Review: Once A Month Meals

 

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A couple weeks ago my husband asked me “What would make your life easier?”

Huh…whaaa? Easier, you say? It had never occurred to me to think of it in those terms.  Yeah, I know, how lazy can I be if that’s not an active and frequent thought?  So, here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:

1. Not making dinner every night

2. Having someone spoon feed me lessons in how to be organized

3. More sleep, less brain fog, more meditation, less driving, more cowbell…

Anyway…

Are you acquainted with the concept of once-a-month cooking (OAMC) or freezer cooking?  I’d first dabbled with it before Mike arrived (7 years ago!) in an attempt to get the freezer stocked up before we had a newborn in the house.  I did it exactly once and was so overwhelmed I never tried it again…until this month. This is what I did to make my life easier and possibly save some money on overall food expenditures.

I’ve had Once A Month Meals (OAMM) on my radar for a while, particularly since they have a menu swapping feature that lets you build a menu from their recipe collection and adjust it for your family’s size.  OAMM also features specialty menus like traditional, whole foods, diet, baby food, and–my choices–gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo.

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The absolutely best part, they spoon feed you how to do it!  Whoo hoo!  I knew I could figure out a shopping list, but this service offers an absolutely beautiful, detailed list (of course, I forgot a few things on my shopping day anyway), a lengthy prep sheet, cooking day instructions, plus all kinds of little videos and tricks on their website. Best tip: store all your prepped veggies in a cooler over night. When you subscribe to the service they you send a series of OAMM 101 Basic Training.  Little pointers like don’t jump right in, clean out your freezer first, and don’t try to cook with little kiddies underfoot.

 

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So, how did I do? I totally bit off more than I could chew.

Every summer my husband takes our two little guys to Pact Family Camp and I stay home with the teen, who had summer school classes this year.  I knew I’d have 5 full days to work on this project.

I needed it.

Because of my chronic fatigue, I’d planned on spreading out the cooking to 2 days.  I ended up spreading it out over 3.  In hindsight, I should have dialed down my ambition.  This plan is designed for hale and hearty young women who can power through 12 hours straight on their feet.  (I was also spending part of each day sorting through piles and heading out with my teen.  We hit the beach, ate out a couple of times, and took a short hike at a local park.)

Day 1, Thursday: I shopped.  I hit Whole Foods for most of the meat I was going to use and Trader Joe’s for some of their staples (and organic chicken tenders). I spent less than $350 for all organic produce, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and pastured eggs.  I bought almost exclusively organic staples as well, like Muir Glen tomatoes and various spices.  I used hemp seed milk in recipes that called for milk or almond milk.

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Day 2, Friday (it also happened to be July 4th): I prepped.  I chopped and chopped and chopped.  I honestly enjoyed separating prep out like this.  I’ve done it a couple of times before for Thanksgiving dinners, but nothing on this scale: my list included 6 cups of pitted and halved cherries, 7 cups of chopped onion, 2 cups of sliced onion, 4 cups of shredded zucchini, and 4 lbs of diced chicken breast. I put on music (I made a Lindsey Stirling Pandora station), wore comfortable shoes, and enjoyed the smell of fresh basil and cilantro, snagged a generous handful fresh pitted cherries, and managed not to cry my eyes out over 12 cups of onions.

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Day 3-4-5, Saturday, Sunday and Monday: I cooked.  I spent 2-4 hours each day cooking. About a third of the meals I picked were prep the marinade, bag ‘em, and freeze ‘em.  I ended up doing most those on Monday morning.

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What I made:

  • GFCF Apricot Muffins
  • Sausage & Pancake Breakfast Balls
  • Almost Chick Fil A Chicken Nuggets
  • Nightshare-free Cherry BBQ Chicken
  • Chicken Sausage Stir Fry with Kale
  • Mini Zucchini Bread Pancakes
  • Crockpot Shredded Chipotle Beef
  • Paleo Asian Turkey Burgers
  • Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken
  • Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
  • Carne Asada
  • Tender Grilled Pork Chops
  • Chicken tenders in lemon and rosemary marinade,
  • Italian turkey meatballs (meat mixed for me at Whole Foods meat dept)
  • Turkey-zucchini poppers adapted from this recipe
  • Batch cooked black beans and pinto beans

…actually double portions of everything but the pork chops and carne asada. So that’s about 30 organic, allergy-friendly meals for roughly $350.

What I would do differently:  I wouldn’t make the chicken nuggets, which are delicious, the pancakes or the muffins.  The nuggets and the pancakes were mind-numbingly labor intensive and the muffins aren’t nearly as good as a box of my beloved King Arthur Gluten-Free Muffin Mix.

I think next month I’ll scale it back and do a couple of mini sessions, but I’m looking at a month of ready-to-go meals, fewer shopping trips, less time in the kitchen, fewer last-minute “Oh just get take out” decisions, and reduced spending on food.

Now, let’s just hope they eat it all!

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Filed under Getting started, Managing allergies, Meal plans, Product Review

Progress Check on Mama, One Year Later

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This time last year I did a summary post of everything I was doing/trying/investigating in an effort to feel better.  If the starting gun to My Year of Feeling Better went off in January 2013, I was pretty much stuck not moving until January of 2014.

So what changed in 2014?  My naturopath figured out that my cells seem to be ignoring signals, like completely ignoring every incoming call and sending all that energy into voicemail.  Cell-to-cell communication was just weak.  My lipid panel were amazingly low for someone of my weight and the fact that I was eating a moderately high-fat paleo diet.  I just didn’t have enough cholesterol for basic hormone production and cell wall repair.  A total cholesterol of 127 is NOT good–it looked like my basic lipid metabolism was a little busted.  Dr Skinner mentioned something about lipid replacement therapy and it rang a small bell: way back in 2004 I’d gone to a natural health conference and heard about it.  I remember asking our DAN doctor about it and he told me that lipid exchange was what we were trying to do with all the high quality fish oil and krill oil we were giving my son. And that’s where I left it.

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Fast forward…Dr Skinner proposed I try a phosphatidylcholine IV push with a glutathione chaser.  But I was going to have to be on a low fat diet for it to have the best chance of working. The fats I was eating were getting shuttled directly into storage. The idea is to do an “oil change” to facilitate improved cellular communication. Also, I’d just gotten back my 23andme.com results and I have genes that give me a 70% chance of being overweight AND don’t process dietary fats well.  Oh, and two copies of the gene for celiac.  Good thing I’m already gluten-free.

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Here’s a good article from Patricia Kane, PhD, about phosphatidylcholine and how lipid exchange works. There’s also some evidence that it helps with athletic recovery (physical recovery from fatigue? I’m in!) and supports acetylcholine production, a neurotransmitter.

About the same time I decided to give MediFast a try for weight loss.  My mother has had good success with it.  I kept thinking I really already knew what I was doing…ha!  I had over 100 lbs to lose.  Clearly I didn’t know what I was doing and I needed to face up to that reality.  It’s a low fat, moderately low carb plan:  5 shakes a day and one lean-and-green meal.  I have to admit that it’s been a relief to NOT have to plan on my own meals much.  I just make sure I have frozen spinach in the freezer and salad fixings, eggs, eggs whites, and sliced turkey in the fridge. Everything I learned about weight loss and Paleo got tossed in the trash because it wasn’t working for me. I decided a stringent intervention was going to be more helpful than “moderation.”  I choose from the company’s gluten-free and soy-free options.  Yes it’s processed, but it’s working and my lean-and-green meal is always organic, whole food.

So for my birthday I started the PTC exchange and about two weeks later I started the MediFast.  After the success of the first two months, I started using some of my talk therapy time to address some of my poor mental habits around food and emotional eating. (Note to parents of special needs kids: I’m a big fan of the shrink.  Look into it if you feel like you need a non-family place to dump your mental garbage and sort through what you need to keep and what you need to let go.)

Almost five months later I am down more than 30 lbs and have had a significant improvement in my ability to function and be an active participant in life.  My memory is improving, my brain fog is receding, and best of all my energy levels have increased.  I used to have to plan on several naps every week and now I’m down to a couple of 30 min naps, if I’ve had fractured sleep the night before. I was able to go to the AutismOne conference last month, and while I had to bow out of evening activities and was in my jammies by 8 pm most nights, I was able to get through full days of conference sessions–from 8:30 am to 7pm–and withstand lots of high emotion from other conference attendees.  Five months ago I wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference AT ALL.

I found this entry from a Whole30 diary I kept last year: “…woke up after 8 mostly undisturbed hours of sleep feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  I’d say about 80% of my joint pain had returned.  The lymph glands in my neck were swollen, my throat hurt, my ears and hearing were extra sensitive, brain fog and fatigue.  Fatigue, fatigue, fatigue. I was such an unhappy, impatient mama.”

That was pretty much my life 80% of the time. The other 20% didn’t have the active swollen lymph glands and sore throat.  I did recently experience a little backsliding due to poor sleep and stress–nothing like a little adrenal burnout to put your health on the skids.  Good sleep, a PTC + glutathione IV, and some adrenal/stress support in the form of passiflora herbal tincture pulled me out of that tailspin.

I’m struggling with the diet portion of my program mostly because I stress eat and I haven’t eliminated stress from my life.  At least now I can recognize it for what it is.  As for the PTC and glutathione pushes, I need to get one every week.  I inadvertently took a 17 day break and my mental function and energy took a real hit.  The only other intervention that has had this much positive impact on my well being was going completely gluten free a few years ago.  That helped eliminate most of my joint pain, but nothing has touched my fatigue until the PTC + glutathione. I’ve also been taking PTC orally in between pushes (and make sure I have it with a serving of almond butter or other good fats).

So, here’s me, before and in-progress:

January 2014

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May 2014:

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And the best part of all of this is that I’m able to be a better mom and partner.  I have the mental acuity I need to tackle my kids’ myriad issues and the brain power and stamina to remember little things like picking up dry cleaning and making dinner…  Please note: I’ve lost weight before but NEVER had the improvement in my fatigue or brain fog.  It’s the PTC + glutathione, not the diet.

I’m interested in learning more about how PTC will help my kiddos as well, not that any of them would be happy about a weekly shot.

 

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Filed under Chronic Fatigue/Fibro, Supplements

Epsom Salts for Chlorine Detox

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Q:  It’s summer and we’re swimming a lot. How to we deal with chlorine?

In case you didn’t know, chlorine is not good for you.  It’s used as a disinfectant in our water supply and pools because it kills those little buggers that can make you sick, but it is, in fact, a toxin.  The idea behind its use is that we bigger buggers can handle a little bit of toxin and clear it out.  However…some of us and some of our kids are really topped out when it comes to toxins and toxin clearance. A dip in a public pool can push some kids with compromised detox over the edge.

What to do?  Epsom salts.

It’s by far the most frequently recommended remedy.  I’ve used Magnesium Sulfate cream from Kirkman Labs and straight Epsom salts in the bath tub.  I start with a cup in a tub full of water and maybe toss in half a cup of baking soda as well.

This is the brand an acquaintance swears is the cleanest:

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You can find it on iHerb.com.  It’s the brand stocked in Northern California Whole Foods stores.  I buy Epsom salts in bulk from Costco because we use several cups at a time.

And for the DIYers out there, make your own.

How does it work?  My understanding is that it delivers sulfate right through the skin, which the body can use.  Dr Rosemary Waring in the UK postulated that kids with autism might have a deficiency in a key detox pathway that uses phenol sulphur transferase (PST), an enzyme that is essential to the breakdown and clearance of toxins in the body, due to a lack of sulfate molecules.  Epsom salts can address that directly.

It also delivers a mighty generous dose of magnesium that can be very calming if your kiddo gets wired from a toxic exposure.

Edited to add:  A friend of mine also suggested using a Vitamin C spray.  Dissolve 1 tsp of powdered Vitamin C in water and use a spray bottle to apply.

So, dive in and enjoy summer time at the pool!

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Easy Frozen Yogurt

If you have an ice cream maker and some Greek yogurt, you are minutes away from some really delicious frozen yogurt. The way my kids are craving ice cream, I though I’d try to sneak a little probiotic goodness in under the radar. For my next batch , I’ll make this with homemade yogurt, recipe to be posted.

I have had the core of my ice cream maker jammed in the back of the freezer for two years. It was good and FROZEN.

I used full fat Greek honey yogurt from Trader Joe’s and about half a cup of organic strawberry preserves from Costco.

Ingredients:

• 4 c. (32 oz) Greek yogurt, honey or vanilla
• 1/2 c. organic fruit preserves

Directions:

Dump it all in the ice cream maker and turn it on.

Enjoy!

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What’s the opposite of High Times? Our trial of CBD oil

 

 

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I was not a fan of pot in college.  It reeked and the stoners I knew in college were annoying. I wish I could insert a memory Vine of my sophomore roommate in college–an incredibly bright chemistry major/surfer girl–rolling in stoned at 8pm the night before an Organic Chemistry final.  She laughed at me because I was frantically re-working my entire OChem lab notebook.  “Duuuuuude! That’s so funny that you have to study!” then she shuffled off to bed giggling and I stayed up until 4am studying.  She got an A and I got a high-enough grade I didn’t have to re-take the class.  Barely.  See?  Annoying.

 

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One of the biggest, buzziest things at AutismOne this year was the use medical marijuana for the treatment of symptoms related to autism, especially amelioration of both seizures and anxiety.  The first time I heard about this I rolled my eyes and blew it off.  Completely.

Then I read a story about a mom with a violent 15 yr old on the autism spectrum and how the atypical antipsychotics prescribed to him failed to work.  She tried medical marijuana and saw a much calmer kid emerge. I joked that if it made him want to sit around and watch TV, what’s the harm?  Way better than violent behavior.  WAY. I didn’t know a single violent pot head.

I started to hear more about it:  A Facebook friend started posting links to articles about CBD and THC-A and I would click through now and then. One of my Thinking Moms’ Revolution comrades, Tex, is an advocate for medical marijuana for autism in Texas. A local friend tried to convince me to give it try for anxiety since in California I can easily get a card. I have a friend who has found it’s the only thing that treats her migraines.  Instead of ending up in the emergency room on an IV of increasingly powerful drugs, as she has done several times, she stays homes and watches movies for a day and takes a nap.

More and more information was becoming available and more people were opening up about using marijuana for medical reasons…including seizures.  This was the one that got my attention. My 9 year old has epilepsy.  He has been on Lamictal for several years and has tolerated it well, but when he outgrows his dose, things kind of fall apart.  Because of where his seizures occur (and seizures are like real estate–location! location! location!), it negatively affects his behavior, spikes his anxiety, and causes some memory loss.  I’ve got concerns about side effects and long-term effects of Lamictal, of course, but in his case there are very real, very negative consequences of not controlling the seizures.  My other concern is how close my son is to bumping up against the ceiling dose of the med for his weight. If it doesn’t work at full dose–and I’ve read its fully effective 60% of the time–his doctor said we’d have to add another med.  And I’m really, really, really not excited by that prospect.

Enter CBD.

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You may have heard of a strain of  high-CBD marijuana grown in Colorado for a little girl named Charlotte who has intractable seizures: Charlotte’s Web. It has a much lower percentage of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot that gives the stoner high.  This story was highlighted on Sanjay Gupta’s special on CNN, “Weed.”

I wasn’t sure how to start my son on CBD, not sure how to broach the subject with his pediatrician.  I got into a scheduling snafu with the pediatric neurologist and wasn’t sure where to turn.  Then I went to AutismOne and sat in on the presentations by Dr John Hicks (who is local to me!) and Dr Jeff Bradstreet on the endocannabinoid system and using CBD.

The scales fell from my eyes and I saw the light!

Yes, it’s dramatic, but I’d largely ignored the ramblings of my friendly neighborhood potheads about the medicinal properties of their pet weed because I didn’t have glaucoma, cancer, or unresolved pain.  Most of the articles I’d read were written to rail against The Man and his control of  medical information.  While I’m certainly sympathetic to that position, the angry stoner position wasn’t convincing.  Geek that I am, what convinced me was a methodical presentation of information about how the endocannabinoid system works, charts, published studies, and case studies…because nothing sways me like a good dose of anecdata ;).

The AutismOne conference was sponsored by HempMedsPx, which sells a legal, standardized CBD concentrate derived from a non-GMO, high-CBD industrial hemp cultivar. I joked going in about how the whole weekend was going to be Reefer Madness, but the joke ended up being on me in a way.  I spent quite a long time talking to the reps at the HempMed booth, other parents who were hanging out, and even grabbed a few minute with Dr. Hicks after his lecture.  On my last morning there, I ordered a tube of the 15.5%  RSHO (real scientific hemp oil, not Rick Simpson Hemp Oil) and had it shipped to my house.

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I got a show deal, FWIW, which lowered the barrier to trying it.  (I also sent some CBD balm to my mom who is recovering from surgery.)

Before experimenting on my kid, I experimented on myself, taking a very small dose of the oil–I was advised to start with an amount equal to half a grain of rice. It made me sleepy and completely turned off my anxiety.  It was very interesting to go from my state of high stress to negligible stress in less than an hour. The positive benefit lasted a day or two, not wearing off 100% right away.

My 9 year old has been in a state of fight-or-flight his entire life.  After talking it over with our naturopath and reviewing the videos and articles, including this one, that explained how the cannabinoids operate on an entirely different pathway than the meds he was on, I decided to give it a try.

We started off with the merest smear of oil, but it was enough.  We have slowly worked up to a big drop of oil twice a day.  I layer it in mango sorbet so he doesn’t taste it.  Optimal dosing is sublingual, but it tastes pretty bad.  Encapsulating it would also work for those who can swallow pills.

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This is the hemp oil in a spoon with a crushed melatonin. I use a drop and then cover it with another thin layer of sorbet.  Results so far: We’ve seen a definite improvement in anxiety levels and sleep when he gets the 2x day dosing.  It didn’t affect seizures that we could tell, but it has helped his ability to cope.  Extreme stress has been a seizure trigger in the past, so the RSHO has noticeably decreased that significant trigger, which is enough right now.  We have had days where he gets one dose and a couple days completely off the RSHO and I noticed a return of the high anxiety when he didn’t get the CBD.

So, not high times, not reefer madness, but therapeutically appropriate use of a legal, natural medicine that has been screened for potency that delivers–for my family–on the promise of less anxiety without psychoactive side effects.

Duuuuude.

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Other interesting hemp facts.

Dr Bradstreet’s talk at AutismOne:

http://www.autismone.org/content/understanding-endocannabinoid-system-autism-and-its-implications-therapeutics-dr-james-brads

 

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Filed under ADHD, Autism, epilepsy, Supplements

What I Learned at AutismOne

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Note: I’ve got some video links to update as they get posted.  They should all be up by Tuesday.

 

  1. I can go all day, but not all night.  I turn into a pumpkin somewhere between 7pm and 9 pm. (Orphan Black is awesome, BTW)
  2. We’ve been missing out big time since we’ve been denied access to medicinal marijuana and its constituent ingredients. hempmeds.com has a line of high concentration CBD products that are derived from industrial hemp and are legal in all 50 states.Image
  3. Moms are an under-utilized natural resource. Also, we need to stop the Mommy Wars.
  4. There is always something new on the horizon. See: Magnetic Resonance Therapy.  WOW! Potential game changer.
  5. Our movement is starting to expand past autism to include parents concerned about ADHD, sensory processing disorder, food allergies, childhood leukemia, plus food activists and medical marijuana activists…  basically, anyone who wants to feel better and have healthy kids.  See: http://www.canarykidsmovie.com and www.oneintwo.org.
  6. Voltage is everything. You want to be alkaline because that means your cells have higher voltage.  Higher voltage = more oxygen.  It’s all about electrons.  Eat veggies and drink alkaline water.  See, high school chemistry does have direct bearing on your life!
  7. We’ve got to make change in the marketplace first, then the politicians will follow. See: Robyn O’Brien.
  8. Take care of yourself.  It may feel like that’s just not possible, but if you are the engine that runs your family and your child’s program (be it just ABA or everything under the sun, plus extra cooking), you’ve got to find away to keep your own engine in good working order.
  9. Essential oils do more than just smell good.  I’ll be investigating Young Living oil (my pal Guardian is a distributor).
  10. RoundUp is an utter DISASTER for human health.  Dr Stephanie Seneff from MIT gave a very chilling and very convincing presentation on it’s role in myriad health crises.  She also mapped the increase in incidence of several issues—food alleries, autism, Alzheimer’s—against the increased use of glyphosphate in the US and the graphs were kinda terrifying.  I totally get that correlation doesn’t equal causation, but damn, it’s worth taking a closer look at.Image
  11. So, GO ORGANIC!!
  12. There are amyloid-beta plaques formed in both autism and Alzheimer’s disease.  Several practitioners mentioned the disease process in both looks remarkably similar, but it’s age of onset that distinguishes it.  There is an enzyme available over the counter that will dissolve the plaques: Trehalose.  Here’s a video explanation.
  13. I learned more to help my everything-but-autism kid than I thought possible.

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Why My Kid’s Food Allergies Are Ruining Your Party

I’m over at The Thinking Moms’ Revolution this morning spouting off on food allergens in the classroom.  Yep, I was pretty riled up.Image

 

By the way, I made these cupcakes for Allergy Kid’s 7th birthday party from the King Arthur Flour’s Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix and they were devoured.  He tolerates a bit of dairy so I used organic buttercream frosting and decorated them with an organic gummi bear, but you could use this recipe for vegan buttercream instead. No gluten, no artificial coloring, no preservatives.  Kids still ask me if I’m going to bring cupcakes again when I show up to volunteer in math class:

 

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