Ch-ch-ch-Chia Pudding and Granola

Chocolate

Okay, so it’s January, a time when we all resolve to eat healthier, etc. After indulging quite a bit over the holidays, I am one of those people who is looking to balance my indulgences out with some healthy fare. I wanted to shake up my breakfast routine with something different and so I’ve been experimenting with chia pudding (which also makes a great dessert). Ch-ch-ch-chia, ch-ch-ch-chia pudding. Continue reading

Paleo wrap up and Making Things From Scratch challenge!

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That’s right, my 30 days of following strict Paleo guidelines, is over.  I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  First, a recap of what Paleo is.  Paleo is a gluten-free, grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and alcohol-free diet.  It is focused on eating whole foods, lots of vegetables, along with a palm size piece of healthy, antibiotic-free protein with every meal.  How did I feel after 30 days?  I felt pretty good.  Although my skin only cleared up a bit.  And, I didn’t have an energy surge, however I didn’t feel as exhausted as I did before I went Paleo.  Since I wasn’t eating carbs, I never felt that “my stomach feels so full and heavy because I just ate a giant bowl of pasta” feeling.  That was nice – I always felt kind of light.  Also, I lost some weight!  I don’t know how much because I don’t own a scale, but I can say that my jeans definitely fit much better.

donuts

French cruller, jelly donut, and an apple fritter.

I was really looking forward to eating cheese again and sharing donuts with my kids.  The unfortunate thing is that Paleo seemed to ruin my palate, because everything that I initially reintroduced wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered it!  What! How can that be?!  Yes, it’s true.  It’s weird, but Paleo eating satiated me.  I never really craved anything.  Now that I’ve reintroduced everything back in, I crave things again!  Bad things.  Not to mention that after reintroducing things, my body has been in major strife.  Non-Paleo things do not make my body feel as good.  That said, I did Paleo as an experiment, not necessarily a complete lifestyle choice.  It helped me get into better eating habits and eat out less.  Major plus.  I’m a foodie and I could never give up cheese entirely, no matter how bad it made me feel.  I want to live a long time, but I also want to enjoy life.  So, for the future, maybe I’ll have weeks where I eat 80(paleo)-20(non-paleo).  Maybe some weeks will be 50-50.  I want to feel good and be healthy, but I want to splurge too. For people who have major health issues though, I think Paleo is definitely something to look into.

Eating Paleo also forced me to try new things and here’s a list of my favorite things that I’ll definitely be making often (not because they are Paleo, but because they taste so good): Paleo pancakes, Paleo pudding, Chicken with Garlic Gravy (mmm..), Sweet Potato-Pork Belly Hash, Homemade mayo, Lamb meatballs, Harissa, and Chimichurri.  All made from scratch.

Paleo is about eating more whole foods and that means you need to cook most of it yourself.  Making things(paleo or not) from scratch has become a lost art and I’m determined to bring it back.  We’re all so busy these days, but perhaps we should slow down and make a vinaigrette.  I challenge all of you to make something from scratch (that you’d normally buy), like chicken broth, jam, or mayonnaise.  Get some heavy cream and have your kids shake it in a jar to make some butter!  I plan on trying some new things like bread, almond milk, fermented vegetables, and kefir/yogurt (and I’m going to hone my cheese, pasta making, and pie dough skills too!)  Or you could go for something more complicated like making your own beer, like my cousin, Andrew!  That’s my challenge for you: make something from scratch.  Now, what would you like to make?

“Eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain

“Moderation.  Small helpings.  Sample a little bit of everything.  These are the secrets of happiness and good health.” – Julia Child

Oh, in case you were wondering…..here are the things I ate for 30 days of Paleo.

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Paleo Desserts

Donut

Me, resisting the temptation of donuts.

 

Ah the sweet tooth, you are a stranger to me. To clarify, I do like a rhubarb crumble, crème brulee and a donut every once in awhile, but that’s about it.  And that was good news during my Whole30 Paleo challenge, as sugar or sweeteners of any kind are not allowed. I never really had any sweet cravings while doing my Paleo thing, but it was a bit of a challenge to go and get donuts with my kids after swim lessons, and not have one (see pic above)!  There are lots of Paleo baked goods using ingredients like coconut flour and almond meal, which you can use during regular Paleo, but not during the Whole 30, so I haven’t made any yet.  But I have a recipe for Banana Macadamia Coconut Muffins that I want to try out soon…  For now, here’s Chocolate Pudding.

pudding

Paleo chocolate pudding may not sound enticing, but it’s surprisingly silky and satisfying.  Here’s the recipe:

Paleo Chocolate Pudding

1 ripe avocado

½ very ripe banana

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup honey (skip if doing the Whole30)

1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor.  Process until consistency is smooth and pudding-like.

pancakesThis is a standard Paleo pancake recipe that you can find on many Paleo websites.  They are eggy compared to a regular pancake, but they are very satisfying when you are looking for something sweet(ish).

Paleo Banana Pancakes

1 mashed banana

1 or 2 Tablespoons of almond butter

1 egg

Mix together and use as you would pancake batter.  I cooked mine in ghee.

coconut

My favorite Paleo “treat” was young coconut!  The coconut water is refreshing and light (and supposedly very good for you), and the “meat” is like coconut pudding.  Yum.  If you’ve never tried one (even if you think you don’t like coconut) go to the market and try one.  Please.  Our Whole Foods has them near the pizza station, with the tops cut off and they are ready for a straw – no knife needed.

Some other treats I liked were frozen banana slices (yum), strawberry banana smoothie, and raisins.  However, after swim lessons this Saturday, I will be enjoying a French Cruller.  Or two.

“A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.”  – Jean anthelme brillat-savarin

Amazing Brisket and Grass Fed Beef

grass

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve gone Paleo for a month and part of that plan is to eat proteins that are raised humanely and are eating things that they should be eating.  For example, cows are supposed to eat grass.  Mass meat production has led to cheaper ways to feed cows, like corn, and it has created a host of problems, which they think they are fixing with antibiotics.  I think this just creates new problems, like antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Grass fed beef seriously tastes a thousand times better than mass produced beef, and it’s only a few bucks more.  We all have choices on where we spend our money.  And for me, I’d rather spend it on healthy food for my family and me.  It’s cheaper than dealing with illnesses anyway.  Okay, off my soapbox and back to the food. (I should also say, if I have a hankering for Tommy Burger, I’m going to have one.  Am I going to be perfect?  No.  But I am going to try and make better choices.)

FoodStory

Seriously good brisket.

I made this brisket before starting my Paleo thing, using this recipe from chef Suzanne Goin (although I made a few modifications).  I made it again last week, without the beer, and I think it was even better!  She serves it with horseradish cream (delicious) and pickled onions (killer!).  So, here’s the Paleo (and I think better) version:

Braised Beef Brisket

Olive oil

1 large brisket (about 5 pounds), seasoned generously with salt and pepper

2 onions, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

6 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 bay leaves

1 tsp red pepper flakes

4 cups beef stock

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven and put the heat on high.  Once hot, place brisket, fat side down, in pan and sear on both sides until deep brown, a few minutes on each side.

Once both sides are well browned, remove brisket and reduce heat to medium-high.  Add a Tablespoon of olive oil and vegetables to pan and cook until caramelized, 8-10 minutes.  Stir often, scraping up all the crusty bits.  Add the garlic and sauté a few more minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes.  Add the bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and beef stock and bring to a boil over high heat.  Return brisket to the pot.  Stock should come just to the top of the brisket – add more stock or water if necessary.  Cover pan with lid and braise in oven about 4 hours.  (I cooked it for 2 hours, then flipped the brisket over and cooked for another hour, then flipped it again and checked it during the 4th hour – you don’t want to overcook it)  If a fork slides in easily, brisket is done.

Turn up the heat to 400 degrees.  Carefully transfer brisket to a baking sheet covered with foil and return to the oven until top is crispy (took about 12-15 minutes for me).  Skim fat from top of braising juices (you can also put it in the fridge and take the hardened fat off the next day).

Let meat rest 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven.  Slice across the grain and serve with braising liquid and horseradish cream and pickled onions, if you like.  Mashed potatoes would go great with this.

This gave us 2 dinners (it freezes beautifully), plus leftovers for a couple of lunches.  This is my new go-to brisket recipe.

Some other Paleo beefy items I have made: Meatballs (with spaghetti squash), sliders (using lettuce wraps instead of buns – add mayo and caramelized onions for some amazing flavor), and tacos (again, lettuce wraps – add guacamole and pico de gallo).  Next week I’ll be making Korean short ribs, using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Where to find grass fed beef? 

I sometimes get my grass fed beef from Whole Foods, but usually I get it from Novy Ranches, which is at my local farmers market.  The ranch is in northern California and they sell their beef at lots of farmers markets in West LA and in the valley – check out their website for more info.  If nothing else, try their ground beef (that is, if you live in CA) – 4 pounds for only $20 – it makes the best burgers with just some salt and pepper.

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” 

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin