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 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 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 1: Carbs Are Still On the Menu

The #1 question people ask me when I tell them I’m eating a paleo diet is “What do you eat?”. Come on people! There’s so much more to a good meal than bread and pasta! I get to eat meat, any kind, like beef, pork, buffalo, chicken, turkey, venison, boar, elk, quail, duck, pheasant, you name it! All sorts of fish and shellfish. I can have eggs for breakfast every morning (and I do!). Lots and lots of vegetables and fruits. The possibilities truly are endless, and there are tons of paleo-fied swaps you can make if you’re craving a certain food. I sub cauliflower for rice or mashed potatoes, use spaghetti squash when I’m yearning for a warm bowl of pasta, choose baked sweet potato wedges instead of the usual french fry.

So what did I eat today, my first day of the Whole45 challenge?

Chicken Apple Sausage & Scrambled Eggs  w/ onion, red pepper, & spinach

Chicken Apple Sausage & Scrambled Eggs w/ onion, red pepper, & spinach

Italian Sausages w/ Dijon mustard, 1/2 avocado, & satsumas

Italian Sausages w/ Dijon mustard, 1/2 avocado, & satsumas

Spicy Tilapia, baked Sweet Potato Fries, 1/2 avocado & salsa

Spicy Tilapia, baked Sweet Potato Fries, 1/2 avocado & salsa

Snacks were 1 banana mid-morning and a Larabar in the afternoon.

Hardly looks like starvation does it?

Even though I’m eating very well, that doesn’t mean I don’t have cravings. My coworkers wouldn’t shut up about the awesome milkshakes they had yesterday. My boss waxed poetic about this certain aged cheese she was eating at lunch. I want some chocolate right now. But I don’t need these things, I want these things, and Whole30 is about learning the difference so you know when you’re truly hungry.

The truth is, your body is going to take some adjusting when you start switching up its usual fare. You may be used to a morning bowl of cereal, that lunchtime roast beef on whole wheat, and a side of rice with your spicy fish dinner. If so, there’s a carb-hole in your diet now. My advice: go buy a few sweet potatoes. White starchy potatoes may be off the menu, but orange-hued sweet potatoes (or yams) are a nutrient-rich powerhouse…and they’ll give you a healthy carb boost. Roast ’em whole like your traditional baked potato, mash ’em up, or do what I do and make crunchy oven-baked sweet potato fries. Here’s how:

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut a sweet potato lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide slabs. Cut each slab into strips 1/2-inch wide. You know, french fry size.
  3. Pile onto a baking sheet and douse with olive oil (a few generous tablespoons). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your favorite spices (tonight I did chili powder and a bit of cayenne, but I also recommend garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, even a little cinnamon or a combination of any of those), and toss with your hands to coat fries on all sides.
  4. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove, flip the fries over, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until browned and crispy on both sides.

Enjoy!