Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thoughts on Paleo Magazine

Initially I wasn't sold on the idea.  As a matter of fact, I felt fairly confident that a magazine dedicated solely to paleo wouldn't last.  The amount of paleo info out there is abundant.  There's blogs galore, and even a handful of books out there now, and there's more on the way.  Why would I want to pay $6 a pop for info I already have in a book, or can find easily on the interwebs?  And what is a magazine anyway, but a couple decent articles, a few nice pictures, and a ton of ads.  Nope - Paleo Magazine is not for me...

That is until Stacey pointed it out to me on the checkout stand at Whole Foods!  Can you imagine?  The word "Paleo" big and bold among all the other typical periodicals.  It took a whole 2 seconds before I exclaimed "Let's get one!"  Part of me was curious to check it out, and part of me really just wanted to support the cause.

Overall, I'm most excited to see the magazine at Whole Foods.  I looked around and have to assume that over a thousand  people are in and out of our particular Whole Foods everyday.  Sure, probably half won't even see the magazine on the stand, and even less of those that do see it will pick it up to check it out, but the name is up there, big and bold.  Eventually, people are going to want to see what this whole paleo thing is all about.

But what about the magazine?  Does it hold up against all the blogs I already follow?  Sure.  I like it well enough.  It's kinda nice to not have to sift through dozens (to hundreds when I've been lazy and need to catch up) of blogs on my reader for ones I want to read.  The convenience of the magazine is that ideally, all of the best articles are located in the same place.  It's questionable that most of the articles in the magazine are written by bloggers that I already follow and read on a consistent basis, so I can't imagine the content is going to blow me away very often.  Although, I'm happy to pay my $6 at Whole Foods to support the magazine.  I like seeing it at Whole Foods, and want to see it succeed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Everybody's Doing It...

A lot of people are doing it.  I feel like I often read about people who are just beginning it.  On occasion, I have heard people cursing it.  And now, we are doing it too – a Whole30!

We are not new to challenges, back in February we completed our own 45 day paleo challenge.  The primary differences between our challenge and the Whole30 are that we included gluten-free alcohol and paleo substitutes (like ‘paleo pancakes’) on our list of acceptable foods.  These are foods that are not acceptable for the Whole30, which we are sticking to 100%!

Today is Day 14 of our Whole30 and so far so good! 

A few things about the Whole30 that make me smile:
  • I’m creating complete menu plans again, meaning I plan and try new recipes and everything tastes wonderful – and there are delicious leftovers for lunch!
  • I feel good, real good.  I am going to sleep early and waking up with lots of energy.
  • I feel leaner, that makes me happy.
  • Everyone around me at work is sick, I am not.
A few things that are challenging me:
  • I miss my occasional glass of wine.
  • I am realizing how most of our social gatherings focus on food and drink, and when I can’t have the food, I would normally at least have a drink – now I can’t have either and don’t know what to do.
  • We have eliminated our occasional cup of decaf coffee, I miss it.
Overall though, it feels great and I'm happy to be getting back to the basics!  Now I just hope that we don't get in trouble when we go to the bar to meet friends to watch football and only order waters.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Guide to the Green City Market

This summer we have finally taken advantage of our close proximity and become regulars at our farmer’s market, The Green City Market.  It took a few visits, but we now have our favorite stands that we frequent every week, which provides us with consistently high quality foods at fair prices.

Meat

We sampled meats from ground beef to lamb to bacon, as well as eggs, from all the farmers providing grass-fed/pastured animals.  Our favorite turned out to be Meadowhaven Farms.  They have a great selection, good prices and are pretty nice too.  They also offer the crossfit meat box, which we have been loving!

Veggies

I am easily overwhelmed, especially at the farmer’s market.  It is always busy and there are so many different things to look at and consider – and there is the smell of baked goods driving me to distraction.  Anyway, when I don’t know what veggies to buy, or haven’t properly menu planned – I dive into the Green Acres stand and load up on greens.  They have a huge variety of leafy greens; all types of kale, chard, collards, lambs quarters, bok choy…everything!

Majestic Farm pick your pint tomatoes

Green Acres leafy greens


I’ve also been loving the make your own pint cherry tomatoes from Majestic Nursery – the dark orange ones are my favorite.








Fruit

The Flamin’ Fury Peaches people get me every time.  They sit there in their bright shiny stand right at the entrance to the market, forcing there samples on me – their super ripe and sweet samples – and I inevitably end up buying something.  I’ve tried their peaches and various berries, all pretty good. 

Dairy

We generally do not eat dairy.  It was actually finding this grass-fed butter from Nordic Creamery that led us to introduce it back into our diet in the first place, and all has been well.  Have not noticed any adverse side effects from either their butter or on a very rare occasion, goat cheese.  I mainly like to use the butter for frying eggs – and the occasional goat cheese crumbled in a salad, hmmm – now I’m hungry.







And of course, I always find it near impossible to leave the market without buying some fresh cut flowers...so many to choose from!


Tuberose, my favorite - smells like heaven



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Best BBQ Rub Ever

This rub is so good, Stacey caught me licking it off the spatula while grilling.  It's perfect.  It's spicy and tangy and works with just about anything.  I've put it on burgers, fish, and so far it's my favorite on pork chops.  It's no wonder that it's called Magic Dust.  We found the recipe here, and we're glad we did.  Their note at the bottom of the page is right, it keeps well, but it won't last long.  You'll want to put it on everything!

Magic Dust

  • 4 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt, finely ground
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp cayenne
  • (2 tbsp sugar) we omit the sugar, but it's in the original recipe


Here it is on Swordfish, with a side of Japanese Yams (topped with coconut oil) and grilled okra:

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Meadowhaven Crossfit Box

MEAT!

Sometime mid-Summer while we were ordering an absurd amount of grass fed beef, and pork from the guys at Meadowhaven Farm at the Green City Market, they looked at the amount of food we were buying and asked us if we'd heard of their Crossfit Box.  We had, but we weren't quite ready to spend $200 at one time.  A few weeks ago we gave it a try, and found it to be a pretty decent deal.  We had enough meat to last us about 2 and a half weeks.  High quality, grass-fed, delicious meat.  This weekend we bought the Crossfit Box #2, which has more pork than the Crossfit Box #1.

It seems so much easier to meal plan when we know we have a steady stream of quality meat coming out of our fridge.  Plus, our trips to Whole Foods seem that much less expensive!

Crossfit Box #1

  • 10lbs. Ground Beef
  • 2 Beef Roasts
  • 4 Whole Chickens
  • 1 Package of Leg Quarters
  • 1 Package of Wings
  • 2 Packages of Bacon
  • 4 Various Ground Pork Products
  • 2 Packages of Pork Chops or Steaks
Crossfit Box #2
  • 10lbs. of Ground Beef
  • 1 Beef Roast
  • 2lbs. of Stew Meat
  • 1 Package of Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Package of Leg Quarters
  • 1 Package of Wings
  • 3 Packages of Bacon
  • 2 Packages of Pork Chops or Steaks
  • 1 Pork Roast
  • 4 Various Ground Pork Products

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Make Your Own Coconut Butter!

Coconut Butter - It's SO Good

Coconut butter, also called coconut creme concentrate, is one of those amazing foods I only discovered after beginning to eat a paleo style diet...and I LOVE it!!!  I mean, really - it is so good, SO good. 

I've tried a couple different brands, both are good and neither is cheap:
  • Artisana Coconut Butter - It's organic, it's delicious and it has been my preferred brand, at about $10 per 16 oz jar at Whole Foods
  • Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate - also organic and delicous, but only available by mail (not good for instant cravings) and a bit pricier at $18 per 16 oz jar. Although Tropical Traditions is the master of the two for one sale and discounts in general, they always seem to be having some type of 'get it now!' sale.
  • Let's Do Organic Creamed Coconut - available at Whole Foods, this coconut cream comes in smaller plastic packages.  It is tasty, but I don't like the texture as much as the Artisana version.  It would be convenient for travel though and it is less expensive.

How to Make Your Own

This is ridiculously easy, why I didn't try this sooner - I have no idea.  Simply throw some organic coconut flakes, I used Tropical Traditions coconut flakes, into your food processesor and let it go.  I let the processesor run for 3 minutes at a time, stopped, scrapped down (and let it cool down) and ran it for about 4 of those intervals.  You will definitely notice the point it goes from really fine shreds to a more buttery liquid type of consistency.  The result was amazingly similar to the commerically produced items and will definitely work for my favorite guilt free blueberry and coconut dessert!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paleo Restaurant Review: Adobo Grill

Adobo Grill, I never knew...

We discovered another paleo friendly restaurant in our neighborhood!  The funny thing is, we had been here several times before but just recently learned they have a gluten-free menu option.  It makes me sad to think of all the guacamole I missed out on thinking the only vehicle option was tortilla chips.  But on the GF menu they offer jicama chips with their guac - so good!

As with any gluten-free menu, you still need to be aware that there are many dishes paired with beans and corn.  A side of beans are an easy one to request be omitted from a dish, but sometimes corn is too much of the dish - no duck tamales for me.

We did enjoy the guacamole with jicama chips, a trio of ceviches (served with plantain chips), flank steak and the achiote roast pork - all delicious.  I caved and also enjoyed an Adobo Margarita, the most un-paleo part of the meal - but also the least sugar infused of any of their margaritas!

Overall this was really an excellent and nearly guilt-free paleo meal out.  Definitely recommended!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paleo Camping

I don't camp often, but every time I do I can't seem to shut up about how much I love camping, and how I'm going to do it so much more often.  Well, our camping trip up to Mirror Lake Wisconsin last weekend was no different.  A few highlights:


  • We lucked out and found a window of perfect weather in between a lot of Summer rain.
  • We officially went for our first hike in our Vibram FiveFingers.
  • We wore our Vibram FiveFingers too much over a 2 day span and had to tie them up in a trash bag coming home because they reeked! (I even wore socks in them all weekend, but the repeated dry to damp to dry to damp without taking them off was enough to stink 'em up)
  • We can grill meats to perfection even without a spotless new grill (our fire pit grill grate was pretty run down).
  • Last but most certainly not least, mosquitoes love paleo blood and we were feasted on!
The two of us left Mirror Lake with no less than 100 little mosquito bites, mostly around our ankles.  Despite the annoying bugs, I loved camping, I had so much fun, I will go camping more often.  For real this time.
Still lake during early morning hike

mosquito bite massacre

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Menu for Pleasing Your Non-Paleo Dinner Guests

Ryan and I had my parents over for dinner recently.  My parents do not follow a paleo diet.  They tend to think we have a very 'restrictive' way of eating.  Sadly, I think this is my fault due to how I first described this wonderful new way of eating I was exploring.  Starting out by telling someone what you don't eat is not the way to go, now I usually tell people I eat whole foods, basically plants and animals, without getting into the nitty gritty of why I don't eat grains, corn, beans, etc.  If someone is that interested and asks, I'm happy to explain - but describing what we don't eat is not a good way to casually describe paleo to someone.

So, now that my parents have an invitation to dinner at our place, I can tell they are worried about what we will feed them.  Silly parents.  Here is the pretty fool-proof menu, with some minor indulgences, that will keep you paleo and please the masses...

Apps
Guacamole
Veggies
Root vegetable chips

Dinner
Grilled grass-fed rib-eye steaks sprinkled with sea salt and pepper
Grilled asparagus
Baked sweet potatoes (not a staple for us, but this type of dinner is the perfect time to indulge) with pastured butter

Dessert
Brownie Sundaes

Yes, brownie sundaes.  How is that paleo you ask?  By combining this great paleo brownie recipe I found on dessertstalker, with some vanilla Coconut Bliss ice cream (not the best, home made would be better, but suitable for us in a pinch) and fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries...It was a hit, even for the non-paleo parents!

At the end of this meal, I mentioned to my parents that everything they had eaten was paleo, they were very surprised, possibly disbelieving.  Maybe if I keep feeding them awesome meals, I can bring them over to the paleo side!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remember Pizza?

Blasphemy!
Chicago style deep dish, just doesn't
have the same appeal anymore


We live in Chicago and haven’t had pizza in over 6 months.  With no less than 10 restaurants we can get pizza from within walking distance of our apartment, we must be crazy, right?  For delivery you can make that close to 20 - easy.  All the access to the best pizza in the world and we abstain.  Crazy, right?

 
Possibly, but oddly enough, we don’t miss it and we don’t crave it.  Oh, it smells damn good if we catch a whiff of pepperoni/cheese/baked bread, but at this point we know it’s not worth it and our palates have evolved to better enjoy the real foods that make up a paleo diet.


This is why I’m convinced we broke our pizza-free streak more out of sheer curiosity and nostalgia than actual craving.  No, we didn’t go crazy and crush a deep dish from Lou Malnati’s, we tried out the gluten free pizza from Marcello’s.  Located steps from our front door, we are subjected to a banner advertising their gluten free pizza, and we finally decided to try it.  What would it be like?  Could this be a new cheat option?  Well here’s how it went:


We arrived to pick up our pizza and the very friendly guy behind the counter asked if we were the “medium pizza with olives, pepperoni, and mushrooms.”  I then had a freak out moment when I realized he didn’t say gluten free.  I told him we were there for a gluten free pizza of the same make.  He said, “yes, of course this is it.”  I then freaked out the entire walk home when the receipt didn’t specify gluten free either.  We got home, and I immediately took a small nibble and decided that you could tell the crust was gluten free, it was not 'normal'.  We then proceeded to finish the entire thing.  Presumably made with some sort of rice flour blend, it was good.  Not great, not mind blowing, but good.  And that’s it.  Good.  In our humble assessment, definitely not good enough to consume on a regular basis.  Stacey mentioned that she never has to try it again.  I agreed.  Pizza is officially out of our systems.  There are better options…


Ultimately the best option is to stay paleo.  We’ve tried the faux pizza recipe in the Everyday Paleo Cookbook and loved it.  It provided just enough of the pizza flavor to give you a little nostalgia, with none of the bad stuff.  It’s a nice treat you can have if you’re a pizza fiend and have a nasty craving.  If you’re hankering for a big old slice of pizza, just put in the time and make the Everyday Paleo pizza, stay sane, stay healthy and stay happy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Peach Season - Time for Peach Paleo Ice Cream!

The Peaches are Here!
Bruised and imperfect
peaches

I always enjoy watching the offerings at the farmers market change throughout the season.  I get sad when the asparagus stops showing up on the market tables.  But I get extremely happy when the peaches start showing up!  And that is what happened today - peaches are here!

I am always looking for a bargain, and when I saw quarts of discounted bruised peaches, I knew they would be mine.  Perfect for making peach ice cream!

Peach Paleo Ice Cream
Peach Ice Cream
Here is my super simple paleo peach ice cream recipe

6 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 pour of Grand Marnier (optional)
  • Puree peaches in your blender, add coconut milk and blend again
  • Add cinnamon, vanilla and optional Grand Marnier*
  • Blend it all up and pour into your ice cream maker
* The Grand Marnier should help keep your ice cream from freezing rock solid

You could make this sweeter by adding in a bit of honey, but with really ripe peaches I think it is sweet enough without any added sugar.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mark Sisson, get out of my head!

Why is it that every time something new comes up for Ryan and I – tracking our paleo costs, waking up groggy, trying intermittent fasting, our first paleo camping trip, Mark Sisson immediately writes a blog about it?  I appreciate the focused and personal attention from Mr. Sisson – it is like he is answering my questions before they are even asked.  Although, I am a little freaked out about how he knows what I am thinking all the time. 

Is this a paleo side effect I have yet to experience?  Can I somehow achieve this talent and refocus it to win the lottery? 

I guess it is normal that a group of people with similar interests will be thinking about similar things and sharing that information.  But the timing is just amazing!  Understand, I am not complaining about this – just marveling at it, and will now rely on Mark Sisson to provide timely updates to all my unanswered primal/paleo questions.  Thank you Mark!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our "Go To" Paleo Dinner Recipe

Why You Need a "Go To" Dinner Recipe

No matter how much planning I do; creating menu plans for the week, shopping lists by the day and lunch prep plans for the night before - sometimes the plan just doesn't work out.  Sometimes, what I have planned just doesn't sound appealing at the moment.  And sometimes, the day has just gotten away from me and I must eat immediately or bad things are going to happen.  So those are the times when I turn to our "go to" dinner recipe. 

Essentials of a "Go To" Dinner Recipe

Tasty - something that you are actually excited to eat
Fast- simple to prepare and ready to eat soon
Flexible - something basic that you can add ingredients to depending on what you have on hand
Scalable - sometimes I just want to make enough to feed myself right now, and sometimes I want to make enough that lunch is all ready to go for the next day

I would add that it shouldn't even be considered a 'recipe' because it is just that easy:

Curried Beef in Coconut Milk
Grass fed ground beef (typically make 2 lbs if planning on any leftovers)
Coconut milk - 1 cup per pound of beef
Curry powder - 1 Tbsp per pound of beef
Curry Beef w/ wild spinach
turned into breakfast
by adding eggs

Brown meat, stir in curry powder and then add coconut milk, bring to a simmer.  Serve in bowls - better for slurping it all up, Enjoy!

Variations:  I've added sauteed onions with kale/collard greens/spinach, etc.  I'm sure there are other veggies that would work just as well.  

What's your go to dinner recipe?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paleo Restaurant Review: Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House

It took a few years, but I finally took Stacey out to Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House.

A few years ago, I don't even remember why, I agreed to take Stacey out to Hugo's Frog Bar for dinner.  She must have spotted me for dinner or something, but I promised dinner at Hugo's once I found a job...okay, once I got my first paycheck from a job.  I've been in and out of part-time jobs the past few years, but am now finally gainfully employed and Hugo's was the first treat on the list.

Not only a great restaurant to celebrate something, Hugo's is a great restaurant for a couple paleo dieters to celebrate something.  Not only do they offer a host of deliciously fresh seafood, but because it shares a kitchen with Gibson's Steakhouse, you can also order anything off the Gibson's menu as well.  Translation:  surf & turf headquarters.  Before I get into what we ordered, I have to point out that this is most likely a spot to head to for special occasions because it is very pricey.  The service and food are top notch, so it's a safe bet for a celebration if you're willing to burn a little cash.

Appetizers:  We were told that the escargot here are amazing, but I was a little more curious about the Frog's Legs, so we ordered those.  The frog's legs were seasoned and sauteed, and came in little pairs.  Both legs still attached to each other.  As expected they tasted a bit like chicken, but Stacey pointed out they are sort of in between chicken and fish.  I agree with that assessment, but would lean much closer to the chicken side than the fish side.  It felt as if they might possibly be a little breaded, but I didn't feel congested after the meal, so if there was it was minimal.

Soup or Salad (included with purchase of entree):  We both ordered the Lobster Bisque.  Delicious, creamy and served with a giant spoon, it was difficult not to eat the bowl of soup too fast.  We both had to force ourselves to set the spoon down in between bites so we could enjoy it longer.

Entrees:  Stacey ordered the Baked Cod which comes topped with king crab meat.  I'm inclined to think that anything topped with crab is going to be good, but this was great.  I know because the portions are so large, Stacey asked me to finish it.  Bonus!  I ordered the Grilled Copper River Salmon, which our server told us was fresh caught and only available one week out of the year.  Now I like salmon as much as the next guy, but this was the best salmon I've ever had.  It was seared perfectly and put to rest on a bed of grilled asparagus.

Dessert:  Now that we're paleo, we don't eat as many desserts when dining out, but since we were celebrating we figured what the heck.  Dessert included a little debate.  The first time I'd come here I had the key lime pie because I'm a fiend for a good key lime pie.  The key lime pie at Hugo's is not like any other you'll ever see because it's hidden under an obscene 7-8 inch high meringue.  So much meringue that you'll  have to knock most of it off.  Like I said, I'm a huge fan of key lime pies, so I loved it, while the others simply just enjoyed it.  Our debate was whether to order the key lime pie or the creme brulee, which was also recommended to us by a friend.  The deciding factor was gluten.  Creme brulee is gluten free, and key lime pie isn't (unless you make your own).  Our portion of creme brulee was also obscene.  I'm sure it could satisfy a table of 4-5 easily, so it was no surprise that our stomachs were rumbling and bloated the entire walk home after we finished the entire thing.  Another example of what we consider the perfect cheat dessert.  Gluten free to remove some of the guilt, and tasty enough to where you won't regret it.

Drink:  Splurging we ordered one of their cheaper bottles of pinot noir, which was smooth and paired well with everything we ordered.  Concannon '09.

Price:  Using a $25 off coupon from restaurant.com, the total bill came out to just over $100.  Way too much for a regular night out, but for a special occasion it could definitely be a lot worse.

Assessment:  we stayed mostly paleo, left stuffed, and supremely satisfied.  We highly recommend Hugo's Frog Bar to anyone who's willing to spend the money.  It's definitely a treat.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Beach Sprints

We did it, we sprinted on the beach and it was glorious.

…glorious until I pulled my hamstring that is.  Another incredibly frustrating and stifling injury.
But back to the good stuff.  The few sprints that we did get in were so much fun.  Liberating even.  I haven’t set out to just do sprints since basketball conditioning back in college.  I have to admit I was somewhat reticent about returning to them.  Sprinting for conditioning was never fun, as a matter of fact, quite the opposite.  I love to run, but somehow my coaches/trainers were able to suck the fun out of it and transform running into a form of torture.  None-the-less, Stacey and I jogged down to North Ave Beach and set up to do a set of sprints.  10 to be precise.
The boardwalk was packed with walkers, joggers, rollerbladers and bikers, but the sand was empty.  Too early for crowds to start amassing, we were able to share the entire beach with a couple walking their dog, and a man meditating.  The solitary nature of meditation and the transitory nature of walking a dog, I can safely say that we had the beach to ourselves.  Not that we needed all that beach, but it was nice to know that it was there.  With the masses flowing up and down the boardwalk, I got a slight feeling of pride.  Proud to not be on the crowded boardwalk, trotting along with the others.  I was going to get a real workout;  faster and better.  And with nobody else on the beach, I kind of felt like we were on display.  In my mind, I was putting on a show for the joggers, showing them the way.
So there we were, on the beach ready to sprint.  We settled on a short distance of about 50 yards – and were going to do 10 sprints in total.  Nothing too crazy.  The distance felt a little short, and when my hammy recovers, I want to try to do longer sprints.  Not having sprinted in a long time, the first sprint felt a bit odd.  Re-learning how my body works.  The rest of the sprints until my injury felt amazing.  Cutting through the wind, I felt like I was flying.  Stacey, who doesn’t consider herself to be fast, said that she felt fast.  Definitely a lot more fun than the traditional few mile jog.
We both started sprinting with our Vibram Fivefingers on, but agreed that it felt way better to just go it truly barefoot.  Feeling the sand in between my toes was great and also liberating.  Then I pulled my hamstring and my elation ended.  The whole walk home, I ranted and raved.  I raved about how much fun it was to do beach sprints, and I ranted about how frustrating injuries are.  I effectively caught the “I want to do beach sprints every week” bug, and put myself in a place where I won’t be able to do beach sprints for 4-8 weeks, safely. 
So learn from my mistakes:

  1. Don’t be afraid to [insert tough workout here] because it was too grueling in the past.  It can be fun when you do it on your own terms.  Hard work can be fun sometimes too.
  2. Make sure you’re warm before you fully exert yourself.  Stacey and I both jogged about a mile and completed a series of stretches before sprinting, and this wasn’t enough.  Because I hadn’t sprinted in so long, my body wasn’t ready for it.  Before you go full bore, do a few runs at 70-80%, then perhaps a few at 90%.  Ease into it.
  3. Don't do beach sprints too close to the gentleman meditating.  If he feels disturbed at all, he can shoot your hamstring down with his mind-bullets!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We Got a Grill - Finally!

Oh, joyful day!  We can grill!

Being able to grill may not seem like a luxury if you live in a house with a yard and the standard backyard patio/BBQ set up.  But having lived in an apartment with no outdoor space for the past 15 months, being able to grill is like a whole new world of cooking has become available.  We just moved into a new apartment with a small balcony, the perfect size for a grill and two chairs.  The first thing we did (not literally, but very close to it) was count up 15 months of accumulated change and head down to Home Depot to purchase a grill. 

Fun facts about our new grill:
1.  I love it
2.  It only took Ryan an hour to put it together (not including the brief break for lunch, since hunger was impairing ability to assemble)
3.  There is only one leftover part after finishing assembly, Ryan has convinced me it's just an 'extra' bolt

So many grilling benefits!
Ryan rocking the grill on the 4th

Grilling seems to necessitate gathering people together to eat meats (perfect!) - or maybe it was because this past weekend is all about the cookout - we bought a lot of meat, grilled a lot of meat and got to spend time with friends we haven't seen in awhile.

I'm also liking the grill option for a quick, easy, clean and non-hot kitchen meal option.  Throw asparagus and pork chops on grill, eat 10 minutes later, clean 2 plates - perfect!

And now I can try all those grilling recipes/ideas I've been ignoring.  Here are a few I am interested in checking out...



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I want this - treadmill desk!

Treadmill desk from CNN article
I wonder how long it will take for more companies to try out alternative desk options?
Once I get a treadmill desk, will it be too much to ask to go barefoot too?

Oh, employment - you allow me to feed myself with delicious, nutritious foods while slowly shortening my hamstrings while sitting at this desk.

I think a standing or treadmill desk would improve my work satisfaction at least 50%, if not more.  What would improve yours?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fish Oils - we may have tried them all!

While cleaning out our desk in preparation for moving, Ryan ran across our fish oil bottle stash.  There was a time when we were planning to review the different brands by cost and content.  But I am not convinced there is much of a difference among these, at least none that I have personally noticed.  I did find this picture amusing though.  And no, the bottles are not moving with us.


We Did It! 100 Days Without Caffeine

Actually, we’re now a few days past 100, and still no caffeine.

It’s funny.  A few weeks into our challenge, I would’ve stabbed someone for a cup of coffee.  I immediately planned to drink a cup of decaf on day 101, but as time passed, so have my cravings.  Halfway through our challenge, neither of us really had any cravings.  Sure the occasional smell of coffee would elicit some desire for a cup of Joe, but I've gotten to a point where a whiff of coffee doesn't even evoke a response (not all the time, but it’s happened).  We’ve agreed that drinking caffeinated coffee is unnecessary to our lives and the benefits do not outweigh the consequences.  However, we do plan to add decaffeinated coffee back into the mix.  Sure it still has caffeine in it, but fairly small amounts and if consumed in moderation we’ll be okay.  The only question will be once we begin to drink decaf, will the coffee cravings come back?  Will I freak out and go into a crazed, coffee-seeking conniption when I catch a whiff of some deliciously strong coffee?  Will I begin to drink more and more decaf until I’m consuming several cups a day equaling the caffeine of normal coffee?

No.  Unlikely.  Since going paleo and then taking it even further by completing our 45-day challenge, I’ve noticed a change.  My willpower is much stronger than it used to be.  I can now hang out in a room full of people gorging on cake and cookies and not even take a bite.  Even more impressive, is that I’ve proven that I can have a bite (if the situation warrants it), and not take a second, or third, or hey what the heck, why not just finish the damn thing.  Yeah, that was Ryan circa 2 years ago.  Stacey’s seen it, and it aint pretty.  Today, I’m a little better.  So going forward, a little decaffeinated coffee will be a nice treat.  No need to freak out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The MyPlate Challenge?!

If you've ever done a paleo or Whole30 challenge, you might find this interesting, and sad: the MyPlate Challenge.

Interesting because the lessons learned seem to be similar to when we completed our 45 day paleo challenge:
  • Planning makes success easy!
  • Cooking skills improve!
Sad because this person is trying to follow a plan they perceive to be healthy by ensuring each meal has all the "food groups" represented; grains for breakfast, lunch and dinner - ouch.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paleo Onion Steak Recipe

Growing up I hated onions.  I'm still not very fond of raw onions, but I've gotten to the point where I can tolerate and sometimes even enjoy onions when they're cooked.  With that said, I just paleo-adapted a recipe for Onion Steak and absolutely loved it!  The resulting onion gravy had a delicious flavor unlike anything I've ever had before.  Plus, if you're like me, you're always looking for excuses to bust out your new pressure cooker (our semi-new toy that I'm beginning to think is a must have in any kitchen).  If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can still prepare this dish in a dutch oven or large pot, but you'll want to cook/simmer this for a lot longer, and you might want to buy a more tender cut of steak.  Otherwise, here goes:

Ingredients
1 tbsp of olive oil
4 large onions, peeled and sliced
1.5 lbs of grass fed round steak, cut into 6 pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 cup of beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Dash of dried red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of coconut flour

Directions
1.  Use the oil to coat the bottom of the pressure cooker.  Cover the bottom of the pressure cooker with half of the onions, then layer the meat on top, then top with the rest of the onions.  Add the spices and stock.  Lock the lid into place and heat until you create pressure, then maintain pressure for 14 minutes.
2.  Quick-release the pressure and remove the lid.  Remove the meat to a serving platter, and keep warm.  Add the coconut milk and coconut flour to the onions and broth in the pressure cooker.  Stir and simmer until the onion gravy is thickened.  Pour this over the meat, and enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Farmer's Market Haul

During the winter months I really miss saturday morning trips to our farmer's market, the Green City Market.  Living in Chicago, the first couple weeks of market season are pretty lean, spinach and rhubarb - maybe some asparagus.  All good stuff, just limited.  This weekend I could tell the tide is starting to turn, there seemed to be more variety, very exciting!

This is the first year I plan to take full advantage of all the meat available at the farmers market!  Pastured pork, I want pastured pork!  There are a lot of meat vendors, so I am taking them down one by one. 

This is our haul from Saturday:


Meats from Meadow Haven Farm
  • 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
  • 1 lb pastured ground pork
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 dozen pastured eggs
Also picked up some pastured butter (Yes!  We are trying out butter), baby turnips, kale, spinach and asparagus...

And this is the delicious breakfast we ate after our market trip

Asparagus & Spinach Scramble with Bacon


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Crossfit Games - North Central Regionals

Who knew watching people work out would be so much fun!?

Last weekend we went to watch our friend George compete in the Crossfit Games North Central Regionals, and were simply amazed.  Never have I seen that many incredibly fit people in such a small space.  It was truly surreal.  The event was held in a large conference center on Navy Pier in Chicago, and even as we walked along the pier we could tell who was there for the crossfit games and who was a tourist.  When the high socks, sharpee markings, and matching t-shirts didn't give them away the sinewy muscles did.


George powering through the overhead squats

We stayed for a few hours and were able to see George's team compete in the team competition which was to complete 250 reps of chest-to-bar pull-ups, 250 reps of kettle bell swings, 250 double-unders, and 250 over-head squats.  Even watching the last place finishers power through this workout was nothing short of inspiring.  As a spectator, I was reminded of my high school track days, and longed for a chance to compete again.  It looked like a lot of fun.  Arduous and painful, but fun.  While, I'm probably years away from even being able to qualify for a regional crossfit event, I can say this:  Stacey and I's workouts have been slightly more intense and inspired ever since then.  Thank you to all those who competed.  Your efforts were an inspiration and a marvel.



Monday, June 6, 2011

I can't believe we're gonna eat butter!


Self-experimentation. 

For some reason the paleo lifestyle seems to lead to a lot of self-experimentation.  We’ve done it with coffee in the past, and next up is butter!  For us, paleo has always meant removing all dairy.  Butter wasn't available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, so obviously it is something we should not eat.  But the more I read about grass-fed butter, the more I want to try adding it into our diet.  We have been happily living without butter for quite awhile now, using coconut oil or bacon fat for cooking.  But as I learn about the nutritional profile, and remind myself that this is not about reenactment but eating for how our bodies are built - butter is looking like a better option all the time.


Butter - it's got some good stuff.

When I am talking about butter, I am talking about grass-fed butter - a source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), Vitamin A, Vitamin E and beta-carotene.  Yes, please.  It also has a better balance of Omega 3/6's than conventional dairy products.  The main butter drawback is the casein content, which seems to be the thing that could lead to inflammation, if we are sensitive to it. 

I found "summer butter" at our farmer's market this weekend.  It is made by the Nordic Creamery and only made from April thru October while the cows are on pasture.

So, bring on the self-experimentation.  We're going to find out just how butter makes us feel.  And if it feels good - we can continue to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of grass fed butter!  Although you will not find me packing sticks of butter to enjoy as an airplane snack food, I prefer to cook with my butter, not gnaw on it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

FDA Fails Again!

USDA to replace the food pyramid with plate icon

Big news - the Food Pyramid doesn't work.

It didn't work in the past, so the FDA reformatted the pyramid to the "My Pyramid."  It appears that the My Pyramid doesn't work either, so now the FDA is reformatting again.  Oh, not reformatting the foods on the pyramid, but how it looks.  They're planning on presenting their SAD diet on some sort of plate diagram as opposed to a pyramid.  Apparently people were confused by the pyramid, causing them to make them make poor food decisions.  Now that the same foods will be splayed out on a plate, they hope people won't be confused anymore.  I wonder how long it takes before they realize that it's not how they present this, but what they're presenting that really matters.  I hope they didn't waste too many of my tax dollars on this embarrassing feint at an attempt to make a difference.  How about a little scientific research?  Better yet, how about listening to the scientific research that's already been done?  SAD


Monday, May 23, 2011

I Survived CrossFit!

I thought it might kill me, and it didn't.  We might even be friends some day.

I was really nervous for my first CrossFit workout last week.  I didn't know if I would understand the foreign language of abbreviations or survive the physical intensity that I expected.  Both turned out ok.  I learned some new acronyms and although totally spent afterwards, did not die.

A huge thank you to George at CrossFit Chicago for showing us the CrossFit ropes.  I am not giving up my regular gym membership just yet, but expect we will be showing up for CrossFit from time to time.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Dirty Little Secret: I'm scared of CrossFit

Yes, CrossFit is scary to me.

I think it has something to do with the extensive use of acronyms, overall unique terminology and affinity for socks.  As well as the fear that I just won’t measure up.  I’m no couch potato, but I’m no high performance athlete either.  When I think of CrossFit, I think of a bunch of athletes – doing handstands.

Oddly, we were first introduced to paleo through someone involved in CrossFit.  We've been living a paleo lifestyle for about 13 months now, but have never crossed over into the world of CrossFit.  I've been intrigued by it, but scared of it at the same time.

I consider my current workouts to be pretty decent.  We lift heavy things, do some sprints and functional types of movements.  We do a pretty good job of keeping it interesting and improving our strength.  But it is just Ryan and I.  I don’t have to worry about how I compare to anyone I am working out with, because I don't try to compare myself to a 6’4” muscular guy. 

The CrossFit style group workout intimidates me.  What if I’m not good enough?  What if I realize that I am not fit at all and can’t do anything?  What if I'm the worst?  I guess we will find out the answers to these questions after my first CrossFit workout tomorrow morning!  Wish me luck! 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paleo Restaurant Review: Burger Bar Chicago

The quest to review restaurants in our neighborhood with paleo potential continues...bringing us on an unplanned evening out to Burger Bar Chicago.  As the name implies, this place is focused on their burgers - and accordingly, beer.  I'll take a good burger any day, but since going paleo beer has slipped to last place behind wine and liquor for me.

What we ordered:
Me - Belly Up Burger (grass-fed burger with cider braised pork belly, apple slaw and roasted onions) w/o bun, served with sweet potato fries and a glass of pinot noir.
Ryan - El Fuego Burger (grass-fed burger with jalapenos, pickled red onions, oaxaca and guacamole) w/o bun, served with sweet potato tater tots and a glass of pinot noir.

The Good:
  • Although all specialty burgers do not automatically come with grass-fed beef patties, the upgrade is only a buck.
  • The specialty toppings, read pork belly, are delicious.  Overall, the burgers were very good.
  • Wine for $6/glass - that's a deal in these parts.
The Bad:
  • Sweet potato fries were a disappointment, although utterly delicious, they were heavily coated in some type of breading.  I had a few before realizing this and then stopped eating them (although Ryan had no problem polishing them off).
  • Sweet potato tater tots were a disappointment, mainly because they just didn't taste very good - kind of like fried balls of sweet potato mush.
  • Not so bad, but definitely noticed, was our servers disappointment at our healthy choices - no bun?! none of our amazing craft beers?!  grass-fed??

Overall the burgers were awesome, sides - not so much.  If I get a hankering for a high class beer and burger while watching a ball game - I might go back. 

More than anything, testing out restaurants for paleo options makes me realize we are damn good cooks and I like my cooking more than most restaurants.  Must start working on own restaurant plan...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Paleo Mother's Day Brunch

Although no mothers were actually present for breakfast, we could not help but prepare ourselves a good brunch in honor of mother's day. 


  • Bacon!
  • Fried eggs
  • Paleo waffles made with coconut flour
  • Blueberry cinnamon sauce
Really, I love brunching on any given sunday - holiday or not!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Paleo Restaurant Review: Roy's Hawaiian Fusion


Roy's was my favorite restaurant prior to going paleo.  My parents took me there for my 21st birthday, and I've been a slew of times since then at different locations across the country.  Almost always for a special occasion because Roy's isn't cheap.  However, if you stick to their prix fixe menu, you will leave very well fed without having to refinance your house to do so.  Oh, and on Mondays they have make your own prix fixe.  So check that out too.

I've been to Roy's twice now since going paleo and it still holds up!  They now have a Gluten Free (GF) Menu, which you can also apply the prix fixe (all but one the items in their prix fixe were offered GF).  This isn't another cop-out GF menu either, where they simply list items that were previously GF to begin with.  Roy's makes the extra effort.  For example, my fav, the Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi-Mahi becomes the Macadamia Nut Dusted Mahi-Mahi sans gluten.

Roy's isn't the perfect paleo meal, but can be if you so choose.  You sit down to a small bowl of Edamame - similar to chips & salsa at most Mexican restaruants.  Legumes;  no good.  Let them sit there and eventually your server will catch on and take them from the table.  It is a Hawaiian Fusion restaurant, so many of the dishes are Asian inspired and include soy and/or rice.  Potatoes are another starch you'll see on the menu often.  Overall, the plates are filled with paleo goodness (meat, fish, & veggies), with a few unwanted ingredients (soy, rice, butter).

Oh, and I almost forgot.  Prior to going paleo, my favorite dessert in the world was Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle (a chocolate molten lava cake, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a raspberry puree).  It came as no surprise that I now consider this to be quite possibly the best cheat dessert after I saw it on their GF menu.  The only difference is that the original comes with a scoop of vanilla on top of a small cookie, but for the GF version the ice cream rests on small bed of coco nibs.  Sure, it's loaded with sugar and dairy, but it's still GF right?  No, it's not good for you, it is still a pretty big cheat, but it's so good, it's not the type of cheat that you'll regret later on (a la most desserts - especially those containing gluten).

To avoid the temptation of having to eat 2 Souffles (which means that I eat 1 and 1/2 and Stacey eats 1/2), I ordered a GF prix fixe, and Stacey ordered an app and an entree from the GF menu.  I had the Short Rib Bi Bim Bap App, the Kalbi Grilled Hangar Steak Dinner, and the Souffle (to share).  Stacey ordered the Roasted Beat Salad, and the Iron Seared Filet Mignon.  We both started off with a specialty cocktail (another can't miss at Roy's), and Stacey followed up with a glass of wine with her steak.  The whole meal came out to about $120.  A hefty sum, and had we not had a $100 gift card thanks to credit card rewards, we'd have eaten at home.  Without drinks, and sticking to the prix fixe you could get out of there spending less than $100 tip and tax included.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why We're Giving Up Coffee for 100 Days

It's May Day, while some people might be out celebrating International Worker's Day or decorating a Maypole - we are celebrating our 50th day off the coffee, and caffeine in general.  Both being coffee lovers* we can picture the look of utter shock on the face of other coffee lovers who may be reading this.  We know, it sounds crazy.  Going paleo doesn't mean you have to give up coffee, and/or caffeine.  Why give up something that could still be considered paleo?  It's not like it's bad for you; coffee is a natural antioxidant, black tea has been associated with decreased instances of some diseases, and according to Ryan, ancient ninja masters drink tea!  (For the record we also gave up black and green tea, but still drink herbal tea on occasion). 

Well, after reading the Whole9's Coffee Manifesto, we figured why not give it a try.  We decided to give it all up for 100 days.  Ryan also mentioned the desire to not be addicted to any substance.  Both of us agreed that giving up caffeine was easy and we drink coffee because we like the taste more than anything - and probably the habit or ritual of it.  Having a cup of coffee means the day can now commence.  Although prior to giving it up, we both had noticed that going even a day without the 1 or 2 cups usually meant an afternoon headache - so it was definitely time to kick the habit.

What we've observed over the first 50 days coffee/caffeine free:
  • Headaches only happened the first 2-3 days.  The duration for caffeine withdrawl is typically 48 hours, but can last for up to a week.  Although incidence of withdrawl symptoms in caffeine consumers is only 50%, so if you quit - maybe you'll be in the lucky half of the population. 
  • Ryan craved coffee for the first 2 weeks, I only craved it for a few days.  The weekends seem the most difficult.  We both enjoy making a good breakfast while sipping coffee on a Saturday/Sunday morning (typically post workout, even though it might be better to drink coffee before a workout and rehydrate post-workout).  Herbal tea has really been a perfect replacement for these times and suppresses any coffee cravings I might have. 
  • After the first month, I only had cravings when walking past a coffee shop and catching a whiff of freshly ground beans.  Not fair they can spit out those smells. 
Occasionally, I'll see someone walking with a coffee cup and I'll get a little envious, which makes me consider drinking decaf as a special treat from time-to-time once our 100 day trial is over.  Unless, over the next 50 days, I decide the benefits of living sans caffeine are too great. 

Benefits we've experience:
  • It's easier to fall asleep and get a good night's sleep
  • Whiter teeth
  • No more dependence (afternoon headaches) on caffeine
  • Fat loss!  I'm not sure if this is related to eliminating coffee, but I have noticed that some stubborn belly fat that wouldn't go away during our 45-day challenge is finally disappearing.  Ryan has a theory that it is related, since coffee consumption leads to increased cortisol levels, which can lead to more belly fat. 
  • Less general crankiness
  • Save money - $2-$4 per day adds up fast
  • It's easier to stay hydrated now.  In the past, I would occasionally experience muscle cramps due to dehydration.  These occur very infrequently now, and I can usually pinpoint why they happen - either drinking alcohol, or not drinking enough water.  Before, they would often occur even though I'd been drinking a lot of water, and I wouldn't know why.  Probably the coffee.
  • More counter space - storing our coffee maker and bean grinder, we have more room for other things.
So, we have 50 more days to go and depending on how this list of benefits grows - coffee may be out for good.

* Our love of coffee has run deep.  We both drink it black, truly appreciating the flavor of coffee, not just using it as a sugar/cream/caffeine vehicle.  We owned 2 coffee makers prior to this trial (now down to 1), 1 french press, 1 bean grinder, and more coffee mugs than cups (we also own 2 tea kettles - for rare days we might not have any beans).  Ryan has even been able to identify our favorite Chicago coffee, Intelligensia, in a blind taste test. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Best Paleo Dessert Ever - Two Ways!

You do not have to give up dessert in the name of paleo.  Sometimes you just want a little treat, and that's ok (at least I tell myself that).  I think we have found the ultimate guilt-free paleo dessert. 

Of course, we always have the option of making some delicious paleo banana ice cream, but even though it's just bananas - it is a sugar bomb and reserved for rare occasions.  There's also the option of these amazing double chocolate peppermint brownie bites, but again they do have a teensy bit of maple syrup.  Recently we've been indulging in these two desserts, and I consider them 100% ok for everyday.

Here they are, one hot and one cold - both using the same ingredients!

Blueberry Compote over Coconut Cream (2 servings)

    Blueberry Compote over Coconut Cream
  • Heat about a cup of frozen wild blueberries in a small saucepan over medium heat
  • As the berries begin to warm up they will breakdown and get saucy, I usually only keep them on the heat long enough to warm through - but if you want it really saucy, keep it on longer
  • Add cinnamon and nutmeg to berries to taste (I like a lot!)
  • Place 2-3 tablespoons coconut cream concentrate* in a small dessert dish and top with the blueberry compote
  • Eat slowly and savor!
* For the coconut cream concentrate, I use either Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate or Artisana Coconut Butter.  Both are dee-lish, I lean toward Artisana because I think its creamier. 


Coconut Cream & Blueberry Bark






  • Warm coconut cream just until it has a creamy consistency.  I place the jar in a container of hot water to do this, if you have a warm kitchen - that may not even be necessary






  • Spread the coconut cream out on a piece of parchment paper, to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick






  • Sprinkle with frozen blueberries and wait about 8-10 minutes






  • The frozen blueberries harden the coconut cream, break apart into bite size pieces and enjoy!



  •  
    Coconut Cream & Blueberry Bark

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Paleo Diet in the Chicago Redeye

    So excited to be on our way to our first Cubs game of the year, we almost missed it.  Stacey stepped right over it, and I almost did the same.  Luckily the word 'diet' jumped out at me as I stepped over the weekend edition of the Redeye (free newspaper released by the Chicago Tribune).  I quickly turned around and picked up what looked like a yet another misinformed article on the paleo diet:

    Redeye Cover
    Reads:
    yabba dabba diet
    Meat good,
    carbs bad:
    Are you feeling your inner caveman? 6-7
    Yabba dabba diet?  I actually think that's a pretty clever title, but when it's coupled with some goofy-looking, obviously non-paleo-eating, writing intern wearing the cheapest 'caveman' costume they could find at Party City...I just cringed.  This had the look and feel of yet another under-researched publication bashing the paleo diet as yet another fad diet like this or this.  When opening the newspaper, and reading the article, we were gladly surprised to see a very positive article:


    Article
    Body By Bedrock

    The article featured anecdotal evidence from paleo eaters, a list of Allowed and Not Allowed foods and a few restaurants in Chicago where people can find paleo eats.  Over-all, very positive.

    My only complaint (aside from the cover and goofy picture accompanying the article - dude with spear, ugh!) is that the redeye wasted the article on their weekend edition, with a minuscule audience compared to the newspapers they print during the week.  They missed an excellent opportunity to make a positive impact on the health of thousands.

    At least it was published and did not include the cursory nutritionist "as long as you stick to lean meats and stay away from fat" warning.  I feel like the paleo diet has grown in popularity every year since the original release of The Paleo Diet in 2002, and I predict that it will continue to grow (check out the chart below).  Since the diet easily becomes a lifestyle, people stick to it.  Without seeing the word 'fad' anywhere in the article, maybe more people are coming around - now if they would just stop putting people in caveman costumes!


    Google Trend for the search words "paleo diet"
    Upper = Search Volume Index
    Lower = News Reference Volume