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...

Root vegetable chips

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

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?

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

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, 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...