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

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)

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.


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 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!