Friday, April 27, 2012

Baked Kale Chips

So as we get ready to leave, we're trying to use up what's in our fridge. We're taking along some clementines, apples, pineapple chunks and mangoes. But last week, I bought a big bag of kale at BJ's ($1.99, can't beat that) for the purpose of making baked kale chips. I've seen several recipes for them, calling for varying oils and seasonings. I decided to stick to the basics.

I tried two different recipes:

Nom Nom Paleo's Baked Kale Chips

Smitten Kitchen's Baked Kale Chips

Kale, sea salt, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil, ready to go.

I made my first batch with Nom Nom Paleo's recipe. They were good, but still pretty green-tasting and a little bitter. No way I could get The Boy to eat them. I told him they were green potato chips and he refused to touch it. He dropped it on the floor and pretended to have his stuffed dog eat it.

I made the second batch with olive oil. More flavor to the oil, so I figured tastier results.

Not so. I didn't realize the smoke point of olive oil is 325 degrees. I baked these chips at 350. I had a few finished chips and they tasted like Death's ass. That batch went in the trash.

I found this nifty reference on the smoke points of oils online. I think I'll have to keep this one bookmarked.

I looked at Smitten Kitchen's recipe and turned the oven down to 300 (whoops!) and tried again. This time, I salted one pan, and used a combination of salt and garlic powder on the other.

Verdict? Meh.The garlic powder made them taste better, but the long cooking time obliterated them. I managed to salvage 2 decent-sized pieces.

So I went BACK to avocado oil and 350 degrees and tried garlic and salt again.

Good! A little nutty, kinda veggie and salty with a hint of garlic. I am going to play around with seasonings in future batches but I like these a lot.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mistakes were made: fast food and Paleo

I really have been very happy since changing my diet to Paleo. I wake up feeling refreshed, I get to eat lots of tasty bacon and stuff fried in butter, and I've lost 3 pounds in a week. Wonderful!

But I decided today was a good day to "cheat", and man, was I wrong.

Let me give you a little back story: I used to teach special education. When I moved from Florida to North Carolina, I was lucky to be paired up with Roberta. Roberta was my teacher's assistant for 2 1/2 years, from the day I started at my new school to the day I left. She calls me "daughter" and I call her "mom". She is very special to me.

Naturally, when Roberta's birthday rolled around, I decided to visit her at work. I asked her what she'd like for lunch, and she said Showmars. For those of you who don't live in the greater Charlotte area, Showmars is a local chain of Greek diners, and it is really, really good. I jumped at the chance to have a gyro with some tzaziki sauce. 

Mmm, gyros... *insert Homer Simpson salivating noise*

I restrained myself and I had water (instead of their excellent sweet tea) and ordered a fruit cup on the side. I planned to take the meat and veggies off the pita, but when we sat down for lunch, it just looked too good the way it was. I ate it all up, every bite, and I really enjoyed it.

But then about an hour later, I was driving home and my stomach started to hurt. Then I went inside and when I picked up my little boy, I started to get that gross almost-sick-to-my-stomach sensation. Now I'm sitting in the recliner and writing this, waiting for the stomach pain to go away. On top of that, I'm tired, much more tired than I normally am this time of day. Lesson learned. Time to stay away from bread and avoid eating junk. I think you have to slip up once or twice to see how much better you feel on Paleo.

Tomorrow we're going on our vacation. We're driving 8 hours tomorrow and 8 more the next day, then doing that again in a week and a half. I don't know what we're going to eat while we're on the road. And while I love my in-laws very dearly, they're vegetarians, and finding something for us all to eat while we stay with them is going to be pretty interesting. I'm also afraid that my favorite foods from home (Skyline Chili! Jaxson's Ice Cream!) are not going to go down too well and it bums me out. Time to start looking at fast food allergen info to see what we can eat.

Did you know Chick-fil-A only has three gluten-free entrees? This is going to be difficult.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting rid of a big mess the quick and easy way

I have always been a disorganized perfectionist. It doesn't sound like those two things go together, but they do, more often than you think. I couldn't keep my room clean because I could never get it just right. When I grew up and got married, the same principle applied to my house. I could ignore it for the most part, because I worked full time and tried to keep busy on weekends. But when I got laid off a few years ago, I was suddenly confronted by the reality of my mess.

I Googled "quick organizing tips" and found FlyLady. People either love or hate her system, but I love love LOVE it. My house isn't perfect, but I've accepted it never will be, and it's a hell of a lot closer now than it was before.

Here is one of my big problems, housekeeping-wise. My dining room table.

Scary, isn't it?

I decided to tackle it today and get it cleaned off. Now to look at it, it seems like there's a lot of crap on that table and you might think it took me hours to get it cleaned up. Probably because I got bored and wandered off in the middle of the job a few times.

But guess what? That didn't happen! I used the 27 Fling Boogie principle to get it done.

The 27 Fling Boogie is one of FlyLady's little housecleaning games. The name is corny, but the principle is sound: pick a room or area, pick up 27 things and trash them/donate them/put them away. Each "boogie" takes about 5 minutes or less. Here's the progress in pictures.

After #1

After #2

Number 3
Hey, 2 bucks and an Earth Fare gift card! This is paying off!

Number 4

Number 5

See, how easy was that? Much more manageable. The big stack in the front is my coupons that I have to still organize, and the back stacks are my bills and other office supplies. I do this all the time now. If my kitchen or bedroom is messy, I find that there's 27 things or less to toss or put away. It's also great because I can get a decent chunk of mess out of the way while my son before my son asks me to play trains with him for the sixth time since breakfast.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First world problems and temptation

I was going to write a nice post tonight about how I love how much weight I've already lost and how great I feel and how much energy I have now. All of that is true, but this afternoon went to hell in a handbasket and I had my first real desire to quit.

Between the Terrible Twos, a surprise dirty diaper at the bookstore that required a trip home, an hour in the sixth circle of Hell (better known as a kid's hair salon), a trip to the store where I came home empty-handed, rush hour traffic and finding my not-quite-right next door neighbor had mowed 1/3rd of my front lawn, I was done. I was ready to call up Papa John's and have a nice greasy pizza and some ice cream, too.

Luckily, my husband came home a few minutes later. He took the ground beef I'd thawed out and made some yummy hamburger patties, sauteed the spinach in the grease, and nuked a sweet potato for us to share. Crisis averted. I feel better now.

I was waiting for this to happen, and now I have to figure out some fallback measures for when I'm tired, cranky and stressed out. I have seen some Paleo freezer menus on Saving Dinner that look appealing, but I don't have the money to shell out for the download right now. It might be worth it if it helps keep me from running screaming into a Cici's Pizza and falling face-first into the cheese danish dessert pizza the next time I have a crappy afternoon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pearsnapples Sauce

This morning, I woke up and weighed myself. I was so excited! I've lost 2 pounds since starting Paleo a week ago. And my jeans are falling off my butt all the time already. If that's not enough motivation for me to keep going, I also woke up on my own, feeling refreshed. I have a 2 1/2 year old. Anyone with a toddler has probably forgotten what that feels like. It was great! I went downstairs and spend some time with my husband before he left for work, and I made myself a microwave scrambled egg, some leftover chicken sausage from yesterday's breakfast, a handful of cherry tomatoes and some coffee.

Look at my FIU mug. See the paw, feel the claw! Go Panthers! What, no? OK, I'll stop.

Turns out though that the sausages (Johnsonville chicken sausages, apple flavored) aren't Paleo-friendly. Oh well, scratch those off any future shopping lists.

I also finished up the Crock Pot pear sauce I started last night. When I was at Harris Teeter this weekend, I found a nice big bag of 4 overripe organic Bartlett pears for $1. I started with this recipe from Money Saving Mom, but when I checked on the pears, they'd pretty much turned to water. I threw in a few Pink Lady apples and let them cook for a few more hours.

Mash 'em up with a potato masher...There, that's more like it.

Pearsnapples Sauce
- 4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
- 3-4 small sweet apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- Hearty sprinkling of cinnamon (eyeball it)
- 1 cup water

Throw fruit, cinnamon and water in a Crock Pot and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until fruit starts to fall apart. Mash with potato masher until you achieve the consistency you want. Eat warm (yum!) or cold.

I was hoping my son would eat it. He took a taste of it off my finger. He liked it! So I made him his own bowl. Of course, he took 2 bites and asked to get down from the table. Stinking toddlers. I thought it was pretty darn good and so did DH, so more for us then, picky baby!

I feel like I'm learning to cook all over again on Paleo. I have a pretty nice collection of great cookbooks, but when you throw out the recipes that call for potatoes, bread, rice or milk, you've only got a handful left to choose from. I threw together a Southwestern-style chicken and sweet potato dish. It was yummy, but it needs work before I publish it. Chicken breasts, bacon, sweet potatoes, onions, spices and some jarred salsa stirred in, with avocado on the side.

DH made it into hash and threw some fried eggs on top:

Well, back to the drawing board tomorrow. I have to pack for our upcoming road trip, and it will be interesting to see what we can eat when we're away from home. I hope I can post at least a few times while we're gone.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The great Paleo pantry makeover

So while we've started eating more like cavemen for almost a week, today was finally the day we cleaned out the pantries. Yes, pantries. I have been couponing heavily for about 2 years now, and while I'm no candidate for Extreme Couponers/the insane asylum, I had a pretty sizeable stockpile of non-perishable food. Here are the before pics:

And after:

Geez, what a difference! It's pretty scary actually. I had no idea how much processed food we had here, even though I've been trying to get rid of it. I haven't thrown out everything on the "forbidden" list, but I'm close. I am not the type of person who goes cold turkey on anything. Having the little bit of Easter candy and baking supplies stashed away helps me feel like I'm not giving up everything. Right now, I still plan on treating myself to some conventional birthday cake and some cookies once in a blue moon. I may change my mind eventually, because I'm already feeling pretty great. Plus, I had some M&M's the other night and almost threw up. TMI, sorry, but I needed to share. I'm not being sanctimonious, they seriously hurt my stomach A LOT and I needed some Maalox.

Want to see what I'm tossing out?

And this isn't including what my sister and brother-in-law (newlyweds who needed to go grocery shopping) took, either. I said goodbye to Kashi cereal, granola, panko, rice, spaghetti and a whole bunch of other stuff I would have normally considered healthy foods. (Also, some Kraft mac and cheese and a bunch of cake mix and frosting, but shh! already)

I am going to donate the rest of the baking supplies to the home ec teacher at the school I used to teach at, and the rest to the food pantry around the corner from my house. Now, some holier-than-thou food types will say that I should pitch this stuff and let it rot in a landfill, but I heartily disagree. Even though I don't want to eat those foods anymore, it's still FOOD, and there are people with NO FOOD who would love to have it. If we were in a position where we needed help from a food pantry, I would take anything I could that would fill us up and provide some nutrition. Changing what we give to those in need is a public policy issue that I'm not getting into right now.

My grocery list is getting smaller, too. It's Super Doubles at Harris Teeter this week, and my list was super teeny-tiny. It was like a joke list.

Bananas? Kleenex? Nuts? Seriously, that's it? Yes, seriously. And I bought only one bag of Alexia fries because I found out they have sugar and some other stuff in them that we're not supposed to be eating anymore. Sheesh. I did buy a bunch of produce at Trader Joe's and BJ's a few days ago, and with the meat I have in the freezer, that should round things out.

And I'm always thinking about food now. I think it's just the adjustment phase. It's like going on vacation or moving to a new country. My eating habits and pantry have been turned upside down and I need to adjust. Tomorrow, I'll post a few yummy recipes I've found so far.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Starting over

Okay, no one is reading this blog except me, but in case anyone decides to, I figured I should explain why I haven't posted in almost 4 months.

I'm lazy. There, that was easy.

However, now I have some new inspiration, and I think I finally have something to talk about on a regular basis.

I am going Paleo, and I want to document the changes I've made in my life and hopefully help out anyone looking to do it, too.

In 2009, when I was 8 months pregnant with my son, my husband was diagnosed with relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis. We had been worried about that possibility for about a year and a half, when he started having terrible weakness, fatigue and spasticity. He's been doing well so far: he's had a few relapses but no permanent damage, his disease-modifying drug is working pretty well, and overall he's in good health. But the drugs give him terrible indigestion and reflux, and he's still tired all the time and gets fatigued easily. And when I say fatigued, I don't mean, "Man, I shouldn't have walked that extra 1/4 mile on my walk" fatigue. I mean, "Oh my God, I've been up for 48 hours and run a marathon in that time frame, and now I have to go mow the freaking lawn, too" fatigue. That is MS fatigue.

So diligently researching MS treatments, we had heard about paleo and low-carb and inflammation before. We had let it go in one ear and out the other. But finally, it came down to my husband talking about dropping his prescription because he couldn't take the acid reflux anymore. A drug that's kept him healthy for the last 2 years. A drug that we are (luckily) not paying for, which would have to be substituted for a drug that costs $4000. A. MONTH. A drug that he'd been on previously, which required me to give him a shot every week (he hates needles) and forced him to lie in bed with flu-like symptoms for the next 24 hours. Not a good option.

That's when I heard about Terry Wahls and the amazing results she's had from going Paleo (there's a lot more to it than that, but that's the gist). She went from a wheelchair to riding her bike to work again, all in the span of a year. We talked it over, and though we're not expecting miracles, we figure there's nothing to lose in taking better care of ourselves. We are on day 5 of our personal Paleo challenge, and already his stomach is calmer and he's got more energy.

But you may ask, "What about you, Shannon? Why are you doing it?" Well, I have 3 big reasons:

1) My goal this year was to eat better anyway.
2) I want to support my husband. Making a dramatic change in your lifestyle is never easy. Plus, I don't want to cook 2 meals every night. I'm lazy, remember?
3) Other people's testimonials! Read Mark's Daily Apple for some inspiration. I couldn't get over how many people are feeling (and looking better) after doing this. It's really, truly amazing.

I have been stuck at about 164 pounds since my son was born 2 1/2 years ago. I have done Weight Watchers, counted calories, and tried to eat a balanced diet. Know how much weight I lost? 3 pounds each time, maybe, and I always gain it back. I am ready to make a real change in my life.

Want to come with me?