Such tasty. Much recipe. Wow.

What is this? A blog post for ANTS?!

Recently I have been cooking a ton of paleo food.

Here is a (sadly picture-less) recap of recent tasty inventions:

  • Chicken breast stuffed with gingered mashed sweet potatoes and candied pecans: I can’t take credit for inventing this, but I did participate in its creation. To avoid tons of sugar quickly candy your own pecans by cookin’ ‘em in a pan with coconut oil, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and various spices (I used pumpkin pie spices and cayenne); also use fresh grated ginger for your sweet potato mash for maximum flavor. The chicken you can then butterfly and pound flat before rolling burrito-style with goodies inside. Bake your treats at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes… unless of course you are super genius and wrap your creations in prosciutto first. Then proceed. And mail me some, please.🙂
  • Ensalada Picante: A happy accident of leftovers consisting of lettuce, sliced jalapeno, fresh salsa, homemade guacamole, and meat (I used sliced marinated pork the first time and a crumbled chili lime chicken burger the second time) with a colorful garnish of fresh cilantro and crumbled plantain chips. In lieu of guac you can use avocado, and if you like dairy try making a lime sour cream drizzle!
  • Breakfast Trifecta:  In a frying pan sauté 2 slices of uncured bacon, one a half Portobello mushroom caps, and about half of a sweet yellow onion. Then feast. And treasure the leftover grease. I also highly recommend breaking your fast with asparagus sautéed with garlic and a little bit of bacon, or just pan-blackened asparagus with garlic and sea salt. Surprisingly perfect breakfast treat.
  • Paleo granola + warmed almond butter + frozen berries:  Because paleo granola is expensive to make I have been experimenting with increasing the amount of nut meal, almond butter, and seeds to flesh it out. I have also taken to immediately portioning it out into sandwich bags and freezing leftover batter so I can make a fresh batch once my main pan is gone. Adding warmed nut butter (with or without some warmed almond or coconut milk) and semi-thawed berries makes a really good breakfast!
  • Garlicky cauliflower “rice”: Cauliflower rice (or cauli-rice, as I like to call it) is cute, tasty, and a good arm workout to grate. I did not invent this genius creation, but I did discover that it’s very tasty with a lot of minced garlic (I used maybe a teaspoon of the jarred kind?), butter, some sea salt, and cracked black pepper. You could probably turn it into a risotto with lots of tasty mushroom, a bit of parmesan, green onion, etc… hmmmm, let me know.
  • Stuffed dates: Stuff your date with a candied nut and slather a dash of almond butter on top. Or, if you do dairy, stuff it with cream cheese! I cheated and put a bit on dates while my colleagues were eating bagels and I think I enjoyed my food more than they did. J The only thing that could enhance this would be if it was a date wrapped in bacon and crispy prosciutto and then stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese (a better option for dairy-sensitive people.)

I’ll link and review some of the recipes I’ve tried in the next post!

5 Tips for Surviving the Transition to a Gluten Free Life

1. Try a gradual purge.  Some time ago I consulted my good friend and weight loss guru Josh Hillis for advice on how to improve my diet.  He suggested that rather than trying to overhaul my entire diet at once, I work to tidy up one meal (breakfast) for four days or a week before working on lunch. After that I could focus on improving my dinners, my snacks, my post-workouts, etc… The idea was to improve my eating habits in a manageable and sustainable way. I urge anyone who isn’t celiac (if you’re celiac, don’t play! Gluten is like crystal meth for your gut!) to try the same technique with gluten.  In my experience it is especially helpful to figure out a variety of gluten-free breakfasts before attempting anything else, as it will set the tone for your day and help you feel empowered instead of overwhelmed.

2. Gluten withdrawal.  So hot right now.  Recently there has been a lot of research into the addictive properties of food. And not surprisingly, it’s starting to show that gluten and many of the sugary foods that contain it are obnoxiously addicting.  Depriving your body of its gluten “fix” may leave you cranky, fatigued, and anxious, and if you sharply cut carbs (‘sup, paleo pals?) you may also experience the dreaded “low carb flu.”  These unique discomforts are yet another reason why the gradual weaning approach is nice, or if you are celiac, why you might find it easiest to initially rely on gluten-free substitutes (g-f breads and cookies!) before transitioning to a cleaner and less expensive way of eating.  Regardless of how quickly you transition, definitely be sure to hydrate like crazy, eat a bit of salt, nourish yourself with vitamin- and mineral-rich foods, take probiotics, and pamper yourself with some appropriate treats. (Also, if you’re an athlete read up on ‘safe starches’ and experiment with the right amount of carbs for you.)

You’re not. It just feels that way.😉

3. Feed the flora. Please acquire probiotics ASAP. You cannot radically alter the composition of your diet without affecting your intestinal flora, so pick up a bulk bottle of probiotics and show your gut some love. Also, probiotic foods are legit – think fermented things like kombucha, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, and plain Greek yogurt. Just don’t be that well-meaning buffoon who fills their cart with ridiculously processed, sugar-filled Activia.🙂

4. Deal with the feelings. Although I’m a rather low-key person who has always prioritized health, I was shocked how many powerful emotions hit me when I first went gluten free. For days, weeks, and even months later I’d experience sudden moments of grief and frustration, such as when I encountered a nostalgic tasty (funnel cake at the fair! Okonomiyaki at Zencha!) or ran up against an uncooperative barista (“Eh, I’d just assume everything has gluten.”) To be honest, I still have damnit moments of self-pity and irritation today, and that’s fine with me. Don’t give yourself a hard time for being human and culturally conditioned to assign enormous value to various foods. If you need to mope or cry or complain, do it, especially in the beginning of your journey, but please don’t let yourself start to think like a victim. Promise me you won’t internally reframe yourself as a sickly, deprived, high maintenance, alienating, or otherwise negatively special snowflake – because you aren’t. You’ve got an autoimmune condition that means you can’t eat certain kinds of foods, and it sucks, but it really doesn’t affect your awesomeness to any degree. Relax. Have hope. I will help you deal with the hard emotional stuff in an upcoming post.🙂

Stay strong.

5. Finally: be patient.  As you probably gathered from the tips above, gluten is a tricksy substance that will not go down without a fight. It will continue to affect your system for quite a while after you’ve stopped actively ingesting it. Some people will notice an immediate improvement in their health after cutting gluten for a day, but most will not see improvements for at least a week. Celiacs and those with strong sensitivities/intolerances may need three months to a year to get back to maximum health. This sounds discouraging, but actually it’s kind of awesome: every day for a year you get to wake up excited to see what unexpected health improvement you feel. As your gut heals and the chronic inflammation in your system continues to fade, you may discover that your lactose intolerance has faded, that your joints no longer ache, that your skin is surprisingly clear, etc.   Expect to start feeling a bit better quickly but not a ton better until months later – at which point you will be so deliriously happy that the “struggle” of going gluten-free will have transformed into a pleasure instead. Isn’t it cool how a simple thing like a dietary tweak can dramatically improve your health?! Yeah, I thought so.

Celiac, food sensitivities, etc.: because regular life was too easy for you.

Picture Post! Pearl Izumis and Other Joys

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About a month ago I purchased a new pair of technical running kicks. Here they are, gorgeous even with a coat of dust from the trail. Normally an Asics fan-girl, I was sorely tempted by these neon beauties, a ridiculously comfortable, highly visible, all-around excellent choice. But then the clerk brought out these Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3s

Awwyiss. Damn right I like super lightweight breathable shoes! They’re also surprisingly reflective, super comfortable, and sexy as hell.  ;)

The reason I didn’t post earlier was that I was concerned about proper arch support. I pronate to the point where I have been experiencing joint pain, and so I typically seek out a shoe with an obvious marker for fortified arches. The Pearl Izumis stylishly conceal this — the foam there is harder, but not a contrasting color — and so I had difficulty believing that they were in fact supporting my joints. My knee pain instantly disappeared when I ran in them (a great sign!) but after two weeks pain started in my left hip, probably just from overtraining after sitting all day at a desk. I figured I needed to scale back training and start a hip stretching/strengthening protocol, but just in case I went and got my shoes and gait checked at another professional running store. The findings? I definitely pronate, but my Pearls are lovely for me.

Is it lame that I was super relieved I could keep them?😀

The one downer is that the extra arch support orthotic I purchased does not fit. The Izumis have a very low profile at the ankle, so with the added height of the insert I felt like my feet were sliding out, or at least I felt that way when I wore regular low socks. I’m going to try them in tall socks next, and if not, go try out a different insert (maybe even a drug store one.) Perhaps I’m being high maintenance, as it’s not like my shoes need the addition.. it just makes me feel a great deal better knowing I’ve done everything that I can. My history of pain and misalignment is sordid. I’m somewhat paranoid about not letting muscular imbalances and posture stuff hurt me again. :O

Anyway, I’ll report back if I make any discoveries about extra arch support that rock with low profile shoes. In the meantime, I highly recommend these gorgeous, gorgeous Pearls…

Mmm mmm. Too good.

Now, a few more pics:

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This fall I decided to exchange ‘fall happiness packages’ with a couple of friends. I sent them pretty mugs, pumpkin chai, and assorted tasty treats, and they sent me delights in return.  It was really cheerful! I loved shopping for them and also looking forward to my mail. (Note: I’d like a take a moment to say that I actually usually look forward to my mail, as my friends are awesome about sending post cards and random surprises and I enjoy doing this, too. If you don’t penpal now, start!  Having a fridge plastered with letters from faraway friends is the best.)

Anyway, W’s package was super thoughtful  and contained alderwood smoked sea salt from the Pacific plus prints of some of her photos from adventures we shared.  One was fall-themed (an autumn vista from our climbing trip to West Virginia last year) and the other was just happy (a shot of artfully arranged driftwood from our recent roadtrip in Washington.) They’re now on the wall beside my bed.  Please check out W’s awesome photography…

Moving onto M, her package was an amazing work of art, replete with cuteness like fluffy pink socks, a clever fox spoon rest, and super nostalgic Lipsmackers lip balm.  She also hand-illustrated the tea recipes she included with the ‘make your own tea’ kit above… look at them, guys! I can’t get over the cuteness.

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But really, this was my favorite part. :3

In closing, here are a few more random photos from my Instagram feed as a sort of catch-up:

Paleo Granola

Recently I’ve started eating paleo again. I researched and tested it out about a year ago and loved how it made me feel, but paleo’s hard when you’re single and don’t have anyone else to share the costs and labor with.  It’s also difficult when dating, as you don’t want to seem ridiculously high maintenance when it comes to grabbing dinner or a  drink.

Nonetheless, a worrying down-tick in health recently inspired me to try it again. And, one week into it I realized that paleo is actually quite good when you’re single! For starters, it makes you feel totally awesome: you wake up flat-stomached, your skin clears up, and you no longer feel congested and fatigued. In fact, you actually start to feel a little bit foxy in your yoga pants, as opposed to just “ugh I do not even care.” This in turn boosts your shaken confidence and gives you a noticeable glow, which is good for attracting a mate who is worthy of you.😉

Of course, the less glamorous reason is that you do have time to cook, because honestly you aren’t going on a ton of dates or spending your weekends snuggled up on the couch.

Whatever. It’s hard to feel bad about your life when you’re chomping on THIS:

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Scrumptious Crumbly Paleo Granola 😀

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups raw nuts and seeds (I used almonds, walnuts, and pecans here but love pumpkin seeds in this too!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup coconut or almond flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (try doing less, then adding in to taste; honey can be subbed instead)
  • 3 tablespoons raw almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (this and ginger are strong spices — if you’re not used to them start with less and add to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • Generous sprinkling sea salt
  • Handful of dried cranberries (you can add whatever you like before or after cooking, just reduce syrup or honey if you’re using particularly sweet fruit)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Be fancy and mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in the other before combining, or be a savage and just dump it all in a giant bowl and attack it with forks to mix it like I did. Spread granola batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil (I used foil), then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes. 10 minutes in stir it around, then keep a suspicious eye on it because it’s easy to overcook.

Eat in a bowl of warmed coconut or almond milk, or atop Greek yogurt or kefir if you’re a dairy fan.  This also tastes really good plain.🙂

You like? Then check this awesomeness out:

1) PaleoOMG’s Pumpkin Granola, which I made last week as my first foray into paleo cereal. It is sooooo freaking good and her blog rocks!🙂 My only caveat is that if I made this again I would halve the amount of dates, as I had to add another cup of nuts and seeds and increase the spices to tone down the sweetness of the batter the first time around.

2) Just Eat Real Food’s “Sweet and Simple Guide to Paleo Granola”, which inspired me to make the recipe above! This site actually has a number of granola recipes that look great.