Achievement Unlocked: Paleo Tortillas

Hello Paleo Peeps!  It’s the first day of fall, and it’s still 90 degrees outside… what gives?  We’ve got football, pumpkin spice, apples, and Christmas stuff hitting the stores already…and the weather is just not cooperating.  Hopefully all that rain their forecasting for this weekend will finally bring that first cool front through, because I’ve got some cute new boots that I’m dying to wear.

Anywho, this past weekend, I decided to make yet another try at Paleo tortillas to go with some marinated skirt steak and nopales (cactus) that E.J. was jonesing for.  Every prior attempt at tortillas has been highly disappointing – too crumbly, messy, or pancaky – and I just need a go-to option here.  Finally, I think I have it, and it’s simpler than I thought.  Enter Paleo Tortilla recipe from Paleo Porn.  Ok, first, is that not the greatest website name, or what?  Second, these tortillas were the bomb.  They were chewy and bendy, yet strong enough to wrap around a hunk of meat, veggies and sauce, and still hold for a burrito-like bite.   Obviously with the copious amounts of tapioca flour, they can’t be a regular thing, but for the occasional Mexican food fix, they’re perfect.  I used the cast iron skillet as recommended and was rewarded with perfectly sized and flippable portions.

Some other successes for the week included Salisbury Steak and this amazing Cinnamon Butternut Squash and Plantain with Apples.  My grocery store didn’t have green plantains, so I left them out, but there’s something about cinnamon apples & anything that just gives me the warm-fuzzies of fall… even when someone forgot to tell mother nature what season it is.

Pumpkin-palooza Sunday

I don’t know about you, but I love Fall.  With the return of reasonable temperatures, Fall is always a busy time in the Houston area, and this year will be no exception.  We have something fun planned almost every weekend from mid-September to early December and I am truly looking forward to all of the adventures.  But last year in our dedication to Whole 30 and our early Paleo effort, we missed out on one of the best flavors of the season – Pumpkin Spice.  So this year, I decided to dedicate this week to all things pumpkin and find some new healthier ways to get my fix.

We started off Sunday with an easy new favorite, Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes from Practical Paleo (say that 5 times fast).  These were really yummy, and showed off that lovely cinnamon & pumpkin flavor as a great starter for the day.  I cooked them a little longer than I probably should have, but they are very likely to make a return visit for weekend breakfasts this fall.

img_1923Then, I started on some savory lunches for the week.  Pureed pumpkin lends itself very well to soups and stews, so I ended up doing a soup and a chili in the crock pot.  The Paleo Pork and Pumpkin Chili from Primally Inspired, has some real kick to it with the chipotle peppers and canned green chiles, and really you can’t tell that its made with pumpkin.  The flavors all meld into a nice even chili flavor, and the pork roast meat is an interesting departure from our classic Texas chili which always uses beef.

For the classic creamy Pumpkin soup, I tried Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup from Primal Palate.  This one really turned interesting.  I kept waffling between bacon and chorizo in this dish, and went with the chorizo only because I thought it might be an interesting flavor combination. IMG_1918.JPG I liked it more than I thought I would, but because I unintentionally ended up using a Hatch Chile chorizo, it had quite a spicy kick to it.  I don’t know that I would use that kind of meat again in the future, but E.J. loved the spicy twist.

Next I tried this Paleo Pumkin Cream Chicken Casserole from PaleOMG.  It was actually pretty simple to put together, and I really enjoyed the bit I tried when it first came out of the oven.  I’m looking forward to enjoying this one for lunches during the week.

I also made this Sweet Potato Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie from WhitneyBond.com.  I’d not seen a shepherd’s pie made with a topping like this, but it looked awesome.  I used ground beef instead of turkey , but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.  I have this for lunch today and can’t wait to dig in!img_1922

And for the finale, I made Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies from Paleo Running Momma.  Oh man, these things are TO DIE FOR.  Brendon tried one last night and said they were probably the best brownies he’s ever had.  They’re very dark, with 85% chocolate chunks and the raw cacao that I used instead of cocoa.  Pure awesome.  Definitely making these again!

Happy Pumpkin Season!

 

 

Party Foods!

This weekend we had some friends over to say img_1905goodbye to the summer with a good old fashioned Labor Day weekend pool party.  Most of our friends are now down with the Paleo thing, so I got to flex my kitchen muscles a little bit and try some new baked goods and dips.

I have to say it all turned out pretty yummy, so I’ll be adding these to my recommended recipes page shortly:

  • Lemon, Coconut & Blueberry Muffins – I followed the recipe here as written, except for adding about 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the mix before baking… Yum!!
  • Paleo Sour Cream & Onion Dip – This one is made with cashew cheese – I’m still working on how to get the really creamy texture, but the flavor was really great.
  • Rosemary Crackers – I am addicted to these things.  They are light and crisp and nutty, and a perfect companion to the Roasted Beet Dip.
  • Paleo Carrot Cake – So this very tasty, but quite different from regular carrot cake in texture and flavor.  You can really taste the orange peel in it, for starters, and mine came out a lot more like a torte, rather than a cake – very dense.   But all in all, I think it was pretty good.
  • Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip – OMG, this stuff is crack.  Granted, there’s a ton of coconut sugar in it, so it’s very sweet, but wow is it yummy.  If you’re a pumpkin spice junky, this is a great fix.  Especially with…
  • Paleo Apple Chips – this week there were honeycrisp apples featured and on sale in the grocery store, and honestly I think they make the best chips

And then there was the coup de grace, the Crusty Paleo Bread loaf.  Oh, where have you been for the last year of my life?  This yeasty bread came out perfectly golden and delicious – sliced well and held it’s shape to be slathered with butter, pate, pumpkin dip, or whatever I had lying around.   I know this recipe is going to be pulled out for every holiday from now on – it’s that good…

Of course, after gorging myself on all of this stuff, brisket, sausage, paleo cole slaw, sweet potatoes, and balsamic brussels sprouts, the scale is not my friend.  Ah well, it was another lovely diversion, but now it’s back to the daily routine.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is our 1 year anniversary of when we started our Paleo journey.  E.J. and I have been through a lot of changes this year – not just with the lifestyle changes and weight loss, but also with our careers.  I can honestly say I took some giant leaps out of my comfort zone in the last year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the result.  I’ve managed to achieve 2 really big goals of mine all in the span of that year, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the next.

Comfort-zone-small

Here are some important life lessons I’ve learned in the last year:

  • Fat doesn’t make me fat – In fact, for me, eating foods with natural fat keep me fuller longer, and makes digestion easier
  • Sugar is not as awesome as I used to think, and I actively choose to avoid it – In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I could actually stop eating sugary foods.  I had such a strong sugar addiction that I had incredibly nasty withdrawal symptoms during my Whole30, and really struggled to find ways to cope with stress that didn’t involve something sweet.  I can say that I still get cravings occasionally today, but I have found that a small paleo treat after dinner every 2 or 3 days is my “sweet” spot as it were.  Anything more than that (like the sugar overload I allowed myself on my birthday this week) and I’m dealing with bloating, shaking, acne, and stomach aches.  So I know my limits, understand the consequences, and feel like I can actively choose when to treat myself, and when I just don’t want to deal with it.  That for me is a breakthrough – I’m in control for the first time in my life.
  • I can maintain a lower weight without exercise – This seems like a simple thing, but to me, it was a huge revelation.  When my job situation changed this summer, my stress-level went through the roof and my schedule changed.  I wasn’t sleeping well on top, so getting up and running in the morning wasn’t happening.  Initially, I was getting a bit depressed, thinking that all of the hard work I had done over the year was going to be wasted, but I didn’t gain the weight back.  In fact I still lost, just much more slowly by just continuing my new eating habits and limiting the sugar.
  • I can go off the rails for special occasions and get back on again – Again, this is something that people often worry about and struggle with.  I’ve certainly fallen “off the wagon” in previous diets which led to scrapping the entire effort.  But at this point, with this effort, I can say that eating sugary foods and breads truly feels like an exception, and I while I don’t regret my choices, I look forward to getting back to “normal” because of how much better I feel.
  • Life is better without junk food – I think I spent the majority of my life so far not really believing that concept.  I believed that junk food was one of life’s great happiness-generators, and that my life was richer because I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  But this is a bit of a lie, or at least a half-truth.  The truth is that while I do miss a few junky foods, I don’t feel like my life is unfulfilled because I’ve removed them from my regular diet.  The way I see it, they’re like an amusement park – fun to visit now and then, but generally less enjoyable and downright ugly to live there long term.  I look and feel so much better than I ever have, and so many of my ailments have cleared up, that I’m not just ok with not eating the junk, but I’m glad I don’t anymore.

I hope some or all of these revelations speak to you in some way, and that you will consider making a change in your life that takes you outside of your comfort zone.  I’m sure glad I did!

4 Ways with Pulled Pork

When E.J. and went shopping last Sunday, we saw that pork shoulders were on a really good sale at Kroger, and were compelled to pick one up.  Smoked pulled pork is one of our favorite protein staples, but admittedly other than sandwiches (which we don’t really eat), I had a limited repertoire when it came to recipes that use pulled pork.

This week I made an effort to find new ways to used smoked pulled pork meat to keep it interesting.  Here are some of the great meals we made:

  • Pork stuffed sweet potatoes – I “baked” the sweet potatoes in the Instant Pot first, then split and topped them with pork, onions and Paleo-friendly BBQ Sauce.  This particular use is the easiest and is great for lunches too.
  • Pulled Pork & Apple Breakfast Casserole – OMG this stuff is amazing.  We liked it so much, I made a double-batch twice.   It’s sweet & smoky, and filling enough to tide you over all the way to lunch time.  It reheats beautifully too for a fast, hectic morning.
  • Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza – So, everyone has their favorite Paleo pizza crust recipe, but after trying many of them, I think Simple Mills pizza crust is the ticket.  It’s easy to throw together and makes a good, solid crust that tastes great and actually supports toppings well.  Our pizza was constructed with Whole30 BBQ Sauce, Pulled Pork, cooked bacon pieces, Sliced yellow onions, and cashew cheese  YUMM!!
  • Pulled Pork Nachos – We started with Sweet Potato chips, then topped with pork, homemade guacamole and leftover cashew cheese.  You have to eat it fast because the sweet potato chips get soggy pretty quick, but it was quite tasty

 

IMG_1537 IMG_1862
IMG_1864 IMG_1874

Achievement Unlocked: Chayote

Admittedly, I would never have tried this if E.J. hadn’t practically dared me to, but this weekend, I tried a new recipe with a completely new vegetable.  I don’t know if I even remember seeing the chayotes (or mirlitons) in the grocery store before, but E.J. said he really enjoyed them in dishes he ate when he was stationed overseas many years ago.

To me, the flavor is kind of like a cross between zucchini and a bell pepper.  It’s not very strong flavored and is pretty soft when boiled, but firm enough to hold on to stuffing, which is how I ended up using it for this dish.  Apparently Shrimp-Stuffed Mirlitons are a New Orleans delicacy, and I can see why – with shrimp and crab in a soft shell, it’s both fancy and flavorful.  I decided to amp up the flavor with garlic powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne just to give it a little spicy kick.

I paired it with sweet balsamic beets, which in hindsight might have been a bit overpowering for the delicate squash, but I’m always a sucker for the sweet & spicy combinations.

In addition to my adventures in strange green squash, I had some other really nice successes in the kitchen.  Earlier in the week I found a Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe that I’m really excited about.  The almond milk makes the color a little tan, but the flavor is amazing.  We actually drizzled some dark chocolate flavored balsamic vinegar on it for kicks, and it was amazing.

I also made shrimp tacos again on Saturday for guests and though I wasn’t happy with the tortillas, the Mexican Cauli-Rice was really good.  I’ll definitely be making that again as a paleo-friendly southwestern-style side dish.

The last dish of the day yesterday was this Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken & Sausage, which came out alright.  I shredded the chicken with the veggies and served that with the sausage links for some nice weekday lunches – I haven’t had a chance to sit down and enjoy a full plate of this one yet, so I’ll reserve judgement, but the small taste I had was promising.

Have a great week everyone!

Sweet Chipotle Slow Cooker Chicken

This one is a merging of several recipes into one simple slow cooker meal – sweet and spicy (but not too hot) and sure to be a new favorite in your house.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup coconut aminos
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2-3 lb chicken pieces

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together until fully combined
  2. Place chicken in slow cooker
  3. Pour honey mixture over chicken
  4. Set cooker on Low for 5 hours

See, I told you it was simple!