Sunday, November 1, 2015

California Adventure - Wine Country

This is the third part of Ryan and I's California Adventure.  First we hiked the PCT, and summited Mt Eddy.  Next we drove the PCH through the Red Wood Forests and down to Napa Valley, with a short stop in the Russian River Valley.

On our first full day in Napa we woke up and took advantage of Ryan's Hilton Honors and had ourselves a nice (free) breakfast.  The we drove up to Calistoga to start our day Sampling Wine at Chateau Montelena.  For movie/wine geeks out there, this is the winery featured in the movie Bottle Shock.  While this winery may have put Napa and California wines on the map as being just as good as French wines, neither Ryan nor I felt that anything we tasted was that exciting.  Don't get me wrong, the wines were good, but similar to Seghesio from the day before, you could easily find similar quality, or similar tasting wines from other wineries.

Next we drove south down to Grey Stone CIA based on a recommendation by my aunt Rosie.  While we didn't do any wine tasting, and some how left without eating anything...we did enjoy looking at the corkscrew collection as well as learning about many of the local winery owners in the barrel room.  The receptionist encouraged us to visit the Charles Krug winery that was literally right across the street from the CIA.  Charles Krug has a small plot of land that the CIA students use to grow some of their ingredients on.  While we didn't purchase any pastries or other snacks, I did pick up a copy of "The House of Mondavi" which tells the tell of Napa's great wine dynasty.  So far, it's really interesting.

Since it was so close, and came with a great recommendation, Ryan and I hopped over to Charles Krug for the best wine tasting experience we had on the entire trip. As you may notice if you visit the website, Charles Krug is owned by the Mondavi family, lets just say that story is in the book. There is a giant sign outside near the highway stating that they were voted as one of the top 10 best wine tasting experiences in Napa.  Initially I would never have visited simply based on that obnoxious sign, I like to take the road less traveled.  But, there is a reason they have won this award.  Yes their wines are great, but our server was very fun to chat with, very knowledgable about wine and the wine making process, and was nice enough to give us an extra sample of their port.  Not only was the port good enough to prompt Ryan to buy a bottle, but the port sample comes with a dark chocolate truffle made by students at the CIA.  OMG...the truffle was to die for.  Why they don't sell them at the winery I have no idea.  Any who.... go to Charels Krug and try the port.  Another benefit of chatting up our server was that he steered us away from visiting Hall Winery (recommended by the woman at the CIA), and instead encouraged us to try Cade.

View from Cade winery
So we took a really windy road up to Cade.  Unfortunately they only take 'by appointment only' reservations.  But sometimes when you are really polite.... someone gives you a free sample of their incredibly smooth sauvignon blanc to sip on their patio.

By this time we were both hungry, and in need of food to help soak up all the wine in our stomachs.  On our way to Napa the day before, and on our way to Chateau Montelena in the morning we spotted Buster's Southern BBQ.  The Meats were great, perfectly smoked and oh so tasty.  I had the cole slaw which was so bland and boring I took 2 bites and didn't bother with the rest.  The 3 bean salad was basic but good, and not bland.
Buster's Southern BBQ
Both Ryan and I were a little over-wined at this point and decided to go for a short hike.  We had already done our research and knew that Mt St. Helena was probably too long of a hike for what we wanted (10 miles).  Luckily, our server at Charles Krug once again came through for us and recommended a shorter hike to Table Rock.  Both Trails start at the same place, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, (no admission fee required) which can be a little hard to navigate since the parking lot is small and comes up quickly when driving the very windy Highway 29.  It felt good to get out and stretch our legs after several days of mostly sitting in the Patriot. The view of the valley was gorgeous as well.

View of Napa Valley from Table Rock
The drive back to Napa took longer than either of us expected, something you learn to expect when driving in the area. Once there we freshened up and went to Oxbow Market.  There was so much going on inside the market, it's a neat set up, but loud and overwhelming.  I was still kind of full from lunch and just got a veggie salad, Ryan was craving pizza and finally settled on one from Ca Momi.

On our last day in California we were still feeling a little wined-out.  I would suggest keeping your (Napa/Sanoma time to 2 days with a few other activities thrown in).  After breakfast at the hotel we started our day with a tour of the Jelly Belly factory!  The tour is free and lasts about 40 minutes.  It was fun, but I thought the sample of rocky-road fudge was much better than any of the jelly beans I tasted. Depending upon what time you get to the store, and how much shopping around you do, expect to spend 90 minutes there. I wish we had come a little later...because they do a wine and chocolate pairing from 11-4pm.  But we didn't want to wait around an hour for it. Ryan had his heart set on sampling some good bubbly so we drove over to Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma, about 22 miles away.


Once again, just expect your drives to take twice as long as they should when driving in Napa/Sonoma. We were 15 minutes late and missed the tour of the Gloria Ferrer winery, this was actually very very disappointing for us.  As much as we enjoy tasting wine, we both really wanted to learn more about how the grapes are grown, harvested, and turned into wine. Until now most of the tastings we had enjoyed were done at a bar, and since we visited late in the season, after harvest we were typically only the second couple tasting at the time. At Gloria, we were seated outside and as you can see from the picture there were many other couples there. In order to maximize our tasting experience we split two different tastings which allowed us to try 6-7 different wines. The wines were nice, and it was fun to compare several different types of sparkling wine side by side. But neither of us felt any of them were worth buying on the spot.  Our favorites were the Sonoma Brut and the Royal Cuvee Brut.

This was one of the first wineries we visited where our server actually discussed how the droughts over the past 3-4 years have negatively impacted the grapes.  I believe 2011 was the last time they had any appreciable rain. While this allows the growers to completely control the vines water 100%, until this point no one had really made mention that it might be a concern for future crops, or a sign of our changing environment.
Sparkling and non Sparkling at Gloria
After all those bubbles, it was time for some real food.  We drove up to the Sanoma market square and walked around for 10 minutes before I decided on Basque Boulangerie Cafe.  Their real food menu isn't huge, but the Tuna Nicoise salad is great, even if it isn't 100% traditional being topped with potato salad and a shredded jicama salad.  We tried to resist, no really we did.... but then we gave in and split a slice of Beehive Cake.  OMG, forget the wine... the bottom layer was a thin slice of sponge cake soaked in honey with about 2 inches of custard and toasted almonds on top.  By the time we left the sugar was coursing through our veins so hard we had to take a brief nap back at the hotel instead of wandering around the rest of downtown Sonoma which has some interesting looking historical buildings and beautiful central park area where school kids were playing and people were picnicking.


After our nap, and repacking our suitcases Ryan and I drove up to Yountville where we had dinner reservations at Ad Hoc, a Thomas Keller restaurant. (The French Laundry is a little out of our price range...)  Even though we had time to stop at Dom p Winery, neither one of us was really in the mood, so we decided to just do some window shopping in Yountville.  While there are a few stores, there was definitely not as many as we expected.  Ryan was getting hungry, and I just wanted an Americano.  For more sugar we shared 2 (BIG) macaroons from Bouchon Bakery, another Thomas Keller property.  The vanilla macaroon was amazing, the cappuccino macaroon was almost as amazing.  If you are in the area, plan on stopping by for an afternoon treat.  



After sitting on a bench outside Bouchon, people watching, and enjoying our second sugar bomb of the day, we went for a little walk on the town trail and basically just wasted time.  Then on to the meal we had been anticipating the entire trip!

Welcome to Ad Hoc
Below is a picture of the nights prix-fixe menu, lucky us, they were serving fried chicken that night.  Lets just say, if they are serving fried chicken you order it.  Seriously.  Unless you have a real gluten sensitivity, or are allergic to chicken, or some other ingredient, you order the fried chicken. Yes it's $22 for 6 pieces of chicken, but even the cold leftovers are great.  When your server tells you that the cold leftover fried chicken is great for breakfast, you listen.
All courses are served family style, except desert.

1. The salad was good, especially the bacon lardons.
2. Best Ribeye I've ever had.  Not that it's something I ever really order, but it was one of the best pieces of beef I've ever eaten.  The potatoes, carrots, and cabbage were equally delicious.  Ryan wouldn't commit and say it was the best fried chicken he's ever eaten, but he said it was definitely up there.  The fried rosemary that is sprinkled on top, adds a subtle flavor that reminds you of Thanksgiving.
3. I really enjoyed the Etude cheese. It had a texture and taste similar to parmesan, but with that goats milk earthiness. The crackers were very unique, exceedingly thin and crispy.
4.  I love cheesecake, and this was really good cheesecake. But after the other two deserts of the day, I actually only ate 1/2 of my serving, which wasn't that big to begin with.  I didn't ask, but wanted to...did they make their own graham crackers?

For people who have never been to a more upscale restaurant with multiple courses, or a prix-fixe menu, Ad Hoc would be an excellent first experience.  Thomas Keller keeps the food very approachable and familiar, but the high quality ingredients are cooked with impeccable skill.  

Ryan and I split a bottle of Bunter Spring Pinot Noir, a recommendation by our server.  It was AMAZING!  Best wine we had the entire trip.  It had such a deep smooth flavor I can't even describe it.  The winery just happens to be owned by our server's brother, but he didn't reveal this until we were finished and told him how much we enjoyed drinking it.  Turns out out, Bunter Spring sustainably raises all their grapes, using no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers.  We were so impressed with the wine that we have ordered a CASE; a mixture of their whites and reds. 

Needless to say, we left Ad Hoc very full and satisfied


In the morning we woke up early and drove down 101 so we could cross the Gold Gate Bridge before dropping off the Patriot and waiting at the airport, where we ate leftover fried chicken, ribeye, and potatoes.  
mmmm.... Leftover fried Chicken

Sunday, October 25, 2015

California Adventure - Red Woods and PCH

This post is about the 2nd part of Ryan and I's great California Adventure.  You can read about the first part HERE, where we backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail with an REI group for 3 days.

Mt Shasta is such a cute town.  It reminded us of Ashville, NC.  Just a little bit smaller, and with bigger mountains.  In the morning we stopped for breakfast at Mt Shasta Pastry.  Ryan had a slice of their pumpkin bread with walnuts, it was pretty tasty.  But the samples of their strawberry coffee cake were even better. Also, I don't normally get excited about potatoes, but their cook made the best breakfast potatoes I've ever had.  He used some kind of seasoning and got them nice and crispy on the outside. If you happen to be visiting the area, you really should stop in here.  Simply because the employees are so friendly!  Not sure if she is the chef's wife, but the woman who took our order and doubles as waitress chatted with us the entire time we were there. So did the locals. One gave us a few tips on where to drink wine in Napa, another two discussed fishing with Ryan.  After drinking our fill of coffee we were off to see the Red Woods.

Bye Bye Mt Shasta!
Our drive took us North into Oregon and then down highway 101 back into California, through the Red Wood forests.  Part of the reason this vacation ever came to be was Ryan's desire to drive 101 from north to south just so he could see the ocean from the right side of the road.

The redwood trees were amazing!  Just Massive! We stopped during our drive to walk along some short trails.
Toppled over tree.
"The Tree was this big..."
Our drive brought us to Crescent city, which is not where I recommend staying, but it's where we had reservations.  It only took us about 4-5 hours to get there from Mt Shasta, and that was only because we stopped to look at trees along the way.  It was lunch time and lets just say the city doesn't have a lot of great dining options. So we stopped at Safe Way and grabbed a sandwich for Ryan and a salad for me; then kept driving south till we found this amazing overlook with picnic tables for lunch.


On the way to our picnic spot we spotted a huge sign and Paul Bunion...The Trees of Mystery.  Of course we had to stop on our way back to Crescent City. This place is straight out of the 50s, it was so much fun, a great place to bring kids. They have a huge gift shop for those of you who need souvenirs, as well as ice cream and homemade fudge (which surprisingly we did not eat).  But we did take the gondola up the mountain ($15 per person) for some spectacular views.  It was pretty neat to see the different types of trees and get a birds eye view of everything.  You have the option to ride the gondola back down or you can can walk the 1+ mile down the mountain.  We chose to walk...when they warn you that it's a steep and slightly treacherous hike down, they are NOT lying.  Ryan and I were holding onto the ropes that line parts of the trail, it's probably a 20% grade at parts going down, with areas where water has created washouts that are slippery and rocky.  It was harder than our hike up Mt Eddy.  
Paul and Babe
In the gondola.
The Cathedral Trees
While there are a fair number of restaurants to choose from in Crescent city, there were not a lot that we actually wanted to eat at.  We settled on 101 Hawaiian BBQ since it got descent reviews on yelp and trip advisor.  Ryan had the teriyaki ribs which were terrific!  I chose the pulled pork which was very tender but without the soy sauce, it was kind of bland.  The pasta salad was also very bland, and a little confusing as a side dish; but maybe that's a 'thing' in Hawaii.  Since there isn't much to do in this small harbor town, Ryan and I settled on doing laundry at the laundro mat to keep our hiking clothes from fermenting in our suitcase.  Even a local who was there doing her laundry complained about how run down the town was, and how there is nothing to do there.

The rest of the evening was spent in our quaint retro motel, Curly Wood Lodge.  Part of the reason I chose this location was based on the fact that all the wood used to build it was from one Red Wood tree.  As far as accommodations go it's a little sparse.  No coffee pot, microwave, mini-fridge, or iron in the room.  But it's a cheap place to sleep at about $60 per night. 
 HOWEVER... there is a fog horn that blows every 10 seconds all day and all night long.  We were tired enough that falling asleep to it was no problem.  But at about 5am neither of us could fall back asleep so we packed up and headed out of town. (After stopping at Starbucks.)

Drive thru Redwood
Heading south on 101 we could see the fog over the ocean as the sun was rising above the mountains.  It was beautiful.  Since we were up so early, taking a short detour to visit one of the drive thru trees was no problem.  Hurray for no lines!  A little further down the highway, we spotted a heard of elk hanging out near a cabin resort.  
Elk grazing
After leaving the Redwood forest we motored on down the road in our Jeep Patriot rental (not what we hoped for), it's rather underpowered when it comes to driving up and down mountains.  Lunch was a quick stop at a Shat's Bakery/Cafe in Ukia.  The baked goods looked so delicious, but Ryan and I stuck with our usual sandwich or salad.  Shat's reminded me of Panera, but less franchise-y.  Which makes sense since they only have 3 locations.

A little over an hour later we were in the Russian River Valley!  Hello wine country!  First stop...Seghesio Winery in Healdsburg which specializes in Italian style reds, Zinfandel in particular. Their basic tasting is $15, which is a very good price for the area.  Most others are $20-25.  This winery was recommended to us by one of my dad's best friends who recently passed away after battling cancer for several years.  Cheers Roger to a life well lived, traveled, and tasted!  We bought a bottle of the 2011 Venom which is now out of stock, obviously it's tasty. The 2012 Pagani Zin was good, but didn't blow us away, so we passed on that as a purchase.  

Just for fun we tried UPTick Vineyard/Winery since we spotted it getting lost on our way to Seghesio.  The tasting room is beautiful; with a massive window behind the bar looking over their vineyard.  While the wines were good, it seemed obvious to us that they were not the owners true passion, more of a dream and hobby; enabled by lots of money.

Sticking with our road-trip theme, we took a few backroads to finish our drive into Napa and ended up at Thomas George.  This was one of our favorite wineries and wines of the trip. The tasting room is in a wine cave and you can see one of their concrete fermentation eggs in the barrel room.  I really enjoyed learning about the different types of aging process' that vintners use.  This was one of the first places that promoted the fact that they don't make the "Typical" california chardonay (big buttery and too oaky).  You know what...theirs was delicious, and I don't typically like Chardonay.  However, after you hear this line, "We don't produce the typical California Chardonay." you start to wonder what typical is?  We did purchase a bottle of the 2012 Baker Ridge Pinot Noir, and a bottle of their 2011 Chardonnay.

By this time we were ready to be off the road, driving to Napa we we hit some traffic, but once there we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, and found dinner down-town at Taqueria Rosita. This is definitely a place where locals go, it's not just for tourists.  The foods are your basic Mexican American fare, but done well and not slathered in excess cheese.  You won't be disappointed with anything you order.  The exceptionally fast service is a bonus too.  Next up, a few days of wine tasting.




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

California Adventure - Hiking the PCT

Ryan and I just got back from what I like to call our great California Adventure.  It was a combination road trip, camping, and dining expedition.  We started by flying into San Francisco and then driving up to the town of Mt Shasta.  It took us 2 HOURS! to drive from the airport to the North West side of Oakland... talk about some crapy traffic, and that was at 2:30 in the afternoon. We both agreed it would have been worth the money to fly into Sacramento.  Towards the end of our 6-7 hour drive (what should have been about 4) we stopped at In and Out Burger.  I was so hungry I drank 95% of a strawberry milk shake by myself, and promptly regretted it.  Ugh... stupid dairy induced post nasal drip and stomach ache. 
We spent the night at Cold Creek Inn where we met with the rest of our REI adventure group the next morning before being driven to the trail head.  Our amazing guides were Lauren and Alissa.  Ryan felt a little out of place because he ended up being the only male on the trip.  Here we all are before hiking off onto the Pacific Crest Trail.  Lauren(guide from WA), Stella (San Fran), Theressa and Alicia (sisters from Texas), Suzette and Tracy (Friends from Tacoma, WA), Chris (California), Alissa (Guide from Dunsmuir, CA).
On our first day we had some great views of Mt Shasta, and beautiful weather for hiking.  Temps were in the 75-80 range with a fairly strong breeze, it was perfect.  In case you are wondering, Ryan and I both use Gregory packs, but most of the other hikers use Osprey.  For the most part I like my pack, it's pretty comfy when you consider you are lugging around 35+ pounds of gear on your back.  But by the end of the second day I had a weird sore on my left hip from the straps rubbing.  I was just going to patch it with a band aid but Stella had some second skin with her and no doubt that worked much better.
I'm ready for adventure!
Our First night was spent at Porcupine Lake.  It was so pretty and surrounded by mountain peaks.  That night for dinner our guides prepared corn chowder and chicken burritos, complete with avocado, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce.  Several of our meals were from Mary Jane, an all organic dehydrated food company.  We were all really impressed with the quality of the meals.  Even Ryan had enough to eat. In the morning Ryan and I woke up early since we were still on Central Time and decided to walk over the ridge and watch the sun rise.  He brought along a chocolate bar for an early morning treat.

A little chocolate while watching the sun rise.
Porcupine Lake
Sun Rise.

During our second day of backpacking we trekked to Dead Falls Lake at the bottom of Mt Eddy.  All three days we hiked about 6 miles, so not too far, and definitely doable for any novice.  Breakfast was oatmeal topped with walnuts and cranberries; and thanks to a Jet Boil, pour over coffee (not instant). Before leaving we packed our lunches of hummus and veggie wraps with avocado slices which we ate later on the trail.  One wouldn't think that dehydrated hummus would be good, but let me tell you; it was excellent.  After setting up camp we had several hours to enjoy the cool sunshine.  Several of us were brave and decided to get into the lake...it's about 39 degrees F.  I  lasted 15 seconds.  Dinner on our second night was tomato bisque and couscous with chicken sausage and black beans.  Both nights we made hot tea or hot chocolate after dinner to drink while munching on cookies.  Lauren and Alissa let us in on the secrete of making mint tea and adding some hot chocolate to make a 'thin mint' or 'grass hopper.'  YUM!  The soup and after dinner hot drinks were great way to get re-hydrated without having to drink a lot of plain water.

Dead Falls Lake
Dead Falls Camp Site
On the morning of our third day we woke up early to a breakfast of Blueberry and Flax granola which our guides bought from Berryvale grocery in Mt. Shasta.  Ryan and I visited it later that evening after getting back to town.  It was super tasty, especially when mixed with powdered milk.  Never would have thought of using powdered milk...but that's why our guides were so awesome.  It took about 2 hours to summit Mt Eddy and the views were spectacular.  If you read the REI website description they make the hike up sound really tough.  It's not.
Mt Eddy

Mt Eddy Trail Sign
Mt Eddy Summit
On our decent we stopped for lunch which included the delicious hummus but also tuna, and more AVOCADOS!  I love avocados. I was so excited to see meat I think I ate almost an entire 6oz packet of tuna by myself. I didn't feel too bad since only the guides wanted some as well and we had 4 packets.  After returning to our camp site we packed up our tents and gear, then hiked a little over a mile out to meet the van that drove us back to Mt Shasta.  During this final hike I didn't use my new poles, and I was surprised to realize how much of a difference they really make.  If you are planning on doing any backpacking I definitely recommend getting a pair.  The help keep you from leaning forward from the weight of your pack, and really help with balance.  I bought mine from amazon and unless you are a serious backpacker, there is no need to spend more than $50-75 on them.

Back in Mt Shasta we showered then walked through town to meet our group for one last dinner and a few glasses of wine at the Tree House restaurant/Coopers Bar. It came recommended by our guides. They have a great Burger/Fry/Beer special every night for $11.  That made Ryan a very happy camper.

Theresa, Alicia, Suzette, Tracy, Ryan, Me, Alissa, Stella
We stayed the night back at Cold Creek Inn.  Our only complaint about the place was the train that went by at 9pm, 12am, and somewhere around 4:30am.  I'm not sure if you would hear it from the other hotels in town, but the Inn is right across the street, and the train has no qualms with blowing it's horn several times as it comes into town.

Next up, TO THE REDWOODS!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #6 - Breakfast Smoothie

Cutting out eggs has been a challenge, but one I really did need to tackle.  Of all the foods I've cut out, not eating eggs has made a difference.  Prior to my Alletess IgG test I knew that eating eggs too many days in a row definitely didn't sit right on my stomach.  However, after eating a 3 egg egg white omelet this past weekend for breakfast at French Meadow Bakery, it's definitely not just in my head.  Eggs  make me feel burpy for about 2 hours after eating them, totally not worth it on a regular basis.  My guess is that small amounts in some baked items or mayonnaise in the future will be ok, but for right now, I'm still avoiding them 99%.

Over the past two months I've perfected my breakfast smoothie, and made it dense enough to keep me full for 3-4 hours.  At first I was worried having just a "liquid" for breakfast would leave me starving in  an hour, but I've been pleasantly surprised.  The key is having adequate amounts of protein (30-40g) and enough fat (15-30g).  I find that adding a solid fat such as an avocado or nut butter to be more satisfying than using a liquid such as canned coconut milk.  But others will disagree.

NO WAY, WHEY!
Smoothies for meals have never been a favorite of mine, but when time is short and I want something that doesn't require cooking, these are the best option.  Having a dairy and egg sensitivity means that whey and egg-white protein powders are not an option.  Thankfully there is a new protein powder on the market...and it's made from beef protein.  That's right, dehydrated and powdered cow meat, kind of like powdered beef jerky.  No it doesn't taste like a steak, it's vanilla flavored, and super delicious.  Now, I like a really thick smoothie, so thick in fact you have to eat it with a spoon.  It's more like a breakfast pudding or soft serve ice-cream.  If you need it thinner in order to drink with a straw, just add 1/2-1 cup water.  On days I don't want any beef in my diet I will switch it up and use a pea protein or other plant based protein, but they don't mix as well and are a little grainy.

drawing my blender for stress relief

Smoothie
1 cup Unsweetened carton hemp, coconut, or almond milk, or water
3/4-1 cup frozen fruit (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, blackberry, cherry)
1/2 avocado
1 Tbs ground flax or chia seeds
1.5 scoops Pure Paleo Beef protein powder (30g) or equivalent of other protein powder.

Nutrition
440kcal
21g fat
34g carb
34g protein
13g fiber

Optional Add-ins
1 tsp glutamine powder
1-2 Tbs Aloe juice-for gut healing and joint health
2 Tbs hydrolyzed collagen-for gut healing and joint health
1 Tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
kale / spinach

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #5 - French Fennel Stew

I've kept a pretty up beat tone about this whole elimination diet, but let me be honest, cutting out all these foods sucks.  If you have gone paleo and think that eliminating grains and dairy is bad.... try giving up coffee, chocolate, eggs, garlic, ginger, and anything fermented.  I thought I'd be able to use some of the AutoImmune Protocol recipes but I was totally wrong.  Most of them contain coconut, garlic, ginger, and cabbage or green beans.  Of course, other recipes in the paleo world also use a lot of tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, salmon, and almonds, so those are all out too.  Thus, the last two months have left my tongue feeling very bored.  No indian or Thai curry.  One or two stir-frys turned out ok but not great, along with a few dry taco salads, and NO MAYONNAISE!!  No mayonnaise means no broccoli salad or chicken salad two of my favorite summer time dishes.  Going out to eat has been a huge challenge and I've pretty much had to "cheat" just a little, but only 2 times, so I'm ok with that.

As I think of my frustrations, I am humbled by the fact that I should just be thankful this is only temporary.  I am also thankful for the abundance of food (high quality food) that is available to me; while many people within my own community struggle to purchase cheap, low quality food such as  peanut butter, bread, and frozen pizza.

Any whooooo... Ryan has been traveling during this time and that has made these changes a little easier.  At least I don't have to subject him to these restrictions all week long, just on the weekends.  He did grill up some amazing chicken breasts one Sunday.  Just salt and pepper, for the most delicious crispy chicken skin.  You really can't go wrong with a piece of grilled meat, as long as it doesn't get overcooked.  Speaking of chicken, Whole Foods has two rotisserie chickens whose seasonings do not include garlic.  During my first or
second week on this diet I picked up their herbs de provence chicken in desperation of something that I didn't have to cook for dinner.  But I didn't necessarily feel like eating rotisserie chicken 4 days in a row, and figured I could use the leftovers to make a soup or stew.  When on an elimination diet, you're really not supposed to eat the same thing multiple days in a row; but with Ryan traveling during the week that's almost impossible for me.  Unless I want to cook everyday and shop multiple times a week to prevent over buying and having food go bad.  So...sticking with the French theme I also grabbed some herbs de provence seasoning and two fennel bulbs before checking out.  After eating a leg and thigh with a salad at home I got to work making soup.  What I ended up with is something I will definitely be making in the future.

French Fennel Stew
2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced
1 large onion thinly sliced
1 Tbs ghee or lard
the breasts of a rotisserie chicken, skin removed, diced or shredded
1 quart chicken broth/stock
1-2 Tbs Herbs de provence
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, melt the ghee and sauté the fennel and onion until just softened.
2.  Stir in the Chicken, broth, and seasonings.
3.  Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
DONE!  Adjust salt, as needed.
Serves 3-4

I did a crock-pot version using a small pork roast this week, and it turned out just as tasty.  Just Nestle a 1-1.5# pork roast in the bottom of your slow cooker, surrounding it with the fennel and onions.  Pour in the broth and seasonings.  Cook on high for 4 hours.  Remove the roast and shred, returning the meat to the veggies and stirring to combine.  DONE!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #4 - Mojito Shrimp Salad

Since starting this elimination diet I've been trying to increase the variety of proteins I eat.  Some of this is by necessity since I'm currently not allowed salmon or tuna.  Apparently I was eating too much of those.  To replace these two fish I've been eating more shrimp, sardines, kippered herring, and will soon be trying canned mackerel.  I've also bought ground bison the past couple weeks to sub-in for ground turkey or beef.  Ryan doesn't love fish as much as I do, so canned versions of sea food work well.  I can buy it when it's on sale, and eat it when I don't feel like cooking for one.

Even though I'm focusing on healing my gut and balancing hormones, I have allowed myself about 1 alcoholic drink on the weekend.  Not that this is actually cutting back that much from what it was, but instead of 1-3 glasses of wine now it's 0-1 cocktails.  Last weekend Ryan and I invited his brother and girlfriend over to play Settlers of Catan, eat horderves, and drink a few drinks.  So that I could partake Ryan whipped up some delicious Mojitos; outrageous settlement and city building ensued.

Not knowing how much lime juice or mint we would need, we were left with about 1/3 a bottle of lime juice and 1 package of mint.  Neither of which I wanted to go bad, since I hate wasting food.  Naturally I made a salad dressing out of them.  In my last post I wrote about how it's been difficult making a really tasty dressing without vinegar or mustard.  Well this dressing is even better than my Suja juice dressing.Wild planet makes canned shrimp, like the tiny kind you find on salad bars, that is very affordable.  Living in Minnesota means that any fish/sea food not found in a lake, and even the lake fish can be astronomically expensive.  Anytime I see canned fish on sale, I stock up.  For a quick and portable lunch that used up a few leftovers, I threw together spinach, baby kale, and a yellow bell pepper.  At work I topped my salad with 1/2 an avocado, 1 can of shrimp + 4 bigger shrimp I had left in the freezer, and my mojito dressing.  The sweet, tangy, minty-ness paired perfectly with the shrimp and avocado.  I didn't really measure my ingredients when I made the dressing, but here's my best guestimate:

 It's super delicious, refreshing, and just a tad sweet; but what kind of meat to serve it with?  SHRIMP!

Mojito Dressing
1/3 cup Lime juice
2/3 cup avocado, grape-seed, MCT, or lite olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1.5 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bottle and shake it up until the honey is dissolved.  Or combine ingredients in a blender and blend till combined.

If you are allergic to shell fish, I think tuna, salmon or just about any other fish would be delicious on this salad.  Of course, if you don't like anything that swims, chicken or pork would work too.

Now back to those shrimp.  I'm not going to get too technical or political, but please buy wild caught shrimp.  Shrimp and seafood from Asia are typically farm raised.  Meaning the little crustaceans are raised in a cesspool of their own fecal matter, they are fed food that is not actually their normal diet, most of the ponds are contaminated with other toxic materials.  Also, many of the "farmers" raising these critters are being held in forced labor camps which are basically forms of modern day slavery.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #3 - sauces and dressings

Imagine having to make a salad, but you cant use olive oil, vinegar, butter milk, or egg yolks.  And being the wise person that you are, you refuse to use canola oil or soybean oil.  Hmmmm.... what are you going to dress your salad with?  Sure lemon or lime juice work, but it's not quite the same.

Since starting my 8-12 week elimination diet to help heal my gut and reset my hormones I've cut out among other things: all cows milk dairy (except ghee), olives, anything fermented including vinegar, eggs, sunflower seeds,  sesame seeds, almonds, garlic, coconut, and ginger. The biggest challenges I've had in the past month have been figuring out what to dress my salads with and what kind of sauces to put on my meats.

I picked up a bottle of Walnut oil and Avocado oil at Whole Foods just to begin experimenting with.  I actually like the Avocado oil better since it has a very neutral flavor.  After using up the avocado oil I caved in and bought a bottle of grape seed oil because it's about 1/2 the price of avocado oil.  I don't love grape seed oil and never recommend it to clients because it's high in omega 6 fatty acids which oxidize very easily.  I have no plan to cook with it, but figure using it a couple times a week as a dressing it's not going to cause me any real damage.  About the time I was checking out and giving up on my quest to find something besides lemon juice to add pizzaz to my salads I spied the chilled beverage section at the end of the refrigerator aisle. After looking through about 15 flavors I finally found one without apple juice. (No apples either).  This Suja detox juice beverage is just what I needed.  The combination of strawberries, raspberries, tart cherries, and pinch of cayenne has really helped jazz up my otherwise very boring and dry salads.  I have a small glass bottle I mix the juice and oil in and then tote it to and from work.  Mmmmm... Delicious.


Next, while my parents were visitng the other weekend we grilled chicken thighs which are delicious on their own, but are definitely better with a little BBQ sauce.  I found a recipe for tart cherry sauce in Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything' iphone app and decided to simply replace the tart cherries with frozen cranberries which we've had in our freezer since last November.  Dad really enjoyed it, Ryan was more partial to his BBQ sauce.  For me, it was nice to have something other than just meat with a vegetable and no sauce.

Tart and Spicy Cranberry Sauce.
1. Sautee 1 diced shallot and 1-2 diced jalapenos in a medium saucepan in 1 Tbs of ghee or red palm oil for 3-5 minutes.

2. Dump in 2 cups Frozen cranberries, 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, 2-4 Tbs brown sugar depending upon how tart you like your sauce, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Stir everything together and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes until the cranberries have broken down and the sauce is thickened.  

4. Serve warm or room temp with chicken or pork.

Serves 8-10 depending upon how much sauce people eat with their meats.

Enjoy!!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #2 - Lamb Hash

It's typical for Ryan and I to spend holidays going between his dad's for brunch and his mom's for supper.  In the past we have done egg bakes and waffles for brunch, but with me not eating eggs right now, that breakfast is out the window.  Now that we have our own kitchen, Ryan and I thought it would be a great idea to host Easter Brunch at our house.  To cut down on stress and prep-time we asked our family members to help pitch in and bring a dish.  Ryan's youngest brother and girlfriend brought a delicious salad of baby greens, goat cheese, strawberries, and chopped pecans; paired with the Bolthouse Farms classic balsamic vinaigrette.  Reggie was in charge of the egg bake which Ryan said was really tasty and contained asparagus, kale, and bacon.

Ryan made "special" bacon from the Primal Cravings cookbook.  Some slices were spiced with Penzeys Northwoods Fire seasoning and others with maple and brown sugar.  The first batch of maple bacon was so sweet it was like candy.  A lot of the "syrup" ended up on the pan, and the second batch of bacon that baked in it, came out perfect.  Just the right amount of sweet.

Pears
I wasn't about to only eat bacon and salad for brunch, so I thought about making a wild rice casserole, but didn't want to put that much work into it.  Then I got the bright idea to make a hash!  Instead of beef or pork, my hash was made with ground lamb.  It was Easter, and lamb just made sense.  All the recipes I found online for lamb hash included apples which are a no-no for me right now.  Pears seemed like an easy apple substitute, and they were.  A sauce of some sort...like an egg yolk (another no-no) would have been really nice; perfect actually, but the final result was enjoyed by everyone.

Lamb Hash
24-32oz ground lamb
3 ripe pears chopped into 1/2" pieces
4-5 small purple potatoes chopped into 1/2" pieces
potatoes
Butter, Ghee, Lard, Coconut oil.... whatever fat you use
Salt/Pepper
Nutmeg (use sparingly-don't go crazy)
Rosemary

Preheat oven to 350*
1. Brown the lamb in a large skillet, season with all the herbs/spices remove and drain off any grease.
2. In the same skillet melt 1-2Tbs of fat and begin browning the potatoes for 5 minutes.  Season with the herbs/spices.
3. Stir in the pears, (also seasoned) and place in your oven for 15 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from the oven and stir in the cooked ground lamb, to re-warm it.

Serves 6-8
Enjoy!

There was just enough leftover for me to enjoy some this morning after my workout along with a little arugula salad topped with walnut oil.
Mmmm.... Leftovers!


Monday, March 30, 2015

Challenges in Creativity #1

Alright, now that I have a little over a week under my belt of this new and seemingly very restrictive elimination diet I thought I'd post a sampling of what I've been eating.
Turk Burger + Pancake

Breakfasts:
T.J. Turkey burgers
Homemade turkey sausage with sauteed kale/greens
Leftover beef roast with wilted greens/kale
Pumpkin oatmeal pancakes
Bacon

Lunch:
Giant salads + Whole Foods Herbs De Provence Rotisserie Chicken or deli turkey/ham
Dressing: Avocado oil + lemon or lime juice
Crab/Sardine cakes (using flax as an egg replacer) + cooked veggies
Homemade pumpkin seed pesto; marinated chicken tenders + steamed brussels sprouts and carrots.
Sausage + Veggies + Avocado
Leftovers

Snacks:
Oranges
Strawberries
Pistachios
Dried Cherries

Dinner:
Chicken and Fennel soup using leftover W.F. rotisserie chicken
White Chicken Chili topped with avocado and cilantro
Shepherds Pie sans the tomato paste (it was a little crumbly)
Shrimp with broccoli and cashew butter/Bragg liquid amino sauce
Garam Masala seasoned beef liver

Beef Roast + Kale
I had a little bit of a breakdown after about 6 days when I was feeling frustrated and a little snacky and couldn't figure out what to eat.  All I really wanted was a small piece of dark chocolate, what I ended up having was two celery sticks with cashew butter and raisins.  Hello ants on a log!

I'm not sure what the most limiting factor is.  The no garlic is tough since it's in just about every recipe, and in almost everything when you eat out.  I found fish sticks the other day that were GF/DF/Nut Free/ Egg Free and I thought HURRAY something I don't have to cook!  Nope, there was garlic powder in it.

Or maybe it's the no vinegar/yeast. Do you realize that every condiment has vinegar in it? Except for salsa...but no tomatoes or garlic so that's out too.  I tried to make some roasted jalapeno sauce, boy is it hot!  As much as I want to avoid baking bread, cookie, and muffin like things, I may give-in and try an Bread from Anna yeast free bread mix, just so I have something to toast occasionally or to put some deli meat on.  Also, I have three jars of Mark Sisson's Primal Mayonnaise which due to both the eggs and vinegar, I cannot eat right now, and this makes me very very very sad.  Mayonnaise should be it's own food group.  I love that stuff.






Thursday, March 19, 2015

Insomnia Sucks Part 2

Earlier last summer I wrote a post on my long standing sleeping issues.  For a while I thought my sleep was getting better, but in reality it wasn't.  During that time I just happened to listen to a bunch of random pod-casts that just happened to discuss other symptoms that I had and their connection to insomnia.  It's amazing how sometimes when you really need it too, the universe JUST HAPPENS to point you in the right direction.

Hormone pod-casts
I love listening to pod-casts while cooking and while driving all over the Twin Cities.  Some of my favorites are Underground Wellness, The Fat Buring Man, Everyday Paleo, and more recently Jimmy Moore's Ask the Low Carb Experts.  Over several weeks, I listened to Sean Croxton interview T.S. Wiley (sleep and hormones), Nora Gegaudes (hormones and sleep), Bryan Walsh (adrenal fatigue), and Julie Walsh (PCOS). After every single one I thought, "Holy SHIT!  there is seriously something wrong with my hormones!"  Not that I didn't think this before, but each one touched on how hormone imbalances can cause major sleep disturbances.  Each person stressed the point that if you have chronic sleep issues that will not resolve, you need to test your hormones.  If you have had long standing menstrual irregularities including severe PMS, heavy periods, clotting, missing periods, irregular cycles, you need to test your hormones.

So....I sent for a ZRT test kit. The most accurate way to test sex hormones is through saliva.  Blood tests only check what are known as bound or inactive hormones, compared to the free or active hormones found in the saliva.  The tests confirmed what I thought (no PCOS) but some interesting imbalances.  Particularly low progesterone, which is becoming more common among women my age.  Older women going through menopause often complain of insomnia, more specifically, they wake up a lot between 2-4am.  Sound familiar?  Menopause is often thought of as a decrease in estrogen, but it's really more about the decrease in progesterone.  Progesterone is the hormone that helps women feel level headed, calm, and aids in proper sleep/wake cycles.

Hmmm....now what?  How do I get my ovaries to make more progesterone?  I already eat lots of healthy fats.  I avoid gluten, and limit dairy, eat lots of veggies, and 90% of our meats are organic/grass fed.

Taking Action
I finally made an appointment with a Naturopath who JUST HAPPENS to work out of my PCP's office. The initial consult was fantastic. Knowing what I know, I could see many of the connections she was making between my past health history and current health complaints.

The Plan
After selling about 10 vials of blood for the most comprehensive blood testing I've ever seen, here's the plan:
  • Keep my blood sugars really well balanced.  I'm trying to cut out snacks and just eat three large meals, but I typically need something mid afternoon since lunch is often at 11, and dinner isn't until 6 or 7.  I notice that when my blood sugars drop, even if I'm not hungry I tend to get really anxious or have ADD type brain function.
  • No more folic acid supplementation.  I have the heterozygous MTHFR gene so my body is a little compromised when it comes to activating folic acid, especially if I'm under stress.  This can lead to detoxification problems, autoimmune diseases, heart disease (which runs in my family), and mood disorders (which also runs in my family).
  • Relax. My cortisol is a little off, and besides keeping my blood sugars balanced the best thing to do is to reduce stress.  I'm reading 8 minute meditation and am about 2 weeks into the program.
  • Supplement with Vitex to rebalance my progesterone.
  • Cut out inflammatory foods for 8-12 weeks.  This is where things get really hairy.  After following the previous steps for 1-3 months I just had an Alletess IgG food sensitivity test done.  I'm reacting to a lot of foods, especially fermented foods.  So what's off my list: All dairy except for Ghee, Gluten, Almonds, Apples, Banana, Green Beans, Cabbage, Cocoa (aka chocolate), COCONUT, Coffee, Chicken Eggs, Garlic, Ginger, Head Lettuce (romaine, iceburg), Mustard, Green Olives+olive oil, pineapple, sesame seeds, summer/winter squash, sunflower seeds, Black tea, tomato, Yeast (wine, soy sauce, vinegar, bread)
I'm starting with the intense elimination diet this coming week so I have time to stock the pantry and get rid of tempting foods. I eat a lot of these foods frequently, and with them showing up in my blood it means I still have a leaky gut.  Hopefully by cutting them out for a while (8-12 weeks), and doing higher doses of glutamine and collagen I will close up some gaps and be less reactive.  Recently I've been having some TMJ type symptoms after eating, which I began to associate with vinegar, so I wasn't surprised by that one.  Basically my jaw just gets really tight.  And I know apples give me horrible, painful gas; it's a FODMAP.  My doctor thinks I may have a mild fructose malabsorption, which is more common than one would think.  If I eat eggs too many days in a row I don't feel well and tend to burp a lot; a sign of low hydrochloric acid. The spices, eggs, chocolate, and coffee are going to be my biggest challenges.  It's just going to take a lot of planning at first, and almost never eating out.  The no egg and vinegar is really sad since I just received a jar of Primal Mayo from Thrive Market.

If I continue to eat foods that my body is sensitive to, my digestive tract will remain inflamed which in turn will cause continued cortisol issues; this will steals energy needed for making progesterone and blocks thyroid hormone receptors.  It's just your basic HPA imbalance.

The Takeaway
If you have sleep issues or chronic fatigue and these typical recommendations haven't helped...
1. Get some exercise, but not too much.
2. No screen time 1-2 hours before bed
3. Balance your blood sugar, consider eating a healthy carb + fat before bed.
4. Give up caffeine, even in the morning.
5. Take 5HTP and Magnesium before bed.
6. Learn to relax (meditate, journal, do yoga).

Then start doing some testing.  I recommend: Serum Iron/Ferritin, folate, B12, Complete thyroid panel, Sex hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D. Just to get you started.

I'll probably be blogging a little more about how I'm navigating the food restrictions. I've been eating modified paleo for some time now, but now it's serious.  I'm calling this plan: Whole90-Autoimmune- minus the coconut.

Petition to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

I am participating in the #RepealTheSeal campaign to show my disagreement with the Academy’s recent decision to allow the Kids Eat Right logo onto food packaging. I invite my fellow colleagues and bloggers who share this opinion, or who support this campaign, to also post this open letter on their own blog, to sign the petition at change.org and/or to use #RepealTheSeal hashtag via social media.

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/03/18/in-defense-of-75-000-dietitians

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Yogurt Granola Breakfast Bowl

Some days you just don't want to eat another egg or you're going to start clucking.  Besides leftovers, it's hard to find a fast and protein dense breakfast item, especially if you are following a real food/paleo diet.  Enter...the yogurt breakfast bowl.  As long as you don't have a major issue with dairy (autoimmune disease, skin inflammation, or lactose intolerance) start thinking about scooping yourself a nice big bowl of plain yogurt and making a delicious parfait.

I used to love greek yogurt, but lately I've been enjoying goat yogurt.  For many people, goat dairy products are less inflammatory than those from cows.  It has to do with a certain type of casein protein.  Most cows milk contains A1 casein, vs other ruminants such as goats, sheep, and water-buffalo whose milk contains A2 casein.

I top my plain yogurt with cinnamon, ground flax seeds, fresh/frozen berries, and my homemade coconut granola.  In order to make this a truly satisfying breakfast you need to serve yourself enough yogurt.  This isn't the time for a small 4oz serving.  Load yourself up with at least 8oz (1 cup), if not closer to 12oz.


Homemade pumpkin coconut granola

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

In a large bowl mix together: 2 cups rolled oats (or large flaked coconut, crunched up), 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon), 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup dried fruit (chop up if larger than a raisin), 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  

In a medium pot, melt over low heat: 1/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 c Honey or Maple Syrup, 1/4 c smooth  peanut butter (or almond butter or sunflower seed butter).

Mix "liquid" ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Pour onto a lined baking sheet and press firmly.  Make it look like a giant granola bar.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the oats/coconut start to brown.  Take out and let the granola cool for 5-10 minutes.  Then break it all up and store in an airtight container.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Stop Catering to Your Kids

This is a rant.  I'm climbing up on my soapbox and saying things I can't always say to clients (but sometimes do.)

Stop Catering to your kids!  You are not a short order cook!!!  Just because they want a $5 Starbucks IcedMochaFrappaExtra blah blah blah does not mean you go get it for them on the way home from school or soccer.  When you're at the grocery store and they start pleading for cookies, and frozen pizzas, and spicy Doritos, YOU ARE THE PARENT!  You have the power to say NO.

Recently Ryan and I went snow tubing; as we entered the chalet a mother and flock of kids was leaving.  One little boy was wining, "But I don't want to eat at hoooooome, I want to eat heeeerrrreeeee." She just matter-of-factly told him, "nope, we have plenty of food at home, we are going home for lunch."  Good for her.

There were plenty of times when I asked my mom for some special food product at the HyVee: Lunchables, SkinnyCow ice-cream, and orbitz drinks, and she didn't buy them for me.  Granted, there were times when she did.  But if she said "no," I didn't beg and plead until I got my way.  Ryan's mom had her hands full with 3 boys. He remembers when he and his brothers miss-behaved at the grocery store, she went back through the store, put all the groceries back on the shelves, and left.

At home, I ate whatever mom or dad made for dinner, even if I didn't like it (Tuna Helper Tetrazzini). By the time I went to college I was so sick of steamed broccoli I didn't eat it for several months, until I came home for a weekend and was craving vegetables.  Did I ever complain... I wouldn't have thought about it.

When did people start making 2-3 meals every night to cater to each family member's palate?  Over the years even my Grandma fell into this trap.  She used to babysit my cousins and I on Mondays. Lunch was always: Pringles, gherkin pickles, carrot sticks + veggie dip, grapes, and Oscar Meyer braunschweiger sandwiches on white wonder bread (we had the option of mustard or no-mustard).  Some days we got fudgesicles or chips-ahoy cookies. I'm not saying it was the healthiest meal, but it's what was served, none of us knew any better to ask for something different.  As time went on, she baby-sat great-grand-children, and they had options!!!  She would make 3 different kinds of sandwiches, and offer different sides depending upon each kids preferences. Two different kinds of pickles, because one kid didn't like one, and the other didn't like the first option.

I realize it's hard enough for an adult to make changes in their diet, and that kids and spouses are not always interested in trying to eat better.  Many clients are frequently concerned about the way their loved ones eat, and complain that their kids eat terrible, their husband is a sugar-aholic and continues to buy crappy food despite her asking him not to. In these times I encourage these women to do the best they can.  Focus on themselves first when it comes to diet changes, not the entire family.  She needs to eat a balanced breakfast with protein, fat, and veggies.  However, she needs to stop worrying about the kids eating cereal.  Perhaps she could buy them a better quality cereal, one without HFCS or hydrogenated oils.  And have them pour on organic 2% or whole milk so they get a little fat at their breakfast instead of just carbs.

Dinner should be non-negotiable.  If that's not the routine right now, find ways to work in the family favorites 1-2x week, while presenting real food meals the rest of the week.  Or find ways of making family favorites into a more balanced meal.  Take tacos for example: Instead of having tacos and chips for a carb overload, let the rest of the family have their tortillas, while you make a taco salad, and limit your tortilla chips to 5-7.  Maybe Friday is always pizza night.  Turn it into a family activity and make the pizza at home so you get to control the ingredients and then serve raw veggies with dip as a side.

As for the cookies, chips, crackers.... maybe your family isn't ready to have them banned from the house. That usually ends in mom-mutany. Similar to the cereal, talk with your family about making "better" choices.  If you don't have time to bake your own cookies using real butter, make sure to buy ones that don't contain trans fats, artificial flavors, and strange preservatives.  Get rid of artificial colors, these are toxic to our brains.  Replace cheeze-its with these crackers by Late July.  Or try these options to replace some of your family's processed and toxic foods:
Cookies
Pretzeles
Potato Chips
Tortilla Chips
Peanut Butter
Granola Bars

If you start introducing real foods when your children are toddlers, they will grow up preferring those.  In fact, when faced with fake-foods they will probably choose to not eat them.  Actually, several of my co-workers have taught their kids that Ronald McDonald serves food that makes people sick.  That made for an interesting afternoon when Mr. McDonald showed up at an elementary school giving out burgers for lunch.

It takes time and practice, but your life and health are worth it.  So is your family's.  Oreos and Gatorade are not healthy snacks, but a strawberry smoothie or beef jerky and nuts will keep your kids powered up between school, sports, and music lessons.

Maybe you are struggling with picky eaters, and think I'm nuts for suggesting you swap out your kids daily waffles smothered in Aunt Jemima for eggs and a side of berries.  Maybe in the past your family  put up too much of a fight when you tried to increase their veggies at dinner, so you went back to frozen french fries.  Ask yourself, how important is your family's health?  You don't have to make changes overnight, start slowly. In her book, French Kids Eat Everything, Karen LeBillion describes how she was able to transition/transform her two picky eaters into adventurous real-food eaters.  You are the parent. You decide what goes into your grocery cart, you decide what comes into the house.  Not your kids. We don't allow people to start smoking until the age of 18 because of the increased risk for cardiovascular disease, lung disease, brain damage, and cancer.  Why would you let them dictate that their diet include foods that do the same thing when they are 7?

Before I get a bunch of angry messages and questions about my personal life here's my disclaimer: I do not have kids, but I probably will some day. I will not give in to my kids every whim; mine certainly never did.  I am not talking about serving and eating the perfect diet (whatever that is).  However, I will set boundaries, and I will follow them.  And every once in a while I will probably break my own rules. We know that kids learn behaviors and habits from their parents.  If you don't want to be a short order cook, and you don't want your kids eating nothing but chicken nuggets, don't start the habit.  If that is their/your current habit, find small ways to begin changing it.
It's ok to eat pizza, just not every day.
So with that... I'm stepping off my box.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Skillets and Plantain Pancakes

During the summer of 2013 I bought a new non-toxic, non-stick skillet by Green Pan.  This pan was pretty remarkable, and very non-stick for at least the first 8 months.  But with daily use it started to deteriorate.  Add to that a trip to the North Shore where I cooked with it over an open fire, it's really started to lose it's slickness. With a Christmas Amazon gift card I set my sights on a new skillet.  I didn't want to purchase another Green Pan knowing how much we use it, I wanted something that would last longer than 8 months.  This is a mindset that continues to pop up for me a lot recently; the desire to spend more on a high quality product, but have it for a really long time.  After bouncing back and forth between cast iron, some other brands of ceramic coated pans, and stainless steel, I settled on a hard-anodized aluminum 9.5" fry pan by Le-Creuset.  Some people will be aghast at the fact that I'm cooking on aluminum since studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's disease sometimes have plaques in their brain containing aluminum.  I'm not worried.  hard-anodized aluminum does not chip and flake, or give off toxic fumes like teflon.  As long as you follow the cooking and washing guidelines, this type of cook wear will last almost a lifetime, and will not leach aluminum into your food.  So far we've cooked mostly eggs in it, and just as we had hoped...THEY DON'T STICK!  Even though it's non-stick you can get a little browning on vegetables and meats as long as you don't put too much oil in it.  Not that you need to.  My over-easy eggs are so easy to flip, no more ripping the bottom and having my luscious yolk spill onto the hot surface.

Eggs over sauteed kale + Pumpkin Pancakes
I've been making lots of Paleo Plantain Pancakes for Ryan and I since discovering Sara Ballantyne's recipe.  So many gluten free/paleo recipes can be disappointing, but this one tastes almost exactly like a real pancake, and has the right texture too.  They have replaced my highly processed GF toast, and are my new favorite afterwork snack.  Coming home at 8:30pm with dinner at 4pm, can lead to some seriously weird and not always healthy late night snacking habits.  Chocolate and Almond Butter by the spoon-full anyone?  Keeping these pancakes in the freezer means I can easily come home, heat up a couple, top with coconut butter or almond butter and then get myself ready for bed.  If you cant find any plantains, they can be easily replace with pumpkin or banana.  *Note, that for people following a low carb diet, pumpkin would be a more appropriate choice.

1/6 of the recipe
192kcal
11g fat, 9g saturated
23g carb *(6g if made with pumpkin)
2g fiber
3g protein