Thursday, January 29, 2015

Detox Diet Month Recap

Thai Sweet Potato Soup and a Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Last year I didn't do my January detox diet like I have been for the past 5 years or so, I just did a pescatarian diet, thinking that it would help ease Scott into my January habit of lessening the digestive load.  It didn't really help me much and by the end of 2014 my digestive system was not in great shape.  So this year we did full-on detox diet in January.  No gluten, processed sugar, corn, soy, nightshades (tomato, potato, peppers, etc), caffeine, or alcohol was permitted in our diet for a full month (or at least once we got back from our FL vacay on January 5).  I told S he could cheat and have one beer in the evenings with dinner since I know he enjoys them so much and I gave him some yummy new beers to try for the holidays that he hadn't cracked open yet.  But he said he wanted to try the diet full on and see if it had any effect on him.  It was his choice, but he's been blaming me all month whenever he's craving a beer...
Maple Dijon Pork Loin with a Coconut Sugar Sweetened Sweet Potato
He certainly hasn't been complaining about the food he has been eating, though.  I of course have an arsenal of appropriate recipes on my pinterest boards, but this year I also got to use 2 new cookbooks that S got me for Hanukkah.  Danielle Walker is a paleo diet home cook who documents her recipes in her succesful blog Against All Grain.  S overheard my sister-in-law J talking favorably about the blog and the associated cookbooks that Danielle has put out while we were all home over Thanksgiving.  He'd been wanting to buy me some cookbooks anyway, so bam, inspiration! (J got both of the same cookbooks for the holidays too!)  The books focus on a variety of recipes that adhere to a paleo diet, which is completely grain, processed sugar, legume, and dairy free.  We haven't gone quite that hardcore this month (we've been eating beans, gluten free oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa products), but the recipes were a fantastic inspiration for new dishes to try in a month of restrictions.
Orange Cranberry Muffins
Apple Blueberry Crumble with Whipped Coconut Cream

Lemon Vanilla Bean Macaroons
Not eating processed sugar or added sugar products this month has definitely helped to cut down on our sweet tooth tendencies.  But the benefit of using the new cookbooks was having a few baked good options to fall back on that don't break any of our detox rules but still give us a slight sense of normalcy.  From the cookbooks I made "breakfast cookies" that are primarily fruit and coconut based, lemon vanilla bean macaroons, orange cranberry muffins and blueberry muffins (both of which heavily utilize almond flour), and an apple and berry crumble that is topped with chopped nuts and medjool dates as a sweetener as opposed to the sugar, butter and flour that tops a typical fruit crumble. 
Veggie and Sausage Breakfast Hash with Fried Quail Eggs
For breakfasts we still had to work around my egg yolk issues and a lot of paleo diet breakfasts are heavily egg-centric.  Our answer during the week was to whip up smoothies with frozen fruit, vegetable based protein powder, chia seeds, almond milk, coconut water, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and on occasion greens such as mint, spinach, or kale.  We mix it up each time.  We've also been eating a lot of gluten free oatmeal with fresh, frozen, and dried fuits, a squirt of honey, chia seeds, and almond milk.  And on the weekends I try to mix it up a bit with something different if we have time, like a sausage and vegetable hash (I topped mine with quail eggs), a veggie omelet using leftovers, or scrambled egg whites with fresh fruit and a paleo muffin.    We actually made so many smoothies that we killed my old (cheap) blender and decided that since we're going to continue making smoothies for breakfasts from here on out that it was worth investing in a Ninja blender.  We just got it yesterday and had our first Ninja smoothies for breakfast today - it's loud but those were some excellently blended smoothies!  I can't wait to try kale in them!
Pesto Stuffed, Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Paleo Lamb Empenadas over Salad with Avocado
While we've fallen back on a lot of modified old favorites this month like roasted vegetables, baked chicken, root vegetable beef stew, and broiled spiced salmon, I've also gotten to try out a lot of new recipes and ingredients that I hadn't known of before.  It took forever to find in a local grocery store, but I've been using Coconut Aminos in place of soy sauce, palm shortening and ghee (clarified butter fat without milk solids) in place of butter, coconut flour as a thickener, and my new favorite discovery, yucca root as a potato replacement and a DOUGH!  Two of my favorite new recipes are both yucca based, this Yucca con Mojo which was insanely tasty and insanely easy to make, and these Paleo Empenadas, which actually used boiled and blended yucca root to create a dough for the empenadas!  We've also made yucca fries in the past - such a versatile root vegetable!
Broiled Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions, Steamed Asparagus, and Mashed "Faux"tatoes
The first week of our detox diet I was recovering from a cold, so all of my new energy went to getting healthy again.  The second week my stomach was a mess and my skin was breaking out everywhere, but that is because this is when the toxins and nasty stuff were finally getting processed out of my body.  Week three I felt like a new woman!  It still amazes me the effects that diet changes like this can have on our bodies.  My digestive system feels so much better, I'm not bloated, and I have a ton of energy.  I'm not craving sugary products any more and I actually feel mostly full between meals (minimized snacking).  And on top of all of this, we've been decreasing our portion sizes too, and still not feeling hungry!  S hasn't felt all of the same benefits I have, but his digestive system isn't as finicky as mine on a regular basis.  But he definitely appreciates that we are minimizing sugar, snacking, and portion sizes. He said next year he probably will go ahead and have that beer with dinner, though.  I know the next obvious question is why wouldn't we just eat like this all the time?  The answer to that is cheese and wine.  I could live without them, but my taste buds love them so much.  Also, the diet puts a slight kink in our social lives since we can't have a drink or go to dinner with friends as easily.  I think we'll stick with a diet like this for the most part when it comes to home cooking, but we're not going to deprive ourselves of the foods we love.  We're just going to eat them in moderation (as we usually do).  If I find my digestive system starts acting up again, I'll frequently institute a mid-year two-week detox diet to set it right again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rocket Crash Lands

Space X launched a Dragon capsule to the ISS on January 10 on an updated Falcon 9 rocket, designed to have a reusable first stage (normally the first stage of the rocket, as with all other rockets, falls into the ocean never to be seen again).  This new version of the SpaceX rocket was designed to have the rocket’s first stage descended back to Earth by re-igniting a subset of its nine engines in a flyback maneuver aiming for a vertical touchdown on a specially-outfitted 300 ft long ship off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

Well during the landing processes, the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid moments before landing.  The first stage got amazingly close to the ship, but didn't quite nail the landing.  SpaceX actually released video of the landing attempt and it is phenomenal to see!!!

I can't stop watching it - it's addictive.  Space X is calling it a "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly", you can see Elon Musk's (owner of SpaceX) twitter dissection of the failure here.

(image from here)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Have a Lovely Weekend!

I didn't have time for a proper post this week due to the on-orbit toxic emergency on the ISS on Wednesday followed by all of the associated follow up work yesterday and today.  The bottom line is there were a series of inconvenient failures that made mission control believe that there may have been a toxic ammonia leak onboard the US side of the ISS.  It turned out that there was absolutely no ammonia that leaked into the ISS and it was a false alarm, but getting to that point took a lot of critical evaluation of the data.  And a number of systems are automatically switched off as part of a standard emergency response, so we had a lot to program back to normal afterwards.  We actually had 24/7 on-console support since 5 am Wednesday morning to support the issue and the aftermath, so it's definitely been busy.  Luckily I was scheduled for console support this week, so that means I got the mostly normal shift times.  Unluckily I'm also on-call this week, so I was the one who got the 5 am wake-up call on Wednesday.  Thankfully all is well on orbit now and we aren't required to support through the weekend. 

Next week I'm hoping to post about the elimination diet that S and I have been following for the month of January (me to re-set my fussy digestive system and S because he's just a good sport and always a fan of delicious, healthy food).  In the meantime I'm looking forward to a mostly relaxing weekend (I'm on call still and have my fingers crossed that nothing else goes wrong on orbit!)  S got me stained glass classes for one of my holiday presents and we're going to our second class tomorrrow.  I'll be sure to post about the results of the class after we finish next weekend!

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

(picture from here)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it's already 2015???  2014 just blew by, it seemed like we were always busy (in the best way possible).  The past 2 weeks were no different.  I had to work on Christmas Eve day and wound up putting in 9 hours of overtime only to have my newly installed hardware on orbit fail when we tried to start it.  Shoot.  We spent the evening on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with S's family here in Houston and then promptly caught a flight to Florida to spend a week and a half with my family.  Normally our Florida trips are pretty low key, lots of beach and pool time, hanging out with family, etc.  This time it feels like we were super busy, though - once again in the best way possible. 

The trip started off with some rain, so we ran errands and checked in with family (I had to do some work from my cousin's house due to the afore mentioned hardware failure) and then my brother D and his girlfriend arrived on Friday night.  I was in a cooking mood and excited to make some of my favorite recipes for the fam, so I proceeded to invite my aunt, uncle, and grandparents over and then cook a meal for 10 people.  It was a bit more work than I'd anticipated, but the dinner turned out delicious (lemon roasted chicken, lemon, pistachio, and butternut squash risotto, and a kale salad) and we all had a blast!  The following morning we played a carefully orchestrated game of Yahtzee planned by my brother so he could propose to his girlfriend!!!!
That's right, B is now my future sister-in-law!  The rest of the day we make the rounds to various family members to show off B's ring and that night we ate dinner out with our grandparents to celebrate.  The weather was somewhat cruddy while we were in FL, so we didn't get in a whole lot of pool time, but we did hang out by the pool for a bit on Saturday while we ate a family favorite, Laspadas subs (salami topper all the way!) for lunch.  On Sunday the boys went golfing and the girls spent the morning tanning at the pool (finally!) and the afternoon getting manis and pedis.  That evening we helped out while my cousin C, a talented photographer, took engagement photos for D and B.  But that wasn't all, then that night I made a HUGE batch of chicken and black bean enchiladas for the family and some visiting extended family - it was a busy day!  On Monday I had a craft day with my cousin C, her two adorable girls, and B.  I had splurged on a bunch of craft supplies and we spent all day painting pottery, making our own marbled jewelry dishes, and making multi-colored Rorshach paintings and then trying to guess what they looked like.  It was so fun!  That night we played Cards Against Humanity with my parents (!!!!) and laughed our asses off!
Hearing some of those phrases/words coming out of your parents mouth and seeing what dirty senses of humor they have was entertaining to say the least!  Tuesday was our Miami day with D and B!  We started off going to Coral Castle in the morning (S had been wanting to go since last year!)

It's this amazing fortress looking museum that a tiny little 5' tall guy carved entirely out of coral by himself back at the turn of the century.  The physics of it were mind blowing!  We got some AMAZING Cuban food for lunch (S ordered the most incredible Cuban sandwich that I've ever tasted) and then headed into South Beach for the remainder of the day.  We hit up Lincoln Rd, walked along the beach, got happy hour drinks on Ocean Ave, oogled all of the gorgeous art deco architecture, and finally gorged on fresh crab legs and shrimp for dinner.  All of the classics!

On Wednesday, it was family day!  We had our big family holiday brunch at my Aunt's place in the morning - bagels, lox, blintzes, latkes and mimosas!  That afternoon my mom and I went with B for her first wedding dress shopping experience!  She found one that may be a winner, but the shop didn't have a huge selection so she wants to try on a few more dresses just to be certain.  Then we ran errands to prepare for NYE that evening.  That night we were back at my Aunt's house for copious amounts of Chinese food (bagels and Chinese food all in one day - we're so Jewish....), board games, champagne, and a LOT of sparklers and fireworks!

That last picture cracks me up!  We'd been "helping" my cousin's daughters hold the roman candles.  Well on her last one, I asked if the youngest wanted to hold the roman candle with me and she replies in the sweetest little voice "No, I want to do this one with B!"  B was a bit terrified to be responsible for the little one and after the first of the 10 blasts started frantically waving her arm in the air in a panic.  So D stepped up to grab on to her wrist and steady her, but B was still flapping her hand back and forth for the rest of the time.  So cute and funny!  The next day we slept in (naturally) and then chuckled a bit while S and D helped my dad change some high up light bulbs.
How many engineers and project managers DOES it take to change a light bulb???   The boys then went to play some golf and us girls decided to ride our bikes over to my grandparents house to say hello.  We wound up getting rained in for a while over there and eventually made our way back in the drizzle (weather was so crummy) on the bikes and arrived home chilled and soaked.  Boo! 

So at this point we'd already been in FL for a week and I'd only sat out in the sun once!  We finally remedied that on Friday with a beach day!  We chilled out on the beach for most of the afternoon and S and I took a nice, long, leisurely walk down to the inlet as well.  So relaxing!  Friday nights at sundown are the start of the Jewish sabbath.  My cousin C graciously invited us over to her place to celebrate and have Shabbos dinner with her and her family.  We had a wonderful time, observing the Shabbat customs, chatting with my cousin D and his wife S, playing with C's daughters, and eating some truly delicious food (I wound up taking two of my cousin's recipes home with me that night). 

D and B left to drive back to Mississippi early on Saturday morning.  After they left we went back to sleep for a bit and then proceeded to spend the rest of the day at the pool relaxing.  That evening my parents were going to a dinner party at the neighbor's house, so S and I took the car and hit up Big Bear Brewing Company to try out some of South Florida's local craft beer.  My cousin and her husband joined us later in the evening and together we all closed out the restaurant.

Sunday was a travel day for us, but not back to Houston quite yet.  S and I rented a car and drove up to Merritt Island, my old stomping grounds, to check up on the townhouse that I still own.  True to form, my property managers were not quite living up to their end of the deal and the property needed a lot of work.  Grrrr.  But that frustration only lasted about 2 hours, after which S and I went to Thai Thai for lunch to get some of my favorite sushi dishes!
After lunch we drove up to the KSC Visitor Complex and spent a few hours visiting with Atlantis!  It was my first time seeing a shuttle since the program ended and it was definitely a bit sad (yes, I cried a little.....).  But it was also fun reminiscing too, like pointing to the yellow stripes on the FIB and telling S about the months of counting blanket stitches, and recalling supporting Atlantis's imagery inspection during the STS-125 trip to Hubble.  The KSC Visitor Center did a great job on creating the exhibit and spiffing up the rest of their complex as well while they were at it.  I'm hoping to go back again next time we're in Florida and bring my cousin and her little girls - I can't wait to start teaching them all about rockets and space!

We drove back down to south Florida that same day.  That night we started packing, but I was EXHAUSTED from the long drive and the emotional day so we passed out fairly early.  The next day we returned the rental car, rode the bikes over to my grandparent's house to say good bye, finished packing, had a late lunch with my parents, and then headed to the airport.  It is nice to be home (the kitties were SO excited to see us, they barely leave our side when we're at home), but I miss the family already.  And since we were so busy for our entire vacation I don't really feel very well rested either.  Plus I came down with some sort of mild cold/cough right before we flew home so that's wearing me out too.  We're just pushing through this week and then planning to try to relax some this weekend.  But it's definitely been an eventful start to the year - can't wait to see what else 2015 holds for us!