A beautiful new life
Alena Francis DiSante, Rolly and Margie’s first daughter, was born at 0451 on November 13th, 2011 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Praise God for a beautiful little miracle. Alena weighed 6.2lbs -- such a peanut! Congratulations Rolly and Margie! I can’t wait to see you and meet our sweet new niece. Love to all of you!
Anthony took these adorable family shots yesterday when he visited the hospital.
That look in Margie’s eyes says pure love . So sweet.
It’s really hard to make healthy, quick meals while working and going to school. Because of this, I’ve been trying to use a little bit of time on each of my free weekends to stock our freezer with healthy, ready-to-eat foods. Of course, we are also interested in saving money, and Wegmans often has good deals on bulk meat in their "club pack" section. A few weeks ago, I bought a whole pork shoulder with the intention of making pulled pork. At just over a dollar a pound, we were able to make a lot of meals relatively inexpensively.
(We have also been buying club packs of ground beef to freeze chili and taco meat - it takes a little bit of work up front, but the return is ultimately well worth it).
A few years ago, my idea of pulled pork was throwing some onions in the crockpot with a can of coke and a bottle of BBQ sauce. This works just fine, but it was never really amazing. The recipe that we tried this time was almost as easy, had much less sugar, and was delicious.
Here’s what you’ll need:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons applewood smoked sea salt
1 pork roast, preferably shoulder of boston butt
3/4 cups of water
1-2 jars of Wegmans Kansas City BBQ sauce (or whatever variety you like. Wegmans has a great selection of gluten free BBQ sauces)
Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, mustard, and salt together and smother all over the pork roast. Refrigerate overnight (or at least for a few hours).
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Put the pork roast into a pan, fat side up, and roast for 6 hours (Yeah, it’s a long time to have the oven running. To make the most of it, we prepared a potroast and cooked it along side the pork -- yum).
Cook the pork until the internal temperature is 170 degrees at the thickest point and it can be torn apart with forks. Take the roast out of the oven and move it to a platter to rest.
As you can see, we started to tear off some of the meat before Anthony took this picture. It was irresistible.
In the mean time, add the 3/4 cup water to the pan and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a jar of BBQ sauce (or more, depending on how much sauce you want on the meat). Pull the pork apart using two forks and place it into the pan with the sauce and juices.
The final product. It makes a lot of meat, so thankfully this is really fantastic frozen and reheated.
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence’s pulled pork BBQ. Yum. : )
Sweet Potato Cake
A few weeks ago, Chris Kresser posted a recipe for a sweet potato hazelnut cake that his wife, Elanne, dreamed up. We tried it tonight with some spiced maple cream & it was really good, so I wanted to share:
Check out the recipe here.
For the topping: sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg into about a cup of cream, add a splash of maple syrup, and then whip until fluffy. For decoration, I topped it off with a couple of toasted spiced pecans. Yum.
Anthony and I have come a long way with regards to improving our diet, but we still have a lot of learning to do. I’m so thankful that there are so many resources available to help us out with this journey!
Our Tennessee Adventure
It’s 631 miles from our doorstep to Heavenly Host, the adorable cabin that we rented during our Gatlinburg, TN visit. Several of our friends have vacationed in Gatlinburg over the past couple of years & nearly all of them recommended that we add it to our list of places to visit. When we discovered that I had a week-long break from school and work, we researched several vacation spots and this was the most affordable option by a fairly large margin. Gatlinburg is called the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, which are home to at least a dozen cascading waterfalls, numerous hiking trails, and lots of wildlife.
After a grueling drive, we arrived at Heavenly Host around 4:00AM Sunday (we got off to a really late start because I was finishing up a paper for my research class). We slept in Sunday morning, went grocery shopping, and set out a short hike to Grotto Falls.
It was dusk when we made our way back to the car, so we made dinner in the cabin, relaxed in the hot tub, and watched The Social Network before calling it a night.
The drive to Grotto Falls took us through the town of Gatlinburg, which reminded me very much of a beach town (many tourist-y shops piled on top of one another). We (especially Anthony) are not really into shopping on vacation, so we didn’t spend any time exploring the town.
On Monday, we drove to Cades Cove, which is a one-way 10.5 mile driving / biking loop nestled in the Smoky Mountains. We wanted to bike the loop, of course, & the owner of the cabin that we rented advised that bike rentals were available at the park office. We were surprised to learn that rentals were only available until 2:30PM and had to be returned promptly by 5:00PM or a late fee of $5 per minute was applied. In addition, the bikes were not in great repair, so we will definitely bring our own gear if we ever decide to visit Gatlinburg again. Having said this, the ride itself was pretty amazing. The mountains surrounding the cove were breathtaking & we were delighted to see a bear and her four cubs foraging just off the path.
On Tuesday, we ventured about 100 miles southwest of Gatlinburg to Reliance, TN, to kayak on the scenic Hiwassee River. We both agreed that this was, perhaps, one of the coolest experiences that we’ve ever had. Although we’ve both been kayaking on multiple occasions, this was first time we’d ever tackled class II rapids. It was incredibly fun & the crystal clear water and beautiful mountains that flank the river made it even more amazing.
We rented sit-on-top kayaks from Hiwassee Outfitters, who shuttled us (along with 20+ other rafters and ’yakers) up the river 5.5 miles to the start point. We met a really nice local family & their two whitewater rafting dogs on the shuttle. As we progressed down the river, we passed another K9 kayaking with his owner:
This particular dog was really funny: excitedly leaning over the front of the boat through sections of rapids, and then whimpering and trying to crawl on his owner’s lap when the water became still. Of course this made me think about how I really want a dog some day!
After a long day of kayaking and driving, we opted not to make dinner in the cabin. As we passed through Gatlinburg earlier in the week, we admired the Park Grill, so we decided to check it out. The restaurant was beautifully decorated & both the service and food were good, but we both thought it was considerably over-priced.
Prior to leaving for our trip, Anthony found out that there was a free kayak rolling clinic on Wednesday evening at Rapid Expeditions, so we planned our day around getting there by 7:00PM. We chose to hike to Mouse Creek Falls based on its proximity to the outfitter and left ourselves a three hour window to do a four mile hike. About a mile into the hike, we took a side path down to the creek, which spilled into many amazingly clear, deep pools surrounded by huge boulders.
We decided to hike along the creek bed rather than returning to the trail & enjoyed jumping from rock to rock and swimming in the crystal clear water. We had the whole creek to ourselves and it was really amazing. After a few hours of this, I’d fallen into the creek a couple of times (no big surprise there) and my shoes were completely saturated with water, so I had no traction. We were talking about retracing our steps back to where we got off the trail, when Anthony decided to take a quick hike up the bank and found the trail was right there! At this point, we were too late for the kayaking clinic, so we continued on to the Midnight Hole:
Anthony enjoyed jumping off of the surrounding boulders & I waded out into the water to take some photos and videos. From here, we continued another 0.4 miles to Mouse Creek Falls, where we relaxed for a few minutes before high-tailing it back to the car, because it was getting dark.
We were really blessed, because Thursday was the only day that it rained (and we were both pretty worn out from all of our other adventures). We leisurely ate breakfast in the cabin, relaxed, and watched Unknown. Although he isn’t really into shopping, Anthony took me to a couple of stores in the craft loop & we visited The Applebarn, where we checked out a couple of shops and enjoyed some ice cream (I had apple cinnamon & it was delicious).
On the way home, we passed The Mellow Mushroom & Anthony noticed they had a sign for gluten free pizza. I’ve really missed pizza since giving up gluten a few months ago (due to chronic illness), so we decided that we’d have to check it out later in the evening. To kill some time, we stopped at a lovely little spot along the creek & soaked up the scenery, lazily dangling our feet in the water as the sun set. It was so romantic just being there together -- a perfect last evening on an amazing trip. We returned to the Mellow Mushroom, where we ordered a gluten free Funky Q Chicken Pizza. I can summarize the experience in one word: yum. : )
In addition to everything I mentioned above, we slept in every morning & soaked in the hot tub every evening. We ate two meals a day & all but two were prepared at the cabin. Anthony planned really well & prepared some taco meat the day before we left, which we used for several quick, delicious meals. We also took some ribs that I froze the week before, which were surprisingly good when reheated in the broiler with some fresh BBQ sauce (side note: Wegmans recently came out with a new line of gluten free BBQ sauces!)
All in all, it was an amazing break from the hustle and bustle of life & a great chance to reconnect.
Thank you Lord for a safe, fun trip. : )
Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Easy & delicious (but not Paleo, obviously) peanut butter cookies:
My main issue with food seems to be gluten, so I haven’t stopped eating all legumes. I try to limit my dietary intake of peanut butter, & nuts in general, because they are high in Omega 6 fats, which are implicated in inflammation and are entirely too pervasive in available food sources.
We also try to avoid using a lot of sugar & keep our carb intake to less than 100-150grams per day. Ideally, using a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup that contains other nutrients is preferable to table sugar. Maybe one of these days I’ll have the chance to experiment with these things!
Having said all of this, Anthony’s sister, Tasha, made amazing looking chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches this weekend & I really wanted one, but didn’t want a gluten exposure. Gluten free recipes are often packed with expensive ingredients & appear really time consuming. This is quick, easy, and pretty delicious!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 t of vanilla extract
1(ish) cups of semisweet or dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the two types of peanut butter with the brown sugar until wel combined. Add the vanilla and the eggs and mix well. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
My only complaint about these is that they are a little crumbly! Hope you enjoy them as much as we have.
Recipe adapted from Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies.
Heat? What heat?
It’s been incredibly hot over the past couple of days so, naturally, we’ve been doing everything in our power to keep cool. The cats, on the other hand, still seem to think that sleeping on the heat-producing electronics is a good idea:
Chloe, snuggling up the TiVo.
I think Cheshire looks a little embarrassed about his poor choice here.
Ah well, we don’t keep them around for their common sense anyway.
We keep them around for the laughs:
(and because we love them so much)
Toasty nuts and apples
My last post was largely about our new diet and its positive impact on my health. So, when trying to eat natural foods, what’s for dessert?
This is super easy & really delicious, so I wanted to share.
Here’s what you’ll need for two servings:
For the spiced apples:
2 T butter
1 1/2 T raw honey
For the nutty topping
1 cup of pecans
1 T butter
1/2 T raw honey
For some extra deliciousness:
heavy whipping cream
2 frying pans
Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Put them into a frying pan with 2T of butter & turn heat on to medium. Sprinkle apples generously with nutmeg and cinnamon. Once the butter has melted, add 1 1/2 T of raw honey. The amount of honey and spice can be adjusted to your liking. Cook over medium heat until apples reach desired texture (Anthony likes them really soft & I like a little crunch).
When the apples are almost finished, prepare the nut topping. Melt 1T of butter over medium heat. Roughly dice pecans and toss into the pan with the butter. Add 1/2 T of raw honey and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Allow nuts to toast for several minutes. Pour the apples into a serving bowl and top with toasted nuts.
Pour heavy cream over the entire dish. The cream gets really hot & it tastes amazing. I know that this isn’t an option for folks that eat a strict Paleo diet & I’m not sure how coconut milk would work with this. We might try it in the future & I’ll post an update if we do!
Also, you could probably substitute other fruit / spices that you enjoy. We’ll definitely be trying this with peaches and pears some time soon.
Paleo, Nursing school, and other excitement!
My two loyal readers probably gave up on the prospect of a new post months ago, but I’ve decided that it’s time for an update, anyway.
In January, Anthony stumbled on this article about decreasing dietary carbohydrates, and it sparked a massive lifestyle change for both of us. As he found more and more information that pointed to the merits of the Paleo diet, Anthony began to make changes to improve his health. He watched the movie Fat Head, and began to listen to podcasts & read articles by Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser, both advocates of the Paleo lifestyle (although they do not define it in the same way).
It took a while for me to get on board, because I rationalized that the demands of nursing school and working overnight didn’t afford me enough time to prepare healthy foods. After I saw positive changes starting to occur for Anthony, I decided that I would give the Paleo diet (plus dairy) a fair shake. Eating Paleo seems difficult at first, because you must eliminate grains, legumes, and dairy (which most of us eat a lot of). Gluten (from grains), lactose and casein (from dairy), and lectin (from legumes) are all known gut irritants. The composition of our gut bacteria play a major role in health and wellness & eating these foods can cause not only local, but systemic problems.
The basic premise of Paleo is that you consume naturally occurring foods such as meats, vegetables, and fruits (in moderation) and remove highly processed junk. I have (almost) completely eliminated gluten and legumes from my diet, and the results have been pretty amazing. Before starting this, I had chronic stomach issues -- pain, nausea, bloating, and sometimes even vomiting. That wasn’t the extent of the problem, but I don’t want to get into too many specifics here. All of these symptoms are virtually nonexistent when I avoid grains and legumes! My dietary carbohydrates decreased naturally and I lost about 9lbs in a few weeks without any effort. I had gotten so used to abdominal pain that I forgot what it was like to feel good. I am so thankful that Anthony stumbled upon the Paleo diet.
And in other news...
Last December, I started the Nursing program at Cedar Crest College. The schedule is pretty intense, because we’re on campus 2-3 evenings per week and then at the hospital for two 8-10 hour days every other weekend. I’ve met some amazing people -- both classmates and patients -- and had some great experiences. It’s hard having to miss family gatherings and pass up hanging out with friends in favor of school work. My classmates have made these sacrifices so much more bearable with their continuous empathy and encouragement. I really couldn’t ask for better peers.
Still, I really miss our friends and family.
Fortunately, I was able to attend Maria’s graduation on June 3rd (I just finally posted the photos today). In the fall, Maria will be joining me at Cedar Crest College! Congrats, Maria. We are so proud of you!
We also had the opportunity to go to Rickett’s Glen State Park with Allie yesterday. It was SO amazing to have a day completely off of school and work. Thanks for a great time, Allie!
Two weeks ago, we received some really big news. Marilyn, the senior technologist in our lab, decided to pursue another position, which lead to a day shift opening in our department. After a new technologist is trained for night shift, I will be going to days! I’m going to be on a normal human schedule!! I am so excited, but my enthusiasm is tempered by the loss of an amazing technologist, leader, and friend. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with and learn from Marilyn & I truly hope her new position is a blessing for her!