Monday, December 30, 2013

Back from hiatus!

Hello foodies! I am back from hiatus! I got my PhD finally and started a new job at a market research firm in NYC. In between reading, writing papers, moving from Chicago to the east coast, learning my new job, and training for my third marathon, I lost track of things!

Christmas 2013 was a lot of fun with the family. We went to my sister's place in Delaware. She whipped up some pretty awesome dishes and I took care of the desserts :)  I also had a week off from work, which was literally the first break I've had since... winter break 2012. Finishing out my PhD program was one of the most stressful things I've ever had to do, then commuting 4-4.5 hours each day for work on top of the usual 9-5 office grind made me ready for a break. I've been sleeping a lot and definitely feeling a ton better!!

Any sushi lovers?? There's a pretty good AYCE sushi place in north NJ called Arigato. $20 gets you unlimited sushi, rolls, appetizers, & hot tea. This is what my buddy Megan and I polished off!

For all the meat lovers out there - this was one hefty sampler from a Greek restaurant at a holiday party! Four lamb chops, one chicken souvlaki skewer, one pork souvlaki skewer, two Italian/Greek sausages, one lamb/beef burger patty, & a side of lemon herb potatoes. And yes it serves one.

That's it for now. More food + recipes to come!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Honey BBQ Chipotle Chicken

Procrastinating on preparing for my dissertation defense, so posting a delicious new recipe! There are so many ways you can prepare chicken and having it taste completely different each time. This honey BBQ chipotle chicken is an awesome twist of tangy, sweet, and savory. The avocado is the perfect blend to combine all the tastes... it sounds odd, but it really works with this dish!

Honey BBQ Chipotle Chicken

Served with a side of roasted zucchini, paleo pigs on a blanket, and a paleo apple cake dessert (recipe forthcoming)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 tbsp chipotle powder, separated
4 tsp cumin, separated
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 c tomato puree
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp coconut aminos or tamari
1 avocado, sliced
Shredded cheddar cheese, optional (omit for paleo)
4 tbsp coconut oil 

1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Pour coconut oil into pan. 
2. Sprinkle chicken with 1 tbsp chipotle powder, 2 tsp cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder. Saute until all sides are cooked. Place on a plate off to the side.
3. In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of coconut oil. Saute minced garlic until begins to brown. Add 1 tbsp chipotle and 2 tsp cumin. Saute for 1 minute.
4. Stir in tomato puree. Cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in vinegar, honey, and tamari.
6. Add chicken and cheese (if using). Toss until everything is thoroughly combined, chicken is heated, and cheese melts.
7. Slice avocado on your plate and place chicken on top.
8. Devour!!! There were no leftovers here :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Almond-Crusted Tilapia with Zucchini "Spaghetti" & Paleo Chocolate Bars

Yikes, long time since my last post!! All time & energy focused on the dissertation and job search. Should be getting my PhD in 9 days and accepted a new job in NYC! Time to celebrate with paleo goodness...

Almond-Crusted Tilapia & Zucchini "Spaghetti"

Almond-Crusted Tilapia
1 lb tilapia
1/2 c almond meal (unblanched is fine)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp old bay, optional
Juice of 1 lemon, optional
1 egg white
Coconut oil, for frying

1. Combine almond meal, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and old bay.
2. Heat a large skillet on medium heat.
3. Crack the egg white in a separate dish. Add coconut oil to the heated skillet. Oil is hot when a flick of water poured into the pan sizzles.
4. Coat tilapia in egg white, then dredge into the almond meal mixture. Fry until both sides are cooked to your liking (took me ~4 minutes per side). 
5. Sprinkle with lemon juice if you like.

Zucchini "Spaghetti"
1 medium-large zucchini
1 batch of lazy tomato sauce (see below) or other sauce (see basil pesto or kale pesto for alternatives)
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with garlic & herbs
1.5 c spinach, optional (adds extra veggies and disguises the taste)

1. Wash zucchini and cut off ends. Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
2. With a mandoline, slice zucchini into 1/4" pieces. Use a nice to cut them into long ribbons, spaghetti shape.
3. Place zucchini "pasta" into boiling water and boil until softened, about 2-3 minutes. NOTE: do not over-cook or zucchini will be a little mushy (not the end of the world, but not quite 'al dente').
4. While zucchini boils, place canned tomatoes & spinach in a food processor or blender. Whip until blended into a smooth paste, about 5 seconds.
5. Drain zucchini. Add tomato sauce to the pot and mix until combined. The heat of the zucchini will warm the tomato sauce.

Paleo Chocolate Bars

1 medium sweet potato
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 egg + 2 egg whites
1/4 c honey or agave
1/4 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt
1/4 c chocolate chips, optional

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Poke holes in sweet potato and bake until soft, about 40 minutes.
2. Turn oven down to 350. Slice potato in half, scoop out the insides, and mash in a bowl. 
3. Add the wet: coconut oil, eggs, honey/agave, & vanilla.
4. Then add the dry: cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking powder, & salt.
5. Combine. Stir in chocolate chips if using.
6. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. 
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Slice into squares. Devour!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals - April

It's time for April's Paleo Pen Pals recipe... My pen pal this month is Victoria and she got me a bag of dried chile pasilla, straight from Mexico! I had to make something Mex-esque, so I whipped out my handy dandy crockpot and got to work!

Crockpot Chile Pasilla Carnitas

1.5 lb pork tenderloin, excess fat trimmed
4 (dried) chiles pasilla
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder

1. Soak chiles in a bowl of water until reconstituted, the longer the better (I did 2 hours). When softened, roughly chop.
2. Combine chiles, green pepper, and onion, and place in bottom of crockpot.
3. Sprinkle pork with spices. Place on top of veggies and cook on low for 6 hours.
4. Shred pork with 2 forks and dig in!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

St. Patty's Egg Muffins

Today is the end of CrossFit Open Week 3 of competition. The WOD was AMRAP (12 min) of 150 wall balls, 90 double-unders, & 30 muscle-ups. I don't even come close to a muscle-up so that was out of the question. My double-unders aren't even that great either - I usually do a few singles before the double - so my main goal was to finish the wall balls and then hope for the best with the doubles. I finished my wall balls in slightly under 11 minutes so I had a full minute to try and sneak as many doubles in as possible. I did my usual single-single-single-double and then decided hey why not and just went for it... and got 4 double-unders in a row! May not seem like much, but I'll take what I can get :P  The next day, part of the WOD was AMRAP double-unders in 10 min and I got 8 unbroken! Woo! Getting better, one rep at a time...  

Today was my second race of the year: Chi-Town 10K. It was FREEZING outside (20s) and very windy. I was shaking cuz I was so cold. Took a good 1.5 miles to finally warm up but I still couldn't feel my fingers or toes. The entire run was against the wind... didn't matter if you were heading north, south, east, or west, the wind was there to make you fight. The course got screwed up bc the volunteers mis-directed people, which made for a confusing race. There were also no mile markers or time clocks, and only 1 water station halfway through, but thankfully I had my Garmin and don't drink much in races under an hour. I finished around an hour, which was much slower than what I was hoping for, but coming off the winter season, not running too much due to older adult subject testing all over the city 7am-8pm (furthest run this winter was 4 mi, yikes!), and racing against the wind... it is what it is. On the positive side, I executed my race strategy alright with negative splits and a fast last mile. Then I made it to church in time for Palm Sunday to see the kids choir perform. Soooo adorable!   

So, last weekend was St. Patty's... this post is a bit overdue, but just thought I'd share my St. Patty's-inspired egg muffins!

Egg Muffins

6 eggs & 6 egg whites (feel free to use 3 whole eggs if you prefer)
1 small zucchini
2 c broccoli florets
1 c fresh spinach
1/2 green pepper
1/2 onion
4 green onions, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 12 muffin molds.
2. Pulse veggies in food processor until finely chopped but not puree.
3. Transfer to mixing bowl. Add eggs, salt, & pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined and pour into muffin tins by the 1/4 c.
4. Bake for 20-25 min or until the eggs are set in the middle.
5. Enjoy your handy breakfast on the go! Tastes great on their own, or add bacon, sausage, or paleo waffles to round out the meal.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals - March 2013

It's that time of the month... paleo pen pals recipe report!! (ahem) The premise of the program is that paleoites are assigned a pen pal and they send each other surprise ingredients, then come up with a recipe from the ingredients they receive. My pen pal this month is Kristina, an energetic, sweet southern belle new to the paleo world. Turns out that we both share similar faith values and a love for running. Kristina and I have been emailing each other regularly and we even send each other pictures of our meals! We also share and support each other in the struggles of living paleo in a non-paleo world, which has been really great.

For this month's swap, Kristina sent me a care package of: dried chilis, chinese five-spice, shallots, & garlic. Although the ingredients seemed to go together, I was struggling to come up with an idea that encompassed all of them... so I used my tried-and-true method of throwing random stuff together and was really happy with the result. I love crockpot cooking, especially in winter (yes, it may be March but Chicago was in the 20's with 25mph winds!) so I created Five-Spice Barbacoa in my handy crockpot :) 

Crockpot Five-Spice Barbacoa

2-3 lb beef roast
3-5 dried chilis (depending on how spicy you like it :P)
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp lime juice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp s&p
1 yellow onion, chopped
Fire-roasted peppers, chopped (I used red & yellow from a jar)
2 tbsp chinese five-spice
1/4 c chicken broth
2 bay leaves, optional

1. Soak chilis in water for at least 30 minutes (but the longer the better; I did 2 hours). Cut chilis in half; remove some or all seeds if you don't like it spicy. The actual chili pepper itself isn't too hot.
2. In a high-speed blender or food processor, toss in the chilis, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, garlic, shallot, and spices (except five-spice). Whip up until thoroughly combined (it should be a liquid) and chilis have been all broken up.
3. In your crockpot, put the chopped onion & peppers on the bottom. Pour in chicken broth.
4. Sprinkle beef with chinese five-spice on all sides and place on top of onion/peppers.      
5. Pour chili mixture over beef. Add bay leaves if you'd like.
6. Cook on low for 7-8+ hours. Remove bay leaves. Using two forks, shred beef.
7. Serve with salsa, guac (see below for my 2-easy, 2-ingredient guac!), or whatever else your little heart desires.

2-Easy 2-Ingredient Guac

1 ripe avocado
1/2 c fresh salsa (sold in the produce dept)

1. In a medium-small bowl, mash avocado with a fork.
2. Add fresh salsa and mix all that goodness together.
3. Chow down! Phew, that was hard.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spinach-Artichoke Chicken Pasta

Guess what... just got my first postdoc offer!  Also got a campus interview invite (tenure-track faculty position) and my second phone interview for an industry position that I could really see myself doing if I left academia. Craziness! After being on the job market for a discouraging 6 months, it's nice to finally see things materialize. There are definitely feelings of relief, but also uncertainty since I'm still not sure what the best plan is for me. Trust in the Lord...

Today was my first race of the year: Get Lucky 7K. It was cold and windy, then near the end it started to flurry... I couldn't feel my face or toes for most of the race. The start line was poorly organized and half the runners (yours truly included) had to stand outside the start until the race started and there was enough clearance. So, the first half of the race was spent passing people and getting into a good position at a comfortable pace. The race stats said I passed 526 people. Sheesh! Once I finally got settled in, it was time to turn around and head back toward the finish... as soon as I made the turn, the wind hit like BAM! I was fighting against the wind those last 2.2 miles and it was really uncomfortable. Ended up finishing in 45:11 (10:24 pace) which is not my best time by a long shot. But, considering that I haven't been working on my run fitness due to dissertation/CrossFit, suboptimal weather, crappy start, and didn't run all-out, I'll take it. Hopefully I can redeem myself once running season kicks into full speed this spring/summer.  

Also, the CrossFit Open 13.2 workout was posted: 10min AMRAP of 5 jerks, 10 deadlifts, & 15 box jumps. I got 7 rounds (210 reps), which I was satisfied with... definitely better than last week's 13.1. A couple coaches looked surprised at my score and were like "nice, Jess!", which was amusing bc I don't think they expected me to bang out that many reps. HA!  Unfortunately, in round 5, I completely lost it on the 4th jerk (didn't use legs enough) and had to drop the barbell, which took immense effort to get off the ground again. I lost time & reps there, so I'll probably try again tomorrow after church for one last shot... assuming my legs aren't too sore from the 7K ha.

In other news, I tried out a new veggie: artichokes! They were just alright on their own, but tasted great when combined with other things. It was fun experimenting!

Spinach-Artichoke Chicken Pasta with Paleo Garlic Bread


1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb chicken, diced
1 small yellow onion, dicced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh spinach leaves
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can diced tomatoes with basil & oregano, mostly drained
2 tbsp poultry seasoning (or some combination of salt/pepper/paprika)
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
Red pepper flakes, optional
1-2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp olive oil (ideally basil-infused but regular works just fine)

1. Preheat oven to 425. Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds/roots, and place face-down on cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 min or until soft.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Melt coconut oil. Sprinkle chicken with poultry seasoning and add to pan. Saute until thoroughly cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
3. Pour olive oil into pan. Add onion and garlic. Saute for 1 minute then add spinach. Saute everything until spinach begins to wilt.
4. Add artichokes, tomatoes, chicken, italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir until thoroughly combined.
5. When spaghetti squash is done, use a fork to shred it into "noodles". Serve with spinach-artichoke mixture on top. 
6. Serve with paleo garlic bread...


2 slices of paleo bread (my waffles recipe would also work; feel free to eliminate the veggies lol)
1 tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee
4 tsp garlic powder

1. Toast bread on medium setting.
2. Spread butter or ghee on each slice of bread. Butter should melt easily.
3. Sprinkle with garlic powder and use knife to evenly distribute.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Crockpot Turkey Chili

Guess what, I had my first in-person job interview this week!  It was in Boston, which is different from Chicago but definitely a place where I could see myself living/working for the next few years. It was great to have interviewing & job talk experience under my belt since my last round of interviews was for grad school 4 years ago... and the criteria was much different than for postdocs. They're interviewing other candidates though, so we'll see how it goes.

2 notable CrossFit updates... (1) it's Week 1 of the Open! It's where CF athletes all over the world perform a particular set of workouts over 5 weeks and then the top scorers move on to regionals and then to the world championships aka "The CrossFit Games" featured on ESPN. Since I can't Rx most of the skills, I didn't have any expectations for myself except to try my hardest and to push myself beyond my limits. The first workout (13.1) was 4+ rounds of burpees and snatches. The snatch is my weakest of the olympic lifts and the weight for the second round was 10 lbs higher than my 1RM so I knew it would be a struggle... and it was. I got through the first round just fine (100 reps), but then on the second round, for the life of me I just could not get under the bar at 75 lb. Oh well, better luck next time...

(2) Friday's WOD was death by shuttle runs. Turns out I outlasted everyone in the group, including all the boys! Looking over the day's scores (~40 people), I had the top finish for the girls, tied with 2 boys, and got beaten by 2 boys. WOOOO!!  Dissertation or not, it's nice to know that I don't suck at everything at CrossFit lol

Anyway, most of this week (and last week) was spent preparing for my interview, particularly in getting my job talk ready. I cooked really easy meals and ate (leftover) crockpot turkey chili basically everyday... #crockpottime 

Crockpot Turkey Chili

Crockpot chili makes delicious leftovers


1 lb ground turkey (I used .5lb 99% lean & .5lb 93% lean)
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes 
1 c chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bell peppers (I used green & orange)
1/2 pack of mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
Salt & pepper to taste
A few shakes of red pepper flakes, optional
2 bay leaves, optional

1. Heat skillet to medium and brown ground turkey.
2. Take out your crockpot. Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Then add in turkey and the remaining ingredients. Stir until combined.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove bay leaves (if using).
4. Enjoy your hot meal!!!  Savor the leftovers... the flavors continue melding in the fridge :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Crockpot Beef Stew

Winter = Cold. Or at least in Chicago it does. Nothing beats the winter blues like coming home to a piping hot, hearty meal straight from the crockpot! Some of my go-to crockpot meals are chicken curry and pulled pork, but I wanted to try something different... beef stew! Swapping out the potatoes for veggies was a sneaky, delicious paleo way of consuming extra veggies and I didn't miss the potatoes one bit. #crockpottime

Crockpot Beef Stew

1.5 lb chuck roast (or other stewing beef), cubed
2 c beef broth
1 onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 small green pepper
1 small red pepper
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 c sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp parsley
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
s & p, to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Melt coconut oil and brown your meat.
2. While meat cooks, roughly chop all your vegetables.
3. Pull out your crockpot and add all the ingredients. Mix well, then toss in the browned beef and mix all that goodness again.
4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
5. Come home (or wake up) to a hot, delicious meal with your name on it!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tuna Cakes with Kale Pesto "Pasta"

Weird people are all around us. If you take public transit, you know what I mean. It's not uncommon for homeless people to ask you for money or creepy guys to ask you out on dates, but has anyone ever chosen to give you a misinformed nutrition lesson?

After a long day of running around the city to test older adults for my dissertation, I was holding a takeout bag from Epic Burger (an organic, supposedly higher quality ingredient burger joint). I sat down on the bus minding my own business when this lady next to me pointed to my takeout bag and asked if I had chicken. I told her no, that it was a burger. She says "ok" and then says she hasn't eaten chicken in years. Um, ok. Then she tells me that meat isn't good for you, that I should cook, and not eat takeout. I told her that I do enjoy cooking my own food, but on days like today when I'm up at 6:30am and not home until after 8pm, I don't feel like cooking. She told me to use tupperware. I said that I have a cabinet full of tupperware but this particular week has been exceptionally stressful (significantly above average) and with these 6am-8pm days, I'm just so exhausted so takeout it is.

She said that I was limiting my options and then proceeded to lecture me on why I should make grilled cheese or peanut butter & jelly sandwiches - a whole vat of them - keep them in the fridge all week and then freeze extras. I wanted to lecture her on why meat isn't all that bad and why a diet of grilled cheese or pb&j is actually rather awful for the human body. But I bit my tongue and ran off the bus as soon as my stop came... unfortunately it was her stop too. I said good night and then walked home and enjoyed my burger in peace (minus the bread). As a side note, Epic Burger makes pretty good burgers. Not restaurant-quality of course, but much better than McDonalds, Burger King, or any other fast food joint.

Today's WOD was a team workout where you & a partner did 200m sprints, double-unders, & rowing, with medicine ball sit-ups intermixed throughout. My partner Natalie & I totally rocked the workout and we beat most of the boys! Muahahahaha

When I got home tonight, I was tired but wanted to cook something easy so I made a new version of old favorites: tuna cakes with kale pesto zucchini "pasta" (or zucchini "noodles" as others call them). My paleo salmon cakes are a classic, and these tuna cakes are a nice twist with a different flavor. My basil pesto zucchini "pasta" is also classic fare (paleo-ified of course), so using nutrient-rich kale was equally delicious.

Tuna Cakes

5oz can of tuna, drained
1 egg white
1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried paprika
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne
Salt & pepper to taste
1 green onion, chopped; optional
2 tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat.
2. Combine all ingredients (except coconut oil) in a medium bowl. 
3. Melt coconut oil in frying pan. When pan and oil are hot, drop tuna mixture into pan, about 1/4 c each.  Use spatula to flatten and shape into cakes.
4. After one side is cooked (edges will turn white, about 3 min; DO NOT touch beforehand or they will fall apart), flip each cake over. Cook for another 3 minutes, adding extra coconut oil if needed.
5. Dig in!!

Kale Pesto Zucchini "Pasta"

2 medium zucchini
2 c fresh kale leaves (remove the "rib")
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c olive oil
1/4 c pine nuts (I use macadamias for the omega-3s)
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. While water is boiling, use a mandoline to slice the zucchini into thin strips. Then, use a knife to slice the zucchini strips into noodles. Add zucchini to boiling water and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
2. In a blender or food processor, pulverize the remaining ingredients. Sample the pesto and adjust ingredients to your preference as needed.
3. Transfer zucchini into a large bowl and toss with pesto until thoroughly combined. 
4. You CAN have your pasta and eat it too!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sliders & Sugar Detox Donuts!

The winter blues have definitely gotten me down. Cold, snowy, & slushy out... my socks keep getting wet! Cold, wet socks are not pleasant grrrrr

In other news, I made an easy, simple meal with plenty of flavor: turkey portobello sliders! I wanted "dessert" which defeats the purpose of a sugar detox, so I came up with a paleo, sugar detox version. It's no Dunkin Donuts, but you can use your imagination to take you there :)

Turkey Portobello Sliders

Turkey portobello slider with lettuce & avocado.

1 lb lean ground turkey
5-6 small portobello mushroom caps, stem & gills removed
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp basil
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp coconut oil
Toppings (optional): avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, raw/grilled onions, cheese (if allowed), etc

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place mushroom caps on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Use a paper towel to blot the excess moisture.
3. While portobellos are baking, heat a skillet to medium-high heat.
4. Use hands to combine turkey with seasonings. Divide into 5-6 small patties. Pinch the center so the burgers cook evenly.
5. Melt coconut oil in skillet. Drop turkey patties into skillet and fry until bottom side is cooked (the edges will start to turn white), about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat. Add more coconut oil as necessary.    
6. Assemble your burger: portobello, toppings, turkey slider, & more toppings!
7. Gobble up!!!

NOTE: These sliders taste delicious with carrot "fries". Simply slice baby carrots in half, toss with olive oil & salt, then roast at 425 for 20 minutes.

Sugar Detox Paleo Donuts
Donuts clockwise from top left: cinnamon, sunbutter, cinnamon, sunbutter, & "chocolate frosting"
1/4 c coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg whites
3 tbsp coconut milk
Optional: 2 tbsp maple syrup, agave, or honey (NOT allowed on sugar detox, obviously)

"Frosting" ideas: unsweetened sunbutter, cinnamon, or shredded coconut. If you're not on the sugar detox, honey would be a DELICIOUS frosting!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine dry ingredients: coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients: egg whites, coconut milk, & sweetener if using. Mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Grease a donut or mini-donut pan (I used mini) with coconut oil or butter. Pour batter into pan, about 3/4 full.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
5. Serve with frosting of choice. For the detox, sunbutter was the best in my opinion. Cinnamon was second place. I didn't have coconut at the time... but if you try it, let me know how it turns out.
6. Eat with your eyes closed and imagine that you are biting into a Dunkin Donut... :)

NOTE: I tried unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with melted coconut oil to make "chocolate frosting" and it tasted horrendous. I don't it recommend it :P

Friday, February 22, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals - February

Time for February's round of Paleo Pen Pals, where you swap ingredients with another paleoite and create a dish from the ingredients. My pen pal was Rachel, a fellow Chicagoan and awesome blogger at Pain Free Kitchen. Shipping this round was the easiest one yet since we did a hand-off in the city. You can see what I got her and the recipe she came up with here. Rachel just finished her Whole30 and has been very encouraging since I've been struggling this go-round. She got me 3 ingredients: unsweetened coconut flakes, ground fenugreek (an Indian spice), and CSA leeks. I never had any of them before, so this was going to be a whole new adventure! Heck, I didn't even know what a leek looked like or how to go about cutting one :P

I honestly had no idea how to combine all 3 ingredients into one meal. Coconut-flaked Indian-style leeks? Would that even taste good? Didn't want to risk botching this up, so I did a cop-out and made 3 separate things to highlight each ingredient: coconut shrimp (appetizer) with Indian chicken tikka masala and roasted leeks & asparagus. Each one turned out delicious!! The leeks were so yummy!! I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate more veggies into my diet so I'll definitely be buying leeks on my own now, even if I still don't know how to cut one... but that's another story.

Coconut Shrimp

1 lb shrimp, cleaned
1/3c unsweetened coconut flakes (or finely ground)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white
2 tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat skillet over medium-high flame. Pulse coconut flakes in food processor until finely ground.
2. On a sheet of wax paper, combine coconut and spices.
3. Crack egg white into a small bowl. Melt coconut oil in heated skillet.
4. Dip shrimp into egg white, then dredge through coconut mixture until coated.
5. Place shrimp into pan and cook on both sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add more coconut oil as necessary to get the job done.
6. Serve with cocktail sauce or eat those bad boys by themselves! I may or may not have eaten the whole batch in one sitting...

Chicken Tikka Masala

1.5 lb boneless/skinless chicken (breast and/or thighs), cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 c coconut milk
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ground fenugreek
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp cayenne
Cilantro leaves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 oz tomato paste
1/3 c coconut milk
1 can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp each: fenugreek, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, cinnamon, ginger, & cayenne

1. Place chicken into a zip-top plastic baggie. Add all following ingredients up to and including cilantro. Mix well to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but the longer the better (up to 48 hours).
2. When you're ready to make the dish, heat a wok or deep pot over medium flame.
3. Melt coconut oil and add the onions. Saute until translucent.
4. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Add chicken, including marinade, to the pot. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Serve over cauliflower rice, with secretly veggie waffles (a surprisingly good naan replacement to mop up the sauce), and/or enjoy all by itself.        

Roasted Leeks/Asparagus

2 leeks, julienned 
1 lb asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp garlic salt (or 1.5 tsp garlic powder & 1.5 tsp salt)
2 tsp herbs de provence

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Arrange leeks and asparagus on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Pour olive oil over veggies and use hands to toss until the veggies are coated with oil. Sprinkle garlic salt and herbs de provence.
3. Roast for 20 minutes or until browned and crispy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paleo Hashbrowns

Registration for the 2013 Chicago Marathon opened today at noon. It was slated to sell out in record time, so the entire world logged in and the server crashed. Over 2 frustrating hours & 40 minutes later, I secured my slot in that epic race. The race organizers emailed later that night apologizing and they are working to fix the glitch. They are postponing all registrations for at least 2 more days, at which time they will tell people when registration will be reopening. Ridiculous.

No sugar, no carbs, no gluten... 3 weeks later, I feel like I'm going crazy! I am craving everything, which is made worse all the more by the bitter cold (we eat more in wintertime), no sleep (our appetites are stimulated and metabolism slowed), and recent abnormally high stress (we crave carbs/sugar).  I've been coping by eating more fat. This probably isn't the best cure and the idea of eating fat is something that used to repulse me but since going paleo I've learned to enjoy eating fat. In some ways, I wonder if my nutrition would be better if I had a more "balanced" diet of protein, fat, and just a little bit of carby carbs (rice, pasta, etc) instead of none at all. Then I think back to how I feel when I eat carby carbs and the answer is NO!  Maybe I'm being too hard/strict on myself with this Whole60/sugar detox thing (plus self-imposed no fruits whatsoever). Perhaps one day I'll get to the point where I am a carefree, strict paleo and wouldn't have it any other way.

Brunch is one of my favorite types of meals, so it's no surprise that one of my favorite "fatty" foods to eat is hashbrowns. Of course fried potatoes are an obvious no-no, but that doesn't mean that one can't reinvent them! I never tried rutabaga before, but turns out that they shred easily and can turn into tasty hashbrowns that are just as good as the white potato classic. I actually just had some for dinner... love me some breakfast for dinner :)

Eggs, bacon & rutabaga hashbrowns

Paleo Hashbrowns 

1 small rutabega, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Using a food processor (or grating by hand), shred the rutabaga.
3. Place rutabaga on a greased cookie sheet (or lined with non-stick foil). Drizzle olive oil on rutabaga and use hands to mix together.
4. Spread the shreds evenly on the sheet. Sprinkle with s&p.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms get crisp. Turn the oven to broil and broil your rutabaga for about 1-2 minutes or until the tops get crisp.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chicken Fra Diavolo

Ever make a dish for the first time and you're like "da*n, I'm good!" ??  Oh, you do that every time you cook, eh? Way to show me up.

It's been a grueling week here with the dissertation plus week 3 of the Whole60/sugar detox... when things gets hard to stay on track. I just keep reminding myself of why I'm doing it and what my goals are, but I'm not gonna lie- grilled cheese & ice cream sound really amazing right about now!!! Resuming CrossFit after a few days off due to back pain (which is back to normal now - no pun intended) helped to motivate me to eat better. There's nothing like 50 box jumps, 50 wall balls to the high/men's target, and 50 burpees with sandbag cleans for time to get your nutrition in check. Hot yoga also helped to negate cravings... pizza, wings & cupcakes just don't sound appealing after sweating like a dog for 90 minutes straight. But, 2 hours and a shower later, that's a different story.  

Anyway, I had a spaghetti squash to use and some random ingredients lying around so I decided to throw em all in a pot and see what came of it. I was smacking my lips after tasting this baby! Paleo chicken fra diavolo, I will be making you often!

Chicken Fra Diavolo 

1 medium-small spaghetti squash
1 lb chicken breast or tenders, diced
1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies (I used Trader Joe's brand), drained
Poultry seasoning (or salt, pepper, & paprika)
Italian seasoning
4 strips of bacon, diced (optional... adds a nice extra flavor that compliments the rest of the dish)

1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise, remove roots & seeds. Place cut-side down on cookie sheet and bake until soft, about 30-35 minutes.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking, dice up your chicken and sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Heat a pan with oil and add chicken until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook and dice bacon at this point if you are going to use it.
3. When spaghetti squash is done, use a fork to "shred" the squash into noodles. Heat a pan on medium-low heat and add noodles. Add drained tomatoes/chilies and stir to combine. Add chicken, bacon, basil, oregano, italian seasoning & parsley. Toss everything together to combine into one delicious meal.
4. Eat up!!! Mmmm!

NOTE: you could add a diced onion or garlic to the mix, but I hadn't gone grocery shopping yet and didn't have any on hand. I was very satisfied with how this meal turned out :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Paleo Soul Food

Ever feel like you reached your breaking point? That you just can't take any more of life's beatings? I reached mine on Thursday after 6 long, cold weeks of running around the city from dawn til dusk on public transit to meet with research participants (including weekends), barely sleeping, and the straw that broke the camel's back was an injury during my last CrossFit workout. Not sure what happened- we were doing overhead squats and box jumps, which was fine. Then I got to the locker room and my lower right back had a shooting pain. I could walk just fine, but standing from sitting and bending over was painful. Then I was walking to the lab and my left knee started aching badly. WTF. I was exhausted (physically/mentally) and realized that in my haste to catch the morning bus, I left my paleo/whole30/sugar detox lunch in the fridge. Plus my jeans & socks were soaked (in a wet, cold kind of way) from all the snow/rain and slushy sidewalks. Just felt like giving up and giving in... but sucked it up, popped some pain killers, stopped by the cafeteria for an unsatisfying lunch, and got back to work as best I could. When you feel like you reached the end of your rope, you find the strength to dig just a little bit deeper...

Today I got 8 hours of sleep and felt better. Still stressed, still anxious, back still hurts, but it's feeling better. So, things are starting to look up... but some comfort food like paleo chicken tenders and paleo mac n cheese were definitely in order!! Plus, Week 2 of the Whole60/sugar detox is about up and this is when continuing gets hard. The chicken tenders came out amazing, I may or may not have eaten the whole batch in one sitting... and while the mac n cheese didn't taste nearly as good as the Kraft artificial everything, anti-paleo, blue box mac n cheese, it got the comfort food job done.

Paleo Chicken Tenders
1 lb chicken tenders
1/4 c coconut flour
1/4 c almond flour
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp onion powder
1 tsp basil
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg white
Coconut oil

1. Heat frying pan to medium-high heat. On a sheet of wax paper, mix all the dry ingredients together. Crack the egg white in a small bowl.
2. Melt coconut oil in pan, enough to cover the bottom. Oil is hot when a flick of water is dropped into the pan and it sizzles.
3. Dredge chicken in egg white then through dry ingredients. Place in oiled pan and fry until the bottom side is cooked (the edge will turn white), about 4 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. Add more coconut oil as necessary throughout the cooking process.
4. Dig in!! Tasted great by itself, but can also be paired with paleo ketchup or sugar detox BBQ sauce.

Paleo Mac n Cheese

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp arrowroot
1/2-3/4 can coconut milk
1 tbsp sunbutter
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp ground mustard
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp white wine

DIRECTIONS 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the roots/seeds. Place face-down on a cookie sheet and bake until soft, about 30-35 minutes.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking, melt coconut oil in a small pot. Add arrowroot and stir to combine into a paste.
3. Add coconut milk and bring to a low boil, then to a simmer.
4. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine everything, and let it cool slightly.
5. When spaghetti squash is done, use a fork to "shred" the squash into "noodles". Pour the 'cheese' mixture over the squash and use a fork to combine all that goodness.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl Noshes (with recipes!)

Game Day Sunday... and since the Giants (or Bears) were not playing, I really could have cared less. I don't have a TV and my wifi was down, so I couldn't even watch it if I wanted. However, Superbowl apathy doesn't mean that one can't cook like it's the Superbowl, whole60/sugar detox or not. Gotta love those comfort foods and appetizer-type goodies 0:)

After church, I pre-gamed with a brunch of veggie egg white omelet, (secretly) veggie waffles, and bacon. Then the main course (dinner) was sugar-free BBQ ribs with roasted veggies. The grand finale was sugar detox carrot ice cream, which actually didn't taste all that bad, contrary to what its name implies :P

Trying to sneak more veggies into your diet? Hide them in your waffles! You (and significant other, kids, non-paleoites, etc) won't even know they're there. For BBQ sauces, there is SO much sugar in them, especially if you get it bottled at the grocery store (Trader Joe's isn't all that better though it doesn't have high-fructose corn syrup). Even paleo versions have you put in honey, dates, or other sweet things. Since I'm on a sugar detox, all sugar was out so I decided to make my own! The texture wasn't the same as your traditional "runny" BBQ sauce, but the taste was so good that you couldn't even tell there was no sugar in it. BAM! As for dessert, the trick is sunbutter (or other nut butter though I'm on a nut detox too so sunbutter it is). You may not be licking your lips, but it was surprisingly good, refreshing, and gave you that 'dessert feeling' without actually having a truly sweet treat. No sugar cravings ensued afterward.

Secretly Veggie Waffles
Secretly Veggie Waffles served with butter, bacon, and veggie omelet (not pictured)

1/4 c coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 egg & 4 egg whites
1/2 c shredded veggies (I used 1/4 medium zucchini & 1/4 medium yellow squash shredded in food processor)

1. Pre-heat waffle iron. Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs and whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in shredded veggies.
2. Once waffle iron is ready, pour in batter and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until golden (or otherwise directed by the manufacturer).
3. Serve with clarified butter, blueberry topping, maple syrup, jam, or whatever else people put on there. 

Sugar Detox BBQ Ribs 
Sugar-free BBQ ribs with roasted zucchini/yellow squash (leftover from veggie waffles above), & carrots
Adapted from this overly complicated recipe

1 rack of baby back ribs
Liquid smoke
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
6 oz tomato paste
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp coconut aminos or wheat-free tamari
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch cloves
Pinch allspice
Pinch cayenne

1. Make the BBQ sauce first. Heat large pot on medium, then add onions and brown, approximately 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic and saute until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add all remaining ingredients (i.e. everything except ribs & liquid smoke). Simmer for 30 minutes. Then let cool.
4. Pour liquid smoke over both sides of ribs and use your hands to evenly coat. Coat ribs with BBQ sauce, then let sit for 1-2 hours. 
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ribs for 25 minutes, then flip and cook for 25 more minutes. Ribs are done when the meat starts separating from the bone.
6. Dig in!!!

Sugar Detox Carrot Cake Ice Cream

1/2 c frozen carrots
1/3 c coconut milk
2 tbsp sunbutter (or nut butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1  tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

1. Put everything in a blender and whip until combined. If too chunky, add more coconut oil. If too liquid, add more carrots.
2. Enjoy! Never thought veggies could taste so good in a dessert, eh? :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy February!

Hard to believe we're one month in to 2013. Where the heck did January go??

WHAT a week this has been! Never thought I'd make it to the end. Third straight week of long days 6am-8pm running all over the city in the bitter cold testing people for my dissertation, getting 6 hours of sleep each night (I need all 8 to feel normal), and squeezing in a WOD each day. I felt productive though and the kind words from research subjects kept me going, but I was pretty worn out when I got home.

Today is Day 5 of the Whole60 with sugar detox. Towards the end of this week, I felt somewhat lower blood sugar which was probably some combination of sleep deprivation, dietary changes, and mentally & physically tiring days. I still had the energy to work and workout, but I wasn't bouncing off the walls like normal lol  Also, one thing about the sugar detox program that makes no sense to me... even at the strictest level, everyone is allowed 1 green apple or 1 green banana per day.  How is that a sugar detox??  Will that really slay the sugar dragon, curb cravings, and not cause any insulin spike or weight gain? Whatever the case, there will be no fruit for me... I'm a stickler for this kind of stuff hehehe

Soooo.... what to do to celebrate the end of a long, tiring week?? STEAK!! I haven't had a good steak in awhile and it was on sale at the grocery store (for the superbowl) so I figured why not. Plus, after eating tupperware leftovers all week, I wanted a fresh, hot, homemade meal. Cooking a steak indoors can still taste delicious even if it's not on a summertime grill. The secret is to sear it on the stove, then put it in the oven.

Easy Peasy Indoor Steak

NY Strip Steak (or other cut of red meat) of any size, visible fat removed
GrillMasters Reduced Sodium Steak Seasoning (coarse salt, black & red pepper, paprika) 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Preheat nonstick skillet on high. Sprinkle both sides of steak with seasoning. 
2. Place steak into heated skillet. Sear for 2 minutes on each side.
3. Put skillet into heated oven and cook for 4 minutes (medium-rare; adjust cooking time to personal preference).
4. Serve with whatever sides you want. I used a veggie mix of broccoli, peppers, green beans, carrots, mushroom & water chestnuts - sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with italian seasoning, parsley, garlic powder, & seasoned salt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole60/Sugar Detox: Day 3

Whole60 with sugar detox has been going well so far, but it's still early. I've been eating leftovers, which is great for when I'm traveling to meet with people for my research or when I come home and don't want to wait to eat. The meals I've been eating are crockpot curry chicken, salmon with zucchini, chicken fajitas, & veggie eggwhite omelet (there is a little yolk in there but I'm still skeptical of the whole "yolks are good/not bad for you" thing... but that's a discussion for another time :P)  No real sugar cravings either, though walking by Starbucks on these cold wintery days in Chitown and a caramel macchiato sounds amazing, but it's been super easy to walk by without fighting the latte feeling (for now). People at CrossFit think I'm crazy for doing this for 60 days along with a sugar detox, but it's really not all THAT long, plus the strictest level of sugar detox (what I'm doing - level 3) is not too different from paleo, other than limited fruit and no starchy carbs unless you had a tough workout.  

I feel fine so far - it's a lot easier than I thought it would be considering all the sugar & fried stuff I ate these past few weeks, but again it's still early.  Workouts this week were challenging but good... On Monday's body-density holds, I won the "wall sit challenge" where the last person sitting wins. The advantage of being a runner/biker/triathlete is a strong lower body and thus I beat everyone, including all the boys!!!  I gave up after 5:06 min, which is over a minute longer than the last guy.  Not gonna lie, I felt pretty bad-@ss for the next hour :P 

Also, I did my first toes-to-bar today!!!!  After months of only doing knees-to-armpit, I decided hey why not and went for it!  Totally surprised myself by getting up there... just goes to show that good things happen when you push yourself.  Next up is doing unassisted pull-ups, handstands, and consistent double-unders in a row, but that's for another day. Then we did wall-walks, which definitely revealed my upperbody/shoulder weaknesses. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Celebrating each victory as it comes :)

Onwards and upwards...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Enough is enough!

Ever feel like you're too accommodating, that you can't just say "no"?  You end up over-burdening yourself, doing things that you really don't want to do (or not at that particular time) and you make time for everyone and everything except yourself. Maybe you're like me and there comes a time when you just have to say "no". Today is that day. I find my sleep schedule disrupted, paleo-to-faleo eating (what was a "cheat" dinner with a friend became 2 which became lunch and then another lunch and then...), eating when I wasn't hungry, and sub-par workouts. 

The cure? 180-degree, cold turkey shift. To. Say. No. The plan?  Whole60 with sugar detox. I was originally going to do Whole40 for Lent (plus sugar detox) but then decided why wait when I can start taking control now? If someone wants to go out to eat, say no. If someone wants to meet up for something and I don't truly want to / have other important things to do instead (e.g. sleep, food prep, workout), say no. Want to slack off at the gym? Say no. Push myself no matter how lazy, tired, stressed, or whatever excuse I'll come up with... same goes for all the extra MetCon aerobic-based workouts where it's easy to go slower. I'm sick of not being able to Rx or even come close to Rx'ing a workout. Sure, some of the olympic weightlifting can be scaled, but why can't I do a single pull-up, dip, or continuous double-unders?  Time to get things back under control. So, tomorrow (Monday Jan 28) is Day 1. Control the flesh before it controls you, no excuses.

My "last supper" before the Whole60 is a lazy paleo version of chicken fajitas (lazy = no marinade or measuring anything) with tomato soup (lazy = canned tomatoes), then hot chocolate for dessert (lazy = pour a mix into hot water... yes I know the mix ain't paleo, but it's the last sweet thing I'll eat in 60 days so shoot me).  Yum!

1 lb chicken tenders (or chicken breast cut into strips)
2 bell peppers (I used 1 green & 1 yellow, but any color will work)
1 yellow onion, sliced
Poultry seasoning (or paprika, onion powder, s&p)
2 tbsp Coconut oil

1. Heat large skillet with coconut oil on medium. Sprinkle chicken with poultry seasoning then cook until done, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate.
2. While chicken is cooking, slice up your peppers & onion. When chicken is done, toss veggies into skillet and cook until done, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet and sprinkle in a few shakes of cumin & paprika (no need to measure anything - just use your judgment). Stir until everything is thoroughly combined.

15 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
10 oz coconut milk
1/2 c water
2 tsp garlic powder

...Toss everything in a sauce pan and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Easy peasy!  Lazy paleo (including crockpot - more recipes to come) will likely be my cooking mantra from now until... awhile :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals January 2013 - Basil Salmon with Garlic Zucchini Fries

It's time for the Paleo Pen Pals ingredient swap of the month! The group was created and coordinated by rockstar bloggers Brittanie of ThreeDietsOneDinner and Tarah of WhatIGather. The premise is that you are assigned a fellow paleoite, send them some ingredients, receive ingredients from them, and then you whip up a recipe.

My pen pal this month was Katherine, a college student in Boston but actually from NJ. I'm a (grad) student myself and originally from NJ as well, so that was a neat coincidence. Katherine sent me basil-infused olive oil and organic garlic salt. I never tried olive oil infused with anything before, so this was uncharted territory. After opening the bottle, the smell was HEAVENLY! Basil is one of my favorite kitchen smells... mmm! The basil adds a subtle flavor, which is awesome and I'll definitely be using it again in my future cooking. 

With these 2 awesome ingredients, I decided to make basil salmon with zucchini. Actually, I really wanted to make the salmon with asparagus, but apparently the produce shipment from California froze over. It's been subzero here in Chitown (it's as uncomfortable as it sounds), so a shipment freezing over was disappointing but not too surprising. Oh well, I went with my tried-and-true veggie staple, zucchini.

Basil Salmon and Garlic Zucchini  Fries

1 lb wild-caught salmon
1 tbsp basil-infused olive oil
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning 
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp onion powder

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Brush salmon with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle seasonings over salmon.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until salmon flakes easily.
5. While salmon cooks, prepare the zucchini....

2 medium-sized zucchini, julienned (or otherwise cut into whatever shape you like)
2 tbsp basil-infused olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp of garlic salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (if you're not making the salmon first)
2. Place zucchini on a single-layer cookie sheet.
3. Pour olive oil, minced garlic, and garlic salt on the zucchini. Use your hands to combine everything.
4. Roast for 18 minutes, flip, then roast for 10 minutes.
5. Zucchini is done when there's a nice brown on all sides.

Note: Zucchini is a pretty moist veggie, so it doesn't have that same "crunch" as drier veggies (e.g. asparagus, sweet potato, carrot) but it's still roasted deliciousness :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crockpot Time!!!

Cold winter days and long, tiring school days mean one thing: it's crockpot time!!! Love coming out of the cold to a hot meal waiting for me :) Plus, I'm usually hungry when I get home so it's nice to not have to cook when I walk in the door.

One of my favorite things to make is pulled pork. All you need to do is sprinkle some seasonings on the meat and you're good to go. I toss the whole spice rack in, but it's really the cumin, (smoked) paprika, and chipotle seasoning that make this pork. To make it complete, healthier and heartier, I add some veggies but one could certainly skip this. It's super easy and super delicious... why WOULDN'T you want to make it?! Don't say because it's the summer or hot wherever you are (totally jealous, by the way) because pulled pork is not just a winter thing, though I find that I crockpot more in the winter... #crockpottime

Crockpot Pulled Pork

1 yellow onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
3 lb pork roast
Chipotle seasoning
Smoked paprika (regular paprika would also work)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper
Pinch of ginger

1. Put sliced onion & pepper on the bottom of your crockpot.
2. Liberally season pork with all your spices then put on top on veggies.
3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Use two forks to shred the pork.
5. Serve with some jus from the crockpot. EAT UP!!!

 Note: For more of a BBQ taste, simply pour your BBQ sauce over the pork and let it slow cook together.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sleep is for the Weak

Or, at least that's what I tell myself when school/research/job apps keep me up at night.  We're in week 2 of winter quarter here and I feel like such a zombie... long days and just feeling fried all the time.  A few things I've noticed when I don't sleep:

-I'm cold
-I feel like eating even though I'm not hungry
-I crave junk food (fat/salt/grease, sugar)
-I cave in and get fat
-I'm cranky
-I'm lethargic
-My head hurts

After sleeping (on the weekends), all these things magically go away. Of course, none of this is rocket science and should come as no surprise. Adequate sleep is part of the whole9/paleo lifestyle but sometimes it's just so hard to get it in. When I give in to my cravings, this creates more cravings and I can no longer tell when I'm full. Yikes!! Of course, the monthly is partly to blame, but it's always MY choice what & how much to eat. Time to put this dragon in check... 

In other news, I started CrossFit again after a taking a break last fall. I knew I was going to start up again, but needed to give my body & mind a rest after all the training/racing last summer, plus dissertation, job market, and the marathon.  The break helped to renew my passion for CF, but this is definitely a long road ahead to get back to where I was last summer. I stayed somewhat active in the off-season, but coming back has been humbling haha The coaches and fellow athletes have been really supportive though, I definitely missed the camaraderie.

Finish dissertation + get a job + sleep + be fit again + slay the craving dragon = 2013 is off to rocky start! Never too late to make sure 2013 ends the right way... here we goooo!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Chef Winner - Food/Restaurant Review

For those of you familiar with cooking shows, Bravo's "Top Chef" is a cooking challenge where week after week chefs compete to be the last one standing. Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard opened up her own restaurant "Girl and the Goat" in Chicago's west loop neighborhood, then later opened "Little Goat" which is the diner counterpart. There's been a ton of local & national press, so perhaps you've heard of the main restaurant.  Her restaurants are ridiculously popular and you have to make reservations for Girl and the Goat like 3+ weeks ahead of time.  Little Goat doesn't do reservations, you just gotta show up. Instead of waiting for 3 weeks, a friend and I opted for the 'Little Goat'. We tried to get brunch after church and at 12:30pm, there was a 2 hour waiting time!!  The staff said the wait is similar during the week, except between 3-5pm. Sheesh. We put our name down then wandered around for a bit. We got a table after 1 hour & 20 min, so I guess that was good.

Ambiance was pleasant, a bit more than your greasy-spoon type of diner. It had a comfortable feeling and the brightly lit space was very welcoming. The menu had a lot of variety, what you'd expect at a diner... breakfast foods, sandwiches, burgers, salads, soup, entree-style stuff, breads, hot drinks, soda (or "pop" as it's called in the midwest :P) & a bar. Reasonable prices. After reading the reviews on Yelp, my friend and I decided to order and split a bowl of goat chili and a reuben sandwich. She also ordered coffee, which she didn't find particularly special. Towards the end of our meal, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard came out and walked around the restaurant. She stopped one table away from us and was talking to a couple about life. She looked petite and seemed like a very nice, wholesome girl next door type.

Never had goat before, so this was a new venture. It had a slightly game-y taste but the sauce and other fixings covered the true taste of goat. It was slightly sweet and the beans weren't too plentiful, so it didn't make me feel bad for not being 'strict paleo'. My only gripe with the chili is that it was pretty fatty (lots of thick orange liquid... it was really too much for that amount of chili... gross) and very salty. I went through at least 3 glasses of water. Overall though, it was a creative concoction and I'm glad I tried it. I probably wouldn't order it again.

The reuben sandwich is very popular and one of the things the place was known for (they also boast a top-notch bakery with fresh-baked goods every morning). I'm not a big fan of reuben in general, but I was willing to give this one a try. It was a very messy sandwich (not to mention the bread was drenched in oil) so I removed as much bread as I could and dug in with my fork & knife. For someone who doesn't eat reubens, this one was probably the best I ever had. Wouldn't order it again though. I'd try their other sandwiches or burgers instead. Overall, service was fine... except for when the bus boy took my plate and dropped the chili-laded fork on my brand-new sweater, then told me to bring in my dry cleaning receipt and they'd pay for it. At least the wait staff was knowledgeable.

Conclusion: variety of food, fun flavor combinations, comfortable atmosphere, and reasonably priced but very long waiting time (it'll likely be that way for a long time). I'd be willing to give it another try.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shrimp Fra Diavolo & 2-Ingredient Banana "Ice Cream"

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end... no more sleeping in, "working" from home, shopping, cooking and eating homemade meals with family, or parents doing my laundry & paying for groceries. No sir, winter break is over and I am back in action here in Chitown. I flew back on Thursday and after unpacking, I went to the gym with my buddy Victoria. Considering that school hasn't even started yet, the gym was pretty PACKED!! Grrr. Not surprising I guess, the gym is always like that after the holidays. Suppose it'll all die down in about 3-4 weeks when school is back in action. We did about 40 minutes of ellipticals then some strength training. It was good, but I miss CrossFit. Hopefully starting CF back up again next week, presumably with more new year's resolution people. Joy.

I also did hot yoga (bikram - 26 postures in 90 minutes in 105 degrees w 40% humidity) for the first time in 4 months. It was not nearly as bad as I thought! Until I woke up the next day. You're supposed to feel some soreness after taking a break, so while this is totally normal, it's not the most pleasant thing either. It's more like an achy soreness rather than an "I just killed it at the gym and feel awesome!" soreness. They say you're supposed to go multiple days in a row to work off the soreness and get the body used to bikram... so I went again for the second day in a row (today). It was definitely harder than the first day but I made it through just fine. I was thinking of going again tomorrow, but I'm feeling really unmotivated. Instead, I'll probably run or something. Then get ready for the start of winter quarter at school. Joy.

One cure for feeling sore/tired is EATING! :)  I made shrimp fra diavolo, which was inspired by a dish my family ordered over the holidays. It was tasty, but loaded with carby pasta, salt, and oils. Thought I could make a better one, paleo style of course :)  Then STUPIDLY EASY two-ingredient, dairy-free banana "ice cream" to top it all off!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
Salt & dried red pepper flakes
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 c low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic so the more the merrier :))
A couple shakes each of dried oregano, parsley, & basil (or use fresh and chop)

1. Turn oven to 425 degrees F. Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the roots & seeds. Place squash face-down (skin up) on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 min or until squash is soft and easy to squeeze.
2. While spaghetti squash is baking, heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add shrimp, salt, & dried red pepper flakes and saute until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a large plate.
3. Pour 3 tbsp olive oil into pan. Add garlic & onions and saute until fragrant and onions are translucent, about 4-5 min. Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, & herbs. Stir to combine and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
4. Add cooked shrimp and toss everything until evenly coated. Sample the creation and add more salt, red pepper, or herbs to taste.
5. Use a fork to shred the spaghetti squash into "noodles". Top with shrimp mixture.
6. Dig in!!


Banana Ice Cream

1 banana, cut into slices
1/4 c coconut milk (lite or full-fat, both work great)

1. Freeze banana slices for at least an hour, ideally longer.
2. Add banana slices & coconut milk to a blender or food processor. Whip it all up until desired consistency is reached.

NOTE: If bananas are too frozen, add more milk. Better to err on the side of caution and use less milk than more. You can always add more later. However, if you use more milk than necessary, you'll end up with a banana pudding which is actually quite tasty.

VARIATIONS: If you want to add some flavor, cinnamon/nutmeg could add some mild flavor. As for the bananas, the riper it is, the more sugar it has. My bananas were about to turn yellow but still had some light green. Tasted just fine, I didn't need it to be all spotty or brown or whatnot.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pumpkin French Toast with Blueberry Topping


Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean the wintery season is over.  One of my favorite seasonal ingredients is pumpkin! When I came across PaleOMG's recipe for pumpkin french toast, I knew I had to try it. The secret is to grind pumpkin seeds (pepitas) into flour. While waiting for the pumpkin bread to cool before turning it into french toast, my non-paleo parents couldn't wait and decided to sample the pumpkin bread. They absolutely LOVED it and after one bite, my dad said that it was better than my mother's pumpkin bread recipe and much fluffier :)

I wanted to make a fruity topping to complement the pumpkin, so I used blueberries. The topping was easy, delicious, and full of antioxidants.  In hindsight, I should have omitted the topping because the pumpkin was rich enough, or I should have saved the blueberries for something plain like coconut pancakes/waffles. This still tasted great though and there were no leftovers. Everyone licked their plates clean haha

Paleo Pumpkin French Toast with Warm Blueberry Topping

PUMPKIN BREAD (adapted from PaleOMG):
Serves: 4

1 c pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 c pumpkin puree
6 dried dates, pitted
1 egg, 4 egg whites
2 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat.  Melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil and roast pepitas on all sides until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3. Add roasted pepitas to food processor and pulverize until they become a flour.
4. Add dates and puree.
5. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
6. Grease a 9.3x5.2 in bread pan with coconut oil. Pour in pumpkin batter and bake until cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

1/4 c coconut milk
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut oil

1. Heat griddle to medium heat.
2. When pumpkin bread has cooled, whisk coconut milk, egg whites, & cinnamon together. Slice bread into 1/2-1 inch french toast "sticks" and dip into egg mixture on both sides.
3. Melt coconut oil in griddle. Place french toast sticks on griddle, cook for 2-3 minutes per side.
4. Top french toast with blueberry topping (below), maple syrup, or grass-fed butter.

1.5 c frozen organic blueberries*

1. While you are making the pumpkin bread & french toast, put blueberries in colander to thaw.
2. Once thawed, place blueberries in a small pot on medium-low heat and simmer until juices come out and berries burst easily, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Serve on top of french toast.

*NOTE: If using fresh blueberries, add 1/4 c water to pot before simmering.