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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."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Take your mark. Get set......

GO!

And we're off! We have started our 60 days of Paleo journey. I spent the last few days making a menu for the week, planning shopping lists, shopping, and ordering some things online to get us started. I'm going to use this post to break down what I did for anyone interested.

Step 1 - How hardcore are we going to be about this? 
Jon and I both agreed we are going grain-free, sugar-free, and refined oil-free. But we are including dairy for the time being. Some diehard Paleo's will take issue with this, but there are other Paleo followers are a-ok with dairy. It's in the fuzzy gray area. It's true that cows were not domesticated in Paleolithic times to produce milk for dairy items. (However, there was no wine either and that's definitely Paleo approved - thank heaven!) But there are some serious benefits to dairy that, as modern humans, we can't disregard. Plus, sprinkled cheese or fresh whipped cream is a way to entice some reluctant children into trying new foods. So for us, for now, we are eating cheese and butter. No milk, though. We'll play it by ear and may eliminate it all in the future. So I guess you can call us eating a Paleo-template.

Step 2 - How do we implement?
Initially, Jon and I thought about slowly phasing over to Paleo - do mostly Paleo, but still make pasta, rice as side dishes or allow crackers with hummus, etc. We figured it would be easier on the kids to go slowly. But that method means you can never really start the clock looking for a change in our health - and that's the whole point. And some foods can really set back any results we see - specifically evil gluten. Gluten attacks the lining of our intestines - whether you are sensitive to it or not. And it takes a minimum of 14 days for your gut to heal which essentially resets the clock. Plus, it can take up to 3 weeks for foods to leave your system once they are eliminated. All things considered, it made sense to go full out Paleo from day #1.


Step 3 - What do we eat?
I read Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. If you are at all toying with the idea of Paleo, get this book. There are others out there that are also recommended, but I was drawn to this book because it is especially geared to families. She has 3 boys - teen to toddler - and is very family oriented. I can relate to what she says so much better than an extreme health nut who has never heard the annoying, "I'm hungry! Can we have a snack?!" 15 minutes after a meal cry coming from young mouths. I get turned off by a mega-buff, personal chef-employing author dictating how easy this is, blah blah blah. Get real, man. This book, however, is energetic and realistic and convinced me this is possible. I highly recommend it! I breezed through reading her introductions and explanations and then started mapping out our week. I used a combination of recipes from her book and others I found online at sites like thespunkycoconut.com and wellnessmama.com among others.

What was key in my planning was to sit down with our calendar at the same time. We've got some busy nights and I knew that those meals would need to be either prepped early or done ahead of time. I'd like to take the kids on a picnic Friday with a friend and her kids so I needed to plan a lunch that could travel that did not involve bread. Things to consider.

Breakfasts take time and I have resolved to wake up earlier than normal this week to make sure breakfast is going before the kids come downstairs starving and looking for the cereal boxes. After I get the hang of this thing, I'm thinking I'll be able to prep ahead of time more.  But for now, I am planning on giving myself a cushion for breakfast prep and cook time.

The other thing I did was consider dinners and lunches together. There is no shame in leftovers. While Paleo means cooking, it does not mean I need to be a chef three meals a day. So if we're grilling chicken one night for dinner, I'll have Jon grill extra breasts for lunch the next day. Things like that.

Step 4 - Where to shop?
This was a whole new ballgame. My usual grocery schedule is to shop the circulars, cut my coupons, go to my coupon sites, and organize my coupon binder. I plan my weekly menu from that and hit the stores. Wow what a difference it is to Paleo shop! It was really easy and so refreshing to not have to bother with about 95% of the aisles. In general, I love simplifying life. Very crispy if you ask me. :) So Paleo scores on this count right away. You'll have to customize your shopping based on what's available in your area. But here is what I did. (NOTE: I know this seems like a lot, but remember this was my first go at it. I'm learning and know it will get less time intensive as I improve.)
  1. I shopped for bulk staples online. Everyday Paleo maps exactly what you should have stocked, but basically I needed Paleo approved flours, nuts, oils, and spices. Being my usual deal-scouting self, I price compared for most of Friday. I ended up ordering from nuttyguys.com only because I had a Groupon to use. Their nuts are pricey as is their shipping. But they carry some hard to find dried fruits so I got those. I got a few items from Amazon marketplace and will look to shop there more. You can recieve 15% off if you set up a delivery schedule of which I may take advantage. Finally, I placed a big order on iherb.com. Awesome prices and orders over $40 ship free. Enter this code: JED751 and you'll get $5 your first order. All sites shipped within 2 hours of placing my order.  I expect everything Tuesday. Will report if there are any mishaps. 
  2. I hit Costco. Hard. I discovered Costco is actually a very Paleo friendly place. I also brought along my calculator and notebook to do some more price comparing on items I haven't bought there before. I bought the majority of our meat and veggies there. From now on, I will buy nuts there as well - very cheap. Their organic extra virgin olive oil is award winning and a steal at the same time. Organic butter is cheapest there as well. Uncured bacon and hotdogs are also inexpensive. Veggies vary by location, but we had everything from sweet potatoes to organic romaine to portabello mushrooms in stock and the prices were the cheapest I've found.
  3. Grocery store - I went to our regular grocery store for their sale items - split chicken breasts for .99 lb. and some misc. items like block cheese, veggies I didn't need a lot of, etc.
  4. Our local natural grocery store co-op - I recently joined, though you can shop at most co-ops without membership. But I get returns on profits, am privy to special sales, and get 5% off. They also sell nitrate-free deli meat and all the specialty items I need. Check to see what is near you if you don't shop at one already. It's crispifying.
  5. Farmer's market - our local markets are on Thursday and Saturday. They are my preferred resource for veggies during the summer. I planned my menu around when we would go to them. Actually, we went this last Thursday and let the kids each pick out and buy their own vegetable. They were thrilled. I think it will give them more ownership over their foods and get them interested. Plus, we were recently introduced to kohlrabi thanks to my oldest daughter's pick. We are using it in our menu this week!
  6. My garden - It's still early and my farmer skills are shaky at best. But I've got herbs, lettuce, and swiss chard I'm using already. Should have zucchini by the end of the week, too!

I know this seems exhaustive, but again, I hope to cut it down to just 1-2 stores as I get better and better. I'm still exploring what is available here in our area and who has the best quality for the best price.

So there you have it. We started and so far so good! Below I've listed our menu for the week in case your interested. Everyday Paleo actually has a 30-day meal planner complete with shopping lists. I took some of those ideas and incorporated my own to accommodate our personal tastes. I'll update as I try out new recipes. 

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Sunday
Kids' cut up portabello chicken sandwich with yam fries
  • Eggs & Bacon, melon
  • Chef salads
  • Grilled Portabello chicken sandwiches, homemade sweet potato fries- the portabello is the bun. We layered with spinach, red onion, avocado, and bacon leftover from the morning. The kids had theirs open faced and cut up. Drizzled some olive oil and cracked pepper on top. Jon made a tomato & basil salad from the farmer's market. The sweet potato fry recipe was unlike I've ever made before. Delicious! Made extra to have with lunch later in the week.

Monday
Egg Cupcakes
  • Egg cupcakes - think mini quiche without cheese or crust. They were easy to make. I made a double batch for tomorrow as well. The kids were looking for their cheerios, but instead found these on their plates when they woke up. They were admittedly ambivalent at first - especially my veggie-phobic son. But I didn't nag. Instead I left them alone and let their hunger do the convincing. Everyone ate them up. Even my toddler ate two. These will be quick and easy once school starts.
  • Apple slices & almond butter with cheese slices
  • Paleo pizza  - grain-free crust piled high with whatever meat/veggies you can imagine.

Tuesday
  • Leftover egg cupcakes (no cooking!)
  • Leftover paleo pizza (no cooking again)
  • Chicken with chimchurri sauce, broccoli & garlic, carrots & butter, salad. - We're cooking extra chicken breasts to use for Wednesday's lunch
Wednesday
  • Coconut flour biscuits with eggs
  • Chicken slaw - coleslaw minus the mayo but with chicken chunks and mango (or whatever else I have) and a vinaigrette.
  • Pulled beef tacos salads - I make this in the crockpot. It's a cinch to pull together and is even better the next day.
Thursday
  • Paleo friendly apple muffins and fruit
  • Turkey roll-ups and leftover sweet potato fries- think taquitos with turkey and whatever you want inside (avocado, cucumber slices, carrot shredds, etc. etc.)
  • Kohlrabi ham bake, salad - will get fresh kohlrabi at the farmer's market that afternoon
Friday
  • Sausage hash, leftover apple muffins - hash made with sweet potatoes
  • Apple slices & almond butter with cheese slices
  • Grilled chicken, cabbage slaw, green beans & garlic - will grill extra chicken for tomorrow
Saturday
  • Easy frittata
  • Sliced chicken & raw veggies with walnut pepper dip
  • Steak, salad, grilled red potatoes & onions
Snacks - I've made some of these ahead so I'll always ready. Some I haven't made yet

"Healthy" cookies ready for the oven
  • "healthy" cookies - Finally! Cookies you don't have to feel guilty about! They are totally and completely healthy, but better yet -they were AWESOME! (Peanut free, too!)
  • fruit of all kinds - fresh or dried (but if you do dried, beware of added sugars!)
  • chocolate cashew milk
  • avocado slices
  • kale chips
  • plantain chips & guacamole
  • homemade granola balls
  • berry smoothies - there is an endless variety of these. Use a can of unsweetened coconut milk as your liquid. Heaven.
  • homemade trail mix
  • Paleo friendly berry cobbler - we will end our week with this dessert on Saturday.
Sorry this post is so long, but there was a lot to get out there. Staying positive and feeling great about our changes!

Have questions? I'm happy to answer.
Have suggestions? I'm happy to hear!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I think I bought our last loaf of bread.

And I'm totally freaking out.

Here is a visual:

My pantry.



































My pantry when all grain is removed.





































YIKES. Clearly, grain is a huge part of our diets. It's in everything and anything. How can we exist without grains? What the heck will we eat? Can I even do this? Am I being too radical? Is this upheaval worth it?

I've taken several days off from this blog because I admit it...I lost my steam. I've immersed myself in websites and articles and studies trying to decipher what is true and good for my family. But it's so overwhelming - to the point of causing me a lot of stress. As the person in charge of feeding my family, it's a huge undertaking.  And there is so much information out there and people firmly entrenched in their respective camps screaming at the top of their lungs that they are right. What I end up deciding to do with this glut of information could have a huge impact on the 5  people - 4 of whom are still very young and growing - sitting at my kitchen table. AHHH!

So before I really lost it, I turned off the computer and wrote down our goals with this whole eating real foods thing:

#1. Jon and I want to feel healthy and happy. We want to have energy when we wake up in the morning. We want to avoid headaches. We want to feel less foggy. We want to live life more fully.
#2 We would both like to achieve a better level of health through a combination of losing weight and getting stronger.
#3 I want to address my son's occasional belly aches and see if we can narrow down a cause.
#4 I would like to eliminate my daughter's ADD symptoms which I hope will in turn bolster her self-confidence as she approaches middle school in the fall.
#5 I would like to instill in my younger daughters a love and appreciation for real foods before food marketers fully warp their impressionable minds (I'm talking to you, "fruit" snacks.)

I feel like these goals are keeping in line with my crispy motto. I'm not after anything extreme or radical. But I am after a better understanding of the foods we eat and what they do to our well being in turn. And even though I used to think I was the healthiest mom on the block with my whole-grains and organic stuff, I'm thinking my definition of healthy was warped by mainstream influences. I'm looking for a crispy balance.

So with my goals in mind (and hanging on my fridge), I'm going to take my family on a paleo-ish/ real foods journey for the next 60 days. Then we'll evaluate our experiences against the goals above. Today we took our first 2 steps: No industrialized seed oils. No more grains.

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Step #1 to our new crispy way of eating in this house - throw out all industrialized seed oils. Throwing out canola oil, PAM, etc. as well as anything made with corn, vegetable, palm, soybean, cottonseed, etc. oils. That pretty much means most chips, snacks, crackers, etc. etc. I got rid of it. These oils are essentially poisoning us. For one, they are ALL genetically modified. Two, they are refined, processed, and deodorized. Yep - they go through a chemical process so that humans would find them palatable. Basically, they've got nothing good going on. Plus, add to the fact that the whole "saturated fat causes heart disease" theory has been debunked, their "we're so healthy claims" are kind of a lie.

From now on, we will cook with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. We will use true extra virgin olive oil on foods after they've been cooked (oxidizes with heat which can cause carcinogenic compounds). I am still looking into other sources of cooking fats - lard, ghee, etc., but I'm keeping it crispy for now.

Step #2 - Get rid of grains. This is by far the most daunting of anything. You saw the pictures above. I mean, really. What will we eat? Well the answer to that is: I'm working on it. I've printed off about a ream's worth of online recipes and have a cookbook "Everyday Paleo" arriving tomorrow. The biggest challenges will be: breakfast (I have raised cereal fiends), lunch (sandwiches of any kind are as important as air and water in this house), and snacks (which my kids ask for incessantly...which may actually be because they are so carb overloaded from their cereal and sandwiches, they are never really full). Plus, we are a big pasta and pizza household. This is going to be rough. But the nice thing is that step #2 will essentially take care of step #3 - get rid of refined sugars. But that's another post.

So I guess I can say that I have bought my last loaf of bread. I know everyone is going to be looking for it, but the last slice of the last loaf in the house was used today. As for the rest of my grains in my pantry, I'm not tossing them yet - not until after our 60 day experiment. But I have been easing us into letting go of our reliance. For instance, I made stir fry the other night with chicken, ginger, napa cabbage and all sorts of yummy veggies. (Was delicious cooked in coconut oil, by the way.) Typically I put out a big ole bowl of basmati rice along with the veggies. This time, I did not. It just wasn't on the table. About 75% of the way through dinner, I said, "Oops...left the rice on the stove. Anyone want some?" Of course they all said yes. But by that time, they were so full, they left most of the small scoop on their plates. Voila. They were full. Their little bodies weren't dealing with an insulin spike to handle the sugar spike from the rice. Jon and I weren't engaged in annoying kid negotiating ("How many bites do I have to eat before I can have more rice?" Grr.)  And I was happy....I took my first step to weaning us off the grain habit.

Keep reading as I experiment with ways to get us off the grains. I've got a couple of recipes I'm trying this week including coconut flour scones, homemade grain-free cereal, and pot pies with grain-free crust.

I'm also working on budget stuff. Like most people, I've got a food budget and I am also a recovering extreme coupon-er...I'm a force to be reckoned with when I walk into the grocery store. haha. But now that most of what I can buy with my coupons no longer fits into our real food lifestyle, how I can make this lifestyle work financially is a huge issue that can't be ignored.

Stay tuned, my friends. Recipes and advice are definitely welcome!!!