Easter Goodness

I can’t believe spring is already here – well, here in Houston, at least.  I think it was 50 degrees in Dallas today, but a high of 81 here…

Anyway, we had a lovely Easter break, complete with some relaxation with a fishing trip out in Galveston Bay on Friday, and a good old fashioned fish fry on Saturday.  If you’ve ever wanted to try some paleo fried fish, we’ve pretty much decided the perfect recipe is a half & half mix of cassava and almond flour, dredged in egg (or not, still works), and served with this tartar sauce.  We managed to catch some black drum fish during this trip, so I also made some of the pecan butter sauce from this recipe to top the fish, and it was fantastic.

Then of course, we shared an Easter meal with our friends and family on Sunday, which is another opportunity to try out some new recipes (and feature some old ones).  Fortunately, Easter is a little easier than some of the winter holidays since we’ve all pretty much settled on ham as the main course (and I can serve it cold).

Here are the rest of the dishes we served for the big meal:

  • Green Bean Casserole 2 – This is the most recent paleo version of the classic recipe I’ve used, and this time I took even more shortcuts by skipping the blending step on the mushroom soup and just sauteeing the bacon and onions without the messy battering and frying.  Fortunately it still got rave reviews even with my cut corners
  • Creamed Spinach – I used this recipe as a starting point, and subbed out the regular flour with a smaller amount of coconut flour for a keto-friendly side dish with tons of flavor.
  • Sausage Cream Cheese Dip Mushrooms – Ok, this dish was just heavenly.  I’m a big fan of stuffed mushrooms any way I can get them, but this cheesy version is just out of this world.  I used coconut flour (small amount) as a sub for panko to keep it keto, but I think you could use almond flour or crushed pork rinds also.  I’m adding this one to the favorites list.
  • Cheddar Garlic Biscuits – this one is still awesome.  We discovered it several weeks ago when we made these to go with a lobster dinner with friends.  Total new favorite – so easy to make and so delicious
  • Paleo Lemon Tart – OMG, this one is amazing.  It has quite a bit of honey in it, so it’s definitely a “special occasion” sort of dessert, but is quite pretty and got 2 thumbs up by everyone who tried it.

We rounded out the meal with deviled eggs and a paleo sweet potato casserole provided by my friend Anita, and enjoyed every bite.  It’s funny – now that I’ve gotten used to paleo/keto cooking, I really don’t miss the old favorites anymore.  There’s no doubt that it’s easier to whip together the old Campbell’s green beans and some sugary desserts, but everything that was served had so much flavor, I just can’t see myself ever going back.

The danger here, of course was still in quantities on my plate and the glasses of wine I managed to enjoy throughout the weekend, but all in all I came out ok.  I got my workout in this morning (Monday) and plan to get in 3 full running sessions this week and watch my carbs more closely to compensate.

Splitting the Difference

Ok folks, I know I owe you a post showing you all of the wonderfully keto happy recipes I’ve been making the last few weeks, and while I’m happy to share my favorites (you can find them at the bottom of my Favorite Recipes page), the truth is that I’ve been struggling a bit lately – which many of you have read about if you also follow E.J.’s blog, and we’ve decided to move forward on a Keto/Paleo hybrid plan.

The truth is that I really missed cheese during the last several years, and while the Paleo mavens out there have come up with some really clever substitutes involving cashews, nutritional yeast, and other healthy alternatives, the truth is nothing compares to the real thing.  We’ve found that if we are careful with the dairy we buy, and stick to lactose-free options wherever possible, we actually don’t have the negative affects we’ve seen in the past.  The other cue we’re taking from keto is to reduce our carbs wherever possible.  I’ve found that I can’t stand most Stevia sweeteners, but can handle Swerve (erythritol) just fine, and if I can enjoy sweets without spiking my blood sugar, that’s got to be a good thing.  Beyond that, we’re going to allow ourselves some fruit occasionally and not limit our tomato, onions, and peppers as much (seriously, how to people cook long-term without those 3 veggies?)  And maybe still have a potato side once a week, but not as much as we were on full Paleo.

I still didn’t drop more than a pound or 2 during this last round of keto, but I’ve also had another major upheaval at work, and I know my portion sizes have been out of control.  So considering that I haven’t ballooned up in the last couple of weeks, I guess I’ll call it a win.

Overall, I can say that in general, Keto cooking is easier than Paleo, and appeals more to a palate that’s not used to “diet” food options.  My mom certainly prefers Keto dishes over Paleo, and I think if I refined some of my bread and cookie recipes, I could probably get her into ketosis without her even realizing it!

So at this point in our journey, I will say that I’m continuing to learn and experiment with flavorful foods and monitor my body’s reaction to what I’m eating.  It’s all about finding your balance, right?

New Keto Favorites

This Keto cooking is a whole different animal from Paleo… but I’m starting to get the hang of it.  The trickiest part for us is lactose intolerance.  While I LOVE cheese, and am really enjoying it in abundance on this run of keto, I’m having to be very careful to make sure I’m using lactose free dairy wherever possible to avoid swelling and abdominal discomfort for both E.J. and I.  The good news is that most aged cheeses are naturally lactose free, and our local Sprouts store carries lactose free cream cheese, sour cream, and half & half (which I use instead of cream in recipes).

The other oddity with keto is the allowance of some processed food items like condensed soups as bases for casseroles and sauces.  After more than 2 years avoiding these items, I just can’t bring myself to go completely back to the dark side, so I’m making my own cream sauces and thickening with xanthan gum.

That being said, I have made a few dishes lately which really are pretty awesome that I’d love to share:

Crock Pot Bacon Mushroom Chicken – This one is actually pretty simple if you simply stick with the condensed soup that it calls for.  I made my own with half & half, chicken broth, spices, and xanthan gum, and finished in a casserole dish in the oven instead of the crock pot, just because I was doing a double-batch and wanted to make sure there was plenty of cheese and bacon on each breast.  E.J. and I both really liked the flavors in this dish, especially since I used gruyere cheese instead of a basic Swiss.

Low Carb Hamburger Buns – With last week’s pizza crust success, I ended up extending my “fat head” dough experience and made these buns to go along with some beef patties on the grill crowned with bacon and a fried egg.  We enjoyed it so much, we had it twice.

Low Carb Bagel Dogs – This was another similar version of the keto dough, this time wrapped around sausages…. we had this for lunch today and it was amazing.  Being from Texas, I can say I missed my kolache fix, and this dough opens up all kinds of possibilities again.

Keto Cinnamon Swirl Bread – Though keto generally tries to steer you away from sweets, they do allow for them if you use sugar substitutes that don’t spike your blood glucose.  I admit right off that none of these substitutes are as delicious as raw honey or maple syrup, but so far I’m finding that powdered Swerve (erythritol) is the least offensive when it comes to aftertaste.  This recipe uses liquid stevia in the dough, which isn’t too bad once you get used to it, but is not so great when you still remember what regular sugars taste like.  After a few days of having slices of this bread, though, I’m finding I really like it and it satisfies the sweet tooth.

Low Carb Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars – When you need a keto treat with minimal effort that curbs the cravings, this recipe delivers.  I used to make a similar dessert for my family when I was younger using graham crackers and powdered sugar.  This one is similar enough that it takes me back to happy places without tanking my ketosis.  Because of my Paleo tendencies, I substituted almond butter for the peanut, and used melted Lily’s dark chocolate chips (sugar free) for the topping (without anything else added).

So far, I’ve seen some minimal weight loss, but I’m feeling it in how my clothes fit, so that makes me happy.  Any diet that allows me to keep losing weight and allows cheese and chocolate can’t be all bad…

Another Keto Detour

The first time I tried shifting from Paleo to Keto, I tried it while E.J. was deployed with the National Guard so I was on my own.  I struggled with energy levels and stomach aches, and it kind of fizzled out after about 2 weeks.  Though, in that 2 weeks, I did lose a couple of pounds.

This time, E.J. is driving the keto bus, and he’s done a lot more research on strategies and supplements to help make it work better. So, today is day 2, and I’m looking forward to enjoying some cheesy goodness, even if I can’t have my beloved honey and maple syrup sweetened treats…

Here are some of the recipes we’ve got on the menu this week:

Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole – E.J. had a craving for enchiladas verdes, one of his favorite mexican dishes, so I made this casserole which brings all of the flavors without the pain of tortilla making and rolling.

Low Carb Quiche Lorraine – this is a favorite from the last keto experiment.  It’s so good that my mom (who does not follow our diet) fell in love with it and asks me to make one for her every other week or so.  I use Jarlsberg Swiss cheese for this recipe and the flavor is outstanding.

Three Cheese and Broccoli Casserole – Mom tried this one last night also and gave it 2 thumbs up.  I added some chopped sausage to the dish to make it hearty enough to stand as an entree, but otherwise kept to the recipe.

E.J. also made a Hungarian stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut dish as well as smoked ribs to round out our weekly meals.

Yesterday for lunch we tried fat head dough for the first time as a pizza crust – and can you say Yum!?  We haven’t had pizza in forever, so E.J. was particularly excited about being able to have a slice now and then again.   This recipe from Ditch The Carbs is the one we used.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

With a Little Help From My Friends

We’re in the final stretch of our January Whole30, and all in all I think it’s been a success.  I didn’t quite hit the weight target I wanted, but my clothes all fit nicely again, and I certainly feel better.  Work stresses aside, this really was the easiest W30 yet, and one of the reasons why it was easier is because of the amazing support of friends and family.

When we started with Whole30 and Paleo 2 years ago, things were much different.  When I would turn down office treats, or carefully order food at restaurants with specific requests, or bring strange food to the office potlucks, I found myself explaining what I was doing and the reasons behind it over and over.  The reactions were all over the map: encouragement, admiration, skepticism, and pity – but fortunately I was never met with ugliness.  After a few months, when the weight started to drop, I had a lot more questions, and a lot more earnest interest.  Now 2 years later, 2 others in my department have dropped over 50 lbs, and another is just starting her journey.

When we have potlucks now, we are sensitive to all of the dietary requests – things are labelled gluten free, paleo, and vegetarian, and people are proud to share their favorite health-conscious foods with the team and enjoy how good they taste.  No one brings donuts or kolaches on Fridays anymore either.  We’ll share treats for birthdays and holidays, but otherwise, we now keep nuts, Lara bars and other healthier options lying around the department instead.   The funniest thing about it is I never mentioned anything about office foods.  I never preached or gave anyone any grief about wanting to bring something yummy to share with the team.  But over the course of 2 years by simply politely declining and choosing my own path, the entire team has chosen to follow it, and some of them have dramatically improved their own health in the process.

Even the waiters at our favorite restaurants are supportive.  At the places we visit most frequently, E.J. has talked to the waiters and shown them the pictures… they all know the story, and remember us when we come in, so we rarely have to give our special orders anymore – they know what we want and how we want it.  It’s just so much more comfortable.

It’s the same with our close personal friends.  E.J. and I have a number of couples we will hang out with and have adventures with on the weekends, and while they might not follow our diet as strictly, they are all sensitive to it and have recognized the benefits themselves.   I feel incredibly lucky to be blessed with friends who have not only accepted the changes E.J. and I made to our lives to improve our health, but have embraced them and actively help us find new recipes and  ways to continue to thrive with an active social life.  When we entertain friends, they know my menu will be mostly paleo unless there’s a special request, which I’m happy to accommodate.  And when we go to our friends’ house, they always let us know what foods are compliant and which ones aren’t so we can make conscious decisions about how to build our plates.

And then sometimes, like this last Friday, they just rock and make a new paleo recipe that I’ve never seen or tried and it is nothing short of amazing.  Our friends Kenny and Elaine made this Whole30 compliant InstantPot Crispy Mojo Pork with tostones and it was spectacular.  I’m totally adding this to the Favorite Recipes list.  My friend Anita has also been tagging amazing looking recipes on her Facebook so they pop up for me, and I can’t wait to try them.

So, while everyone’s journey must be a personal one, I can certainly say that our ability to sustain our new lifestyle would be a much more difficult without “A Little Help From My Friends”.

Rocking the Whole30

So here we are, a week and a half left of our 4th whole 30, and still hanging in there.  Last week’s ice storms sent my work life into a tailspin for a few days, and I was really wishing for a glass of alcohol at one point, but otherwise I’m doing ok.  The cold and rainy weather has put a damper on my regular running schedule, but I was able to get out there this morning and complete a 5k before work, which always seems to help not only with the weight loss, but also my general well being.  On the days I run, I feel lighter and more confident, like I’ve already accomplished something, so the rest of the day should be cake.  Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s a nice start anyway.

Last week, I added a few new favorites to the list – you might have seen E.J. rave about the Butter Chicken and the Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya – both were fairly easy to make and reheated well for lunches and weeknight dinners.   I made the Jambalaya a little too spicy though – I think I’ll cut back on the cayenne and red pepper flakes – I’m sure I went a little overboard from what the recipe called for.  (which is one of my secrets of Paleo cooking btw.  I often double spices in recipes to intensify flavors)

This week, we’re trying these Ground Beef and Plantain Bowls from Real Simple Good.  I’m a big fan of plantains any way I can get them, and certainly appreciated the baking approach rather than the traditional fry method.  I couldn’t settle for just seasoning the meat with chili powder, so I mixed a number of my favorite Penzey’s spices to get some extra dimensions in there – Chili 9000 + Smoked Spanish Paprika + Ancho Chili Powder.  The result was pretty good, though honestly I think I should have put more of everything in there.  Ground beef is just so bland if you don’t spice it heavily enough.  And the green sauce is good, but subtle.  I think maybe it needed a more cilantro, or something to amp up the flavor since the avocado just kind of mellows everything.  All in all, I enjoyed it, but would like to do a little more tweaking to get it to the “awesome” list.

Tonight we’re having Bacon Wrapped Cod with asparagus for dinner… let the jealousy begin… 🙂

Happy New Year!

Well, I suppose I could say that my hiatus from posting on the Bacon is a product of exhaustion, laziness, stress, and all kinds of other reasons I give for not doing the things I should – but that just isn’t fair.  I really just felt like the stress of the holidays was enough without trying to document every meal I cooked, and remember every success and failure along the way.

But for those of you who find your inspiration on E.J.’s blog, Paleo Marine, I know many look here for new and interesting recipes and ideas for cleaner eating.  And I feel like I’ve been letting some of you down by not sharing some of the amazing new recipes we’ve found and developed over the last several months.  Right now, E.J. and I are half-way through our 4th Whole30, and honestly, it’s been the easiest one yet.   With all of the great recipes on the Favorites page to start with and with some of the latest successes, it has hardly felt like much of a reset, save for the lack of cookies and chocolate in between and after meals. Of course those small sweets are my downfall any time of the year, and cutting that one bit out has eliminated my annual holiday inflammation and dropped me 7 lbs since New Years.

With that said, let me catch you all up.  After IMG_3004[1]Thanksgiving, E.J. and I tried to be really good for a few weeks because we went up to New York City to visit our daughter who moved up there last year.  It was always on my bucket list to visit NYC during the holidays to experience the snow,  Broadway, 5th avenue, the Rockettes, and all of the Christmas traditions, and this trip delivered on all of it.  As with most of our trips, E.J. and I gave ourselves a pass on the diet in order to experience all of the local fare, and then promptly went back to our standard paleo diet when we returned.  It’s fun to visit the land of “not caring what you’re eating” every so often, but I’ve decided I never want to live there again.

IMG_3014[1]Then we celebrated a quiet Christmas with the rest of the family at home, and this year I did prime rib and roasted duck for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – which both turned out fantastic.  I had never attempted a prime rib before, but I used my favorite new kitchen tool of 2017, my Anova precision cooker, doing a 6 hour sous vide and  finally finishing with an herb crust under the broiler.  The duck was slow roasted (nearly 5 hours) using the recipe from my favorites page, and our crew said it was the best one yet.  My favorite new side dishes from the holidays were a new Green Bean casserole recipe from A Girl Worth Saving and this Loaded Cauliflower recipe with lactose free sour cream and omitting the cheese.

IMG_3017[1]After Christmas, I took a week from work off and relaxed a bit, before gearing up for our annual New Year’s eve party and the big backyard polar plunge.  For party fare, I revisited some of my old favorites and had a few new ones thrown in as well.  Here are some of the new additions to the favorite party snacks list:

Sausage Cream Cheese Dip – OMG, this is officially the new hotness when it comes to my future party offerings.  I have to admit to having an unhealthy relationship with Chili con Queso prior to going Paleo.  I LOVE cheese dips, and really missed the old Velveeta mainstay at our parties, and now I have a new Primal substitute.  I made this with lactose free cream cheese to reduce the negative affects of dairy, and am hooked.  Again.

Bacon Meatballs with Mango Honey Mustard Sauce– This one had rave reviews also.  I made the meatballs and kept them on a warmer for the party and then offered this sauce and some Paleo BBQ sauce as a topper.

Spiced Paleo Apple Dip – E.J. raved about this one.  I have to say that it’s not the prettiest looking dip in the world, and since I did it in advance and refrigerated it, it thickened up a bit too much when I served it, but E.J. absolutely loved the flavor.

I also made a nut butter for the first time – with hazelnuts.  I admit to being lazy and just buying nut butters when I need them, but it turns out hazelnut butter is really hard to find.  The Ninja blender was up to the task though, and I was able to whip up some beautiful hazelnut butter after roasting the nuts I bought in bulk.  Out of that came 2 fantastic desserts: Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge and Hazelnut Brownies.  If you are a Nutella fan, these are totally for you.

And now that the holidays are over, it’s Whole30 time again, so I have a few new healthy recipes to offer on that front:

Paleo Fried Zucchini – I actually substituted the coconut flour for a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of Cassava and Almond flours, but otherwise kept this as-is.  The cool dill dip is really good, and this was a great addition to a weekend lunch with cabbage and sausages.

Sauteed Red Cabbage with Apples & Onion – I’ve made this twice now in the last 2 weeks and it’s still really good.  E.J. is a huge fan of cabbage slaw, and I think this one is a great balance of vinegar and a slight sweet from the apples.

Moroccan Lamb Casserole – This one is quite easy as a slow cooker recipe if you just throw everything in and turn it on.  The recipe calls for sauteeing ingredients before and after the main cooking phase, but it’s really not required.

I hope you’re able to try out some of these new recipes and enjoy them as much as my family has.  Happy New Year, everyone!