Rainy Days

We’ve had overcast skies now since yesterday morning, and today it’s actively drizzling. I don’t know if it’s because of the disappointment at losing 2 people in our I.T. department this week, or if it’s the lack of sunshine, but my craving for sweets and/or snacks has been absolutely out of control since yesterday.  As far as I’ve come, I think I could still sit down with a box of Thin Mints and finish both sleeves without breaking a sweat right now.

Ok, I probably would break a sweat as my stomach did somersaults afterward, but you get what I mean.  I’m tired and a tiny bit depressed, and just want something to make me feel better.   I can’t even go for a walk in the sun, which typically helps for some reason when I’ve got cravings.

Of course, when it gets bad like this, I lean on my hubby, if not directly, then at least in spirit.  Wouldn’t he be disappointed it me?  I would probably feel guilty as hell about it and have a stomach ache to boot.  And he would have no sympathy either.  Damn it.

Ok, new plan.  Obviously wallowing in whatever this is and giving into cravings isn’t healthy behavior.  And whatever leftovers they just said are sitting in the breakroom for anyone who wants some probably aren’t all that good anyway.  So, I’m going to get up from my desk and find someplace where I can do some stretching.  Not for long, but just long enough to refocus and try to dig into a project that will keep my mind occupied for the rest of the afternoon.  Hopefully I can make it through the rest of the day and not do something stupid.

FOLLOW UP:  I ended up finding a quiet room for some good stretching, and then walking down 8 floors in the stairwell and coming back up.  My thighs are burning a bit, but now my heart rate is up, I’ve got a fresh glass of ice water with lemon, and I’m ready to tackle the afternoon.  Yay, willpower!

Spring Weekend in Houston

So I know the official first day of spring isn’t until the 20th, but down here in Houston, springtime starts in late February, early March when the temperatures warm back up into the 70s and the pine pollen bursts into the air to kick off our spring allergy season.  Aside from the pollen-laden air, the weather was simply perfect this weekend, with highs around 80 and lows around 70.  That means that it was time to come out from our air-conditioned cocoons and enjoy the outdoors with friends.

Well, first it meant getting some outdoor chores done, then hanging out with friends.  Saturday morning found E.J. and I staining our poor weathered fence, which looks much nicer now that it’s done.

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By 2 pm, our friends arrived just in time to help with the complicated staining around the AC compressors and help clean it all up.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to things we all love – sun, water, and food.  Before we started the fence project, E.J. looked up a couple of recipes for paleo wings in the smoker.  He made 2 different kinds, both which marinaded for 4 hours while we worked on the fence, and then went in the smoker for about an hour and a half, and finally finished on the grill for a nice crispy outside.  They were fantastic, and we paired them with some oven roasted asparagus and sweet potato bites. Yum!!

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We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon sitting by the pool (or in the hot tub) and enjoying the gorgeous weather and good company.  Then we headed out to see Whisky Tango Foxtrot at our local movie theater to cap off the day.

Sunday started like my typical cook-day with laundry, 2 lbs of fried bacon, and E.J’s requested Tex Mex Casserole to enjoy for lunches this week.  But we were invited to go over and watch the Vegas NASCAR race at our friend’s place, and I needed to bring a paleo snack to share.

I decided to take inspiration from our recent visit to Corner Table, a fantastic restaurant we found that has special Paleo dishes, including appetizers and desserts.  E.J. and I really enjoy their Beet Root Hummus appetizer, so I decided to see if I could make my own.  I used this Roasted Beet Dip recipe and then made my own savory almond “crackers” to dip in it adapted from a recipe in my Against all Grain cookbook for “chips” for salsa.

The result was very tasty, and while not everyone was with me on the beets (my son wasn’t a fan, but our hosts liked it), everyone liked the crackers.  I think I’ll be playing with that recipe again in the future to see what other varieties I can come up with.

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Another one bites the dust…

Woohoo!!  One more pound came off this morning, that’s down 54 1/2 since September.  I have to admit that it’s harder to stay motivated now that I’m getting close to my goal and the pounds aren’t coming off as quickly as they used to, but it’s nice to see a change on the scale in the right direction, even if it’s slow.

My left knee has been the biggest hindrance the last couple of weeks.  I don’t know exactly what I did to it, but I think it was a combination of pushing my runs a little too hard and trying to wear the new higher heeled shoes I bought recently.  I just don’t have the balance or the strength yet to wear them gracefully, so I’ve backed down to an inch heel or less for awhile until I can get more used to it.   I don’t know how women wear those 4 inch things and make it look so easy.  Anyway, I was able to run both yesterday morning and today, and that’s the first time in about a month that I’ve been able to do 2 morning runs back-to-back without extreme pain, so yay!!

Oh, another strange effect of the weight loss is that I have lost a full shoe size.   I know that’s not something you usually think of when it comes to body fat, but I guess my feet were overweight too, because all of the shoes I owned last year are pretty much useless now.  Fortunately I caught a sale at Payless  and combined it with a coupon so I could get 4 new pair of shoes for work that don’t fall off when I walk and not spend a fortune.

I’m also trying to transition from wearing flats and dress pants every day to mixing it up with leggings & boots, dresses & heels, and other normal female work attire.  I feel a little like a fish out of water trying to dress like a normal woman after spending the last 20 years of my working life dressing for comfort and size, but it’s been an adventure.   I mean, where do women keep their cell phones & work badges when they’re wearing dresses?  These are the types of things I’m having to figure out…  sigh.

Happy Friday!

Finding Opportunities to Move

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As a kid, I was in a lot of sports.  Typically I participated in several at any given time during the year, and yet I was still a chubby kid.  I know you’ve heard it before, but the truth is that exercise only helps so much when it comes to general health and weight.  That being said, it’s still something I believe in as an important part of my weight loss journey (and ongoing maintenance)  for several reasons.

First, when you lose weight, especially at a fairly rapid pace, it’s important to keep up the exercise so you don’t lose too much muscle mass along with the fat.  Second, when the weight does come off, it definitely looks better when you have a layer of muscles showing underneath rather than skinnier body parts with loose skin.  But what I’ve found this time around is the something much more important I think than either of those benefits – specifically, the mental and emotional benefits of exercise.

In a typical week, I try to get up in the early morning before work (like 5:30 am) and run for half an hour at least 3-5 times a week.  Right now, I’m down on the 3 end because I’m struggling with some knee pain, but generally I figure if I can do that, I’m doing well.  When I finish my morning workouts, I feel invigorated and powerful – like I can take on anything that comes my way because I conquered that 4 miles already.   On the weekends, I also try to do a longer run – typically a 5k if I can make it without pain.   Again, knowing that I can do that gives me a surge of confidence in myself and my ability to conquer obstacles.  From there, I’m ready for any chores or fun that lie ahead.

I also have FitBit that I wear day and night, and I admit that seeing the steps pile up after a good solid run is very satisfying.  There’s nothing more depressing that coming home at the end of the day with only half of my 10,000 step goal accomplished.  So between knee pain and work schedule, I have to find other ways to sneak in more steps.

Here are some of my strategies for adding more steps in my day:

  • Eat my lunch quickly at my desk (typically between 11:30 and 11:45) while I continue to work.  Then go out for my lunch break and walk somewhere.  Typically I walk to a nearby park and back if it’s pretty outside, or sometimes I drive to the mall and shop/walk there.  The point is to stay on my feet for as much of that lunch hour as I can, and do something I enjoy.
  • Park on a higher floor in my company parking garage and take the stairs
  • Participate in conference calls in my office standing up & pacing
  • Park at the far end of parking lots so I have to walk further into stores.  If I have time, I’ll also walk into neighboring stores in the same shopping center, even if I don’t really need anything there, just to browse and get more time walking around
  • Take evening walks after dinner.  E.J. and I (and sometimes our dog Buddy) will walk in the neighborhood for 30-45 minutes on a nice evening.  It’s nice together time, and also helps run down any excess energy (from both me and the puppy) to help us sleep better.

When I reach my daily step goals, it’s like there’s another metric that I can point to as a success on days when the scale isn’t showing it.  If for some reason (time of the month, sickness, allergies, etc) I’m doing all the right things and I’m not seeing the progress I think I should on my body or the scale, I can still control my activity level, and as long as I have some positive progress each day, I’m more likely to stay on track.

 

 

E.J.’s Awesome Smoked Ribs

One of our favorite methods for cooking healthy meats is the smoker.  E.J. is master of the smoker, and we often smoke a rack or 2 of ribs on a weekend since they portion well for weekly meals and are still good reheated.

Here’s E.J.’s latest rib masterpiece:

Ingredients

  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika (we use sweet Hungarian paprika)

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix the spices together
  2. Rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Coat ribs liberally in spice mixture & rub in with your hands
  4. Setup smoker with your favorite wood chips (we use pecan or apple typically with pork)
  5. Smoke ribs for 6 hours minimum @ 225 deg F.

NOTE:  Some people recommend putting the meat in foil for the last hour, but if you keep a steady temperature, it’s really not needed.

Dairy Woes

Ok, so you know that awesome Primal Cannelloni recipe I posted last night?  Well, apparently my body is really unhappy with something in it, and it’s probably the cheese.

One of the things Whole 30 teaches you is that there are foods out there that are probably causing you problems, whether it’s something small like bloating and gas or something big like muscle pain or fibromyalgia, the foods we eat can have a major influence on how we feel.

Before E.J. and I started, I was a big milk drinker.  I had a glass of milk with my breakfast daily (either in cereal or as a drink – sometimes both) and ate tons of cheesy foods.  I absolutely love cheese, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream… pretty much I just adore dairy foods.  E.J. and our daughter have always had a bit of an intolerance to dairy which manefested itself as intestinal discomfort.  But I thought I was fine – after all, I’d been eating/drinking dairy products my whole life, and never had an issue.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve learned a thing or two about myself when it comes to dairy.  After severely limiting my dairy intake for the last six months, I’ve discovered that I do indeed have a reaction to dairy in the form of swelling.  It’s funny though because it doesn’t happen every time.  I can typically eat caesar salad with Parmesan without any problems, and we’ve had Paleo pizza with a mozzarella topping a couple of times, and I don’t remember having trouble with it.  But something about the cannelloni last night must have triggered it, because I woke up with my arms and legs feeling puffy and sore.  My fingers actually ache a little.

Of course, I can’t guarantee the cheese was the culprit.  I don’t eat eggplant very often and it’s a nightshade, and I did some work in the back yard yesterday morning, so I could be getting a reaction to the plants I came in contact with, but just in case, I’m going to stay away from the Italian today and maybe try again later in the week.

In the meantime, Benadryl is my friend.

Recipe: Primal Cannelloni Al Forno

For today’s cook day, I found inspiration from a recipe I found on Paleo Leap for Eggplant Cannelloni.    When I was a teenager, Olive Garden had a Cannelloni Al Forno dish that was to die for. My mom and I ordered it regularly and were heartbroken when it disappeared from their menu.

Thanks to the Internet, I have a recipe for it that is a dead-ringer for the original.  But it’s VERY complicated and time-consuming, so I typically only make it once a year for my mom’s birthday.

Well, today I decided to try to make a paleo version using the eggplant pasta idea, and it turned out really well.  I did, however, use some Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, so I guess this is better termed a “Primal” Cannelloni.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 lb ground veal or beef
  • 1 lb ground Italian style sausage
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise
  • No added sugar pasta sauce (This is what I used)
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large, deep saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and saute onion, celery and carrot until soft
  2. Add 2 cloves garlic, cook 1 minute
  3. Add beef, pork and chicken.  Cook, stirring occasionally until browned
  4. Add wine (if using) and reduce for 1 minute.  
  5. Stir in broth, add herbs, bay leaf, salt & pepper.  Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes
  6. Uncover, reduce until almost dry.  Discard bay leaf.  Set aside to cool
  7. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan set over moderately low heat.  Add remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute)
  8. Whisk tapioca flour into coconut milk, and pour in with butter mixture.
  9. Once coconut milk starts to bubble on the edges, add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted
  10. Add parsley and nutmeg and stir to combine.
  11. In a large bowl, combine cooled meat, egg yolks and cheese sauce.
  12. Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
  13. Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and lay out sliced eggplant.
  14. Coat each eggplant slice with remaining olive oil (I used a silicone brush)
  15. Roast eggplant for 10 minutes and let cool for 5.
  16. Cover bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish (or two.  This recipe makes a lot of meat.) with 1/4 inch of pasta sauce
  17. Pour meat mixture into a food processor and run on low for 30 sec to a minute, just to get the meat to crumble down into smaller pieces and blend in the veggies.
  18. Place as large spoonful of the meat mixture at the edge of each slice of eggplant and roll the eggplant around the meat.  Place rolled eggplant in dish with seam-side downIMG_1473
  19. Cover eggplant rolls with remaining pasta sauce
  20. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
  21. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes or until cheese is brown and melted.
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