Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Use What Your Grocer Gave Ya

I had a large bag of organic carrots along with 2 bulbs of fennel (mad cheap at TJ's) sitting in the fridge so my plan was to serve roasted carrots and fennel as a side dish at Easter dinner. A quick Google search led me to AllRecipes where someone had suggested using fennel seeds and ground coriander. Seemed like a good idea, so I peeled and chopped the carrots in advance, diced up the fennel and popped it in the fridge to await cooking the next day for our big Sunday meal.

Turns out I don't read directions very well as the recipe was not for roasting but for some sort of shredded carrot stew concoction. We were short on time at this point, roasting was no longer an option anyway. Yay for happy accidents because it yielded me a new favorite side dish. I popped the raw veggies in the microwave to soften them up before stove top cooking. The flavor was rich but not overpowering and has been fantastic as a leftover this week. If you're growing tired of roasting carrots or cooking them in butter (Mom's M.O.) then try this dish out.

Quick Quick Carrots & Fennel
3 lbs. organic carrots, peeled and chopped
1.5 fennel bulbs, diced
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
ground coriander
fennel seeds
sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Soften vegetables in the microwave until forkable. Dump the carrots and fennel in a skillet on medium high heat. Add several dashes of ground coriander and fennel seeds, keep this at a 2:1 ration (more coriander than whole fennel seeds). Season with S&P, taste test and increase the seasonings as needed. After 2-3 minutes of warming up the spices pour in heavy cream and continue to stir until it thickens. This dish is not meant to be liquidy, rather the cream should form a thin layer around the veggies. Serve and Enjoy!

->No need to stick to my measurements, not every day calls for 3lbs. of carrots. Another great option would be to use a bag of baby carrots which would save even more time as they require no peeling or chopping.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Been mulling it over for 2 days now. The guidelines of Paleo, what seems to be working, what hasn't. Cheats, why I commit them, when I commit them, what I'm choosing. Habits. Happiness.
Really, this is all in the pursuit of happiness. Balance, success = happy girl.

Here's what I've concocted for myself goal wise:

Adieu schakolad, mon amore! Extra dark chocolate has become an obsession with me more recently. I view it as the only acceptable "naughty" item that I can validate eating without considering it a massive cheat. But here's the rub: I crave it constantly. I'm buying and nibbling the stuff in some small amounts almost every day. And last week, when my chocolate molds arrived, I couldn't stop thinking of all the amazing treats I wanted to create. The dark stuff has become a sort of crutch and that's no bueno. So I'm going cold turkey. This lends itself to the overall

Getting back to basics, a sort of Paleo Challenge Redux. In six weeks time I will be at the 2011 Crossfit Games Mid-Atlantic Regionals as a volunteer. It will be an amazing weekend, guaranteed. So from now until then I'm challenging myself to stay committed to Paleo eating and 4 WODS a week. I'll enhance this commitment by avoiding the chocolate crutch AND giving up television!

While mulling over my schedule and examinging how jam packed it is I lamented the absence of several other daily activities I need to incorporate (journal writing, bible study, book reading, room cleaning). There just isn't room for it all, but I could open up at least 30 minutes - 1 hour a day if I hid the remote. I'd get to sleep faster for sure. And sleep has been severely lacking more recently. Not to mention lack of sleep can lead to poor food choices...vicious cycle!

LinkSome blog hopping revealed that I'm not alone in this epiphany. How convenient that it turns out a whole slew of people will be banding together to dodge the boob tube!

So there we have it: No chocolate, no TV, clean eating, 6 weeks.

If you read through all of that then let me leave you with this little gem courtesy of The Clothes Make the Girl. It's a super delicious beet salad that I've made twice, the first time with yellow beets then for Easter I stuck to traditional red ones. They plate up beautifully and the taste is exciting. These compliment simply flavored meats and are proving fantastic as leftovers. So go buy a bunch of beets and don't worry about purple fingers, it's temporary :D

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bunny Flop

A belated Happy Easter to you all! We had gorgeous weather here in the mid-Atlantic, perfect for egg hunts and pretty Spring dresses.

Jeffrey and I sang for two church services (never a day off!) in the morning then spent the day with my family before bouncing off to a final service at my church. It was a really lovely day, quintessentially Easter in season and spirit.

I woke up to a visit from the Easter Bunny. My basket was thoughtfully packed with quality jerky products from Fresh Market. There was also a chocolate marshmallow bunny and a few eggs with candy inside. I stuffed the eggs in my purse and dispersed them among fellow choir members. Between services the nice church ladies had provided us all with breakfast. J and I chowed down on sausage links and eggs, choosing to sidestep the biscuits and pastries. I did grab a cup of fruit, but honestly didn't need it. Those green melon balls just looked so enticing.

Back home we munched on appetizers which included shrimp cocktail and my Red Pepper and Walnut Dip served on cucumber slices. Then it was in to the kitchen for some last minute food prep. We cooked up Moroccan Lamb meatballs from Jen's Gone Paleo. I served these at last month's birthday party and they were SO good. Pretty dang easy too, try em.
While the lamb cooked in the oven I prepared two more veggie dishes that would be good for J and myself but also provide some variety for big brother's vegetarian gf. Mom said there were too many food guidelines to adhere to and just made what she knew: ham (win!), roasted potatoes (not a temptation for me at all) , squash casserole (I allowed myself a few bites of this carby creation but regretted them, it's no longer the tasty dish I remember loving), rolls (didn't give them a second glance), and a mixed pea salad (simple, good). So all in all I behaved myself.

Mom also baked up desserts: Bunny Cake and Lemon Meringue Pie.
I've mentioned mom's traditional Easter dessert on here before. She's been making one every year since I was little. Bunny Cake is strawberry cake covered in store-bought vanilla icing topped with sweetened, shredded coconut. It's in the shape of a bunny rabbit and he has pink ears, sits on a bed of coconut "grass" and will sometimes have gumdrop flowers blooming around him. He's cute, his cloyingly sweet, he's tradition.

I submitted to tradition. It was unintentional. I just wanted to nibble his cute rabbit's foot. But for some reason it didn't stop there and at breakfast this morning I ate his ear off (call me Mike Tyson). I had evaded the gorgeous pie mom baked as well. But once you've tasted the bunny you might as well have a forkful of pie, right? So I did. And, well damn, may as well sliver off some of that moist and gorgeous Triple Berry Pound Cake.


Part of me (the mid-senseless-binge par) reasoned that it was a major holiday and I deserved to enjoy these rare treats. A more rational side screamed *THIS TASTES BLAND, WHY ARE YOU EATING IT* Hand and fork did not hear the screams. A bloated belly and mild self-loathing is now my punishment.

Jeffrey has been so good since adopting Paleo/Primal eating. I'm crazy proud of him. He passes up yummy treats all of the time. Here I am, the girl that dragged him in to this lifestyle, shoving processed crap down my gullet. And the worst of it is: it wasn't worth it. If I'm going to cheat it should be over a slice of cheesecake in a restaurant with my girlfriends. Not late night ice cream when all I meant to get from the kitchen was water. No longer living alone has made it harder, but I can't blame anyone else. I feed myself, I make the choices. Plus, it's no fun feeling out of control or guilty. And again, I can't stress it enough, the cheat food has yet to be worth it (except that one time we split my favorite custard sundae. So.Worth.It) I simply won't go around touting the wonders of clean eating and encouraging weight loss amongst the people I love while I stall my own progress with SAD crap. I'm working to hard to sabotage myself.

I share this because a) we're human and I want my friends who read this, and applaud my good progress, to know that I still trip and fall and because b) i'm establishing some new guidelines for myself to be shared with you tomorrow. So get excited, give away that Easter candy and let's optimize progress for a sexy summer...cuz we all just really want to look good naked ;)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Smoothie RX

As warm weather roles in my tastebuds have instinctually begged for more refreshing delights. This is where the delicious smoothie enters. Now, I know that (1) we should not drink our calories and that (2) whey is not Paleo. I also know that occasionally, when I'm (1) home from an intense WOD and (2) rushing to work with little time to cook and clean up a full breakfast that this balanced smoothie is just the ticket. It is an infrequent indulgence that satisfies my cravings and deliveries some pretty good nutritional elements. This is my favorite drinkable creation so far. It literally tastes like a raspberry truffle!


1 cup unsweetened Almond milk

1 cup frozen organic raspberries

2 T. melted coconut oil

2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder*

Toss items in your blender and liquify. It's so good. I hope you'll enjoy this treat on a hot, busy day.

*I use 100% Whey. It has a great flavor, is fairly crap-free (as these products go) and mixes like a dream. Plus, you can find the 6lb. bag at Costco for $30

Monday, April 18, 2011

K*I*S*S in Keep It Simple, Sexy!

Sometimes minimalism is best and that was expertly proven in the tasty meal J whipped up for our dinner.

The players: Grass-fed Ribeye and Stuffed Peppers

Game plan: Marinate steaks in whiskey and sliced garlic. Then sprinkle with a favorite steak seasoning, if you so desire. Grill it up *sizzle*

Mash up avocado and combine with a jalapeno pepper, diced tomatoes, a small amount of chopped onion, along with grated garlic. Drizzle in some olive oil and spritz with lime or lemon juice. Don't forget a touch of S&P. Fill roasted and skinned bell peppers with the creamy combo and place in the oven for warming while the ribeye grills. Play with the measurements to suit your personal taste. Jeffrey felt he should have added more jalapeno and pre-cooked the onion. I was happy with everything as it was...though I do feel there is ALWAYS room for more garlic.

It was uncomplicated and tasty. The steak had noticeable bite from the whiskey which I enjoyed pairing with a creamy slice of the pepper. Speaking of that pepper: it was huge! No room to miss dessert when filling yourself up with a monster meal like this. It was just one more tease for the copious summer grilling to come~*

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Paleo Brands: Product Review

The week continues to be a barrage of unanticipated, shall we say "challenges." Little sleep meant I didn't get up for the 5am WOD (that's two missed sessions this week!). I went downstairs with plans to cook breakfast and prepare lunch. Alas, the coffee maker had exploded coffee and soggy grounds all over half the kitchen. It was e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Suffice it to say, cooking time became cleaning time.

Luckily, my order from Paleo Brands had recently arrived so I grabbed one of their frozen entrees and headed off to work. When lunch time came I opened my "Beef with Curry Pistachio Stuffing and Broccoli."

First impression: this looks nothing like the photo. As you can see above it appears to be two sections of marinated beef filled with a robust stuffing of primarily pistachios and cranberries served alongside broccoli and carrot strings.

There are no carrot strings, those were for aesthetics in the promo image, it seems. Ok, no big loss. The beef looked a bit sad. It was four very thin slices. The stuffing was a pale yellow, no cranberries in sight. It was sitting in what looked like a pool of gravy. I was dubious but continued on with warming the meal up in the microwave (was ready in about 3.5 minutes) and commencing consumption.

Sorry to say it was a disappointment. The beef was very well done and commanded no real flavor. The same can be said of the stuffing. It was minced super fine and fell out of the beef roll-up as soon as you cut into it and would then wash away in the hefty amount of au jus. A slotted spoon would be needed to retrieve the finely minced filling from the unnecessarily deep juice pool. The ingredients list includes exciting elements like curry powder as well as those mythical cranberries but I tasted none of it. Couldn't even really pick up on the pistachio element either.The only accomplishment was a good portion of bright green broccoli and the fact that my hunger was appeased at meal's end.

Much praise goes to the marketing department who hired the food photographer. It looks like a yummy meal. My hope when placing the order had been that I'd have a stash of truly healthy, well-prepared meals for when there was zero time for food prep. Honestly though, it would be worth it to spend a few dollars extra on a Panera salad or grab some fajitas at the local Mexican joint than to invest in this dish.

I'm a fan of Paleo Brands' jerky and there are 4 other flavors to try so I'm hopeful that the remaining recipes will be more palatable. *tastebuds crossed*

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Home again, well rested and definitely well fed. A good thing too as this week started off with several swift kicks in the a$$. No matter, I've experienced the ecstasy of a churrascaria and nothing can steal the warm, beefy glow emanating from within. Well, maybe that was taking it a bit too far...

But seriously! Have you been to a Brazilian steakhouse? More pointedly, have you been to Texas de Brazil?

Jeffrey and I had one of the best meals and dates of my life on Saturday. Let me set the stage: you walk into a richly-hued, flower laden, sexy restaurant and are guided to a table set with crisp white linens. Your main server arrives (ours was Bianca, and she rocked) who will give you the 411: there are several cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork, all of which will be continuously brought around to your table for sampling by "gauchos." The majority of the meats are rubbed in salt and all are roasted over a fire. You're given a two-sided disk and it's very simple: red means stop feeding me, green says bring it on!

First, you are directed to the salad bar. It is teaming with quality items including smoked salmon, aged cheeses and a bajillion varieties of olive oil. There is also a hot bar containing rice, beans, lobster bisque and faroffa. I chose a small sampling of roasted red pepper, some chimichurri for my forthcoming meat, a few olives, two slices of delicious mortadella and some asparagus with strawberry sauce. At the table, J quickly sent back the cheesy bread (good job honey!) but we allowd the mashed potatoes and sauteed bananas to stay. A very conservative sampling of each was done mid-meal when our tongues wanted a distraction from the carnage.

Speaking of which: WOW! Almost every cut of beef was cooked rare and I loved it. The first meat to hit us was the flank steak (best I've ever had!) and bloody goodness dripped on the tablecloth as our gaucho sliced my portion. Next was filet mignon which also rocked my socks. Soon we were cutting in to bacon-wrapped chicken, picanha their signature steak, succulent beef ribs, frenched lamb chops, leg of lamb, more bacon wrapped around more filet mignon, Brazilian sausage...the list goes on!

It was SO MUCH FUN. We ate, every bite being something new and tasty. We talked, taking breaks between rounds of meat to enjoy the ambiance and one another. Our server made sure that we were offered everything promptly and to our fill. If you want the meat cooked differently or without salt they'll do that for you too. It was the perfect dining option for two food-lovin Paleo kids like us. Even better, you can register with TdB's e-club to receive coupons. My recent birthday netted me a BOGO dinner ticket, so not only was our meal fantastic, it was a steal. I'm already trying to scheme another trip to this meat haven, seriously good eats!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Rebecca Black Day

My freedom is 3 hours away and I'm chomping at the bit! I've taken the WHOLE weekend off (no WOD, no church gig, zero obligations) so that J & I can head to D.C. for two whole days of adventure. Now, ironically, Uncle Sam may be closing the doors of all the attractions we had banked on visiting (Cherry Blossom Festival, Smithsonian museums, etc) but irregardless we're gonna have a great time. I plan on sleeping in -> something I NEVER get to do. And hopefully the weather will cooperate so that we can walk & wander ourselves silly.
Since we're both of the same nutritional mind it was fun to plan our meals. Tomorrow morning I'll be donning my newest apron and making some pancakes. We've also scored dinner reservations at Texas de Brazil for an all out meat worship: it promises to be what caveman dreams are made of!
J is cooking dinner for us tonight to take on the road and I've packed a Paleokit, a Larabar, nori sheets and a few oranges should they be needed throughout our travels.
I'll be on the lookout for local produce at the Eastern Market and some new goodies/recipe inspirations via Wegmans. All in all we plan on enjoying ourselves while staying mainly within the parameters that we know will bring us success.

What are you getting in to this weekend?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

This Primal Goodie will make your Entenmann's cry

Liz over at Eat The Cookie deserves a standing ovation for this gem. I was hunting for a recipe that would use up the medjool dates I still had from my birthday party and happened upon her Date & Pecan Cinnamon Swirls. Incidentally, there's also over a pound of pecans sitting in my pantry (bless you bulk shopping) so this was a perfect fit.
OMGeee this is a mega-tasty treat! It's simple and divinely delicious. If you're heading to a brunch or just have a hankering for something with a similar flavor profile to coffee cake then PLEASE bake up a batch this weekend. My goal is to slowly pull my family over to the Primal/Paleo lifestyle by tempting them with items like this. After baking it, I left the wonderfulness to cool while J & I sped off to a wedding. When I came home it seems somebody had decided to dive in already :D The whole family loved it, I was ga-ga over the creation myself. Share this with your world, it will one-up anybody's breakfast sweets recipe.
Below is Liz's original recipe with my small adjustments in bold italics

date & pecan cinnamon swirls

-for the base:

1 jar (16 oz) almond butter

1/2 cup honey, or to taste (1/3 cup for my batch)

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

-for the swirls:

4 oz (1/2 block) softened cream cheese

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp vanilla

-for the pecan stir-in:

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup pecans, chopped (heaping)

1 cup dates, chopped and pitted (super heaping, rough chopped)

method: preheat oven to 325f. prep a 9×13″ glass baking dish by coating it with oil. (coconut oil)

over low heat, toast cinnamon and pecans until they become fragrant. careful, nuts burn quickly! set aside to cool.

to make the swirl mixture, whip cream cheese, vanilla, and honey together with mixer until creamy and smooth. set aside. (I microwaved the mixture and whipped with a spoon)

now make the base. using hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the almond butter until smooth. add eggs, honey, and vanilla. mix until well combined, but do not over mix or it will make a dense finished product. mix in the baking soda and salt. by hand, stir in nuts and dates.

pour batter into baking dish in an even layer. yes, it’s a little sticky and may be kinda hard to spread out. do your best.

now drop cream cheese over batter by the teaspoonful and use a knife or toothpick to swirl. sprinkle a little brown sugar on top and pop it into the oven. (I omitted the brown sugar)

bake for 35 minutes. let cool for a few hours before cutting. (The traditional toothpick test is not a good indicator of "doneness." My result was still a bit soft in the center but firmed up nicely after cooling. Better to be mindful of the edges and bottom not becoming overcooked.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Summer Sauce

Chimichurri is a popular item, known for jazzing up steak. So when I had the idea to serve it to friends, there was a slight pause upon consulting the ingredients list. Parsley is not a favorite herb of mine, a bit too grassy and bitter for me. Yet, somehow, this mystical South American sauce transcends its ingredients list to render a savory, delicious marinade/topping that is so good you'll be looking for anything to put it on. This is your summer grilling menu's best friend. Drink up, I mean: Enjoy!

  • 1 bunch/two handfuls of flat leaf parsley (mostly leaves, some stems are fine. wash thoroughly)
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • the juice from a lemon wedge (it's not aerospace engineering here, guestimate)
  • 3 Tablespoons (or so) chopped red onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • Where the Magic Happens
    In your food processor, chop parsley. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until a sauce forms with fragments of leaves and veggies visible. However, this should not be "chunky." So good!

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    The other Pink Meat

    Inspired by the awesome dishes at CFVB's Paleo Potluck I knew immediately what one of my entrees was going to be for the birthday party. I also knew that I was not going to serve farm-raised fish to myself or my guests. Mom said she's seen wild-caught salmon filets at Sam's Club and would grab some while she was out. She brought home half a dozen HUGE, gorgeous, pink fillets. We used them to bake up:

    Pistachio Encrusted Salmon
    Salmon fillet
    Whole grain mustard (TJ's has an awesome product that I highly recommend)
    Pistachios (I used roasted)

    Now for the hard part:
    Smooth a thin layer of the mustard on top of the salmon fillet then top with crushed pistachios. Bake. Serve. -DONE-

    It's seriously that easy! This is my new favorite way to eat salmon. It was flaky and flavorful. The pistachios offer a nice textural contrast and oddly enough this dish is not "mustardy." It is, however, a quick and easy crowd-pleaser and tastes like you invested quite a bit of prep work. Let's call this your "honey, I slaved all day in the kitchen for you" April Fool's Meal.

    And in keeping with April Fool's Day: Mom totally tricked me. It turned out that our salmon feast wasn't really salmon at all! Ever heard of Steelhead Trout? It's trout that takes to the sea. It tastes EXACTLY like salmon but is often less expensive. Some even argue over Steelhead's specific species classification (trout v. salmon). When she had gotten to the store there wasn't any wild-caught salmon in stock, only the farm raised variety with added food coloring, so she opted for the Steelhead. All I know is that 20 people thought they were eating salmon, damn good salmon, and it turns out we were having more environmentally sustainable trout. So glad Mom pulled a fast one on us!