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!

Whole 30 Week #2

As usual, week 2 was a bit harder than the first.  Extra stresses at work made it especially hard to avoid the sugar, but I managed to make it.

I find it’s particularly hard to find the energy to exercise during the 2nd week of a Whole 30.  Low energy levels and headaches kick in – certainly not nearly as bad as the first time, but bad enough to make me a little grumpy and want a little extra sleep. The grey skies and warmer temps that seemed to linger all week didn’t help either.  I prefer the cooler weather.

For meals this week we enjoyed a mix of old favorites and new adventures:

  • We found pork shoulder on sale, so we did a smoked pulled pork with our favorite simple rub of mustard and black pepper  from this, we made sliders with sweet potato buns, baked pork stuffed sweet potatoes, and our favorite pork and apple breakfast casserole.
  • A double batch of Paleo Chili
  • Slow cooked bolognese sauce with sweet potato noodles – OMG this sauce is a bit painful to put together because of the time commitment, but it rivals any restaurant version I’ve ever had.  Like you’d expect, it really gets better over time, and we’ve continued to enjoy this one all week.
  • Paleo Gyros – this was really pretty good, though pretty dry compared to the ones we get at our neighborhood Greek place.  I made a paleo tzaziki sauce and served this with caramelized onions and asparagus.
  • Paleo Barbecue Chicken Casserole – this was pretty good – even my mom said it had a good flavor, and it was pretty easy to make.  The star of the show, however, was the prerequisite Whole 30 BBQ sauce which is really awesome, and was slathered all over our pork dishes all week too.

img_2286The other thing I’ve been working on is limiting my meal portions.  I was rewarded with a weigh-in on Thursday that was lower than before the holidays by a couple of lbs.  As the weekend kicked in and my portions grew, the scale got ugly again, but I think it’s safe to say I’m back to my pre-holiday position and in a great place to finally lose that last 8 lbs that I originally wanted to drop.    We’ll see if I can keep the stress and the large portions at bay this week.

This Year’s Cool Kitchen Gifts

Obviously one of the big changes that comes with a Paleo lifestyle is the increased time spent in the kitchen each week.  Fortunately, many of my family, friends and neighbors recognized this a great opportunity to give me some helpful kitchen tools and gadgets I can’t wait to use.

This year I got:

  • A beautiful kitchen towel embroidered with “Our Daily Bacon” from one of our neighbors that frequents the blog.  She’s been helping her husband with his blood sugar by preparing more Paleo meals, and E.J. and I are thrilled to be a part of that positive change
  • New cutting board, silicone cupcake & loaf pans from my sweet son
  • A really nice assortment of natural salts and a cooking class from our friends Kenny & Elaine
  • A great new Paleo Chocolate Lovers cookbook from friends Steve and Anita
  • New kitchen shears, an All-Clad dish towel, a strawberry corer, and an herb grinder/chopper from my mom

I also received gifts of beautiful and soft scarves, earrings, and other accessories that I now tend to wear more often because of the weight loss – it seems like I’m always cold in stores and restaurants now.  Also got a some great workout socks and a workout shirt for my morning runs.

I feel so very blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive circle of family and friends!

Merry Christmas, Paleo Peeps!

Merry Christmas, to all of my blog followers, and everyone who is struggling like I am to maintain some kind of food impulse control amid the avalanche of decadent foods that are readily available this time of year.

I apologize for the long delays between posts.  During the holidays, E.J. and I have so many events and activities planned every weekend, so prep cooking is a quick and easy affair, full of easy go-to favorites from my Favorite Recipes page, and smoked & grilled meats.

For the big holiday weekend, I actually put together 2 big meals and mixed in some new winners I’m happy to share.

IMG_2268.JPGFor Christmas Eve, my brother came into town, and we feasted on a couple of stuffed chickens from Hebert’s specialty meats along with baked sweet potatoes and balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts.  But before that, I wanted to give E.J. a sweet breakfast indulgence he hasn’t enjoyed since we started with Paleo in 2015: cinnamon rolls.  I found 2 different approaches to the dish – one from A Girl Worth Saving that uses mostly tapioca flour and a dough similar to our favorite pizza crust, and one from Paleo Grubs that uses a more standard almond flour dough.   Rather than choose, I decided to try both and take a queue from my mom’s old Czech cinnamon roll recipe for the filling: a combo of shredded granny smith apples, pecans and honey.  For the icing, I actually used the one from this Instructables recipe that uses maple sugar – one of my new favorite baking ingredients.  The resulting rolls were both good in their own ways – the tapioca one stayed together better and could be eaten without a plate, though the dough was a bit chewy.  The one with almond flour had a lovely light flavor but crumbled too much to eat without a fork.  I’d recommend either of them.

Then on Christmas Day, our friends Kenny and Elaine joined us for the big meal, and we had plenty of tasty Paleo options on the table for the diet conscious and everyone else.

  • Nitrate-free, hormone-free honey ham from H-E-B – Not 100% compliant, but definitely the best option we could find
  • Roast Duck – This method for roasting duck works fabulously – we ended up with a juicy, crispy duck with a lovely flavor.  For the glaze, I used the one in this recipe from Paleo Table. It was fantastic.
  • Stuffed Mushrooms – This is the same one we did from Thanksgiving – they really are tasty
  • Cinnamon Pecan Roasted Butternut Squash – This was ok, though not as sweet as I thought it would be.
  • Mashed Sweet Potato
  • Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus – super simple, but very fancy.  I used purple asparagus for an extra flare
  • Sweet Potato Rolls – These dinner rolls from Paleo Cupboard use mashed sweet potato, which gives a pinkish hue to the roll, but makes it pretty tasty
  • Cranberry Sauce – same one from Thanksgiving (it’s that good)
  • Balsamic Glazed Beets – these are always a winner.
  • Deviled Eggs

All in all, another successful holiday spread.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday meals as much as I did.  We’re already enjoying the leftovers and likely will for the rest of the week.  E.J. and I have the week off, so we’re planning some adventures that I hope to share with you all later.

And just so we’re being honest, even with our paleo food choices this week, E.J. and I are still up a few pounds simply because of volume of food we’re consuming.  We know it’ll come off again when we get back to a normal routine in January, but in the meantime, we’re just going to keep trying to make the best choices and keep up our running routines every couple of days.

Holiday Baking

One of my absolutely favorite holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies in the first few weeks after Thanksgiving.   I have 3-4 cookies I always make, and then if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll throw a new one in there, just to make it interesting.  Unfortunately none of my traditional cookie recipes are Paleo, so last year I simply didn’t do much holiday baking to avoid temptation… but that was officially a crappy solution.  It took away one of my favorite traditions, and that made me sad…

And I refuse to be sad during my favorite time of the year.  So this year, I’m back to holiday baking, Paleo style!

Here are some of the goodies I made:

  • Banana Bread – This is E.J’s favorite holiday treat.  I’ve always made mini-loaves to give away and one big one for E.J. to enjoy for breakfasts.  This time, it was so good I did it twice.  Both loaves were moist and delicious – every bit as good as the original
  • Almond Butter Bars – the original treat I was going for was my mom’s Peanut Butter Squares recipe, and these are a great substitute.  This is officially the easiest Paleo dessert recipe ever, and is easily whipped up in 10 minutes or less.
  • Gingersnap Cookies – Ok, so have you ever bought one of those tins from World Market that they have at Christmas time?  I absolutely adore those gingersnaps and wanted a paleo equivalent.  I think these are as good, if not better than the originals.  This recipe is absolutely perfect and gives you the perfect wafery crisp that you’re looking for.
  • Almond Biscotti – I used almond extract instead of the lemon and these turned out OK, but weren’t the best of the bunch.  I think they needed more extract or sugar or both… they just seemed a little bland.
  • Cran-Orange Macaroons – I had some leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving and some of those mini-orange cuties, so voila!  I think the time in the oven is a little long, as mine came out with fully toasted coconut instead of lightly toasted, but otherwise they taste really good.
  • Sand Tarts (Wedding Cookies) & Orange Spritz Cookies – these are two traditional family recipes that I have from my mom which I really wanted to recreate.  The first time I tried it by subbing out ingredients and then adjusting for texture at the end.  Oddly enough, they both turned out PERFECT the first time…. Which sucks, because now I have to figure out what I did so I can recreate them.  In general I substituted palm shortening for vegetable shortening, maple sugar for granulated, and for a standard 2 cups of flour I used 1 1/2 cups of almond flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour and 2 tbsp arrowroot combined together.   I’m still trying to prove this out, but it’s really close.

Have you experimented with any Paleo holiday treats?  I’m always looking for new ones!!

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for so many things in my life right now – I have a challenging job that I really enjoy, two sweet kids who are becoming wonderful young adults, and I am particularly thankful for my amazing husband and our friends who have been so supportive of our new healthier lifestyle.  This thanksgiving, we had a dinner for 14 and fortunately they were amenable to our adjusted dietary approach on Thanksgiving dinner which turned out absolutely fantastic, if I do say so myself.

We didn’t keep the table strictly Paleo, since we did have some traditional folks in the group, but I think we managed to blend the offerings very well, and even better, our guests brought a number of the dishes to share, so I didn’t have to do the experimenting all myself.

First the appetizers:

  • Bacon-wrapped Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze – I just followed this basic recipe, and then drizzled the finish product with a balsamic glaze I have from Trader Joe’s
  • Primal Bacon Chicken Liver Pate – Holy crap, this stuff is crack.  Traditionally we in the Hunyadi house have had a cream cheese based mushroom crostini thing for Thanksgiving, so I was looking for a paleo alternative.  No more looking – this is perhaps the best pate I’ve ever tasted, and everyone raved about it.  I served it with Paleo crackers.

Then the main event:

  • Smoked Turkey – our friends Steve and Anita provided the turkey, smoked to juicy and flavorful perfection, sugar free.
  • Paleo Cranberry Sauce – the aficionados of the cranberries at the table declared this to be one of the best versions of the dish they ever had.  I think this is the new official recipe for Thanksgivings to come
  •  Green Bean Casserole – friends Kenny and Elaine provided this dish and indicated that the mushroom soup that is made first to use for the casserole is divine all by itself.  In the casserole with the nuttiness from the hazelnuts, I found heaven.  I normally can take or leave green bean casserole, but this dish was scrumptious.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the leftovers this weekend
  • Sweet Potato Casserole – Kenny also made this one, and while I was originally a bit wary about the coconut shreds in the topping, I really like this version.  Marshmallows don’t even seem appetizing anymore, so this was a welcome switch.  Highly recommended.
  • Sausage Stuffing – OK, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when it came to Paleo stuffing, but this one from A Girl Worth Saving was a great base for it.  I modified the recipe slightly by starting with ground sausage, onions, and celery in the pan, then adding the apple, and then crumbling in the “cornbread” and the liquid.  This was a great sausage stuffing, if I do say so myself.  Definitely a keeper.
  • Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms – I’m a sucker for just about any stuffed mushroom.  I miss the traditional creamy center (i.e. cream cheese) but not the stomach ache.
  • Paleo Dinner Rolls – I thought about just giving up and going with the old Pilsbury crescent rolls and letting the primal peeps just abstain, but because my guests were doing so much of the work, I just couldn’t justify it.  These dinner rolls aren’t the buttery awesome of the old standby, but they are still rather good, and received plenty of compliments.

And for dessert:

  • Paleo Pumpkin Pie – Elena’s Pantry to the rescue!  I think this is my new favorite Paleo crust.  I might experiment with getting a more buttery flavor into it somehow, but the texture is spot on.  The pumpkin pie was really good too.
  • Paleo Pecan Pie – Ok, this one gets mixed reviews.  Honestly, I think it’s a pretty good substitute for the real thing, even though it’s not as syrupy or sickly sweet as the original.  I think that’s actually why I liked it, though some of my guests were missing the karo.   I used the same crust as the pumpkin pie, and it worked great.

All of the holiday goodness, and no digestive issues.  I’ll call that a win!

Achievement Unlocked: Paleo Tortillas

Hello Paleo Peeps!  It’s the first day of fall, and it’s still 90 degrees outside… what gives?  We’ve got football, pumpkin spice, apples, and Christmas stuff hitting the stores already…and the weather is just not cooperating.  Hopefully all that rain their forecasting for this weekend will finally bring that first cool front through, because I’ve got some cute new boots that I’m dying to wear.

Anywho, this past weekend, I decided to make yet another try at Paleo tortillas to go with some marinated skirt steak and nopales (cactus) that E.J. was jonesing for.  Every prior attempt at tortillas has been highly disappointing – too crumbly, messy, or pancaky – and I just need a go-to option here.  Finally, I think I have it, and it’s simpler than I thought.  Enter Paleo Tortilla recipe from Paleo Porn.  Ok, first, is that not the greatest website name, or what?  Second, these tortillas were the bomb.  They were chewy and bendy, yet strong enough to wrap around a hunk of meat, veggies and sauce, and still hold for a burrito-like bite.   Obviously with the copious amounts of tapioca flour, they can’t be a regular thing, but for the occasional Mexican food fix, they’re perfect.  I used the cast iron skillet as recommended and was rewarded with perfectly sized and flippable portions.

Some other successes for the week included Salisbury Steak and this amazing Cinnamon Butternut Squash and Plantain with Apples.  My grocery store didn’t have green plantains, so I left them out, but there’s something about cinnamon apples & anything that just gives me the warm-fuzzies of fall… even when someone forgot to tell mother nature what season it is.