Long time, No post

Hello long lost friends!

Life has swept me up and carried me away the past few months.  Family events, school, and now work have all combined to keep me away from blogging.  However, you will be happy to know that I’ve stayed Paleo in the midst of everything!

It has been over four months since I began the Paleo diet to find a way to manage my Fibromyalgia.  The first couple of months were a real struggle.  I threatened to pull my hair out, and my family was not too happy with me or the diet.  However, by month three things started to click.  I stay within the 80-95% range of the Whole 30 plan.  Restaurant food is the biggest reason that I break any rules.  I’m still learning about all the crazy stuff they put in food at restaurants. I went to Chuy’s (Mexican restaurant) the other day and learned that they put gluten in the spice packet they use on their fajita meat. What on earth???

Anyways, so far there are several awesome results of sticking to this diet:

  • I can eat any paleo-approved vegetable out there with almost zero side effects.  Occasionally, too much cabbage will upset my stomach, or other things like that. However, it’s nothing compared to what I experienced before.  The rest of my family is also doing better with vegetables.
  • I rarely crave the unhealthy junk food I used to eat, and I really enjoy the various flavors of real, whole food.  My taste buds have adapted nicely to this way of life.  I feel so much more satisfied at the end of a meal, and I don’t feel the need to eat all day like I used to. I’ve also noticed an increase in my energy levels.
  • I’ve lost about 12 pounds and I’m still losing! I didn’t set out to lose weight and I’ve been more sedentary than I’ve ever been in my entire life in these past few months, yet the weight just keeps coming off.  The rest of my family is losing weight as well. We all needed to.  This is such a relief, because I don’t have the ability to exercise right now.  Before going paleo, I was gaining weight rapidly and had no idea what to do about it.

All of these reasons have convinced me to stay paleo as a way of life, at least for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, though, there has been no improvement in my pain levels.  The diet has made no difference in this area.  The next step, perhaps at the end of the summer, is to look at autoimmune versions of paleo, or other diets designed specifically for people with chronic pain.

I feel that going paleo was completely worth it, and there may yet be some improvement.  We will see, I suppose.

 

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Kale and Bacon

YUM! This is my favorite snack now a days. It’s really filling without being an energy drainer.  It’s also pretty quick to make.  Here is where I found the original recipe.  Check out her helpful pictures! I will have to add some later.  I wanted to eat it, not take pics of it…

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale (think medium-sized bowl full), thinly chopped (take out big stems)
3 slices of nitrate-free bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces
lemon juice to taste
sea salt
ground black pepper

  1. Cook the bacon in a non-stick pan until crisp.
  2. Add in kale (medium heat). Stir for a few minutes until slightly wilted.
  3. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, serve in bowl or on a plate.

I bought a bag of kale from Trader Joe’s.  It lasted forever and was pretty cheap.  I think this would also work well as a side dish.

Paleo Cinnamon Bread

Here is where the recipe came from.  You have to scroll down a ways to see it.  I’m reprinting it here to make things easier!

**Important note: The first time my family made this, we used Trader Joe’s Almond Meal. It’s a great price, but if you look at the stuff you can see the skins mixed in with the almond meat (unblanched) and it’s pretty coarsely ground.  The bread came out really heavy and it dried out by the next day.  The next time we made it, I bought almond meal/flour at Whole Foods in the bulk section. Way more expensive, but it was also very finely ground with no obvious skins included.  The bread came out light, soft, and stayed moist for several days. The taste was also better and more balanced! This is a great article on how to buy almond flour.

Ingredients

2 cups almond flour (see note above)

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

5 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup walnuts

Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your bread pan, with enough sticking out on either side to make “handles” to pull it out
  3. combine almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl
  4. combine eggs, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla with a hand mixer (or in a stand mixer) until all ingredients are well incorporated
  5. slowly add dry ingredients to the wet, and continue mixing
  6. once everything is well mixed, add raisins and walnuts
  7. pour batter into bread pan
  8. bake for about 40-45 minutes. test with a toothpick in at least two places to make sure it’s clean

Discouragement, Honestly… and always some hope

Ok, so I knew this was going to be hard.

I was wrong. It’s been even harder than I thought.

I knew it would be a huge adjustment to cook basically every meal. (My life before now was an embarrassingly haphazard combination of cereal, canned soups, random fruits and meats, breads, crackers, and drive-through meals.) I knew I would have to learn some more advanced cooking skills.  (I’ve never enjoyed cooking, so I’ve always left the complicated stuff to the professionals.) I also knew I would need to plan and prepare more than I ever have before.

What I didn’t understand was the big picture of putting this all together.

This is not a part-of-my-life change. This is an all-of-my-life change. (This is where all of you say, “Well duh! We already knew that!”) I guess I knew that in theory too. Now I am experiencing it!

Just in case you were wondering, let me describe for you what I and one other family member have been doing the last three weeks:

  • Looking at endless paleo recipes on pinterest and other websites.  Printing and organizing them into a binder, then making a meal chart for the week.  Then, taking all those recipes and writing out every ingredient I need to buy. With the quantities (which I forgot several times, so I had to go back through and find the ingredients again). Then, trying to organize that massive list into something that I can actually use in the grocery store.
  • Visiting three different stores, reading labels and perusing produce carefully and cautiously. Checking my list three and four times. I’m not joking– each two-three hour trip left me feeling slightly dizzy with a massive headache afterwards.
  • Learning all about vegetables that I’ve never eaten before.  For example, I had no idea how to pick a spaghetti squash or a butternut squash. I didn’t even know what they looked like! There are tons of types of sweet potatoes out there. Which ones will my family eat?  Why does this store have only two types of lettuce, and this store has five? Which ones do we like?
  • Reading America’s Test Kitchen’s reviews on all kinds of fancy kitchen equipment that I now need and trying to find the best prices for those items, either online or in stores. I don’t have the luxury to just buy things without paying attention to the price.

At the end of round one or two of this, I realized that making basically 21 recipes every week was just not going to cut it.  (A more astute person would’ve figured that out right away, I’m sure.) The most logical thing was to try the “weekly cook-up method” in the “Well Fed” cookbook by Melissa Joulwan. However, I always make things harder than they are and even this has not been easy. It still requires going to at least two stores.  I have been comparing prices online for some items, like coconut aminos and almond flour, with prices in stores. I’m keeping track of prices in three different stores plus online for eight or more items, and my head hurts.

For the weekly cook-up, you need to have a day for shopping and a part of a day set aside for prep.  However, with my Fibro, I don’t have enough energy to get everything done in two days.  The method starts to fall apart in some ways if you don’t have everything there and ready.  It’s also very experimental.  It’s quick and easy (after the shopping and prep work) and requires you to be willing to try a lot of different mixtures of spices, meats, and vegetables.  My family is still getting used to this idea. Honestly, I’m still getting used to the idea.

Surprisingly, in the three weeks that I’ve been at least 60% paleo, I haven’t missed bread or other grains really. I haven’t had any bread in at least three weeks, maybe longer.  I’ve had rice only a handful of times.   I’m truly and thoroughly convinced that gluten and grains have done me much more harm than good.  I’m happy to leave them behind. I’ve learned that I can feel satisfied and full without them.

What I’m really missing is the convenience.

The convenience of grabbing whatever and eating it.  With Fibro, I already feel exhausted most of the time.  Planning and preparing meals is just one more burden.  The shopping, at least right now, is the biggest burden. My grocery bill has tripled, which is causing some sticker shock.

However, my whole family is determined that this is still what we need to do.  We’re surprisingly and stubbornly positive about the whole thing. We are praying hard and doing our best to love one another and ourselves through this process.

The planning will get easier. We’re already learning how to eyeball the amount of vegetables we need per week (it’s astronomical!!!), and I know how to pick a spaghetti squash now. I know where to buy coconut milk and I will remember to stock up so I don’t have to go back more than once a month.

Finally, we aren’t as hungry as we used to be.  Eventually, I know that all this good food will give me more energy. Eventually, I’m praying that the pain will be more manageable.  Even if eating paleo doesn’t change my pain levels, I know I will still be healthier and happier.  And so will my family, which is even more important.

Organization: Helpful Blogs

As I’m researching how to eat paleo, I keep coming across wonderfully helpful blog posts and sites.  Here is a list of a few that I plan to refer back to regularly:

  • Meatified has some great tips to eat Paleo without breaking your budget.
  • 30 tips from Rubies and Radishes
  • A ton of slowcooker recipes, also from Rubies and Radishes.  Slow cooker recipes can save time and money.
  • Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan’s awesome Paleo Intro has links to her great ideas for prepping a week’s worth of food. Her book and blog are quickly becoming a necessary part of survival!
  • A friend of ours uses this subscription service. They send you an email each week with recipes for 6 meals and a grocery list for a pretty small fee. We are thinking about trying this.

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Here is the original recipe. We basically followed it, except we had to cut the spaghetti squash into 8 pieces in order to fit it into the crock pot (ours is only 4 quarts).  However everything fit that way- including the whole pound of italian sausage.  The only sausage I could find had sugar and was highly processed.  I have yet to find any pre-made sausage without these problems.  We also left out the hot pepper relish.  I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made.

Pros:

– It was really easy to put together; the squash did really just fall apart into noodles! I felt like we were doing a science experiment. 🙂

– It was a whole meal- unlike other recipes, you didn’t have to come up with sides to make it satisfying.

Cons:

– If you have Fibromyalgia or any other pain condition, the spaghetti squash will seem pretty hard to cut. You need a good knife and some serious leverage. When it’s ripe, it’s pretty tough.

– It’s incredibly Italian. My family doesn’t really like Italian, and they’re not a big fan of the spaghetti squash taste.  The spicy sausage helped cut down the richness, but it wasn’t enough.  The leftovers didn’t get eaten.

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Turkey Breakfast Sausages

I found the recipe here. I used ground turkey instead of chicken.  They are pretty sweet– you can really taste the apple. The turkey is great, but you can’t eat very many sausages at once, even though they are very small.  I think using chicken would keep it from tasting so rich. I froze the leftovers. They heat up great in the microwave- two sausages take about 30 seconds.  They go great with fruit for a satisfying breakfast.

Here are the proportions we used:

1 lb. ground turkey

3 dashes ground cinnamon

3/8 tspn pepper

3/4 tspn salt

2 and 1/4 tspn rubbed sage

2 apples grated peeled tart apple

olive oil (for skillet cooking)

2 TBSP chopped onion

In a nonstick skillet, saute onion in 3/4 teaspoon oil until crisp-tender.  Add apple (grated in food chopper); cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Stir in seasonings. Crumble meat over apple mixture and mix well. Shape into 1/2 inch thick patties.

In a skillet, cook patties in olive oil (2 tspns per batch) over medium heat or until juices run clear.

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Green Fajita Chicken

This is probably my favorite paleo thing I’ve made so far!

Here is where I got the recipe. I’m not going to re-type it, because if you scroll down to the bottom, this blogger gives you a really nice print recipe card.  And (for once) I didn’t change the recipe!

A few things I learned:

  • As you can see in pics below, my chicken stayed green on the outside.  I don’t know why, but I kind of enjoyed the unique color. 🙂
  • The marinade doesn’t take up the space of a whole blender. Using a mini food chopper would be fine, and require less washing.
  • Next time, I will cut the chicken into strips while it’s still frozen.  Much less work!
  • I had no idea what 4/10 burner heat was, so I got the pan hot, then went to medium high heat. That worked well.
  • I want to cook 4 pounds instead of 2 pounds next time.  The meat freezes well, and has a ton of uses! I tore my meat up and put it in a salad with some lemon juice squeezed over it. That was great.  Another family member wrapped a piece in butter lettuce and ate it as a wrap.  I also grabbed a piece and ate it for breakfast, alongside some fruit and nuts.
  • If you try it, please comment below on some more ways that you made this meat into a meal.  I would love to hear what you’ve tried!
Chicken in bag of marinade

Chicken in bag of marinade

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Follow up on the plan: Solving Paleo Puzzles

Previously, I posted my plans (here) to go 60-70% paleo by the end of last week.  Well, I think it’s safe to say that I achieved that. YAY!  Part of the reason I haven’t posted in awhile was that I was too busy cooking. 🙂

The good: I found some things that I really enjoy eating, including kale and bacon, breakfast sausages, green fajita chicken, and more. I also found everything I needed for a week’s worth of paleo cooking in just two grocery stores.

The bad: Not everyone in my family enjoys the same things I do. Likewise, I don’t enjoy some of their favorites.  This is going to be a hard adjustment for all of us. The flavors, textures, and organization of meals is radically different. My family is used to the evening meal including a meat, vegetable, and a starch with something sweet to finish it off (fruit or a dessert). Putting a satisfying meal together is probably the hardest part right now.

The ugly: I and one other family member in particular are teaming up to plan and cook all the meals.  By the end of the week, we were both overwhelmed at the amount of time we had spent in the kitchen.  We started the week by eating maybe 80-90% paleo everyday. By the weekend, we were lucky to eat 50% paleo. We are determined to get organized and come up with a plan to prep most of the food in one day, and then we won’t be so overwhelmed all week long.  It’s a learning process!

This past Saturday, I took a younger family member to the local Museum of Natural Science.  In the section on paleontology (think dinosaur bones), there was a board with pictures of men digging up and examining fossils. The title of the board was “Solving Paleo Puzzles.”  I laughed and took a pic to send to my family.  We all feel like we’re working as hard as those guys out in the field to solve a different kind of paleo puzzle. 🙂  However, I think we are as determined as any scientist!

Apple and Peach Crisp

My family is used to having some kind of dessert or after-dinner snack.  While eventually I want us to think differently about snacking, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally make a paleo baked good or two.

Here is where we got the original recipe for this.

As always, I didn’t have all the ingredients in the pantry.  Thank goodness my grandmother had sent me a jar of peaches she had canned from her garden!  There just weren’t enough apples in our house to make this work otherwise!

Ingredients:

3 small red delicious apples, peeled and diced

1 jar canned peaches

2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup raw honey

1 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 35o degrees and lightly grease a pie pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together the honey and vanilla extract in a bowl with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the flour and use fork to combine.

Cut in the coconut oil and stir with a fork until it forms a crumbled mixture.  Spread the apples in the bottom of the pie pan and top with the crumbled mixture.

Cover with foil then bake for about 35 minutes until the apples are tender.  Remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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It was pretty delicious!  A little more honey, or some Granny Smith apples (instead of Red Delicious) would have been a great finishing touch.