I’ve Returned (with Fermented Pickles)!

Fermenting pickles

Hello again friends! I’ve returned from my new marital bliss and have been trying to screw my head back on the right way ever since. My husband and I left for Costa Rica at 5AM the day after our wedding and oh. my. goodness. That place is beautiful. I won’t get into too much detail at this point, but I will say that I gained at least 8 pounds over the course of a week because of all of the delicious sweet cakes and endless cocktails. It was uh-maze-ing.

Anyway, I’m back and getting into the swing of things as best I can. I will admit, a severe case of the post-holiday blues settled over me and my husband when we returned, so we did the best thing we could do and found out how to make homemade margaritas. While delicious and fun, they’ve not been too friendly on my waistline, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can’t wear my favorite new skinny jeans AND have margaritas every night.

So, in hopes of getting myself back up to speed, I’ve been researching new and exciting recipes that are both paleo-friendly and exciting or new. Something that many paleo folks swear by is fermented foodstuffs. After looking around the web and realizing I’m sorely underprepared for a large feat (sauerkraut? better have an extra room where you can stow that stinky stuff) I stumbled across a super easy, low-cost way to make sour, fermented pickles. After some tweaking to suit my own tastes, I’m excited to present you all with this recipe for your very own fermented pickles!

Keep in mind, the fermenting process is completely different from setting the cucumbers in vinegar with dill and garlic. Fermented pickles will have a notable sour taste, and the saltiness depends on how concentrated your brine is.

Fermented Pickles in a Jar

Prep time: 30 minutes | Wait time: 1-2 weeks | Serves: depends on who’s hungry!

Supplies needed:

  • Wide-mouthed ball jar with open, screw-on lid (32 oz.)
  • Clean cheese cloth squares, about 5”x5”

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 large, organic cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp. Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp. Allspice
  • 2 tsp. dill weed
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed, dried bay leaves

Directions:

  1. In a sauce pan, combine 1 quart of water with the 2 Tbsp. kosher salt and bring it to a boil. Let all of the salt dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. As the brine mixture is cooking, slice the ends off of the cucumber and toss them. Slice the cucumber into 1/4”-thick pieces and place them in the clean ball jar
  3. Add all of the spices to the jar on top of the cucumbers
  4. Cover the cucumbers with the brine mixture, making sure all of the pieces are submerged. Stir to make sure the spices are well-incorporated.
  5. Cover the mouth of the jar with the cheese cloth and tighten the ring of the lid over the top Note: don’t close it off with the top portion of the lid! The cheese cloth lets the fermenting cucumbers breathe while keeping dirt and debris out. Don’t seal it off or nothing will happen!
  6. Place the jar in a cool, dark space, somewhere where the temperature stays consistently between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Check the pickles once a day, carefully, to make sure there isn’t any mold growing on the top. If there is, simply scrape it off with a sanitized knife an re-cover it with the cheese cloth.
  8. After about a week, cut off a piece of one of the pickles and give it a try. If it’s not as sour as you’d like, let it sit for a few days longer until you get the taste you want.
  9. When you’re satisfied with the taste, seal the pickles off with the entire lid and put them into the fridge. This will keep the wild yeast from continuing to multiply.

And voila! Homemade fermented pickles. Enjoy!

(Of course this should go without saying, but if you’re getting any really funky/nasty smells from those pickles, chances are they’re no good and you should start over with a fresh batch. A small amount of mold is normal, but do take caution before inhaling these delicious delicacies!)

One Year Grain Free and Going Strong

Hello friends! 

I’m writing in a celebratory post for my official one-year anniversary of going grain- and sugar-free! It’s been one heck of a trip, but I can say nothing but positive things about my journey so far. After 365 days, 30 lost pounds (where did they go?!) and a renewed love of the culinary arts, I’m so happy to say I made it to this point, and I can’t wait to see what happens in during the next 365 days of grain-free living.

I made my very first post on this blog on April 26th, 2012, after deciding to jump head-first into grain-free living. My views have definitely evolved over the past year, but the learning experiences I’ve had so far have been invaluable, not to mention the connections and friendships I’ve made along the way! Read my first post here: What is a Ketogenic Lifestyle, and Why Should I Care?

And just for fun, here’s a little facial comparison from Winter 2011-2012 and now:

Photo on 2011-11-09 at 00.48

Fat n’ Happy, Winter 2011

One-Year Anniversary, Spring 2013

One-Year Anniversary, Spring 2013

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, I recently did a guest post on Paleo Lifestyle Magazine about my newest creation: thumbprint cookies with homemade sugar-free strawberry preserves. Go check it out!

Bridal Fitness: A Reconciliation With My Body (and how Paleo brought me here)

How do You Measure Up?

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may recall a post I made back in the October about trying on wedding dresses. I was notably down about it, mostly because I’d found myself in a lull between losing weight and falling off the paleo bandwagon. The first time I tried to squeeze into a dress, all I could think about was my pudgy stomach and flabby arms that stuck out like two big sore thumbs. It was a pretty disappointing thing to go through.

Two weeks later, I came back with a progress report where I’d managed to drop 6 pounds. Ah, there it was! My motivation was back! It was exhilarating!

Now, with only 35 days standing between me and my big day, I haven’t gotten down to the svelte 130 pounds I was hoping to be in my (idealistic) mind. Since that October post, I’ve managed to slowly and steadily drop 20 pounds, going from 190 to 170, and a drop in two  pant sizes.

While I may not have the kind of loss as some out there (dropping 50 pounds in three months?! for real, guys, that’s crazy), I’ve really started coming to terms with where I’m at, and I think that’s a really important part of a whole-body transformation: acceptance of yourself, your capabilities and limitations, your zones of comfort and your willingness to go beyond those zones, your physical appearance, and the inner thought processes that control your relationships with food and your environment.

There have been plenty of times in my life where I’ve taken an unhealthy approach to losing weight. In high school, I would binge, then purge, several times a day, while literally running myself ragged on the race track. In college, I took the approach of simply cutting out meals. Later on, I would drag myself to the gym 5 times a week and exhaust myself to the point of frustration and zero weight lost.

Even in my journey into eating clean, I’ve hit a few bumps in the road. Through several month-long plateaus and moments of nutritional indiscretion, I’ve continued to re-shape and re-assess my attitude about the fuel l I put in my body.

Which brings me here, to this point: I’m 5’6” and 170 pounds. Technically, still overweight, but the reason this doesn’t bother me is because the dress I bought back in December that was snug and limiting now fits me like a glove, and I feel pretty! For once, I’ve looked at myself and felt the combination of the somewhat masculine world of paleo and the feminine world of weddings collide, almost perfectly.

It’s important to always keep the big picture in mind, is what I’m really trying to say. I’ve had my fair share of moments with paleo where I want to grab the scale and throw it out the window, shake my stubborn belly and yell at it until it shrinks into itself. But then I stop, take a step back, and think about how much growing into the paleo life has helped me. A year ago, I was nearly lost without hope of ever finding a way to control my expanding waistline. My hormones were out-of-whack, my emotions went up and down consistently, I wasn’t close to Josh in the ways I desperately wanted to be, and I’d basically given up on finding a solution to any of these problems.

Which brings me to yet another exciting point: on the 25th of April, I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary of going grain- and sugar- free. Assuming I don’t lose another pound until then, I’ll have lost over 30 pounds total as a result of my change. Beyond straight weight loss, I’ll be proud to say that my bodily systems have successfully re-programmed themselves (hormonal, digestive, emotional, etc.) and I’m at one of my highest fitness peaks since high school.

I’ve still got a ways to go, but I couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable or educational journey to take part in.

So for now dear readers, keep calm and paleo on! 

Hooray for Bacon!

Hooray for Bacon!

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Chocolate

So, funny story about this recipe.

This was back in late July of 2012—Josh and I were up near Woodland Park, Colorado, visiting with his father who had just flown in from out of town, and his brother, who is watching the family property until their dad retires this summer. With his dad came his Grandma, Ruth, and his eldest brother, Jason.

Josh and I had just recently made the switch from Keto to Paleo, and I was dying to try my hand at a few chocolatey recipes to cure a particularly nasty bout of cravings. Being relatively new to the idea of alternative flours, I didn’t want to mess around too much with cookies or brownies or pies, lest I bake a disaster and embarrass myself in front of my soon-to-be in-laws.

Before we moved to Colorado, there was a little Italian deli in Minneapolis that we liked to visit on occasion and, before ever going keto/paleo, a rich, delicious chocolate torte that we liked to share every time we went. In the spirit of this little deli, I did some searching and found a few flourless torte recipes to give me a little inspiration.

Without considering the fact that half of the family originated from the deep south, I set out with my baker’s chocolate and a got to work. As I started cooking, people from around the house came sniffing into the kitchen with big eyes. “What are you making? That chocolate smells so good!” I was pretty excited at this point, and couldn’t wait to share it with everyone as an after-dinner treat.

Fast-forward to dessert time. Anxious, I topped the torte with cinnamon and some extra powdered cocoa and cut it into small slices for everyone to try. Josh and his brother came first; at the first bite, they nodded encouragingly and noshed on it with espresso in hand. Next came Josh’s nephew, who took one bite and set his plate down. “That’s okay,” I told myself, “he’s only 11, he’s allowed to dislike these sorts of things.”

Then came Ruth. I handed her a plate and a fork and she cautiously picked at it before breaking off a piece and taking a bite. This only being the second time we’d met, I was anxious about giving a good impression about my baking skills.

At first, her expression was curious. Then, as if she’d taken a surprise bite of dirt, she quickly shuffled to the counter, grabbed a paper towel and spat the entire piece out. “No, no.” She said, shaking her head. “No, I can’t eat that, that’s much too bitter. I don’t like it.”

Only slightly mortified, I watched as Josh and his brother tried hide their laughter, and quickly apologized to Ruth, who was already grabbing a glass of water to wash the extra flavor away.

“Oh, god! I messed up!” I thought. Admittedly hurt, I shoved the torte away in the fridge in a hurry and watched as the rest of the family cut into a giant German Chocolate Cake we’d bought for Josh’s dad on the way up.

It only took me another 24 hours to learn that the delicate Southern palate is not always compatible with these non-traditional types of desserts. Josh reassured me later on, and helped me finish off the rest of the torte, which really wasn’t that bad for my first attempt at ever baking one.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce this flourless torte recipe, but KEEP IN MIND: it’s rich, dense, dark chocolate. Pair it with a nice espresso or glass of almond milk for the best results. This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on epicurious.com.

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes | Serves: Eight

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate or cacao
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted  grass fed butter
  • 3/4 baker’s stevia
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F
  2. Grease an 8-inch round baking pan with the grass fed butter.
  3. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper; grease the wax paper with more butter.
  4. Break the chocolate into small chunks.
  5. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a sauce pan double boiler with the water just barely simmering. Stir it until it’s smooth. Be careful not to burn the chocolate!
  6. Remove the pan from double boiler and whisk the stevia into chocolate mixture.
  7. Add the eggs and whisk them into the chocolate until fully incorporated.
  8. Pour 1/2 Cup of the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate mixture and mix until combined.
  9. Pour the batter into your wax-paper lined pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes.
  10. Dust the cake with additional cocoa powder or cinnamon and serve with espresso or fresh berries.
  11. Enjoy!

The “Tri-Pork-Ta”: Paleo Iowa-Style Pork Tenderloin

Pork TenderloinJosh and I have a favorite restaurant in Denver that we frequent at least two or three times a month. It’s called Freshcraft, and they’ve got a menu chock-full of delicious, handmade foods and a craft beer tap list that would make any beer geek’s head spin.

My favorite menu item is “The Burger”—a half pound of beef on baby arugula, topped with Gorgonzola and caramelized onions, served with a side of house-made aioli. My mouth is starting to water just thinking of it. Josh’s favorite is the Cheese Crusted Iowa Style Pork Sandwich, which comes out as a giant slab of pork tenderloin, breaded and fried in what tastes like homemade Cheez-Its, served on a teeny-tiny bun with a side of house made hush puppies.

Not to say that doesn’t sound delicious, but holy carbohydrates is it loaded with starch and not-so-paleo-friendly ingredients. I’ve always been tempted to just get one of my own, but could never bring myself to try such an abomination without feeling like I’d have to climb a mountain afterward to expend that sudden spike in energy.

Just last night, however, in a rush to find something quick and easy to make before meeting some friends for Happy Hour, Josh suggested I cook up some pork chops on the stove. As I looked around to try and figure out how to prepare them, I found a bag of chicharones, a giant meat mallet, and a Kerr jar full of bacon fat.

So, what did I do? I decided to try my hand at making my own paleo version of an Iowa-Style Pork Tenderloin at home, and I’m here to share the love with you.

Paleo Iowa-Style Pork Tenderloin

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Serves: Two

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. bacon fat (or sunflower oil, or coconut oil, but bacon fat is what makes it the “tri-pork-ta”)
  • Two ½-lb pork chops, completely thawed
  • 1 Cup crushed chicharones (pork rinds)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Coarsely ground pepper

Directions:

  • In a bowl, crack and stir the two eggs together.
  • In another bowl, mix the crushed pork rinds, the salt, the crushed red pepper, garlic powder and coarsely ground pepper together.
  • Using a meat tenderizer, flatten each pork chop until it’s no more than ¾-inch thick; if you can, use a tenderizer with the pointed side and a flat side—smash it down with the pointed edge, then flatten completely with the flat edge.
  • Melt the bacon fat in a large pan on medium-low heat.
  • As the fat is melting, coat each pork chop first in a layer of egg, then in a layer of the pork rind mixture.
  • Put the chops into the melted fat and cook for 7.5 minutes on each side. Add additional seasonings to taste.
  • Serve hot with a dab of dijon mustard and enjoy!

Keep Calm and Curry On

Curry OnI love Indian food. The unfortunate part of this is that when it comes to restaurant Indian food, it’s often loaded with things that aren’t exactly paleo-friendly: rice, rice flour, potatoes, lentils and wheat-based products, like naan. Delicious, buttery naan. Mmmm.

Anyway, I was craving something a little exotic the other night but wasn’t willing to brave the cold or spend the money on something I could just as easily make at home. After rummaging through my fridge for several minutes, I came out with a bag of sweet peppers, some chicken and an onion that needed some attention fast.

Curry! Of course.

I got busy chopping up my ingredients and pulled all the spices out of the cabinet before I finally realized: I’ve never actually made curry before.

Of course, that didn’t stop me. I mean, who hasn’t heard of the internet? I quickly looked around at similar websites, gathered a few ideas and came up with this mash of a recipe. If I can be completely honest, I think it came out awesome. Then again, I really wanted curry that night, so I might be biased.

Paleo Yellow Curry with Chicken and Sweet Peppers

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 40 minutes. Makes 2-4 servings, (depending on how hungry you are)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken breast, thawed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 med yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 4 medium-sized sweet peppers, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp curry powder (I used yellow curry)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • Ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro
  • Ground cinnamon

Onions and Peppers

Directions:

  • In a large pan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and cook the chicken in the oil until it’s about halfway done.
  • Add in the sliced onion and peppers. Sauté lightly.
  • Add the curry powder, garlic, red pepper and salt. Stir well, until the chicken and veggies are completely coated. Let that cook for another 3 minutes on medium-low heat.
  • Add the coconut milk and chicken broth, stir well, and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Add in the cilantro and a dash of cinnamon. Stir it in, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

I served my curry with a side of one of my absolute favorite dishes: oven-roasted Brussels sprouts. I guess we’ll consider it a culture clash!

Delectable Side Dishes: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Onion

Roasted BrusselsI often like to joke around with people about the way I eat. I’ve heard my fair share of, “that’s gonna kill you!” as I’ve made my way through ketogenic and paleo eating. It usually goes something like this:

SAD Eater 1: “Oh, I’m trying to cut back on all the unhealthy foods. I’m trying to eat less meat and more tofu, whole-grain bread, etc. I’ve got to get my cholesterol down.”

SAD Eater 2: “Yeah, me too. I found this really great recipe for gluten-free muffins made with rice flour and splenda—they’re so good, and healthy too!”

Me: “I put coconut oil in my coffee and consume probably 5 pounds of meat a week. Bacon and butter are pretty much my magic diet pills.”

At this point I get thrown a couple of odd looks and disbelieving laughter, and then continue to eat my cobb salad as they munch on their Subway sandwiches.

In reality, though, I think there exist a good amount of misconceptions about the way we cavepeople and ketoers eat. When people in my office see me bring in a Ball jar of coffee topped with a layer or coconut oil, or when they see me eating a giant salad with bacon, avocados, blue cheese and olive oil, they think I’m stuffing my veins with loads of unhealthy, artery-clogging fats that will leave me face-down on the break room floor. They then proceed to sneak away timidly with their quinoa cakes and gluten-free pizzas.

Most of the time, I just laugh it off. Sometimes I wish I could evangelize the paleo way, but that’s not really my style, and it’s truly a personal choice when it comes to what we put in our bodies.

As such, Josh and I have become increasingly aware of how much meat we eat, and the quality of the meats we’re eating. This has led us to seek out larger portions of side dishes, primarily vegetable-based dishes that can be roasted, grilled or sautéed.

Hence, today’s featured recipe: Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Onion.
This delicacy has a bunch of wildly aromatic flavors that blend perfectly. The “greenness” of the Brussels blend into the delicate licorice taste of the fennel and the sweetness of the onions. Overall, I think this is one of the best side dishes for cold winter nights, and can be converted for both bacon lovers and vegetarians alike.

Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Onion

Ingredients:

  • 8-12oz. Brussels sprouts, washed
  • 1 large fennel bulb with the leaves still attached
  • 1 large red or yellow onion
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, high-oleic sunflower oil or bacon fat
  • 4-6 slices of bacon (optional) cooked to 70%
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 F.
  • Cut off the tough, stalky ends of the brussels and cut the little bulbs in half.
  • Cut the stems with the leaves from the fennel bulb and set aside; slice the bulb into quarters, split the individual layers apart and slice those layers into strips.
  • Slice the onion into rounds or diced bits (depending on your preferences.)
  • Put all of the cut veggies into a mixing bowl and take half of the leaves from the fennel stalks and mix them in with the veggies. Cut up the stalks from the fennel into little rounds and place them into the bowl. 
  • If you’re using bacon, cut the cooked slices into thin strips and place them in the bowl.
  • Take your fat of choice and dump it into the bowl.
  • Add the pepper and salt to the bowl and mix the veggies up thoroughly so they’re all evenly-coated.
  • On a roasting pan covered with aluminum foil, spread the veggies evenly so that all have equal exposure.
  • Take the rest of the fennel leaves and spread them on evenly on top of the veggies.
  • Roast the whole pan for 40-60 minutes. The brussels should get crisp and browned, the onions lightly caramelized and the fennel soft. If you added bacon, it should be nice and crispy.
  • Serve fresh from the oven

Enjoy!