Monday, December 3, 2012

Crafty Crafty

The holidays always bring out the Martha Stewart in me. I might as well change my name to the Crafty Gardener the way I go a little bonkers with the glitter and tinsel and whatnot. Plus, having a Munchkin gives me a good excuse to pull out the glue sticks and go nuts, gotta let that creativity flow, right?

After putting a pot of bones on the stove to simmer for broth Munchkin and I sat down with a stack of paper and our trusty scissors. We folded and cut and made complete mess of the place, then decorated the kitchen and dining room with our beautiful paper snowflakes. The larger ones needed a little flair so we pulled out the glue stick only to realize we were out of glitter and sequins.


Nooooooooooo!!! I found some crystal sugar decorations for cookies lurking in the cupboard, they were glittery-ish so we gave them a try. They made a perfect substitute, plus I got more space in the spice rack.


I wasn't up to wandering the attic in search of the boxes of decorations so Munchkin and I looked around the house for the stuff that wasn't put away correctly last year. We found Monty the Merry Moose hiding behind a couple hummingbird feeders in the pantry, and a few bells and ribbons mixed in with screw drivers and Dremel parts on the tool shelf (don't ask, I have no idea how they got there).

©Your Lighter Side


Monty looked a little lonely without some nibbles so we searched the web for a chocolaty cookie recipe (cause Mama always needs chocolate) and found Candice's Low Carb Chocolate Mint Cookies.

I subbed a 1/2 cup of coconut sugar for the Splenda and I didn't miss the extra sweetness at all. Of course, that ups the carbs per cookie to 4 (if I did my math correctly) but since I'm not counting carbs I didn't mind. They are not a dense cookie, in fact, rather fluffy, but very tasty! I'm tempted to dip them in a chocolate glaze for even more chocolaty goodness.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Holidays!

No matter how, or what, you celebrate December is filled with lights, bright colors, and plenty of tempting foods just begging to be nibbled. It its a time of added stress, special foods, and Auntie Mae insisting you are too thin and simply must eat another cookie/roll/plate of cinnamon rolls.

Ah, family. Ya gotta love'em.

December 1st starts the beginning of the holiday season for my family. It is usually the day we pull out all the decorations, clean the house, and put away the last of the Thanksgiving/Fall items but today we decided to focus on responsible stuff rather than decorating. We worked on homework (me) and slide decks (hubby) while Munchkin spent the day with Grandma helping her decorate her house. Yes, I was jealous, but I got a difficult paper finished and submitted so it wasn't a wasted day. Only one more paper to finish and two final tests then winter vacation will begin!

Last year I gave up healthy eating during December. I paid for it later but I wasn't willing to give up the cookies and nibbles and all the other junk that always seem to heap up. This year I plan to keep the cookie and candy making traditions alive but will concentrate on the joy of making, rather than eating, and then give those goodies away to friends and neighbors or send them with hubby to work. Yes, you heard me right. I plan to poison the neighborhood with sugar and gluten!

The team over at Whole9 has a wonderful post about holiday eating and I recommend it. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

What are your plans for the holiday season? How will you combat the glut of goodies?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Munchkin Ate Green Stuff!

Hoorah! I just wanted to stop and tell y'all that Munchkin ate kale today!! I've offered it to her every time I've made a batch but she wanted nothing to do with the green stuff. Tonight I put a serving of kale stir-fried with spicy chicken sausage on her plate, not expecting her to touch it. To my surprise she not only ate a bite without any fussing but she gobbled down the rest.

So, all you parents out there struggling to get your kids to eat their veggies-hang in there!! Keep offering it, keep trying new recipes, and don't give up hope!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Is Almost Here!

What are your plans? We are going to take over the in-laws and chow down on some awesome grub.

Since I don't have any big plans for cooking check out Nom Nom Paleo's site for an AWESOME Thanksgiving recipe/prep post:

Paleo Turkey Day Menu Ideas
 
 (Yes, follow the link. I can't figure out how to reblog. Nom Nom rocks!!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where...?

What the...? Its been almost 3 weeks since I last posted! How did that happen!!??

Well, its been busy. We had a wonderful time visiting my folks though we weren't able to eat 100% clean (ahhhh Dad's biscuits and gravy, so so tasty!) Once home Hubby had several back to back business trips and we hardly saw him for the rest of September. School started on the 24th and I made the big decision not to take a math class. I am already less stressed out this term though I worry I may forgot everything I learned over the summer.

Plus, my pony arrived! I was super excited and as soon as she was settled at the barn we started riding. I never realized how many muscles are worked just sitting there but I've been so sore! Its a great feeling. Since we are both so out of shape we've mostly been walking and trotting around the arena to build muscle tone, and doing stretching exercises (think pony yoga). Soon I hope to start trail riding and doing more extreme workouts but for now we are having a lot of fun just getting to know one another.

The weather has been getting cooler and the fall colors are starting to be more pronounced. Every day the yard has a scattering of dry, brown, leaves from the many oaks that surround the place. In town some of the maples are starting to turn red and yellow. 

With the cooler temps the gardens are starting to slow down. Most of the flowers have gone to seed creating interesting textures with their dried flower stalks. The veggie garden still has tomatoes loaded with green fruit and the pole beans have a few pods plumping up but its taking longer and longer for things to ripen.

Yesterday we cleaned out the pantry and set up the grow station in preparation for bringing plants indoors. I took cuttings from the poinsettia plant and nestled them in their own little pots as well as planted a few herbs. By the time the outdoor herbs are gone these little guys will be ready to use. As the weather continues to cool I will slowly bring in the house plants from the patio and deck.

It makes me a little sad to feel the growing season winding down though October is my favorite month of the year. There are still many warm days before winter sets in though and I'm determined to enjoy every single one of them! What are your favorite fall activities?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Road Trip!

Road trips are fun! You get to go somewhere new, see new sights, get out of the house. But when it comes to eating healthy while on the road, well...lets just say it can get a little difficult. Every time you stop for gas there's the rack of candy bars waiting at the register and when your tummy starts rumbling suddenly the jerky and nuts you packed for snacks don't hold a candle to "two-all-beef-patties-special sauce-lettuce-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun (sing it with me!)". Sure, you could stop and grab that Big Mac, toss the bun and get at least get some form of protein (cooked in soy oil and packed with fillers) down the gullet but with a little bit of preparation its easy to stay on track and satisfied even on the road.


Dry foods:

Dried Fruit
While dried fruit has a lot of natural sugar its a sweet treat that isn't too messy. Dried fruit makes a good replacement for cookies and other sweets, just keep it in moderation.


Nuts
A good replacement for chips, nuts come in all varieties and some even have flavoring (watch those labels!). Roast nuts are easy to make at home.

Trail Mix
Mix dried fruit with roasted nuts and ta-da! You have trail mix. You can mix together whatever your heart desires: apples and pecans, cherries and almonds, heck mix them all together and make up your own flavor!

Homemade Larabars
These super sweet treats (only eat as a special treat or to alleviate starvation) are usually made by pulsing dates with nuts in a food processor to make a dough that is rolled out and cut into servings. The dates really up the sweetness (and sugar) factor but for an emergency food that doesn't need to be kept cold these are good to have on hand. They are VERY sweet though (so take precautions-it is easy to inhale the whole batch without realizing it).

Jerky
It goes without saying that for us Paleo/Primal peeps jerky is the number one snacky food. Just remember to check the labels or make your own.

Pemmican
An offshoot of jerky is pemmican which is just ground jerky mixed with fat (and sometimes dried fruit). Protien + fat. Yep, you can live on this stuff.

SeaSnax
Roasted seaweed that is tasty and healthy. Kinda like chips only healthy for you!

Canned Goodies
Most items that have to be kept in the cooler can also be found canned. Canned protein, veggies, and fruits can replace the fresher items but keep in mind that it may be hard to find sugar-free or low-sodium items. Your best bet is canned protein though Munchkin swears by canned olives.Remember to pack a can opener!


In the Cooler:
Wait, you have a cooler right? The cooler is the key. Opt for a medium to large one so you have plenty of room (nothing's worse than having a ton of goodies piled on the counter and only a quarter fit).

Meat
I like to grill a roast, sliced it thin, and piled the slices in a container but any cooked meat will work. Heck, throw a whole baked chicken in (and add lots of napkins and wet wipes for afterwards). Meat, meat, meat, pack the cooler with meat! Sliced chicken breast, deli meats (watch the labels), already cooked bacon, you get the idea. The only things to worry about are A)Will you eat this meat cold? Some cuts can have an icky mouth feel when chilled; and B) Making it user friendly. Please don't scare the other drivers by burying your face into a chicken carcass while doing 90mph down the freeway. Pull over, take a break and enjoy your meal.

Note-make sure all meat is cooked and properly cooled and stored.

Bacon Wrapped...Anything
Bacon wrapped dates, bacon wrapped jalapenos, bacon wrapped chicken slices, bacon wrapped mushrooms...wrapping something in bacon helps hold it together and giving it lots of flavor. It does make for greasy fingers but that's why you have the extra-large baby wipe container propped against the ash tray, right?

Hard-Boiled Eggs
Quick protein, hardly messy, what can be better? Follow Nom Nom Paleo's instructions and get perfect hard boiled eggs every time. Pack some salt and pepper and you're set.

Smoked Fish
Stinky but full of protein and fats. Your passengers might not thank you (unless they are snacking along with you) but who cares!

Fresh Fruits/Veggies
Apples slices are my fav since they aren't quite as messy as, say, peaches but pack what you like. Fresh or frozen berries, baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, snow peas, cherry tomatoes-all make for good snacks on the go. What is your fav raw veggie? Prep it, pack it up, and away you go. I know one person who packs a bag of baby spinach and eats the leaves like chips as he drives.

Salads
Salads made at home can be a great addition to the cooler. They make an easy one-dish meal and can be very tasty. Tuna, chicken, or egg salad with celery sticks for spoons, or even a green salad already washed and tossed (hold back the "wet" items like sliced tomatoes until ready to eat) can help round out a roadside picnic.

Roasted/Grilled Veggies
I like to make a big stack of sweet potato fries, drain them well and serve them cold on the road. Salty and sweet they aren't too messy and taste great cold. Munchkin can even snack on them in the car seat without making a mess. What veggies do you prefer cooked and cool? Load'em up.

Side Stuff (Aka Things That Make Other Things Taste Better)
Almond butter for those apple slices, homemade ranch dressing or pizza sauce for dipping meatballs in, maybe a creamy dip for the snow peas-you get the idea. While these items may make the car a mess if it helps keep you away from greasy Burger King fries throw them in.

Liquids
Remember to pack lots of water. Driving long distances can be boring and sipping can keep you from nibbling. If water is too dull make iced tea, iced coffee, even smoothies and keep them cold in the cooler. Pack some of your fav tea bags to save space and make tea as you need it (most rest stops, at least in my area, have coffee/hot water available).



But what happens when the cooler is empty? (Panic!! Chaos!!)

Find a Grocery Store
There's always a town on the horizon and most towns have at least one grocery store. True, it might not be Whole Foods but lets face it, when you're hungry the local mom n' pop place will have what you need. Stock up on fresh veggies, grab a rotisserie chicken and you've got a meal. Add some fresh fruit for dessert, snag some jerky and nuts for snacking, and you're back on the road.

Scope Out the Territory
Before you leave see what restaurants will be available on your route. Check out the menus and figure out what places would be Paleo-friendly. Didn't plan ahead? Adapt. Pick a place that looks tasty (and fairly safe, lets face it, Wendy's and Carl's Jr are probably out), ask for an allergy listing and order something without soy, gluten, sugar, etc. If you have to, tell your server you're allergic, many places are willing to make an item with different ingredients to suit a customer's needs.


---
Since we are leaving tomorrow to visit my folks (a 10 hours drive...with a toddler...oy vey) Munchkin and I spent the day doing chores and preparing for the trip. With her soy allergies and our Paleo lifestyle it is much easier to take our own food on the road rather than trusting what we can find along the way. We dried apple slices in the oven and grilled a tri-tip roast. Hubby picked up some baby carrots and mushrooms on his way home from work and I sauteed the 'shrooms and wrapped them in thin slices of the roast to make "sandwiches". The carrots were washed and stored in a container along with cherry tomatoes and grapes. A package of deli meat plus some tangy mustard rounded out the cooler supplies (oh, and Hubby's cheese slices. Yes, we eat dairy occasionally). Add the apple rings, some smoked almonds, and a few "sugar cookie" larabars, plus a case of bottled water, and we are ready to roll!

Happy trails y'all! See you next week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Canning

As summer winds down the push to preserve all its delicious bounty for the dreary winter months becomes more pressing. Here in the Pacific Northwest there is still a chance for a second harvest of greens that will last into November but most of the fruits (with the exception of some apple and pear varieties) will be ending soon. Our favorite U-Pick farm has run out of blueberries and raspberries but thankfully peaches, nectarines, and plums are still available.

Peaches are a favorite of mine and I've passed it on to Munchkin. While Hubby can take it or leave it a nice ripe peach can have me drooling worse than Pavlov's puppies. Just a hint of that peachy scent will have me careening through the grocery store to the produce section, knocking over displays with the cart and making Munchkin yell "wheeeeeeee" till I screech to a halt in front of a mound of rock hard tasteless fuzzballs. Honestly, other than the smell they aren't real peaches but most years I'll give in a buy a pound or two and then grumble when the best part of the fruit is the smell. Usually I stuff myself with fresh picked local peaches till I can't stand the sight of them (as if this aversion will somehow carry over into, say, January). I've tried freezing in the past and didn't care much for the change in texture (though they made great smoothies) so this year I decided to stop being scared of Ball jars and to give canning a try.

As a kid I used to help my grandma and mom can all summer long. We'd spend a weekend picking fruit and then all week would be washing, peeling, chopping, and hauling. And the whole time us kids would be washing and peeling and pitting we'd be told to stay far away from the pressure cooker, how it could explode and kill us all if we messed with it. Needless to say we never messed with it-in fact, we'd be ordered out of the kitchen when it came time to load or unload the cooker. Fast forward 20 years and I'm still terrified of pressure cookers! But while wandering the internet I discovered another form of preserving: water bath canning. Basically you fill your jars with yummies, drop them in a pot of boiling water, cover it, and let it cook for a prescribed amount of time. Remove the jars and wait for the lids to pop. Hmmmm....sounded easy.

I snagged a 20 pound box of Elberta peaches from the farm and got ready to make a mess. The Elberta variety is a good canning peach (per the farm owners) and is a cling-free, which means the fruit won't cling to the pit-the flesh just pops off the pit with a little pressure. It is much easier to prep the fruit when you don't have the dig the pit out. To prep the peaches I removed the skins by dropping them into a boiling pot for a few seconds, then plunging them into an ice bath. The skins just slide off-no peeling for this girl!

To make a sugar-free syrup I threw 3 of the ripest, peeled peaches into a pot of water, mushed them up with a potato masher and then simmered until the water had reduced into a thin syrup. It wasn't as sweet as traditional sugar syrups but it was very peachy. I added cinnamon, ground allspice, and ground cloves to give it some spice and then set it aside. I cut the peeled peaches in half and filled my quart jars, leaving a two inch gap at the top. Next I filled the jars with the syrup, leaving a 1" air gap. Then I wiped the jars down, put on the lids, and eased them into a pot of boiling water and covered it. Once the water came back to a boil I set the timer for 30 minutes and started cleaning up the kitchen.

Thirty minutes later I removed the jars and let them cool on the counter. After about an hour the lids started popping, confirming that the jars were sealed. I let the jars cool overnight before moving them, checking that the lids were sealed and didn't pop up and down when I pressed on them.

Here they are! Six quarts of spiced peaches all jarred up (with another 3 already in the pantry). Aren't they pretty?

My peaches were pretty ripe and they smooshed a bunch going in the jar (notice how they don't really look like peach halves *sigh*). Wide-mouth jars might have helped. Next I am going to try tomato sauce, wish me luck!

Helpful links:

Pick Your Own's Water Bath Canning Directions
Pick Your Own Canning Without Sugar

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall Is In The Air

The first fall rain fell last night and I awoke to gloomy skies and fresh, clean air. The gardens are full of green veggies struggling to ripen in the cooling nights and the flower beds are beginning to fade. Gathering the mail I noticed a few brown leaves doing cartwheels down the street though neither the oaks nor the maples around the house have started to turn color. In another week or two the early trees will start to glow and pretty soon all the summer colors will be up in the leaves rather than down in the beds, just another reminder I need to get outside as much as possible before the monsoons begin.




Sunday, September 2, 2012

Is Summer Gone?

Yesterday we stocked up on groceries ( the freezer is now full of meaty goodness) and started doing some cleanup around the house. It has been so cool during the days lately that we haven't been swimming so we decided to drain the pool and put it up for the year. It doesn't feel like we used it much this summer, in fact, it doesn't feel like summer ever actually came. It makes me sad, as if I missed a good opportunity to do something, not sure what, but something important. Part of it comes from taking summer classes-all my free time was devoted to study and now that they are over I finally have that "free" feeling most kids experienced back in June. I can't believe in 23 days I will be back in the classroom...a degree is worth it, right?

We got a new couch and some wickedly cool Halloween decorative pillows. I started to get out the rest of the fall stuff but stopped. Summer can't really be over this early, can it? I hardly got a tan, or went hiking, never went to the beach or fishing. There was so much I had planned to do and I didn't get any of it done except for schoolwork. I'm half-tempted to tell Hubby to fill the pool back up, as if that would magically turn back the clock and make it hot and summery again. Honestly I just feel utterly depressed at the thought summer is gone even though fall is my favorite time of year. The blues has really gotten a hold of me today.

My garden is doing pretty cruddy, the tomatoes are finally starting to set fruit but with the cold nights and cooler days I'm not sure how many vine-riped ones we will get. The corn is puny and the spaghetti squash has one small fruit that is trying to grow up big before it gets too cold. The broccoli is doing well and I expect the Swiss chard will suddenly go wild again since they both like the cooler temperatures. I need to get the second planting of lettuce and spinach in, as well as start hauling in manure to compost for next season.

The flower beds are looking a little ragged though there is still a lot of color. We are going to hit the nursery today to pick up a couple more dahlias to fill in some gaps from plants that didn't make it through the summer (and the neighbor cats incessant digging) as well as stop by the U-Pick farm and load up. I plan to get a ton of green beans (since the gophers destroyed my plants-honestly, some days I feel like sowing poison everywhere and just killing all the vermin that destroy my pretties), peaches for canning, blueberries for freezing, zucchini, and goodness knows what else. By the time I'm done this house will be so packed with food we won't have to go shopping for weeks, maybe even months!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Tour of the Home Place

Things are starting to calm down. School is out and I am patiently awaiting final grades. I did a lot better on my math final than expected and I believe I passed the class. Other than worrying about grades I didn't do much today: cleaned the house, washed clothes, all those everyday things.

Since nothing exciting happened today (I didn't even cook, just warmed up leftovers) here are a bunch of pics from around the house:


The newest member of the family: a year old Black Australorp hen. She is laying one egg a a day and terrorizes Henrietta and Penelope. We are planning on building a bigger run for them since she is being such a pill. Her eggs are very tasty though.



 

My favorite flower: a stargazer lily. Most of the bulb beds are filled with these.








I deadheaded the front beds and put all the better looking flowers in a vase to brighten the kitchen. This little guy hitchhiked in on some crazy daisies and was trekking across a red dahlia when I noticed him.










Tomatoes! They are finally getting ripe!




I have had a ton of hummingbirds visit me this year. They are fun to watch and getting divebombed early in the morning will wake you up fast.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Hubby!

Today is Hubby's (official) birthday though we were pretty pooped from partying all day Saturday and Sunday.  Oh, ok, maybe we had one too many birthday toasts yesterday. We spent a relaxing day puttering around the house and doing not much of anything but being together. I had to ask Hubby if he felt old and he said no. Still can't believe he's on the backstretch to forty-seems like we just met. The years just fly by when you are having fun!

For his birthday dinner I made Julia Child's Coq a Vin (with extra beef broth and butter as a thickener instead of flour) with peas and loaded mashed potatoes for supper. Hubby had to flambe the cognac in the stew though, I'm a chicken when it comes to fire in the kitchen. As usual the coq a vin turned out awesome (I've yet to have her recipe fail me, it is ALWAYS perfect) and the sides made a good (if not totally paleo) accompaniment.

For dessert Hubby asked for cheesecake so I whipped up a no-bake cheesecake with blueberry topping. It is paleo-ish (has dairy) and was delicious-the perfect treat for special occasions. Hubby was very happy and Munchkin devoured her slice. Sometimes my culinary skills really come through.

Happy birthday honey!!


No-Bake Cheesecake with Blueberry Topping

 Pie crust
1 cup almond meal
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Topping
3 cups blueberries (I used frozen)
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (if your berries are very sweet this can be omitted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups water (enough to just barely cover the berries)

Filling
2 packages (16 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup of hot water
1 package (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
 2 tablespoons honey (more or less to suit your tastes)

To Make the Crust
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine melted butter, cinnamon, and almond meal and mix well. Make sure there are no lumps. If the mixture seems too wet add more almond meal. Press the mixture into a 9" pie pan. Make sure that it is even across the pan, I have found it is easiest to press about 2-3 tablespoons of mixture at a time, starting from the middle and working out and up the sides of the pan.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool.

To Make the Topping
Mix berries, vanilla, sugar,and water into a sturdy pot. Bring the mix to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer the berries until they thicken into almost a syrup (depending on the fruit you may reach a true syrup consistency due to the pectin in the fruit). Taste. If the mixture seems too thin allow to simmer longer, if its too tart add more sugar. Once it is thick and tasty set aside to cool completely.

To make the Filling
Whip softened cream cheese until creamy.
Add honey (if you want a sweeter filling) and vanilla. Continue to whip.
Add flavorless gelatin and allow gelatin to mix in.
Add hot water and whip for one minute. Mixture will be thin and look like heavy cream.
Pour into prepared pie crust and place in fridge to cool. Allow at least 2 hours for filling to set.
Once filling has set (is firm to the touch) pour cooled topping in the middle of pie and gently smooth out to the sides with the flat of a knife.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Special Birthday Weekend

My very cool new apron.
Hubby's birthday is Monday and we had a crazy-packed schedule for the weekend filled with birthday fun. On Saturday we dropped Munchkin off with Grandma and spent the day running errands and doing some shopping (Hubby bought me a wickedly cool apron)before catching a movie and supper.

The movie was The Campaign and was (surprisingly) pretty good. Due to timing we were kinda stuck with only one choice and thankfully it panned out. It was raunchy but not nearly as bad as I feared and Hubby and I got in some good belly laughs watching Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis duke it out.

After the movie we went to the fancy-schmancy French restaurant in town. And oh goodness, was the food good!! Totally not paleo-approved but hey, ya gotta go wild every once in a while. For starters we had grilled green beans with blue cheese and roasted hazelnuts-pretty good though I think they would have been tastier as a side to an entree rather than as a starter plate. My taste buds kept waiting for the steak to follow the bite of green bean. In honor of his Swedish roots Hubby tried an aperitif of aquavit with a salmon carpaccio bite. He said it was VERY yummy.

For salad I had the heirloom melon salad with crunchy prosciutto bits and dressed with extra virgin olive oil. I love the combination of sweet and salty. One day I am going to make this at home though I'll probably scarf it down as soon as I'm get it tossed together (if I even make it that far). Hubby opted for a basic salad of mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette.

For the main course I had roasted lamb leg with spicy merguez sausage served with ratatouille tian and tomato jam. I couldn't help myself, I had to give the tomato jam. Well, the jam was kinda wimpy-tasted like cold mushed tomatoes to me, but the sausage...oh...my...God. This sausage was to die for!! I must find a recipe for it!! Spicy with a crunchy bite and plenty of flavor...I tried to take small nibbles to make it last but too soon my portion was gone.The lamb was pretty good as well but the sausage was the star of the plate. Hubby had the grilled tenderloin with sweet onions, roasted veggies and a shallot demi-glaze. The meat was fork tender, the onions caramelized to perfection and the glaze perfect.

We couldn't help ourselves, we had to have dessert-gateau au chocolate with raspberry ice cream for Hubby and vanilla bean creme brulee for me. A perfect end to an awesome meal, even if I did waddle a bit as we left the building.

Today we hosted a Kraftskiva (a Swedish crayfish party) down at the lake for friends and family to celebrate Hubby's birthday. I boiled up a mess of crawdads using a Martha Stewart recipe (not paleo due to the beer but it is makes the bugs taste pretty awesome) and for the non-bug eaters I grilled a couple tri-tips using a basic dry rub of garlic, black and red pepper, and salt. The restaurant had given us a loaf of rye bread as a parting gift and we served it with dill butter (recipe below). Everyone brought a side fish and we spent the afternoon eating, making a mess, and toasting Hubby's special day.  It was a great end to a fun weekend.



Dill Butter

8 ounces butter (one cube), softened
2 tablespoon fresh dill weed
1 tablespoon sea salt

Mix  items together (I just moosh it all with a fork but whipping would give it an airy texture), adjust salt if needed. Serve. Goes great with seafood and fish.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Dreaded Plateau

I stepped up on the scale today for my weekly weigh-in, fingers crossed that the arrow had budged. Last week I weighed the lowest in over a year but it was at this same spot last year that suddenly my weight loss stopped. I stopped losing inches, stopped being able to move the numbers, and finally got so frustrated I ended up nibbling on less desirable items and within 8 months had gained back most of what I'd lost. Oh, let's be honest, I turned into a gluttonous pig, then the holidays hit and...yeah. I didn't just fall off the wagon, I leaped yelling "wheeeeeeeeee" while cramming double-stuff Oreos in my mouth.

So, when I brushed the crumbs off back in June and got my act together I knew I might hit a snag before I reached my first major milestone. When I got on the scale last week I was pleasantly happy to finally be back to that number. Today however...

I knew it wouldn't be good. I did have more wine than usual this past week, as well as a lot more dairy. Otherwise I ate pretty clean, though with it being finals week I was under a lot of stress (which probably didn't help). I've felt bloated and ucky the past couple days so I wasn't too surprised to step up and see I'd gained half a pound (probably water weight) and that I hadn't lost any inches. I guess I should be happy that I (mostly) maintained shape for a week but I have to confess to being worried about repeating the past.

School is finally over for the summer. I took my last final today and while I don't feel I did well I'm hoping I at least snagged enough points to pass the class. I get a month off before Fall term starts and it feels GLORIOUS to not have to worry about deadlines or studying or writing papers for one whole month. Fall term is pretty packed so I am going to enjoy these days of freedom before buckling down again.

Yay! School's out!!!




Sunday, August 19, 2012

In the Kitchen

I spent most of today in the kitchen-cleaning, cooking, cleaning again, clearing out stuff...I threw away a 5 pound bag of Splenda and a 1 pound bag of Atkins baking mix. Both had cost a pretty penny and both were long expired and hiding in the baking drawer. I hate throwing food away but now that drawer has lots of space for coconut items (chips, shredded, and meal). While normally I don't do a lot of baking (kinda defeats the purpose) with the holidays coming up I am looking forward to making paleo treats to try and woo some of my friends and family over to the paleo side.

Today I made: macadamia nut mayonnaise, poached chicken, linguine and clams, a big batch of strawberry smoothies and sliced up a bowl of strawberries for general snacking. With all this, plus a huge bowl of green salad tossed with purple cabbage and peppers, I am set for the next week for quick snacks, and easy lunches. Its Finals Week and quite frankly I am stressed to the max. Any little thing to make the week easier, right?

One more math test and then summer term is over! I can't wait. I have a pretty heavy class load scheduled for Fall term but they are very interesting classes and I am looking forward to them. Only two more years till I graduate, whoo-hoo!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

How To: Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of those stupidly simple things that adds flavor and richness to dishes. Its packed with nutrients and minerals (see here for a great article explaining the nutrients and how the body needs/uses them). Mark's Daily Apple has done several posts (complete with links to studies) explaining how wonderful bone broth is and Hubby notices a great difference in how his ankles and knees feel when I've been cooking with bone broth. (I use beef bones for my everyday broth but if you are looking for instructions on making chicken broth go here).

So how do you make this wondrous stuff? Easy.

Take a bunch of bones, throw them in a pot, add a splash of vinegar, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cover with a lid. Let the pot simmer for as long as you want. I generally let them go for at least 72 hours (continuing to add water as needed). The thicker your bones are the longer you want to simmer. If they are very thick you can take a hammer and break them up to help them cook faster.


Since my crockpot is broken I use a soup pot. At night I let the broth cool, store it in the fridge, and in the morning I scrape off the fat that has congealed and save it for sauteing or frying. This makes my finished broth less rich, but I get lots of great tallow for cooking and it doesn't take too much away from the broth.

When you are done cooking the bones remove the lid and allow the broth to reduce until it tastes good. At this point you could add vegetables and herbs if you wanted. Carrots, onions, celery, garlic, add in whatever pleases your tastebuds! I leave my broth plain since I usually use it as an addition to other dishes but if you are planning on drinking your broth straight you may want to add some flavoring.

Once the broth is perfect for your tastebuds allow it to cool and strain through a fine mesh-I use my pasta strainer with three layers of cheesecloth. This will strain out any bone chips, bits of fat or meat, and any seasonings you used. You now have a pot of bone broth ready to eat! Once cooled it will turn into meaty Jell-o from all the wonderful nurtients.


So now what do you do with it? It can eaten right away or stored in the fridge but I like to freeze it in ice cubes trays and store it in the freezer. I keep several bags on hand so I never run out and its quick and easy to grab whenever I need to add some flavor or liquid to a dish.

I get my beef bones from my local butcher. A bag of organic, grass-fed "dog bones" costs under a dollar a pound and makes a huge pot of broth. I also save the bones from roasts, ribs, whatever, until I have enough (about 3 pounds) to make a pot. Calf hooves and chicken feet are also great items to use.

Give bone broth a try. Its easy to make (throw the bones in a crockpot!) and adds a whole new level of flavor to your dishes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Workout Challenge On Hold

My stress levels are going through the roof. I have a week left in my math class and I feel completely behind. Trying to get my brain to accept the equations and solutions leaves me with a headache and a feeling of complete panic. I know I can get through it but considering I have not done well on the previous tests I know I HAVE to do well on the final to pass the class.

No pressure. No pressure. 

I've put my Workout Challenge on hold for a bit. Instead of keeping track I'm just doing short workouts here and there-mostly air squats and incline pushups. After packing around all the dive gear I know I really need to build up some muscles by lifting heavier weights and more often. I want to get my squat form down perfect first though, so I don't hurt myself. I'd love to get to the point that hauling 50-80 pounds of bulky gear up and down slippery rock and over soft sand won't cause me to break into a sweat (let alone the huffing and puffing it does now).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back In the Water

Before I got married I learned how to scuba dive and I loved it! Hubby and I dove off Kauai on our honeymoon and we had a blast. When Munchkin came along I had to stop diving for a bit and I have missed it. Last night we took a refresher class and it was a blast to put the tanks back on, even if we were only jumping in the swimming pool.

Thankfully I remembered most of the technical stuff and it wasn't long before I was zooming around the pool. Packing the gear around though, whoo boy! I need to be doing more weight lifting! I also need to stretch more as I had some massive cramps in my feet that were not fun. Can't wait till we go to the coast!

Monday, August 13, 2012

What a Week!

I am so glad the last 10 days are over!! The wedding went beautifully (even with its Groomzilla), Munchkin was a vision in pink tulle, Hubby looked pretty good in a tux and I managed not to embarrass the family as I ran around in heels (and I didn't break an ankle). There were picnics and BBQs galore in the days after the wedding so everyone could visit with the out-of-town relatives and Munchkin had a blast playing with her cousins. 

Once most of the wedding and visiting stuff was over I had a massive panic attack when I realized that I had a math test on the 10th. To say I wasn't prepared would be an understatement but I managed to cram in tons of study time. Not sure how I did yet, I have a sneaky suspision it wasn't very well but...*sigh*

On Saturday I completed my first 5k! I came in last but I did finish the race. I've been running on the treadmill and thought I would do all right but I did several things wrong. First, like everyone has told me, running on pavement is MUCH different than the treadmill and I didn't do much pavement work. Second, I run barefoot but for this race (since I knew it was mostly road) I decided to wear shoes. And not my VFFs, my Nikes. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that by halfway in the race my legs were aching and I was moving slower and slower...and slower...

Ah well, there's always the next race.

I did not eat clean over the past week. Even at the picnics and BBQs I could probably have figured out a way to but I didn't. And, once I slipped off the wagon, it was easy to allow other little things in especially with all the stress going on. Strangely I still lost 1 pound but I felt pretty cruddy by Sunday. Its was actually nice today to get back into the kitchen and whip up some bone broth and to dig into a gigantic salad, plus it tasted a heck of a lot better than some of the junk food I'd been noshing on.

How was your week? Did you do anything fun and exciting?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

W11-This Week Could Get Over Faster

Wanna see what I ate today? Here ya go!

That's right, I ate the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and supper (and even snacked on some mid-afternoon). I'm not sure what to call this-its just pan seared chicken thighs braised in coconut milk and spices. Kinda like a Thai curry but not quite a true curry as I didn't have fish sauce or red curry paste (I did use ground red pepper and red pepper flakes in the spices). Whatever you want to call it, it was GOOD!

The fruit salad was made up of cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapes. It was very tasty as well and strangely yummy ran through some of the "curry" sauce. Salty, sweet and creamy all at once.

Nothing much exciting happened today. Munchkin and I worked in the garden pulling weeds and tying up the grapevines. The grapes are doing very well since we got them transplanted in the ground. We won't have any grapes this year since I had to prune them so much this spring but next year we should have a lot of fresh bunches. The tomatoes are starting to set fruit, the broccoli are getting big, and if the darn gophers would leave the bush beans alone we might get a basket or two.

After lunch I had an OK Lift workout. I really should have tried harder but my heart just wasn't in it. I am starting to notice a little definition in my arms and I'm not having to think through every step of a squat. Not sure what was going on today (other than stress) but I gave the workout a "lick and a promise" (as my grandmother would say) rather than full effort.  I really need to get my head back in the game.

Family members are starting to show up in town for the wedding and tomorrow starts the gauntlet of family activities. I would be more excited except people keep forgetting that toddlers need certain things to be happy campers-namely on-time naps and meals. Trying to balance being a good mom and being a part of the family is giving me gray hairs. Ah well, they'll only get married once right?

Tonight was the last bar in our chocolate tasting experiment: Alter Eco Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa. I really liked it, a very rich chocolate taste with hardly any bitterness, and lots of flavor.

So, the winner of our little experiment:

Hubby: 1st Place: Rapunzel; 2nd Place: Alter Eco; 3rd Place: Green & Black
Me: 1st Place: Alter Eco; 2nd Place: Green & Black; 3rd Place: Vivani

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

W10- Busy Busy Busy

Today just seemed packed. I slept in a little bit (thank you Hubby for giving Munchkin breakfast), then suddenly remembered I had homework due and rushed through the lessons to get things finished and submitted on time, made plans (then canceled them) to do some work in the garden, had the washer guy come out and repair the machine (yay!), washed clothes, made stuff for a potluck, went to a potluck, and now, finally, am crashing in front of the computer.

Where did the time go? Honestly that doesn't seem like a very busy day and yet I feel like I've been racing around the entire time. I did not get my usual Steady workout in though I did get a nice walk around the park. Didn't get my heart rate up but it was very enjoyable. I think I will get in a better Steady workout  this weekend and just call today a Play day.

Today is Lughnasadh, a traditional Celtic holiday celebrating the first summer harvest. Which is usually wheat and corn so its a little odd to be celebrating a food group I won't eat but I love the old Celtic ways. We met up with a group in town to celebrate and shared a yummy potluck. I did have a sip of lemonade (sugar) but otherwise ignored the grains and sugar-y items though they looked very good. I just didn't want to chance a migraine. It was great meeting other crazy people like myself, and I overheard a discussion about coconut flour and paleo bread. I managed to not be rude and tackle the person talking (just barely) or interrupt but it was awesome to hear other people are interested in this way of eating. (I never did get a chance to swap ideas with her as the discussion moved on but I hope to talk with her another time.)

After the potluck we headed home and got Munchkin to bed (she'd worn herself ragged racing around and playing on the swings) before settling down with a bar of Theo Organic Ultimate 85% Dark Chocolate. I didn't care much for this one, there just wasn't much of a flavor. A hint of chocolate at the beginning, a kinda dry bitterness...and that was it.

Tomorrow I am going to try a Thai chicken recipe, knock out a couple math lessons and put in a tough Lift session. Hope you all had a Happy Lughnasadh!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

W9- Stress Is Not Good (Vent)

I got in a great workout today lifting heavy stuff, enough that my arms were shaky and I felt like a superhero. Yay me!

And that was probably the best part of the day. I somehow broke the washing machine (it won't spin! arrrrrgh!!) which normally isn't an issue except I've put off washing clothes for a while (laziness) and only got through 2 loads before it died. At least I have some clean underwear...Munchkin doesn't though. I am not looking forward to hand-scrubbing her clothes in the kitchen sink. (I wonder if that would count as a Steady or Lift workout?)

Then I went out to check the garden, which is not producing because the damn gophers keep uprooting things, and found that my oregano has become a dried stump. What the heck??? Did I fall in a time warp? Last time (which was only a few days ago) I checked it was green and thick and getting ready to flower. AAAAAHHH!!! So I watered the heck out of it and crossed my fingers it would come back.

On top of that Hubby is moving into a new position at work and is stressed out and grumpy; the wedding this weekend is not helping things (it sure would be nice if wedding peeps would share a few details-like what time family is supposed to be where and such instead of getting pissy that we don't know), and Munchkin has decided that the only foods worth eating are sweet potatoes. *sigh*

We broke out Green and Black's Organic 85% Dark Chocolate tonight and gave it a try. This is probably the best so far-rich chocolate taste but not bitter, and with a hint of vanilla creaminess. I found myself snacking on the bar a little too much and had to put it out of reach (that's either a sign its really good or I'm really stressed).

Hopefully tomorrow will be better. Going to go to bed early and hoping for sunshine and rainbows and fluffy ponies on the morrow-good night!

Monday, July 30, 2012

W8- Short But Sweet

This will be a short post because A) no pics, B) I'm tired, and C) I have to do some wedding crafty stuff so Hubby can drop the finished product off tomorrow. Yay me!

I got a really good workout in today-30 mins on the treadmill with a couple wind sprints thrown in. I was surprised at how well I held up-there is an obvious improvement over last week. Hopefully this will continue!

Supper was grilled drumsticks with Simple Coleslaw and baked sweet taters. Simple and satisfying. After Munchkin hit the hay Hubby and I tried a piece of Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate 85%. It was really smooth and chocolaty without being bitter. It wasn't very sweet though, which kinda left me wanting and feeling like I hadn't eat chocolate but more a chocolate-flavored...something. Hmmm. Jury is still out if this was a good chocolate bar or a bad one. Its kinda floating in neutral land right now.

*sigh* Off to be crafty. Have a wonderful evening folks!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

W7- Chores Chores Chores

Today we were supposed to go to the U-Pick farm but we had so much to do around the house it got postponed. Our neighbor (who rocks) is replacing the board fence between us so we had to rig up a secondary fence to keep the Ol' Man in our yard and from harassing Mr. Awesome Neighbor as he works. Yards had to be mowed, the gardens needed weeded, and in the midst of everything Munchkin had a conniption fit and required a time-out and a stern talking to.

*sigh*

Thankfully everything got done, I even made a loaf of paleo banana bread (Eat Like a Dinosaur recipe, that book is a total winner) to give to my soon-to-be sister-in-law as a thank you gift. Which reminds me, the wedding is this week-end *groooan* oh this week is going to be stressful. I can't wait till the wedding and all the family stuff is over, what with math class not going well and dealing with my husband's family....this gardener could use a vacation.

I was feeling pretty low this afternoon and decided to stop weeding and go play in the kitchen (which always cheers me up). I set a big pot of beef hocks to simmer for bone broth and then concentrated on supper.
"Souls" all wrapped in bacon and awaiting the oven.

Lately we've had a goal to eat all the meat in the freezer before buying more and I had found a package of sole fillets that I don't remember buying (yes, it was that long ago). Now, I don't care for fish. I love to catch them but others can do the eating so I was a little hesitant to try cooking the fillets (after all, I'd have to eat them) but I figured that sole was mild enough even I could like it.

Plus, I had bacon. Bacon makes everything taste good.

I wrapped the fillets with bacon slices and fresh rosemary from the garden, seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic, then baked in the oven till the bacon was crispy. For sides I dug out some green beans from the back of the fridge (one of the bags we got from the farm a couple weeks back) picked out the goods ones (and called myself names for letting them go bad), then stir-fried the washed and trimmed green beans with bacon bits. Finally I steamed some carrots, seasoned them with salt and pepper and supper was done.

Chow time!
It turned out pretty good, a little dry (I got to chatting with the neighbor and wasn't watching the clock...oops) but Munchkin inhaled her fillet and even I enjoyed my share. I could get to liking fish if it all tasted as good as this.

After Munchkin went to bed Hubby and I tried a piece of dark chocolate (see! I really am having a tasting experiment). Yesterday we tried Sweetriot's Pure 85% Dark Chocolate but found it very bitter. Tonight we tried Rapunzel's Swiss Chocolate Organic 70% Extra Dark Chocolate. Hubby really liked it but I didn't find it very exciting. It was just...chocolate, not much different than the Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Bar we tried last week. Hmm...I hope my chocolate taste buds aren't broken. Still have five more to taste.

And because I forgot to post it yesterday, here is a pic of my delicious peppermint patties (courtesy of Elana's Peppermint Patty recipe). I used a candy mold so I could get a thick layer of pepperminty goodness between layers of dark chocolate.


Hope everyone had a great weekend!










"Souls" Wrapped in Bacon

4 sole fillets (or other mild tasting fish such as halibut or cod)
8 slices bacon
4 fresh sprigs rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic
lemon slices for garnish and to drizzle
---------
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare baking rack over cookie sheet. Mix spices together to make it easier to season.
2. Lay out 2 slices of bacon side-by-side. Use hand to pound/press bacon and stretch it out in all directions. Depending on size of bacon and size of fillets you may need more or less bacon.
3. Place fillet at edge of bacon, sprinkle with seasonings.
4. Carefully wrap bacon around fillet by rolling fillet from one end of bacon strips to another. After one roll place rosemary sprig over fillet. Continue rolling until all the bacon is wrapped around the fillet.
5. Carefully place bacon-wrapped fillet on baking wrap, making sure bacon doesn't come undone.
6. Repeat for remaining fillets
7. Place in preheated oven, bake for 20 minutes or until bacon is cooked through (I like my bacon crispy so cooked for 35 minutes though the fish was a little dry).
8. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

W6-Play (In the Kitchen)

Another great day (I love waking up before everyone else, its nice to have the house to myself for a little bit). After looking through the bare cupboards and fridge I threw together a hash composed of chicken sausage and the last veggies from the crisper. It turned out much better than expected (Hubby and Munchkin loved it) but now the cupboards were REALLY bare.

Off to town we went with a list of meats and veggies. At Market of Choice I, um, kinda got out of control with the dark chocolate. Its a taste experiment! Yes, that's it! Taste experiment (I got 6 different bars *eek*). We also found bulk coconut products and I got coconut flour and non-sweetened shredded coconut for paleo baking. My brother-in-law is allergic to gluten (supposedly, I kinda doubt it but...I won't go there) and is constantly whining about not being able to eat "normal" food. Since he isn't worried about gaining/losing weight or muscle I figured I'd make him some treats. I love to bake and I do miss making a sticky, sweet mess of the kitchen.

After fulfilling the list of meats and veggies we headed home for a quick lunch, nap time for Munchkin, and the dreaded math for me. I really wanted to play in the garden, the weeds are getting high, but I failed my last math test and had to tackle those darn equations again...and again...and again.

I finally took a break (it was that or burst into tears and chuck the computer across the room) and made paleo brownies and peppermint patties. They both came out wonderful though the brownies were a lot softer and more cake-like than I had expected. Now to box everything up and send to bro-in-law before we end up nibbling all the goodies away.

For supper Hubby grilled up some steaks while I tossed mustard greens with bacon and grilled eggplant slices. Way yummy though Munchkin wanted nothing to do with the greens, had one taste of eggplant, and then teased out all the bacon and ate her steak. *sigh* Oh well, I have given up forcing her to try a bite, it caused too much stress and angst at the table. Now I fill her plate up with whatever we are having and she eats what she wants. She has yet to leave the table hungry and she will nibble at new things (especially if no one is watching). Hopefully as she gets older she'll nibble a little more and a little more till she's actually eating a serving.

On deck for tomorrow: more homework, weeding the garden, and trying out a new fish recipe. Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 27, 2012

W5- Today Was a Great Day

I woke up in a great and energized mood (I even got up before Munchkin!) and headed to the kitchen to make the Paleo Parents' Frozen Waffles. They are SO good! I tripled the recipe so we'd have lots to hide in the freezer (Hubby especially loves them on mornings he's rushed to get out the door) and fried up a batch of spicy chicken sausage to go with the waffles.

By the time the rest of the family stumbled out of bed breakfast was ready. These waffles are delicious! If you haven't read Eat Like a Dinosaur yet you are missing out. After breakfast we hung out around the house, Hubby did some work, Munchkin played, and I went through the fridge and cabinets, tossed stuff that had expired and thought about supper. I had a hunk of pork shoulder defrosting and plenty of greens...hmmm.

During Munchkin's nap I rocked out on the treadmill to Dr. Horrible's Sing Along blog (and yes, I sang along) *sigh* Nathan Fillion is dreamy...anyhow, I walked for 40 minutes and got in a really good sprint in the middle. Tomorrow is Rest or Play and we are going to hit up the U-Pick farm for some blueberries and a batch of peaches for me to can. Or...at least attempt to can. It will be my first time canning, wish me luck! (And pray I don't poison everyone.)

In the afternoon I fiddled with Elana's homemade Mounds recipe. It turned out wonderful! My only complaint was that my mold was rather shallow and I would have liked more coconut filling to even out the chocolate.

I used coconut sugar in the filling rather than agave and liked the flavor. The next couple batches I'm going to leave out the sweetner and see how they come out. I'm thinking with a 70%-75% dark chocolate no extra sweetner will be needed for the filling but I will have to play around with it first.

For supper I decided to be lazy and just cut the pork into steaks and grill it. I know, I know, that's what I usually do with pork. Hey, it is really easy and yummy this way! I reduced a few cubes of frozen bone broth with some clarified butter, salt, pepper, and garlic to make a sauce for snow peas and voila! Supper was done.


And now to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

W3/W4 How Did I Miss Posting?

How in the word did I miss a day of posting? Oh yeah, I got busy with homework and Hubby was gone for a quick biz trip and suddenly it was late...

Excuses, always with the excuses.

I did work out though, so I am still on track for my Workout Challenge. I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes with a 3 degree incline while Munchkin took a nap. I could easily have gone longer but I had several assignments due and I needed time to go over them before submitting-trying to review work with Munchkin awake and playful is flat out challenging (not to mention nerve-wracking when she bangs a key and suddenly all my work disappears).

Today I lifted weights and did a lot of squats and incline push-ups. Pretty much whenever I had a free minute I would air squat or do a push-up. I also did a series of arm and shoulder exercises with heavy weights. It was difficult to push myself for one more rep but at the end I felt pretty good. Who knows, maybe in a month I'll actually have some biceps to show off!

On Facebook yesterday Primal Toad shared a great link for people (like me) who may need a little incentive to work out: A Hobbits Guide to Walking. How freakin' badass nerdy is that?? OK, I get that most of you Star War/Trekkie fans just rolled your eyes but hobbits are my level of nerdom. And a challenge to walk to Mordor? Oh count me in baby! Let's go!

Not only that but Nerd Fitness is a great site for inspiration, jokes, and...well...nerdy fitness (besides, Lego dioramas...win!). I'm seriously thinking of making sand bag weights to haul around the backyard (my neighbors are gonna think I'm nuts), plus he posts Paleo recipes and y'all know how I am about new recipes. All in all, a pretty nifty website that you should check out, if only for the Legos.

Plans for tomorrow: make healthy Mounds candy bars, work on math homework, walk a mile, and find a new way to cook pork. Good night everyone!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

W2- Very Growl-y Today

I had my first fall from grace today *sigh*. For lunch I warmed up leftover grilled pork and, after finding a container of cranberry sauce in the back of the fridge, adding a dollop to the pork. It tasted great (especially when I added a huge handful of salad greens and mixed it all together-way yummy). I was halfway through the meal before I remembered where that cranberry sauce came from...a can. And the reason it got shoved to the Siberian depths of the fridge? High Fructose Corn Syrup. Lots of it. Ahhhhhhh!!

Not that I have anything against "corn sugar" but I've been trying to eat clean and Whole30-ish (ish because of occasional dairy and dark chocolate). So, after telling myself that hey, it was only a dollop, no big deal, I finished the meal and got Munchkin down for her nap. I worked out (lift heavy things! pushups! situps! dumbbell stuff!) and then found myself snacking on chocolate squares. And wanting more...

And then being EXTREMELY grumpy and pissy all afternoon. Yowza, NOT FUN.

Well, I learned my lesson. Back to clean eating. Maybe it was the high dose of sugar I ingested, maybe its PMS, maybe its just the planets in the wrong alignment, I don't know but I really don't like the mega-grump me and will be more diligent at keeping the sugar at bay.

(Also, I really need to lift heavy things, man am I a weakling.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

W1- Slow and Steady

Nothing makes a person leap out of bed faster than the sound of puking. At least for me, one of those wet burps and I am up and ready for the day. Poor Munchkin woke up with an upset tummy and we spent the morning pushing fluids and dealing with the yuckies. Poor kiddo. Not sure what the problem was but by mid-morning she was starting to perk up and by the afternoon she was back to her old self.

I got my Steady work out done late in the morning: a 60 minute walk on the treadmill with a couple 1 minute sprints thrown in. I only meant to walk for about 30 minutes but by then the endorphins were kicking in, I had the music cranked up, and I was having fun be-bopping along. Which was good since I'd spent a half hour or more trying to get my new Nike+ sensor to work and was in a very grumpy mood. Never did get the darn thing to activate...ugh! Thankfully Apple has a decent warranty program so I should be able to return it for a new one (key word: should). *sigh*

I didn't have much of an appetite during the day and snacked on some olives and carrots rather than making an actual meal. I've been working on getting the fridge empty of all leftovers and I seem to have finally gotten there. But then it looked very, very bare so for supper I grilled some pork steaks and roasted a big hunk of beef (both turned out excellent). Now we have lots of meaty leftovers for the rest of the week. I also roasted a bag of broccoli bits and (per Hubby's request) made a pot of loaded mashed potatoes. Good eats!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Goal

I am still on cloud nine that I successfully made it through a Whole30. I love that my pants are looser and that its easier to turn down unhealthy food-we went out to supper last night and I had no desire for the high-carb, sugary dishes.

So. Now what? With my eating habits changed its time to look at my physical habits, namely the lack of consistent deliberate exercise. Notice the important words?

Consistent. Deliberate.

The encyclopedia defines exercise as "physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body". So, while running and playing with a toddler most of the day gets my heartbeat up it doesn't provide the right tools to get my body in condition. I need to exercise in a way that is structured, progressive, and fun. I want to increase my stamina while building muscle (and hopefully burning off more fat).

For the next 30 days I am starting a fitness program I've cobbled together from the Primal Blueprint, Crossfit, P90X, and whatever other program/idea that looks like fun. Here's the schedule:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday= Steady Stuff
Tuesday and Thursday= Lift Heavy Stuff
Saturday and Sunday=Play or Rest

Steady Stuff:
At least 30-45 minutes of medium-level activity such as walking, swimming, hiking, etc. Movement that will keep my heart rate up but that can be sustained for the full length of time.

Lift Heavy Stuff:
Pushups, pullups, weights, MDA Work-Out-of-the-Week (WOW)s, Crossfit exercises, P90X videos, and maybe just moving tires and posts from one side of the yard to another ala Papa Grok.

Play or Rest
A day spent diving, hiking with the family, working in the garden, or maybe just kicking back and vegging on the couch. These days will be free to do whatever I feel like.

I expect this goal will be a little harder than the Whole30, after all we have to eat so Whole30 was simply controlling what went in. Working out...well...I know in the past its been easy when I have been busy or tired or sore or just not in the mood to put it off. That will be my bad habit to break in the next 30 days.

On to building muscle and getting healthy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whole30 Recap

I still can't believe I went a full month without chocolate or dairy. Heck, I can't believe I stayed on a restrictive diet for 30 days, regardless of what it restricted. And you know the crazy-awesome thing? I'm not going bat-crazy with cravings. In the past when I have restricted my diet and I gave myself the go-ahead to indulge in something verboten I usually made a pig of myself. Think extra large pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni, beer, chocolate cake with super thick icing, you get the idea.

Today however I didn't feel any cravings at all. I wanted a piece of chocolate but I didn't NEED it. What a huge difference! Instead of NEEDING a food item, feeling like I would just DIE if I didn't cram it into my face that second I simply wanted a small square of chocolate. And after eating that square (which was decadently rich and delicious) I was happy. No urge to engulf the whole bar in one bite, no constant going back for just one more nibble. Just. Satisfied. Sated.

Folks, if there is ever a reason for you to give Whole30 a try, this is it. To be able to have a treat and enjoy it, lick your fingers of all its yumminess and then walk away happy. Its...I can't describe it. I know, I know, you may think its stupid but when you've spent the last 10 years fighting cravings, hating yourself when you succumbed, knowing that no matter how much will power you have you'll eventually give in and suddenly you've gained another pound or three no matter how hard you worked out...to FINALLY be happy, to be satisfied with a small serving of your nemesis food and be able to walk away?

That. Is. Awesome.

I actually feel in control of my body, in control of my self, and by extension, in control of my life. It is an amazing and awesome feeling, almost like being a fearless teenager again.

But enough with my sappy, from the heart crud, lets get down to the hard numbers:
 

Without exercising, eating whenever I was hungry and then as much as I wanted, I lost 12.8 pounds and inches all over! Not sure why I gained 1/2 an inch on my thighs but who cares!

So, now what? I like eating this way and I will continue eating Paleo and Whole30-ish. I will have a square of chocolate now and then and I won't obsess when I am out on social occasions if something is made with grains or sugar. Otherwise I am going to keep eating clean, add in exercise and see what happens.

A big thank you to all who supported me this past month, to Hubby and Munchkin for being my tasting guinea pigs, to the Whole9 team for putting out this program and the support they provided, and to all you readers for following along.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 29- Bring On the Rain

Munchkin woke up early this morning and there's no going back to sleep once da spawn has arisen. Trust me, I tried. I even let her climb in bed with me which resulted in about 5 minutes of blissful cuddling before I got an elbow in the eye, fingers up my nose and kicked in the ribs. As we climbed out of bed the skies opened up and poured down.

For breakfast I tried to make a Thai rolled omelet (ala Nom Nom Paleo) only to suddenly realize my fish sauce has sugar in it. Oh well, I gave it to Munchkin and warmed up a bowl of Garden Chicken Soup for myself instead. Soup was a perfect fit for the cold, rainy morning.

We spent most of the day reading books, watching cartoons and running around the house. It was too wet to go out but we had fun playing catch with the soft balls and racing up and down the hallway.

Lunch and supper were leftovers and now my fridge is looking a little bare. Tomorrow I plan on making bacon-wrapped chicken for supper but otherwise I have no idea what I'm making. I have a crisper full of veggies so there are tons of options...decisions, decisions.

Only 1 more day to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 28- Two More to Go!

Hubby left very early this morning for a biz trip so its just us girls the next couple of days. I didn't sleep well (I never do when he's not here) and when I finally got out of bed I was pretty grumpy. Munchkin was in a great mood though, and was soon zooming through the house as I threw together breakfast for her (I wasn't hungry and decided to fast). A fried egg and some fruit did for Munchkin and while she gobbled those up I started a pot of chicken bones to simmer for bone broth.

Once the bones had simmered for a couple hours (and we'd moved on from drawing to reading stories to running up and down the hallway giggling madly) I made Garden Chicken soup for lunch. Munchkin went down for her afternoon nap soon after and I debated between a math lesson and cleaning the house.

Cleaning the house won (I really hate math) and while Munchkin slept I swept, did dishes, cleaned the deck and wandered the house moving things back to their proper places. After the place was acceptable I was hungry so I sat down with a mug of soup broth and a hard-boiled egg and glared at math problems. Needless to say, while my belly got full my mind just got twisted and tangled and more confused. *sigh*

After Munchkin woke up we went outside and played in the yard for while, even though it was cold and windy. After a few hours of goofing off we came back in and Munchkin snacked on frozen blueberries while I started supper cooking.

Tonight we had pan-seared pork shoulder steaks with roasted broccoli and tomato slices with lots leftover for lunches tomorrow. After a dessert of watermelon mint salad it was showers, cuddles, stories and finally bedtime for Munchkin and some quiet time for me.

In other words, more math. *sigh*

Only 2 more days left in my Whole30!!!


How To Make: Chicken Bone Broth
Makes about 6 cups of broth

Approx. 1-3 pounds of chicken bones (or a mix of bones and feet)
Enough water to cover the bones
Splash of vinegar or lemon juice
Patience
Optional: 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1/2 a medium onion

Add all the ingredients into a stock pot. Bring to a rapid boil, lower temperature and simmer for at least 4 hours. The longer the simmer the more nutrients are removed from the bones. Add water as needed. The longest I have simmered chicken bones is 24 hours.

When done simmering taste broth-if its too weak flavored remove lid and simmer uncovered to reduce liquid and increase flavor. Strain broth to remove bones and softened veggies, reserving any meat for soup. Return broth to the heat. Serve or store for later use.

Notes:
If the broth seems too greasy store in the fridge over-night. In the morning remove the top layer of hardened fat.

If you are making the broth for soup return the softened veggies to the broth and use an immersion blender to puree them. It will add another level of flavor to the broth.



Garden Chicken Soup
Serves 4

4 cups chicken bone broth
2 chicken breasts (and/or the meat reserved from making the bone broth), cut into 1" pieces
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, cut into medallions
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon garlic (more or less to your taste)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups spinach, sliced thinly

1. Add broth to a large soup pot and bring to a medium boil.

2. Add chicken, celery, carrots, onion, cabbage, and spices. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add spinach. Adjust seasonings if needed. Continue to simmer another 15-20 minutes, till veggies are tender and spinach is desired consistency.

4. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 27- Where Did Summer Go?

Today was cool, cloudy and dark. All day it felt like a huge rainstorm was sitting over the house but it didn't spill a drop. For breakfast I toasted a frozen waffle from the Paleo Parents cookbook, Eat Like a Dinosaur, for Munchkin and warmed up the leftover spaghetti and meatballs for myself. Pretty good eats, and on the table in less than 5 minutes.

Most of the day was spent just being lazy. I don't know why but the coolness and how dark it was outside (I had to turn on most of the indoor lights to chase away the shadows) just had me in a dull funk. Even Munchkin was quieter than normal and content to cuddle on the couch for most of the day.

I nixed the idea of grilling and went with a simple baked chicken for supper instead. I did try to go out of my rut of steamed/roasted veggies for sides by attempting a mashed cauliflower and carrot "mock potatoes" thing-it was ok, but not a lot of flavor and it had the consistency of baby food. I'm not sure if I would do it again. All in all the highlight of supper was the watermelon and mint salad I threw together for a dessert. My culinary brilliance was definitely not shining today.

*sigh*

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 26- Cloudy and Muggy

We got up early to beat the heat, only to have the day be overcast and cool with a touch of mugginess. After breakfast (in which Hubby made the perfect cheese omelet), we zoomed out to the U-Pick farm and came away with our best haul yet: 11 pounds of blueberries!
Hubby's Perfect Omelet
Honestly folks, its a crime what the store is charging for ripe, organic blueberries. Our haul was under $15 yet those same berries, at the store, would cost over $50. Our goal is to go out every weekend and pick enough to last a year. Next weekend we are also going to get some peaches for me to can. U-Pick farms are the way to go! If you need help finding a U-Pick farm in your neck of the woods check out Pick Your Own, and Local Harvest. Scroll through your local Craigslist and newspaper for ads for local farms and ask around, you'll never know what you'll find!

Supper was corned beef and braised cabbage. Braising cabbage was a new trick for me and I'm not sure I did it correctly as there wasn't a lot of flavor and the cabbage was mushy. Hmmm...

For tomorrow I have a hunk of pork thawing and some mustard greens begging to meet bacon. Yum!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 25-Five More to Go!

After an aborted attempt to hit the U-Pick farm (my body went psycho and we had to return home) we hung out around the house and were lazy. I had zero appetite, skipped breakfast, and spent most of the morning in the bathroom. Hopefully the test results will be back Monday and the doc can give me some idea of what is going on. So fun when your body just goes nuts with no warning.

In the afternoon we all played outside, got very hot, and then gobbled up cold watermelon. Even the Ol' Man had a couple slices and let me tell you, it is very odd to watch a German Shepherd carefully position a slice so he can eat down the juicy goodness to the rind. Unfortunately I don't have a pic as my hands were full of stickiness but it was pretty awesome.

Afterward we were so sticky we decided to rinse off with the hose, and then since we were already we wet, jumped in the pool. Munchkin is starting to get the hang of swimming! Well, if she'd kick her feet...and move her hands...and...do something besides float and giggle like mad. But its a start, last year we couldn't even get her in the pool. This year she loves the pool so much that when we got out she had a complete meltdown (even though she was shivering and turning blue).

For supper I roasted a simple baked chicken with fresh green beans sauteed in bone broth and mashed Yukon gold potatoes from the local farm. I even cobbled together a gravy-though it separated on me. Of course, I did not have the potatoes but the chicken and green beans were more the enough to fill me up.

Now to kick back and relax. Hopefully the old bod will straighten up and we can go to the U-Pick farm tomorrow.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 24- Munchkin Ate Green Food!

After a minor mental meltdown we zoomed into town for another blood draw. Please let it be the last one, please? I got in and out fast and, since we were already in town and Munchkin was in a good mood, we decided to stop by the kitchen store.

I was a little disappointed-lots of gizmos and gadgets but nothing that I wanted except a neat julienne slicer. For all the walls and aisles worth of stuff it was disheartening to not find nice bamboo utensils or a good garlic press. Oh well, I'll have to talk Hubby into a trip to the Big City *evil grin*.

We got home ahead of the crowd (yay for local events! boo for heavy traffic!) and I threw together a lunch from stuff lurking in the fridge: leftover not beanie weanies, sliced hot dogs, a small and dried up chunk of grilled pork, and some green beans in ghee. And yes, everything got nuked in the microwave to get it to eating temp and everyone chowed down. Thank goodness, at that moment pushing some buttons on a box was about all the cooking I could do.

After Munchkin's nap (during which I stared at the fridge or the computer trying to think up something for supper) we went to the local farmer's market and picked up some fresh herbs and cherries. Then we hit the store for a couple things (because thankfully I got an idea) before coming back and I started to cobble together supper: homemade spaghetti and meatballs with zucchini noodles. It turned out pretty good and Munchkin even gobbled up the "noodles". Whoo-hoo! She ate something green!

Here's what I did:


Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs (Whole30 compliant)
Feeds 4

3 fresh zucchinis
1/4lb bacon, diced
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic
1/2 tablespoon ground fennel
1 pound sliced white mushrooms, washed and dried
14 ounces diced tomatoes with garlic and roasted onion, including juices (I used homemade but canned should work)
Water as needed
. . . . .
Note: My family loves fennel and red pepper. Feel free to substitute these spices with ones your family prefers.

1. Cut or julienne zucchini into a bowl. Stir so zucchini "noodles" separate, then place in fridge to keep fresh.

2. Add the bacon to a cold frying pan and turn the heat to medium. Slowly cook the bacon to render out as much fat as possible (you may want to turn the heat down to medium-low, depending on your stove). Once the bacon is crispy remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Cover the bacon with more paper towels and press to remove as much grease from the bacon as you can.

There should be at least 2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the pan. Remove from heat and set aside for later. (Note: If you don't have bacon *gasp* or don't like bacon *blasphemy!* skip this step and use two tablespoons of your preferred sauteing oil.)

3. Mix the bacon bits, ground beef, eggs, and seasonings together and form into small balls (the size of a peach pit). Return the pan with the bacon fat to the burner on medium heat.

4. Add the meatballs and brown in the bacon fat. Be sure not to crowd the meatballs as they won't cook correctly. Once all sides have been browned and the meatballs are cooked through remove from pan using a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

5. Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss until all the mushrooms are covered with fat and begin to squeak-about 4-5 minutes. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms begin to release the fat and brown. They will brown quickly at this point. Once they are light brown...

6. Add the diced tomatoes and stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the sauce seems too thick add water a 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches desired consistency. If too thin simmer gently until reduced. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

7. Once sauce is the correct consistency add the meatballs and gently stir. Allow to simmer 2-3 minutes to bring the meatballs back up to temperature.

8. Spoon over julienned zucchini and enjoy!