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
    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:

    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

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Seeds Review

    Do you buy into the hype?

    After reading Born to Run, I not only bought into the hype of barefoot running, but also into ingesting these tiny little seeds previously used to grow green-afros on pottery.  I was hooked on barefoot running from step one, and continue to love it, but I'm still not sure how I feel about chia seeds.

    Christopher McDougall describes chia seeds in Born to Run (fantastic read) as a Red Bull type of energizer, with endurance boosting powers.  Then some independent, online research also boasted that chia seeds are a superfood, high in omega-3s which also:
    • Help regenerate muscle tissue (as well as tissue during pregnancy and lactation)
    • Help aid digestion
    • Increase hydration
    • Increase weight loss
    • Balance blood sugar
    • Cut cravings for food
    ...along with a host of other benefits.  These claims sound too good to be true, and probably are.  I've tried chia seeds a handful of times now and can't say with certainty that any of these claims are true or false, but other than a little boost in energy, I can't say I felt much different on them.

    Here's a few notes on my experience with chia seeds:
    • I did feel a bit energized on chia seeds.  Similar to having a small cup of tea
    • It's difficult to say whether they boost endurance because I'm still getting used to barefoot running, and haven't really tried lengthy endurance workout
    • It's also difficult to say whether they boost hydration or not, but I don't think I felt the desire to drink as much during the workout, so that's a maybe (but with little certainty)
    • Over the past few monthss, my muscles have been recovering quicker and quicker thanks to getting back in the gym after a few months of inactivity (stupid surgery!)
    • Chia seeds have not held up to the hype, but I do see value in experimenting with them on occasion
    • I like having an alternative energizer to caffeine and am happy to use chia seeds, but if I'm really honest with myself, I enjoyed reading Born to Run so much that I sense a little placebo effect in action.  I'm not always energized when I have chia seeds, but I can usually feel it
    • I'm all for the placebo effect.  It works.  Believe in something and make it a reality.  Why not?
    • Many of the benefit claims I've read online seem to be false or over-exaggerated.  If you eat paleo, it shouldn't be of concern anyway.  You'll be fine.
    • At the least, chia seeds seem like a decent way to add a little variety to your diet.  I say try them for yourself.  If you like them, continue to have them, if not, stop.  Some people swear by it, others not so much.  

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Chicago Paleo Restaurant Review - Vinci

    One thing our 45-day challenge taught me is cooking good food is not difficult, it just takes some time and planning.  On those occasions when time and plans do not come together, having some go to restaurants where we can get a relatively 'clean' meal is critical to my long term happiness.

    Friday night was one of those nights.  Earlier in the week we returned from vacation and, aside from picking up a handful of staples, no real meal planning had taken place.  I had a Groupon to Vinci, which has a decent gluten-free menu, so dinner out was on!

    • Italian sausage in a tomato sauce with goat cheese (normally we don't do dairy so for us this was a little cheat) - for me, the sausage was a little bland, could have kicked up the spice level a bit.
    • Beef carpaccio with mustard and tomato sauces and arugula salad - very tasty.
    • Grilled pork chop, sauteed spinach and smashed yukon gold potatoes with cheese (I tried the potatoes and they were delish, but could only take a couple bites) - this was a great dish, the pork chop was HUGE and seasoned well, maybe a little too much salt in the spinach.
    • Grilled duck breast with broccolini, fonduta stuffed tomato and grilled polenta cake (this was Ryan's entree) - the duck was delicious, and the broccolini got good reviews too.  Ryan enjoyed the cheese stuffed tomato, a pretty decent cheat given the amount of cheese - which resulted in some congestion later on...

    Overall Thoughts

    The service was truly wonderful and accommodating.  Had we been more particular, I'm sure they would have subbed out items for more paleo friendly alternatives.  Was also pleased that the gluten-free menu was actually more extensive than the one posted online. We went at this meal with a little bit of a cheat mentality, so cannot consider it a solid paleo meal.  But, it was at the minimum gluten-free and that's about as low as I want to go.  If you do dairy, you could easily consider this a good option to get a primal friendly meal in Chicago.  Also, the location is perfect if you are on your way to a show at the Steppenwolf Theater, it is right next door!

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Explaining Paleo

    Trying to explain the paleo diet is like nothing I've ever experienced.  It's incredibly easy, yet impossibly difficult at the same time.

    We've just returned from an awesome vacation to California.  Much of the trip was spent in San Diego, although we stayed at my parents' house in Temecula (where I grew up).  Staying there meant we could still stick to our paleo ways fairly well.  It also meant we had to explain paleo about 100 times.

    When people ask what the paleo diet is I usually spit out the same spiel, varying depending on how interested the other person sounds and on how much I really feel like talking at the moment.  I usually try to keep it short and simple:  "It's paleo, as in paleolithic.  So eating the foods we were designed to eat.  Meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts.  No grains, dairy, or legumes.  Everything that was available before the Agricultural Revolution."  In this sense, paleo is very easy to explain.  There are a few large food groups I choose to eat, and a few large food groups I choose not to eat.  Simple...

    Not so fast!  This of course leads to about 5-6 "Can you eat X?" questions.  A few "Why do you do it?" questions.  A few "How is it giving up X?" questions.  And a few follow up questions to each of the "why" and "how" questions.  This is where explaining paleo becomes a bit murky.

    When reading The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Solution all of the science makes sense.  I have to read some parts 3-4 times to really understand it, but it eventually makes sense.  The hard part is:
    1. Knowing the science well enough to be able to describe it off the top of my head
    2. Being able to describe it in a way people will understand
    3. Keeping their eyes from glazing over as you take them to Science Town
    This occasionally comes with a 3b) or a 4) Keeping their eyes from glazing over because they just don't want to hear that eating SAD is bad for them because they're addicted to X, or could never give up Y.

    Well, I enjoy a good challenge, so it's time to buckle down and really study this stuff.  Know the science well enough to describe it to my mother, and try to come up with some sort of way to make the science interesting (if that can be done).  We'll hopefully post some of this in a few weeks.  Should be fun!

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Staying Paleo on Vacation

    Can it be done?  Eating paleo on vacation?

    We're certainly going to try.  It shouldn't be too tough considering we're staying at my parent's house, but then again, we're expecting to eat out a fair amount too.  Eating out is a challenge, but after this weekend, I'm confident we'll be able to eat as paleo as possible.

    This weekend, Stacey's parents took us out to eat, and after scrapping the toppings off of the bruschetta, and picking pork & meatballs out of the pasta dish, we were pressured into eating a couple bites of dessert - Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread Pudding with a Vanilla Gelato.  The first gluten we've ingested in over 2 months.  It was a tasty little treat, but as I was eating it I thought to myself "this doesn't taste worth it."  Of course it wasn't.  Almost immediately my stomach felt upset, and a little bloated.

    Lesson learned:  gluten is not worth it.  I was actually cursing our free meal until about lunch the next day.  This experience is so fresh in our minds, I'm sure we'll approach every meal out with a certain level of apprehension.  No troubles passing on a Churro while at the San Diego Zoo.  That's right we're going to San Diego.

    Now bring on the Vitamin D!

    Winery in Temecula, CA