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!

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Garlic Reduction

Asparagus

THIS POST BY MEGAN KELLY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THOUGHTCIRC.US ON FEBRUARY 28TH, 2013

I get sad whenever someone tells me that bacon is unhealthy and that I shouldn’t eat it.

Not because I agree with them and lament my choice to partake in its porky goodness, but because its supposed “bad qualities” overpower all the good things bacon has to offer. For instance, it’s delicious, and it can be used with just about anything (read: versatility).

Not only that, but bacon is also a power food. When you really think about it, bacon offers healthy (yes, healthy!) fats and a good amount of protein, causing some to assert that a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs is actually better for you than one comprised of whole wheat toast and fruit. This is because it keeps you fuller for a longer period of time, and it doesn’t spike your insulin like a bagel would, which helps you avoid mid-morning (and mid-afternoon, and mid-evening) energy crashes.

Of course, if you’re like me, you tend to stray away from grains anyway, so this may not come as much of a surprise. But for those of you who claim to feel your arteries harden at the thought of eating fatty bacon, don’t panic; eating fat won’t kill you. In fact, it’s vital to your health, and avoiding fat can even cause mood disorders, like depression.

So why am I rambling about bacon and fat while sounding like a crazy person? Well, partially because I’m kind of obsessed with it, but also because I’ve got a really great recipe that I’d like to share with you, and I don’t want you to scoff at me when you see the alleged “health abomination” I’m about to place in front of you.

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus in Garlic Lemon Reduction

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour | Serves: 2-4 people

Asparagus

  • 1 large bundle (1lb) fresh asparagus
  • 8-10 slices bacon

Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 C. butter
  • 1/2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 325 F.
  • Wrap 4-5 pieces of asparagus with one piece of bacon apiece, from right below the tips down to the end of the stalk (don’t worry, bacon is stretchy). You may need to use more or less asparagus per bundle depending on the size of the stalks.
  • Place the bundles on a lightly greased pan, evenly spaced by about 1/2-inch, and put them in the oven for about 1 hour.
  • As the asparagus cooks,  grab a medium-sized sauce pan and melt the butter with the chicken stock and lemon juice over medium heat. Stir well to avoid any burned butter.
  • After the mixture comes to a soft boil, add the minced garlic, salt and ground pepper, and stir well.
  • Let the mixture reduce on medium-low heat (make sure it doesn’t go into a hard boil—keep it at a soft boil) for 40 minutes.
  • With 5 minutes left on the clock for the asparagus, remove them from the oven for a moment, drizzle the reduction lightly and evenly over the bundles, then put them back in the oven. Broil them on high for the last 3 minutes to get nice, crispy asparagus tips.
  • Serve hot as a side to any of your favorite “light” foods—grilled chicken breast, mixed greens, or baked white fish.

Now, go ahead and tell me that isn’t delicious.

Best Ever: Paleo Chocolate Truffles Rolled in Toasted Coconut

IMAG0693It’s another snowy day in Denver, which for me usually means adventure time in the kitchen. Having a somewhat insatiable appetite for all things chocolate, I decided today would be a good day to try my hand at some chocolate truffles.

About a week ago, my maid of honor came in to town to spend some time planning wedding-type things with me. We ended up at Barnes and Noble because we’re just a little nerdy, and I came across this book, Paleo Desserts by Jane Barthelemy. It has boatloads of delicious looking treats, of which I took the truffle recipe and tweaked slightly.

Let me tell you, I am so pleased with the results.

Paleo Chocolate Truffles Rolled in Toasted Coconut

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Wait time: 1.5 hours | Serves: many

IMAG0687

Ingredients:

  • 4oz. unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1/2 Cup thick coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Cup sweetener of your choice (you can use equal parts baker’s stevia, 1/4 C. honey or equal parts baking splenda)
  • 1/4 Cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 Cup unweetened coconut shavings, with 1/4 set aside for later

Directions:

  1. Line a medium mixing bowl with wax paper.
  2. Take the bakers chocolate and cut it into thin shaved pieces. You can also use a fine cheese grater and grate it into tiny little bits. Set aside.
  3. In a large sauce pan over a double boiler on medium heat, melt down the sweetener, coconut milk, vanilla, almond butter and 1/4 cup coconut shavings. Heat them until the sweetener is completely melted and the almond butter is no longer chunky. Add in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Be careful not to burn the mixture!
  4. Add the chocolate shavings to the melted mixture and mix in well, until all of the chocolate is melted.
  5. Set the mixture in the wax paper-lined bowl and let it chill in the fridge for about 1.5-2 hours, or until it’s non-sticky and tough to the touch.
  6. Lay out the rest of the toasted coconut on a plate.
  7. Using a small spoon, take out chunks about 1 Tbsp in size, roll them between your hands to form balls, and coat them in the toasted coconut.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine or almond milk. And be careful not to eat too many in one sitting!

IMG_20130309_161745

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!

Fluffy Almond Flour and Nut Butter Pancakes

Almond Flour Paleo PancakesIf I can be completely honest with everyone for a moment, I’d just like to say that I think science is pretty awesome.

Oh, what? You do too? Excellent. Now we can definitely be friends.

Know what else is awesome? Pancakes.  That’s right—science, and pancakes.

So what if I told you that the two can be married in a wonderful ceremony and make fluffy, delicious pancake babies without using dairy, flour or sugar? Yes, friends, it can be done! After a bit of research yesterday, I finally figured out how to do it.

You see, this may or may not as super exciting to the rest of you as it is for me. For the first 7 months of eating paleo, I tried time and time again to create an original recipe for pancakes that would come out as fluffy and delightful to eat as the bleached-flour, corn-syrup-soaked alternative.  Up until this point, I failed (sometimes quite miserably) and was almost convinced that flour alternatives would never be as good as the real thing.

For a well-seasoned baker, the solution to the flat, floppy, dense pancake may seem obvious. But like I said, I like science, and I like knowing why science works, so when I set out yesterday to figure this thing out, I was so pleased to find that the solution was, in fact, quite simple.

What was it? Baking soda! Duh! 

When baking soda interacts with something acidic (like the buttermilk in buttermilk pancakes) it creates carbon dioxide, which gives pancakes their wonderful little air bubbles. As an alternative, many bakers use baking powder, which is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and cream of tartar—it gives breads and other baked goods their fully qualities without the use of yeast.

Another interesting thing about baking soda is that it changes the browning properties of a food as it cooks. Without any, a pancake will fall flat, dense, and very light in color. Too much, and you’ll get a deep brown pancake with the taste of unconverted baking soda.

Keeping all of this in mind, I did a bit of mixing and matching until I came up with a recipe I think really knocked it out of the park. Ladies and gentlemen:

Paleo Almond Flour and Nut Butter Pancakes

Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes; Servings: 4-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. Almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp.baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 C. almond butter, softened
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/3 C. Coconut milk + 2 Tbsp extra
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey softened, or pure stevia equivalent
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Directions (super simple!)

  • Mix all of the dry ingredients (Almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, stevia) together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Make sure they’re all thoroughly mixed together.
  • Add the wet ingredients (almond butter, eggs, coconut milk, softened honey and melted coconut oil) and stir well. I used a hand blender to make sure everything was mixed appropriately and no nut butter or coconut oil chunks were left behind.
  • Heat a well-greased pan (grass fed butter or coconut oil) over medium heat. Using a 1/4 C. measure, dollop out the batter onto the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until bubbles start to form and pop on the top of the wet batter. I made my pancakes quite a bit larger, so those took 1.5-2 minutes on each side.
  • Serve drizzled in honey and cinnamon, or if you’re feeling adventurous, whip up a batch of homemade whipped cream and serve with berries on top!

 

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!