Monthly Archives: August 2014

Check in: August 2014

Welcome! Check ins are a monthly series of posts meant to document my progress towards better health, a stronger body, and general awesome paleo rockstar status. Find the first one here.

August is nearly over! Holy cats. I am surprised, a teensy bit sad because of my fresh produce addiction, but mostly excited, because OMGILOVEFALLSOMUCH (and yes, I did mean to shout like a teenaged fan girl. It’s that kind of love). Sweater weather is my favorite.  As is soup. And apples. And squash. And sweet potatoes. And and and. Oh, autumn. I can hardly wait.

Food

After a so-so start, August has turned out much better than expected on the food front. I’ve been focused about watching what I eat. Not judging or giving negative self-talk, but being much more deliberate about noticing my choices. Giving my eating habits more attention has made a big difference. I’m much less likely to make a run for a sweet treat when I look at why I am making the choice. Now my 80/20 really is closer to that ratio.

This month’s recipes:
Perfectly Paleo Peppers and Onions
Apricot Crepe Cakes
Mango Citrus Salsa
Grape Italian Ice
Salsa Smothered Pork Loin
Cheesy Ranch Veggie Chips
Butter Braised Radishes

Body

I stuck to my goal of increased walking, which felt great. It’s still my favorite exercise (in that I don’t hate it like all other forms of exercise).
In fact, I had to pull back a bit — once I got started, I tended to go a little too hard or too long, and my knees protested. This didn’t stop me, but it reminded me that I need to keep working on lowering inflammation in my body.

As for the push up thing? Well, not so much. I thought about it several times — largely about why I seemed unable to get motivated to do them — but I think I might be intimidated by this one. Having been an “anti-athlete” my entire life, having a sporty goal is rather scary. I will scale it back and see how I do.

 Mind

I’ve met my goal of meditating about once a week, so I’m pleased with that progress. Although I very much want to develop the practice, it still feels awkward. I will keep plugging away at it, though, and see how it develops.

I am still reading my beloved mystery novels, as well as heaps of paleo books, but not as rapidly as last month. In July, I was basically finishing a book a day. No kidding: I have had over 30 books out at a time for most of this summer. This month, that started to feel like a lot of pressure. (Isn’t it funny how we push ourselves in the name of having fun?)

decided to relax a bit and try to remember that these books are for pleasure — not easy when you are used to ambitious reading schedules for semesters of law school. It feels infinitely better to take my time.

Goals

Having met two of my three goals, I’m upping the challenge slightly this month.

  1. Keep up the walking; don’t hurt myself.
  2. New strength goal: do 4 half-push ups in a row.
  3. Meditate at least twice a week.

As always, I’d love to know what other folks are up to in terms of monthly goals. What do you want to accomplish in September?

Butter Braised Radishes

Butter Braised Radishes | Paleo + Life

A couple of summers ago, my neighbor and I were discussing radishes. At the time, I was not a fan — too peppery and bitey for me — but she mentioned that she’d found a recipe for radishes in butter in one of the fancy food magazines, and that they were actually delicious. A week or so later, she brought me some to try.

Instantly, I was hooked. Cooking the radishes in butter not only tamed their bite, but transformed it into tender, luscious bites of heaven. I was in awe. I was determined to make them. I made it once, and loved it,

Of course, as one does, I got busy. I forgot where I found the recipe. But I never forgot that tenderness, or that scrumptious flavor. So when I found bunches of radish at the farmer’s market, I knew I had to try to make something like it.

There is so much that is right and delicious in this dish. Butter. Pepper. Shallot. The magic of braising turns radishes — wild-tasting spice bombs — into mellow vessels for the deep flavor of fresh sage and browned butter. These are so, so good.

If you are strict paleo, use a good brand of ghee instead of the butter. Vegans and lactose-intolerant folks, of course, can substitute an oil such as coconut, avocado or olive. If you do, I’d recommend a dash of curry powder to add some savory depth. Save the radish greens for another dish; they are delicious as well.

Butter Braised Radishes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or coconut oil
  • 4 bunches radishes, quartered (about 3-1/2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, cut in a chiffonade
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add in the shallot and sage leaves; stirring occasionally, heat them until the sage is limp and the butter has begun to brown.
  2. Add the radishes to the pan, stirring to coat. Saute the mixture for about five minutes, or until the radishes start to turn a little bit pink. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes more; the radishes will be completely pink and soft when done.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/butter-braised-radishes/

Cheesy Ranch Zucchini Chips

Zucchini Ranch Chips | Paleo + LifeWhile I generally love eating paleo, one of the things I miss from my pre-paleo days is potato chips. Crunchy, salty, cheesy potato chips. You know what I mean, right? Crunchy chips are a unique tactile experience. The slight resistance as you bite, then the shattering of the chip and the flavor exploding across your tongue…Mmm. There is very little like it.

But chips are not a habit I want to indulge in too often. Most brands are cooked in oils I’d rather not eat, and the ones that are cooked in a healthy oil tend to be expensive. What’s a cook to do? Spend a little time playing around in the kitchen, of course, which is how I devised these tangy zucchini chips.

Zucchini and yellow summer squash, which make delightful noodle substitutes when cut with the spiral slicer, also happen to be excellent chip substitutes as well. There is hardly any work involved here: slice, oil, season and dehydrate. Being patient while they dry is truly the hardest part.

The reward for your patience is delicious, intense, cheesy flavor. My oldest says they taste like alfredo sauce, while my husband likens the flavor to ranch dressing. I am not sure which of them is right; I just know I’ll be making a lot more of these, and soon.

Ranch Zucchini Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini (roughly 9-10" long, big enough to fill a 5- tray dehydrator)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Romano cheese powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  1. Wash and stem zucchini. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the fruit into thin rounds (about 1/4" thick is good). Place slices in a large bowl.
  2. Add olive oil to zucchini slices, massaging thoroughly to make sure all slices are equally coated.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine cheese powder, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley and sea salt. Stir thoroughly. Sprinkle the cheese and spice mixture over the zucchini slices.
  4. Lay the slices on the trays of a dehydrator, making sure that they do not touch. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 24 hours or until chips are crisp.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/cheesy-ranch-zucchini-chips/

 

Salsa Smothered Pork Loin

Salsa Smothered Pork | Paleo + LifeBecause the kiddos are getting ready to head back to school, I have easy meals on the brain. Trying to keep track of who needs to be where, what papers must be signed and returned, and which after school activity has to be attended is pretty much a full-time job. I sometimes joke with my beloved that we need a wife to run our lives, so that I can outsource the boring tasks and just do the fun stuff. Until I find this miracle worker, however, it’s my job to get those things done and feed our crew. When we are busy, simple recipes that only need a few minutes’ effort are sometimes all I can manage. Of course, I want it to be tasty as well.

For this dinner, I needed to make the pork loin extremely mild — my youngest girl hates even the idea of spice — so a simple coating of salt and pepper was all it needed. Keeping the seasoning simple also makes it a cinch to use the leftovers in other dishes.
However, I also wanted some big flavor to accompany this mild meat.

As I have mentioned, I grew up in Chicago, and growing up in Chicago means eating classic Chicago-style foods, like Italian beef sandwiches with giardiniera (a mix of pickled veggies like cauliflower, carrots, celery and hot peppers). It’s full of hearty, tangy flavor and is the only condiment I am not ashamed to eat straight out of the jar. However, I only had a spare 30 minutes, and not the weeks of aging real giardiniera requires. So I took a virtual detour from Little Italy to Pilsen and created a big-flavored salsa instead.

For the salsa, I threw in slices of carrot in a nod to my favorite condiment, along with the more usual peppers, tomatoes, and the like; they stay pleasantly crisp even after days in the fridge. I deliberately left garlic out of this salsa, but if you miss it, just add in a finely minced clove or two.
Coating the cooked meat in the salsa before serving means the outer pieces soak up the spicy flavor, the inner slices stay mild, and everyone is happy. If only it were so easy the rest of the time.

Salsa Smothered Pork Loin

Ingredients

    Pork Loin
  • 5 lbs. pork loin
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Salsa
  • 4 small carrots
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 hot peppers
  • 8 small scallions
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

    Pork Loin
  1. Remove pork from package; rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper all sides of the meat thoroughly. Place in a slow cooker; cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  2. Salsa
  3. With a food processor set with the slicing blade, slice the carrots. (If you do not have a food processor, a mandoline or sharp knife will work just as well). Place in a medium bowl.
  4. Dice the tomatoes; add to the bowl.
  5. Slice peppers into rounds, and add to the carrot-tomato mixture. Repeat with scallions.
  6. Finely mince the cilantro; you should have roughly 3-4 tablespoons. Add to the mixture and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. 20 minutes before serving, remove pork from crock pot and place on platter. Cover with salsa and let sit to meld flavors.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/salsa-smothered-pork-loin/

Going Paleo with Teenagers

Double Trouble | Paleo + Life

Thing 1 & Thing 2 getting pretty — skincare is serious business.

Since this blog is meant as a place for me to explore going paleo and what that means in the context of my life, I want it to be an honest reflection of that life. In my case, that means occasionally talking about my family, which includes the sassy twosome pictured above.

When we started to go paleo, I knew it would be a tricky thing for the kids to accept. They literally ate bread all. the. time. They had some at almost every meal, and for after school snacks. I actually grew to hate the smell of toast because it was always in the air. So I knew cutting them off was going to be difficult.

At first, the transition was quite hard. When we started our Whole30, we just let the bread that we had in the house run out, and didn’t replace it. (We kept cheese around because it is the one thing all of the kids are guaranteed to eat, and that was a bigger fight than I wanted to undertake.)

They complained that there was nothing to eat. We said “Sure there is — figure it out.” They grumbled and rolled their eyes, but they also learned to make lettuce wraps and sometimes “sandwiches” that were just the ingredients with no bun. They ate more fruit, more sweet potatoes and squash (this post from Mark’s Daily Apple is very reassuring on that count), and more veggies than they thought possible. The kids weren’t exactly delighted with the change (and when my husband went out of town for a week, we backslid something fierce), but they have adapted. My big boy loves coconut butter, while if my oldest girl could eat only avocados and salsa for the rest of her life, she’d be thrilled. I think this is a little crazy, but am going with it. (The Paleo View recently had a great podcast on why teenagers are crazy — no, really — and why it’s super important for them to eat a nutrient-dense diet. They had some excellent suggestions for snacks as well.)

The kids have even learned to cook for themselves a bit more, which is a huge step for both them and me. I have a little bit of a control issue (stop laughing, husband) and it has been an exercise in trust for us all. I am letting go, and they are holding each other up. It makes me rather proud.

Our paleo/Primal path is not perfect. Their schools serve regular school lunch, which I don’t fuss about — I consider it the “20” part of the 80/20 rule. If they visit friends and have pizza or pretzels, we are not going to make a fuss. Heck, we allow them the occasional frozen pizza or corn tortilla in our own house. Certainly not every day, but once in a while works for us. The more comfortable we get with paleo and Primal eating, the more we figure out where the happy medium is between watching what we eat for health and watching what we eat because it doesn’t fit a strict definition of what we think we “should” do.

What about you? If you have paleo/Primal teens — heck, if you are a paleo/Primal teen — leave a comment about what your transition was/is like, how it’s going, your favorite paleo foods, etc. I’d love to know.

Grape Italian Ice

Grape Italian Ice | Paleo + LifeGrape. Italian. Ice.

I swear to you, this was an accident. Italian ice was not even on my radar; I was actually thinking about back-to-school meals and doing a series of quick weeknight suppers. Somehow, I got distracted. Can you blame me?

Grape Italian Ice | Paleo + Life

Perhaps it was the great sale on the grapes, or the unusually warm weather that led me astray. Regardless of how it happened, I regret nothing. How could I, when this luscious treat is the result?

Italian ices, also known as granitas, are wonderful summer desserts. They are simple to make, lovely to look at, taste divine and need hardly any effort for delicious results. Black grapes are just about perfect right now: juicy, flavorful, and so naturally sweet the recipe calls for nothing more than a hint of enhancement. A splash of lemon juice and a little bit of powdered galangal root, a spice commonly used in Thai cooking, enhances the grapes’ natural flavor without overwhelming it.

I recommend that you cool your serving dishes for best results. The refrigerator is probably safest, but if you’ve forgotten, a couple of minutes in the freezer should work just fine.

Grape Italian Ice

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. seedless black grapes
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon galangal root powder

Instructions

  1. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine grapes, lemon juice and galangal. Blend until grapes are fully pulverized (about 1 minute in the blender). Pour into a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer.
  2. After about one hour, remove the mixture from the freezer. Use a fork to scrape the solid parts around the edges into the center. Return mixture to freezer. After another hour, repeat.
  3. After the third hour, mixture should be completely frozen (if it is not, just scrape and return it to the freezer).
  4. When ready to serve, scrape the mixture one last time to "fluff" the granita. Scoop into a chilled dish for best results.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/grape-italian-ice/

$20 and a Dream

Farmer's  Market Stash | Paleo + Life

We live in a cozy neighborhood that we often joke feels like Mayberry. Everyone seems to know everyone, we have honest-to-goodness block parties all summer long and half the time every kid around seems to be running barefoot from house to house.

Our neighborhood also features a small but thriving farmer’s market that runs from spring to fall. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, it is one of my favorite features of my ‘hood. In addition to a good selection of booths featuring local produce, there is usually face painting, a kid-friendly activity, a balloon artist and musical performances (my favorite so far was a guitar & electric harp duo. For real).

The activities, delightful though they are, aren’t even the best part of these trips. It’s the chance to watch the featured fruits and vegetables change over the course of the summer. It’s the time I get to talk to the farmers about the different varieties of peppers, melons, or whatever is on offer this week, or to get their recommendations for something new to try with an old favorite. Best of all, it’s the opportunity to dream about the meals that could come from this wonderful abundance. Thinking of all the wonderful things I could make means I get double the pleasure from these purchases. In my book, that’s money well-spent.

Above is the latest bunch of produce I purchased from the market. Beets, tomatoes, Czech black peppers, kohlrabi, a sweet red onion and two bunches of scallions. So far, I’ve made a big batch of my grandma’s cucumber salad using the red tomatoes, lemon cucumbers from our garden and a few scallions. The yellow tomatoes and a bit of sweet red onion appeared in another salad last night, and a batch of kohlrabi slaw is on deck for this evening’s dinner. So far the beets and peppers have not made an appearance, though I have a fabulous idea that I’m not at all sure will work. I can’t wait to spend some time in the kitchen this weekend testing it out.

I’m interested to know what other people do. Do you go to the market with a plan, or do you prefer to let inspiration strike?  Do you stick with tried-and-true recipes, or are you willing to make something up on the fly?

Mango Citrus Salsa

Mango Citrus Salsa | Paleo + LifeWe are having another cool Portland morning, which is bittersweet. I feel the summer slipping away. At this time of year, the earth seems to spin just a little bit faster every day. Any minute now, the whirlwind of autumn busy-ness will begin: school shopping, new schedules for the kids, cleaning up the garden, prepping for Halloween … even though I won’t have classes myself, there is still plenty to do. I love autumn and look forward to it every year.

Despite my love for autumn, though, I have always had a special place in my heart for the simple pleasure of summer food. This salsa is my way of stretching out that pleasure just a bit longer.

The sweet mangos and hot peppers would be fantastic on their own, but the bright tang from the lime and the musk of grapefruit both brighten and deepen the flavor. I aimed for a medium level of heat in this particular salsa, so I seeded one pepper and left the other intact. Making salsa yourself means cook’s choice: if you prefer your salsa less spicy, seed both peppers. I found the bright orange Bulgarian carrot peppers at my local farmer’s market, but whatever peppers you have available will do just fine. This is delicious with fish or meat, especially roast pork.

Mango Citrus Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 large mango (if using ataulfo mangoes, use two or three)
  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • 1 lime
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 peppers (I used one jalapeno and one Bulgarian orange pepper)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice mango, discarding the seed. Dice flesh into chunks and place them in a bowl. (If mangoes are not in season, thaw a bag of frozen mango chunks).
  2. Peel the grapefruit. If you want especially neat pieces, use a grapefruit knife to section the fruit. Otherwise, peel the individual slices of fruit, break into chunks, and add to the bowl. Repeat with the lime.
  3. Slice scallions thin rounds. Add to bowl.
  4. Slice one pepper into rings and add to the bowl. Slice the second pepper in half; remove seeds and cut into half rounds. Add to the bowl.
  5. Mince the cilantro (you should have approximately 3 tablespoons). Add to the bowl.
  6. Stir the mixture until well-combined. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/mango-citrus-salsa/

Book Review: Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on The Go


As its title states, Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go* attempts to solve the biggest conundrum for new paleo eaters: the need for fast, portable food that holds up well in travel. The book succeeds admirably. Author Diana Rodgers, a nutritional therapy practitioner, offers a ton of tasty recipes that fit the bill perfectly.

What is wonderful about the book is that it is more than just a collection of recipes. Rodgers shares her own path to the paleo lifestyle, and tips for those who want to go cold turkey or take a “baby steps” approach to going gluten- and grain-free. She also shares nutritional information, advice for dining out and a great FAQ. The section on “Paleo Pitfalls”  and the menu plan with three weeks of kid-friendly lunches make this book a must-have.

Then, there are the recipes. The book begins with two chapters of wraps, which might not sound exciting to the uninitiated. However, Rodgers adds pizzazz with clever flavor combinations and creative choices. Her Portable Tuscan Wrap puts plain submarine sandwiches to shame, and the Smoked Duck Wrap with Cherries and Hazelnuts had me headed for the grocery store almost before I finished reading the page. The Grilled Eggplant Rollups are beautiful and delicious.

Later chapters feature delicious soups (her version of Greek avgolemono is excellent), salads, multiple breakfast sausage recipes (one with cherries and tarragon — mmm), as well as recipes for paleo staples like broth, mayonnaise and more. Rodgers even includes recipes for snacks/hors d’oeuvres, biscuits and crackers. Just about every recipe includes tips on how best to transport the food and how well the dishes stand up to travel. Finally, she ends the book with a brief resource section that includes recommendations for other paleo reference books and websites.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The only negative comments I might make were about the few typos I noted, and that one recipe is referred to in another by an incorrect name. These are small quibbles, however, and would not stop me from recommending this book to anyone who wants fresh ideas for paleo meals.
Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go: The Solution to Gluten-Free Eating All Day Long with Delicious, Easy and Portable Primal Meals*

* = affiliate link.

From the Caterer’s Kitchen: The Difference Between Baking and Cooking

For those just tuning in, From the Caterer’s Kitchen is an occasional series of kitchen tips, tricks and advice from my mother, a professional caterer for over 30 years. Interested? Start here.

Broadly speaking, this is an easy one. Cooking takes place atop the stove; baking is what happens in the oven beneath it. Assuming, of course, you have a combination range and oven, rather than my dream kitchen set up of separate double wall ovens and range (along with an apron-front sink and a pantry big enough to hold a Costco’s worth of shopping… but I digress).

However, there is more to consider than those two differences. The easiest-to-understand explanation I’ve found, again, comes from On Cooking (for real: if you are at all serious about cooking, get yourself a copy. This book is fabulous). I rely heavily on these authors’ genius.

Both cooking and baking involve transforming food with heat. That heat can be transferred to the food either by a wet method (water or steam), a dry method (air or fat), or a combination of the two.
While cooking can be accomplished by any of these three, baking relies on the dry method: food surrounded by hot air in a closed space. This dry heat dries out the food and caramelizes it, giving baked foods their characteristic brown color.

Note that baking and roasting are the exact same thing. (This puzzled me for years.) I always assumed the difference was because roasting sounds wild and macho, like you’re standing around in your caveman loincloth cooking a whole pig on a spit, whereas baking is rather more precise and delicate. At any rate, it’s just an oddity of language that we tend to say roasting when talking about meat, and baking when we talk about bread or other dishes. I have noticed this is changing — it’s common to see a reference to roasted vegetables on a menu these days — but this division is still fairly prevalent.

Baking also requires much more care, I have found. Improvising is easy when the food is right in front of you on the stove: you can salvage a dish really quickly if you just need to add pepper or a bit of butter. If you’re making a casserole or a loaf of bread, however, that’s simply not possible. You need to start with a good recipe to be successful, and not deviate from it very much, unless you have an exceptional sense of how much seasoning is appropriate, or the best ratio of wet ingredients to dry ones in a baked good.

This need for care makes baking a tougher nut to crack for the new cook. Many times I thought I could get away with a loose recipe for something baked and I discovered to my everlasting disappointment that it didn’t quite take off. If you like to experiment, by all means, do — it’s the best way to learn, after all — just be prepared for the fact that not everything turns out to be edible in the end.

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