Give Love

First, sorry for the delay in posts! I was recently apply for graduate school. All my energy went into study for the GRE and my application. I’m happy to announce that I have been accepted! Being a full time mom, part time student, part time blogger, and with full time job will be interesting to balance!

This leads me to my main topic, having a good support system. I know I will need it for the next couple of years. However, Alex will need a great support system for the rest of his life to help ensure that he stays healthy. By healthy, I don’t mean just his heart health, but also his mental health.

Going through a near death situation can be difficult on anyone. Alex often reflects on how close to death he really was. He thanks me often because I was the only one pushing him to go to the doctor. Everyone else just told him it was stress from the upcoming baby. But my maternal instincts were kicking in already and I knew it was something more. I know he wonders what would have happened if I wasn’t in his life. I try to ease his worries by telling him that there is no point on pondering on the what if’s. You can drive yourself mad by doing that.

PTSD after any medical procedure is a concern. It can be especially important for those with heart disease because stress only worsens the issue. Thankfully, Alex has not showed any signs of this.

Adjustment to his new lifestyle has been the biggest challenge.

The most difficult thing though for us is adjusting to the loss of friendships and support. Whenever a major life event occurs, good or bad, you quickly learn who your true friends and family are. By this I mean the friends and family who will be there when you need them and you for them.

After alex was diagnosed and went through the procedure for the stent we saw a few things happen. First was the incoming support from a lot of family. Alex received calls from family members he hadn’t spoken to in some time while he was still in the hospital. Those were some of the best moments for him because they helped give him purpose. He felt like his life did matter and impacted others.

At the same time this was happening, in the background were friends distancing themselves from us. Of course we have friend who are more distant before because we no longer go out at night as much or because they moved further away. These are not the people I am referring to. Many of these friends still make a great effort to spend time with us and respond to us when we make the effort.

There is a group of “friends” who have distant themselves simply because they cannot handle the trauma themselves. I can completely understand why they do this. Alex tells me how he had an indestructible feeling before which is now gone. Some situations are too difficult for some to handle and backing away from it seems to be better for everyone involved. Some people don’t want to lose the sense of being indestructible which is why I think they turn their back on a friendship.

I got to see the effect this had on my husband. I quickly learned why a good support is important but also hard to come by.

I think it hit Alex the hardest around his birthday. We do the same thing every birthday for him. Watch the Wisconsin Badgers at a bar/restaurant near the stadium.

Alex began listening to the various conversations occurring by the group of people who came out. He heard about how activities he was apart of before the procedure were still occurring but he was no longer being invited. He heard about future plans people had with each other and how he was not included in on them. He saw people leave after the game to hang out with themselves somewhere else instead of joining us for cake and beers at our house like we usually do. Some not even bothering to say much to him at all.

At that moment, he had felt something he never had before. No self worth. He told me that night, with a tear in his eye, that it would not have impacted anyone at all if he would have died. That barely anyone would have cared and that barely anyone does.

My heart truly broke when he said this to me. I still fight with the rage I feel for certain people now.

Even now people make comments to him about something a group is doing without him and I can see the pain in his eyes.

Thankfully, he does have a good support system overall. The next day I messaged a friend who is probably the best listener I’ve ever met. He helped ease his worries more so than I could. At that moment, I knew I needed to reanalyze some friendships. For Alex’s sake, I needed to make sure his support system was strong. There will always be people in your life who might not know how to handle the situation. But if they don’t want to be apart of your life, you need to learn how to let go of those toxic friendships.

I find it interesting how people react to these type of situations. There are some people who react by not taking life advantage and live it to the fullest and make sure to include all those they care about. I see some people’s life prospective completely change. Some people have came up to me and have said that if anything would have happened they would have helped me in any way possible. And then there are those who run away. It hurts to see people run away from your friendships. People you thought you were close to. Alex pointed out though that these people are not ones who you ever felt truly comfortable sharing secrets with. They were the fun friends, but not true friends.

This holiday season, I encourage all of you to look at all of your friends and family and truly appreciate the ones who are there for you. You know which ones are the ones you could go to no matter what. These are the people you want to surround yourself with. The ones who love you unconditionally. I hope this holiday season you are surrounded by those who truly care about your well-being and want to have you apart of their lives.

Happy holidays.

How to make Kale taste good

Kale, the superfood. We have all heard of why it is so good for you, so I ask, why doesn’t it taste as good as it is for you! I mean, look at other superfoods. Sweet potatoes, delicious! Strawberries and blueberries, amazing! Even most people will agree broccoli is better (I’m rare and have always loved broccoli). Alex and I decided to find recipes that actually make Kale taste good! A challenge indeed. Today I present to you kale as a side dish and kale as the main event.

Kale Chips

This is actually Alex’s recipe! He does enjoy cooking once in awhile. Wait until I share his beer bread recipe, you will be shocked by how good and healthy that is too!

Since this is Alex’s recipe, I’m going to give it in his terms 😆 and also copy a generic recipe I found online.

In his words:

Oven set at 375 degrees. Then you grab a few big hand full of kale and wash it. (the kale we had was precut. If you are using fresh kale, remove leaves from stem and cut into bit size pieces)


Then you spun it, spun it down. (He is referring to the salad spinner).


And sprinkle a little olive oil on it so that it is covered and kinda toss it around. Put it on a cookie sheet.


Then bake it for 10 to 15 minutes until it is crispy. Throw some paprika or whatever you want on it. (I recommend either paprika or garlic powder!) Now eat it!


Here is a recipe for a better idea what to do. Especially if you like more direction while cooking.

We had this a game day side dish while watching the Green Bay Packers, aka the best football team ever! It’s as a little snack instead of chowing down on salty potato chips. We also enjoy these as a side dish whenever we have sandwiches.

Autumn Kale Apple and Quinoa Salad


Find recipe here

 If you are looking for a main dish using kale, look no further! The secret is the dressing. The longer you massage it into the  Kale the better the Kale becomes. The dressing is simply olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and Dijon mustard. Alex use to say he hated mustard. That’s until he tasted other mustards than just the standard yellow. Mustard is one of my go-tos when making homemade dressing. Dijon or whole grain mustard is always in stock! 


The writer of this recipe also is with not liking kale, so if multiple kale haters actually enjoy this dish you know it is good. 


We got the apples for the recipe from a local apple orchard called Door Creek. We go every year, but this year was special because Sammy helped us out! 
Now for the cheese, we actually went with mozzarella. Not for any particular reason than we ran out of all other cheeses 😩 It definitely tasted great with mozzarella still. 


We usually have salad as a main dish once every two weeks for dinner. Usually salads are more of a side dish with our meals though. Salads are great and customizable but having them all the time can be kinda redundant 🙃
There you go! Two recipes to give a try and see if you can handle kale yet! Let me know what you think or if you have any killer kale recipes! 

 

Starting off early 

Last week I started work again. I had 4 wonderful months off for maternity leave. The extra time I had off was truly needed for bonding time with Sammy! Sammy has hit a milestone at 4 months. If we wanted to we could start playing around with solid foods!

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Our pediatrician has told us that Sammy has a high risk for developing heart disease thanks to Alex. My dad always said if you have a weird habit, bad health condition, or really anything you can just blame you parents for bad genetics. He always meant it as a joke, but in this case, it is true!

We discussed the best method, for our situation, to introduce solids into Sammy’s diet. She recommended doing Baby-Led *Weaning (BLW). Basically, you skip the purees and go straight to real food. You prepare it in a way to ensure that it is safe for your child. You can start introducing the food around 6 months. Once your child has good neck strength, able to sit in a high chair unassisted, and be able to move food to the back of his mouth with up and down jaw movements, they will be ready for BLW.

*Quick note! Weaning is meant in the British sense, which is adding food. The American uses the term to describe stopping breastfeeding.

At this point breastmilk or formula is still the main source of nutrition. Food is for fun at this age. Discovering what they like, seeing their reaction to new textures and flavors, and teaching them valuable skills. There are also a ton of additional benefits to BLW.

  • Join in during family mealtime
    • You feed your child the same food you are eating. You just have to do some additional steps to make sure it is safe. Cutting food into small bite size pieces and cooking some items longer to ensure they are soft enough.
  • Eating a wide range of foods early on
  • Helps develop hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, and dexterity
  • An important step for babies in learning self-regulation
    • learning to stop eating when they feel full
  • Encourages babies to choose healthier foods

The last two points are the main reasons why we decided to go with BLW. Sammy’s high risk to inherit Alex’s bad genes is a part of nearly every decision we have made for him so far. We want Sammy to choose the healthier options early on to help his overall health. Now, this is not to say we won’t enjoy our fair share of ice cream, pizza, or some junk food here and there. I want to be clear, we are not putting our infant son on a diet, but rather encouraging healthier eating habits early on.  This will hopefully help prevent or delay health complications for Sammy.

Sammy is only 4 months, so we won’t be starting BLW for a few months still. I’m excited to start this journey with our little boy! He will truly be a part of our Mediterranean Diet Journey soon!

I know there are some moms out there who already have done BLW. I want to hear all about your experience and any tips you may have!

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Not just for heart health

It’s true, the only reason my family started the Mediterranean diet is because of my husband’s condition. Heart health has become a number 1 priority in our household. With that being said, there are loads of other advantages to this diet. 

The most obvious is that you will become overall healthier. The American diet is not known for its health benefits. Alex’s cardiologist told us not to stress about totally sticking with the diet because it’s near impossible to do so in America. We tend to like foods sweeter and saltier than other countries, so unless you are exclusively farm to table, you will probably have a few things extra that the diet normally avoids. We have notice our overall health improving though just by making healthier decisions with each meal and snack. 

Weight loss will most likely happen as well. My husband hasn’t completely started his exercise routine yet. In the summer we tend to be more active in general since the weather is so nice! Alex has already lost 20 lbs just by switching his diet! He weighs less now than he did when we were training for our half marathon a few years ago. Part of this diet is plenty of exercise. Once we start hitting up our gym more regular I’m sure he will lose more weight! 

Your energy levels will increase. When you eat a balance diet your energy levels usually increase with that. Harvard medicine has researched the best ways to naturally boost your energy levels. All of their tips are apart of the Mediterranean diet. A balance diet, smaller portion sizes and more frequent meals, and limiting alcohol but still enjoying a drink (or 2 for men) are all key parts to this diet. 

If you are not worried about your heart health yet, but want to live healthier then the Mediterranean diet is for you. It’s not a crash diet, where you will lose weight quickly but then quickly regain it all afterwards. It’s a complete lifestyle change! This means you will only continue to feel better as you continue the diet. Small changes to your overall lifestyle can cause huge improvement if you stay at it! 

All the signs

Do you ever look back and realize how many warning signs one event had. You then wonder how you could be so blind to it. I have been thinking about this a lot lately…

Alex and I went to one of our friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. It was our first night away from the baby! Which also meant, my first night having more than a glass or two of wine. Of course, I became a little emotional over the night, so I was a little on edge. Alex also had a little bit more than he should have to drink and started tell everyone about his “near death” experience. Of course, he bragged a little about how close to death he was as if he had to prove how miraculous it was that he was here.

As silly as he was being with that, I realized it was true. Most of our friends did not know this had happened to him. We had not told them just because we wanted to tell them in person. Didn’t seem appropriate to tell them via text! As Alex went around saying he nearly escaped death, people then came up to me to explain what happen exactly.

I told the story a few hundred times before, but this night with being a little over emotional I started to realize something. There were a billion warning signs telling us something was wrong.

We discovered it was a blocked artery in June of 2017. We found out how severe it was in July when he got his stent in. However, the warning signs started the winter before. The first was when we were working out. He started getting out of breath easily when doing any type of exercise. I told him to tell his doctor about it. She thought it was probably exercise induced asthma. He got his inhaler in January 2017.

Next he started getting jaw pain. He told his dentist about it in March 2017 and they told him to get a mouth guard for at night. They told him that it was mostly him grinding his teeth at night from stress. We of course discovered later that the jaw pain was actually associated with the blocked artery.

These are some of the bigger signs, but there were too many smaller signs. Like the stairs at our house getting harder for him each day. Mowing the lawn becoming a huge chore. Just the feeling of something being wrong whenever we talked about how he was feeling. Everyone kept saying it was stress because the baby was coming.

I don’t blame the doctors or anything for missing it at first. This was a freak incident. Alex’s cardiologist told him that he was actually angry when he found out how bad the block was. It was 4 weeks between the scan finding the block and him getting the stent. They knew it was blocked, but thought it was minimal. Upon learning that it was over 90% blocked, the cardiologist was angry at himself for putting Alex’s life endanger like that.

So there I was telling friends and strangers at this wedding about the events leading to the procedure and after. And I broke. This was the first time I truly cried about the incident. When I first found out, I had to hold back the tears, but I knew I had to be the strong one for our family at that point. But at that wedding, there was no holding back. I told my friend there that I forget how close we were to losing him. She said to me that I would have had the support from them and they would have helped anyway possible.

However, my tears weren’t for how close I was to becoming a widow at 25 or having to raise my infant son alone. They were for Alex and how he wouldn’t have been able to get to know our son. He wouldn’t have heard his first giggles or first words. Wouldn’t see him go to kindergarten or graduate from high school. Alex is truly one of the most loving people you could ever meet. Yes, he is a sarcastic ass at times and challenges everyone, but it’s always out of love. He deserves to live a long and happy life.

I know plenty of people go through similar type of situations and don’t have a happy ending. I thank our lucky stars every night because I know luck was on our side for this one. The doctors and us missed about every warning sign, but thankfully it was discovered in time.

This is just to remind everyone, that if warning signs start to add up, don’t ignore them. If you have a bad feeling in your gut, listen. It could save your life!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Pizza is pretty much the greatest food on the planet. My husband’s family pretty much lived on pizza while growing up. Even now, it’s shocking if his parents don’t have left over pizza on the counter when we come over. Before Alex’s health issues, frozen pizza was our go to quick meal.
We all have days where cooking is the furthest thing from your mind. Not sure if you ever looked at the nutrition facts on a frozen, but it’s not good. Digiorno cheese pizza has 670 mg per serving. The serving size is 1/6 of the pizza. When we eat pizza, self control usually goes out the window and we both end up eating half the pizza! So right there you are almost to your daily allowance for salt. And that’s with just cheese. Add any meat and you are way past it!

The fat intake is just as bad.

Alex was nearly depressed when learning this. Taking your favorite food away completely would be extremely difficult. Steps in the perfect wife 😉

I wanted to make an easy pizza sauce with tons of flavor but as little sodium as possible.

Tomatoes naturally contain about 9 mg of sodium per 1 cup. 

My friend grows her own tomatoes and always have an over abundance. Luckily for me, that means free tomatoes! She had Roma tomatoes ripe when I went picking.

I used 9 Roma tomatoes, so that is about 81 mg of sodium.

To make the sauce, I quartered the tomatoes and threw the into a glass baking pan. I added 1 sliced red bell pepper, which contains about 6 mg of sodium. To boost the flavor up I added 12 cloves of garlic, no sodium in those! I left the cloves whole.  For the seasonings I added pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Drizzled it all in olive oil and mixed them all together on the pan.


I threw it in the oven at 375 degrees and let them bake. I baked them until the tomatoes started getting brown on the outside.

Let everything cool for about 5 minutes. Then throw it all in a good processor. If you want a chunkier sauce, then pulse blend until you get the right consistency. I like my sauces to be more smooth so I blended it for a few minutes on my blenders middle speed.


This made about 6 cups of sauce. But it’s ready to go. You have a few options at this point. You can seal it and refrigerate for about a week. You could can it and store it away for future use. Or you can make pizza now!

I made 3 pizzas from this sauce and still had some left over.


I have not mastered pizza dough yet, so I got the pre-made ones. I went with a thin crust because those tend to have less sodium. Shop around your store though and find the crust that best fits your needs. If you have a killer pizza dough recipe let me know! I’m in search for a healthy pizza dough recipe.

I topped two pizzas with just sauce and fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

  • I would like to add that mozzarella is high in fat. It has loads of other health benefits but that is a huge downfall. To me it’s not pizza without mozzarella. If you plan on eating this pizza, just watch your fat intake for your other meals that day to ensure you don’t go overboard.

I froze these two pizzas as is. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap a few times to ensure it is completely covered then wrap in tin foil.

The pizza I made for us to eat had sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes. Basically a margherita pizza.


And boy was it good! The red pepper in the sauce really shines through and gives it a little kick in flavor. The garlic is just the right amount. You can really taste it but it’s not overwhelming.

No matter what you do, pizza will always be a little unhealthy. However, now you can enjoy it without missing out on all the flavor!

Find recipe here

No-Bake Granola Bites

My senior year of college was a hectic time in my life. I was commuting an hour and half to college, working part-time as a nanny, and had an internship with a legislature. I remember discussing with my supervisor at the internship how I never had time to eat a good breakfast. When I did eat breakfast it was usually super sugary and handheld. Something I could eat while driving! She then introduced me to no-bake granola bites. They are very easy and customizable granola bars, but made into bite size pieces. I started to make them all the time, but once the hectic mornings ended, I stopped making them as much.

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Recently my husband said that he wish he could have something quick and on the go for breakfast. Nearly everything we looked at in the store had way too much sugar, sodium, or fat. I decided to make him some easy on the go breakfast. No-bake granola bites were reintroduced into our life.

I seriously cannot stress how amazing these things are! My friend describes them as cookie dough bites, which I know I can eat endless amounts of that!

The base recipe is very simple: 

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup peanut or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

From there you can go crazy! I found this great website that gives 8 different recipe ideas for this along with the nutrition facts. They also give some great tips and tricks to make them the best they can be.

I found these tips to be most useful:

  • Resting time in the fridge – I tried my first ones with no resting time. Not only does this give the dry ingredients time to absorb the wet ingredients, it makes rolling them so much easier!
  • Adding different ingredients you love – I added flaxseed to all of mine. I love flaxseed and it gives an added nutritional boost. I added a tablespoon to each recipe. If you add more and feel like it is not sticky enough to hold all the ingredients, add a  little extra honey or peanut butter. A little bit goes a long way!

 

Tips for the Peanut Butter:

The FDA is banning all Trans Fat from food by 2018. We are currently still in 2017, so it’s still important to read the labels for this. Peanut butter is a common food that has hidden Trans Fat. If it has less than 0.5 grams, the company do not need to list it on the nutrition facts. However, it will be on the ingredient list. If one of the ingredients is hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil then Trans Fat is actually in there.

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Sadly, the Aldi brand we normally get has hydrogenated vegetable oils. We chucked that peanut butter out and went to the grocery. While searching we found the best peanut butter to get is the natural peanut butters. If you hate stirring peanut butter, we have found Jif Natural to the best alternative.

Trans Fat is directly related to heart disease. Artificial Trans Fat is made by a harsh chemical process by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. Trans Fat increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but does not increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Other fats tend to increase both, which helps balance each other out.

By avoiding peanut butter with Trans Fat you will make this delicious treat even healthier! I did not realize until we met with Alex’s nutritionist how much of my favorite foods still have some Trans Fat in it. Even when you try to go the healthier route, hidden bad ingredients still exist.

Storing the Energy Bites

The best way to store these in my opinion is the freezer. You won’t be tempted to eat all of them at once, like I want to if they are left out on the counter. They also keep for a very long time in the freezer. We usually only leave them there for about a month at most, but that is because we eat them all before them! When we want them we just pull how many we want out of the freezer bag and let them sit a few minutes to thaw a bit. They stay nice and chewy without becoming gooey messes!

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This is also one of my go to snacks for camping since they keep so well. We freeze them overnight in a ziplock bag then put them in the cooler right before we leave for our trip. As long as your ziplock is sealed tight, these babies will stay good the entire trip!

We are not huge snackers to begin with. You will have a heard time finding potato chips, crackers, or cookies in our pantry. However, once in awhile, a quick little snack is needed. Or even a quick on the go breakfast. These granola bites have been a great substitute for the not-so-healthy snacks in our lives!