Whole 30 #3 – Week 4

Heading into the final few days of my third Whole 30 now, and I think it’s safe to say I’m going to make it to the end this time.  Since I had to travel twice during this run, and ended up eating out quite a bit, I don’t think I can swear that I never had sugar or soy, or any of the other no-no’s that often hide in restaurant foods.  But I can say for sure that I tried my best to make compliant choices at every opportunity.  The sugar cravings have subsided substantially this time, and I don’t see myself diving into any cookies on day 31.  In fact, my plan is to do my best to maintain a near-Whole30 eating pattern as my standard diet, and use my newly found tricks with tea and coffee to avoid sliding back into the afternoon and evening sweet habits.

While the scale has stalled again this last week, I did manage to lose some size, as several of my clothes that were tight before are looser now.  Now that I’ve got the sugar back under control, I need to continue working on limiting my meal portions.  I still struggle to stop eating when I’m full when I’m really enjoying what’s on my plate.

My knee still aches when I’ve been walking and/or standing for long periods of time, so I’m probably going to wait a few more months before I try running again.  For now, I have to be content with the exercise bike, and just try to keep strengthening the ligaments and muscles.

All in all, I think this was a highly successful Whole 30, and I definitely feel much better coming out of it than I did going into it.

Whole 30 #3 – Week 1

First, I need to give a shout out to my friends and family members for their support on this latest Whole 30 effort.  You guys are awesome, and I appreciate it!  I even went to a party this weekend where there were lots of approved options on the table so I was able to enjoy a healthy and tasty plate!

Second, I think I can say this is the easiest Whole30 I’ve done to date.  I’ve learned quite a few things about myself since the last time – the most important of which is the mindset.  There is a determination that you simply have to embrace to make the most of these 4 weeks.  I keep repeating to myself, “I don’t want sugar.  It’s making me uncomfortable and keeping me from being my best self.  Eating those cookies or cake may be enjoyable for a moment, but the self-loathing I would feel for breaking my commitment would be much worse.”  I’ve also done some self-discovery into my cravings, and 90% of them come after dinner and before bedtime when I’m trying to calm my brain from the stresses of the day so I can relax and eventually sleep.  E.J. finally got me to try some caffeine free hot teas from Celestial Seasonings, and I’ve actually managed to find something that kills the craving – “Tension Tamer”.  The ingredients are  “Eleuthero, peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, lemongrass, licorice, catnip, tilia flowers, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors, hops and Vitamins B6 and B12.”  I add a packet of true lemon to the cup when it’s steeping, but otherwise drink it as is.  It actually calms my brain, helps me relax, and prevents the urge to raid the freezer looking for paleo cookies.   With one cup of tea every night, I’ve managed to not just survive the first week, but feel like it was no big deal.

Finally, the best part is the result.  I know you’re not supposed to weigh yourself, but I managed to lose 5 lbs in 7 days.  That’s half of the weight I was hoping to lose in the 30 days gone in the first week.  It just tells you how much of the weight we’re all carrying around comes from bloating and inflammation from sugar [even natural ones like maple syrup and honey], dairy, and alcohol.  All of those had crept back into my regular diet, and that’s really all I’ve cut back out.

I’m still battling the knee pain, but I’ve been religiously riding the exercise bike 3-4 times a week and have added push ups and crunches to those days as well.  I’m determined to make this the best Whole30 yet!

Stepping Up My Game: Sous Vide

Happy Mothers Day, everyone!  Mr. Paleo Marine got IMG_2724[1]me a really awesome Mother’s Day gift this year – an Anova Precision Cooker for sous vide.  I’ve never tried sous vide cooking before, and honestly I’ve been a bit intimidated by it… anything with a fancy French name sounds complicated in my book.  Turns out, there was nothing to be afraid of – in fact, I’ll say that it rivals the Instant Pot in its simplicity, with the convenience of a slow cooker.

After spending some time reading up on sous vide in general and agonizing over what to try first, I decided to go big or go home, and break in the new toy with lamb chops.  I’m a big fan of lamb, but I am always afraid of preparing it myself for fear of drying out an ruining a fairly expensive chunk of meat.  But it was Mother’s Day and while I got to enjoy a very nice lunch out at a fancy restaurant for the occasion, I really wanted to try the Anova, so lamb for dinner!

I used a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to get the chops settled in with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and then attached the Anova to one of my deeper cooking pots.  I got everything arranged, used the app on my phone connected to bluetooth to run for lamb chops, and then forgot about it while I did the rest of my Sunday cooking for the week.  About 45 minutes before dinner time, I roasted some spaghetti squash and made a simple roasted tomato sauce on the cooktop.   Right before I plated everything, I heated up some butter in a large cast iron skillet, removed the chops from their packets, and seared them.

The result was heavenly… perfectly melt-in-your-mouth lamb with a fantastic flavor and texture that rivals some of the fanciest restaurants.  E.J. said we’ll be spoiled when it comes to restaurants now because we’ve figured out the secret to amazing meats.  Next up is a slab of pork belly and some flank steak.  I can’t wait to see how these turn out!

Pinterest FTW!

This past weekend I finally had a full Sunday to do my cooking thing, and it’s been quite a while, so I had lots of new things to try.  Recently we’ve had such lovely cool evenings that E.J. and I have been sitting out on the front porch with the Buddy monster and just relaxing – him with his pipe, and me with Pinterest.  Pinterest really is a fun way to collect ideas for Paleo recipes, because 1) there are lots of them already out there with wonderful mouth-watering photos and 2) because sometimes you find a mouth-watering photo for something that isn’t Paleo, but it wouldn’t be that hard to adjust.  Here are the Pinterest wins I had this week:

  • Paleo Chicken Pot Pie – This is apparently one of Brendon’s favorite foods, and I never really knew it.  I remember tolerating pot pieIMG_2714 as a kid – mostly we’d get the ready-made frozen ones and I’d carefully eat the chicken and the crust while leaving most of the carrots and peas behind.  So it wasn’t exactly something I went out of the way to learn how to cook, and frankly, Paleo pie crust is tough to pull off anyway.  Well, it’s looking more and more like Brendon will be heading back up to North Dakota to work again, so I wanted to at least try to make a Paleo pot pie for him before he left.  It wasn’t the prettiest set of pies I’ve ever made – I really struggled with the crust sticking to the parchment paper after I’d rolled it out, but where it lacked in beauty, it made up for in taste.  Brendon was over the moon for it, so I’ll call that a success!
  • Paleo Pizza Quiche – Ok, before you laugh at this one, hear me out.  First of all, pizza is heavily debated in the Paleo universe, and as a staple of the American diet, it’s one of the hardest cravings to crack.  I’ve tried lots of crusts from cauliflower to almond flour, to frozen – and while they’ve been OK, it’s just not the same.  The truth is that when you are trying to mimic the real thing, you’re just going to fall short every time.  Nothing is going to give you that satisfying crust and real cheese experience, so sometimes it’s better to go for something that’s close, but not trying to be the real thing.  One example is the lettuce wrapped lamb burger I often get at a restaurant for lunch near my office.  It’s not even trying to be a hamburger or cheeseburger, but it’s just close enough to satisfy the craving without being disappointingly short of the real thing.  That’s what I was going for with Pizza Quiche.  Something enjoyable and reminiscent but not an analogue.   I modified the recipe a little to use his favorite toppings: mushroom, Italian sausage, onion, and green pepper, and then added slivers from a batch of Paleo Pizza Cheese from Paleo Cupboard which melt over the top when the slices are warmed up.  E.J. said it was awesome.
  • Prosciutto Wrapped Cod – This is another quickIMG_2716 weeknight recipe that can be added to last week’s theme.  The prep is super easy, and the flavor of the prociutto fried around the cod in butter is out of this world.  Even mom liked it.  For fun, I made some paleo tortillas and a lemon cream sauce to drizzle over the fish and the spinach also that added to the fresh flavors.  I’ll definitely make this one again.

Happy Easter!

This past Sunday we entertained once again for the big Easter meal, and there was plenty of Paleo goodness to go around.  While the kitchen effort was doubled when combined with the week’s lunch & dinner meals, the result was a highly satisfying meal and a lot of great food to look forward to throughout the week.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Best of all worlds” Paleo Lasagna – Last week I made a double-recipe of the Bolognese sauce and had quite a bit leftover.  My options were to either freeze it and have it available for future weekends when I don’t have cook time, or use it in something else. I chose Option B and combined that sauce with the Grain Free tortilla recipe from Against All Grain as a noodle replacement, and the cashew cheese from my bookmarked Paleo Lasagna recipe on Paleo Newbie.    The reviews are in and apparently this is a huge win. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but so far I’m hearing it’s positively scrumptious
  • Creamed Spinach – if you are a fan of creamed spinach, this is your recipe.  It’s not runny or lumpy or flavorless like a lot of the paleo versions out there (I’ve tried quite a few of them and never been really happy with the result).   This one is creamy and thick and full of awesome.   As a bonus, because it’s not made with dairy, it actually reheats well, so you can make it ahead of your event and just warm it up when you need it (or reheat it for leftovers).  This is my new go-to for spinach.
  • Paleo Lemon Pound Cake – This one from Paleo Hacks really turned out nice.  It’s soft, dense, like a pound cake should be.  The fresh lemon flavors were a great compliment to the springtime meal
  • Carrot Cake Donuts – E.J. and I haven’t had donuts in a year and a half, so when I started looking for Easter-themed desserts, this one jumped out at me.  The flavor is outstanding and if you like carrot cake, these are a real treat.

I hope everyone had a great holiday.  I have actually been fighting with severe knee pain for the last several weeks and finally have an MRI scheduled for Friday.  Hopefully there’s nothing seriously wrong, and I’m just suffering from a sprain/hyperextension.  In the meantime it’s been really frustrating not being able to run or walk easily, so it was nice when the weather cooperated enough this weekend to get in the pool for the first time this season.  I was able to do some laps and at least get my heart rate up for a bit, and felt much better for it.  It’s been raining steadily since then, but I’m hoping it will clear up so I can get back in tomorrow.

Slow Cooker Sunday

E.J. and I had a fairly eventful weekend, considering we originally didn’t have much planned.  Friday night, E.J. wasn’t feeling very well, so we called it an early evening and just stayed home, but that was really the only relaxation we got.

17757225_10208869035672281_5729165839992357941_nSaturday was the annual Houston Art Car Parade downtown, which is a fairly big deal when it comes to H-Town traditions.   Considering I remember attending 20 years ago when there were only a handful of cars, the parade has come a really long way and consists of nearly 2 hours of colorful entries sauntering down Smith street.  I consider the Art Car parade a must-do activity for any self-respecting Houstonian, along with the Rodeo, NASA/Space Center Houston, and the Texas Renaissance Festival.  So it was with great horror, that I discovered E.J. had never seen the parade before.  Queue a serious face-palm.

Anyway, this year’s parade was at 2pm, so we had plenty of time before then to run some errands, have a lovely Paleo-friendly lunch at Escalantes in the Woodlands, and then head downtown for some parade fun.  We ended the day having dinner with friends at one of our favorite fancy dinner spots, Peli Peli in Vintage Park.  If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend the South African inspired restaurant, and while there’s nothing on the menu that is anything short of delicious, you have to try their beef filet covered in Diane sauce.  Sigh… it’s a rustic mushroom cream sauce that definitely isn’t dairy free, but oh is it divine.

Then today we were planning on meeting some friends in the afternoon, so Sunday Cook Day needed some special help.  Enter my 3 trusty slow cookers!  Before we headed out, I managed to get a Shepherd’s Pie cooked and packed for lunches, and also these favorite Crock Pot dishes going:

  • Mongolian Beef – this has become a new favorite.  I actually made it for the first time last week, but only made a single recipe, so it didn’t last long.  It’s back by popular demand this week and with more meat
  • Sweet Chipotle Slow Cooker Chicken – This is my own invention, a super simple sweet & spicy chicken that is easy to do in the standard sized pot. I paired this with some sauteed yellow squash and zucchini with onion.
  • Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce – Instead of sweet potato noodles, I went with spaghetti squash to help reduce our carb intake this week after Saturday’s splurge.

But before the weekend ended, I went ahead and helped E.J. kick the craving he’s had lately for hot dogs.  We grilled up some Applegate Farms Uncured grass-fed beef hot dogs and used this cassava flour bun recipe to make some hot dog buns.  Like most Paleo buns, the texture is definitely different from standard bread, but they held up well to the dog and the toppings.

At least today is a short week.  Next weekend is the big Easter meal, so I’m starting to put together my recipe list.  Next week I’ll report on the springtime spread!

Run Report: 1/22

So in the great tradition of E.J.’s PaleoMarine posts, I’m happy to report I didn’t die during my run yesterday morning.  In fact, I had the best run time since the Jingle Bell run and no pain to speak of when I was done.

Yay for small victories!