Days 19-21: This is Easy

I felt pretty awesome today when I realized I’d hit 21 days of Whole30 eating…and I barely noticed three weeks had passed! If you’re struggling right now, you probably don’t want to hear how easy breezy it’s feeling, and all I can say is stick with it! As I said in the beginning, I’ve completed a Whole30 challenge before, I’ve been eating a mostly paleo diet for several months, so this is really starting to become habit for me. A way of life.

It might surprise you, but one of my favorite things about eating this way is all the cooking I get to do. Without the option to pick up unhealthy take-out or heat up a frozen dinner in the microwave, I’m forced into the kitchen where I’m forced to get creative. Okay, I bought all these vegetables at the store, now what do I do with them? I say, be fearless. Try new spices, new cooking methods, new combinations. Roast some asparagus with garlic and lemon zest. Saute bok choy with chilies and ginger. Buy a different veggie every time you go grocery shopping and find out if you like it after you’ve actually tried it.

Tonight, I made something I like to call “cook all the vegetables in your fridge”, a.k.a. “hash”. First, I cooked up some chorizo, because everything is better with some fatty porkiness. Then into the drippings I added 1/2 of a red onion, sliced, 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced, 1 zucchini, diced, 1/2 of a bell pepper, sliced, and about 1 pound of brussels sprouts, shredded. Salt, pepper, oregano, and paprika went in next. Everything gets sauteed until tender, the chorizo mixed in, then spread into a baking dish. I scrambled up 3 eggs, poured them over the hash, then baked the whole thing at 350 degrees until cooked through. Served with some sliced avocado, this was just what I needed to warm me up on a cold winter’s night.

Chorizo Hash

Chorizo Hash

 

Days 13-18: Resources

Guess what? I’m roping ’em in, one at a time. There are four of us doing Whole30 at work now. I’ve won them over. And like I said, guys. I’m really not preaching this stuff. I’m not going around saying you must eat this way or else you’re killing yourself. I’m just telling people how good I feel, and they’re catching on.

I know I already went over ideas for stocking your pantry and preparing to start a paleo diet, but I thought I’d share some helpful tools and resources for those in the midst of it who may need them.

General Paleo Diet Information:

  • Whole9Life: these are the folks who started the Whole30 movement. The guidelines are on their site, along with success stories, articles, and forums to help answer any questions and concerns.
  • Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark Sisson is the author of The Primal Blueprint. His newsletter is always interesting and inspiring, so I recommend signing up!

Recipe Ideas:

  • PaleOMG: some very creative, user-friendly recipes. I’ve cooked quite a few of her recipes.
  • Eat Drink Paleo: lots of recipes, as well as links, blog posts, and an “Is It Paleo” widget.
  • Civilized Caveman: good variety, including lots of post-Whole30 treats 🙂
  • Pinterest: search and find anything you can think of!

Shopping:

  • Primal Pacs: Seattle company making some fantastic paleo beef jerky. Tender, well spiced, and very meaty. I recommend the jerky packs over the jerky/nut/fruit packs- more bang for your buck.
  • Steve’s Original: another paleo jerky company with lots of other paleo snack options such as granola, bars, and sauces. Their jerky is on the chewier and saltier side, but still good. I haven’t tried the other products yet.
  • Honeyville Grain: great prices on almond flour and coconut flour, necessary items for your paleo pantry!
  • U.S. Wellness Meats: I haven’t ordered from them yet, but if you don’t have any good local purveyors of pasture-raised meats, this is the place to order from.

I hope that helps!

In other news, here’s what I’ve been eating lately: Continue reading

Days 10-12: Easy Entertaining

The idea of cooking for others while eating a strict Whole30 paleo diet may sound intimidating. What if they think the food is weird? What if it’s too simple? What if they miss the pasta? Ask yourself this, do you think any of those things when cooking for yourself? I know I don’t. I’m satisfied by my meals, I’m enthusiastic about eating them, I’m eager to share them. If you’re not feeling that way, you need to shake things up a bit. I promise you, eating paleo is NOT BORING. All you need to do is start searching the internet. There are SO MANY delicious paleo recipes out there now. You have no excuses for making the same thing every day.

Saturday night, my friend Jessica came over to hang out. It seems to be a tradition now with Jess and I to make a scrumptious seafood feast. We did this when we went out to my cabin on the coast this summer, feasting on clams and crab. We did this again Saturday night, picking up the provisions at the local grocery store. The crab was straightforward: just crack it open and devour. As for the clams, Jess was rather astounded that we couldn’t steam them in some white wine, but she improvised and they turned out incredible. She sauteed some garlic, ginger, lime and chili flakes, then added the clams and some chicken stock, cooking until they’d all opened their shells, proffering up their delicious meat. So fragrant and delicious!

manila clams

manila clams

The following night, I was supposed to cook dinner for my sister and brother-in-law. Since I have a well-stocked freezer, I was prepared to feed any size crowd (seriously, you should see how much meat I have in there…). I pulled out some pork chops to defrost and looked up some recipes. I landed on one for Cider-Brined Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples from a copy of Sunset Magazine’s Best Recipes. Done. Now what to serve with them? How about some Sweet Potato-Parsnip Latkes? Yes please! I did most of the prep work during the day– brining the chops, shredding the sweet potatoes and apples, making the latke mixture– so I wouldn’t be in the kitchen too long while they were here.

Unfortunately they ended up cancelling. It happens. So I made myself a pretty impressive meal! Let me just say, the latkes may be a bit time consuming, but they were so worth it! I made a half batch, which was more than enough, substituting the matzo meal with almond flour and adding an extra egg to help bind them. The trick is to get the oil really hot, and to wait until they are nice and crispy before trying to flip them. Oh man, I’m almost glad they didn’t come over so I could eat all the latkes myself, for dinner, for lunch, for breakfast…

Sweet Potato-Parsnip Latkes

Sweet Potato-Parsnip Latkes

As for the pork chops, they were a huge success as well. Super juicy and flavorful from the brine (and from not overcooking them– pork can be a little pink in the middle), the sauteed apples and mustardy sauce adding sweetness and tang. Scrumptious! I cooked two of them on Sunday and cooked the other two Monday night for my boyfriend and I. He seemed pretty darn impressed. He even picked up the bone and gnawed the meat off. I’d call that a success.

Cider-Brined Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples

Cider-Brined Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples

Monday night, I served the chops alongside some brussels sprouts (remember, I wasn’t going to share my latkes!). I improvised the recipe, and I think it’s my new favorite way to eat them!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Crispy Prosciutto & Pecans

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Prosciutto & Pecans

Here’s what I did:

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Crispy Prosciutto & Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and arrange the prosciutto in a single layer. Bake until the prosciutto is crispy, about 5 minutes or so (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn). Let cool, then crumble and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened.
  3. Add the brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften.
  4. Add the cider vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Stir in the pecans and crispy prosciutto. Taste, season as needed, and enjoy!

 

Days 8 & 9: Eat Your Vitamins

Most of my coworkers have gotten sick this week, one by one calling in to say they’re under the weather. Yesterday, there were just three of us left standing, and I was nervous. I felt a bit stuffed up and very lethargic. Was I coming down with the dreaded bug as well? I knew some soup was in order.

Luckily, I’ve had a butternut squash sitting on top of my refrigerator for over a month (that’s why I love squashes!), just waiting for such a purpose. Don’t you dare think soup is difficult to make. As I told my coworker today as she admired my leftovers at lunch, you can basically take any vegetable, saute it with some onions and garlic, add spices and chicken broth and puree. Ta-da! Soup!

I opted for a slightly spicy, velvety bowl of butternut soup to cure my potential cold. Loaded with vitamins and fiber, I hoped it would do the trick. Here’s what I did:

roast, saute, boil, blend!

roast, saute, boil, blend!

Gingery Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • pinch of cayenne (optional, but spice is good for you!)
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, as needed

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat and spread the squash into a single layer. Roast in the oven until tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering and hot, add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and spices with some salt and pepper and saute until fragrant.
  3. When the squash is tender, add to the pot with the onion and spices.
  4. Add enough chicken stock to cover the squash and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and puree the mixture with either an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender or food processor (be sure to open the top to let the steam out and be careful!).
  5. Once the soup is smooth, add the almond or coconut milk and more stock as needed to reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

See? Easy. Feel free to garnish your delicious soup with some fresh chopped sage, toasted nuts, or, like I did, some chopped sausage. Yum!

Gingery Butternut Squash Soup

Gingery Butternut Squash Soup

And guess what? After a good night’s sleep, I woke up feeling A-OK! Which was a good thing since work was hectic and I was definitely needed there.

Even though it was a stressful day, I knew I had an easy job of preparing dinner when I got home. You see, like a good girl, I used that oven time yesterday to roast a spaghetti squash as well so I could come home today to make this Sausage Spaghetti Squash Bake. Yum!

sausage spaghetti squash bake

sausage spaghetti squash bake

Days 5, 6, & 7: Adaptation

The key is to be flexible. To be quick on your feet and willing to make a few changes. If you’re feeling lazy, you can’t just run and get your favorite Thai food take out. You have to think a little be more. I know that can be daunting at the end of a long day, but if you’ve stocked your pantry, fridge and freezer well, there should always be the ingredients on hand for a quick, tasty meal.

day5dinner3

I subscribe to four different food-related magazines and, since going paleo, I’ve gotten used to flipping past recipes for quinoa salads, cheesy polenta, and creamy pastas. I dog-ear recipes for tasty vegetable side dishes and meat-based mains. I peruse ingredient lists, note the non-paleo ingredients (because there is almost always at least one), and ponder how I can switch them out for paleo ones. But sometimes you get lucky. My Rachael Ray magazine came in the mail the other day and there was a recipe for Mole-Topped Sweet Potatoes– entirely paleo-friendly! And I had all the ingredients in my house! Obviously I used almond butter and not peanut butter as suggested, and didn’t top mine with cheese at the end, but oh man was this good! So hearty and filling, and it made enough to feed me for three meals…

Mole-Topped Sweet Potatoes

Mole-Topped Sweet Potatoes

…which brings me to my next tip! Cook LOTS OF FOOD at once. It doesn’t matter if the recipe serves 6 and you’re cooking for just 1 or 2. Leftovers are a lifesaver. You’re already heating up the pots and pans, you’re already taking the time to cook, so cook enough to feed you for a few days. Roasting sweet potatoes for the recipe above? Go ahead and make a couple extra. They’re an easy snack or side, and any extra veggies are great in a morning scramble. Having paleo-friendly food on hand is the easiest way to prevent yourself from slipping up.

Last night, my boyfriend and I only had about 40 minutes between work and heading out for a concert downtown. I suggested I pick up burgers to-go from a great place just a few blocks from home. On my way out from work, I tried to call twice to place my order. No answer. So now what? Well, the grocery store is just a few minutes drive away. They have grass-fed beef burgers. I popped in, bought four patties, a bun and some cheddar for the boyfriend, and came home all in less than 15 minutes. And it cost me $12. I cooked up all four patties (for later!), caramelized some onions, and pulled out some guacamole, roasted red peppers, and pickles from the fridge. Ta-da! Dinner.

homemade hamburger!

homemade hamburger!

It’s not as hard as it sounds in your head. And cooking at home saves you money. If I’d bought those burgers to go, I would have shelled out nearly $30. Making them at home cost half as much. Besides, guess what I has for breakfast this morning?

breakfast hamburger!

breakfast hamburger!

See? Anything can be breakfast if you add and egg 🙂

Day 4: Sophisticated Brute

The morning started off with attending the Church of Brunch with three fabulous friends. Brunch is my favorite weekend indulgence and probably the most difficult test of my restraint. What does one on a paleo diet order at a restaurant when confronted with choices like apple blintzes, corned beef hash, and huevos rancheros? Eggs are always a good start. Poached is best, since you know there’s nothing there but egg. Scrambled or fried is fine as long as you tell the server not to use any butter or milk. Now, peruse the menu for side options. Bacon is a no go (as I said before, it’s almost always made with sugar). Sausage may or may not be a good bet. If it’s cheap links, it undoubtedly has fillers or sugars, but if it’s made by a local, quality company you may be in luck. I went with chorizo to go with my eggs this morning because it was housemade and I could be sure of what was in it. Ask your server to be sure! Don’t be embarrassed. Sauteed veggies are also a good option (again, no butter), or a fruit plate. Even a burger patty goes great with fried eggs!

scrambled eggs with chorizo, fruit plate & orange juice

scrambled eggs with chorizo, fruit plate & orange juice

After brunch, we visited the local farmers market where I like to stock up on pasture-raised meats from Pine Mountain Ranch. I came home with ground beef, pork, and yak! At a neighboring booth I bought myself a fresh locally-caught Dungeness crab for dinner. I love how crab is considered such a fancy treat, but you get to be so primal and rip it apart with your hands, digging out the sweet meat and licking your fingers clean. So yummy! Especially dipped in homemade paleo curry mayo. Trust me, it’s the best.

day4dinnerday4dinner2