Dandy Dinners

When our daughter was young, she used to call restaurant food or any other special occasion meals “Dandy Dinners”.  The term stuck in our family and we often find ourselves declaring a dinner to be “dandy” when it turns out exceptionally yummy.  This week, despite our Whole 30, we managed to enjoy some very nice meals.  First, we got to enjoy an amazing steak at Peli Peli – a favorite special occasion place on Wednesday when I finally got the promotion at work I had been working toward.  Then on Friday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday at Pappadeaux, a cajun seafood restaurant, where we enjoyed a broiled redfish with shrimp & butternut squash.  Then on Sunday we took advantage of a Kroger sale on lobster and had lobster tails with asparagus.   It just goes to show that you can eat healthy and still really feel pampered.

Our meals for this week also turned out very well.  First on Saturday we smoked another pork shoulder to feed the crowd that came over to play tabletop games and hang out in the pool.  We served the pork with baked sweet potatoes, roasted cabbage & Brussels sprouts and garnished it with a homemade Whole 30 BBQ Sauce that turned out very tasty, even without the missing liquid smoke ingredient.  We went to several stores looking for a version that was Whole 30 compliant and struck out, so I did without, but ended up ordering one from Amazon for next time.  The pork shoulder came out very tender and juicy, and had a wonderful flavor from the applewood that E.J. used.

Then on Sunday with E.J.’s prep help we made our favorite TexMex Casserole, roasted 2 chickens in the Instant Pot, and tried a new recipe from Nom Nom Paleo.  Let me tell you, I was skeptical of this recipe because the ingredient list is a little on the strange side, but OMG is it good.

Spicy Tuna Cakes (NomNom Paleo)IMG_1822

I backed off on the spice since I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but this is easily one of my new favorite recipes.  The closest comparison I can come up with is it’s like a spicy crabcake, except with a tuna flavor.  I packaged it with roasted spiced cauliflour and have been adding avocado slices just to round it out.  Yum!!  I’m really liking these recipes that bake in muffin tins because they are so easy to grab and go for lunches or snacks.  I’m definitely going to have to get a set of silicone muffin trays at some point though, since the hardest part is getting the food out in one piece.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Level Unlocked: Didn’t Even Lick My Fingers

So, by now you’ve seen lots of Paleo and Whole 30 goodness coming out of my kitchen, and I’m really excited about the way I’ve been able to find “real food” recipes that mimic or even sometimes are better than their standard counterparts.  This weekend, however, I had a need to make regular old chocolate chip cookies – full flour, sugar, and the whole bit.  I was making them for some of the guys in my team at work who were slaving in the data center all day Saturday to make some major changes to our networks & servers and I wanted to give them goodies that weren’t limited by my new lifestyle changes.  Mind you, I LOVE cookies.  They are my absolute favorite treat, but since I am in the middle of a Whole 30 right now, these (and any other cookies) are definitely off limits.

Oddly enough, though, I wasn’t really tempted.  That’s a first for me.  I happily made the cookies, washed my hands along with everything else, packaged all of them up, and delivered them without regret, or yearning, or resentment.  A year ago, I would have been feeling all of those things.  Heck, 2 months ago I would have felt those things too.  I guess I must be doing something right.

IMG_1811 IMG_1809

In the middle of the work projects this weekend, I still managed to do my cooking for the week.  This week, I started with our favorite Chorizo Meatloaf, though I forgot to pick up spinach at the store so I used celery instead.  I daresay it tastes even more amazing with that substitution.  I paired it with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon for a hearty lunch package.

Here are the new recipes for this week:

  • Gyoza Meatballs – Have you ever ordered PotstickersIMG_1816 from your favorite Chinese or Japanese restaurant?  These meatballs are like the inside of those without the noodle.  Rather than mess with the sauce for make-ahead lunches, I just put them on a bed of cauli-rice and oven roasted broccoli and topped them with Coconut Amino Teriyaki Sauce
  • Lamb-stuffed Zucchini – I have found that I’m a big fan of lamb, especially in Shepherd’s pie, but I wanted to try another Whole30 friendly dish that would take advantage of the monster zucchini I picked IMG_1813up at the farmers market this weekend.  I paired this with Instant Pot baked sweet potatoes
  • Baked Kale Chips – We also picked up some pretty kale at the farmers market and I’ve been meaning to try homemade kale chips.  I was pleasantly surprised at the result.  I don’t know what I expected, but the light and crispy taste was really enjoyable.  I could see eating the entire batch like popcorn for a movie night.


Looking forward to lunches this week!!

Whole 30 Revisited…

After all of the parties and barbecues and fun times this summer, my poor body has been screaming at the amount of sugar I have allowed to creep back into my diet… granted most of it was honey or maple syrup, but even that can add up when it  becomes a regular thing.

To be fair, I have been incredibly stressed with the new job, and when I’m stressed, I have historically turned to junk food.  Fortunately my paleo diet had allowed me to have sugary treats when I felt I most needed them without gaining any weight on the scale, but a couple of weekends of drinking wine, and a couple more of eating sweet potato chips, cheeses, paleo fruit pie, and Paleo Strawberry Lemonade had left me feeling swollen, tired, plagued with some nasty facial acne, and a little bit out of control.  The scale said everything was fine, but my body told me it wasn’t.

When E.J. and I started our diet in September last year, I remember reading about people who would do 2nd and 3rd Whole 30’s or would schedule them annually like checkups, but given the misery I went through the first time, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to do it again, much less regularly.  Well, here I am, just coming up on our 1 year anniversary (Sept 1), and I actually feel the need to do it again.

So after E.J’s birthday celebration, I went 1 day without sugar, then another… and I didn’t die.  In fact other than being a little more hungry since I wasn’t snacking, I felt way better. So, I told E.J. that second day that I was going to do another Whole 30, and that it was ok if he didn’t want to do it with me – but being E.J. of course he did.  So now we’re on day 6, and the acne has cleared up, my clothes fit better, my fingers don’t feel like sausages anymore, and I just feel normal again.

It’s absolutely amazing how much difference it makes when I eliminate my sugar intake…I can’t quite get my head around it, but I’ll let you know if I have any more insight as we go.

To support us this week, I tried some new recipes, and so far they’ve been really good:

  • Ancho Chile Mexican Meatballs – I did a double-batch of this recipe, and used a mix of pork and beef in the meatballs to give some extra flavor – this one is really yummy, and I will definitely make it again!
  • Buffalo Chicken Casserole – If you love buffalo wings, you will love this one.  I didn’t realize buffalo sauces like Frank’s are naturally Whole 30 compliant, but it is and it makes for some really flavorful dishes… especially when eaten with paleo ranch dressing.
  • Paleo Sausage Sweet Potato Frittata – Sugar-free chorizo makes everything awesome.  In this case, that plus caramelized onions makes for a flavorful lunch or breakfast option.

We also smoked a brisket, slow cooked some sweet potatoes, and Instant-Potted some beets for more options.

I guess the moral of the story for me is to simply listen to my body.  E.J. talks about it a lot on his blog, but I often stop hearing it when life’s stresses are getting to me.  If I’m going to maintain this lifestyle for the rest of my life then I need to learn how to listen, even when the going gets tough… maybe especially then.

Favorite Recipe Update

Today I went though our Favorite Recipes list, added a few items I had forgotten about and marked the ones that are Whole30 compliant (or have options to be compliant in the instructions).

Anything that has a “(W30)” after it should be legal on Whole30 provided it’s not one of your trigger foods or something that makes you yearn for the old days of full sugar & grains.

Let me know if I’ve missed something and need to adjust the indicators.  I’ll try to make sure I keep marking these as I add recipes to the list.

The Great Divide

To Paleo, or Not to Paleo… that is the question!

This holiday weekend we were party central again, this time for both 4th of July and E.J.’s birthday (July 5).  Every year we have a big party to not only celebrate E.J.’s special day, but also birthdays of no fewer than 5 other people which land in late June or July.  That means lots of splashing in the pool and of course, lots of yummy food.

Since we started The Great Paleo Journey in September last year, this is the first summer party that we tried to walk the fence on the whole Paleo thing…. about half of our guests have been trying to follow a diet similar to the one E.J. and I have adopted, plus we tend to have a lot of leftovers from these things, so it was important to me to make sure no one felt cheated for their birthday, but that we stayed relatively in-bounds with regard to the party fare.

For the birthday cake, I ended up making standard full-sugar cupcakes with buttercream icing fashioned into a single “cake” so that the portions were controlled and they were easily portable… away from my kitchen when the party was over 🙂  Per E.J.’s special request, we also had the infamous dark chocolate cake that I made last November for his cousin… and this time, it came out exactly as advertised.  Everyone who tried it agreed with him that it’s better than most chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted.  We also offered both Blue Bell and coconut milk-based Paleo ice creams.

The rest of the Paleo/Primal menu looked like this:

We had other items like regular deviled eggs, chips and french onion dip but they were definitely in the minority when it came to the overall offerings.

All in all, the food got rave reviews – I used some of the leftover fruit and made a Strawberry and Blueberry pie for the 4th which turned out tasty, but the crust fell apart.  I’ll have to keep experimenting until I find a recipe that I like for fruit pies.

There’s always at least one failure when I do this much Paleo cooking, but it’s all in the name of learning new recipes and methods and being able to share them with all of you.