5 Great Paleo Recipes for Early Fall

5 Great Paleo Recipes for Early Fall

1: PaleOMG; 2: Against All Grain; 3: Detoxinista

These are the Paleo recipes we loved this summer and will continue to use as long as the grill isn’t covered by snow! These recipes maximize fresh ingredients and flavour “wow”s:

One. 4th of July Triple Protein Burger – PaleOMG

We haven’t decked out this burger quite like Juli has in this recipe (though why exactly, I’m not sure – it looks delish!). Mostly, we use her spice combo to wow our taste buds and our guests, whether or not we add cheese and bacon to the burgers. You’ll never want to add egg or bread crumbs to your homemade burger patties again!

Two. Grain-free Hamburger Buns – Against all Grain

Pair those burgers with these simple and tasty grain-free burger buns by Against All Grain. They don’t take long to make and they taste great.

Three. Grilled Zucchini – Food.com

This is the recipe we started with, but now I just sort of throw whatever into a ramekin with grapeseed or avocado oil. I always include salt and fresh pepper, and usually garlic powder and some dried chili flakes for a bit of kick. Or Italian seasoning. Then I brush the mixture generously onto both sides of the sliced zucchini and lay the slices onto a hot grill. I’m pretty sure I won over my non-zucchini-lover with this one!

Four. Flourless Chocolate Cake with whipped cream and berries – Detoxinista

You couldn’t imagine a simpler, richer, healthier, more moist, more chocolatey cake! We’ve served this to a few different non-Paleo groups and people have always gobbled up seconds! My favourite way to serve it is alongside some whipped cream (either with coconut milk or good-quality heavy cream) and fresh berries.

Five. Perfectly Seasoned Chicken – Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan

All of these recipes are simple, but this is the simplest and easiest to remember by far. And you will use it over and over and over and over! It’s great for both BBQ and oven cooking.

Grab your room-temp chicken (breasts or thighs, whatever) and generously (and I do mean generously!) sprinkle the following on all sides:

  • salt
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • freshly ground pepper

Oven: Place seasoned chicken pieces either on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a glass or ceramic baking dish. Roast uncovered at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

BBQ: Place seasoned chicken pieces on preheated grill at approximately 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Flip after 7-10 minutes to get grill marks on the other side and for even cooking.

There you have them: five easy, Paleo, and fool-proof recipes that your guests will be raving about and begging you for! You’re welcome.

Happy eating!

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Paleo: It’s Back! (Bonus: our favourite Paleo recipes)

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I know, I know. It’s been aaaaaaaaaages. There are no excuses, but when you have a full-time job and a man and a dog and a house and you co-own a website that showcases the best things to see, do, and buy in rural Ontario, well, your blog moves to the back burner. For years. And years.

But today I decided to grace you with my presence because I wanted to tell you that I’ve gone Paleo. Again. This time, apparently, for good. Or at least for the foreseeable future.

Something’s Gotta Give
After gaining and losing and gaining and losing my “freshman fifteen,” then moving in with Johnathan and doing my last (read: super-stressful) year of school and getting a “big girl” job, etc., those fifteen became more like thirty and nothing was fitting anymore and I decided (again) that enough was enough. I declared that, as of the first Monday in February, I was going to start another Whole30.

YES, I knew that prepping and cleaning would take a lot of time and energy. YES, I knew healthy food would cost more. But I was adamant. Johnathan agreed that he would eat what I cooked (taking into consideration that he doesn’t like to eat everything that I like to eat) and go along for the ride.

So the adventure began… 8 weeks ago. Feels like forever, but for many Paleo-eaters, it’s only the very beginning.

The Return of Real Food
I started cooking Whole30-friendly dishes for both of us: no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no potatoes, no corn, no additives or preservatives, and no dairy for me. As the month went by, my would-be Whole30 turned into Paleo as I found recipes that used honey or maple syrup and made “Paleo-ified” desserts and tortillas and other such indulgences. Johnathan kept his cheese and coffee cream and I started meal planning.

And here we are. We’ve each lost roughly 15 pounds (we don’t own a scale, so the actual amount is a mystery to everyone), our taste in food is changing, and we feel great!

Striving for Balance
At the end of our first month, we decided to “eat socially,” but to stay Paleo during the week. We have few friends and zero family members on special diets, and we don’t want to be “those people” that refuse to eat what is served. Okay, we did that a bit during our first month, but not anymore.

Yes, we may pay the price for it, and we try to make clean food choices when possible, but we are determined to be polite about it.

On our Table…
In case you’re here more for the “Paleo” tag and less for my story, here are some of the Paleo recipes that we LOVE and make often:

That Coffee Cake Banana Bread will definitely make you say “Paleo? OMG!”

‘Til next time…

Whole30 Egg Salad

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I’m just going to jump in cold with this one, even though I haven’t written anything fresh here for over a year (don’t judge).

I’ve had a request for my exact Whole30 egg salad recipe, so I am happily acquiescing. I didn’t actually know my exact recipe, so I had to make it the other day to come up with an approximation that would work.

Without further ado, Whole30-compliant egg salad:

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (make your own with this recipe)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. paprika
sprinkle dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and dig in!

Optional (and flavourful) add-ins: onion (of any type), celery or cucumber (for a bit of crunch), avocado! This last one should really not be in the optional section, because avocado makes everything better!

Adjust proportions to taste. Get creative. Try omitting the Dijon and paprika and adding curry powder or paste.

And let me know how you make out or what your other ideas are!

omelette

Real Food: Life after the Whole30

omelette

Many of you have read all about my recent adventures with food, or, more accurately, lack of many “normal” foods. Towards the end of February, I started what ended up being 54 days of the Whole30 diet, as proscribed by the Whole9 Life founders Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Yes, that “30” in there refers to 30 days, but I decided to go hard-core and do 60 54.

You will probably also be able to tell from the plethora of posts about the Whole30 that I enjoyed it. It was difficult at times, but it forced me to learn about good food. Real food. I had to start making my own salad dressings and using better oils. I began to use all those dried spices that had been taking up space in my cupboard. I started reading labels and growing increasingly disgusted with the food and beverage industry.

For 54 days (not including a “cheat weekend” after the first 30 days), I avoided all dairy, all grains and grain products (including corn and all of its derivatives), all sugars and sweeteners (including honey and maple syrup), all legumes (peanuts, soy, etc.), and most preservatives and additives.

After the first few days, I started to feel consistently great. I had a predictable and steady amount of energy from morning til night, and got great sleep. I was motivated to start running and do ab workouts.

I ate a lot, learned a lot, went through vegetables and eggs like nobody’s business, spent a lot of money on groceries (and I didn’t even get the ideal grass-fed organic meats I was supposed to), and ultimately lost at least 15 pounds (I haven’t done a final weigh-in since losing more weight after the diet was completed). I was getting “wholly healthy,” as I called it.

At the end of my 54 days, I needed a change of pace. Even the Hartwigs admit that the Whole30 is a bit too extreme for anyone to keep up for any extended length of time. The Whole30 is actually a stricter version of the Paleo (Paleolithic, Stone Age, Caveman, etc…) diet, and only meant to be undergone for 30 days here and there.

Having done such an intense diet for two months and then needing to break free, then finding myself in exams, then packing, then moving (to a city and in with my boyfriend=major transition), then looking for a job, and on and on, I fell off the good-food wagon. I guess I’m “lucky” to be one of those people who wasn’t wracked by cramps after every bite of “normal” food after so long an abstinence, but it was altogether too easy to fall back onto more convenient foods.

Convenience and frugality warred against my new good-food habits, and cooking for a non-vegetable-or-healthy-food lover further compounded my dilemma.

I still haven’t fully made peace between the warring factions. Farmer’s Markets have made it easier to justify the purchase of good-quality vegetables and meats, and I am attempting to home-make bread, dressings, sauces, burgers, chicken fingers, and other favourites and staples.

My plan of action is to real-food-ify my kitchen as much as possible. By “real food” I mean non-processed, non-preserved, organic ingredients wherever possible. I will use honey instead of sugar, olive oil instead of vegetable oils, organic flour and vinegar, make my own spice mixes (like seasoning salt), and generally go back to buying items without preservatives and additives.

The trick will be bringing Johnathan along with me, but I accept it as a personal challenge!

Two amazing bloggers help our real food revolution on an almost daily basis: Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food, and Heather of A Real Food Lover. These ladies have made the spices and the sauces, the breads and the pastas, and have real food solutions for almost any “normal” junk-filled dish.

The bread recipe I have been making lately is from 100 Days of Real Food. It has turned out differently every time I’ve made it (I think I’ve been making it with 4 1/2 cups of flour instead of 4 1/4. Oops), but it’s infallibly delicious!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe

What are your go-to real food solutions? How have you managed to wean your household off of additives and preservatives? I’d love to hear your stories!

doing ANOTHER whole30

Whole30: Redux

doing ANOTHER whole30

Yesterday, I started a Whole30. Again. As in, I’m doing a Whole60 (with a little 3-day break in the middle).

If you’re like most people and are very happy eating bread and flour and rice and cheese and yogurt and milk and candy and potatoes and chips and things out of cans, etcetera, this might seem crazy. One month ago, I may have agreed with you. Now, I am excited for another month of strictness–I’ve gotten so used to feeling great (see my last two posts) and I am eager to find out what else I can accomplish through my nutritional boot camp.

This second Whole30 is going to be even more hard core than the first. Before I explain how, though, I have a bit of an announcement: the founders of the Whole30 diet, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, have asked me for permission to direct other Whole30-ers to my new Whole30 Eats section as food inspiration. Remembering how much I relied/rely on other people’s experiences for food ideas, how could I say no?

In the interest of maintaining the integrity of their program, they made sure I got a copy of their Success Guide. You don’t have to have the book to do the Whole30, but it really is a very handy tool, and it showed me where I could make even better food choices. Also, since I am basically receiving an official Whole30 endorsement, I need to shape up and do things the right way.

That means some things will change:

  • No chewing gum. Gum is artificially sweetened, so it’s a no-go on the Whole30. I wondered about that during my first month, but since I didn’t have the Success Guide, I didn’t have all of the details. I may look into other breath-freshening alternatives, or else really try hard not to breathe on anyone. My apologies in advance. 😉
  • Taking fruit out of the spotlight. Fruit tastes great, can be very fulfilling, is a fantastic complement to most meals, but there is so much naturally-occurring sugar in it that it helps keep the “sugar dragon” alive longer. I want to starve that monster to death. So: I will eat less fruit, including trying to abolish the breakfast smoothie, unless I can make an enjoyable version that contains lots of veggies and little fruit.
  • Abolishing the Breakfast Smoothie. I know. My trusty breakfast smoothie. I will be sad to see it go, but I learned in conversations with Melissa Hartwig that liquid meals aren’t the best choice for those trying to lose weight, because the “I’m full” signal isn’t quite the same as when you’re chewing. I also learned that almond butter, which I was going through at a steady pace, isn’t on the Whole30 “go for it” protein list, but rather on the “eating-it-occasionally-is-cool” list. All this, combined with my decision to move fruit out of the spotlight, means that I will be looking for creative ways to get “real” protein (eggs, meat, etc.) into me at breakfast time, along with veggies.
  • No Fudge Babies. These little balls of Paleo goodness got me through some long evenings of reading and studying. However, they fall into the “no-no” category of “Paleo-ified” desserts, which the Hartwigs clearly forbid, lest that “sugar dragon” be allowed to remain alive. When I get an evening craving, I will eat a few almonds and some veggies.
  • Cutting back on the bacon and cold meat. As much as I loved the (additive-free) bacon and smoked turkey that I found at the farmer’s market last month, I realized that neither one is on the “great” list of proteins, and should be enjoyed occasionally, rather than regularly.
  • Fewer almonds. If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’ve heard me talk about almonds before. They have been my super snack over the past year or two. While they’re not bad, they’re not on the “best” list, so I’m going to try to rely on them less. When in doubt, eat veggies!
  • New Balsamic Vinegar. I didn’t realize until I read the Success Guide yesterday that my balsamic vinegar (like most cheapies) has sulfites in it. Oops. Sulfites are a “no-no” on the Whole30, so it’s time for a new bottle.
  • Using clarified butter. This is the only “dairy” product allowed on the Whole30. Clarified butter has been melted and the milk solids skimmed away, making it a good fat rather than an evil one. It also helps to start with a good-quality, organic, grass-fed butter. I would venture to say it’s worth splurging on the good-quality stuff.
  • Eating more good fats. There is another diet out there where people eat coconut oil with every meal. On this diet, you don’t have to do that because you’re cooking with coconut oil and coconut milk and olive oil, and eating avocado, etc. I know it sounds backwards, but I’m convinced that good fats can make a lot of difference for a healthy diet. A diet without fats is difficult to maintain–you aren’t giving your body any extra calories, so without good fats, it won’t have much to run on. Besides, coconut and avocado are good for your skin and hair, etc. What did hydrogenated vegetable oil ever do for you?
  • Even more planning ahead. You really have to be on the ball with a diet like this. Especially if you have days like I do this term, where I leave my house by 8:30 am and don’t return until 9 or 10 pm. You have to get creative. You have to spend several hours cooking in order to have containers of good food to take with you when you’re out. You have to be disciplined in your determination to only eat foods you have made, unless you have access to a store or restaurant with Whole30-compliant meals. I don’t, so plan ahead I must. The tough part for me this month is going to be planning for breakfast. The smoothies were pretty easy, even though they took up more time than I had ever dedicated to breakfast on a morning where I had somewhere to be. Now, I have to prepare eggs and veggies… I’ll need even more discipline and creativity for that.

There you have it. My wee announcement, followed by several things that help you think I’m crazier than I was before.

Crack, aka pizza

Cheese and Bread and Chocolate, oh my. AKA: I fell off the horse for 3 days.

Crack, aka pizza
Crack, aka pizza

I finished my first Whole30 last week. Thursday was the official day 30, but I continued the diet through Friday.

Then, to be able to celebrate my friend’s birthday on Saturday and celebrate finishing the Whole30 with my boyfriend on Sunday, I took a two-day diet break. I pretty much fell off the wagon for two days: On Saturday I had a muffin for breakfast (tried two but couldn’t even eat the first one), and cream in two coffees.Then, my body was freaking out, so I gave it two bananas and a whole bunch of raw veggies. It didn’t get any protein until around 5:00 pm. Bad scene, not to be repeated.

Dinner on Saturday was a delightful catered party spread that included homemade salsa and tapenade and fruit and veggies and meats and artesanal (sp?) cheeses and wraps with goat cheese and sauces and crackers and… SOOO good! Definitely worth “falling off the wagon” for. Or horse. I started with horse, I had probably continue with horse.

The bite-sized finger-food party grazing spread was fantastic. I had been in touch with the caterers beforehand to make sure I wasn’t falling off the horse for a meal full of deep-fried food and breads and sugars, etc. But no, of course no. These people are way too classy for that.

I also tried a couple of the signature drink, The Justin, named in honour of the birthday boy. After no alcohol for a month, I felt like two was enough, and what with a glass of punch besides, I started having a major thirst issue and couldn’t drink enough water.

But I’m pretty sure it was the dessert that caused the painful pangs in my belly the next morning. Justin’s mom is the dessert queen. I do not exaggerate. In all honesty, she is the Martha Stewart of our region, but dessert is possibly one of her brightest stars.

There was an entire table full of desserts that she had made. Cupcakes. Cheesecakes. Pies. A gigantic red velvet black forest trifle cake. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Strawberries. Skor. Caramel. Whipped cream. HEAVEN!!!!

I couldn’t help it. If the dessert was going to kill me from the insides out, I was going to die with the best dessert in the world on my lips. So I tried at least a bite from three desserts, including a whole (small) slice of pecan pie. Mmmmmmmm!!! I didn’t even have the presence of mind to take a picture of that plate of goodness, such was my eagerness to devour it.

Yesterday morning, for a few minutes, I felt cramp-like pangs in my belly. Then I got up and added cheddar and sriracha  to an otherwise Whole30-compliant omelette, and cream to my coffee. Ahh dairy, I’ve missed you! In the afternoon, I ate leftover braised cabbage, aware I would be sinning majorly that night.

Knowing I’d be going another month without any kind of grains or dairy, I decided to pile on another layer of dirty eating and make pizza for my celebratory dinner with Johnathan. Caveats? I put lots of veggies on mine, and made the dough and sauce from scratch. Both involve non-kosher ingredients. It was a cheat or bust kind of weekend, I guess.

Then I proceeded to deviate further and I ate an absolutely heavenly leftover cupcake from the party the night before, and then one my most favourite awful foods: a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Oh, and full disclosure: I had 2 glasses of wine with my pizza.

By now, all the Paleo people are cringing. Sorry, guys.

As much as I enjoyed all of those flavours that I had missed and will continue to miss, I was glad to get back to the strictness of the Whole30: I’ve gotten used to feeling great all the time, and all the cheese and chocolate and cupcakes in the world can’t give that to me.

Pushing the reset button

Today was supposed to be the first day of my second Whole30. It started well, but when dinner-time hunger pangs hit, I felt the need to not waste the two pieces of leftover pizza in my fridge. So I had to strike the attempt and postpone Second Whole30, Day  until tomorrow.

This second edition of the Whole30 is going to be even more hard-core than the first: no Fudge Babies. Less fruit. Less almond butter, less smoothies.

I’ve been inspired by a great opportunity which I will tell you about tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I’m excited to get my good sleep back and lose the residual tailbone pain…

no sugar

Challenge: Can you do without sugar for one week?

no sugar
Just say no.

Before I embarked on the Whole30 nutrition journey, I hardly ever read labels. I thought label-readers were obsessive calorie-counting control freaks too concerned with numbers to enjoy food (no offense, calorie-counters that I know!).

Before I started reading labels, I had no clue how prevalent sugar is in food items that we would consider staples. It comes in so many forms! Dextrose, sucrose, glucose, the list goes on.

Sweetness isn’t inherently bad for us, but we love it so much that we compulsively over-indulge, and that’s when things start going pear-shaped. Literally.

There are many forms of naturally-occurring sugars. Primarily, they are found in fruit, but there is also honey *and maple syrup.

Should you choose to accept this no-sugar-for-a-week challenge, those naturally-occurring sugars are acceptable, but none others. That includes “naturally-occurring” brown sugar and white sugar: cut them out for a week. Especially avoid any artificial sweeteners: become a label-scanner for a week!

But…!

But you have a sweet tooth and you can’t help yourself? You can do it. All you need is some determination, some “healthy” sugars, and some creative ideas.

Idea #1: Make or buy a cocoa, vanilla**, nut (walnuts or almonds), and date blend that looks and tastes pretty close to brownies. The recipe I use is called Fudge Babies. No, they’re not as sweet as the brownies you’re used to, but they’re good! You’ll see.

Idea #2: Cut bananas into bite-sized chunks. Line a freezer-prooftray with waxed paper, and lay the banana pieces on it to flash-freeze until hard. Then store in an air-tight container in the freezer. You can use these just to munch on, or blend them into smoothies, or even a sort of “ice cream” with coconut milk, a bit of vanilla, cocoa if you want, perhaps some pineapple or orange… Yum, right?

I have also mixed some coconut milk and vanilla and drizzled it over banana chunks and then frozen them for some added deliciousness.

Other ideas: Try honey or maple syrup in your coffee or tea, spread honey on your (whole grain) toast, put maple syrup on your oatmeal, and try using fruit juice as a sweetener in a dressing or a sauce.

There really are so many ideas for recipes that avoid sugars–look for some!

This idea comes from the 100 Days of Real Food website. It is listed as Mini-Pledge Week #9. The challenge is also issued by the Miami Herald in this article, where you can read more about the evils of sugar.

So. Can you do it? Will you be brave enough to try?

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*Honey: If you can get raw honey, use it. Again: less processed=better.
**Vanilla: Use pure vanilla if you can, or make your own from a vanilla bean.

Also, to clarify: I am not eating honey or maple syrup on the Whole30, but I am not expecting my readers to be that hard core for this challenge. Unless you really do have what it takes…..! 🙂