Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Link Love - Gluten Free Appetizer Ideas

This is more for me in the future than anything else but....I thought I'd pass on the link for those of you who are invited to a holiday potluck and need something safe to eat:  Beyond Breadsticks: 15 {simple} Gluten-Free Appetizers

Monday, December 20, 2010

Comic Link - Meat Cookies?

I laughed when I read this comic this morning.  I don't think I know anyone willing to eat these .... but it reminded me about the lengths people will go to have approved "treats", even if it doesn't taste good.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Me and the Paleo Diet - A Year in Retrospect

((Most bloggers will be writing a "year in review" post after Christmas, but I'm not like most bloggers.  ;-)  So, I thought I'd jump the gun a bit and write it today, while I have some time.))

As 2010 barrels to a close (finally!), I can't help but look back upon this past year and marvel at the changes that have happened to my life and body:
  • I've lost about 45 lbs (depends on what day you weigh me on, the phase of the moon, and which way the wind blows).
  • My pant size dropped from around 22 to somewhere between 14 and 16, depending on the brand.  Yes, I lost that much belly fat - did you know I have feet???
  • I discovered the cause of my chronic migraines (wheat) and am now wheat and headache-free.  Woot!
  • I feel better, have more energy, and feel "human" again.  (Ladies and gents, you are NOT SUPPOSED to feel exhausted all the time.)
  • My blood pressure (once barely controlled with medication) is now in the "borderline" range and still falling...and that is with NO medication.
I credit a lot of this to the Paleo / Primal lifestyle.  Though many of these changes began early in the year when I dropped wheat from my diet, things seem to fall into place the moment I switched to a "more fat & protein / less carbs" diet full of real whole foods.

Yes, I know I could have lost more weight this year if I had followed the plan more strictly (100% Paleo) but really....I love food.  I've always been one of those "live to eat" sort of person so when I have serious cravings for hash browns (homemade shredded potatoes fried in enough animal fat and butter to make a cardiologist faint - MMMmmmm....greasy goodness!) or something sweet, I do give in...while staying wheat-free of course.  I enjoy the treat and get on with my life....I try not to dwell on the idea that I "cheated" or that I'm a horrible person because I'm not following the diet 100%.  That's not how I want to live....that's not life - that's being taken hostage by your diet.

I still marvel sometimes that eating fat made me skinny.  My friends ask me what diet I'm following and I tell them, "I eat protein, veggies, and fat with a little fruit thrown in to sweeten the deal."  They marvel that I could eat that way - "What about pasta?  What about sandwiches?  What about CAKE!??!?!"  The idea of going "wheat-free" scares the general public.  They'd rather starve themselves than give up wheat.  They'd rather follow some fad diet that's unhealthy for them than do their own research in the latest nutritional research and decide for themselves.  They'd rather go under the knife than do the work.  *sigh*  No wonder we're so f'ed up!

Anyway....back to me!  For 2011, I plan to continue following the Paleo / Primal ideals.  I'd like to lose another 30 lbs or so to get down to my "ideal weight"....but we'll have to see.  I do have a lot of muscle on me and I don't want to endanger that muscle mass to meet a certain number on the scale.  I'd also like my BP to be in the "normal" range - I'm sure my heart and cardio system would appreciate that.  ;-)  I also want to exercise more - something I've let slip in the last few months - but we'll have to see how that works out schedule-wise.  Balancing work and home and kids means that I don't get a lot of "me time" and when I do have some down time, I'd rather spend it doing something I enjoy than exercising.

As this post comes to an end, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years.  My kids spend the holiday with their father which means a blessed kid-free break for me.  ;-)  It won't be all bonbons and Netflix for me though - I still have to work and let's not mention the long list of things I want to get done before the kids come home...like clean my couch cushions.  We'll have to see how far I get.  As such, don't be surprised if I don't post much over the next two weeks.   You've been warned!  ;-)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stocking up on Protein

I was amazed to open my grocery store ads this week to find a plethora of meat, hams, and turkeys on sale.  Woohoo!  To tell you the truth, my little freezer was starting to get bare again and I was hoping I wouldn't have to resort to my standbys of chicken leg quarters and ground beef.  You can only cook those so many way before you start to get sick of them, if you know what I mean!

It seems like pork roasts are on sale everywhere I go.  Most Hispanics I know are making tamales for Christmas and pork is one of their favorite fillings.  Thankfully, the grocery stores around here have picked up on that fact and are discounting their large pork roasts to as low at 99 cents a pound.  Of course, I took advantage of the sale earlier this week and bought 2 large pork roasts which I then turned into pulled pork.  Yum!

Don't forget about the holiday foods too!  My local Safeway is having a 99 cents / lb sale on bone-in ready-to-eat hams so I bought one.  The moment I got it home, I ripped into the package and started hacking at the beast.  By the end, I had a huge bowl full of ham meat (which I divided into 1/2 lb packages and froze), a ham hock, and a pile of ham fat and skin.  Most people I know would toss the bone and fat but not me.  I wrapped up and frozen the bone for later use (yummy flavoring for soup!) and then rendered the fat and skin to make cooking lard.  I use this fat to cook my eggs in the AM - super yummy!

And don't forget to check out the food section of Target and Walmart!  I was more than surprised when I stumbled across frozen turkeys for 68 cents a pound at my local Target.  Yes - Target.  I bought one (13 lbs) with plans to slow-cooking in the oven tomorrow night.  Come morning, I'll strip the meat off and freeze both meat and carcass (I make a killer turkey broth out of the bone - I just don't have the freezer space right now to accommodate the broth).

Some people are amazed that I'll go to these sorts of ends to feed my family.  But really, when your budget is at tight as mine, you can't waste anything....not even ham fat.  ;-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peanut Butter - Chocolate Cookies

I was in the mood for cookies yesterday afternoon.  This is a rare event for me - usually, I don't want baked goods but yesterday, I would have killed someone for a GF goodie.  I think it's this time of year, with the chaos of the holidays and the constant no-sun, that makes me crave these things.

So, after spending 30 minutes trying to talk myself out of baking, I finally relented and dug into my "Recipes to Try" bookmarks for a cookie recipe I could make with the limited baking items that I have in the house.  That's when I uncovered the yummy "Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies" recipe.  Yes, it's a simple recipe (four whole ingredients) but these were perfect to crush the cookie craving I was battling that afternoon ... and my kids LOVE them. 

I did make one change - I added two tablespoons of Hershey Cocoa Powder to turn them into Peanut Butter - Chocolate Cookies.  They ended out great! 

If you do decide to add chocolate, please learn from my mistake  and lower the temp to 325 degrees and watch the cookies after 8 minutes.  No one likes burnt cookies!  Also, treat these like chocolate chip cookies when baking - you want to pull them out when the outer edge starts browning even though the center may not seem done.  Then set them off to the side and let the cool a little before you pull them off the tray. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Links

I was perusing my bookmarks this morning when I discovered a cache of links I had saved specifically for this blog.  They're a bit outdated but I wanted to make sure they were shared anyway:

Food Waste - It's sickening when I see people throw out perfectly good food.  It's even more sickening to find out that the whole food production process is full of waste.  This quote surprised me:
"Supermarkets generate an enormous amount of food waste— Bloom estimates about 800 pounds of food waste per store per day, equalling about 30 million pounds of food nationally."

I plan to order that book from the library come next year when I'll have a little more time to read.

Food & Mood - Does food affect your mood or does your mood affect what you eat?  You decide.  (Also covered at LifeHacker)

Gary Taubes - I've been a big Gary Taubes fan ever since I caught one of his "Good Calories, Bad Calories" talks via Google Video last year.  So I was quite happy to find out (thanks to three different friends) that he now has a blog.  It's about time!  ;-)

FatHead Movie on Hulu - I've been reading   It may not be "Paleo" but it never hurts to open your eyes to the world around you and see what else people are discovering about food and our bodies.....yes, even experiments with fast food.  ;-)

Sickies ... again

The day after we returned from our long Thanksgiving trip my son woke up with a runny nose and grumpy as hell - a sure sign of a cold.  Grrrreeeeaaaaattttt.

I really shouldn't be that surprised.  We always come home from our So Cal trips with some sort of illness.  Between my two little germ vacuums (aka - kids) and being in a new place with a different schedule, messed-up sleep cycle, and a slightly skewed diet, it's always a recipe for sickie fun.

Surprisingly, my boy seems to be the only one really affected by this ick.  While he's had a runny nose, fever, and grumpy as hell, my daughter had one night of low-grade fever and grumpiness before returning to her cheerful self.  I've had that "fighting off something nasty" feeling on and off for the last few days - you know...the "tired / brainless / what was I don't again" feeling you get the day before some germs nails you to the ground - but nothing really major.  I'm crossing my fingers and praying that my diet is helping my immune system fight off the ick.  I can't afford, financially or psychologically, to be sick right now.

Of course, it doesn't help that it seemed everyone around here is sick too.  My usual Friday night dinner with friends was canceled last week, thanks to one getting over a sinus infection and the other coming down with the flu.  Everyone I see either has a runny nose or hacking up a lung.  Where did all the well people go???

So, until this ickiness leaves my house, I'm popping garlic pills (these helped in the past to keep colds from going into my sinuses and setting up camp for the winter), drinking lots of hot tea, and washing my hands as often as I can.  I know it's probably all for not (he is three after all...and we're still working on the "use kleenex not your hands!" idea) but I can dream, can't I?

Got any good tips for keeping away the ickies?  I'm all ears.  ;-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trip Aftermath and Soup

As you can tell, I've been incommunicado for the last two weeks, mainly because we were traveling.  The kids and I went to Southern California for the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoyed almost a week and a half with my family, who we rarely get to see these days.  We had fun but man, I'm glad to be home...and I'm sure my family is happy that we're gone too.  ;-) 

The road trip south went well.  We left a little after noon on Sunday and arrived at my mother's house around 9.  We ended up taking a round-about way down the 101 to miss some nasty weather on the I-5.  A massive winter storm sat on top of the mountain pass between the Central Valley and LA for two days, dumping snow and making travel miserable.  Even though I have all-wheel drive, I wasn't interested in dealing with snow, ice, and idiot CA drivers in the dark.  Ugh.

Pumpkin Oat Muffins - a New Family Fav!
Thanksgiving dinner went well.  My sister told me later that the highlights of the dinner were "Pumpkin Oat Muffins" (her exact words were "addictive!") and the mashed sweet potatoes I made, which made me very happy.  It's always nice to feel appreciated and know that people like my food.  ;-) 

I ended up cooking a lot while down there.  Nothing new, really - I love to cook and my sister keeps their house pretty well stocked with a variety of proteins, so I had fun experimenting.  Though I will tell you that there were times I missed my chef's knife and cast iron pans.  I've been using cast iron frying pans for the last two years so I had quite a re-learning curve while cooking with their Teflon pans.  I "browned" a lot of eggs while making breakfast in the AM.  *sigh*

We returned home yesterday.  Though we took a more direct route home, it still took us a long time, thanks to my 5 year old who seemed to require a bathroom break every hour.  Let's just say that Mama was VERY happy to finally pull the old Subaru into the carport.

For one of our "potty breaks", I stopped at a touristy farmer's market located on the Bakersfield side of the Tehachapi pass.  Considering it's December and the location, I was expecting high prices (I wasn't disappointed - almost $3/lb for apples!) but was surprised to find butternut squash for 45 cents a pound and discounted pumpkins.  I bought some of the butternut - I just couldn't pass up the price - but had to leave the pumpkins behind.  My car was packed full and I had no room for it.  I'm still pouting about that!

So, today, I'm making "Harvest Soup" for dinner.  I roasted the butternut squash and all of the old carrots I had left in my crisper.  While they cooked, I sauteed onions and garlic in my stew pot, added about 6 cups of homemade chicken broth and left it to simmer.  When the squash was soft, I scooped out the flesh and tossed everything into the pot.  Then I used my immersion blender to blend it into a smooth soup.  I seasoned it to taste with cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and a touch of brown sugar (to bring out the sweetness of the squash and carrots) and left it to brew on top of my stovetop on low until we're ready to eat.  It's super yummy and just what I need on a cold winter day after that long trip.