Baked Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal

baked oatmeal

Yesterday, I went apple picking at a local orchard with some friends. I came home with far too many apples for a single person to eat and decided I needed to get creative in the kitchen.

I love making fresh, warm applesauce this time of year. But, today, I wanted to try making some baked oatmeal. I found a recipe online and made some modifications to it.

This oatmeal would be great with other modifications – using berries, almonds or another kind of fruit. It is also amazing served with yogurt or a little milk or cream.

I’m definitely going to be making applesauce soon – and perhaps I will finally figure out how to preserve food by canning!

[yumprint-recipe id=’10’]

“There’s a chance you have cancer but I don’t want to speculate until we know more.”

(cross-posted at Losing It Without Losing Me)

via GIPHY

“But don’t worry. Even if it is cancer, you’ve probably had it for months or years – waiting a few weeks for a biopsy isn’t a big deal. This cancer grows slowly.”

via GIPHY

Let’s back up.

I started noticing some difficulty swallowing in late spring. I felt like I had a lump in my throat – like when you have a cold – only I didn’t have a cold. My sinuses, ears and lungs were fine. I just had a sore throat and didn’t feel like I was running at 100%.

I couldn’t take my morning pills and vitamins all in one gulp of water like I used to. I actually choked on my medication a couple of times.

I felt like something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. June was going to be crazy – I was moving across town, my brother was getting married and I had a three-day sorority conference out of state.

I told myself that if I still felt off after I had gotten through my move, the wedding and the conference, that I’d get in to see my doctor.

On June 29, I saw my primary doctor. I told her that I felt like there was a fullness in my throat/neck and that I was concerned that there was something wrong with my thyroid. I’ve had hypothyroidism for almost six years and I am able to recognize the symptoms when I’m having a flare up. This seemed more than a flare up.

My doctor examined me and said it did feel like my thyroid was enlarged on the right side. She recommended I have an ultrasound to rule out any problems. She also ordered a blood test to see if my TSH counts were off. My counts were off, so she increased my meds again.

I had an ultrasound the following week. I was very nervous but the technician was really nice – even though it felt like I was suffocating as she pressed the ultrasound wand into my neck to get images of my thyroid. I was told that I would get the results in a few days.

I left the hospital nervous, but figured I wouldn’t worry about it until the results were in. I went and got my nails done and was headed home when my phone rang. It was my doctor’s nurse. Just 90 minutes after I left the hospital they were already calling with results.

The nurse said I had multiple nodules on my thyroid and that my doctor was giving me a referral to an endocrinologist. I was transferred to the specialty area to make an appointment.

I made an appointment (but couldn’t get in until August 19) and asked to be put on a wait list. I followed up with a friend who works at the medical college (and whose dad is a retired ER doc). My friend spoke to colleagues who recommended I make an appointment with one of the endocrinologists there (who happens to specialize in nodules and thyroid cancer). A friend’s younger sister who had thyroid cancer seven years ago also recommended this doctor so I called to make an appointment but I couldn’t get in to see him until September 28. I am also on his wait list.

I wasn’t handling this well – that i had all these nodules and I had to wait so long to even have a consultation. Meanwhile, the fullness in my throat is getting worse and every week i notice another head/neck position that makes me hyper-aware of these nodules.

via GIPHY

The next week, I got a call from the guy my doctor recommended – there was a cancellation and they got me in for an appointment. Dr. S. did an exam and asked me lots of questions. He said that my thyroid is very damaged and that the damage is irreversible. It’s enlarged all over with multiple nodules on the right side and there’s one on the left side that is 1.7cm. He said this one is suspicious – partially because of its size, but also because it’s by itself. He also said my personal health history as well as family history (aunt had thyroid cancer a few years ago and my grandpa had half of his thyroid removed a decade ago due to suspicious nodules) combined add to the suspicion.

The doctor said that it could be cancerous but he didn’t want to speculate until we did a biopsy. But he said the “C” word and I didn’t hear much else he said after that.

I do remember him saying that depending on the test results, we may take a variety of treatment paths: Surgery, additional biopsies on the other nodules, ultrasounds and close monitoring every six months.

I had a FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy) yesterday. Guided by an ultrasound, the doctor inserted 25 gauge needles into the nodule and removed tissue. Four times. (For comparison, blood donation uses 16 or 17 gauge needles).

The first two biopsies were unpleasant but bearable. The last two were so painful. No anesthesia at all. My neck/throat hurt a lot when I left the clinic. Obviously after leaving, I got a frappuccino and went to acupuncture because my anxiety is through the roof and when you have giant needles shoved in your throat the obvious next step is to jab a bunch of needles all over your body.

The last seven weeks have been torture. My anxiety is getting out of control. I’m trying everything to remain calm.

I feel the nodules every time I swallow. Every time I turn my head. I frequently have a sore throat or hoarse voice.

On top of that, despite the increase in dosage, I am still suffering the effects of a prolonged hypothyroid flareup. I am exhausted. All.The.Time.

via GIPHY

It takes all I have to get through the work day. I come home and crash. On weekends, I wake up around 6 a.m. and then take my first nap around 9 a.m. Yes, I said first nap. I nap all day.

I even stayed home from work today because I’m just so tired. And my neck is sore. And my voice is hoarse. And my neck is swollen. And I just can’t.

I am working on the anxiety, thanks in part to acupuncture, essential oils/baths, prayers and meditation. But the chronic exhaustion is taking it’s toll on me mentally and physically.

The next few days will be torture as I try to get through the day while worrying about when I will receive a call from a doctor telling me if I have cancer or not. Or if things are suspicious and surgery is recommended for further investigation. It’s all nerve-racking.

Please keep me in your prayers. Send your positive thoughts and wishes for strength and faith that I can get through this.

Please also send ice cream. Preferably this:

Photo: LauraLeeMarx
Photo: LauraLeeMarx

via GIPHY

Elimination Diet: Week 1 in Review

SS Elimination diet week 1

It’s been a week. I’m still doing the Elimination diet. This week has had its ups and downs. I still haven’t felt awesome, but I am guessing my body is detoxing a bit or my body just hates me…or both. Hopefully this week my symptoms will lessen or go away. I have found plenty of food that I can eat, however let’s just say I have a lot of things over rice or quinoa. There is nothing wrong with rice or quinoa, but I have a feeling it will get old. I haven’t done much meal planning, just go with the flow–which I feel I would have a bit more variety if I meal planned better. Maybe timing will work out better this week…

I have ate some delicious food and made some food that has been surprisingly tasty. One huge struggle I have had is seasoning. Most spice blends have some kind of pepper in it, whether it be red bell pepper to a spicy pepper. I am also avoiding black pepper–so that takes out every spice blend. I just season to taste, which I do a lot in my cooking when I have a bit more time–I just like to use spice blends when I am short on time. 

Other challenges I have faced is breakfast. I can’t do eggs. I can’t do cereal or oatmeal…and frankly, that is usually what I have for breakfast. I am having a lot of chia pudding with fruit for breakfast, since it really is just chia seeds and nut milk. My other go-to breakfast item is smoothies…and a lot of them. I am making them with rice protein. I don’t love the rice protein powder I got, but I am just going to go with it and hope I can go back to the whey protein I like when I can reintroduce foods. I do know of some good plant-based protein powders, but they are pricer than the rice protein I have. Since I am spending more on food with this elimination diet, I am trying to cut costs where I can. Oh…other hard part about breakfast, NO COFFEE. Yeah, it is sad. I miss that delicious hot cup in the morning. Although I haven’t fallen asleep at work or anything, so I suppose I am doing just fine.

I have decided I now love almond butter, which was not the case a month ago. I have gone through a whole jar of almond butter in less than a week, between having it with apples or rice/nut crackers. It is definitely my go to snack. I think I have ate more almond butter this week than I have in the past year.

I have even had dessert this week: Avocado Chocolate Mousse. It may sound weird, but it is delicious and way healthier than regular chocolate mousse. I will be sure to post the recipe later this week.

Some food highlights of my week: Basil Kale Pesto with Rice Pasta and Roasted Chicken, Salmon over Quinoa with Brussel Sprouts, and Mexican chicken with Black Beans and Avocado over White Rice. (Side note: the “Mexican” chicken was a challenge with out peppers, but I just spiced it with garlic, onion, cumin and oregano.)

elim diet week 1 food

Everything is made from scratch, as I have to to avoid the foods I can’t eat. I do typically cook most of the food I eat from scratch as I like to know exactly what is in my foods, so it really isn’t a big deal. However, I do like my occasionally protein/granola bar or cereal, but I am probably much better off only eating foods from scratch.

Saddest part of the week: The Packers unfortunate loss. That’s all I’m going to say. I did however make Asian Turkey Lettuce wraps for the game. While I missed the cheese and beer (GF, of course), the wraps were tasty.

packers food

This photo was taken during the first quarter…not the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. See I am happy…not sad.

All in all though, this week went fairly well. Two more weeks until I can start reintroducing foods!

Elimination Diet: Day 1

It’s been awhile for Amy and I, between her travels, both of us being crazy busy at work, and the holidays…let’s just say it has been busy. Look out for lots of stuff to come, especially on this new elimination diet I am on.

In the past few months, my food reactions have gotten worse. I am already on a gluten-free diet, but that is not seeming to be enough at this point–plus I overall eat pretty healthy. I eat whole foods, my veggies, and all that jazz–but I am obviously reacting to something. I have been getting terrible stomach aches, nausea, bloating, my skin hating me and more–fun stuff, huh?! 

I have been contemplating doing an elimination diet or something similar, but I wanted to check in with my doctor. After seeing my doctor, who focuses on holistic medicine, she also agreed this would be a good first step. She gave me a ton of great info to set me on the right path.

While an elimination diet may not be the most fun, if it will help me feel better and heal my gut, I’m in. Plus, I would much rather find out what foods may be an issue for me and not eat them, than have to take medicine to feel alright when I eat. I also work in the natural food industry and over time have learned a lot about whole foods and nutrition, so it seems less scary–which is good.

I will write another post about what an elimination diet all entails, but here it is in a nut shell. No soy, dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, corn, nightshade vegetables, red meat, citrus and any other foods you know or think you may be reacting too. The only food I am really adding on to this is oats, as some people what have a gluten intolerance sometimes have issues with oats. So that is a good amount of foods I can’t eat…and I am most freaking out about the caffeine and dairy…I mean I am from Wisconsin, so cheese 🙁 However, I can eat A LOT of food — from rice and quinoa to chicken, lots of fruits and veggies, most nuts and more. So, I do have options. I think the biggest part to the success of this is planning and having a positive outlook–which really is two key pieces to be successful in anything.

SS Elimination diet-day

Day 1 went well. Here is what I ate today:

  • Breakfast: Plant-based Protein smoothie
  • Snack: Banana and Cold-pressed juice (with no citrus)
  • Lunch: Rice and Vegetable Coconut curry
  • Dinner: Rice, Collards and Salmon 
  • Snack: Almond Butter and an apple
  • Beverages: Water, Herbal Tea, La Croix

Happy Birthday Amy!!

Happy Birthday to the best and most loving sister ever!!

amy bday 2

You have been there for me so much…both through good times and bad.  I couldn’t ask for a better sister and friend.

amy bday1

I love all the crazy and hilarious times we have together. 

amy bday 3

Enjoy your Kiwi Adventure–I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

amy bday 5

Milwaukee Beer Run

beer run 5k logo

Today, I participated in my first race in more than two years. I used to be a runner. During training for my first marathon (that wasn’t), I suffered some injuries and ended up needing pretty major ankle surgery.

My brother, his fiancé and I completed The Milwaukee Beer Run 5k & .05k. They did the 5k and I did the .05k. That is the only distance race that would bring me out of racing retirement. Plus, beer.

Here’s the problem you guys. I am a hot mess. I may have had surgery to fix my ankle, but it’s still not what it used to be. 

As we were walking from the car to the starting line, my ankle gave out on me and I biffed it. Of course my loving brother couldn’t stop laughing. Thankfully, we were in the grassy part of Estabrook Parkway, so it wasn’t a hard fall. I was a little worried that my surgically-enhanced-so-it-wouldn’t-be-unstable-and-give-out-on-me-anymore ankle gave out on me, but I shook it off and we continued to the race. 

prerace2
Jenn, Andy & I pre-race
jenn
Jenn’s awesome beer goddess dress
prerace
Busted out the good ol’ winter running tights

I wasn’t sure how the race would go. I mean, .05k is really far you guys. It’s nothing compared to the numerous half marathons I did years ago. 

As the emcee counted down to the start, I felt that same jittery excitement that was so common for me when I was a runner.

Three…two…one…go!

And we were off! There was a point during the race where I hit the wall. I think it was around .04k. I wasn’t sure I would finish, but I powered through it and ran across the finish line. 

This is my "I just got a .05k PR" face
This is my “I just got a .05k PR” face

The race lasted less than 30 seconds. I barely had a chance to work up a sweat. But, I did PR today — 0:29! Honestly, if it wasn’t so packed with people walking, I would have gotten a better time. There’s always next year. 😉 Then it was time for some tasty beer from the Estabrook Beer Garden.

beermug

beer

After Andy & Jenn finished, the line for beer was insanely long, so we decided to head off to brunch.

As we walked back to the car, my OTHER ankle gave out on me and I fell on the pavement really hard. Like almost crying hard. My left knee was scraped, throbbing and hurting. It was pretty great you guys. 

I’ve been icing my knee and ankle on and off ever since. I have a feeling I will be hurting tomorrow. :/ 

Rishi Chai

I am a huge chai fan. I also have very high standards for chai. Not to be a chai snob, but I rarely order chai at coffee shops, unless I know what their chai base is. No offense to many coffee shops out there, but I find a lot of chai is either not made properly, watered down, or just the spices are off in the blend.

Earlier I highlighted a local Minnesota Chai Company, Gray Duck Chai. Today, we’ll bring it back to Wisconsin with Rishi tea, a Milwaukee based tea company. Rishi really has amazing tea, and I have to say they are my favorite tea brand…and it is not just because they are from Milwaukee, but that doesn’t hurt. They have very high quality teas that are both organic and fair trade, they promote sustainability…and, well their tea is super delicious.

I have many blends I love, such as the Scarlet Herbal blend…but let me tell you, they have some amazing chai. I even had the pleasure of having a Rishi tea expert teach a chai class at the natural food store I work at. Until then I only typically had chai from concentrate blends, which Rishi does have a quality chai concentrate. However, the best chai I ever had was that day made fresh from loose tea. They have five loose chai tea blends, which all are good in their own different ways–however my favorite is the Masala Chai (can’t go wrong with the classic) and the Chocolate Chai. I really love the Chocolate Chai, just what you need to warm you up on a cool autumn day…or winter, but let’s not think about that yet.

It used to seem scary to make chai with loose tea at home, but on the Rishi tea tin, they have super easy instructions. Basically you boil 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, and 2 tbsp loose chai tea. Then simmer it for 5 minutes, add sugar (2-3 tbsp)…and bam, you are done and have a delicious cup of chai.

chai rishi

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters  

OMG. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. Need I say more. These are amazing!! For real. I made these for my friend’s baby shower, and they were a huge hit (but really, how could they not be).

Enjoy every single bite of them.

To start out you will start with the Classic Chocolate Cupcake recipe.  Follow the recipe exactly as it lists, until you start to fill the cupcake liners. When you fill the cupcake liners, only fill them halfway. Then place the frozen chocolate chip cookie dough into the chocolate cupcake batter. Depending on the size of the cookie dough you may need to cut the frozen dough balls in half.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

I used Sweet Martha’s frozen cookie dough. If you have ever been to the Minnesota State Fair, you would know why this is an awesome choice and great addition to the cupcakes. Sweet Martha’s cookies are amazing. There is a reason you can buy them buy the bucket at the MN State Fair. What cream puffs are to the Wisconsin State Fair, that is what these delicious lil cookies are to the MN State Fair.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

You can really do whatever cookie dough you want. You could even make your own from scratch then freeze them in little balls. Use frozen dough if you want the cookie dough to be more of a “dough” in the cupcake. Don’t freeze the dough, if you would prefer the cookie dough cooked through.

You bake these cupcakes as normal, but make sure to double check them as everyone’s oven is a little different. I tested mine with a tooth pick, but you might have to do this more on the edges due to the cookie dough. Just remember the cookie dough won’t be cooked all the way through (which is what you want). 

Let the cupcakes cool. Once they cool, you have the option to elevate these cupcakes a wee bit further. Put some fudge in a pastry bag and pipe the fudge right into the middle of the cupcake. I used a quality fudge from the store (the same kind you would put on a sundae).

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

Warning: Don’t get too over excited about the fudge like I did, as you may end up with more fudge on your hand than in the cupcake. However, many people may be into that…so do whatever you want. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie SistersAfter that, it is time to frost. I made a frosting recipe I found on Pioneer Woman. She calls it the “Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had.” I would have to agree, which is why I used this over one of my own frosting recipes I have created. Why reinvent the wheel (or frosting in this case), if this frosting is amazing. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

 I like to pipe my frosting on cupcakes, as it makes them prettier. But feel free to do whatever your heart desires! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

To really make these cupcakes fancy, top them with mini chocolate chips and tiny cookies. I cut up some of the Sweet Martha’s cookie dough and baked them to make this cute mini cookies. Keep a very close eye on them in the oven. Lil cookies have very lil cooking time.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes  --   Sconnie Sisters

Once you have fancified these delicious beauties, sit back and relax. Grab a cupcake and a glass of milk and enjoy!

 

Biofreeze #Protip

biofreeze

My wrists and forearms have been showing the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. I am certain it directly correlates to the amount of time I’ve been spending on the computer. You see, I got a promotion in May (YAY) and have been managing a gigantic project at work that launches at the end of the month. I’m working 10-12 hour days AT work, then coming home and working some more.

There’s been numbness, tingling, pins-and-needles, shooting pain, etc. 

It’s a lot of fun.

I happened to have an appointment with my chiropractor last night so I asked him if he had any recommendations. He took a look and did some soft tissue work.

Oh.Mah.Gawd.

It was so tender – especially around both radial heads (heads of my radius bones in both forearms). I almost screamed out it was so painful. He said I am definitely developing CTS but that I am also showing signs of golfer’s elbow – which is awesome because I sure don’t golf.

Anyways, he prescribed medical-grade wrist splints for each arm and said I should ice and take it easy. 

Things were so sore today, and since I am about to head out to a baseball game, I figured I would apply some Biofreeze gel to calm things down. I am NOT wearing these braces to a baseball game.wrist splint

So, I applied the Biofreeze and then went to the bathroom before I started packing up the car. BIG GIANT MISTAKE.

biofreeze
Be careful what you touch after you use biofreeze

I forgot to wash my hands before using the bathroom.

I think you know where this is going.

There is some mentholated tingling going on in places there shouldn’t.

This has been a #protip.

Classic Chocolate Cupcake

I love making cupcakes. I also love eating them. Unfortunately, I don’t make cupcakes very often anymore because of being gluten-free. And, let’s just say I haven’t been very successful with gluten-free baking. However you can never pass on a great cupcake!

Every baker needs a good chocolate cupcake recipe. My favorite is from the recipe book “Crazy about Cupcakes” by Krystina Castella. I have adapted the recipe a little, but the core of the recipe stems from this book.

chocolate cupcake

If you are looking for a cupcake cookbook with great recipes from scratch–I highly recommend this one (and let’s just say I have a few cupcake cookbooks.)

Stay tuned. More cupcake recipes to come…one coming very soon will even have cookie dough in it!

[yumprint-recipe id=’9′]