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Thursday, November 10, 2011

BPA-free(ish)? A look at lunch boxes.

I recently read an article that indicated BPA-free isn't all it's cracked up to be. Turns out, BPA-free plastics do still leach system altering chemicals into the food they touch. I did further research and while I readily admit the science is above me, the message is clear: there really isn't a safe plastic. (This article is a good starting place if you want to find out more.) I began to feel foolish for paying so much attention to the food we eat and consume, but neglecting to focus on how it is served and stored.

I shared what I had dug up with Jon and he didn't hesitate to agree that we need to ditch the plastic. The frustrating part is that I already did this a few years ago when the whole BPA thing was front page news. I tossed all of our expensive, but seemingly BPA containing water bottles, oodles of tupperware, etc in favor of BPA-free. But now that I'm learning that BPA-free does not equal safe, I'm doing it again. From how I store my frozen food (no more contact with ziplocs) to how we brew our coffee (no more plastic coffee maker), slowly but surely we trying to reduce the plastic exposure we can control.

I'm super excited about what came in the mail recently: new lunch boxes for the kids! They are from Planetbox - 100% stainless steel and totally legit. I actually looked at these over the summer, but did not get them because of the price. They're not cheap. Instead I opted for plastic bento boxes for my oldest two to take their lunch to school (no gluten-free school lunch options so we pack everyday.) I'm slightly miffed I didn't just buy these in the first place, but live and learn. I'll give you the ins and outs of Planetbox in case you're thinking of going plastic-free with your lunch ware.  As a lady who has made a lot of school lunches over the years, I'm going to have to say I feel qualified in saying these are the best. Here's why:

  • 18/8 high quality stainless steel. Besides glass, which *probably* isn't the smartest idea for a school lunch, not much else is safer and kid-friendly than these boxes. They're built tough.
  • Perfect portions. The tray is cut out so well for portions - the possibilities are endless. They hold a lot of food. Plus, I actually look forward to coming up with ideas on how to fill them every morning. It just doesn't seem like such a chore. Even the kids are getting in on it by coming up with ideas and filling them up. A lunchbox that promotes self-sufficiency? Brilliant.
  • Cool compartments. I know there are some people who enjoy making artwork out of kids' lunches. I'm not one of them. I'm more interested in the content of the lunch than if it looks like creepy pandas. These boxes are definitely utilitarian and I love it. The Planetbox design keeps all food separate - which many kids prefer. The lid is also raised - not flat like most bentos - so you can pile the goodies high and it will close.
  • Built in latch. Many bentos have velcro straps or you have to use rubber bands to keep them closed. Not so with this sucker which has a fun, kid-friendly latch. I feel totally safe with my 2nd grader tossing this thing all over the place during the day and it not popping open. Love it. (And in case you were wondering, rubber bands are frowned upon in the lunchroom. Certain attendants are not too happy with a certain mom who put rubber bands on her kids' bentos and now they treat said kids with unwarranted rubber band suspicion. Fact.)
  • Two "Dippers" - These little bowls fit perfectly in the box OR in the pocket on the outside of the bag. They have a removable silicone seal giving it a tight fit. They are perfect for "wet" foods like yogurt, dips, nut butters, fruits, applesauce, etc. Or you can use them for dry foods, too. They're easy for little hands to open - no screwing. They're not meant for liquids, but we have yet to have anything we've tried leak.
  • Easy eating. My son has like 20 minutes to eat. Subtract talking time and it is like 4.5 minutes. He likes that he can pop open the tray and everything is ready to go - no need to have to open multiple containers, etc. When he's done, he closes it and he's off. Nothing to clean up or throw out.
  • Dishwasher safe. Please. Like that was even negotiable for me. Even the bag can be submerged in water to clean. These clean up beautifully.
  • Environmentally friendly. First of all, no more ziplocs to throw away. Also, these trays come with their own insulated carry bags made from recycled materials and are certified lead, PVC, and phthalate free. Heck - Planetbox prefers to ship USPS because it is the least harmful to the environment shipping option. Every design and production choice seems well thought out. The whole thing screams Mother Earth approved.
  • Customizable. The kids dig the magnets that come with their boxes. You can order a whole bunch of different ones - sports, rockets, princess-y, rock star, etc. 
  • Thin. They can slide into a backpack without bulking it up.
  • Fits Water Bottles. Just as long as they are about 3 inches in diameter.   
  • Easy to make ahead. Because the food stays separate, these boxes are easy to pack ahead of time and stick in the fridge while keeping the food fresh. Putting in the fridge also tends to keep the food colder because metal holds the cold better than plastic does.
  • Awesome warranty. The bag warranty is only a year. I get that as no lunch bag is kid-proof. But the box itself has a warranty of FIVE years. That's fantastic. It makes the initial hit to the wallet a lot less painful knowing buying a Planetbox is WAY cheaper than buying a new lunch box every year plus all of the baggies, pre-packaged food, etc. No doubt this will save us money.




  • Planetbox with 2 "Dippers"
    Planetbox with "Dippers" inside.
    Lunch for my 11 year-old: Turkey breast, salad fixings, cheese, dressing (in the small dipper), and a few chocolate chips for a treat. :) Everything stayed separate and fresh until she was ready to eat.
What don't I like? I was a bit surprised by the weight. But oddly enough, metal weighs more than plastic. Go figure. Seriously, though. They're not that heavy...just not feather light like a plastic rubbermaid. Also, my kids' bags are slightly different in material and handle. It doesn't bother me, but I thought it odd since they came from the same place at the same time. We ordered navy and teal so perhaps color has to do with it. Both bags have a pocket for water bottle and velcro pocket on the outside. On the inside is a mesh pocket - perfect for slipping in an ice pack.

So how much? The box itself is $34.95. You can buy the dippers, the bag, extra magnets, etc. individually or buy the whole system as a bundle. The bundle saved a bundle so that's what I did. It ended up being $59.95 for the box, the bag, a set of magnets, and two dippers (big and small). Yeah. I know. It sounded like a lot to me, too. And that's why I passed on buying them this summer and opted for the chemical-leaching, non-closing, food-mushing bento. But I should have just done this in the first place. They're cheaper in the long run and, more importantly, much safer. (*Note: if you decide to use your own bag, just make sure you match up its measurements to the Planetbox. I would recommend just getting their bag. They are really a great value and are a perfect match for the box. I'm quite pleased.)

Where to buy? You have two choices: Planetbox.com or Pottery Barn Kids.com. They're the same price. PBK has no shipping on these, but you'll pay tax if you have a store in your state. Also, the color and magnet selection is limited to two choices: navy with rockets or pink with unicorns. I ordered from Planetbox and while I paid shipping, it was just about the same as tax would have been and I had more customizing options. They came in just three days. Nice!
Jungle magnets on Planetbox with navy bag

Jungle magnets on Planetbox - latch opened.

Paisley magnets Planetbox - latch closed.

Teal Planetbox bag. Holds standard water bottles (plastic or stainless steel like Klean Kanteen). Velcro pocket holds napkins, utensils or even a "Dipper" with a snack.

Check out Planetbox for more pictures and lunch ideas. They have lots on their Facebook page as well.

That's it for today. I will post shortly on our new non-plastic coffee brewing station that is on its way from Amazon. Until then, eat clean and be well!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Triglycerides and Muffins


Hey all! I posted a little while back about Jon's blood lipid results and how much they've improved from August 2010 to August 2011. Well I'm back with more news. He recently had a biophysical profile done for our health insurance (We save $$ the healthier we are. Great concept!) We just got those results back and I wanted to share. Here are the results of his blood panels drawn on 8/10, 8/11, and 10/11 respectively:

Cholesterol: 188, 183, 176
Triglycerides: 203, 145, 73!!! (blood fat that my indicate risk for heart disease. 0-149 is normal)
HDL: 45, 45, 50 - (this is the "good" cholesterol you want to go up)
LDL: 121, 109, 108 (the lower the better)
Cholesterol/HDL Ratio: 4.2, 4.1, 3.5 (the lower it is, the lower the risk for heart disease)

In addition, his weight and BMI have plummeted.  The only lifestyle change in this time period is that four months ago, we stopped eating grains, legumes, soy and vegetable oils.  It really makes you pause and think. We're bombarded by media and commericials shouting: "Whole Grains Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease" and "Whole Grains Lower Cholesterol! Eat your Cheerios!" and "Whole Grain Pasta is Best!" as well as "Eat Less Meat!"  Well we ate a heck of a lot of whole grains before this diet. I mean a TON of whole grains - probably 60-75% of our diets were so-called "healthy" grains. We also didn't eat too much meat. But we remove grains and replace them with truck loads of lots of produce, more meats (even non-lean meats), nuts, and oils and in turn see cold, hard numbers that more than suggest that the "healthy" whole grains weren't making us healthy.

I know, I know. This goes against everything we've ever been told. But I ask, who told us? The cereal box in aisle 6? The TV commerical with the paid actors who look oh so happy? The USDA - which continually allows "acceptable levels" of poisons into our food supply? It's a really important question to ask.

The tons of research I've done - and reported on this blog - was enough for me to switch my family's food choices completely. But these continued good blood test and BP results give me the extra umph to keep on going - not only for him, but for all of us. Even if you don't have elevated lipids, BP, etc., how can you argue that eating whole foods is not the absolute best way to ensure great health? As I've written, primal/paleo eating has proven to reduce the odds of coming down with multiple modern-day diseases from diabetes to cancer and everything in between. Now we're seeing undeniable medical evidence in our own home that it does in fact improve health. It makes me excited for all of the healthy changes we can't test for, but are occurring within each one of our cells every single day. 

I'll finish today's post with a fun fall recipe: Primal Pumpkin Muffins. They're quick, easy, and make the house smell great. The recipe below makes enough for us for three breakfasts. I freeze them and heat them up when needed. I serve them warm with butter along side a coconut milk smoothie for breakfast for the gang at least once a week. They're full, happy, and off to a great start for the day!

Have fun and eat clean!

PRIMAL PUMPKIN MUFFINS - Makes approx. 18 muffins

3 cups almond flour/meal (either flour or meal work)
1.5 tsp gluten free baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 15 oz. can of canned pumpkin
4 tsp almond butter 
6 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
Preheat to 350.
Mix all dry ingredients.
Mix all wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
Pour into greased muffin tins.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Top with a pat of butter and enjoy! Viola!

Primal Pumpkin Muffins - perfect for a fall morning (Or afternoon. Or evening.)







Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Busy, busy, but still eating clean!

I've been away from blogger life for a while. School starting meant life got quite hectic around here with lots of added to-dos and busy schedules for the 6 of us. We've also had visitors as well as family obligations. But enough with the excuses. Here is where we're at:

We are a few days shy of celebrating 3-months living Paleo/Primal. Yep! We have not quit! We're in it for life. Here are some quick updates:
  • Jon continues to lose weight. As of this morning, he has lost 25 POUNDS! 25! This is without dieting or regular exercise. This is due solely to dropping grains. He is beyond thrilled with his success and his new found energy and feeling of health. It makes me so happy to see him so happy.
  • I'm down 12 pounds. I think I'll settle somewhere around here. I'm not looking to lose more. I'm below college weight at this point. If anything, I hope to gain a little with some muscle mass as I begin exercising more regularly. But I have high energy and a general feeling of positivity. It's something I haven't felt this continuously in a long time.
  • Kids are thriving and healthy. Still no issues with upset stomachs. Our oldest has found it easier to focus in school. The youngest two are gaining weight rapidly. They used to rule the 1st and 5th percentiles on the CDC growth charts. I can tell they are jumping off that curve just by how quickly they are outgrowing their clothes. I will find out for sure at our 2 year-old check up in a few weeks. But I attribute their obvious gain to cutting out grains. As I've written, grains bind nutrients so that they are not able to be absorbed to their full potential. So it doesn't matter how healthy you eat - the grains rob you of the nutrients. Remove the grains and suddenly the body can absorb all the good stuff you've subbed in place. 
  • Overall, eating Paleo/Primal is now second nature. It is not the tremendous task it once was when we started. I don't even think about cooking with or including grains when I plan our weekly menu. Skipping the middle of the grocery store (minus the oils and olives) has become a welcomed routine. I've got a stash of fantastic recipes we rotate - rarely do we eat the same meal more than 2x a month. Even breakfasts - the trickiest meals in my opinion - are ever changing and yummy. 
  • Breakfast has taken on a whole new role in our family. We now sit down as a family and eat a hot breakfast every morning. Even with 4 kids to get ready and a husband rushing to work. It's not a long, lingering breakfast, but we manage to do it. What a nice way to start the day.
  • School lunches for the older two have been tricky. At first I was worried if I was packing enough for them. Then I was worried about if it was too much (I hate wasting food and a lot was coming home uneaten). Then I was worried about coming up with fun grain-free snacks (they both bring snacks). Then I was worried about variety and boredom. It's been trial and error, but we're figuring it out. I bought them bento boxes, rubber maids with screw on lids (for "wet" foods - the screw top is easy for them to open and guaranteed to not leak), and steel hot lunch containers for when they want to take hot leftovers. There are no school made lunches or snacks that are gluten free, let alone grain-free (USDA regulated - have to be heavy on the grains). My oldest has said there is a salad bar she could go to at her middle school, but she will have to be wary of hidden grains.
  • Speaking of hidden grains, I continue to discover hidden places grains and gluten hide and it's been eye-opening. I've talked about beer containing gluten, but so do a host of other everyday products. One of the places I was surprised to see it was soy sauce. Who knew? Most soy sauce is actually made from WHEAT. True story. Check your label. Tamari is a soy sauce actually made from SOY and is gluten free. It costs the same and can be found right next to the soy sauce - even in my rinky dink mainstream-as-can-be grocery store. Now of course, soy is not Paleo or Primal. There is a product called Coconut Aminos that is a soy sauce substitute. It is a little pricier, but I'm looking forward to trying it! Another place - fries. We love sweet potato fries, but when I'm short on time, I like to use pre-packaged ones. However, most are fried in vegetable oils AND coated in wheat. Just keep reading those packages!
  • I've been incorporating new spices into our meals. Loving turmeric right now.  And it's such a powerhouse of a spice health wise. Another fun find: smoked paprika. It really enhances dishes like you wouldn't expect. I found it in the ole' local grocery store. Fantastic way to tweak boring recipes.
  • Supplements: I'm not a vitamin girl. I feel like human beings eating clean can survive just fine without massive doses of chemically created supplements. But, I've started the entire clan on Vitamin D3. Jon and I are on 2000mg and the kids are on 800mg. It's so important to me. Here's the first article I read on the subject that prompted me to start researching studies. I feel really confident in this supplement. I've also started us all on fish oil. Other than that, we're not taking any other supplements.
  • I took a Thai cooking class in the hope of learning some fun grain-free Asian inspired recipes.  I definitely learned a lot and will post them later, but some had to be tweaked to cut out the grains. Most commercially available asian products (hoisin sauce, chili sauce, etc.) do contain wheat. Be careful. A trip to an Asian market may help you find non-wheat products. Or you can make your own. It's like paint. You can buy a pre-made color or you can mix your own with the basics and get the exact shade you are after.
  • My dad and his girlfriend came out to visit for a few days. I planned all Paleo meals. They were completely taken back by how delicious and filling Paleo cooking is and how great they felt after they ate - stuffed and happy, but not that glazed-over-I-need-a-nap type feeling. They were so impressed, they have both jumped 100% on the Paleo bandwagon and bought 3 books (Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint series) and all the pantry staples they needed the day they flew home. I actually flew out a few days later for a funeral and stayed with my Dad one night. He and his girlfriend cooked AMAZING Paleo foods: proscutto wrapped asparagus, goat cheese stuffed dates, homemade guacamole, spaghetti squash with bison ragu, macaroons, and in the morning, the best veggie omelets I've ever had. Ever. I'm so excited for them and can't wait to hear how they feel in the coming weeks.
  • Just ordered a new cookbook: Paleo Comfort Foods. Will review once it arrives!
  • Check your tea kettle. I needed to replace our kettle because, despite my constant cleaning, it was getting really mucky inside. It was supposed to be a decent one. As I started shopping and read reviews, I discovered there are a lot of folks unhappy with even super pricey kettles. The reasons are that metal and ceramic pots are really hard to keep clean, paint and chemicals were leaching, and almost all are made in China. I've opted for a glass kettle this time. It cost me $10.60 on Amazon. It's not as attractive as some kettles out there are, but health wise, there is no safer way to boil water and get a clean tasting cup of tea.
  • Finally, we recently dabbled into the realm of "gluten-free" as opposed to strictly grain-free. We found a restaurant with a substantial gluten-free menu. Plus, I wanted to experiment on how we felt after these foods. Will post on this experience shortly.
One thing I wanted to talk about on here is the verbiage I've been using: Paleo vs. Primal. There is a lot of confusion over the "correct" definition of Paleo. Every website or book you read will have their own little twist on it. Then there is the term Primal - which is along the same lines as Paleo, but not exactly the same. So what is what?

From now on, I will refer to our eating style as P/P - Paleo/Primal. We started out strict Paleo, but have slowly gravitated towards Primal. My reason for this is that we do eat some forms of dairy (yogurts, cream, and aged cheese) which is not Paleo but I feel enhances the foods we eat and our overall health. We do not suffer any side effects from this moderate amount of dairy and it works for us.  We will eat beans on occasion - mostly just in the form of hummus now and again, the girls' legitimate obsession with freeze-dried peas (technically a bean), or peanut dipping sauce (not a nut - a legume). Beans are not Paleo, but are allowed on occasion with Primal (link as to why here). We also will eat potatoes once in a while. These are also not strict Paleo (although sweet potatoes are Paleo). We drink coffee regularly. This is only a "treat" when it comes to Paleo. Finally, we will splurge on white rice every once in a while - either actual rice or a product made from it (like rice noodles for Pad Thai). Primal says this is okay for a treat. Paleo says never.

So technically, we fit the Primal definition a bit better than the strict Paleo. Though most of the recipes I make everyday are Paleo. What we absolutely do our best to avoid:
  • wheat and its cousins: grains and grain flours
  • processed, pre-packaged foods (we aim for only 1 ingredient in the food we buy. Some foods, such as hummus or chicken sausage,  have up to 5 or 6 , but I can pronounce them all and tell you what they are)
  • preservatives and nitrates/trites
  • industrialized seed oils (canola, etc.)
  • soy (minus the tamari bit)
These foods are on the no-no list for both Paleo and Primal.
So there ya have it. A quick update and a bit of an evolution in where we're at Paleo/Primal wise. Hope to post some more tidbits I've picked up the last month I've been away shortly. Until then, eat healthy and smile! :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

How Bout Them Apples?

source: jp4unews.com
I had to share with you some really exciting news. (No mom...definitely not pregnant.) It's related to how we've been eating and actual NUMBERS....not just a post on how great we've been feeling.  On day 53 of eating Paleo, Jon had some routine blood work done. Both of us were really anxious to see his results - especially since we've made such drastic changes to our diet - and compare them to his previous blood work when we were eating a standard "healthy" American diet chock full of whole grains.

We've all been told again and again by food marketers that grains - specifically whole grains - help lower cholesterol and are essential for heart health. That sentimental Cheerios commercial where the child serves his Dad bowls of cereal in bed to help keep his heart healthy comes to mind. How many of us have moms who reminded us to "eat our oatmeal!" as kids? And don't we all feel a little less guilty when ordering our sandwich on whole wheat bread because it's "better"? Millions of dollars have been spent on grain packaging screaming to us from supermarket shelves, "Buy me if you want to be healthy!!" Meanwhile, meat consumption has been thoroughly demonized as contributing to the astronomical increase in heart disease and high cholesterol plaguing Americans. But everything we've read on Paleo and Primal eating begs to differ. Now we have our own proof.

Not only is Jon's blood work better now in 2011 than it was exactly one year ago in August of 2010, it's significantly healthier than it was in 2001. So much of his "bad stuff" went down. Back in 2001, Jon was in really great shape. He just finished college where he was a nationally ranked athlete in his prime. He was really focused on his diet and exercise as they essential to his performance. His triglycerides  - blood fat that may indicate a risk of heart disease - were 261! Normal is 0-150. Last year they were 203. This year? 145.  His cholesterol in 2001 was 198. Fast forward a decade++, 4 kids, 4 houses, a few stressful jobs: 183. Just from last year alone, his LDL went down 15 points. I'm pretty sure a major job change and huge cross country move didn't help. How can we not attribute this our new way of eating? (Oh, and he's down 19 lbs. in 53 days as well!)

We eat meat 2-3 times a day. Some of it is lean and some definitely not (bacon, sausage, pork, etc.) We eat lots of healthy fats: real butter, buckets of olive and coconut oil, and nuts galore. Oh, and we have eggs at least 5 times a week. This alone would make most people cringe and say have fun with that heart disease and obesity. But we also eat veggies and fruits by the truckload while simultaneously avoiding grains, industrialized seed oils, artificial preservatives, and excess sugar. Clearly, there is something in this mix that works. His exercise level has more or less been the same as it was last year and certainly less than it was in 2001. The only huge difference in lifestyle between now and then: the absence of grains.

So we admit this isn't a pure scientific study and of course there are variables. But the results are kinda hard to negate. Where the majority of people's blood work gets worse with age, Jon's didn't.  Between 2001 and 2010 it got worse. Between 2010 and 2011 it got better. We'll have to watch and see what happens over time, but for now these results are mighty interesting! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Heaven in a muffin...

Hey all! I've been away from blogger life recently. We've had a lot of visitors and lots of back to school stuff going on. I will do a Paleo update soon (we're still going strong!!!) I also have a lot of fun Paleo recipes to post that were big hits (stuffed eggplant - delish), but this one couldn't wait.  It is THAT. GOOD.

I made 100% grain-free blueberry muffins this morning. Actually, they're for tomorrow's breakfast to go along with protein smoothies. But I wanted to try today in case they failed. They did not. I'm just tickled at how nicely they came out. They have some honey/agave in them so probably not an everyday thing (unlike my apple muffins which are 100% wholesome - eat as many as you want). But these puppies are pretty darn close to bakery muffins. Plus they are loaded with precious medium-chain fatty acids, lauric acid (as in the immune system boosting stuff in breast milk), and obesity fighting compounds. They also will increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and amino-acids you're eating that meal. AND they have 2x the fiber of wheat bran!!!!! Not to mention, they are totally grain-free.....not just gluten-free. I've got a post in the works about how something labeled "gluten-free" isn't always best because often times it is taking out one demon, but subbing in a bunch of others in its place. More on this later...

For now...ENJOY!

Goodmorning Blueberry Muffins 

100% Grain-Free Blueberry Muffins :)
Easy peasy recipe. Makes 12 muffins. Mixing is a decent arm workout. Could try using a mixer. If you're eating primal/paleo, you will have most of this stuff in your pantry already (essential staples for healthy cooking!) Otherwise, the only "non-traditional" ingredients are coconut oil and coconut flour - both available in natural sections of your grocery store and definitely available at your health store, Trader Joes, Amazon, or iherb.com.

1 pint fresh organic blueberries
6 T unrefined coconut oil - it comes in a jar and is solid. Warm jar in warm water for a minute.
6 eggs
5 T honey (or about 3-4 T agave syrup if using)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic coconut flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder


1. Preheat to 400.
2. Wash and DRY blueberries. You don't want extra water in these muffins. Spin 'em in your salad spinner.
3. Put eggs in a bowl of semi-hot water for a few minutes. You want them warm before cracking open or else they will cause the coconut oil to solidify when mixed.
4. Combine oil, eggs, honey, salt, and vanilla in a big bowl.
5. Combine flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.
6. Thoroughly mix flour bowl into the wet bowl until there are no lumps (tone up those arms!)
7. Gently fold in berries.
8. Pour batter into greased muffin tray - you can grease with coconut oil on a paper towel for a chemical-free no-stick option.
9. Bake 17-18 minutes. Muffins are done when knife comes out clean.

Coconut flour makes things looks "burned" way before they are. So if they come out a bit darker, don't fear. There are only 11 muffins in this picture....but this made 12. What? Someone HAD to try them afterall. The sacrifices I make. Sigh.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

I swear I'm not on speed.

This week I had a mini-awakening. I came to a fork in the road in the last post and spent a lot of time thinking about it. I've decided to take the path less traveled (i.e. against the grain).  Since making that decision, I feel really, really good. Super confident and ready to go. So I have two things to share today:
  1. A new perspective on grains...5 Truths
  2. Forget the weight loss, etc. How do I feel on eating primal/paleo?
5 Truths About Grains
A lot of people have told me they struggle with the no-grain thing. It is the biggest obstacle in Paleo/Primal eating. So I'll share with you 5 Truths about grains that I've come up with through my oodles of research. Rereading them helps me maintain perspective:
  • Grains are a mode of transportation. They carry the nutrient-dense food into our bodies: the meats/veggies on the roll, the oil/cheese/nut butter on the bread, the curry or stir-fry on the rice, the sauces on the pasta. Thinking of grains as simply modes of transportation puts me outside the box when it comes to meal planning. It forces creativity and success.
  • Grains themselves lack nutritional value. Either they are void of any nutritional value (refined bread or flours) or if they do contain macronutrients (like brown rice/whole grain wheat), the proteins in the whole grains bind those macronutrients and completely stop them from being absorbed anyway. Then they also bind other healthy stuff you eat along with the whole grains to that passes through you, too. Finally, all grass grains contain protein that attacks the lining of your intestines creating holes (aka "leaky gut" - google it) which is where all of the diseases (from allergies to arthritis to heart disease) associated with grain consumption start. 
  • Grains rob belly space. My entire adult life, I've approached meal planning like this: meat, veggie, starch - plus maybe a salad or bread on the side. Sounds so normal and healthy, right? But if I am serving the pasta or bread, I am taking up valuable nutrient space in all the tummies I feed. So in actuality, serving grains is denying my kids nutrition. Gulp
  • Grains are expensive. Seems counter-intuitive when you think about how cheap a loaf of bread is compared to a grass-fed steak. But if you put a price tag on the nutrients contained in those two foods, it will cost you FAR MORE in grain buying to touch the nutrition value in whole, real foods. (I'm not going to talk about the healthcare costs associated with grain consumption...too much for me to tackle at this point.) 
  • Grains wreak havoc on insulin levels. I'll gladly take an insulin spike for a slice of nut-crust cheesecake or a helping of delicious ripe pineapple or honey drizzled over a warm no-grain muffin. But for a slice of bread? The up and down, highs and lows....is all that harm, repeated day after day after day for a lifetime worth it? Recent research says 1 out of 3 Americans will end up with diabetes. If it was a choice between eating grains at will and living life with diabetes, what would you choose?

How do I feel?
I've told you about our weight loss and lack of belly aches/ADD symptoms in the kids. But I often get asked, how do you feel? Not being a scientist, I am unable to gauge the effects of going grain-free in percentages and numbers. To explain it, I actually need to rely on my rusty journalist skills. Please don't laugh. I swear I'm not on speed.

When I wake up, I feel energized and ready to go. I'm excited to see my kids and can't wait to start the day. I feel positive about my family, my home, and our health. I maintain constant energy throughout the day - no crashes at 3pm or urge to nap. I'm motivated to get things done while also enjoying our time together during the day. Everyday burdens, annoying to-do's, and stressful situations seem to roll off my back easier. When Jon comes home, he is upbeat and enthusiastic...regardless of the hard day he just had at work.  As a whole, we are just so much more positive about everything. We don't suffer from headaches anymore. We sleep well. We complain less. I feel like a more forgiving person. I feel like I've finally got a hold on my life and my future. And I feel like my kids are witnessing a transformation as well: a happy, confident mom.

I know it sounds hokey - like some perky motivational speaker after five Red Bulls and a quick snort of cocaine, but I swear to you it's the truth. Is it different than how we were before? HOLY COW YES. I mean, that is why we decided to take this journey in the first place. We were miserable and chunky. We felt glazed and foggy more often than not. Motivation was hard to come by. I loathed waking up, couldn't wait to go to bed, and looked forward to that occasional glass of red more than I used to. Then that week of my birthday, I said life had to be better (and easier) than what we had going.

I am really starting to feel like we won the jackpot in a sense because we may have found the solution. Simply eliminating a food has brought huge changes. I really was struggling with my confidence in this experiment because it is so not mainstream. But how can I go back? I have to give credit where credit is due. Leaving grains behind has made us healthier and happier. It's not easy. (And man do I want "normal" pizza sometimes!) But I've come to the realization that this lifestyle really is working for us. And that makes me feel good. :)


    Monday, August 8, 2011

    30 days - An Honest Update

    Have you all joined Pinterest? Do. Or maybe don't depending on how much you cherish your free time because Pinterest seems to suck it up. If you don't know, it's a site where you can collect images that you dig - ideas you admire or  inspire you. It's a creativity mecca. Perfect for type-A organizers like myself.

    So what does Pinterest have to do with Crispy Living? Well as I'm working hard to convince myself that spending oodles of time on Pinterest is actually a way to unwind, de-stress, and enjoy pretty stuff (which is a lie - mostly it just makes me anxious to make/do more and better), I'm exposed to a whole lot of cool people doing cool things with food. A pretty picture of a dish leads me to someone's blog, then I click around and in 10 minutes I've bookmarked 10 blogs while soaking up how other people approach healthy eating, specifically grains. Some people hate grains and demonize them. Others don't give a flying hoot about the use of grains, as long as their dishes taste good and look pretty. The commonality between the two sides of the grain-issue: Everyone seems pretty darn confident about themselves.

    But I admit it. I'm not. We're at 30 days on our Paleo journey and I still have doubts. It's not that I doubt if eating non-grain whole foods is good. I know it is. We feel and look better. As I've detailed in previous posts, the changes have been and continue to be amazing.  But do I have all out confidence? No. Not yet anyway.

    Here is my problem: Shunning grains is really radical. It takes massive effort and constant vigilance in this modern grain-obsessed world. It goes against everything I've ever known about healthy eating. In a way, it also attacks my fondest memories - coming from an Italian family, a good portion of our happiness stemmed from eating meals on our laps because every table surface in the house was covered with food. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, my mom...all are amazing cooks who are hardwired to cook enough for an army every meal. We ate, ate well, and ate well together. Pasta, breads, breaded things, cakes, cookies, pies and more desserts. These foods represent fun and family, warmth and love to me. How can all that I know and grew up with be so wrong? Not only wrong, but harmful with potential scary - even life altering - consequences?? How can bread - something so benign, so warm, so friendly, so inviting - be so awful??!!

    So I'm really struggling with the whole crispiness of Paleo. You've got your extreme mainstreamers vs. your hardcore crunchies all screaming at the top of their lungs they're right.  Then you've got my entire knowledge of food vs. science - the two couldn't conflict more. But I can't deny science...that wonderful savior, yet crushing fact pusher that is strongly leaning on the side of the crunchies on this debate. Not only does science say grains are terrible for human consumption, even partial consumption (aka going crispy-style) is just as bad. I've read and read and read till my head hurt. I've had dreams involving swimming in grains, running with Laura Ingalls in fields of grains...even a dream where I had an argument with Harry Potter as he ate his bowl of porridge in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Truth be told, I want to frolic in the grain field with Laura while Ma bakes fresh bread us, but the truth is, I can't deny the science and I really need to tell Harry the truth about his porridge.

    I guess I can't expect a 34 years of grain-eating and a whole-grains-are-the-healthiest-thing-you-can-eat mentality to disappear overnight.  I think I lack confidence because if I am going to believe the science - which how can I not - I can't be Crispy on this one. I think it may be an all or nothing way of eating. That is essentially closing the door my grain-eating past and that's scary (or is it opening the door to a healthier life? Bah. Optimism.)

    I think my lack of confidence also stems from loneliness. Not eating like 99% of America and friends/family is isolating. Books and research may be inspiring, but are not warm friends who can understand or can sympathize.

    Making this life change even harder are the criticisms, comments, and raised eyebrows from friends, neighbors, acquaintances, etc. Just because we aren't eating grains anymore, people think we've gone bonkers. It feels like people equate not eating grains to selling all our possessions and joining a cult somewhere in the desert. Really truly. Some of the questions/comments have been demoralizing.

    And it's not just Jon and myself feeling the need to defend our choices. Our son was scrutinized while playing with a friend for saying "we don't eat bread." The little boy told him that was the stupidest thing he ever heard. My son said (proud mama moment), "If you are calling that stupid, then you are calling my mom stupid," and was prepared to stand his ground before our oldest interceded.

    Not everyone has been so judgmental. My oldest had a sleepover. I packed her a breakfast to bring. The mother was genuinely intrigued as to what we were doing and the foods we were eating and asked for some recipes. I guess she didn't find our attempt to wade through the food marketing shoving corn puffs and wheat bread in our faces in the pursuit of better health as all that crazy. It was nice.

    Anyway, I don't have a perfect way to sum up this post except to say I'm still learning about, still dealing with, and still questioning everything when it comes to not eating grains. But I don't have it all neat and tidy and packaged together with a big bow and a tag that reads, "This way is best." We are all still definitely grain-free, sugar free (minus honey/agave), and industrialized oil free. But I'm learning this process to a healthy, vibrant life is an evolution. A few months ago, I didn't know diets and research would consume the majority of my mental energy everyday for weeks and weeks. But now that I'm here, I cannot unlearn what I've learned. I know what to do....but can I successfully bridge the mainstream/crunchy gap?

    Ugh. Too much thinking. Time to go "relax" on Pinterest. At least there I can chill out for a few minutes....that's how it is supposed to work, right?

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Will Eating Whole Grains Help You Live Longer? | Mark's Daily Apple

    Will Eating Whole Grains Help You Live Longer? | Mark's Daily Apple

    Hey all! Mark's Daily Apple is very motivational website. His book, The Primal Blueprint, pretty much echoes what I'm trying to do with our diets. (Funny that I discovered his book after deciding on this eating experiment.) I will warn you that I have dozens of pages I'd like to link here with the caption, "Yeah. What he said." But I'll try to do so sparingly.

    The reason I like this link so much is that it helps decode a study: Whole Grains are best!  However, this article tears the study to pieces and shows that the conclusions are skewed. Unfortunately, while news outlets gave air time/page space to the original study, they don't like to extend the same courtesy to articles like these that prove the conclusions wrong...I guess it could have something to do with the fact this article contradicts many of their revenue sources (food commercials). But it doesn't matter. It's a good link - definitely worth 5 minutes of your time.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    3 weeks. 3 cheats. An update.

    Hello All! I've been off the blog for a few days. We had a staycation where Jon took a few days off and we did family things. I cooked a whole bunch of Paleo stuff ahead of time and took a mini-cooking vacation at the same time. It was a nice break. Paleo definitely involves kitchen time.

    But I'm back and YES we are still eating Paleo! It's been THREE weeks! I gotta say, I'm pretty darn proud of everyone.

    As I had hoped, eating this way has gotten infinitely easier as the weeks have passed. I no longer scour the web/books for recipes every meal. We just make a lot of them up ourselves. That's not to say I'm not using cookbooks. I am. I actually have made some epic WINNERS and epic LOSERS based on collected recipes lately. I'll post more about those later this week. But in general, menu planning and shopping stress I felt that first week is gone. The oddity of skipping 95% of the aisles of the grocery store is fading. So I guess you can say cooking wise, we're rolling along just fine. BUT, we had 3 cheats in the last 3 weeks.

    The Cheats
    #1. Popcorn. I've made popcorn a 3 times so far. Contrary to the Green Giant's extensive marketing, corn is a grain - not a vegetable. And if you want to get technical about it, it's a Paleo no-no. But guess what? This is crispy living - not hardcore zealot living - and I love popcorn. So do the kids. We had a camp out in the living room last night with a movie and I made popcorn. I've seen no adverse reactions to it the times we've had it and science wise, it's not even close to being on the same destructive scale as other grains like wheat. But I will buy/make only organic popcorn. Anything else is guaranteed to be a GMO.

    mmm....
    #2. Jon had two beers. To be specific, they were black and tans at the local Irish pub with a buddy. And I would have done the exact same thing! B&T's are a personal favorite. But guess what? Beer has gluten because, duh, it's made from wheat. As self-described beer connoisseurs, we think this fact sucks. Thanks mother nature. Alcohol wise, we've only had wine now and again since we went Paleo. But ordering a red wine at an authentic Irish pub that makes the best B&T's in the world? I don't think so. I would take the gluten bullet for that any day of the week. Unfortunately, Jon dealt with the after effects. Having been completely grain-free for 19 days, his body had gone through detox. Those beers truly set him back for the next 2 days. I'm not exaggerating. He was tired and felt "hazy" - not a fun time for him and a stark contrast to the Jon he was. Could it be solely from the beers? Who can say, but he was feeling great up until that point. In the meantime, he and I took a dive into the "gluten-free" beer world. If you have the slightest fondness for beer, please, please, please never try one of them. Follow my advice and I just saved you $10/6-pack and lots of disappointment/gagging. This no beer thing is a bit of an issue, though. We will have to figure this one out!

    #3. Dinner out. Part of our staycation involved a day trip up north. We had an early breakfast (egg cupcakes I made the night before), I packed our lunch for a picnic (nitrate-free lunchmeat roll-ups & lots of veggies) and brought a bunch of car-friendly Paleo snacks. But I knew we would eat dinner out. I didn't have the luxury of researching restaurants/menus ahead of time - we just sort of were winging the trip. We chose a popular place and I crossed my fingers there would be SOMETHING grain-free on the menu. And there was something. ONE thing. I'm not joking. There was one dish on the menu that was grain-free (and only if you said to hold the wontons): a mandarin chicken salad. I had this. I'm pretty sure the dressing was pure sugar as I felt super jittery afterwards. Jon had a steak and salad, but it came with a big fat onion ring. The kids, well it was processed, refined grain-heaven (or hell depending on your view): breaded meat on a bun, deep fried breaded cheese, or refined white pasta with fake cheese. That was it. Oh, and they all came with an insulin stick...er, I mean breadstick.  The younger 3 opted for the mac & cheese. I was pretty upset by the choices as I had spent the last 3 weeks pouring a lot of time and energy into cleansing their systems, but put my frustration aside and let go (crispy, crispy, crispy).  Everyone devoured their dinners, but my son and daughter felt immediately sick and complained of bellyaches for the 3-hour drive home. Conversely, my oldest opted for hot wings and a side of sauteed mushrooms - no grains. She is totally into this grain-free eating as she has noticed a huge physical impact: NO MORE BREAKOUTS...which is like hitting the tween lottery. I was pretty proud of her.

    Feelin' Fine
    Overall, kids are doing a-ok. Minus the restaurant dinner, they have been bellyache-free. Everyone seems happy and content. They now run to the fridge for snacks - not the pantry for granola bars or goldfish. All mention of those snack foods has ceased, though my 4 year-old seems to say, "When we can have cereal again, I'm having (insert cereal name here)," more frequently than I'd like.  Hoping as time goes on, that will fade. Hoping anyway. They also are becoming snobby with likes and dislikes. One likes the carrots this way. The other that way. Then they switch. One day it's all about raisins. The next it's about blueberries and raisins are gross. I've just decided to concede to these fickle desires. If the battle is less raisins and more blueberries....they can win that one.

    Jon and I feel good - energized and positive. Our weight loss is not as rapid as it was, but we're still down 12 and 9 lbs. respectively. At this point, I'm not focusing on weight loss anymore...now I just want to get in better shape and actually hope to gain some muscle weight. I've been biking and swimming. I'm also looking to take a stand-up paddleboarding class with my sister when she visits soon! We are beyond blessed with beautiful lakes at every turn here - must take advantage. Jon is a biking fool these days. He's been biking so much, he broke 7 spokes on his rear tire. I took that as a good thing!

    (*Warning: sappy husband moment...) I'm very thankful for Jon and his commitment to this lifestyle change we've made. He's always been uber-supportive of anything I've ever wanted to do, but this goes beyond just supporting me. He is my partner in crime on this. He's been the rock when my resolve gets iffy. Together we've been a united front for the kids to see - which we hope is teaching them lessons that stick with them for life: 1) We can't be played against each other - on this or your request to break curfew when you are older. 2) The food we choose to nourish our bodies with is important for many reasons.  3) And Our health is something we should all take delicate care of because no matter how much money someone has, they can never buy back good health. Most nights he's right along side me chopping and stirring, laughing and joking, drinking a glass of wine and having fun. We've stumbled upon yet another thing in which we make a great team.

    Coming up
    This week I'll post some more recipes as well as some thoughts about crispy naysayers...we've come across a few lately. I've also developed a new view on the theory behind why we eat grains which helps me feel strong when everything else is tearing me down. Finally, we need to talk about school lunches as that is right around the corner.  Until then, be well and enjoy!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Menus and recipes

    As promised, here are some of the recipes that I've been using. I've also listed some of our other snack choices as this is the trickiest part for grown-ups and kids! Finally, I've listed a "typical day" of eating in this house.

    *note: I'm not one for exact measurements when cooking. I'm more of a pinch, dash, tinker type of cook. So I apologize if I'm not very specific.

    No-oat Oatmeal - from paleoplan.com

    There are two versions of this. One is light. It is fast and yummy, but you may find yourself looking for a snack mid-morning as it is light on protein. The other one is very hearty breakfast. VERY filling. You will be good to go until lunch. This is the one my kids prefer.

    "Lighter version" - 2 servings. Increase as needed
    1.5 cups organic, unsweetened apple sauce
    4 T. raw almond butter - careful...many brands have added sugar and oils. Costco's MaraNatha is the best for the $ and completely pure.
    3 T. Unsweetened, but not lite coconut milk
    Cinnamon to taste - dash of nutmeg if you'd like

    • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm up over medium heat. Stir and enjoy.

    "Hearty version" - Serves 3. This recipe stores in the fridge and reheats in the microwave really well. I made a huge batch and then had leftovers for the next breakfast. I also put some in little containers for individual grab & go snacks.
    1 handful raw walnuts
    1 handful of raw pecans
    2 T. flax seeds
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 dash of nutmeg & ginger
    1 T. almond butter
    1 banana - smashed
    3 eggs - free range organic!
    1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk - you can sub coconut milk or even regular milk. Your call!
    2 T. raw (not roasted or salted...eat your seeds raw) pumpkin seeds - or raw sunflower or whatever you have
    1 handful berries of your choice

    • Put the nuts, flax, & spices into a food processor and pulse into a course grain - do not let it get to a powder.
    • In a big sauce pan (no heat yet...just cutting out an extra bowl to wash), whisk together eggs and milk until the consistency thickens into a loose custard
    • Blend the smashed banana and almond butter in a bowl. Add it to the saucepan.
    • Stir in nuts.
    • Warm on stove until it reaches your desired temperature. It only takes a few minutes, but you need to stir the whole time. Add more milk to get to your desired consistency.
    • Top with seeds and berries.

    Grain-free Granola Balls - I forget where I found this, but thanks to the author anyway
    This makes 10-12 balls. I always double this recipe as they go fast. Store covered on counter for 3 days or so. Also, sometimes I've subbed seeds and nuts for whatever I had in stock. Feel free to mix it up. Just remember no peanuts. Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes.

    1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
    1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
    1/2 cup almond flour - I've used blanched and unblanched with the same results
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. sea salt
    1 cup raw walnuts
    1/4 unsweetened dried blueberries
    1/4 raisins
    1/4 cup honey (Try to stick to your local honey. Raw is best, But if not raw...get local. Grocery store honey is blended from sources all over the world. Chinese honey? Weird. Plus local honey has allergy benefits as well as the whole staying-local-is-better-for-the-environment bit. lol. Also, I've subbed in agave nectar for the honey. It's fine, but the kids prefer the honey version)
    2 T. raw almond butter
    1 T. water
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
    • Put seeds, flour, cinnamon and salt into a food processor and pulse to a course meal. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
    • Stir in walnuts, blueberries, and raisins.
    • Add honey, almond butter, water, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Dough will be thick and stiff.
    • Wet your hands and form dough into packed balls about 1.5 inches in diameter.
    • Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely. Balls will set as they cool.

    Healthy Cookies - from Everyday Paleo
    Calling this a cookie is more for psychological reasons ( as in I look like a hero when I say, "Yes, kids, you can have THREE cookies!") rather than reality. It satisfies that cookie craving, but also has a true zero-guilt, lots of goodness perk. No sugar. No grains. Delish. This makes 20 or so cookies. I double this recipe because, well, I've got way too many kids. lol. :)

    2 smashed bananas
    1/3 cup coconut flour
    3/4 cup raw almond butter
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts (chop up whole ones in food processor - no need to buy special chopped)
    1 apple, diced (just chunk it up and stick it in the food processor as well - no need to peel)
    1/3 cup coconut milk
    1 T. cinnamon
    • Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper
    • Smash bananas in mixing bowl
    • Add all ingredients. Mix well
    • Spoon tablespoons of cookie mix onto parchment paper about an inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes.
    These cookies will be rounded and soft. They don't flatten out.
    Variations:
    1. Add 1/2 finely shredded unsweetened coconut. You can top with coconut as well. (Have not found unsweetened at a regular grocery store yet. It's at our co-op in the bulk section. Also at iherb.)
    2. Take out 1 banana and add 1/2 cup canned organic unsweetened pumpkin. Have not tried this. Saving for the fall!
    3. Add 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips. You can bet your sweet bippie this is how I make ours more often than not. :)
    Other snacks we do: (*note: we're still eating some dairy. This is a fuzzy gray area with Paleo. But we don't make it the center of a meal. Just an accompaniment.)

    • apple muffins
    • fruit of any kind
    • yogurt - plain sweetened with vanilla stevia extract & berries...awesome. get it at iherb.com
    • cheese slices
    • egg cupcakes
    • simple smoothies - froz. fruit & coconut milk
    • plantain chips
    • trail mix with toasted cashews - yum
    • kale chips
    • nut butter bars - like a peanut butter granola bar
    • nut crackers - like wheat thins without the wheat
    • veggies & dips - guacamole, babaganoush, etc. - you could do hummus, but we're also staying legume free for this experiment as they can be gut irritating as well. we'll add them back in and see what happens after a few weeks.
    • Celery with almond butter & raisins
    • Larabars - this is the only thing i buy pre-made. They are $$$$, but I just got a recipe to make my own. Will keep you posted!
    • Hardboiled eggs - this is a to-do for me. I loathe them, but the kids might like them. I just have to suck it up and make them. lol.
    • Home made Fruit roll-ups - another to-do. My dehydrator just arrived yesterday!
    • Beef jerky - another to-do with the dehydrator. Trader Joes makes some healthy versions, but I'm not a fan. Kids dig it though.

    Paleo Enchiladas - from The Primal Blueprint. *you can sub out the dairy. *I suppose you can find your own enchilada sauce, but it's tricky to find it sugar/oil/preservative free. So we just made our own here. It's easy and waaay tastier. *This recipe was enough for the 6 of us with leftovers for Jon for lunch...which I am told were even better the next day.

    1 small can diced chiles
    12 small or 6 large tomatoes
    1 onion, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 lbs. chicken breasts
    1 tsp chili powder - I like to go heavier on mexican spices. Go with what you like.
    1 tsp cumin - same as above.
    1/2 tsp salt
    10 egg whites
    1/3 cup half & half
    1/2 cup grated cheddar-ish cheese

    Garnish: scallions, cilantro, avocado, salsa, etc.


    The sauce
    • Cut an X on the top of the tomatoes. 
    • Put under broiler to roast. Blacken on all sides - about 20 minutes. (Could do this on the grill if you want, too). 
    • Cool and then peel off the skin - though we like some left on for color/texture
    • Put the whole tomatoes in food processor with chiles. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
    The insides
    • In a deep sauce pan, saute onions and garlic in a bit of oil
    • Add chicken, browning lightly on each side - about 2-3 minutes/side
    • Add the spices and salt and cook for 1 minute to let them toast a bit
    • Pour in tomato mixture. Cover with lid or foil and simmer for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked.
    • Remove chicken and slice thinly. Return to pan and mix to coat. Keep warm.

    The "tortilla"
    • Whisk egg whites and half & half in a bowl
    • Lightly coat a 10" skillet with oil. Add just enough egg mixture to coat the pan in a very thin layer...like 1/5 a cup or less.
    • Cook for 1 minute. Add lid and cook for 30 seconds more.
    • Slide crepe out of the pan and set aside. 
    • Repeat for about 10-11 crepes.

    The enchiladas
    • Lightly oil a 13X9 baking dish. 
    • Fill each crepe with 1/3 cup chicken mixture. Roll up and place seam side down in dish. There will be leftover chicken...just spoon it around the the edges of the crepes. 
    • Top with shredded cheese.
    • Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes or so. 
    • Top with garnishes. Be prepared to be STUFFED.
    This was a bit on the labor intensive side, but so worth it. It took about an hour start to finish. I'll get faster as I make it more. My kids inhaled it. Great recipe to start with when introducing Paleo. (And in case you're wondering, the tortillas were not eggy at all. No one even guessed it was eggs.)

    ----------------------------------------------------

    A snapshot of our daily menu. Here is yesterday:

    Breakfast: Almond flour pancakes; fresh whipped cream; organic blueberries; nitrate-free sausage

    Snack: Granola balls (recipe above); clementines

    Lunch: Uncured ham roll-ups filled with cheese, carrot slices, sliced red cabbage, and chopped cucumbers; apple slices with cinnamon & almond butter for dipping (Jon brought leftover Moroccan chicken from the night before to work. I made a chef salad for myself.)

    Snack: Organic yogurt; roasted cashew trail mix; bananas and/or carrots (depending on the kid)

    Dinner: Turkey burgers (no portabello buns this time) on a bed of baby spinach topped with cheddar, avocado, grilled onions/mushrooms, & bacon; homemade sweet potato fries baked in coconut oil; homemade beet & rutabaga chips sliced on the mandolin and baked; mesculin salad.

    Dessert: Homemade fried plantain chips with guacamole for 1/2 of us who like it. Just topped with cinnamon for the other 1/2. 

    Let me know if there are other recipes you're interested in. I'm happy to post. Last night we made AWESOME Paleo spaghetti - I didn't miss the pasta at all. Kids were skeptical, but 1/2 of them bought it. Tonight we're making salmon cakes. Wish me luck!

    ps - I'm so tickled some of you are or are thinking about wading into the Paleo pool. I need some buddies as you should never swim alone! :) :)

    pss - Jon is down 14 lbs. Never seen him so happy with himself. He's got energy and enthusiasm...this is such a huge positive.

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    If you want to be a grump, eat an egg.

    Her new favorite: "No-oat Oatmeal" - Delish!
    For those of you fortunate enough to avoid time watching the Nick Jr. channel (lucky), you may be unfamiliar with the song lyrics in this post's title. But basically, the song talks about if you are feeling grumpy, that's okay, but do it further away from the singer.

    However, I may have stumbled on another solution. If your kid is grumpy, feed them some protein. My youngest child - bless her little heart - has what would be socially correctly described as a "big personality." Look up "handful" in the dictionary and you'll see her cute little face. Opinions, commands, defiance, testing, etc. etc. She's got it down to a science.  She's 1.5 and owns her age well. But it's more than normal toddler stuff with her. She's really got some frustrating behavior and challenging moods - definitely more so than any of her other 3 siblings did at her age. Sometimes Jon and I really scratch our heads about how different she is at this age than her siblings were.

    But since we started our Paleo mornings (i.e. no grains, no sugars), she is a different child.

    She used to have oatmeal, applesauce, and some cheerios each morning. Maybe a banana, too. Healthy, right? But within in an hour she was asking for a snack...which I'd concede on because she was relentless. I'd give her a TLC nutragrain or goldfish or something along those lines. An hour later she was looking for more food. And she was cranky and demanding.  Many mornings I found myself counting down to nap time just to get a reprieve. How terrible is that?  That's not the way I want any of us to live - her grouchy and me exhausted.

    Now....there is none of that behavior on either of our parts. She's more content. She is more pleasant. She is more cheerful. She's not asking for a snack just minutes after breakfast is over like normal. She plays so much more nicely. She seems peaceful. She doesn't get frustrated or work herself up into a meltdown. There is an absence of whining. Very un-grumpy behavior.

    I'm the first to admit, this may be all coincidental  - maybe developmentally she pushed passed a stage which happened to coincide with our start on Paleo? And my observations are of course unscientific. But I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it's CONSISTENT. Like a light switch flipped. She's happy.

    Physically, she tolerates grains just fine and up until recently, that's all I've ever really watched out for when introducing new foods - a physical reaction. It's the only thing pediatricians ask about, too. I've never been asked, "So how is her behavior after she eats bagels or cereal?" For all four of my kids, their doctors have only ever asked about any physical reactions to foods: hives, vomiting, eczema, or other allergic reactions. But why isn't negative behavior considered an allergic reaction??  Because I gotta say, it's a really remarkable difference.

    The change in my 23 lb. firecracker (who is peacefully singing songs to her stuffed animals right now) is pretty dramatic. In the other kids, its harder to quantify. But I will say, while our days are hectic and busy, they are smoother. It's hard to describe, but the relentless asking for snacks has ceased. Behavior seems to be calmer all around. I can only guess that it is because their blood sugar levels are kept constant on this diet. No insulin spikes. No highs and lows. No chemicals, preservatives, or refined flours/sugars. Their little bodies don't have to fight their food. Non-grain based breakfasts have the benefits of: Feeling full all morning, maintaining consistent energy, getting some serious micronutrients, and avoiding insulin spikes and gut irritating gluten (not to mention preservatives and GMO grains). Except me having to actually prepare something (either in the morning or in advance) vs. open up a cereal box, it is a win-win-win-win.

    It's worth a try anyway, right? I'm really interested to see how school goes with the older guys with no-grain breakfasts. Still have another month though.

    If you are interested in a recipe, let me know and I'll post. I can't make eggs every morning - especially during the school year. And you get sick of them eventually. We've experimented with some variety like the No-oat Oatmeal in the picture above. Really tasty. It will probably be better in the winter (as opposed to our 100 degree weather!), but it's a nice alternative. We've also had almond pancakes this week. Labor intensive, but super yummy. Going to try coconut pancakes next as well as no-grain banana bread as a side to some protein. Will keep you posted!

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Week 1. Ups and Downs, but we're still rollin'

    First, I want to thank you for reading and commenting on this blog. Knowing there are people keeping tabs on this whole experiment is keeping me motivated and honest. And your comments and questions are really appreciated. Thank you.

    Secondly, I know that all of my posts thus far have revolved around getting crispier when it comes to just food. I want to tackle other issues, too: exercise, stress, family time, hygiene products, spirituality, and other things that define a happy, healthy, fulfilling life. But I feel like our diets are the cornerstone of all of this. So that's where I'm starting right now.

    We just completed our 1st week on our Paleo diet. PHEW! In a nutshell, there were some definite road bumps, but some awesome rewards. Here are some observations and lessons learned:

    The bad… 
    1. Pick a low-key week. I chose the absolute worst week ever to start this diet. Our normally slow-paced summer was kicked into high gear with multiple kid camps, my son’s birthday party, my oldest daughter’s belated birthday party, a busy work week for Jon, Dr. appointments, work being done on the house, and a midnight movie premier. I was operating on all cylinders from 5:30 am until I crawled into bed around 12am. Throw in a completely new way of eating and I was overwhelmed and stressed. Dumb move on my part. 
    2. Have support. I pledged from the beginning to be completely honest on this blog. So I will admit that I almost quit this diet 3 separate times this week. (I’ll go into why below.) But each time, my awesome husband pulled me through. Had he given me the slightest hint that we could cheat, well…I would have.  However, now that we made it through week 1, I feel confident that we can sustain these changes. I owe this to Jon. He’s cooking with me and deciding on meals. He’s been great. It’s inevitable you’ll face similar doubts if you try something like this. Have a support - either a spouse, friend, or even an online friend or website that inspires you so that when things get hairy, you can turn to that resource to pull you through. I also reread a lot of the research I initially found to bolster my resolve to make these changes.  
    3. BE PREPARED. I can’t stress this enough. This was the first thing that made me want to quit. Even though I had planned meals and snacks, there were a bunch of times when the snack I prepared wasn’t well received. Or it wasn’t portable. We had an hour layover between pick-up times at camp each day and I ran into snack problems. It was stressful…especially when kids were hungry. Shopping at stores was tricky, too. I'll admit that I bribe “store compliance” from the kids by giving them snacks so I can actually pay attention at a store. But I couldn’t use the usual pretzels or cheerios, etc. as a crutch. Preparation for this is crucial to make the transition away from processed, insulin spiking foods nice and smooth.  Along with this, plan for dinner in the morning. Even if that means just mentally having your game plan as to what you will do and when. Two nights I was such a wreck from our non-stop day that I wanted to just order pizza or whatever instead of cooking the food I had already planned to make. But the evenings where I had previously prepped (like cut veggies at 3pm when the kids were playing, etc.) were so much more enjoyable.  Avoid starting from scratch at 6pm when everyone is starving.
    4.  Don’t battle with the kids. This was the 2nd part of the week that made me want to give up. But now I realize, it’s not about the battle - it’s about the war. One night, I actually got up from the table because I was so frustrated trying to coax my 4-year-old (the most stubborn of the bunch) into eating. She loves chicken. She loves broccoli. But that night, she refused both. Grr. However, I've since learned to not fight or bargain an let her decide what she wants to eat at a meal. But when it was snack time, guess what was reheated and waiting for her? Yep. Her meal. Guess what she eventually ended up eating? Yep. Her meal. I also learned to change my outlook from "how did they eat each meal" to "how did they eat during the day." If they ate a good ratio of protein, fat, and carbs(veggies & fruit) over the course of the day, then that is success. If they passed on one meal, but devoured the next, that’s success as well. Basically filling them up with whole foods (as opposed to grains and sugars) until they were satisfied is SUCCESS.
    5. Paleo Pizza = FAIL. The recipe I had did not work at all or I totally screwed it up…this is probably the stronger possibility. Either way, this was our worst meal of the week and the kids let me know it. It was a confidence kicker and coming off a long hard day, it was the 3rd time I questioned if we can do this. I think it was just a down night. 
    6. My budget. I’ll be honest. I spent a lot of money this week. Need to work on how to shrink that. Some of the spending was purchasing herbs and pantry stock items that hopefully last a long time. But still, curbing the price is on my agenda. 
    7. Working out. I was just too overwhelmed this week. Jon was good - he got out biking a few times. Unless you count vacuuming, I didn’t do any intentional exercise. Would like to change this as well.

    Now for the good….
    All the kids DEVOURED these Paleo Enchiladas.
    1. I lost more weight. I am now the lowest I’ve ever weighed since college...3 lbs. lower than was my initial goal back in May!! Everyday I’m eating until I’m full. I’m still losing weight. I’m eating delicious foods and lots of healthy fats. I’m still losing weight. I put cream in my coffee, cook with butter, and eat bacon. I’m still losing weight. If this isn’t proof positive that eating whole foods works, I don’t know what is. I’ve been mostly sugar-free, but I’m not a zealot. I don’t eat high-fructose corn syrup and sugar filled foods nor do I drink soda, etc. But I put a bit of sugar in my coffee, have dark chocolate squares for pick-me-ups, pour agave syrup on Paleo muffins, and have had a teacup worth of ice cream now and again. I’ve lost weight without really exercising, calorie counting, or portion restricting. It’s surprising how eating real foods in unlimited quantities vs. eating processed foods in controlled quantities has resulted in weight loss.  As I’ve admitted, I’ve struggled to lose the “mom-pudge” for a few years now. Pounding the treadmill didn’t really make a dent. But I remove most sugar and all grains and BAM! Bye-bye muffin tops.
    2. Jon has lost weight. He is down just shy of 12 lbs. (he started going sugar and grain free 2 weeks ago). Can you get over it?!  Again, this is without steady exercise, calorie counting, etc. He’s very inspired! 
    3. We feel FANTASTIC. I wrote in a previous post how I felt great just giving up processed sugar foods. Shunning grains has only increased this new level of well being. But I think the best thing that happened to me this week is Jon proclaiming how great he feels. It completely renewed my determination. He says it everyday and it makes me feel so happy. Sure he is still stressed/tired from long days at work, but he gets home and he is enthusiastic and “peppy." Yes. I just called Jon peppy...which I'm sure he won't appreciate. :) But I don’t know how else to describe it. Both of our mornings are smoother and more productive and we don't have the 9am-post-cereal-must-have-another-cup-of-coffee crash. 3:00 pm rolls around and we're not dragging. There were a few days immediately after the switch where we felt sluggish. I've read this is normal. But then one day, the switch flipped. Energy and overall feeling good everyday.
    4.  We don’t really miss the grains. To those who say, “I’m too much of a sugar addict” or “I could never live without bread or pasta” – you have to give this a try. I said the SAME THING. But I swear. I don’t miss them. Initially, those first few days after I went grain-free I definitely did. But now, even the thought of a bowl of spaghetti makes me feel gross bloated and gross. A sugary snack is not the least bit appealing. I’m not kidding. (Plus, the nutty cookies I made totally fulfill the sweet tooth craving). The only part I miss about grains is the convenience factor. There is no denying they are easier. I’m still working on breaking that dependency. 
    5. Most importantly, the kids are doing a-okay! I will admit – the first 3 days were really rough. Like really rough. They were looking for their usual foods – cereal, granola bars, crackers, etc. and I even felt guilty a few times for denying crackers and bread when they repeatedly asked for them – even though I know these things were harming them. But by day 4, things were looking way up. Now even our toddler is eating whole foods like a champ and thriving without macaroni and cheese or cereal – imagine that! I read on another blog the same thing. That mom said it took 3 hairy days to break the grain and sugar habit. In our case, I removed the grains and put them away so they are out of sight. (If we continue with this Paleo lifestyle after our 60 days, I will donate it all. Though it’s weird to think that the food I put away will look exactly the same in 2 months as it does today….that’s just not right.) I encouraged eating full meals. I did not allow snacks to take the place of meals like I used to. (I admit I was one of the moms that would let them load up on snacks if they didn't eat a meal just to get what I thought was “good stuff” in their bellies.) But this week I offered unfinished meals for snacks. We ate every meal together and had fun music playing. Jon and I were a team and stayed positive and encouraging. Loads of positive feedback and praise was given for trying new foods. Proclaiming “I don’t like it” before trying it was prohibited. We even had fun desserts – berries with fresh whipped cream and a few chocolate chips, pineapple skewers, etc. Everyone LOVES the homemade granola balls, apple muffins, trail mix, and healthy cookies. All in all, my kids are doing pretty darn good. Things that I know will be challenges on the horizon - restaurants, eating at friends' houses, parties, and school lunches. 
    6. Not one "my belly hurts" complaint from my son. NOT. ONE. I’ve got to think this has something to do with no grains, but I’ll wait to see what the coming weeks bring.  But I am very proud of all of them. They are eating REAL foods – not processed foods from a box with preservatives and chemicals I cannot pronounce that I had allowed. They are full and happy and their intestines are on their way to being healed from the grains they’ve eaten their whole lives.

    Spinach & pepper Frittata - super easy and delicious
    So now that we've finished week 1 and I've got some confidence under my belt, I'm excited about week 2. This week’s menu is all new - no repeats - and fun. I’m still using Everyday Paleo for recipes, but I also took out Primal Blueprint Cookbook from the library which has some awesome recipes. I’ve discovered some new websites with neat ideas (paleoplan.com) as well. I’m trying no-oat oatmeal tomorrow morning and looking forward to giving the eggs a rest. I’m also placing another order on iherb.com (I’m very impressed – use code JED751 for $5 your 1st order!) Also on the horizon are some kitchen purchases: a mandolin (for vegetable spaghetti and such), a dehydrator (to make fruit roll-ups and homemade no-grain granola), and maybe, one day a Blendtec. Gotta save up for that one, though.

    I apologize for another long post, but there was a lot to share. Will keep updating during the week. And thanks again for reading and keeping me honest.  As always, all questions or suggestions are definitely welcomed!



    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    I do not like green eggs and ham.

    I recently had a "discussion" about our no-grain experiment with a person firmly entrenched in her "the way I eat is best - I don't care what you say" camp. She is very crunchy - way on the other side of mainstream - and believes her diet, which is heavily dependent on grains, is superb. But she completely missed what I was trying to say. It's not about me stating what we're doing is better than what anyone else is doing because, well, I really just don't know. I'm starting out on this adventure and I don't know what experiences we're going to have along the way. But I do know that you have to try in order to find out.

    Basically, my friend criticized my shunning of grains. She denied any of the science behind how the proteins in grains damage our guts and how massive grain consumptions is slowly killing us. She didn't want to hear the studies or findings I've researched. She said she doesn't suffer from any of the many ills and issues linked to excess grain consumption, so therefore grains must be good. But I ask the question: how do you know? How do you know what grains are doing to you if you have always had them since you were born? How do you know how you would feel after eliminating them for say, a month?

    Forget the science and the studies. Do your own study and see for yourself. If you notice no difference, then by all means, make a pasta filled bagel sprinkled with corn flakes. But what if you do notice a subtle difference?  Maybe you will experience new feeling of health - one you didn't know existed. Maybe you will have lost weight, slept better, stopped suffering from allergies, improved your immune system, had more focus, increased your energy, or even lost a few wrinkles. And maybe if you experience one of these immediate benefits, you can have faith that long term avoidance of grains may actually improve your health in ways you can't predict (avoiding a deadly cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, etc.)

    My point is: I don't have the answers, but I'm not claiming I do. What I am claiming is that this no-grain experiment is probably worthwhile. If anything, it will give you a definitive answer as to how your body (and the bodies of your loved ones) handle grains. So I say to my friend who says she will not like non-grain foods, "Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may I say."