Whole 30, Egg Foo Young and a MUST HAVE Paleo Cookbook!

Yep, January 2, 2012 marks the start of my second Whole 30 Program!

I finished my first Whole 30 Program on November 2, 2011 and am happy to report that I’ve pretty much stayed on program with the exception of a few Paleo friendly desserts on Christmas and New Year’s and a little bit of heavy cream in my coffee on occasion.  I had originally started the Whole 30 to see if eliminating dairy from my diet would help with some of my digestive issues that were still present despite my gluten, grain, legume and refined-sugar free lifestyle.  At the 30 day mark and the end of the program I still was not convinced that dairy was the problem so I stayed on program for an additional 30 days…after that I only added back a tablespoon or two of heavy cream on occasion and truthfully I haven’t noticed any change either way.

So, why another Whole 30?

The most important reason…I feel great.  But, I do believe there is always room for improvement.  My first time around all I focused on was just the elimination of dairy, stevia and dark chocolate as there wasn’t much more that I was eating that wasn’t on the approved list.  I still ate quite a bit of fruit and probably too many nuts, acceptable but most likely not always the most beneficial.  This time around I plan on fine tuning and being more mindful of the choices I make…not just eating something because it’s “approved”.  As always…I’ll keep you posted!

Now, the important stuff…

Here is what I had for dinner tonight:

Egg Foo Young from Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed Cookbook

If you’ve been in the Paleo world for any amount of time you’ve probably heard of Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan and have most likely visited her blog The Clothes Make the Girl.  She now has a cookbook, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat.  This cookbook is a must-have for anyone following the Paleo diet and an awesome resource for EVERYONE on the Whole 30 Program as all the recipes (except one) have been Whole 30 approved by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig!  Well Fed features over 100 original recipes with tons of variations listed with each…this cookbook could keep you busy all year with all of the options!  So, head over to Mel’s blog and take a look around (if you haven’t already), the site is full of resources and fun, informative posts and oh my…the recipes you’ll find there are just a teaser for what you’ll find in the cookbook!  As a bonus you can download a 30 page sample of Well Fed on this page.  Enjoy!

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Happy New Year & My Paleo Hoppin’ John!

My version of Hoppin' John...a new New Year's tradition!

I grew up in the South and for as long as I can remember our family has eaten Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day…

Traditionally, the dish consists of slow cooked black-eyed peas, white rice and sautéed greens and it’s believed that when you eat Hoppin’ John on New Years Day it will bring prosperity and luck in the New Year, adding some sort of pork is said to symbolize progress and moving forward.  Besides being just down right tasty…why tempt fate by not partaking in the tradition?

Enter Paleo/Primal living…half the dish is wiped out!

Today was no different from any other New Year’s Day for my family, black-eyed peas, rice, fried cabbage and kielbasa graced our kitchen table and everyone was pleased.  My plate, however, looked a little different but was just as (if not more) tasty and I didn’t leave the table with a huge ‘ol carb bomb in my tummy!

My Hoppin’ John…diced sweet potatoes oven-roasted in coconut oil, stir-fried cabbage and kielbasa.  I skipped the grains and legumes and guess what?  I’m still gonna have a prosperous New Year filled with happiness, health and progress!

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes (serves 6 generously)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Place peeled and diced sweet potatoes in a large bowl and cover with cold water and set aside for at least 15 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.  Return sweet potatoes to bowl and toss with coconut oil, salt and pepper.  Spread into a single layer on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking.  Remove from oven and season according to your taste.

Stir-Fried Cabbage

1 large head of green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. fat of choice (olive oil, coconut oil, bacon drippings, ghee etc…)

3 scallions, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat fat of choice in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add cabbage, scallions and garlic and stir-fry until desired tenderness, or until just slightly wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.

Kielbasa

2 pounds nitrate/nitrite and sugar-free pork kielbasa

Slice kielbasa diagonally and set aside.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add kielbasa to the heated pan and fry until golden brown.  Remove from heat and serve warm.

**Recipe Notes**

This dish can be cooked separately and then mixed all together as shown in the photo above or served as individual dishes…I ate it both ways and they are equally good!

The kielbasa I used was pork and it was pre-cooked so it only needed browning, some kielbasa is fresh so it will require boiling first before slicing and frying, check the package to be sure.  You could substitute chicken or turkey sausage but the theory is that eating winged fowl on New Year’s could make your good luck fly away! 😉

We always use cabbage as our greens (symbolizing economic fortune) on New Year’s Day but you could substitute any greens you like for this prosperous dish!

I haven’t been able to find any good information on whether or not sweet potatoes represent anything lucky or prosperous for New Year’s traditions but they are just darn good so they made the cut…butternut squash would be yummy too!

Here’s to 2012…I wish you all a year of health, happiness, love and peace!

This recipe is shared at:

Make Ahead Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays

Whole 30 Program…DONE!

Yesterday marked Day 30 of my Whole 30 Program…30 days, no sugar, no dairy!

Results:

Lost 4 pounds and 1% body fat.

Improved digestion.

Kicked my sugar cravings to the curb, for good!

Realized I can live without dairy.

Was able to adapt my favorite recipes easily, never felt deprived.

Would I do this program again?  Absolutely.  Do I recommend it?  Wholeheartedly.

What’s next for me? I plan on keeping things status quo.  I’m going to stay off dairy for a while…I may consider adding grass-fed butter or ghee and possibly at some point heavy cream but right now I just don’t feel the need for it, I’m completely happy with coconut milk and coconut oil as substitutions.  I’ve struggled for most of my life with a crazy sugar addiction (even to natural sweeteners and stevia)  which I finally feel free from so no plans to even dabble with that demon.  All in all, I feel like this last 30 days was a complete success and that I accomplished exactly what I set out to do.

Thanks Whole 30!

Whole 30 Update…Just Over Two Weeks Down!

So, today is Day 17 of my Whole 30 Program…

I FEEL GREAT.

Now that I’m in the midst of the challenge I am totally kicking myself for not doing this the minute I learned about it…just like the program guidelines state…“But don’t put this off, not for one more day.  If you give yourself excuses or reasons to delay, you may never begin.  Do it now.”  I should have listened.

I put off doing the Whole 30 for several reasons…
a)I’ve been gluten, soy and refined sugar-free for 5+ years, grain-free for 1+ years
b)I’m at a healthy weight and BF% which is easily maintainable for me
c)I don’t eat out or consume any processed foods
d)I didn’t want to give up cream in my coffee or butter in well, anything or my greek yogurt and berries
e)I thought I had this diet/lifestyle pretty much dialed in and that I didn’t need it despite my occasional (and becoming more regular) digestive issues

Boy, was I mistaken!

At first I didn’t really notice any difference in any aspect (energy, digestion, sleep…) and I truly thought…”I will give this until day 15 to see if anything changes significantly and if not I’m going back to my normal routine”…
I woke up on day 15 and BAM, everything had changed!  Go figure.  My energy levels were higher than normal, I was sleeping through the night without a potty wake up at 3am and started having regular BM’s (without herbal assistance…I know TMI!).  I know we are not supposed to get on the scale during the 30 days and I truly didn’t step on it once until Day 15 but my weight is a huge factor in my health (meaning I can tell when I eat something that causes inflammation in my body by an increase in my weight)…down 3.2 pounds!  Ok, so this program really works…I’m still going and really can’t see that I will be adding dairy back, ever.  The only other thing that I’ve cut from my diet for this program is stevia and an occasional 1-2 T honey or palm sugar which I can take or leave…

If someone like me who eats a clean diet already can experience life changing results in 15 days I can’t imagine what someone eating a less than optimal SAD can experience…

Do it.  Do it now.  You won’t be sorry…

PS…the scale was a one-time thing for me on day 15…I haven’t been on it again and won’t until day 31. 😮

Be watching in the coming weeks for some new recipes…now dairy-free and fruit sweetened.  Hmm…let’s see…gluten, grain, legume, soy, dairy and sugar-free…I promise they will NOT be taste-free!

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!

My Dad, German Chocolate Cupcakes & Two Great Cookbooks!

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! 

I love my dad, he is the kindest, wisest and most generous man I know. 

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Me & My Dad

Every year for Father’s Day, my dad’s birthday and Christmas I am at a complete loss for gift ideas for him…for one, he has everything and two, if there is something he happens to want or need it’s such a specific item that it’s nearly impossible to find the right thing or since it’s so specific it becomes not much of a surprise to buy it for him because he already picked it out!  So I have changed my approach to gift giving for him…now I just feed him!   This would seem like a simple solution (or cop-out) to most people but like me, my dad also has food restrictions.  No processed foods. No gluten. No refined sugar.

Challenging at times but NOT impossible.  Especially with people in the world like Elana Amsterdam.  I came across Elana’s food blog several years ago when I was searching for a recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting using agave nectar rather than refined sugar…BINGO, her recipe was perfect and over the years I have used her site as a great reference for gluten and refined sugar-free recipes.  Since discovering her site she has published two cookbooks that I really couldn’t live without, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook and Gluten Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour.  Elana’s recipes are all gluten-free, grain-free and refined sugar-free, easy to make and totally delicious.  I have not made one item from the cookbooks or her food blog recipe archive that didn’t turn out right or that I didn’t completely love and want to make again.

I had been cooking from Elana’s first cookbook quite regularly when she announced the pre-sale for the new cupcake cookbook, I ordered it immediately and anxiously (not patiently) waited for its release.  When my cookbook arrived I read it cover-to-cover and couldn’t wait to make each and every recipe in the book!  One of the recipes immediately caught my eye, German Chocolate Cupcakes.  I can remember as a kid my dad always talking about how much he loved German Chocolate Cake although I really can’t remember ever seeing him eat it or having it in the house but I think my grandmother made it often…anyhow, I knew that this recipe was definitely the dessert for our Father’s Day menu!  And…oh boy, they did not disappoint!

German Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes were easy, fun to make and everyone really enjoyed them!  The chocolate cupcake was rich and moist but not too sweet, the ganache was the perfect smooth texture and the coconut-pecan filling tasted every bit as authentic as the original German Chocolate Cake frosting without the dairy or refined-sugar.  These will undoubtedly make an appearance again on my table, next time I think I will frost the entire cupcake with the coconut-pecan filling and leave off the ganache…just for something a bit more traditional.  Thank you Elana for this wonderful recipe!

About Elana Amsterdam…

Elana Amsterdam has been profiled in Fortune Magazine and the Wall Street Journal for her business ventures. When she and her son were both diagnosed with Celiac disease, she was inspired to develop gluten-free recipes. Elana launched the blog Elana’s Pantry in 2006. Five years later she continues to serve up at least one new gluten-free recipe a week. In 2009 she published her first cookbook The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook followed by Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour in 2011.  Elana lives with her family in Boulder, Colorado.

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