Melissa Frey

Fiction Writer, Freelancer for Hire, and Paleo Enthusiast

Month: May 2015

Worship Night

So far on this blog I’ve covered life advice, biblical insights, and a few Paleo posts; figured it’s time I talked about the musician side of me!

My husband and I lead worship at various churches in our area whenever and wherever we’re needed. We’ve had consistent “gigs” at churches before, but we’re in between those at the moment. It gets to be a lot of work to do music every Sunday with both of our full-time jobs!

In this process of filling in, we’ve started to see the benefit of having a sort of “music video” that would show us leading worship. Up until last week, we didn’t have anything except a poorly filmed recording from the front pew of a church on a MacBook. With congregation noise, off-beat clapping, off-key singing… it was time to record something else.

My sister and her husband graciously opened their super-cute, character-filled home to us and a small group of people last week and we did a worship night! It was way out of our comfort zone – both the songs we picked and the setting – but we feel like it turned out pretty well.

Of course, being the perfectionists we are, my husband and I both went through a period of questioning what we did, analyzing what we could have done better, thinking we should have talked more, used more scripture…but I quickly reminded myself that God’s got this. ‘Cause doesn’t He have everything?

We did the best we could, the best we knew how to do given that we hadn’t done anything like that before, and it is what it is! Que sera, sera.

Worship Night 052115

Here’s our set list:

Worship Night Set List 052115

A little gets lost in translation, as we did a medley of a few of the songs, and nixed the Doxology, but it was so fun! We got to know some new people, we got to sing – a lot, and we stayed out after dark! (We are normally very boring people.)

It took me the entire long weekend to catch up on my sleep.

Moral of the story: if God gives you an idea, pursue it. Just do it! Don’t shy away because you’re scared, or unsure, or afraid you’ll look stupid. We almost cancelled a few times, and originally wanted to do it in March but kept putting it off.

Even if we totally bombed the video, even if we never see a single thing come from it, I believe we were obedient to what God called us to do. And who knows? Maybe that simple act of obedience is why we’ve been given the opportunity to lead worship for the next two weeks, at two different churches! Sometimes God works in ways we can’t possibly understand.

Keep pursuing the dreams, ideas, and path God lays out for you! Be brave! It will be worth it. Promise.

When were you brave and did what you knew God wanted you to do? When did you wish you would have, but didn’t?

Paleo Recipe Ideas…Part 1

I wanted to give you all a recipe, as promised last week! But instead of posting a long recipe, or something complicated, I thought you might be better served to learn a few of the super simple recipes I use multiple times in a week. This may help you get started!

First, go get some UNREFINED coconut oil. Yes, it’s more expensive than refined, but this is something I don’t negotiate on. Unrefined is way more important than organic, too, so that’ll save you a little money! (Oh, and by the way, saving money on Paleo is *very* important to me.)

Okay, the rest of this you may already have! Let’s get started.

Fried Sweet Potatoes (My Own Super-Simple Recipe)

First, peel a few sweet potatoes. This will be easier with a peeler. Felt that needed to be said. Chop them up (The smaller they are, the quicker they’ll cook! Mine are usually the size of a square marble.), throw them in a pot and cover with water, then boil until soft. (Prick it with a fork – I usually try not to let them get too soft, so the recipe that follows works…)

That’s easy, right? I do that once or twice a week. You won’t believe how much more quickly dinner goes when you have cooked sweet potatoes in the fridge.

Okay, so you have the sweet potatoes cooked. Yay! Now you essentially have the building blocks of a Paleo side. You could mash some up with salt and coconut oil (my favorite) or olive oil (try either instead of butter – you might like it!), throw some in a hash (basically the Paleo term for a bunch of random cooked veggies in a bowl with meat, my breakfast of champions), or just leave them in chunks and add salt and oil!

But here’s my favorite way…

Heat about a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot (melted – coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature, then melts at around 76 degrees), add a serving of sweet potatoes. This also works for two servings or more, just add more coconut oil as needed. Add some sea salt (or table salt).

Okay, here’s the fun part. It should start cooking. Resist the temptation to stir very much. Actually, it’s hard to stir this at all, because the potatoes get all mushy. So you get to toss it. Ever watched those cooking shows? Yes, give the pan a little flick of the wrist. Easier to do with a smaller pan, but you could probably make it work as long as the pan isn’t too heavy.

It’s an art form.

I was so scared to try it, but I eventually did, and now I love it! It’s all about committing to it. And don’t worry if you get a few pieces on the stove. It’s not the end of the world. Just don’t burn yourself on the oil.

Set the pan down, let it cook a little. Do some dishes, make your next side, cook up the meat…Just toss the pan every once in a while. Easy peasy.

You’re looking for all sides of the sweet potatoes to turn brown and crispy. Wait for it – I promise it’s worth it.

Once most of the sides are browned and crispy, eat! You won’t believe how good they are.

They look kind of like this, though these didn’t get all crispy and brown…

Fried Sweet Potatoes 050815

Mmmmm…

Fresh Kale Salad

Okay, so you may need to buy some kale for this one. It’s pretty much a super food. A super yummy food.

Wash the kale (really well), remove the leaves from the large stem down the middle, then tear into bite size pieces. I have a large glass bowl that has become my kale salad bowl. Really.

Then add whatever you’d like! My sister-in-law made a salad like this with roasted beets, roasted butternut squash, and roasted pecans, with a champagne vinaigrette, and it was soooo yummy, but my body does not like beets. So.

My favorite version is to add pieces of a few oranges and some fresh blueberries. You could also add some red (or white) onion if you like onions! I do, but they don’t like me.

Then here’s the dressing. Juice another orange (I can usually get away with cutting up one and a half oranges in chunks, then using the remaining half of the orange for the dressing) over the salad, then add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good amount of salt. Can you tell I don’t really measure anymore?

Toss the salad, then you’re done!

Here’s my first attempt, when I still ate beets…

Kale Salad 050815

The oranges don’t turn red when you don’t use beets.

Banana Blueberry “Ice Cream”

So I have this rule with my husband: “air quotes” are understood when I’m talking about Paleo foods. “Spaghetti” is spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. “Pot pie” is this amazing recipe I found that makes a crust out of carrots, parsnips, coconut oil and salt. It’s mind-blowing. And “ice cream” doesn’t actually have cream. It is icy though, so that kind of counts.

So this is super simple. I promised that, right?

It does require you do something beforehand, though…freeze a few bananas. In my house, I buy a bunch for the week, then, when they inevitably start going bad before my husband and I can eat them all, I unpeel them and freeze them whole. I used to cut them up, but my hubby’s a genius and suggested I freeze them whole. And when it makes my life easier, it’s a win win. Major husband points.

I also keep a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer, just for this occasion. And now that the weather’s getting warmer, that occasion will probably be happening rather often… just saying.

Throw one banana and a handful of blueberries in a food processor. But don’t start the food processor yet! Those blueberries are FROZ-ZEN and will likely mangle your blade into a tangled mess. Just kidding. But don’t break your food processor.

I usually let it sit and defrost for about 20 minutes. During this time, clean your room, play with your kids, watch some TV, read a few articles online, check FaceBook…you get the picture. Then go back and blend. Or is it process?

You’ll probably need to stop after a bit and use a spatula to get banana chunks off the sides. Probably the blueberries, too. Then let it go again!

Food processors are fun.

The end result is creamy deliciousness. Use the spatula to clean that bowl out – don’t miss a speck, it’s too good – then stick a spoon in the bowl and go to town. Try not to get a brain freeze.

Sadly, this “ice cream” is apparently so yummy that it hasn’t stuck around long enough for a picture.

Wow, I write a lot. *Deep breath*

Here’s the “recipe” section:

Fried Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

cooked sweet potatoes (about the size of a handful for 1 serving)

1 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil (per serving of sweet potatoes)

sea salt (or table salt) to taste

Directions:

Melt coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes and salt. Toss occasionally to stir until edges are brown and crispy.

Fresh Kale Salad

Ingredients:

a bunch of kale

2-3 oranges, depends on amount of kale (or 4-5 mandarin oranges, plus one Navel orange for juicing)

1-2 handfuls fresh blueberries

Optional add-ins:

red or white onions

toasted pecans

roasted beets

anything you can think of!

For dressing:

1 orange (from above)

1-2 Tbsp olive oil (depends on size of salad)

salt to taste

Directions:

Clean the kale well, remove from stems, and tear into bite-sized pieces. Peel and cut up orange slices into bite-sized pieces (or use whole slices of mandarin oranges) and add to kale. Add a couple of handfuls of fresh blueberries. Then add in anything else you’d like!

To dress the salad, simply juice 1/2 to 1 orange over the salad, add olive oil, then add salt to taste. Toss and serve!

Banana Blueberry “Ice Cream”

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana

handful frozen blueberries

(Alternatively, you could add a nut butter [peanut isn’t Paleo, but almond is if there’s no sugar added] or sunflower seed butter [again, no added sugar for Paleo] instead of the blueberries)

Directions:

Add ingredients to food processor and let thaw for 20 minutes. Blend, stopping after a short time to combine the fruit that hasn’t blended in yet, then blend again until smooth. Enjoy!

If you get around to trying any of these, let me know how it goes!

Introduction to Paleo – My Story

Since I have five blog posts under my belt (a feat for me!), I thought I’d go a different direction and talk about something else near to my heart: Paleo!

If you have spoken to me in person recently, follow my personal FaceBook account (or Instagram or Twitter, for that matter), or have ever tried to eat a meal with me since Christmas, you probably have heard about the Paleo diet. At it’s core, it’s a whole foods diet. If you’re not familiar with it (and you’re curious), just google it! The Whole30 Program is where I started learning and implementing Paleo last October. This is a more strict version of Paleo, which does not allow for even a small amount of unrefined sugars (think maple syrup and honey), or dairy, as some versions of Paleo do.

But the best part about the Paleo “Diet” (read: Lifestyle) is that since each person is different, each person can tolerate certain foods differently! That’s why the Whole30 – to detox your system, then systematically reintroduce foods to see which ones you tolerate, and which you don’t.

My personal journey to Paleo is long and winding. Here’s the short(ish) version…

Paleo Food Collage 050115

A few years ago I encountered some health problems. I was going through some personal things at the time, and, as a result, was constantly running to the doctor (stress, anyone?). The symptoms were diverse and most decidedly NOT medically based. Funny how stress wreaks havoc in the body!

Things improved slightly, but due to continued stress, I stopped eating. And when I say stopped, I mean one bite at each meal. I loved the weight loss, but even I knew that wasn’t sustainable. Fortunately, as soon as my biggest stresser resolved itself (I found a job, in Michigan, in 2010), I started eating again. But the health problems continued. (During that period I also landed in the hospital with a kidney stone. Learned A LOT about what caffeine does to my body, let me tell you.)

Even after getting married the next year, my health problems persisted. It seemed my symptoms were constantly mutating into something new, something else I’d run to the doctor to diagnose, only to insist they give me antibiotics when they didn’t find anything medically wrong – which would only clear up the symptoms for a short time before they’d come back! It was a frustrating, vicious cycle (not to mention the other problems all those antibiotics caused!)

Okay, this may not exactly be the short version…

So I went to see a doctor for a procedure that was supposed to help what they thought was happening. Let me tell you, that procedure was probably as painful as the kidney stone, and I blacked out for a few seconds. Following that procedure (of which the only relief was that they ruled out any cancer), my body started going crazy. Symptoms I’d never had before, in all different systems in my body. You ever feel like your body is attacking itself? Mine was in an all-out war.

And the only thing the medical community could offer me was a shrug of the shoulders, an apology, and more medication. And that’s when I got mad. There had to be a solution. But I had no idea where to even look.

So I put up with the symptoms for a few years, trying to manage them the best way I knew how, basically avoiding the things I knew would cause pain or discomfort. Let me tell you, that’s no way to live. But what other choice did I have?

Then in January of 2014, due to even more stress, this time at work (anyone see a pattern?), my body shut down. I’m still not sure what to call it, but it was probably akin to adrenal fatigue. I had NO energy – and when I mean “no” energy, I mean it took all of my energy to lift a piece of paper. It took every ounce of effort just to get out of the house in the morning to continue going back to my extremely stressful job that was making my health even worse. My brain was foggy, I couldn’t remember anything, my chest, back, neck, shoulders, arms, even teeth…everything seemed to be hurting. I was back to the doctor three or four times in the following month, each time for them to say that nothing was wrong.

And can I just say, this was getting expensive.

Then I had a thought, which HAD to have been God: my neck and shoulders were hurting, so why not address that? Let’s go to A CHIROPRACTOR. (Cue the heaven-opening angel music.)

We made an appointment, and my husband went with me. The doctor did one exam, then proceeded to tell me what all my symptoms were, before I even told him. My husband and I were just staring at each other, that half-dopey grin on our faces. FINALLY we were going to get some answers.

And after the first adjustment, my symptoms were GONE. Oh, my body was far from healed, but I cleaned my bathroom for the first time that weekend since I’d gotten sick. There were definitely some relapses, and I’m sure they got really sick of me there, but I was well on the road to recovery.

So I started asking the doctor about other ways to help my body heal. The chiropractic adjustments were great, but I knew my body needed all the help it could get. He suggested the Paleo diet in July, and I nodded, but secretly laughed it off. I’d heard about it before, and had done a little research, but I just couldn’t see how it was practical in any way. (If only my future self would’ve visited me then.)

Then in September of last year, my husband (who was WAY more involved on Instagram than I probably ever will be), started hearing about Whole30. It was a 30-day detox plan that helped reset your body and train it to burn fat instead of sugar for energy. (And that had to help me lose weight, right? I was about to turn 30 and had a weight loss goal, so I figured the time was now…er…then… this is like that time travel paradox…)

So we ordered the book It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. And let me tell you, MY EYES WERE OPENED. (Cue angel music again, maybe with trumpets this time.) The book explains everything that food does inside your body, both good and bad. Then it gave a step-by-step, easy to follow 30-day plan to not only avoid all the bad foods, but also to enjoy all the good ones. And it even had recipe ideas in the back! Plus it lists ways to make your new way of eating (NOT diet) sustainable and manageable after the 30 days are up.

After a little discussion, we cleaned out the fridge, the pantry, and stocked up on healthy, whole foods and meats. Nothing processed, no sugar (and I mean NONE – except the occasional fruit), just whole meats, veggies, and fruits, with lots of healthy fats (more than you’d think!).

Long story short – after going through the reintroduction phase to get us into Thanksgiving, and *mostly* managing the holidays without incident, I jumped right back in. Due to all my health issues (and plentiful food intolerances, at least for now), I’ve been trying stricter versions of the Paleo diet (AIP, low FODMAP) and, for me, the low FODMAP was the key. My body hasn’t worked this well in a long time.

And I did lose the weight, too.

Ahhhh. That was long, wasn’t it? Sorry – I told you I was a writer, so you were warned.

All that to say this: everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s body is different. Paleo has worked for me, and has worked for so many others, so I encourage you to try it! I started (back over a year ago) by cutting out refined sugar and flour, and that helped me to see all the ways you DON’T need pasta and bread in your life. (But maybe the occasional donut, once your body has healed.)

It can be difficult at times, but I’ve become a MUCH better cook (I used to only buy foods in boxes that had instructions on them, because those were the only things I knew how to make). I’ve even made a few of my own completely-from-scratch recipes! And altered many more to suit my tastes.

And can I just tell you, the food is AMAZING. And that has nothing to do with my cooking ability, just the ingredients. (read: COCONUT OIL)

So if you’re curious, buy a book, research online, just try it! I feel amazing, my body has stopped fighting me (all those health issues were ALL related to systemic inflammation in my body, caused by the food I was eating), and I’m not overweight for the first time in a decade.

If you’d like, I can post a few recipes, but this post is already long enough! Maybe I’ll get a few up this week…

Have a great week; go do something healthy!

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