, you can snag a 1lb bag of the keto-friendly brand “Lifesource” for  $3.99 at Netrition.com!

Here is the recipe!

Low carb, keto friendly blackberry lemon muffins!
A quick and easy from-scratch recipe for low carb, ketogenic diet friendly blackberry muffins!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/8 cup coconut flour
  2. 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
  3. 1/2 cup oat FIBER (not oat flour)
  4. 1 tsp. gluten free baking powder
  5. 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  6. 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  7. 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  8. 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil or butter
  9. 3 large eggs
  10. 1/4 cup cold water
  11. 2 tbsp. zero calorie, keto approved sweetener (I used Swerve)
  12. 1/4 tsp. liquid vanilla stevia (if you don't have it, it's ok to omit- they will just be a little less sweet)
  13. 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  14. 1/2 cup fresh blackberries (if they are super big, cut them into halves)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together coconut flour, almond flour, oat fiber, baking powder, sea salt and ginger until just combined.
  3. Add eggs, melted coconut oil or butter, water, sweeteners, vanilla extract, and lemon zest into the bowl. Use a spatula or spoon to stir until well combined.
  4. Gently stir in blackberries.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon the muffin batter equally into 8 the cupcake pan. Smooth the top of each muffins with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula so that there are no "peaks". Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick placed inside a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Let cool and enjoy!
Notes
  1. At just 4g total carbs (2g net carbs) per muffin, you can enjoy one of these with butter for breakfast, a snack, or dessert! **If you don't have oat fiber, use 1/4 cup coconut flour and 1/2 cup blanched almond flour. The carb count for these will increase since oat fiber, as oat fiber has no effective carbs. You can purchase a 1lb bag of Lifesource oat fiber for $3.99 at Netrition.com!
http://orangespoken.com/
04/10/18

Til’ we dance away…

In the fall of 2012 I was at the eye doctor’s office getting an annual exam. 

I love my ophthalmologist, Dr. C. If you’re like me, going to ANY doctor is an uncomfortable situation, but Dr. C always calms my fears (of my eyes being poked out) with his gentle touch. 

But what I love most about Dr. C is his demeanor. As a physician, he is very careful and calm in his actions, which to me is especially important when it comes to an eye exam. And what I appreciate most about him, is his straightforward and honest, yet kind and sincere approach to discussing eye health with his patients. He has truly mastered the art of balancing being thorough, direct, and positive. 

At that appointment a few years ago I decided to bring up something that had been bothering me for quite some time. 

Sometime during my late 20’s I developed what looked like a burst blood vessel along the circumference of the iris of my eye. It hugged the edge of the circle and branched out and away from it, almost like a solar flare. It didn’t hurt, and it didn’t impede my vision, but it never cleared up. So at my next annual eye exam I asked about it to make sure it wasn’t something more serious. Back then I wasn’t seeing Dr. C yet, and the only thing that the eye doctor I was seeing said to me was “don’t worry about it, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, you will be fine.”

Other appointments through the years have brought much of the same message- “don’t worry about it, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, and you will be fine” or they’ve said nothing at all (unless I’ve asked). Some years I figured “no news is good news” and just let it be without bringing it up.

At that appointment a few years ago, however, I had decided that I wanted more than just a “don’t worry about it” response to what this was and I wanted to find out if there was anything I could do to get rid of it. What prompted this yearning to know more approach was that I had developed a self-consciousness about this “thing”.

I became hyper-aware of it’s presence. I would notice it in pictures. I would see it in the mirror. I even started noticing behaviors I had picked up along the way to conceal it-like slightly squinting the affected eye when getting my picture taken or when speaking face-to-face with someone. I realized that I had even gone so far as positioning my bangs over the effected eye to create a shadow that would help to hide the flaw.

Well, I was more than disappointed when my favorite eye doctor in the whole wide world responded the same way as all of the other eye doctors had regarding my issue: “don’t worry about it, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, and you will be fine.”

I remember thinking to myself “was this some kind of standard response doctors learn to say in medical school? Was I in the middle of some hidden camera show? Is he seriously saying the same thing other doctors had told me? Am I the victim of an eye doctor conspiracy?” I was more than dumbfounded. This was my kind, gentle, thorough, and straightforward eye doctor! This was someone I knew would have a better and more detailed answer than just “don’t worry about it, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, and you will be fine!” I wanted an explanation! I wanted options! 

Since he was literally looking at me straight in the eyes, he must have seen my pupils go bananas, or some type of eye-twitch to signal him that his answer must have struck an (optic) nerve. 

He moved the exam machines aside, rolled his chair in front of me, and told me exactly what this was. Apparently, people with dark eyes sometimes develop pigment “spots” outside of the iris. There is no cause for concern as long as there are no significant changes to the eye or my eyesight. He assured me that because I make an eye exam appointment every year, that I would be fine, and that he would be the first to notice and respond to an issue if there was one. 

I thanked him for explaining all of this to me and then asked him if there was anything I could do to remove it and he told me there wasn’t with this particular type of spot. 

“So I guess I just have to live with it?” I replied. 

“Well, yes, I don’t see any other option that you have than to live with it” he stated, in true Dr. C matter-of-fact form. “Don’t worry about it, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, and you will be fine, so go live!”

His words were so simple and basic, yet so profound to me. 

You see, this conversation happened in the fall of 2012. I lost my mom in the spring of 2012.

At the time of the appointment, I was deep within my grief journey, on the cusp of the holiday season, trying to figure out this “new normal” I had been shoved into without my permission. When Dr. C said that he didn’t see any other option other than I’d have to live with it, that message meant so much more to me than just the living with the imperfection in my eye. 

I realized that my grief was also an imperfection.
Losing a parent was an imperfection.
My life was literally an imperfection. 
Grief is nothing to worry about, it’s not harmful, it’s totally normal, and I AM fine. 
And I had no choice other than to live with it. And so I did. 

I didn’t tell Dr. C that I was grieving that day. But somehow I think he knew. I think in some way, shape, or form he delivered that message to me differently than I had ever heard it before. He said it to me with purpose and hope. And as I reflect on those words today, 6 years after losing my mom, I can truly say that I have embraced his message. 

I have lived fully and authentically in spite of this imperfection. My mom’s death has become a significant part of my life. A part of my DNA. A part of my being. A part of my soul. I am who I am right now because I have embraced and lived beyond any expectations I had about grief and losing a parent 6 years ago when it happened. Because of my grief, my imperfection, I live. 

And although I miss my mom every second of every day, I see the bigger picture. I see my part in her story, and her part in mine. I recognize and respect grief’s purpose in my life. I recognize my responsibility in helping others in their grief journeys. And above all else, I understand why it happened. 

And I’m forever grateful. 

Until we meet again, Mom.

 

 

 

Other posts about my grief journey and my mother, Judy:

Be Merry

5 Years

#TeamJudy

Grief to Joy

Happy Birthday Mom

Be Better, Not Bitter

Holiday Lessons

Be Brave

Mother’s Day

02/13/18

Hassleback Baked Envy Apples for your Valentine! {low carb}

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

I love any reason to celebrate- especially when it involves whipping up sweet treats for family and friends. 

I’ve been thinking about what to whip up this year for this day of love, and of course, thought of all of the regular go-tos: brownies, cookies, cheesecakes, truffles… 

But then, THESE gorgeous gems arrived at my doorstep courtesy of Envy Apples and Allan Brother’s Inc. Continue reading

01/4/18

Over the river and through the woods with the Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 AWC!

This adventure was made possible through a partnership with Mitsubishi, who provided me with a vehicle to test drive in December. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMitsubishi and #MitsubishiOutlanderGT!

Hello there beautiful!

Meet the gorgeous Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 AWC!  Continue reading

12/24/17

Not Your Abuela’s Deviled Eggs

Happy Noche Buena!

Today is our Christmas, as our family celebrates Noche Buena, or the Good Night (read all about our Christmas traditions here on this post). 

So tonight is allllll about food, fun, friends, and family!

I’m currently working on finishing up the Lechon Asado (roast pork), made with mojo, which is an amazing marinade of garlic, sour oranges, and oregano… which is making our home smell AH-mazing. My godmother is prepping the black beans, yucca, and her world famous salad (which she says no one can have the recipe to until she has it carved on her tombstone), the rice is fluffy, my dad picked up the Cuban bread from the infamous LaSegunda bakery here in Tampa, and we even have a tray of green bean casserole courtesy of my friend Nayra. We also have cousins bringing desserts and appetizers- when I say Noche Buena is alll about the food, I mean it!  Continue reading

12/21/17

Christmas Cookies Galore! (And some low-carb ones too!)

It’s no secret that I love to bake. 

Especially around the holidays!

Baking dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies for family and friends was a tradition my mom and I started way back in once upon a time time when I was a child. Her friend Mary Kelly would join us and we would literally bake all-night-long. 

Oatmeal fudgey bars, rum balls, Tollhouse cookies, Spritz cookies, jam dots, snickerdoodles- the list goes on and on. By the time we were done, we’d have enough cookies for my dad to take to work, my mom to share with her co-workers at school, and a plate for just about everyone else! 

My mom loved the holidays, and I’ve carried on that enthusiasm in her absence by continuing these fun traditions that we started long ago.  Continue reading

11/21/17

Strawberry Butter

Last summer my supervisor added an assignment to my scope of work, supporting new teacher mentors in 13 rural districts in Northwestern Tennessee. The work would take place at the University of Tennessee’s satellite campus in a small town called Martin, TN. 

I had been to Tennessee dozens of times- Nashville, Memphis, The Smoky Mountains- but Martin? Where in the world was that?  Continue reading