Apr 24, 2014

In My Kitchen: Quinoa Quiche Bites & More

Just before the local produce started rolling in, I bought organic green leaf lettuce from the grocery store.  Look for yourself at how much greener one is than the other.  I am so glad the local produce is now available.  We had some of the best asparagus tonight - thank you Kellogg Valley Farms!  Be sure to hit the farmers markets this weekend.
I made quinoa quiche bites last night and we ate outside.  The fam loved them, and so did I.  This recipe was my inspiration.  I changed many of the ingredients and ratios...so I'll write below how I made them.  Quiche is really hard to mess up - make them with what you have on hand.  The quinoa added a bit of texture to otherwise squishy eggy quiche.  I really liked the texture addition.
I soaked 1 cup quinoa in water for 6-8 hours (until it sprouted), drained and rinsed it then cooked it 20 minutes in 1.5 cups of chicken broth.

In a large bowl, I combined quinoa with:
~1.5 cups of chopped ham
8 eggs
~1/4 c cream
chopped a bunch of green onions
chopped ~1 generous cup kale (wilted it in the quinoa while quinoa was hot.  This step isn't necessary.)
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 c grated cheddar (or more)
1 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked pepper - lots 

I sprayed regular sized muffin tins with olive oil then filled them level to the top of the pan.  Bake at 350 until the eggs look set.  I started checking at 30 minutes but they probably were in the oven more like 40 minutes.

Served with a green salad.

Shoppers Tip
I bought a box of 18 mangoes tonight for $10 at the Asian Market (next to Drug Emporium) on Reservoir.  Click here for how to cut them up.  Erin left a comment on that post saying, "I have to wear gloves when handling mango. Mangoes are in the same botanical family as poison ivy so the skin/peel contains urushiol, a skin irritant. I learned the hard way. :/ Still love to eat the flesh, though."

Just for bonus, here's a picture of my children in their Easter costumes.

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Apr 16, 2014

How To Cut A Mango

I don't remember where I learned this but every time I cut a mango, I think, "The world needs to know about this trick!"  And so, I took pictures as I cut up yesterday's mango.  
First, choose your mango.  They come in two varieties (that I've found in central Arkansas.)  The one on display is yellow.  However, you will also find a red and green fleshed mango, too.  I think they taste similarly sweet if they are ripe.  How does one know if it is ripe?  It needs to be firm with a bit of a give.  If too firm, or rock hard like a baseball, it is not ripe.

Using a paring knife, cut top to bottom, slightly off center.  There is a giant pit, or seed, in the center.  Go slow and feel your way around the pit.  If you feel there is too much resistance going clockwise, then try the counterclockwise.
 I try to cut as close as I can to the pit so as to remove as much flesh as possible.  Below you can see a bit of the white pit on the left.

Now for the cutting.  I usually score it in thirds from top to bottom.  Try to cut to the skin but not through it.
Then score it again perpendicular to your first cuts.
Here's where I wish for a third hand - or at very least a friend to take pictures.  Imagine two hands below with thumbs pushing the bottom of the mango so that the mango is no longer concave but convex.

 Now it is easy to remove the flesh in pretty little cubes.
Repeat with the second half.

Because I don't like wasting any food, I scrape the pit as clean as possible.  

Remove the remaining skin - as you would peel an apple or potato.
 Then slice off any remaining flesh.  These pieces will not be as uniform but they are just as tasty.
And this is what's left of the mango.  I had a neighbor who enjoyed gnawing on the pit.  While I agree it is delicious, I hate the feeling of mango bits between my front teeth.

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Apr 11, 2014

My Journey into Thyroid Disorder - part 3

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series on thyroid disorder by Erin.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we discussed the basics of the most common thyroid disorder, the most common cause of low thyroid function, how to determine if you have Hashimoto’s, and preliminary steps to take once diagnosed.  Today’s post will discuss specific changes you can make to calm your immune system and tame the attack on your thyroid.

 As mentioned previously, it is very important to get assistance from a medical professional with experience treating autoimmune disorders.  I recommend reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When MyLab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian for a fuller understanding of this topic.

Most people with Hashimoto’s have an imbalance in the 2 immune pathways.
These pathways are known as TH-1 and TH-2.  In most cases, one of these pathways has become dominant, allowing the immune system to become imbalanced.  It’s important to figure out which pathway is dominant so that you can take measures to support the weaker pathway and restore balance.

Once the immune system has been balanced, Hashimoto’s can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes (hello, Real Food!), often without the need for any thyroid hormone replacement.  
If caught early, there will probably be enough healthy thyroid tissue remaining that can manufacture its own hormones.  The most important changes to make involve removing gluten, stabilizing your blood sugar levels, decreasing stress, and getting adequate sleep.

If you have Hashimoto’s it is imperative that you go off gluten. 
Going gluten-free is not a fad for someone with Hashimoto’s.  The gluten molecule and your thyroid tissue look the same to your immune system.  So when you eat even a tiny amount gluten, your overzealous immune system destroys your thyroid.  In addition, gluten can stay in your system for 6 to 10 months, provoking attacks on your thyroid tissue that entire time.

Iodine supplementation for Hashimoto’s is quite controversial.
Many practitioners, even alternative ones, will frequently recommend iodine supplementation for thyroid health.  Unfortunately, that recommendation is based off research done by Dr. Broda Barnes (also the creator of the basal body temperature test for thyroid function) in the 1960s when iodine deficiency was the #1 cause of low thyroid dysfunction.  Hashimoto’s is now the #1 cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S.   Current research shows that iodine supplementation may actually trigger Hashimoto’s.  Read more here.  If you choose to supplement with iodine, watch your thyroid antibodies closely.

Normal consumption of cruciferous vegetables (aka goitrogens) is perfectly safe, even if you have thyroid dysfunction.  
I have told friends with thyroid problems to avoid cruciferous vegetables in the past, but I’ve recently learned that that recommendation is based on a faulty theory (read here).  Cruciferous vegetables include kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard greens (fyi… strawberries and peaches are also goitrogens).  Be aware that juicing these vegetables frequently would not be considered “normal consumption.”

As you may have guessed, there is a diet for people with Hashimoto’s.
It’s called the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (a.k.a. Autoimmune Paleo or AIP).  This is a Real Food, elimination-style diet where you remove possible offending foods and slowly re-introduce them after 30 days to watch for reactions.

A few resources for the AIP diet include:
PhoenixHelix (very good explanation of how to re-introduce foods here)

I am currently on the AIP diet.  I started out sugar-free, then went gluten-free, then grain-free, and now AIP over the course of 5 years.  I didn’t know AIP existed until a few months ago.  I can honestly say that I am not going hungry on this diet.  I’m greatly enjoying trying out new things like plantains and leeks.  The biggest adjustment has been avoiding nightshades since this includes white and red potatoes (not sweet potatoes, though!), tomatoes, and paprika, a spice that seems to be in almost every prepared food. J
With the way medical science is advancing, I expect to continue learning more about my condition and tweaking my approach.   I hope you’ve been encouraged to do the same for yourself or someone you care about.


Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

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Apr 9, 2014

My Journey into Thyroid Disorder - part 2

This is Part 2 in a 3-part series on thyroid disorder by Erin.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the basics of the most common thyroid disorder, hypothyroidism, and its most common cause, Hashimoto’s disease.  In today’s post, I’d like to discuss how to identify if Hashimoto’s is the cause of your low thyroid (or high thyroid) symptoms and what you can do about it.

If you are currently being treated for low thyroid (hypothyroidism) it is very important that you be tested for Hashimoto’s. 
There are TWO blood tests for this.  Most doctors will only run one.  You must specifically request both.  The tests to request are a TPO Ab (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and a TgAb (thyroglobulin antibodies).  One or both of these may be positive in Hashimoto’s.  It is also possible to have negative results on both but still have Hashimoto’s.   Confused? Read this.

Even if your doctor says your thyroid levels are “normal”, you should be tested for Hashimoto’s if you are having symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
The only test your doctor will likely run to check your thyroid function is called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).  Thyroid hormones can fluctuate widely with Hashimoto’s, so a one-time blood test of a single hormone does not give an accurate picture of true thyroid or immune system health.

It’s also important to understand that “normal” lab range values are determined by the lab results seen in medical patients.  With thyroid disorders being so widespread, you can see why the normal TSH lab range may not be the optimal range.  The standard lab range for TSH is .45 to 4.5.  Most likely, this is the range your doctor is referring to when he says your results are “normal.”  The functional range at which the thyroid performs optimally, however, is 1.8 to 3.0.

If you do not address the health of your immune system, you can continue to develop autoimmunity to other parts of your body. 
The most common progression associated with Hashimoto’s is autoimmunity to the small intestine (Celiac disease) and your stomach lining (pernicious anemia).  I personally know several people with Hashimoto’s who have developed other autoimmune conditions including vitiligo and lichen planus.

It is possible to experience hyperthyroid symptoms as well as hypothyroid symptoms when you have Hashimoto’s.
Hyperthyroid symptoms include heart palpitations, increased pulse rate (even at rest), insomnia, feeling nervous and emotional, night sweats, and difficulty gaining weight.

When thyroid tissue is destroyed by your immune system, the hormones stored in that tissue are released into the blood stream, which speeds up the body’s metabolism.  This scenario causes the hyperthyroid symptoms.

Going on unwarranted thyroid replacement can cause more problems than it alleviates. 
Your pituitary gland will stop stimulating the thyroid to produce its own hormones, weakening those pathways and possibly causing replacement hormone dependence.

If you have Hashimoto’s, you need to find a health professional with experience treating autoimmune disorders. 
I chose to go to a chiropractor recommended on Dr. Kharrazian’s website and was not disappointed.  General physicians do not typically test for Hashimoto’s because it does not change their standard treatment (thyroid replacement hormone).  The conventional treatment for autoimmune diseases is steroids to suppress the immune system, but steroids are not recommended for Hashimoto’s.

Again, if you’d like to know more, I highly recommend the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid SymptomsWhen My Lab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian.  Dr. Kharrazian is known as one of the leading experts in the non-pharmaceutical treatment of autoimmune disorders.  You can find out more at www.thyroidbook.com.

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Apr 7, 2014

My Journey with Thyroid Disorder


It is with great excitement I post the first installment of a three-part series on thyroid disorders.  I think you will enjoy and learn from this series whether or not you suffer with an unhealthy thyroid. 

Written by my friend, Erin, affectionately and respectfully I refer to her as my "researching friend."  This girl loves science and learning.  Trained as a physical therapist, she understands the body and how it was created to function.  When I have a question about disease, or anything that I think she might have researched, I definitely ask her opinion.  She is a true blessing to me.    - Julie


My thyroid crashed during my freshman year of college.  I experienced weight gain, brain fog, fatigue, hair loss, depression, and was freezing cold all the time.  For several years, I went to an endocrinologist for treatment of my “hypothyroidism.”  Once I realized that the procedure seemed fairly straightforward, I let my primary care physician handle it.  All that was ever suggested to me was to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone replacement (Synthroid, Armour Thyroid, etc) for the rest of my life.  I went once a year to have my TSH level tested through blood work, the doctor would adjust my replacement levels accordingly, and I would go on my way.

What I didn’t know was that an estimated 90% of hypothyroidism cases are actually caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s.  

I have learned a great deal more about my condition during the past two years.  

I’d like to share what I’ve learned in hopes that I can save someone from the struggle I’ve been through and perhaps even prevent them from having to take thyroid replacement for the rest of their life.

Thyroid disorders are common and autoimmune diseases are skyrocketing.
Chances are, either you are suffering from a thyroid-related illness or know someone who does.  It affects an estimated 27 million Americans, half of which go undiagnosed.

Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) affects many other functions in your body.
Thyroid function affects your brain, pituitary gland, gallbladder, liver, blood calcium levels, body temperature, intestinal health, hormonal balance, growth hormones (for regenerating cells and tissues), fat burning, insulin and glucose metabolism, cholesterol, and stomach acid.
Thyroid function is necessary to sustain life.  You can only live without a thyroid gland if you take thyroid hormone replacement.

More than half of the diagnosed cases of hypothyroidism are due to an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s disease.
In fact, Hashimoto’s causes more cases of hypothyroidism than iodine deficiency in the U.S.

Hashimoto’s is NOT a thyroid disease. 
It is an immune system disorder.  Your immune system is out of whack and is attacking and destroying your healthy thyroid gland.

Hashimoto’s commonly develops during pregnancy or soon after childbirth due to fluctuations in the immune system.

There are several possible triggers for Hashimoto’s.
These include vitamin D deficiency, environmental toxicity (like heavy metals), chronic infections and inflammation, gluten intolerance, estrogen surges, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), insulin resistance, and genetic susceptibility.

Interesting fact: More than 90% of people with an autoimmune thyroid disease have a genetic defect that affects the vitamin D receptors in their cells.  This defect negatively impacts their ability to process vitamin D.

Thyroid disorder is an extremely complex topic. 
Believe me when I say that I’ve only scratched the surface in this post.  If you’d like to know more, I highly recommend the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When MyLab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian.  Dr. Kharrazian is known as one of the leading experts in the non-pharmaceutical treatment of autoimmune disorders.  You can find out more at www.thyroidbook.com.

Part 2 in this series will cover how to identify if you have Hashimoto’s and what treatments are available.


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Apr 5, 2014

Geek Eats & Bernice Market (Sundays)

I went to two markets today - Hillcrest and Argenta - similar yet different in their offerings.  First I stopped in North Little Rock, to buy from Tammy Sue's Critters.  I love her shampoo bar and goat's milk lotion.  While there, the flowers were screaming at me to take them home.  Geraniums won out.

At the end of the row of vendors was Geek Eats who had samples to taste of the available flavors.  I'd been reading about their tantalizing concoctions in the Arkansas Local Food Network emails.  Jeremy, the owner and creator, specializes in hummus.  Of course he makes "original" but doesn't stop there.  How about chipotle, carrot curry, fresh rosemary and black bean, caramelized onion & Italian herb, spicy Sriracha and my personal favorite (that's not hummus): cilantro almond pesto.

You can eat it with a spoon.  It's just that good.

My husband saw it on the counter and helped himself.  He exclaimed, "This stuff is gooooood!"  No prompts necessary.

As I was typing this post, a friend texted from the farmers market with a picture of the cilantro almond pesto and said, "Best find at the market.  YUM."

If you failed to make it out to either Argenta or Hillcrest today (Geek Eats sold at both locations), you'll find them tomorrow, Sunday, from 10am-2pm at the Bernice Garden Farmers Market.   Tomorrow is opening day at the Bernice Garden Farmers Market.


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Apr 3, 2014

Farmers Markets This Weekend

Nothing says, "Goodbye winter!" quite like tulips.  Tara Stainton of Rattle's Garden will be at the Hillcrest Market on Saturday with plenty of pretty flowers.
The Argenta Market, in NLR, will also be open.

Hope to see you at one!

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Apr 2, 2014

How to Reheat Food Stovetop, Without a Microwave

Kickin' it old school here today.  Reheating stovetop is NOT news to many of you.  However there could be a few readers out there who can't remember - or maybe never learned - to reheat food without a microwave.  

I'm not hatin' on a microwave.  I have one.  I am leery of them so I try to limit my use of it.  When it comes to reheating dinner for the entire family it is easier for me to do it stovetop, en masse.  Plus, I prefer food heated on the stovetop because it is heated evenly through.  And maybe it is in my head, but I think microwaved food gets cold faster.  Anyone else had that experience? 
When reheating stovetop, I almost always start with a pat of butter.  Butter makes everything better.  You could use any kind of fat, really.  It gives flavor and moisture.  The cast iron skillet had a bit of olive oil in it.  Not enough so I added more butter.
Once the butter is melted, add the cold food.  Below I repurposed roast for shredded beef tacos by adding the Mexican trinity: chili powder, garlic powder and cumin.
 Give it a stir until it's warm through.  Voila, you've got taco meat.
Because there wasn't enough roast to make tacos for the whole family...well let me be honest...I was cleaning out the fridge.  This was a CRAP night in the Majors' house: Clean Refrigerator And Pantry.

In my cast iron skillet, oven-fried potatoes were reheated.
When they were warm through, I remembered I had carrots leftover (from the roast) and that the baby would like the carrots.  So I moved the potatoes to the side and added the carrots.
Last but not least, I had a single serving of red beans and rice that was warmed in a sauce pan.  We like it on the thicker side.  Just remember that chicken broth is always a welcomed addition when reheating food.  If I am reheating rice on the stovetop, I almost always use butter and broth.  If you don't have broth and your food seems on the dry side, add a splash of water or wine. :)
One of the things I like about reheating food on the stove top is that it gives me time to stall think creatively about what else I can clean out of the fridge nutritiously feed my family.  I'll start one thing warming, give it a stir, then go stare blankly into the refrigerator.

What else did we eat?  My husband made a giant salad for himself.  As a family we shared a fresh pineapple, that I'd cut up earlier.

Other tips:
- The oven works well, too.  Just be sure to cover the food (with foil or oven safe lid) to capture moisture so your food doesn't dry out.  I usually put the dish in the cold oven and let it reheat as the oven preheats.  Depending on the dish, I may give it a stir as it warms up.

- If I know we are having left overs for dinner, I try to remember to pull the food out the fridge a few hours before and let it come to room temperature.  This seems to speed the re-heating.

- Julie

PS I also use a toaster oven that is perfect for reheating smaller portions or slices of pizza.

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