Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is our 1 year anniversary of when we started our Paleo journey.  E.J. and I have been through a lot of changes this year – not just with the lifestyle changes and weight loss, but also with our careers.  I can honestly say I took some giant leaps out of my comfort zone in the last year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the result.  I’ve managed to achieve 2 really big goals of mine all in the span of that year, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the next.

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Here are some important life lessons I’ve learned in the last year:

  • Fat doesn’t make me fat – In fact, for me, eating foods with natural fat keep me fuller longer, and makes digestion easier
  • Sugar is not as awesome as I used to think, and I actively choose to avoid it – In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I could actually stop eating sugary foods.  I had such a strong sugar addiction that I had incredibly nasty withdrawal symptoms during my Whole30, and really struggled to find ways to cope with stress that didn’t involve something sweet.  I can say that I still get cravings occasionally today, but I have found that a small paleo treat after dinner every 2 or 3 days is my “sweet” spot as it were.  Anything more than that (like the sugar overload I allowed myself on my birthday this week) and I’m dealing with bloating, shaking, acne, and stomach aches.  So I know my limits, understand the consequences, and feel like I can actively choose when to treat myself, and when I just don’t want to deal with it.  That for me is a breakthrough – I’m in control for the first time in my life.
  • I can maintain a lower weight without exercise – This seems like a simple thing, but to me, it was a huge revelation.  When my job situation changed this summer, my stress-level went through the roof and my schedule changed.  I wasn’t sleeping well on top, so getting up and running in the morning wasn’t happening.  Initially, I was getting a bit depressed, thinking that all of the hard work I had done over the year was going to be wasted, but I didn’t gain the weight back.  In fact I still lost, just much more slowly by just continuing my new eating habits and limiting the sugar.
  • I can go off the rails for special occasions and get back on again – Again, this is something that people often worry about and struggle with.  I’ve certainly fallen “off the wagon” in previous diets which led to scrapping the entire effort.  But at this point, with this effort, I can say that eating sugary foods and breads truly feels like an exception, and I while I don’t regret my choices, I look forward to getting back to “normal” because of how much better I feel.
  • Life is better without junk food – I think I spent the majority of my life so far not really believing that concept.  I believed that junk food was one of life’s great happiness-generators, and that my life was richer because I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  But this is a bit of a lie, or at least a half-truth.  The truth is that while I do miss a few junky foods, I don’t feel like my life is unfulfilled because I’ve removed them from my regular diet.  The way I see it, they’re like an amusement park – fun to visit now and then, but generally less enjoyable and downright ugly to live there long term.  I look and feel so much better than I ever have, and so many of my ailments have cleared up, that I’m not just ok with not eating the junk, but I’m glad I don’t anymore.

I hope some or all of these revelations speak to you in some way, and that you will consider making a change in your life that takes you outside of your comfort zone.  I’m sure glad I did!

4 Ways with Pulled Pork

When E.J. and went shopping last Sunday, we saw that pork shoulders were on a really good sale at Kroger, and were compelled to pick one up.  Smoked pulled pork is one of our favorite protein staples, but admittedly other than sandwiches (which we don’t really eat), I had a limited repertoire when it came to recipes that use pulled pork.

This week I made an effort to find new ways to used smoked pulled pork meat to keep it interesting.  Here are some of the great meals we made:

  • Pork stuffed sweet potatoes – I “baked” the sweet potatoes in the Instant Pot first, then split and topped them with pork, onions and Paleo-friendly BBQ Sauce.  This particular use is the easiest and is great for lunches too.
  • Pulled Pork & Apple Breakfast Casserole – OMG this stuff is amazing.  We liked it so much, I made a double-batch twice.   It’s sweet & smoky, and filling enough to tide you over all the way to lunch time.  It reheats beautifully too for a fast, hectic morning.
  • Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza – So, everyone has their favorite Paleo pizza crust recipe, but after trying many of them, I think Simple Mills pizza crust is the ticket.  It’s easy to throw together and makes a good, solid crust that tastes great and actually supports toppings well.  Our pizza was constructed with Whole30 BBQ Sauce, Pulled Pork, cooked bacon pieces, Sliced yellow onions, and cashew cheese  YUMM!!
  • Pulled Pork Nachos – We started with Sweet Potato chips, then topped with pork, homemade guacamole and leftover cashew cheese.  You have to eat it fast because the sweet potato chips get soggy pretty quick, but it was quite tasty

 

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Achievement Unlocked: Chayote

Admittedly, I would never have tried this if E.J. hadn’t practically dared me to, but this weekend, I tried a new recipe with a completely new vegetable.  I don’t know if I even remember seeing the chayotes (or mirlitons) in the grocery store before, but E.J. said he really enjoyed them in dishes he ate when he was stationed overseas many years ago.

To me, the flavor is kind of like a cross between zucchini and a bell pepper.  It’s not very strong flavored and is pretty soft when boiled, but firm enough to hold on to stuffing, which is how I ended up using it for this dish.  Apparently Shrimp-Stuffed Mirlitons are a New Orleans delicacy, and I can see why – with shrimp and crab in a soft shell, it’s both fancy and flavorful.  I decided to amp up the flavor with garlic powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne just to give it a little spicy kick.

I paired it with sweet balsamic beets, which in hindsight might have been a bit overpowering for the delicate squash, but I’m always a sucker for the sweet & spicy combinations.

In addition to my adventures in strange green squash, I had some other really nice successes in the kitchen.  Earlier in the week I found a Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe that I’m really excited about.  The almond milk makes the color a little tan, but the flavor is amazing.  We actually drizzled some dark chocolate flavored balsamic vinegar on it for kicks, and it was amazing.

I also made shrimp tacos again on Saturday for guests and though I wasn’t happy with the tortillas, the Mexican Cauli-Rice was really good.  I’ll definitely be making that again as a paleo-friendly southwestern-style side dish.

The last dish of the day yesterday was this Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken & Sausage, which came out alright.  I shredded the chicken with the veggies and served that with the sausage links for some nice weekday lunches – I haven’t had a chance to sit down and enjoy a full plate of this one yet, so I’ll reserve judgement, but the small taste I had was promising.

Have a great week everyone!

Sweet Chipotle Slow Cooker Chicken

Sweet Chipotle Slow Cooker Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This chicken dish is a merging of several recipes into one simple slow cooker meal - sweet and spicy (but not too hot) and sure to be a new favorite in your house.


Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup coconut aminos
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2-3 lb chicken pieces


Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together until fully combined
  2. Place chicken in slow cooker
  3. Pour honey mixture over chicken
  4. Set cooker on Low for 5 hours



See, I told you it was simple!

Get your Mex On!

Down here in Texas we can’t go too long without our Tex-Mex kick, and this weekend was a regular fiesta of South-of-the-border flavors.

First, I made a fresh batch of the Bacon Chorizo Chipotle Smothered Meatloaf.  We seriously can’t get enough of this one, and it’s just so handy for pre-packed lunches.  This time I packed slices with a side of Instant Pot Beets marinated in a blood orange balsamic vinegar… totally yummy!

Next I tried a new recipe – this Paleo Beef Enchilada Recipe IMG_1849from PaleoGrubs which needed tortillas, so while I was at it, I made Shrimp Tacos for dinner.  Our son Brendon happened to be home last night and declared those tacos may be the best tasting thing I’ve made so far.  To take things up a notch, I made a baja sauce to go on them using Paleo Mayo, almond milk, ancho chili powder, garlic and onion powder, and a touch of honey. I served them with a side of spiralized sweet potato fries.

I made a double-batch of the enchilada meat thinking I’d have a lot more tortillas, but had a ton left over… and while I was hard at work in the kitchen, I was watching the Texans’ first preseason game, and had an overwhelming craving for nachos.  A light bulb went off over my head and I cobbled together some really yummy lunch with the enchilada meat on sweet potato chips topped with guacamole and tomatoes!

I didn’t get actually get a chance to try the enchiladas until lunch today, but OMG were they good too.  Definitely a win, though I think next time I might put the meat in a food processor though after browning it to get something a little closer to the restaurant consistency.  I packed the enchiladas with a side of pan-grilled onions & mushrooms in ghee.

The laIMG_1847st dish of the week is a ODB Original.  I wanted to do a slow cooker chicken recipe with a chipotle flair, and ended up merging a couple of recipes to get what turned out to be a fabulous result.  I’ll post the recipe separately, but I packed it up with roasted spaghetti squash and the favors really meld.

Finally, with all of the egg white needed to make the tortillas, I ended up with a bunch of egg yolks, and you know what you have to do with egg yolks in summertime?  Paleo ice Cream!!  I’ve just churned the custard after it set overnight last night in the fridge, and now it needs to set in the freezer, but the little tastes I’ve had so far are heavenly.  The almond milk really makes it.

Olé!

More Recent Recipe Wins

I’ve had a few new recipe wins I’ve been meaning to share with you!

First, this Paleo Pecan-Maple Salmon is absolutely to die for.  I’ve actually made it twice, but the 2nd time, I reduced the maple syrup to 2 tablespoons and I think it’s just right.  It’s sweet, smoky, and crunchy and makes you feel like you’re getting a high-end dish from a fancy seafood restaurant.  Even my mom loved this one, and she typically doesn’t like fish.

Next, this Paleo Baked Spaghetti is the dish you’ve been looking for to curb your Italian food cravings.  The Applegate Farms pepperoni curled and crispy on top is the icing on the proverbial Paleo cake, and really adds a lot of flavor to the dish.  I’m slowly getting to the point where I like spaghetti squash in certain dishes, and this is one of them.  The beef, sausage & egg make the dish hearty & it keeps well for lunch dish reheating.

And finally, for my Instant Pot friends, this Fall-off-the-bone Whole Chicken is another easy weekend or weeknight meal, thanks to the magic of pressure cooking.  When they say it falls off the bone, they mean it.  You can’t lift the chicken back out without pieces falling back into the broth, but the chicken is tender, juicy, and if you spice it enough, really flavorful.

Bon Appetit!

Side-to-Side

I apologize, dear readers, for my 2 week absence… it’s been quite eventful.  I was finally promoted to the position at my company I’ve been vying for for the last few months.  While I’m ecstatic about the opportunity this position presents, the reality is that overtime is now the norm, and I find myself wondering where the days and weeks disappear to.  I’m so glad I have the Sunday cooking habit well ingrained, because it’s very handy to just come home after a long day and have a delicious, healthy meal ready to just heat and eat.

I have to admit, I didn’t quite make it to a Whole 30 this time… it was more like a Whole 20, but when someone orders a cake to celebrate your promotion, you don’t say no to it.  Plus our son’s birthday was a few days later, and I made our favorite Paleo chocolate cake… sigh, willpower crumbled.

But, I did manage to lose a few more pounds to where I can pretty much wear any Medium or size 10 off the rack, and as long as I can curb the sugar intake, I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  A subject did come up this weekend, though, about one of the challenges of the Paleo lifestyle being the limitation of tasty side dishes to go with the copious amounts of protein that we enjoy.  I admit, the idea had crossed my mind as well.  As we move into the final month of our first year of healthier eating, I do see that we tend to eat a lot of the same side dishes every other week or so:

  • roasted asparagus
  • baked/roasted sweet potatoes
  • cauli-rice or roasted cauliflower
  • mashed cauliflower (potatoes sub)
  • zucchini noodles
  • grilled or roasted squash
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • instant pot beets
  • roasted Brussels sprouts
  • roasted or steamed broccoli

These are pretty easy recipes and don’t require a lot of prep or thought on my part, but it can get a bit boring when you’re eating the same things regularly

IMG_1838Here are some additional sides I’ve tried lately that may be a little more interesting:

I’m all for eating for health, but to me, food should never be boring!

Have you found any good side dish gems?  Please share!!