My Lenten Paleo Challenge

I’ve been praying quite a bit about how I want to observe Lent this year – it’s been a huge part of my spiritual life for several years now, and it’s something I look forward to. We’re doing Seek God for the City from WayMakers as a church and community, but I find the physical act of giving something up to be so powerful and I want to add that component as well.

From a blog post I wrote three years ago:

It (Lent) can be a time of prayer and preparation for Easter, it can be a time of introspection and self examination and also a time of repentance…Let’s face it…these are stressful times we’re living in. Perhaps more stressful than many of us have ever known. What I learned about observing Lent last year was that it is an incredible way to refocus, to rid myself of the distractions of everyday life, to go deeper in my relationship with my Savior…to bring my life closer in-line with the life God would have for me.

The problem is…I tend to look at Lent as a time to focus on food issues as a way of self-denial, and it’s not easy when:

I can’t eat wheat.

I don’t drink alcohol.

Or soda.

Or much of anything but water and the occassional tea.

Sugar isn’t a part of my diet.

Neither are grains.

I’m not giving up meat. (did it. felt awful. there’s a reason I’m paleo, friends!)

I don’t watch too much TV.

And I’m already working to limit the amount of time I spend on the computer and my iPhone.

I look to Lent as a season to break areas of bondage – choosing to use the deprivation as a tool to turn me towards God in daily need. After a lot of prayer, I’m choosing this time to go strictly paleo – back to Whole 30, something that has evaded me since I finished my first one. Too much dark chocolate and too many paleo baked goods have found their way back into my regular eating. It’s an area I struggle with daily.

There are some odd similarities between a strict paleo diet and the act of denial for Lent – they’re not easy. Self-sacrifice isn’t something that comes easily, but with it comes huge rewards. Through the sacrifice on the cross that we look to through Lent, we are given the opportunity to know God intimately. Through the sacrifice I make with eating, I have a better relationship with my own body and with the world around me. I honor God in a most primal way by eating in a way that allows my life to be used in the way He wants.

I’ll be doing a Friday update each week, with my thoughts and the things God is teaching me during this season.

Are you observing Lent this year? Is God speaking to you about any distractions or idols you need to bow to Him?

eat smarter

I do a big Costco trip at the beginning of the month – some produce, lots of meat, some cheese for the kiddos, a few other necessities.

And I have to admit: I have a tendency to cart peek.

You know what I mean…when you look at the contents of the shopping carts around you and compare them to your own.

Confession: I am very judgemental about people’s grocery carts. More than once, I’ve considered stealing kids whose parents have carts full of nothing but frozen pizzas, Cheetos and Mountain Dew.

But I’m noticing than more often than not, those cart ingredients just make me sad.

Especially when I’m eavesdropping.

Yes, I know. I’m terrible. I want to steal children whose parent’s feed them garbage and I eavesdrop on perfect strangers. All in the name of eating healthy.

I watched a couple at Costco a few weeks ago - both quite obese, the wife with obvious hormonal issues – trying to make good choices by packing their cart with Healthy Choices frozen meals, Egg Beaters, diet sodas…discussing which ones tasted better than others, even reading the ingredient lists. Their cart was full of food products that were all low-fat or no-fat, with chemical sugar replacements and very little real food. In reality, it was a cart full of chemistry experiments.

And it broke my heart.

Obviously, they’re trying.

They’re doing what television and popular culture, the media and the goverment are all telling them to do.

And obviously, they are failing.

Like I’ve failed. So many times.

We’ve been told over and over to restrict our calories, to eat low fat or no fat, to read labels, to eat more whole grains, and to avoid the empty calories for last few decades.

And still, the obesity epidemic has exploded.

The problem?

the only ‘expert’ on these things is the individual wise enough to examine their chosen way of eating & the effects it has on them. ~unknown

I came across this comment on Pinterest last week, and it struck me. We eat the way the government…or Weight Watchers…or the latest fad diet tell us to, not really paying attention to how it actually makes us feel or our bodies run.

We’re so focused on what we shouldn’t eat that we no longer value food as a source of nutrition. We focus on getting through the day with as little calories as possible, often not caring where those calories come from. Instead of eating a food because of what good it does for our bodies and minds, we’ve turned it into a number game. I know people who would be happy to eat cardboard if it had few enough calories or points.

And we keep doing it all over and over and over…praying that one of these days, it actually works.

One of the things I love about eating a paleo/primal/ancestral diet is that I focus on what each food does for me. Quality and variety are important. Real foods are paramount, and with real food comes real flavor. It’s incredibly personal and customizable because ingrained in the very basics of a paleo or primal or ancestral diet is the knowledge that we need to pay attention.

You can’t do that without realizing how different foods react with your body. I avoid grains because they make my stomach, joints and muscles hurt and they cause me mental fogginess, among other things. Dairy does unpleasant things to my digestion and my skin. And after a few weeks of really paying attention, I’ve seen what oils as opposed to fat do to me. It’s not pretty.

I would love to walk that couple through Costco again – show them how easy it would be to throw together their own Healthy Choice-like bowls with a bag of frozen veggies and some chicken tenders…how to spend a few hours on Sunday afternoon planning and cooking for the week ahead…to skip the Egg Beaters and just eat one of nature’s best foods (unless you’re allergic)…how to eat real foods and see real changes that last.

And I would ask them to pay attention to their bodies - it doesn’t matter if something is only 300 calories if you have no energy and can’t think, are bloated or having stomach issues after you eat it.

We simply have to take the focus off of simply being thin or losing weight, and with that, of counting calories or points. 

Our priorities must change.

It’s about health.

About how we’re choosing to fuel our bodies. 

About wellness.

About thriving.

Tomorrow, come back and read about my personal Lenten challenge and how it fits with this.

menu plan monday: 02.06.12

Just had to share one of my new favorite breakfast sides or snacks – fresh blueberries, coconut flakes, roasted pecans and a splash of coconut milk. And you know what would make it even yummier? A dash of cinnamon. I use cinnamon on a pretty much daily basis in something – my paleo muffin tops, in my mashed butternut squash and I’m working on a spiced coconut milk drinking chocolate that I’m hoping to share soon.

I love the first menu plan of the month – it’s when I’ve done my big Costco trip, we’ve usually hit the big city for Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and I find I’m always up to trying some new recipes.

This week, I’ve got a fridge full of produce – including a flowering broccoli-ish something I need to do a little more research on, a great big bag of baby bok choy, several pounds of mushrooms and three heads of napa cabbage.

I see lots of veggies in our future and some stir-fry’s coming for lunch! And, as usual, everything is gluten-free and paleo friendly.

Here’s our dinner plan:

Monday
Marinated Tri Tip Steaks and Roasted Veggies (mushrooms, asparagus, onions)
Zucchini Alfredo
Still working on perfecting the marinade for the tri-tip and veggies – hoping to share next week!

Tuesday
Creamy Chicken and Tomato Soup
Tossed Greens
Paleo Muffin Tops – but a little more savory

Wednesday
Beef with Broccoli (from the Make It Paleo cookbook)
Cauliflower Rice (using the roasted technique in this recipe, and pulsed a little less in the food pro so it’s more riced and less mashed. I’m finding roasting as opposed to steaming to be the way to go for non-mushy cauliflower rice)

Thursday
Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers (from Make It Paleo, but doubling the red curry paste for more flavor)
Grilled Veggies – whatever needs to be eaten most!

Friday
Smothered Pork Chops
Roasted Kabocha Squash
Mixed Greens Salad

Saturday
no idea – probably breakfast for supper? maybe paleo waffles?

Sunday
Paleo Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Gluten Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family!.

five for friday: paleo reality bites

Hmmm…not reality bites as in reality bites…more as in a few quick thoughts…

  1. I continue to be excited and amazed by how good I feel when I eat paleo. I’m also surprised that for the first time in my life, I don’t wake up starving.
    Seriously.
    I’ve always woken up with my stomach growing and have had to eat first thing. Now, I wake up and can take care of getting the kids off to school before enjoying a more leisurely breakfast.
    Stable blood sugar is a good thing, friends.
  2. I added up a guesstimate of all of the money I’ve spent over the years on Weight Watchers, online programs, diet books, even shots…and it was scary. All along, all  I ever needed more fat, more protein, more vegetables, along with less sugar, no grains, no processed. Real food.
    Good to know.
    And I’ll keep doing all I can to spread the word: you can lose weight and get healthy without counting calories or points, and while eating real food that tastes good.
    Even bacon.
  3. I only lost about 3 pounds in January, putting me back at where I was at the end of my Whole 30 (I dove head-first into some not-great holiday eating - trust me, a few pounds gained was nothing compared to how terrible I felt). Kind of disappointing, but I added up the inches I’ve lost in the past two years yesterday.
    48.5.
    In two years, I’ve lost 48.5 inches when I add up the 8 spots I measure.
    Holy cats.
    Nearly 10 inches from my waist alone. And about a third of that has been since I went paleo in September.
    I felt a lot better about that 3 pounds.
  4. I stopped my second Whole30 on about day 8 while I was watching my son make his lunch for school: cheese, saltines and an orange. I had a bit of a bit of a lightbulb moment that I need to work on what the rest of the family is eating, and it’s easier to do that if my eating is a little bit looser than what a Whole30 allows. I’m sure I’ll do another one (maybe summer?) but until then, there’s more important work for me to focus on.
  5. I’m doing Clean Eats in the Zoo’s 30 Day At-Home Cross Fit Challenge, in addition to a couch to 5 k trainer right now. For the first 3 or 4 months of eating paleo, I didn’t exercise.
    At all.
    I started back to the gym last month, and was just miserable there. I’m finding I really want to be outside and am surprised again by how much I like running. And how much I like strength training, especially my kettlebell workouts.

And a few quick goals for February – and hey, what do you know! They fit in with my 2012 goals too:

  • another 3 or 4 pounds and another 2 inches down would be awesome. 5 pounds would be even more awesome, but I know I’m building muscle with these workouts
  • 25 workouts – split between the challenge, running and the kettlebell
  • keep up with my daily devotional and prayer time

What are your Febrary goals?

paleo muffin tops

We love these.

We really love these.

Which is why I’ve only gotten an Instagram shot to share – they’ve been getting eaten too quickly to get the camera out for a proper picture.

I saw this recipe from The Foodie and the Family run through Facebook earlier this week and knew I had to try them. I’ve been searching for something other than scrambled eggs for the occasional breakfast for me, as well as better choices for the kiddos and these looked perfect – high protein, good fat, even portable if they need to be. I still haven’t had a chance to throw any in the freezer, but I think they should freeze okay.

As much as I liked the original version, I wanted to make a few adjustments – more spices, a few mix-ins and a little bit more liquid to make them just a bit more…muffiny.

I love recipes that are so easy to adapt to our personal tastes. I want to try taking a little bit more of the maple syrup out – I think with the additions of dried or fresh fruit, the batter could probably handle less sweet. And the mix-ins listed are just the ones I’ve tried so far. I think the options are pretty limitless. I’m hoping to try blueberries and almonds soon, and can’t wait to do a peach ginger variation in the summer. I’ll update this post as I try new ones.

Maybe I’ll even get a decent picture at some point!

Here’s how we do them at our house:

Paleo Muffin Tops
makes 16-20 muffin tops, depending on size

Prep: 5 – 10 minutes
Bake: 12-15 minutes, again depending on size

3 cups almond meal (unblanched works just fine)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2.5 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 eggs
2 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix-ins:
1/2 c unsweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c chopped macadamia nuts
or
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1/2 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

In another bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients.

Add wet to dry and stir to combine.

Stir in your choice of mix-ins.

Scoop onto the baking sheets.
I really like a cookie scoop (like an ice cream scoop) for this. It keeps the size consistent for easier baking.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes, until they turn slightly golden brown and are no longer mushy to the touch.

Cool for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

Enjoy!

Linked to:

menu plan monday: 01.23.12

Another week of meal planning…made a little bit easier by the fact – yet again – that I threw half of last week’s plans out the window for ones that worked better for time constraints I didn’t expect.

I’m rather excited, though, to have found a non-egg breakfast – those little tasties up there we’re calling muffin tops. It’s a recipe from an awesome paleo food blogger I made a few little tweaks to, and we’re all in love with them…even our pickiest eater!

This week’s menu plan:

Monday
Southwestern Flank Steak
Chipotle Lime Roasted Delicata Squash
Guacamole (mashed avocado, diced onion, lime juice, salt, pepper, a bit of garlic, maybe some tomatoes – super easy!)

Tuesday
Quick and Easy Crock Pot Brisket
Roasted Potatoes (red for the family, sweet for me)
Roasted Broccoli
Kale sauteed with Bacon

Wednesday
Grilled Chicken with Rosemary and Bacon
Roasted Baby Carrots
Salad Greens

Thursday
Beef with Broccoli
Cauliflower Rice (both from Make It Paleo)

Friday
Primal Philly Cheesteak Bowl (with about a quarter of the cheese called for)
Salad Greens

Saturday
Pulled Pork BBQ (with Paleo BBQ Sauce)
Cajun Sweet Potato Fries
Salad Greens
(all from Make It Paleo)

Sunday
Elana’s Pantry Pancakes (replacing the agave with half the amount of maple syrup and cooking in coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil)
Scrambled Eggs
Bacon

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Gluten Free Menu Swap at Angela’s Kitchen (and check out the pomegranate recipes while you’re there – I know I will!).

menu plan monday: 01.15.12

Lots of meals pushed from last week to this week and another recipe I want to try again and adjust seasonings on. I honestly can’t figure out what happened to last week’s meal plan – I don’t always follow it perfectly, but we actually only ate one of the meals on it and we didn’t eat out more than planned. It’s a mystery…

For the gluten-free menu swap, I’m sharing a smoothie I’m looking forward to trying. I’m trying to stay away from too much fruit while I’m on my Whole30…but as soon as I’m done I’m making this blueberry coconut one from Paleo Parents.

This week’s menu plan:

Monday
Chipotle Beef Chili
Savory Almond Muffins

Tuesday
Quick and Easy Crock Pot Brisket
Roasted Broccoli

Wednesday
Pineapple Glazed Chicken Skewers (Make It Paleo)
Chipotle Lime Roasted Delicata Squash

Thursday
Southwestern Flank Steak
Guacamole (mashed avocado, diced onion, lime juice, salt, pepper, a bit of garlic, maybe some tomatoes – super easy!)
Baby Mixed Greens

Friday
Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers (from Make It Paleo, but double the red curry paste)
Cauliflower Rice

Saturday
Grilled Chicken
Paleo Zucchini Alfredo-ish (dairy free, grain free and super yummy! recipe coming to the blog tomorrow – my absolute new favorite…we ate it two days in a row this past week)

Sunday
Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Soup (sooo good! made it as directed the first time, but this time I’ll replace the cream with coconut milk)

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Gluten Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family.

five things friday: getting started with paleo

I’ve gotten quite a few questions over the past few months about what it means to follow a primal diet, and even more about how to get started.

The best description? That little black box up there. I did my version here, but I’ve been reading pretty extensively for the past few months. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to transition slowly or jump in feet first, but here are five of my favorite resources for getting started:

  1. Paleo Diet Lifestyle – simple, concise articles. Love their Paleo 101 - I think it was the first thing I stumbled on when I started searching. And while we don’t follow a strict paleo diet with all pastured meats and organic produce due to budget constraints, it was a huge help in getting me pointed in the right direction.
  2. Robb Wolf – his was the book I read that made it all click, and he continually puts out so much info it makes my head hurt. I think you could easily go paleo just off his FAQ’s page alone – love the shopping list, the quick start guide and the meal matrix.
  3. Balanced Bites – her FAQ’s page and her helpful Useful Guides are beyond compare. When I have a nutrition question and need the best (aka: easiest for me to understand) answer, this is one of the first places I look.
  4. Paleo Parents - I’ve mentioned before that Stacy’s before and after was the final push to convince me to go paleo, but what I really love is their family focused approach to paleo. They have so many great tips about how to make paleo eating a family way of life.
  5. The Food Lover’s Primal Palate – authors of my favorite cookbook ever, I love this blog. Love the recipes and I especially love this basic as basic can be What Is the Paleo Diet? from their book.

Whole30, Day 1: take….

ummm…

well….

today is the 12th?

Let’s make that take 12.

I wish I were joking.

I’m pretty sure the beginning of January was even more diet-bomb ridden than December – two birthdays (celebrated over 3 days), a New Year’s day gathering, eating out lots, an ear infection for me, a day trip to Monterey and another to Sonora, and the kids don’t go back to school until next Tuesday.

It was ridiculous.

And while I didn’t really do *that* bad (we won’t talk about that donut I ate yesterday)…and I could probably make the case that I didn’t stray *too far* from paleo (again, pay no attention to that donut I ate yesterday)…it wasn’t Whole30.

And my goal for this Whole30 – from the start – has been perfection.

Today, we’re finally through the birthdays…we’re through the having to eat out and the fun stuff…we’re finally through the holiday hustle and bustle and can find our way back to our everyday normals.

Today is Day 1.

I have a couple of specific goals for this Whole30:

  • 30 days of perfection
  • at least 20 days in the gym (the last one, I didn’t work out at all – in fact, I haven’t worked out since the beginning of October. this morning at the gym? painful.)
  • evening walks 2 or 3 times a week (looking toward a 5k goal in the fall

My measurements are done, I weighed and I’m putting the scale away until at least February 12th.

ready. set. go.

menu plan monday: 01.09.12

Long time, no plan!

With the holidays and an extra long Christmas break, we’ve been eating out more than usual (never good) and I’ve been doing a lot of day to day planning (also never good). We’ve still got one more week of vacation, but meal planning is back in progress.

I’ll probably add in some salads with most of these meals – I’m craving mixed greens right now. Lunches tend to be leftovers. I’m starting to feel a bit desperate for new grain and dairy free breakfast ideas…eggs are starting to get a bit old. Any ideas?

Monday
Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers (from Make It Paleo)
Cauliflower Rice

Tuesday
Hanna’s birthday – dinner out with her friends

Wednesday
Quick and Easy Crock Pot Brisket
Roasted Broccoli

Thursday
Southwestern Flank Steak
Guacamole (mashed avocado, diced onion, lime juice, salt, pepper, a bit of garlic, maybe some tomatoes - super easy!)
Baby Mixed Greens

Friday
Pineapple Glazed Chicken Skewers (Make It Paleo, again)
Sauteed Kale with Bacon

Saturday
Bacon, Red Pepper and Onion Frittata
Elana’s Pantry Pancakes (replacing the agave with half the amount of maple syrup and cooking in coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil)

Sunday
Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Soup (sooo good! made it as directed the first time, but this time I’ll replace the cream with coconut milk)

A few new recipes and a few old favorites – my favorite sort of week.