Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

PumkinCranMuffin

This has become one of my favorites, and a GREAT cure for those carb cravings. Thanks to Diane Sanfilippo at Balanced Bites

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F

Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, pure vanilla extract and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the coconut flour, sea salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the cranberries. Add the butter or coconut oil last as they will solidify as they cool to room temp. In a muffin tin, scoop 1/4 cup of the batter into each lined muffin cup, and bake for 35-45 minutes. Enjoy!!! These are also GREAT to make in larger batches to freeze and thaw as needed.

Don’t touch that dial…

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For anyone who missed the radio broadcast on Thursday night, here is the podcast link. Big thanks to Karen and the gang for a great night on the air!

He Said, She Said Radio Broadcast – 1/10/13

Cucumber Ceviche Cups

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Ingredients
1 lb seafood, assorted as desired (fish, shrimp, shellfish, octopus, calamari), diced small
1 cup Lime Juice
1/8 cup Red Onion, minced
1/8 cup Cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
1/8 cup Roma Tomato, seeded and minced
1/2 cup Organic Tomato Juice
1 tbsp Hot Sauce, check label for unwanted additives
3 tbsp Cilantro, minced
Sea Salt, to taste
2 English Cucumber

Method
1. Dice seafood, this is best done when almost frozen for cleaner cuts
2. Add lime juice to seafood, mix, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Remove seafood from refrigerator strain lime juice.
4. Add remaining ingredients except English cucumber, mix, season as desired with sea salt and refrigerate.
5. For cups, cut English cucumbers across the width. With a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the center but be careful not to leave the base intact.
6. When ready to serve, fill cups with seafood mixture.

Turkey Meatballs

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Ingredients
1 lb Ground Turkey
1/2 cup Almond Flour
2 Eggs
1 Small Yellow Onion, grated
1/2 cup Carrots, grated
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Parsley
1/2 cup Fresh Basil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Method
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Add ground turkey to a medium sized bowl, and add in the onions, carrots, parsley, basil and garlic. Season with fresh ground pepper and a little salt.
3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the meat mixture.
4. Add the almond flour, and mix everything together.
5. Form meat mixture into 16 evenly sized meatballs with your hands.
6. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray and evenly distribute meat balls.
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Chili con Carne

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As promised to everyone drooling over the chili pics I posted this weekend, the recipe. First of all, I recommend that everyone invest in a crockpot. Sure you can do this in a stock pot on the stove, but this is an easy, set it and forget it dish like many others I will be posting are. Crockpots save time and allows for bulk cooking for the week.

Ingredients
2 lbs Lean Grass-Fed Beef, whole cuts trimmed to 1″ cubes or ground if preferred
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
2 Jalapeños, chopped very small
2 bulbs Fresh Garlic, chopped very small
2 12 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes (check label for additives)
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped fine
4 tbsp Cumin
4 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 oz 80% Organic Dark Chocolate
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method
1. Turn on crockpot to high.
2. In a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown the beef, drain and transfer to crockpot.
3. In same pan, sauté onions, green peppers and jalapeños until onions are just translucent. Add garlic and continue to sauté 1 minute until garlic becomes fragrant. Transfer to crockpot.
4. Add tomatoes, spices and chocolate to crockpot salting lightly as you can adjust this later.
5. Allow chili to come to a simmer and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for minimum 2 hours. At this point, I will reduce heat to warm and allow to cook overnight. You may finish it at this stage with the cilantro and serve or package and refrigerate. Keep in mind that the flavored will continue to meld and evolve bringing a deeper flavor the next day.

Why We Eat…

I really want to spend some time in the next couple weeks looking at why we eat. Let’s forget about we eat because we are hungry, we eat to fuel our bodies, etc… Lets look at why we eat the way that we do and why we make the choices we do regarding what we eat. I touched on this on the He Said, She Said radio broadcast Thursday night, but lets get deeper. Let’s look at each stage of eating we find ourselves in.

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1. Eating for Pleasure

The 2 year-old in each of us. This is the eating which is immature and impulsive. It is the voice inside that says “I want… Gimme…” The drive is for instant gratification. Because this stage is not fueled by any physiological benefit, it is the most dangerous. It is fueled by emotional desires to maximize pleasures and minimize pains. Emotional eating. This is accomplished through junk food, sweets, snacks, pop/soda, coffee, and alcohol. Now, keep in mind, consuming these items does not always fall into the realm of this category that is entirely negative. Having a glass of wine with dinner or while spending time with friends is not what we are talking about. Neither is the occasional dessert. What we are talking about is uncontrolled excessive consumption. Eating for pleasure is not a stage that needs to be eliminated from our lifestyles. The key is discipline and making smarter, more evolved choices as we will look at later.

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2. Eating for Energy

This is where most of Americans find themselves. Eating for energy, or eating out of hunger as we more typically understand it, is a direct result of the typical American lifestyle. The average day for most consists of waking up eating a carbohydrate and sugar loaded breakfast (juices, cereals, grains, breads or baked goods) resulting in a insulin spike and elevated blood glucose levels. This quick boost gets you moving as you start the day. But, by mid-morning, blood sugar levels begin to drop along with energy levels and brain function. To compensate we turn to stimulants in coffee and energy drinks to pull us through, but these too lead us to the same result, a crash by lunchtime. If we have time to eat lunch, we don’t usually have time to wait for it. Judgement for the most part goes out the window in the options we consider. From fast to fast casual cuisine economy and quantity rule our decisions most times over quality. It becomes a vicious cycle day in day out as we try and find balance in the energy roller coaster. This is the stage we seek to eliminate. As mentioned, the pleasurable eating discussed in Stage 1 can be evolved with smarter more conscious choices. Stage 2 eating for energy is what reeks havoc on our blood sugar and hormones and results in the greatest threat to our health.

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3. Eating for Recovery

We find ourselves here as a result of Stages 1 and 2. These recoveries, AKA “diets”, are the measures we resort to in order to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, improve cardiovascular performance, reverse diabetes, lower risk of heart attack, etc etc etc… And, as numerous as the conditions are that we may be trying to counteract, there are at least as many recoveries/diets out there claiming to bring balance back to the chaos we’ve created within. Names like Paleo, Zone, Whole9, Atkins, Gracie, Weight Watchers and others come straight to mind. I’ll get into more on each of these individually in future posts. We will also look at some of the more drastic techniques like the Master Clense, carb cycling, water manipulation, tapeworm, yes, there is a tapeworm diet. These drastic options are the ones I would love to steer everyone from considering as they do not in any way resemble a diet that could or should be maintainable in the long run. We’ll discuss how these get results, but also why they can be very risky.

When we are speaking about recovery, the approved diets should be treated as just that, recovery.

Recovery is defined as:
– The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering.
– A return to a normal condition.

Once we have removed and achieved homeostasis in our bodies again, it is important to then focus on an maintainable lifestyle that does not lead us back down the same path. Which leads us to Stage 4.

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4. Eating for Health
Eating for health is where many, even those of us within the Paleo community, disagree. While we are all in agreement on the issues of avoiding:
– Grains, especially gluten containing products
– Sugar, specifically refined sources
– Refined oils
– Inhumanely raised animals, farmed seafood and any animal protein sources containing additives such as hormones, colorings and fillers
– Soy products

There still remain some grey areas such as dairy and legumes.
– While dairy does have an inflammatory and insulin spiking effect on the body, it also has some amazing growth-promoting effects. In the case of a client with no history of autoimmune or inflammatory conditions who has trouble putting on or keeping on healthy weight, I would encourage keeping dairy a regular part of their diet provided it could be sourced from an organic, pasture-fed source.
– Legumes do have an inflammatory effect as well being a “musical fruit” producing gas and bloating which can lead to gastrointestinal distress. They are also a very rich source of minerals and fiber. The biggest problem with them lies in the fact that they contain phytochemicals that bond to these nutrients making them impossible to be absorbed by the body. Preparation methods such as soaking however can reduce these phytates considerably, but not completely.

So, where do I stand on eating for health? I believe that although we have all evolved essentially the same, we are all still affected differently as a result of individual differences in our genetic coding, individual deficiencies as a result of poor lifestyle choices or living conditions etc. For me, maintaining a paleo diet has given me the greatest benefit in health as well as performance. Does that mean that I don’t ever stray into the forbidden foods zone? Not at all. I love popcorn when I’m watching a movie. I just don’t eat it very often and when I do, it is organic kernels, popped on a stove (thank you dad for what was probably my first cooking lesson so many years ago) and flavored with organic butter, not the hydrogenated oil flavored crap in a bag or the stuff at the theater. The same is true for dairy and beer. I love cheese as much as I love a good IPA with hops that will punch you in the face. But these are not regular parts of my lifestyle. These are very rare occasions when enjoy these. This brings us back to Stage 1 again. Eating for pleasure can be ok, we just need discipline and evolved choices.

Once we have recovered from the chaos and brought balance back to our bodies, this is when we can start reintroducing some of these forbidden foods back into our lifestyles individually in order to see the effects. For me, going Paleo led to virtually all of my allergies (inflammation) disappearing; something I have battled my entire life. But, reintroducing any grains back into my diet results in them returning if there are even moderate levels of allergens in the air. This includes beer. Even having just a couple will cause me to wake up feeling like I dropped a kettle bell on my head if there is mold in the air so I limit this to very rare occasions and stick with a glass of red wine the rest of the time.

How do we get to Stage 4? I highly recommend reading It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig or The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. Commit 30 days to recovery and educate yourself on the “sciencey stuff” so that you can make informed choices for yourself when you look to reintroduce some of these foods back into your lifestyle. You may find that you don’t even miss any of those foods.

Please feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear about your experiences and answer your questions!

Paleo Snickerdoodles

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I was just talking to a friend today who said she could never go paleo because she was “addicted to carbs”. I think the vocabulary and over generalizations are what lead people to fear the primal way in their diets. Going grain free does not mean going carb free, baked goods free or yum yum yum free. It’s about making smarter choices in the sources of our nutrients, specifically staying away from inflammatory response inducing grains and gluten as well as refined sources of sugar and fat.

Check out this great recipe from Delighted Momma You might just rethink your thoughts on how enjoyable going Against the Grain can be…

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of almond meal
1 tbs of coconut flour
1 egg
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp of cinnamon + extra for rolling dough in
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of sea salt

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
2. Cover the cookie dough and place in the fridge to chill for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Roll the cookies into small balls and coat in cinnamon.
5. Use the bottom of a cup or jar to flatten them out.
6. Place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Chili Glazed Salmon over Sweets and Brussels with Bacon

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A personal favorite of mine that I make every occasion I can. This is one of those dishes that I created honestly out of indecisiveness. It was one of those times i didn’t know what i was in the mood for. This is one that literally hits all of your taste buds. A little gaminess and spice from the salmon, the natural sugars from the sweet potatoes, earthiness from the Brussels and some saltiness and umami from the bacon. Epic… Sensory… Overload…

Ingredients

2 Salmon Filets, skin on, 6-8 oz each
6 Strips Uncured Bacon, sliced crosswise in 1/4″ strips
1 Large Sweet Potato, peeled diced about 1/2 inch
2 cups Brussels Sprouts, cut off base and discard. Cut into quarters lengthwise
2 tbsp chili paste (check your label and avoid anything with added sugar or msg)
3 tbsp Organic Local Honey
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp Coconut Oil, if needed

Method:

1. Place bacon in large nonstick sauté pan over medium low heat and allow fat to be rendered out but do not allow bacon to crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove bacon and strain into same pan. Set bacon aside.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add sweet potatoes to rendered bacon fat. Toss or stir constantly continually until they begin to soften and brown slightly 5-10 min.
3. Add Brussels and continue to toss or stir another 5 minutes. Return bacon to pan and toss occasionally until bacon is crisp. Transfer into another pan to keep warm.
4. At this point your pan should have enough reserved bacon fat on its surface for the salmon. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil to allow it to melt in pan, off of heating surface so it does not burn while preparing salmon.
5. Season flesh side of salmon with salt and pepper. Mix honey and chili paste and brush onto salmon flesh.
6. Return pan to medium-high heat. Place salmon in pan, skin side down for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 minutes, flip again and cook skin side down another 2 minutes to crisp the skin. Serve atop a bed of sweets and Brussels.

Confessions of a Cereal Monkey

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I’m stoked to introduce y’all to a good friend of mine Hillary who offered to share her story and experiences in this Against the Grain lifestyle. When I first met her a few months back, she was a rockstar with her diet, with one exception… She was…*cue suspenseful music* a cereal monkey… This is her story…

This was my first adventure in entering the Paleo lifestyle… From cereal monkey to a protein primate.

To give some sort of reference, I’ll begin by saying that I wasn’t a big pasta or rice eater by nature. So, of course, that was what I gave up right away! But then came the the sad, sad reality of what I had to give up next… Time out. Mind you, I say “give up.” That just sounds bad, right? Take out “give up” and insert “replace.” It will instantly do wonders for your willpower. Ok, so then came the time to REPLACE  some of my most favorite foods… Foods that I wanted to be buried with… Cereal, chips, oats and most importantly, muffins! Oh, glorious muffins and oh, what to do… I had been researching paleo muffin recipes , knowing i must prepare, and given my god given baking talent and abilities, I was confident that I could create an alternative muffin that fit the paleo rules. If you havent discovered coconut flour and almond flour yet, please peruse the alternative flour section with the other hippies. dont worry, they dont bite, they just smell ripe but play well with others.

I am now happily living in a muffin paradise of epic variety and possibilities. However… CEREAL was the arrow in my Hilly’s heel. Now, i use cereal here as an example to shed light on a journey in the evolution of  diet habits. Cereal is merely a widget in this story so take out “cereal” and insert whatever food vice makes you weak in the knees or that you THINK you can’t give up. Prior to going paleo, I lived on cereal. It was my go to snack. Road trips, at work, a handful before I left the house, you name it. Albeit, I only ate healthy-ish cereals that were low in sugar, whole grains, etc but it had to go. The oats and oatmeal? Doable. However, cereal was a struggle.

How did I do it? I sure didn’t go cold turkey (though I eventually switched to cold turkey… Slices!). It took tiiiiiime. I didn’t go paleo over night and I sure as hell didn’t give up cereal instantly. It took a few months to clean up my diet. The key for me was understanding and working with my own will power, workout schedule and food availability to make sure I was successful and didn’t take two steps back. Not everyone’s wired the same and that’s what we’ve got to understand. Power to the cold turkeys but I’m a warm duck. Ok, that doesn’t make sense but you know what I mean.

First, I cut way back on how much cereal I ate per day. I created little single servings that I’d munch on during the day for a few weeks. In this weaning process, I discovered what has been the key to making changes in my diet. I identified what I craved, which wasn’t actually the cereal… It was the availability, ease of consumption and the crunch.

As my need for cereal dwindled, knowing this little psychological secret, my habits started to change. I started snacking on nuts which filled ease of access and ease of consumption void. Check! I found that Roasted nuts were crunchier and worked better 🙂 I started mixing it up between sunflower seeds, peptitas, walnuts, whatever. After about a month, I was cereal free!

Prior to this process, I had tried to replace cereal before… And failed. What did I do wrong? I kept buying it and I’d say, oh, I’ll finish the box then stop. Didn’t happen that way. I had to stop and say, ok, I have to wean myself off of it. Finally, I felt confident enough and I threw it all out. It felt awesome and I can safely say that I do not crave cereal anymore. I was known for my cereal addiction far and wide. Actually, I can’t believe I ever ate so much of it. It was merely a matter of changing habits and that doesn’t happen overnight. I practiced this same “weaning” for chips. Nuts fill that space now, too. And I know you won’t believe it but I don’t miss any of it.

Remember, one of the MOST important things when weaning off of foods is making sure you have instant go-to snacks so you don’t cave. Lunchmeat, carrots (hello, crunch) nuts and even small meat patties are life savers. At work, I go to the fridge and grab lunchmeat to snack on or pop a little venison slider. It’s a matter of prep especially if you work 40 hours a week like me and have a bonkers, all over the place schedule. Sometimes I can’t eat on a regular schedule so having those “poppable” sources of protein and veggies are crucial. All of which were a learning process.

I weaned myself into paleo in November, took a more hard core approach December 1 and now I don’t crave non paleo foods. I crave protein. I suppose I have changed my body to know that’s what it wants and needs or it was merely a change in habits that synced up my crazy brain and body to “think” paleo. Regarding my physical body, I noticed a drastic change in muscle mass. I have always been thin but not very muscular, as I am a runner. When I went paleo, especially in December, I noticed more muscle tone (including some killer abs that were safely hidden beneath a little soft blankie) plus true muscle mass overall in my legs, glutes, arms, you name it. I weigh about the same but people often say I look leaner and my friends and coworkers are commenting on how healthy and fit I look. I used to get “thin” and “skinny” for years, as “compliments.” Now, it’s “fit and healthy” and I think that’s worth a million bucks more than the former and are true compliments. Not only is being fit, healthy and muscular good for my psyche but my body is thanking me, too.

XOXO… Cereal Monkey