New Favorites

Hey guys!  I have a couple of new favorite recipes you have to try.  Whether you’re new to Whole30 or Paleo, or you’re a seasoned veteran like us, both of these recipes are super yummy.

The first one is the Layered Taco Casserole from Living Loving Paleo.  If you use just-ripe plantains that are sweet but still firm, you end up with an amazing flavor paired with the spices in the ground beef.  I made guacamole on my Sunday cook-day to go along with this one and portioned it out in small plasticware cups so it could be added after the meals were heated.  We also added a dollop of lactose-free sour cream to it when we had it for dinner, which really took the flavor up another notch.  Spanish cauli-rice pairs nicely with this one too.

The second actually came about during one of my famous “E.J’s hungry, wants something different, and I didn’t prepare anything specific to eat” days.  We had pork chops and apples that needed to be used, and while I had originally intended to do something in the oven with them, I made Wiener Schnitzel instead.   It’s a bit messy in the kitchen, like all fried meals, but the flavors really shine, especially when I topped them with quick homemade applesauce:

{Super Cheating Quick Applesauce recipe:  peel and core 3-5 granny smith apples and chop into 1/2-ish chunks.  Put in microwave safe container and cover, microwave for 6 minutes.  Transfer to blender and blend.   If serving with savory dishes, nothing else is needed.  Otherwise you can add cinnamon and/or coconut sugar to ramp up the sweet factor.}

Served with a salad topped with oil and balsamic vinegar, this meal turned boring pork chops into restaurant-quality yum!

I’ve added these to the Favorites page, so be sure to check them out if you’re looking for something new to try!

Back to “Normal”

I apologize, dear readers, for the long hiatus.  I don’t really have any good excuses, other than the fact that I simply didn’t feel like I had much to share the last few weeks.

The weekend after E.J. was released from his active duty with the National Guard, he and I headed to Austin for a lovely couple of days enjoying a little adventure and a cozy bed & breakfast. While we thoroughly enjoyed our mini-vacation, I caught the cold/flu thing my mom had had the week before, and spent much of the weekend and the week after feeling very tired and sniffly.  E.J. of course caught it and came down with it the next weekend, so we spent last weekend being a bit lazy and just trying to rest so we could feel ourselves again.

Then yesterday I got to spend the day looking for the dress I’ll be wearing to the Marine Corps and Army balls in Nov & Dec, and came home after a relaxing pedicure to a belated surprise 40th birthday party for yours truly.  Thanks to the time that passed and my friends’ excellent deflection & distraction skills, I was thoroughly surprised.  Not only was there a full spread of party food, but it was all paleo-friendly…  I have some really awesome friends (and husband, of course, who continues to make me swoon with sweet gestures all of the time).

Due to all of the sick and lazy, and just plain tired I was feeling the last few weeks, I didn’t do a lot of experimenting with meals.  Instead I stuck to a handful of favorites from my recipes page and relied more than I should on restaurant fare.

But today is October 1 – the beginning of my favorite time of the year.  The weather is starting to cool off, pumpkin spices are everywhere, and all of my favorite holidays and activities are lined up through New Years.  I’m ready to snap back to “normal”, and looking forward to the foods and festivities of the season.

So here are some of the new recipes I’ve been playing with:

  • BBQ Chicken Casserole – this one is similar to another version I tried about a year ago, but was less than happy with.  This one was much tastier and will probably make it onto our favorites page.
  • Sauteed Red Cabbage with Apples – E.J. was craving red cabbage the other day, so I decided to see if I could find a paleo-friendly version that would work.  This one more than worked.  It was fantastic!  Hot or cold, this side dish is just a tiny bit sweet from the apples, and makes a lovely pairing with smoked or roasted meats.
  • Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork – Even though it’s still a bit warm outside, I couldn’t resist going for some of the flavors of the season.  The ginger, cinnamon, and apples made the house smell amazing while the crock pot was going.
  • “Cheesy” Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole – I adapted this recipe which uses quinoa and replaced it instead with sauteed cauliflower.  I don’t know if I’d really call it “cheesy”, but it tastes pretty good, and I think satisfies well enough as an alternative to simple roasted veggies.

Happy Fall, y’all!

The 40th Birthday I’ll Never Forget

If you weren’t already aware, E.J. and I live and work in the north part of Houston. Which means the last 2 weeks have been nothing short of crazy.  First there was the massive run on food, fuel and supplies at the grocery stores getting ready for Harvey to arrive, then the “Hunker Down” part when the storm actually hit.  This is the part of the process when you’re glued to the Weather Channel and/or our local news networks (one of which even went off air for nearly 2 days when their studio flooded) and the massive worry…  “Did I buy enough food?  Will the retention ponds hold?  What about my pets?  Do I know how to get help if I need it?  What if my cell phone stops working?”

We were lucky and had no damage from the storm, but one of my really good friends wasn’t so lucky.  She and about 500 other homes in her neighborhood started flooding early on day 2 and eventually ended up with 6 1/2 feet of the San Jacinto River in her home.  Fortunately, she and her family along with some neighbors escaped by boat and drove through shallow flood waters down to where we live, and we hosted her neighbors for the next day and a half until the rain finally stopped.  On the same day that our house guests arrived, E.J. was activated with the National Guard.  My 40th birthday was Tuesday – the morning I got the text from one of my users that our entire network had gone down in one of the floods and that no one had email or connectivity to any of the rest of our systems.  The remainder of that day was a fire drill trying to acquire another emergency Internet connection to our systems via phone and then getting everything back up and running.

E.J. has remained active since then, but fortunately he’s been assigned to work from his home armory which is just down the road from us, so he’s been able to come home for a few hours every other day or so, if just to grab supplies, drop off/pick up clothes, and have a meal with us.  On my birthday, he even managed to acquire flowers, steak, and a fabulous port, and proceeded to cook me a fantastic meal after a horrendous day.   If that’s not PaleoMarine superhero stuff, I don’t know what is!!

This weekend, once the water had receded, I helped my friend clean and move her stuff to her temporary living arrangements while I watched wave after wave of volunteers come through to gut every house on her street.  It was heart-wrenching and heart-warming, all at the same time.  Golf carts were coming through every 10-15 minutes with meals, drinks, and snacks for anyone that needed it.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it, but I can say it made me proud to be part of this community of people who sweat and cleaned, and did anything they could to help a fellow human in need.  Some of these people came from hundreds of miles away just to help wherever they could.  On Saturday, a bunch of my friends surprised me with a belated birthday party at one of my favorite restaurants that had reopened.  It was definitely good to step out of the crazy for awhile and enjoy some normal.  By yesterday, Labor Day, most of the city near me had returned to business as usual, and I was able to enjoy some shopping and a badly-needed pedicure.

Needless to say, clean eating wasn’t exactly first priority through all of this.  There were definitely a few evenings that ended in a bottle of cider or a couple of glasses of wine, if just to calm my nerves.  But all in all, we did what we could to stick to our routines.  While everyone else was clearing the shelves of bread, peanut butter, jelly, pop tarts, and all of the other comfort foods, I was stocked with 5 lbs of bacon, 5 dozen eggs,  smoked pulled pork, cooked sausage, Hungarian meatballs, some fresh fruit and veggies, and lots of sweet potatoes.  I also had ice chests standing by in case I lost power and needed to transition anything out.  I cooked out of our freezer for most of the meals during the storm just so I could reduce our exposure to a power outage.  Fortunately, we never lost any utilities, other than a few short brown/blackouts during the height of the storm.  I’m up about 3 lbs, but all things considered, I’m ok with it.  There’s a #Harvey15 that’s circulating down here to reference the weight everyone put on while cooped up in their homes with ample junk food and high-strung nerves.

E.J. is still on active duty, helping with operations in Beaumont.  He’s thinking it might be a month before they stand down again.  Until then, I’m still cooking, just smaller portions.  I’m back to running now that the weather has cleared up too.  I’ll do my best to stay on track until our world settles back to normal again.

 

 

 

More Keto Goodies

While Keto is treating me well from a meal planning and meal enjoyment perspective, I find I’m really struggling to stay in ketosis.  Our big system upgrade happened last weekend, and between the prep, the aftermath, and the one giant FUBAR that had me pulling an all-nighter Wednesday night, staying strict enough on the diet this week wasn’t really an option.  So, I compromised, sliding over to Paleo, and maybe a little beyond when a no-added-sugar hard cider sounded like a really good idea.  But all in all, I’m holding fairly steady, and that’s not bad, considering.

This week, I made some new keto friendly dishes and revisited the Quiche Lorraine from a few weeks ago, since E.J. didn’t get a chance to enjoy it the first time.  First we had some folks over for dinner last night and served sausage with keto coleslaw and this Loaded Cauliflower which got rave reviews.

Then for lunches this week, I made this Keto Meatloaf recipe that uses pork rinds as a binder… who would have guessed?  Then I made this Deconstructed Pizza Casserole recipe and this Easy Cashew Chicken.

I’m actually really looking forward to our lunches this week now, and hopefully I’ll be able to slide back into ketosis again when things calm down a bit.

After 5 months, Sherry finally got her groove back…

This morning, a nasty, muggy August-in-Houston morning, I finally finished a 5K after 5 months of pain and recovery.  It wasn’t fast or pretty, but it was complete, and without pain.

It was a long road full of pain, depression, frustration, and fear.  There’s nothing worse than working hard for something, only to have it slip away, and have to fight for it again. But people do it all the time.  For some people, it’s their health, wealth, or love that they lose and have to find again. For me, it was my ability to run – I know it’s insignificant in the big scheme of things, but it had become a big part of my life, and I really missed it.  Worse yet, when my mom turned 40, her fibromyalgia symptoms began to set in, and she’s been fighting it ever since.  I kept wondering if this was the beginning of it for me.  Am I destined to spend the rest of my life in pain the way she does?

If it hadn’t been for E.J., I don’t think I’d have made it back.  There were plenty of times when I could have given up – on the diet, the exercise, and all of it.  It felt like every time things started to get better, I’d hit a setback.  But he was my rock the whole time – he really listened, and didn’t judge.  He just kept helping me find solutions and new things to try.  I think having that support is the biggest key to success when we set off on a really big challenge.  We’re all going to stumble and wonder if we should just give up.  But the worst thing we can do when we feel that way is to keep it to ourselves.  Tell someone – a friend, a family member, or even a supportive group online.  Just talk about it.  First, you’ll often find that what you’re feeling is normal, and even common among your peers, and second, you’ll find ideas and inspiration that will keep you moving.  Sometimes it’s backward, or sideways before you go forward, but no matter what, keep moving.

 

A Keto Detour

Ok, time to get real again.  The job stress is hitting a crescendo right now because of a major project that’s coming online at the end of next week.  On top of that, E.J’s been gone over a week and won’t be back until Friday, which is exactly when I will need to be focusing on work instead of him.

Avoiding the sugar dragon right now is not an option.

But I’m back to running 30 minutes 3 times a week, now that my knee is better, and I’m not willing to give into the extra lbs that keep trying to creep back on, just because I’m stressed.  So what’s a Paleo person supposed to do to keep things under control?

Have you heard of this Keto stuff?  E.J. suggested I look into it.

Keto is a cousin of the Paleo diet that’s more focused on weight loss than long term health, and basically while you give up carb-heavy veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut squash, you add back in small amounts of cheese and sugar substitutes like erythritol (Swerve).  Other than that, the diets are similar to a “Primal” Whole 30.  The point is to get your body into ketosis, where it starts burning fat instead of carbs for energy.  And based on everything I’ve read, it seemed like it would be worth a try.

So last week I pulled up one of those “Fat Bomb” recipes off of Pinterest, just to see if I could handle the sweetener.  My weakest part of the day is craving a sweet finish after dinner.  The first night I had one after dinner, I tried one along with some decaf coffee to see if it would satisfy.  My first impression was how “fake” and strange the sweetener tasted compared to the natural sugars I had been enjoying in maple syrup and honey.  After about half an hour, I also had some very unpleasant stomach aching and a lot of intestinal discomfort.  But slowly over the rest of the week, the intestinal issues subsided as my body adjusted and figured out how to digest it.

Would you believe that I dropped 3 lbs in 4 days?  I’m being careful to only use cheese sparingly for flavor, and still using coconut milk as a cream substitute, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of this.  Today, I made this Quiche Lorraine along with some Crock Pot southwest chicken for lunches, and it was awesome.  Mom and Brendon had some for lunch today, and both pronounced it a winner.

I actually feel like I have a formula now that will get me through the next couple of weeks and I won’t automatically be gaining 5 lbs.  In fact, if the last few days are any indication, I might be back to my lowest by my birthday at the end of the month.

Wouldn’t that be a nice present!!??

Iron Chef: Freezer Edition

With E.J. off at Annual Training for the next 2 weeks, I am taking the opportunity to inventory my freezer this week so that I can do a massive defrosting next weekend.  We actually have 2 freezers, and the large one in the laundry room is not the kind that is frostless, so about twice a year, you have to go old school and pull everything out to thaw out the massive ice buildup.

While the project is always a massive pain, it’s a good opportunity to go through everything and throw out things that are too freezer burned, or otherwise undesirable to make room for the good stuff.  In order to minimize the amount of ice and ice chest space I need, I’m trying to “Iron Chef” it this week with whatever I can find.

On Friday, I did a version of these Paleo Enchiladas using some frozen pulled pork for the meat and some Siete tortillas.  The sauce was actually delicious, and I would like to try this full recipe someday.   Then on Saturday, I did I wanted to use the last of the cherries I had in the fridge and some beef and pork , so I made this Meatballs with Cherry Sauce dish.  Mom and Brendon really liked that one.

Last night, I pulled out an old favorite to use up some frozen salmon.  This one is always a winner.   And tonight I used up a couple of lbs of shrimp by sauteing them with onions and bell peppers in a Jamaican jerk rub with butter.  It was a little spicier than I had intended, but otherwise really good.

I’m about to go diving back into the freezer to figure out what we’re going to have tomorrow night…. your guess is as good as mine!

Paleo Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Our good friends Kenny & Elaine got a new smoker recently and were gracious enough to share their first bounty with us – some lovely smoked brisket.  As I was gathering produce for the side dishes I planned to make to accompany it, I couldn’t help grabbing another bag of fresh sweet cherries.  I know they won’t be in season for much longer, and I really enjoyed the chicken recipe this week for lunches.

I came across this recipe from The Joyful Foodie, and used it as a starting point.  The rest was inspired by an awesome cherry chipotle rub that E.J. and I used to use before we went Paleo. Enjoy!

Paleo Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet and spicy BBQ sauce made with seasonal sweet cherries


Ingredients

  • 1 tsp coconut oil (or other friendly oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup pitted sweet cherries
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • salt & pepper to taste


Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat,  add oil and saute onion until soft
  2. Add garlic and cook for a minute or so until fragrant
  3. Stir in tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes
  4. Reduce heat and add cherries and paprika, breaking up the cherries as the soften. Cook for 10-12 minutes until cherries release their juice
  5. Add vinegar and cook 1-2 mins more
  6. Remove from heat and add honey, chipotle powder, salt & pepper
  7. Let the mixture cool, and then transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth.


Summer Fruit

It’s hot out there, guys.  Generally speaking, this is my least favorite time of the year, mostly because from mid-July to mid-September, Houston is pretty much a sweltering, sweat-inducing, swamp of a city.  While most Americans hibernate during cold winter months, we hibernate in the summer, running from A/C blasted cars to frigidly cold A/C buildings and trying not to sweat completely through whatever we’re wearing in between.

The only positive thing that comes around this time of year is an abundance of fresh and flavorful fruits – and while fruit should generally be enjoyed in moderation on a Paleo diet, there are lots of ways to incorporate the flavors into your main dishes to make them a little brighter without any additional sugars added.

This week, I made 2 dishes that used fresh fruits that IMG_2815.JPGwere calling my name.  The first was a Cherry Balsamic Roasted Chicken.  For this recipe, I used boneless skinless breasts and thighs in a large Pyrex dish, just so I could make a bigger batch.  It was actually one of the easiest dishes I’ve put together and I’m looking forward to trying it for lunches this week.  The second one came across as a suggested post on my Facebook last week, and I have to admit to being insanely curious – who ever heard of blueberry sausage?  But Blueberry Breakfast Muffins were paired with some grilled summer squash this week for a hearty meatball/loaf lunch option.

While I had the smoker going with some ribs that were on sale, I also made this Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe, and just heard back from E.J. that it was a hit.  So even if it’s too hot to enjoy the weather, at least we can enjoy some summer flavors!

First Run Since Injury

If you recall a previous post several months ago, I really messed up my right knee right after we got back from vacation in March.  It had already been bothering me a bit, and then after sitting on the porch one day with Buddy on my lap for an hour or so (putting pressure on my knee cap) I got up and had excruciating pain under my kneecap.

I thought at first that it would be temporary, but the pain was persistent and kept me walking with a limp, sometimes to the point where it would just give out while I was trying to walk or come down stairs.  Finally after an MRI, I was diagnosed with Runners’ Knee – a common, but nasty condition where the cartilage under the kneecap has worn down and the kneecap keeps moving out of the groove where it’s supposed to be.

The only remedy is time and therapy, strengthening the ligaments and muscles around the area and allowing the tissues to recover.  I was making great progress with it after a couple of months, and then one day twisted it just right and felt like I was back to square one.

The frustration at wanting to run and not being able to is excruciating and infuriating.  I have to admit to feeling a range of emotions because of it – depression, anger, and even resignation that I might as well give up the whole diet and exercise thing because if I can’t exercise, the diet has to be really strict for me to maintain my lower weight.  It’s really hard to watch the scale creep up when you know how to make it go back down, but can’t physically do it.  Fortunately, E.J. and I counsel each other regularly on this journey, so when I hit this roadblock, he hit the Internet, looking for ways to help me “adapt and overcome”.

First, he bought me a good exercise bike.  Fortunately the bike allowed me to get my heart rate up, and strengthen the muscles around the knee without the damaging impact.  I’ve been doing 30 minutes on the bike 3 times a week for the last couple of months to ensure I still get some cardio exercise, but I just don’t get the sense of satisfaction that I get from running.  First, it’s hard to stay in the same place going nowhere for 30 minutes, and 2nd, it just doesn’t get my whole body moving like running does.

Then most recently, he bought me a new knee brace.  I’ve actually tried at least 3 different ones since the initial injury, trying to find one that was flexible enough to move in, stayed in place, supported the kneecap, and breathable enough to wear all day.  He found a bunch of people on Reddit who had my same injury who recommended a specific brace and patella strap set that’s only $8 that they swear by.  Well, after wearing the brace comfortably for about 2 weeks, I can now officially say it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Not only did the pain go away when I walk, I can wear heeled shoes again all day at work, go down stairs without wincing, and this morning, for the first time since March, I went out and did running and power walking intervals for 20 minutes… and I’m walking without pain afterward.  I’m so excited to feel like I’m finally getting back to where I want to be physically.  Obviously, I need to baby it for the next few days so I don’t overdo it too quickly, but I’m looking forward to trying a few more intervals over the next few weeks on my way back to a 5k.

Moral of the story:  Don’t let injury, vacation splurges, or anything else get in the way of your long term goals.  Accept your situation, whatever it is, and keep trying to find a strategy that works for your specific circumstance… and when it changes, be flexible enough to “adapt and overcome”!