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Melissa-profile This is more than just a recipe blog. I am not a chef. I am a mom of four children, one of whom has an autoimmune disease, wife of a Crossfit junkie, and healthy food lover. I love learning about and cooking new, healthy and delicious food. This is simply me sharing the ways I take care of my family by being aware and mindful of the food I feed them and as a result making lots of Gluten Free & Paleo Recipes by Melissa.

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My First Marathon: Endure to the End

I have heard the phrase “endure to the end” all my life. This is probably because as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) we believe that as each of us work through our unique life’s journey with hope and faith that in the end it will all be worth it. With faith we hope to endure challenges to become better, not bitter and to trust in God as we also trust in our own abilities to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives.

As I prepared to run my first marathon I thought I had anticipated how challenging it would be and felt as ready as I would ever be with only 12 weeks of serious marathon training. I had imagined feeling good. Running steadily. Keeping my pace. By the end I knew I would be tired, but I would see my family waiting for me at the finish line and sprint to the end with a smile on my face.

Let me just say this, I have learned a thing or two more about what it really means to endure to the end….

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The night before the race my husband and four kids left me at the hotel to get some sleep before my 3:00 a.m. wake up call. We had planned on my husband being able to take me to the shuttle that would bus us to the starting line.  Now, I didn’t have a ride to the shuttle pick-up that would be leaving at 3:30 a.m.! You can call it luck or divine intervention because I had overheard a some people talking about the marathon earlier and as I was getting on the elevator to head back to my room for the night they happened to climb into the same elevator with me. As it turns out it was their first marathon tomorrow morning too and they would be happy to give me ride to the shuttle in the morning.

Bright eyed with anticipation we drove the 20-some-odd miles up the canyon to the start of the marathon in the dark of early morning. I felt a friendly commodore with everyone I talked to on the bus ride and was nothing but positive and excited. I enjoyed a few of my Cherry Chocolate Energy Bites on the way and tried to drink plenty of water. I had been training to run a 4 hour marathon so I wished my new friends good luck as they gathered near the 4:30 pacer and I found my pacer. Her name was Lisa and I felt certain her happy smile and encouragement would get me to the finish line.

The first 6 miles were a fairly steep downhill grade on roads that switch backed down the mountain, followed by a 2 mile up hill climb. I felt good. My legs felt strong and I was staying with my group. I smiled and pushed my way steadily up the long hill as I read  the scripture from Philippians pinned on the back of the lady in front of me that read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” With everything going on I had forgotten to set up my iTunes, since in training I had just used my favorite Pandora station. But, it was okay! I could do without music until we got through the canyon and into reception by chatting with people in my group instead.

Back on the steep down hills again and I began to feel a familiar tightness in my right foot. The angles on the mountain road put more pressure on the outside of my foot and knee that I had expected. I had been struggling with my right foot and knee during my early training, but hadn’t had any problems for a long time. However, I knew that if I ignored it the pain would become sharp in my ankle and then in my knee. I didn’t want to lose my pacer, but I stopped at an aide station and asked for some Advil. I continued running and tried to stay consistent, ignoring the growing discomfort in my foot. I was hopeful the medicine would take down the inflammation so I would be able to catch up to the 4 hour group.

By mile 13 I knew I would never catch them. I was somewhere between the 4:00 and 4:15 groups and my ankle and knee were sending sharp shooting pains from my toes to my knee with each step. I limped along for the next 5 miles with no music, no one to talk to, and in a lot of pain. I just kept thinking, “as long as I stay ahead of the 4:15 group I’ll finish in good time. It will be okay.

By mile 18 I had made it down the canyon and was traversing the downtown portion of the marathon. I finally had reception and my music was blasting to drown out the noise from the passing cars and the torturous pain in my right leg. It was about this time when the 4:15 pacer passed me. I felt discouraged for only a second. “It’s okay, I’ve already got a PR. I’d never ran farther than this in training. I was going to make it. It wasn’t going to be in 4 hours or 4:15. I just HAVE to stay ahead of the 4:30 pacer.”

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By mile 21 my enthusiasm and confidence were pretty much exhausted. I struggled to keep my legs moving, my right leg felt mostly numb except for the dull throbbing pain with each step. I kept wishing that I could somehow pull a Marty McFly, steal a skateboard from some unsuspecting kid, and hitch a ride on the tail gate of a passing truck.

I looked up and noticed a racer standing on the grass pacing back and forth. The woman next to me called to him and asked him with surprise and excitement wondering if he had already finished. “No. I’m done.” He said flatly. What!? He had quit 5 miles from the finish line? Why would you give up when you’re so close? Not me! I am going to finish this race strong! I am going to come in before 4:30! I pushed on.

By mile 23, the sun beating down on me had sapped whatever energy I had left and the shooting pain had returned. I was forced to do something I swore I wouldn’t – I had to walk. Just 30 seconds of walking then a few minutes of running. Repeat. I kept telling myself it wasn’t much farther. I kept thinking about that guy who had quit so close to the end. I just had to keep moving. And then it happened. The 4:30 pacer came up beside me and started passing.

“No way! I’m going to beat you there.” I said through clenched teeth. He laughed and cheered me on as I picked up the pace and ran a little faster to move ahead again, but as badly as I wanted it the muscles in my left quad and calf started cramping. After overcompensating for my right leg for so many miles both legs felt useless now! My legs just wouldn’t do what I was commanding them to do and I started slowing back down. He passed me. I was choking in air, trying not to cry at the sheer weight of disappointment. He turned around and stopped. Waved me forward, encouraged me. He waited for me to start running again before he continued on. I was never able to pass him again, but that moment of mercy and love was enough to get me the last 3 miles.

I finally came to a crowd of people. There had been clumps of people cheering along the last stretch, but as I approached they called, “only 200 meters left!” I turned the corner, limping slowly along, content to just get to the end…when I saw my family. They were 100 meters from the finish line, smiling, waving, calling my name. I couldn’t even feel the pain or weight in my legs as I ran toward them. My two oldest kids came out and ran beside me. With my family with me somehow I found myself smiling and together we sprinted to the end. My final time was 4:33.

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After some rest, a complimentary massage, food, and water, I hobbled to our car and we headed out. As we drove past the race course they had started picking up the cones as the last racer made their way to the finish line. I silently cheered them on. However, it was later that afternoon, after we’d gotten lunch and done some shopping, I saw an older man with a marathon bib jogging slowly along. It was well past the time limit for the end of the marathon and the crowds were gone. The finish line was probably already being taken down, and yet there he was still determined to finish. We drove to another part of town for a few minutes to grab something before we headed out of town and again I saw the same man, still running! My heart cheered him on the loudest.

Enduring to the end isn’t about how fast we finish the race. It isn’t about how many medals, accomplishments, or successes we can achieve. Enduring is about never giving up. Having people along the way, friends to help you get started and a good leader to keep you on pace are all wonderful and necessary parts of the endurance process. However, it’s when you find yourself alone, when weakness slows your progress, when disappointment feels like it might crush you, that mercy, grace, faith, and hope become everything. It really will all be okay. Enduring is about gaining strength from family and friends and FINISHING with a smile on your face. 

Food Lamor by Melissa

 

 

 

 

Cherry Chocolate Energy Bites

Cherry Chocolate energy bites

These bite-sized balls of yum are packed full of natural protein and fiber, and will give you a kick of energy! They’re grain free, gluten free, clean eating, and are easy to make, freeze or refrigerate, and have ready for whenever you need them.

I have been experimenting with energy bites for a while now. The inspiration started with my 10 year old son announcing after doing a kid’s CrossFit class with his dad that he needed to eat more protein. Haha! I guess the lean and lankiness he inherited from me isn’t as much appreciated for a boy.

I tried making them out of my Homemade Protein Powder and with different ingredients blended together (which turned out really yummy by the way), but I needed to make some energy bites that were completely grain free as well – in other words, no oats. This inspiration came after realizing that in order for my youngest daughter to enjoy one I had to make a oat-less batch just for her (we’ve found that with her possible Crohn’s and/or Celiac that she feels much better without any grains at all). The inspiration for the flavor came from my husband’s birthday cake he requests every year….cherry chocolate!

I guess another inspiration is that I’m running my first marathon! A bite of energy to get me started will definitely come in handy on race day.

Anyway, regardless of where or how these bad boys came about, now they can be enjoyed by everyone!

*To make these nut free as well, you can replace the almond butter with Sunflower Seed Butter

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Cherry Chocolate Energy Bites

Makes about a dozen energy bites

Ingredients:

1 cup almond butter

8-9 Menjool dates, pitted

2 tbsp. unsweetened Cacao Powder

2 tbsp. Unsweetened Coconut Shredded + extra for rolling them in

1 tbsp. Hemp Seeds

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 -2 tbsp pure maple syrup or 1 tsp. vanilla (depending on how sweet you like it)

pinch Pink Himalayan Salt

1/2 – 1 tbsp. water (as needed)

2 tbsp. raw shelled sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds

handful dried cherries

Preparation:

Place dates in a food processor and pulse until they resemble crumbs. Add in the almond butter (or sunflower seed butter), cacao powder, 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes, hemp seeds, cinnamon, maple syrup or vanilla, and salt and pulse to combine. Add a little water if it seems dry or crumbly until it forms a sticky ball. Add in the sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds and give it a couple pulses to stir them in. You still want them big enough pieces to provide a bit of crunch. Stir in the the dry cherries.

Scoop and roll into balls. Sprinkle some coconut flakes onto a plate and roll the energy ball through the flakes so that they stick.

* Even though maple syrup is a less refined form of sweetener and contains lots of natural minerals, it still contains sucrose (sugar). If you want to keep the sugar content low then by simply using vanilla extract you’ll bring out the natural sweetness without adding any extra sugars. 

Cover and store in the fridge or freezer. Toss into lunch boxes for you or the kids, enjoy as a mid-morning snack, or a treat at the end of the day.

Enjoy!

Food Lamor by Melissa

Simple Pickled Mint Cucumber Beets

Beet saladHaving things prepped and ready to just grab out of the fridge, freezer, or pantry is so essential when you eat a clean, preservative free diet. One of the best ways to naturally preserve food, especially all the fresh summer produce, is by pickling them. This simple recipe can be tossed together into a jar and set in the fridge to use whenever you need a kick of tart pink goodness!
Beets are not only full of a beautiful magenta color, but also nutrients that may help detoxify the body, reduce inflammation, and are full of phytonutrients that have shown to help fight against the formation of cancer cells. Don’t just eat the pretty pink roots though. You should also enjoy the leafy greens of the beet, which are full of vitamins and nutrients that boost immune system. 
You can actually grow beet greens after you’re done eating the root. Just cut off the top and set it in a glass with a little water. After a few days you’ll start seeing greens! (Be sure to put fresh water in every couple days). When they’re big enough to use in a salad, just cut them off and wait until they grow back again. You can also plant the top in a pot and you’ll not only have greens, but another beet root soon as well. Beets grow best in cool temperatures so it’s perfect to sit on the window sill in your kitchen.
growing beet greensI like to add a hefty scoop of these Mint Cucumber Beets to a Greek-inspired wrap full of roasted chickpeas (seasoned with cayenne, garlic powder, and salt) lettuce, and maybe some feta cheese. Such a filling and simple way to have a yummy and healthy lunch and works great for a meatless Monday meal!

Greek wraps with cucumber beet salad


Simple Pickled Mint Cucumber Beets

1 medium cucumbers; peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 medium beets; peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 small sweet onion, sliced
4 – 5 fresh mint leaves
3 sprigs fresh parsley or 1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. organic raw honey, unpasteurized
1/2 cup raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard powder or seeds
1 tsp. ground sea salt or pure Himalayan salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Prepare the veggies and herbs. Tuck them all in a wide mouth quart jar. In a bowl combine the oil, honey, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and then pour over the cucumber, beets, and onion mixture. Put a lid on and gently shake to coat everything. Set in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before using. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Enjoy!

Food Lamor by Melissa

Our Story: Set Backs and Growth

kids at the cabin

The garden’s growing, the kid’s are growing, and I’m growing. Well, I take part of that back…my garden is really, really trying to grow. We had a little bit of a set back. With a week or so of 110+ degree heat followed by a some very hungry bugs it looks like this….

bugs and pepper plant

My sad little pepper plant :( But thanks to some TLC and some a few days of heavenly rain and cooler temps, we’re getting to enjoy some of the fruits of our labors!

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I’m also getting very excited about my first marathon coming up in less than two weeks!!! My 12 Week Training Schedule has been tweaked here and there along the way, but I’m feeling about as ready as I can be. This whole process of training and discipline has been my outlet. Running is my time to meditate, think, pray, and burn off some anxiety and stress.
After the health scare we had with Miah a few months ago and the new questions raised about her original diagnosis of Celiac and the possibility of Crohn’s, or something more rare altogether, I’ve been understandably a little more anxious. This crazy idea I had to train and run a marathon in 12 weeks has turned into a huge personal blessing of growth and peace.
I’ve also been busy trying to keep my growing family healthy. More especially, keep Miah healthy. The diet we started over 3 years ago has been so beneficial for all of us. But after Miah’s set back this past winter and spring I’ve been doing more research than ever.
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She still loves her Caterpillar…he’s been well loved and had to have some procedures done too ;)

I found that by removing things from her diet and slowly adding them back in one at a time that there were other foods that may have caused her latest sickness. Grains. All grains – rice, corn, and certified gluten free oats which were once a staple in our gluten free diet had been causing inflammation in her intestines. If she just had celiac disease then a diet without gluten would have fixed it, but after another scope the doctors found that her intestines were still damaged…not as bad as they were 3 years ago, but not as good as they should have been with the diet we have been following.
Miah is incredible and as I help her listen to what her body is telling her – to be receptive to how the food she eats reacts in her body, she has been the one to lead the way in changing her diet! My five-year old is the one teaching me!
She now, on her own, is basically following the autoimmune protocol diet, which is a refined version of the paleo diet. Here’s a link to the basic do’s and don’ts of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet. She hasn’t been able to let go of tomatoes (her favorite) and still enjoys some nuts and eggs which are not part of the diet. However, I’m letting her take the lead and she’s doing well without any medications, which the doctors insisted she would have to have. She’s healthy, playful, growing, and getting excited to start kindergarten. That’s all I could ask for!

family at Touqurville falls

Haha! And this was the best picture. I love my crazy family!

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” – Andy Rooney

I guess this time of growth for me is more about learning to enjoy the climb. I’m sure it will make the view at the top even more glorious! Thanks everyone for being part of the journey!

Food Lamor by Melissa

Chili Lime Tilapia with Garlic Lime Butter

Chili Lime Tilapia with Garlic Buttter

The 4th of July is approaching fast and while everyone is gearing up for parades, county fairs, and late night firework shows you’re probably also already wondering what you’ll be grilling up before you head out for the festivities. Hotdogs and hamburgers are the standard and can be good in their own right, but I’m in the mood for some fish.

Fish provides omega-3 fatty acids which has been proven to boost brain function, maintain healthy arteries, is low in calories and high in protein, but it also may help those with autoimmune diseases since it’s easy to digest and full of all the rich vitamins, minerals, and natural goodness our bodies can’t make on their own. You should be eating at least 3 servings of fish or shellfish per week. So, maybe it’s time for everyone to get in the mood for fish more often.

I used some wild caught Tilapia fillets for this savory yet light fish dish. However, any white ocean fish would work. Fresh trout or base would be just as delicious (or more so if you caught it the day of. It doesn’t get fresher than that!)

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Chili Lime Tilapia with Garlic Lime Butter

Garlic Lime Butter

  • 4 – 6 tbsp (1 tbsp per fillet) organic butter or organic ghee
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 small lime, zested

In a small saucepan heat the butter or ghee, garlic, and lime zest on low heat until it begins to gently sizzle and become very fragrant. Allow the flavors to marry in the pan for at least 5 minutes (but preferably 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally to keep the edges from burning. It will begin to brown the longer it cooks. While the Garlic Lime Butter is simmering prepare the fish….

4 – 6 fish fillets, skinned and boned

Seasoned to taste with:

  • chili powder
  • cayenne pepper (opt. for extra heat)
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • black pepper
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime

Preheat the grill. Rinse and pat the fish dry before placing them on a sturdy piece of tin foil or in a fish grilling basket Pour about a tablespoon of the Garlic Lime Butter onto each fillet (it will have reduced some) and then generously dust with chili, cayenne, pink salt, black pepper, fresh cilantro, and finally a healthy drizzle of fresh lime juice.

Place on the grill and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 5 minutes per side (measure at the thickest part of the fillet). The fish should flake apart without being dry. Serve with grilled veggies or a green salad, a bowl of fresh fruit, quinoa salad, and plenty of sparklers ;)

Enjoy!

Food Lamor by Melissa