It’s a NEW Season, time for a NEW Challenge…

Who doesn’t love a challenge?

Well, I guess there are a lot of people out there that would easily pass on a health challenge but I’m sure not one of them!

Here is why I am choosing to participate in the Whole 30 Program:

I’ve been gluten and refined sugar-free for almost five years now but in 2009, despite my squeaky clean diet, I occasionally experienced some digestive issues along with intermittent unexplained (medically speaking, anyways) joint pain and swelling in my hands and feet. It was frustrating to say the least…I was eating clean, maintaining my weight/body composition, training for a half-marathon…what the heck?  What more could I do, what else could I cut out of my diet or add to my exercise regimen???

Well…

In August of 2010 Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry made reference to her “paleo-style” diet which in addition to eliminating gluten, refined sugar and dairy you eliminate all grains as well.  She spoke highly of a new book and cookbook by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, The Primal Blueprint.  I was intrigued and immediately began researching the Paleo/Primal way of eating. Ok, so no grains…seemed easy enough.  I chose to follow The Primal Blueprint style of eating rather than the full on Paleo Diet because the Primal lifestyle is a bit less restrictive on dairy (raw milk cheeses, greek yogurt, heavy cream) and natural sweeteners (stevia, palm sugar, honey).  Basically I cut out the grains corn, oats and quinoa and continued to limit my dairy and natural sugar consumption…in a matter of weeks…NO MORE SWELLING!

I was amazed and continued a grain-free lifestyle until this past May when a series of events derailed me and I allowed some corn (corn chips, polenta and sprouted corn tortillas) back into my diet…it didn’t seem to bother me initially and then one day in late July I woke up a swollen mess (hands, feet and face) and on top of that I was carrying about 7 extra pounds too!!!  Yikes!  It didn’t take me long to reel it back in, cut out the corn and drop those extra pounds but I still had another issue that needed addressing…Even though I had resolved the joint and swelling problems I still was experiencing some digestive issues…and I’m pretty sure I knew why.  Dairy (Humph!)…I have probably known it all along but was just holding out, holding on…I love cream in my coffee, greek yogurt with berries and fresh mozzarella in my caprese salad…I’m sure you understand my hesitation, cut out another food group?  What’s next????

I learned about the Whole 30 Program several months ago through a Success Story on Mark’s Daily Apple and checked it out at the Whole 9 Life website…it seemed close to how I was already eating (minus the dairy!) and more like a program for people new to this style of eating and in need of a jump-start.  What it really sounded like to me was…NO more cream in my coffee!  Of course I still downloaded the Success Guide and all the information and filed it away for reference or for someone else who might need it in the future…I guess that someone was me.

I always say that “you have to find what works for you” and “it will only work when you are truly ready for it to work”!  I could live the rest of my life eating the way I do now and continue to enjoy the level of health that I experience (which is pretty darn awesome!), but I am ready to take the challenge to see if it could be better, cleaner and more efficient.  It’s only 30 days, right? What do I have to lose?  Nothing.  At the very least I will gain better health and better knowledge of what my body needs (or doesn’t need!).  I love what Whole 9 Life says about the challenge…it’s Whole 30 not Whole 365!

I will be starting the program on Monday, October 3, 2011.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

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Quick and Easy Squash Latkes

Squash Latkes

Traditionally, a latke is a potato pancake. Most people think of the potato pancake as a Jewish dish eaten during Hanukkah, but potato pancakes of some sort exist in potato-eating cultures around the world.

My first experience with a potato pancake was at a block party in Allen, Texas…all my neighbors got together one fall evening with a few coolers of beer, several bags of potatoes, a tub of Crisco and all our Coleman camping stoves lined up in the cul-de-sac…a few hours later (and a couple refills of the beer coolers!) I had my first potato pancake.  I couldn’t imagine how I had gotten into my early twenties living in the south and never had one of these little bites of heaven, crispy outside, fluffy & salty inside, doused in ketchup…oh my I was hooked!  Needless to say those potato pancakes were terribly unhealthy and were full of processed “white” food and hydrogenated oil…AND to this very day (about 15 years later) there is still massive Crisco oil stains on the driveways where we fried them!!!!!

Fast forward to the present day into my gluten-free, grain-free, unprocessed and refined sugar-free lifestyle…I still love to re-create the tastes and textures of the foods I loved back then.  For years I have been making a wonderful sweet potato latke but lately have been experimenting using less starchy vegetables with really great results.  My favorites are these summer squash and zucchini latkes followed closely by a jicama and carrot combination.  Once again, this recipe is easily adaptable with just about any vegetable, the key is to squeeze as much moisture out of the grated vegetables you are using so the latkes don’t get mushy.

I like them with a dollop of fresh sour cream…

Summer Squash and Zucchini Latkes (yields 8 latkes)

1 lb summer squash, grated

1 lb zucchini, grated

2 green onions, sliced

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup coconut oil, avocado oil or lard (or your favorite high heat oil)

celtic sea salt

black pepper

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

sour cream or creme fraiche (optional for garnish)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Grate squash and zucchini on a box grater or in a food processor and place in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the squash and mix together, let sit in the bowl for about 15 minutes.  Scoop the squash mixture into a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess moisture (this is the most important step of the process, so don’t skip it!).  Place the drained squash back into the bowl, add green onion, beaten eggs, salt and pepper to your taste and crushed red pepper, thoroughly combine.  Drop about 1/4 cup of the squash mixture into the hot oil and slightly press down with a spatula, fry until slightly browned and crispy on each side, usually about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.  Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of fresh sour cream.

Super crispy on the outside, moist but not mushy on the inside.

Recipe tips/variations:

  • Squeeze as much moisture out as you can!
  • If the mixture still feels too wet add tablespoon of almond, coconut or quinoa flour
  • For vegan option, omit the eggs and add 1/4 cup flour

Vegetables I like to use:

Jicama and carrot

Butternut squash

Sweet potato and red onion

This recipe is shared at:

Fight Back Fridays & Fresh Bites Friday

Fat Tuesday & Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

Gluten Free Wednesdays

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter Cups

I grew up eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups…I loved them, especially when they came out with the Reese’s Miniatures…those babies were so fun (and easy!) to eat.  I still crave peanut butter and chocolate…probably more often than I should but now I have found a lovely little alternative that satisfies my craving and nourishes my body all at the same time.  In this recipe I used almond butter and macadamia nuts but you could easily substitute any nut butter or nut that you like in their place.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter Cups

 Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter Cups

24 whole raw macadamia nuts

6 Tbsp shredded coconut

6 Tbsp raw cacao powder

6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

6 oz coconut butter or manna, softened

Pinch of Celtic sea salt

1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1/4 – 1/2 tsp liquid stevia (optional)

2 Tbsp almond butter

24 mini cupcake liners

Line a mini muffin pan with the 24 cupcake liners.  In a medium bowl combine coconut, coconut oil, cacao powder, coconut butter, salt, vanilla and stevia (if using).  Stir ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Spoon the mixture into the paper liners evenly.  Using a small spoon place a 1/4 tsp dollop of almond butter on top of each candy, place the macadamia nut on top of the almond butter and press the nut lightly down into the cup.  Put the muffin pan into the refrigerator to chill the candies, about 30 minutes.  Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Taste just like a Reese's to me...

This recipe is shared at:

Slightly Indulgent Tuesday & Tasty Tuesday

Gluten-Free Wednesdays & Wellness Weekend

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