Monday, June 10, 2013

Paleo Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

I was messing around with my microwave chocolate cake recipe, and came up with this version. You could use the microwave mug recipe and add a 1/3rd of a ripe banana if you didn't want to make a full batch, but this version is an oven-baked goody to share with the family.

Paleo Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

4 TBSP butter, softened
6 TBSP honey  (I eye-balled this)
1 ripe banana
5 TBSP coconut milk
3 eggs
3 TBSP coconut flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP almond flour (this equals 6 TBSP, if you just want to use your TBSP measurement)
1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa  (this equals 9 TBSP)

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine butter and honey with a mixer until smooth.  Smash in your banana, mix again.  Add coconut milk and eggs, mixing until the eggs are fully incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients, and mix well until there are no lumps.

Let me state that I don't really do exact measurements. I don't level my measuring spoons, nor do I measure out liquids.  But this is pretty darn close to what I did.  It should make a fairly thick batter, not a runny batter. If the batter is too runny, you may want to add a tablespoon of coconut flour. If you think it is far too thick, add a bit more liquid.  ALWAYS taste the batter when you are done to see if you need to add more sweetener.

Poor into silicone cups and bake at 350F for approximately 15 minutes.  (I use silicone cupcake liners which I set on a flat pan.  Silicone cupcake liners are THE BOMB, y'all.)

Isn't that a beautiful texture? It's like a cross between cake and pudding.
Yum, y'all. Yum.

Note: Yes, you can mess around with your coconut to almond flour ratio, but remember, coconut flour requires more moisture, so keep that in mind!  You could also do half coconut flour and half arrowroot, but I haven't tried that on this particular creation so... I can't guarantee anything.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Paleo Microwave Chocolate Cake with almond and coconut flours

It's a good thing I don't follow the Paleo mindset of "eat only what the caveman eat" because, 1, I don't believe in the whole Paleolithic era stuff (You know, I'm one of those weird people that believes in a Divine Creator, and I don't believe the earth is millions of years old), and um, I do believe that some advances in the kitchen are a good thing (like the invention of the blender).

And while I'm not a huge fan of microwaves, I do have one that we use now and then, mostly for those spontaneous moments when I have just got to have a personal-sized chocolate cake.

Before we became grain-free-freaks, I made many microwave cakes and had it all down to perfection.  After our Whole30 challenge, I decided I should try a Paleo version. Let me just say that I do not care for the texture of coconut flour in baked goods when it is not mixed with other Paleo flours, but I do love the texture of coconut flour in combination with another "flours" like arrowroot or almond meal.

The first Paleo microwave cake I made (with just coconut flour) proved that point once again. Ick. What a way to ruin chocolate.  So the next time I made it, I decided to mix it with almond flour, and I loooved it.

Here's what you'll need:

1 and 1/2 TBSP Coconut flour (I just eye-balled the half using the TBSP measuring spoon)
1 and 1/2 TBSP Almond flour
3 TBSP Cocoa (unsweetened)
1-2 TBSP honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 TBSP butter (melted)
1-2 TBSP coconut milk (or whatever you want to use, sometimes I use coffee)
1 egg

There are various ways you can mix this altogether. I usually start with the melted butter and honey, mixing it up well with a fork before I add the coconut milk and egg.  Then I mix in the flours and cocoa little by little so that it gets totally mixed in. (I do it this way so that 1- the melted butter doesn't start to harden back when you add cold milk and a cold egg to it if you mix it with the honey first, and 2- I don't have to use a mixer if I add the dry ingredients slowly rather than dumping them in.)

Taste the batter to see if you should add a bit more honey.  If it seems very, very thick, add a little more coconut milk.  Different coconut flour brands react differently, and some soak up more liquid than others.

Now, you could put this all in a mug and microwave it for about 45-60 seconds OR you could scoop it out into silicone cupcake liners.  I actually tripled this recipe and it made about 8 cupcakes. (I microwaved the cupcakes one by one, FYI.)  If you are making cupcakes, it only takes about 25 seconds in the microwave, at most 30 seconds. (I like mine a little moist, so 30 seconds is too long for me.)

I drizzled some organic chocolate sauce over mine.  Not paleo (sugar!) but... tasty.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brandon's successes, Mandy's pregnancy

Several things of note: My husband lost five more pounds. High five, fist bump y'all.  I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since we began the Whole30.

One of the difficult things about overhauling your diet and seeing amazing, ah-may-zing, changes is that when you see others suffering from the same things you once did, you want to swoop in with a packet of Paleo information, cook them meals for a week, and rid their pantries and fridges of all that nastiness they've been consuming.

But really, while we really do enjoy sharing our diet lifestyle and how it has changed us in many, many ways, we also recognize that people have to be willing to make the changes themselves.  When they are ready, they  will ask for help or advice.  For now, we are happy just to share our success stories with others and tell how we've been changed.

We've been on the other side as well. We've looked at people cross-eyed when they suggested we give up bread. (And we even tried it for a while, and boy that sucked.) But we also saw that we were headed in a direction we didn't want to go.

Brandon went to the doctor and was classified as "morbidly obese".  He was having to lean on medications for pain and was trying the natural methods of chiropractics and massage to relieve pain.  It seemed the solutions offered to a lot of his issues were in reality just bandaids.  Over and over people recommended that he get a CPAP machine because, don't we all want to sound like Darth Vader when we sleep?

His doctor had a lot of negative things to say. High cholesterol. Bad this. Change that.  Lose 10 pounds before I see you again.  Brandon walked away with his doctor-loathing-beam still firmly intact.

He felt like his body was falling apart, and had been for years. We had tried so many things, but hey, one last thing can't hurt, right?  We are so grateful that the Whole30/Paleo diet was that "one last thing".

My husband's posture is straighter. I can wrap my arms around his waist and clasp my hands together behind him.  He no longer snores like a freight train every night (or, you know, forgets to breathe when he's not snoring). He wakes up rested because he's getting REM sleep. He smiles more often. He's not consumed with pain all day.  His bicep, which he injured pretty badly at work months ago, is not giving him as much trouble and is feeling better and healing quicker than it did with chiropractics and intense massage. Some of his other allergies have disappeared (so he can now enjoy black pepper liberally sprinkled on every meat and vegetable).

His biggest issue is that he needs smaller pants, but he refuses to buy new jeans until he hits a certain size.  For now he's just cinching up his belt tighter and tighter.

But you know, while there is a lot of amazing things happening in our home and in our bodies, there is also a struggle as well.

Because I'm pregnant (9 weeks today). And I have these cravings that are so strong it's hard to ignore them.  Shipley's Donuts call my name over and over until I just can't ignore it anymore, and I scarf down a glazed donut only to regret it by lunch time as I lay on the couch with a headache feeling like I'm going to barf up the brick in my stomach at any moment.

And I will go on and say it. It really sucks sometimes to be Paleo. Because there are pretty much no convenience options for people who chose to eat as we do. At least none that don't break the bank or cause the budget to run screaming. NIL. NADA. ZIP. ZILCH.  Well, tuna salad and nitrate-free hotdogs, and both of those make this pregnant lady want to gag.  Ew.  (Although, I do buy this stuff, and I feed it to my children who love them and give me Good-Mom-Brownie-Points.)

Gone are the days of freezer nuggets and Dominos Pizza.   This is not to say that we don't have our cheats now and then, but, really, a cornbread mix and redbeans and rice were an easy staple in my previous pregnancies.  And now all of those items are off the menu.

That means I actually have to use my BRAIN, which is really hard to do when one is pregnant. (Well, it's not that it's not being used, it is actually on overload so thinking about having to actually make lunch is can be overwhelming.) I always forget how exhausting pregnancy can be in the first trimester.  Turns out forming a baby in my womb is hard work!

I mean, for the love of grapes, I could really go for a basic PB&J sandwich.  And those things haven't sounded appealing since I was, like, eight.

So this means I have to actually force my brain to work at creating a meal plan that is doable, even when I feel all icky and sleepy and weird. (Thankfully, I am not hugging the porcelain throne, but I come very close if I have an affair with wheat or get too much sugar in my system.)

This is where I openly proclaim my love for my Crock Pot and One-Dish-Wonders, and The-Husband-Who-Cooks-Better-Than-I-Do.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have some really good slow cooker recipes in your arsenal, along with a few of your favorite casseroles and one-pot dinners.  Also, you will find that soups and chilis will work for summer meals too, and storage containers will be your best friend because you should definitely make extras to store away (in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, or in the freezer for next week).

And don't forget our suggestion to fire up the grill one day and toss on every kind of meat you can think of so you have "fast food" for meals throughout the week.

Really, by the time 4pm rolls around, the thought of making supper seems like a lot of work.  Am I right? You're not even pregnant and you're nodding in agreement, aren't you.

So do yourself a favor and use that slow cooker.  Toss in a roast in the morning after you pour your morning coffee, and pat yourself on the back for having dinner on.  Go you.

Mmm, Roast, potatoes, and carrots.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What do we eat?

Kristianna wrote in asking what our normal menu looks like. While we are no longer officially on the Whole30, we usually still eat like it.  After being on the Whole30, sweet treats like Paleo Berry Breakfast Cake seem very rich, even with the minimal amount of honey or maple syrup.  I made them last night (as muffins) for breakfast this morning, and I just couldn't stand to eat one, but the kids really loved them.

I do think that treats like that make the big lifestyle change of going Paleo much easier on children.  (Especially if you bring it to a potluck where you know there will be a lot of desserts they can't have or to a birthday party where the sugary icing, dyes, and chemical-cake will make them extremely sick.)

I made a double recipe of the breakfast cake which made about two dozen muffins (could have made about 30 if I would have made them a tad smaller).

These treats are well-loved by all five of kiddos from youngest [Molly Jo] and oldest [Merikalyn]. (One batch I made with strawberries, another I made with Enjoy Life chocolate chips.)

Obviously the kids can't have these every morning.  After all, we don't want to replace old bad habits with new slightly healthier bad habits, but treats are nice now and then.

Here's what we might have for breakfast any given week.  We tend to eat a lot of eggs because it's kind of one of those no-brainer things, but after a month or two you will find yourself growing very weary of eggs so you'll likely want to try different things. Remember, you don't have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. You could have a hamburger patty and a sweet potato instead!


  • Paleo Banana Bread
  • Paleo Granola with Almond or Coconut milk (add in bananas and other fruit to really amp up the flavor)
  • Frittata loaded with veggies (like tomatoes and zucchini) and meats like smoked sausage or breakfast sausage (Look for ones with no nitrates and no MSG).
  • Baked Cinnamon Banana boats with a side of eggs
  • Eggs and bacon (It is incredibly difficult to find sugar-free bacon, so we have just bought the brands that have no nitrates and the least amount of sugar and not worried about it. Buy the best quality you can afford, organic if possible.  Some people buy sugar-free bacon online but I would not spend that much money on bacon! No thanks!)
  • Eggs and breakfast sausage (No Nitrates and no MSG)
  • Egg Muffins (Basically egg and whatever else you want baked in a muffin cup. Be sure to really grease the muffin cup or line it with bacon so that it doesn't stick. I like silicone cups as there is no sticking.)
  • Fried egg with avocado on top
  • Breakfast hash (we like to use roasted butternut squash, ground breakfast sausage, and eggs).
  • Or something like this, below, which is a fried egg (yolk firm) with green onions "wrapped" in (no nitrate) ham.  Also known as hubby's breakfast this morning.


Sometimes I just lay out a big platter of cucumbers, carrots, celery, chicken or ham, and some bananas for the kid to attack for lunch, but that doesn't usually work for me.  Those typical sandwiches are out, so I now think of lunch as I would supper.  If I need something light, a salad will work.

  • Grilled chicken on romaine with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and alfalfa sprouts
  • Hamburger stew (there are a variety of recipes out there for hamburger stew, but for us, it's basically ground beef, carrots, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, potato bites, and peas, which some Paleo folks do not eat.)
  • Stuffed Bellpeppers (no rice, of course, but you could use "riced" cauliflower)
  • Sausage and stewed cabbage
  • Paleo chili and hot dogs (no nitrates, no msg)
  • Shrimp salad
  • Hamburger patty with avocado, lettuce, onions, pickles, bacon, and whatever else you like on top. (This is a great "out to eat" meal, since there inevitably comes a time when you have to Whole30 out on the town.  We like to eat at Five Guys and Fries and Smash Burger.  And, since we allow ourselves to break some rules, we sometimes have their fries as well.)
  • Baked chicken breasts with zucchini (layer sliced zucchini under the chicken before you bake, and add in a little bit of water. Season the water/zucchini well before placing the chicken (which you also should season well) on top. Viola, one dish wonder!)
  • Grilled sausages (we like pork and green onion- you can buy them fresh from the butcher department at the grocery store) with grilled squash or asparagus
  • Tuna salad (Note: It is pretty much impossible to find Paleo Mayo, so you can try making it yourself. If that is not an option for you, or you have tried many times and failed, and you must, must, must have mayo, go for best option available, which will NOT be among the major brands.  For those days when the kids are begging for tuna salad [I personally hate fish, but love shrimp], we go for The Ojai Cook Lemonaise which is made with Pure Expeller Pressed Canola Oil (which is NOT paleo), Water, Cage Free Whole Eggs, Creole Mustard, Lemon, Juice Concentrate, Cage Free Egg Yolks, Salt, Distilled Vinegar and Garlic.  It's is VERY flavorful and makes super yummy tuna, I hear.  Our goal is not really to fit all the guidelines so we can call ourselves Paleo, but to make as many changes as we can to have a healthy lifestyle, so not everything we eat is Paleo.)

We cut out most snacking when we were on the Whole30, but I found the kids typically needed a snack between lunch and supper, especially if supper wouldn't be until six or seven.  

  • A palm full of nuts (no peanuts!)
  • Homemade trail mix (nuts, seeds, and raisins or craisins- be aware that most brands of craisins have added sugar).
  • A banana, apple, or orange
  • Carrots
  • Lara bar  (make sure you don't get the peanut ones).
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Apple sauce (no sugar added)
  • A few slices of bacon (if you bake a bunch ahead of time [lay out on a pan in a single layer, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness] and put it in the fridge, it's super tasty to have for snacks, especially dipped in guacamole)
  • A box of raisins
  • Sweet potato chips (You could make these yourself, but every now and then I come across some at Sprouts or Whole Foods which is Whole30 compliant.  Sometimes I will buy some that are not Paleo, because they are made with Sunflower oil, though.)

  • Apple and Cabbage Baked Chicken Casserole (we also add in sausage to it feeds our whole family, and I use as many chicken breasts as I can fit. 
  • Crockpot roast with garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes (you can use white if you're okay with white potatoes, or sweet potatoes)
  • Oven barbecue ribs with cole slaw mixed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (I love this recipe from Cook Like Your Grandmother, which is not Paleo/Whole30 because of the brown sugar but I'm going to attempt my own version this week. My husband smokes ribs like a pro because, um, he is a pro, but sometimes it's just not feasible for him to do any grilling or smoking, so it's nice to have a back up recipe I can use to do it in the oven rather than try my hand at burning the house down smoking meat. Do some web searching and I am sure you can find a Whole30 rib recipe. )
  • Chicken thighs (with skin and bones) and brussel sprouts (I heavily season the thighs on both sides and brown them in some coconut oil in a big pot while I cut up some onions, celery, and garlic.  Then I toss in those veggies, and when they've softened I deglaze the pan with two or so cups of water. I season the water with salt and such, then let it all simmer, covered, for a while as I cut the brussel sprouts in half.  When the chicken is almost done, I toss in the brussel sprouts, cover, and allow to simmer 10 or so more minutes. And then, there it is, another one pot meal!)
  • Grilled chicken with a side salad
  • Juicy grilled steak with a sweet potato and green beans
  • Cubed Steak, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers (another one-dish-wonder)
  • Meatballs and spaghetti squash with marinara sauce
  • Crockpot (whole) chicken with whatever I have left over to throw together as a side.

Note: We do eat white potatoes in our family. We are a large family, and while most Paleo folks do not consume white potatoes, well, we do.  We loved loaded baked potatoes (a variety of meats, olives, onions, and such with lots of butter) and we sometimes use them in breakfast hash.  This also means we enjoy fries now and then (but not from McDonald's- believe me, after being on the Whole30 and eating real food, McD's fries, which used to be so yummy and appealing, will taste like chemical garbage).

If you get in a rut, check out pinterest or do some searching on the web.  I really love one-dish dinners and crockpot meals, especially in the summer or when our schedule gets pretty busy and I don't have a lot of time to think about meals. That way I only have to think about meals in the morning...

For example:

As I'm preparing a frittata I cut up extra tomatoes to use in the hamburger stew I'm making for lunch.  While the frittata is baking, I brown up a bunch of ground beef- some for the hamburger stew, some for the chili I am making tomorrow. I also chop up celery, onions, and potatoes for both the hamburger stew and the crockpot roast I'm preparing for dinner.  By the time breakfast is done, the crockpot is simmering for dinner's meal and the pot on top of the stove is simmering with a soup for lunch.  There you go, all my meal work is done in the morning, and I don't have anything to do but serve it when lunch and supper roll around!

Don't be fooled though, it doesn't always work this way.  I am still trying to get into a steady routine!  Sometimes I wake up and tell the kids to dig into the emergency gluten-free cereal (which is not grain-free) before I fall back into bed.

Okay, so, that should give you an idea of what we do.  I apologize that it's not better organized, and there are probably loads of typos, but I have to get the crockpot started, so.. I'm out.

Apple and Cabbage Baked Chicken Casserole

I love one-dish-wonders. It's less clean-up and doesn't require a lot of work.

I meant to take an after photo, but I got so caught up in eating it, that, well, I didn't.  So, you can have the before photos.

I first came across this recipe on The Healthy Foodie. It was such a hit with my family that my husband demanded we make it a regular feature.  I do mine a bit different, so here are my directions, but I assure you, THF deserves all the credit.

1 head of cabbage
2-3 apples
1 onion

1/2 unsweetened apple juice,
1-2 teaspoons mustard
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar.

Seasonings (I used salt, a Cajun blend, and garlic powder).
1/2 unsweetened apple juice,
1-2 teaspoons mustard
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar.
Sausage (I used several links of green onion deer/pork blend)

2-4 chicken breasts


1. Use a mandolin to thinly slice apples and onions. You could do this with a knife but it is more uniform and quicker with the handy gadget! Thinly slice cabbage as well. I did this with a knife.  Slice up the sausage as well. (I added in the sausage because I needed more meat to feed my family, and I couldn't fit any more chicken into the dish.)

2. Put 1/2 of the cabbage into a large casserole dish (8x10 or bigger). Season with salt and cajun seasoning. Add in all the sausage. Layer in 1/2 onions and 1/2 of the apples. Layer in the remaining cabbage (pause to season again here), onions, and apples.

3. In a small bowl, mix together apple juice, mustard, and apple cider vinegar & pour over the top of the apples/onion/cabbage.

4. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt, a bit of Cajun seasoning, and a generous amount of garlic powder. Place on top of the last layer of apples. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour!

Note: You could change this up and use chicken or veggie broth! I sometimes throw in minced garlic as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Paleo Rant.

Sometimes the Paleo community really irks me. I've seen this in all circles- among vegans, vegetarians, and raw foodies too.  It's this mindset that people have to do it "just like you do" in order to fit into the label. Really, I don't even care about labels, but I know labels help us identify things, so, in some ways, they are necessary.  When I'm scoping out recipes on pinterest, listing grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free etc will bring me far less results than typing in "paleo".

I know a lot of people who are interested in many of the Paleo principles but are hesitant to try it out because they think they cannot afford it.  After all, the major Paleo blogs say you have to buy directly from the farm, grocery stores are the devil.  So while some Paleo folks can afford to buy the extremely pricey sugar-free bacon from online vendors, regular folk like us cannot.

Our thought has been to do the best that you can. We all have to start somewhere.  So, while some Paleo folks would turn a critical eye at a person picking up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, others understand.

For many, it's a big step simply to remove grains, dairy, and legumes from their diets.  (And, yanno, I know some Paleo folks still consume dairy, although our bellies are not able to handle it.)

Don't get me wrong, much of the Paleo community can be very helpful, loving, and encouraging, but there's also that nasty side (just as I saw when I was a vegan) where folks are extremely critical and demeaning.

What is of more importance to us?  Our precious label or helping people make the healthiest choices they can manage at that point in their life?

For some of my friends, simply disconnecting themselves from frequent fast food visits is a huge step.  Must we nitpick them about where they purchase their meat at, or that it's not organic, and so, "Harumph, you're not Paleo!"

I tell you, if folks are just making the step to cut out grain, that's a HUGE deal. Let's be encouraging and supportive of that step, without being nasty about the 2% of sugar in their bacon they bought at Kroger's.

I think some have forgotten what a trial it can be to make such a drastic change in your diet, especially since some have been eating the typical American diet for 50 years or more. Many people have never gone a day in their lives without dairy or had a meal that didn't involve some kind of grain involved.  Even if this is the only change they make, it's still an important one!

We have five children, soon to be six, so we know the importance of being frugal.  When we can afford to buy organic, we do.  When we can afford to buy straight from the farm, we do.  We have shared a cow with friends. We do the best we can, and yes, we are willing to put a little extra toward the healthier things, but we simply cannot afford to spend $8 per pound on chicken! (Which is the price offered at our Farmer's Market.)

Believe me, we want to support the little guy. We prefer to buy local. We want the healthiest produce and meat, so we do the best we can.  Let us be more encouraging of people who are trying to make the healthiest choices they can. Let us be supportive of where they are instead of hyper-critical of how they are "doing it wrong".

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Dish Wonder: Tenderized Steak

One of our favorite dishes involves tenderized steak. Before we took on the Whole30 challenge, we typically cut these tenderized steaks into strips, coated them in flour, and tossed them in the skillet with.... margarine (because butter burns at such a high heat).

Now, our new approach is just as tasty and much healthier.

You can buy thin cut tenderized steak at your local grocery store.  They look like this and are often called "cube steak".

So, here's what you do.

Get enough cubed steak for your family. One steak per person should work, but it never hurts to have some extra.  Put a couple tablespoons of coconut oil into a large skillet and turn heat to just a touch over medium.

Now, lay out the steaks so you can season them.  Salt, pepper, garlic power, onion powder.  Pat it in. Or, if you don't like touching the meat, don't pat it in. Whatever. Just season them well. Be generous with the onion and garlic powder.  The steaks should look off-white because of how much you put on them. Season both sides. Be careful with the salt, and DO NOT use garlic salt because you will surely over-salt the steaks and that would be sad.  In my opinion, you can't over garlic/onion them. Ha!

Now place them in the pan. You probably won't be able to fit them all in the skillet unless you have a really small family (which, we don't), so you might have to do several batches. Let them sizzle for a few minutes until they are crispy brown on that side. You may need to turn the heat down a little bit if the pan starts smoking. Just keep an eye on it.  When the underside is browned and crispy (not just slightly brown, but crispy and delicious looking), flip them over and start cooking the other side.  There's no specific timing on this because some cubed steaks are thicker than others.  It's not terribly difficult to tell when they are done. They will be crispy. They will look delicious. You will just know. (And they actually taste good even when slightly burnt.) When both sides are done, remove and set on a plate. Cover the plate so they stay warm.  Now you're going to toss some veggies in the pan, so do not turn the heat off!

First you need to deglaze the pan because there's all that yumminess stuck to the pan.  So take about a half cup of water and pour it in the pan. Watch it steam and sizzle as you stir it around, picking up all those delicious bits of goodness from the bottom of the skillet.

Now toss in some veggies. Maybe you have a bag of frozen green beans*.  Or maybe you sliced up some mushrooms, bellpeppers, and onions to toss in (do this while the steaks are sizzling away on the stovetop).  Maybe you want to toss in some fresh spinach or cabbage. Whatever. It's your meal. You do what you want to.  Toss in the vegetables you want to use, season them with a little salt and whatever else you want, and stir it around.  Now you can put the steaks back in after the veggies are sufficiently cooked and you don't have a ton of dishes to wash. 

*Note- peas, green beans, and sugar snap peas are allowed on the Whole30 even though they are legumes. Many Paleo folks still consume these things because they are easier to digest than other legumes. It's up to you whether you want to continue eating them or not.

So, for those of you who need an ingredient list, here you go:

- cubed steak (enough for your whole family)
- coconut oil (We have used bacon grease too. Sometimes we will cook a bunch of bacon in the skillet first, and then set aside for another meal, or to toss in with green beans later.)
- salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder (or Tony Chachere's!)
- vegetable of your choice

Becky's Whole30- COMPLETED!

Tuesday was my friend's 30th day on the Whole30.  She came over and our kids played outside in a kiddie pool and on a slip-n-slide while we chatted.  She told me, "I feel free. I'm no longer a slave to food, and I actually know when I'm hungry now!"

I feel these pictures really don't do justice to the progress that Becky has made in the last 30 days.  She looks so much slimmer, and she is positively glowing.  So many of us, after going on the Whole30, have had more than just physical changes but spiritual revelations as well. We've shared much of that here, but it continues to be the main theme of all of our Whole30 experiences.

How many of us have turned to food to comfort us when we're hurting, worried, fearful, sad, frustrated or confused?  How many of us have been stuck in a rut, no matter what diet we attempt or no matter how hard we try to change our habits?

Becky has struggled with her weight since she was very young.  Our government says to exercise and eat healthy whole grains, and yet so many people who are following this advice are severely sick and over weight.

This challenge has also caused Becky to change her children's diet by default (she's the cook, so they eat what she makes), which made her realize her oldest daughter has an issue with wheat.

One of the wonderful things about Whole30 is that when we take on the challenge, our children benefit from it. We begin to see them set free of issues like asthma, eczema, diarrhea, heartburn and acid reflux, and a variety of issues.

Many people are finding their lives changed by cutting out grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and the chemicals and preservatives that are in so much of the food that we are accustomed to consuming.  At first, I was amazed by this list of things people overcame but now, having seen so many victories in our life, it just seems more and more like common sense!  Who knew that these culprits could cause you to be allergic to other foods (like healthy fruits and vegetables?).  Brandon always had an issue with black pepper, but since cutting out these things he has been able to consume black pepper with no problem!  Folks who have had to get through each and every day with heavy pain medications find themselves easily conquering the week with little to no pain medication!   Even people struggling with anxiety, depression, and other similar issues have found they are more clear-headed, less stressed and more at peace.

I'm not saying it's a cure-all, but we have seen so many successes and victories in so many areas, not just in our own lives, but in the lives of our friends.

Becky is a testimony of what can happen when you go for it.  She says that God used the Whole30 as a tool to free her from a bondage she had been in her whole life.

This is not some gimmick.  We don't earn any money from promoting the Whole30 or Paleo diet. We don't benefit in any way from you taking on the challenge.

We just know that many folks of many different shapes and sizes have struggled with food, allergies and asthma, chronic pain, back aches, anxiety, bloating, candida issues, migraines, diabetes, endometriosis, thyroid issues, IBS, infertility, and that pudge that won't budge.  We know what it's like to search for relief and not find it. Now we also know what it's like to feel really good, to be migraine-free, to see chronic pain fade away, to not have your stomach in knots, and to finally see weight melt off.

We know what it's like to struggle to say no to Coca-cola and fresh bread, and we know that it can seem like you just cannot do with out those things, but we are here to say that YOU CAN.  These things are made to be addictive, but you can break that addiction.  Food idols can be smashed to pieces, and you can overcome!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Months In: How are we doing now?

It's been about two months since we started the Whole30 challenge. You may be wondering how things are going now.

First of all, we are so grateful that God has freed us of so many food idols. We were soda guzzling, fast-food burger chowing, sugar inhaling folks and all of that has changed.  We haven't had a single soda in these last two months.  We actually don't mind drinking unsweetened iced tea (which, previously, we felt unsweetened tea tasted like pond water).  And while there was a huge struggle in the first few weeks to do without bread, rice, and queso, it's actually become no big deal.  At some point, the focus shifted off what we couldn't eat because those things no longer held us hostage.

Since completing the Whole30, we have allowed ourselves little treats, but those treats have left their own little treat behind- one that's not very enjoyable.  On a trip back to Brandon's hometown in Louisiana, we had a link of boudin (contains rice) which caused Brandon to gain 15 pounds in one day. (Once it passed through his system, the 15 pounds disappeared.)  No kidding.  And rice is actually the one grain that causes the least issues. Corn causes us all to break out in bumps and hives, some worse than others. (Although, I, Mandy, admit my favorite treat is to have some corn chips with guacamole. I just have to put up with itchy legs for a day or two.)

When you see that these foods really do cause pain, inflammation, bloating, stomach cramps or other less desirable digestive issues, rashes, brain-fog, and a variety of other ickiness, it's really not that difficult to steer clear of them.

Last week, we went to a Mexican restaurant where our youngest (Molly Jo, 14 months) had a few bites of a flour tortilla which caused her to feel very sick and.... puke all over her bed in the middle of the night.  The good news is that she felt much better and slept through the rest of the night!  I had a few bites of the fried flour tortilla bowl my salad came in, and I was nauseated for several hours following. Yuck.

Molly Jo has been far less fussy, probably because she's no longer consuming those organic Wheat-O's that seem like a good baby snack, and likely because my breast milk is no longer tainted with gluten, dairy, and other foods that didn't go over well in her system.

All of our children pretty much follow a Paleo diet. We do allow them little treats, like basic rice crackers with their tuna salad.  At first, we allowed them to have grain and dairy "treats" at our weekly potlucks, but their systems were screwed up the rest of the week, so we have definitely reigned that in.  It is tough for some children to adjust, and, of all our children, Keagan (5) has had the most difficult time adjusting.  It's mainly because he's old enough to pick his own food from the potluck buffet but not old enough to really think things through.  Our older two can process, "Well, this probably will make my stomach ache later, so I think I'll do without."  If they are tempted by it, they will ask us first, and we can help them make that decision.  (Sometimes we all want someone to make that decision for us, right? Sometimes it's nice for someone to say, "No, I think it would be best to choose something else.")  Keagan is doing much better, and no longer asks one-thousand-times for things he cannot have. Now it's more like a dozen times, which is far less grating on the nerves. Ha!

Mother's Day 2013

I confess, I (Mandy) held on to some items when we went on the Whole30 because I figured they would do in a pinch.  I mean, one day when I'm exhausted, those frozen corndogs will come in handy.  Do I really need to throw out this enchilada sauce that has all kinds of weirdness in it? I ended up loading up a good bit of thing, intending to donate them, but... the box of canned good are still sitting in my car because I just can't fathom giving such crap to anyone!  It's not real food!

So, obviously, we are doing quite well and enjoying this lifestyle of eating.  In fact, as we suspected, this diet paved the way for yet another pregnancy (this always seems to happen when I am grain-free, dairy-free, and legume-free)!  We are expecting our 6th child in January 2014!  Eating this way has also caused me to go through pregnancy relatively morning-sickness free (as I believe I wrote about before).  Having gone through three pregnancies with HORRIBLE all-day, keep-nothing-down "morning" sickness, I know what a blessing it is to not be hanging over a toilet throughout the day or always searching for the best place to throw up when we're out running errands.  (And, for the record, Whole30/Paleo has not negatively affected my breast milk supply at all. The key is keeping hydrated, which, yes, I do have a hard time doing now that I am both pregnant and nursing.)

I (Brandon) always feel inspired to keep going when I look in the mirror and see the progress I've made. It's like, "Hey! I'm pretty stinkin' skinny!"   (Mandy here: Seriously, he'll come out of the bathroom and say, "Who is that handsome man?")

Everything actually tastes more flavorful when it's not wrapped in bread. Hamburgers are far more delicious without bread. I don't miss the bun at all. I'm not really missing cokes at all, but sometimes I want a little something sweet to drink so I go for some orange juice.

People offer me stuff and I think, "I don't eat that stuff. It's bad for me," whereas before I would have felt like it would be a sacrifice to turn it down.  For example, turning down a coke and going for water in the beginning was a sacrifice. Now water is my first choice. No big deal. No internal wrestling or feeling deprived.

I like that our kids are learning better habits and making better food choices.  We're no longer telling them about good habits and then having a bunch of cheats which say we don't really mean what we say.

A week ago I went on a 36-hour fast to break my plateau. I have been on fasts before, but usually, within the first five hours I was crumbling. I was hostile, cranky mess... just ask my wife. (True story.)

This time, I was able to go 36 hours without feeling moody, extreme hunger, or obsessive cravings and the mental gymnastics involved with that.  I am no longer completely controlled by food.

Before, I was addicted to breads and such, so these things made my blood sugar rise and fall, rise and fall. Fasting was a horrible experience then because my body was experiencing such lows during that time, just aching for another high, another hit... like a drug!  Now I feel steady and clear-headed when I fast. (Although, in the last hours, I was feeling a little "high" in a totally different way, and I was starting to feel hungry.)

Pretty soon I'm going to have to buy a new belt.  I've had this one since junior high, so it's going to be tough parting with it! It's very well broken in by now!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

8 Whole30 tips for those who hate to cook

So, I know some of you don't like to cook, don't know how to cook, or are in too much of a hurry to cook. A few of you asked for tips catered to your situation (bachelor, working mom, etc), so here's what we've come up with.

1. Put your crock pot to use. One of our kids called it a crack pipe, but I assure you, we don't do that here. If you don't have a slower cooker, its time to get one. In most cases, it's pretty much fool proof (well, unless you forget to plug the crock in or turn it on...) and you can actually throw veggies in with the meat so it's a complete one-pot meal (chunks of zucchini, carrots, and/or sweet potatoes are nice).  You can also do this with boneless chicken breasts or split, bone-in chicken breasts, drumsticks and thighs, a whole chicken, cuts of pork (even pork ribs), or a hefty roast. You can find a zillion crock recipes on the web. Plus, you set it and forget it when you get up in the morning, and it's guaranteed to be cooked all the way through 8 hours later. There's so many different things you make with minimal effort. (Don't forget to season it well! The key to well seasoned food in the crock is generously dump on the seasonings, especially if the crock pot recipe calls to cover the meat with liquid like water or broth.)

2. Burgers and more burgers.  Grill a lot of burger patties and top them with whatever you like. Avocado and tomato slices, lettuce and cilantro (cilantro is a blood cleanser and speeds the healing process along), jalapenos and onions. Instead of cheese we make a creamy avocado sauce (that's pretty thick) to pour over it. We always grill extra burger patties to eat for breakfast (with an egg on top, yum).

3. Rotisserie Chicken.  Now, hardcore Paleo people might shudder, but yep, I'm talking about the kind you buy in the grocery store. Many grocery stores are offering pretty darn good quality rotisserie chickens now. Now that ordering pizza or just running through the McD's drive-through is out, rotisserie chicken may become your new fast food friend. Yes, it's probably healthier if you make it yourself, and yes, it's likely not organic, but I know a lot of Whole30ers who can't afford organic and need quick options some days.  You can buy several of these, eat one for dinner, pull one apart for chicken salad, and cut one into pieces for a quick meal one day (store leftovers in the fridge).  It's better than springing for Taco Bell, and it's fairly inexpensive too.

4. Baaaacon.  If you don't like bacon, then there's something wrong with you. And that goes for you turkey bacon freaks too. (Seriously, turkey bacon? Ew!)  Remember to purchase nitrate-free bacon. It's been impossible for us to find sugar-free bacon here (and we're not about to spend $10 on a small package of sugar-free bacon off some website, thanks) so that is the one thing we have allowed on our Whole30 challenge that contains sugar. It's a small amount, so we just don't worry about it.  You can decide for yourself whether it's a big deal or not.  We bake ours because 1, it's less mess (your kitchen isn't covered in spatter, and there's no heavy, greasy feeling hanging in the air) and 2,  who has time to watch it as carefully or flip it when you have five kids, plus, 3, It always comes out perfectly done.  Heat your oven to 350*F. I line my pan with foil before laying the bacon out in a single layer.  Bake for 15-25 minutes (depends on the thickness of the bacon), and then remove from pan place on a plate topped with paper towels.  If I am using organic bacon, I will drain the grease into a mug that I keep in the fridge (so I can use it for cooking later), but if not, I let it sit out and.. um.. congeal... and then I just roll up the foil and throw it in the trash.  If you've covered the pan properly, you don't even have to wash it. Win.  If you're not into using foil, then have fun washing all that grease off. Whatever floats your boat, man!  But seriously, you can use bacon in many things. You can eat it with a side of green beans. You can top your burger with it. You can have it for breakfast. You can use it as a guacamole scoop. You can freeze it (because, we do this and it's good frozen too). You can put it in the salad wrap. You can stick lick it like a lollipop.  It's your bacon, dude.

5. Eggs. This one seems pretty obvious to me but maybe it's not to you, so I guess I'd better put it on the list. Three to five eggs each morning is a pretty good starter. Cook up a bunch of good quality ground breakfast sausage and store it in the fridge to throw in your eggs each morning. (Remember, check for MSG! Most breakfast sausages contain it.) Boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs. Enjoy them how you like.

6. Hot dogs and chili.  Or just chili. Or just hot dogs. Whatever. Remember, Nitrate-free hotdogs. Make sure they don't have MSG.  Cook up a bunch of (bean-free) chili and freeze some for another day.   I found some little weanies that are MSG-free and Nitrate-free at Trader Joe's, but otherwise, it's really hard to find the tiny weanies. You can cut up hot dogs and throw them in the chili, if you prefer.  Load your chili with plenty of tomatoes!  Maybe even sneak in some finely chopped spinach. You won't even taste it. I keep frozen spinach in my freezer just for the purpose of sneaking extra nutrition into sauces, soups, and chilis.  Chili is really easy to make. Just make sure, if you are using a chili seasoning mix, it doesn't have grains, MSG, soy, etc in it.  I mainly use chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder, so if you have those things, don't worry about buying a chili seasoning mix.  Load on some good quality sauerkraut (check the ingredients before you buy!), and maybe some jalapenos too.

7. Look for Nitrate-free and MSG-free Sausages you can throw in soups or toss on the grill. This is makes for quick lunches and dinners, and doesn't take much skill. You can slice up the sausage and brown it a bit in a pan on the stovetop, then add green beans and allow it to cook a little longer. (Or add chopped cabbage and a little water, season well, and cover... stir every now and then. Whole meal in one pot!)  They are good for any meal- breakfast, lunch, or supper.

8. Maybe you're not big on veggies or fruits, so that's the thing that's worrying you about taking the Whole30 jump.  Search for veggies you like. Remember, corn is not a veggie, it's a grain, and it's off limits.  Broccoli, green beans, asparagus, celery (maybe with some almond butter?), carrots, cauliflower, zucchini/yellow squash, avocados, cucumbers, and tomatoes are a great place to start. Even if I'm pretty sure I don't like something, I will give it a try, and maybe even try preparing it or cooking it a different way. (I used to hate cabbage and I love it now! It's all in the seasoning!)  Get a small amount of a fruit or veggie you've never tried and research the best way to prepare it. That way you can try something new.. and you might find you like it.  Try to buy organic, but if you can't afford it, do not worry yourself over it. Remember, even if you don't like a wide variety of produce,  eating vegetables (even if it's the same three) is better than not eating them at all.  You do not have to eat salads if you don't like them. Okay?

Milk: It does the body... bad?

Brandon and I represent two sides of a coin when it comes to dairy. He was raised consuming a hefty amount of dairy products, and in my household, we hardly had any, save for a couple times a month when dad made biscuits and gravy, or mom sprinkled a little on a casserole.

My family was pretty aware that dairy products didn't really mesh well with our systems, so it wasn't something we guzzled down with breakfast, while it was fairly common for my husband's family to drink a large glass of milk each morning.

I knew dairy made my stomach all sorts of icky unless I kept it to a minimum. So I could have a cheesy enchilada one day, a small ice cream the next, and be okay, and by that I mean I wouldn't be running for the bathroom, stomach bubbling furiously and my gut letting me know it hated me with frantic, stabbing pains.  But, if I had just a little too much, you can bet I would be regretting it.  The richer the dairy product, the worse the effect. So I learned to choose my dairy-treats wisely.  I didn't go for cheese on a burger. I'd rather have chips and queso. I could pass up cheese cake because I'd prefer cream cheese stuffed jalapenos!.  I'd skip milk in my cereal because several spoonfuls of gravy running over fresh southern biscuits sounded much better.

Bacon wrapped cream cheese stuffed jalapenos. I could eat the whole plateful!

One thing about going on the Whole30 is that it separates you from foods you may have known caused issues, but you believed were okay as long as there was balance.  Dairy was one of those for me.  I mean, I like thick, rich creamer in my coffee. Even better, I like sweetened homemade whipped cream in my coffee! A tad here, a bit here, and I should be fine. No big deal.

So I decided to test it out yesterday with a small serving of icecream.  Ah, no tummy aches.  I felt pretty good. No real issues..... and then BAM.

Back pain.

I may have mentioned that, since taking the Whole30 challenge, my back pain has pretty much been nil. This is pretty amazing because I have suffered with back issues ever since I was really young.  My husband logged a lot of time massaging out knots and sore areas in my back.  There is one specific spot that frequently gave me trouble.  This spot in between my shoulder blades often sent stabbing pains through my body.  It would trigger my asthma and often make me feel like I was having a heart attack.  Sometimes the pain would be so bad I would hardly be able to breathe or move.  I also often had pain on the right side of my lower back/waist.  The muscle there was tender, and I also felt like my leg was out.  I had forgotten how bad the pain could be... until last night.  

As I crawled into bed, I could feel the tightening between my shoulder blades, and the pain in my lower back/side.  It was pretty miserable, and I knew it was due to dairy.  I never realized that my back pain was tied so closely to my dairy consumption.  It makes sense because as my diary consumption has increased over the years (being married to a cheese-lover and all), so has my back pain.

Back pain, migraines, rashes, and such are not normal.  These are warning signs.  After dealing with back pain for so long, I had just accepted it as a part of life, something I couldn't change but could only manage with chiropractic care and massages (which are great options, but not cures!).  Sure, changing your diet may not take away your every pain and woe, but your body doesn't hurt and break out in rashes or have a range of mild to severe reactions just because it enjoys playing such terrible games! 

This is your body's way of telling you something is wrong.  It's the alarm that says, "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" or warns you that something needs fixing.  We can throw medicine down the hatch, or we can change what we throw down the hatch.  

I know some of you are thinking, "But I can't do without....."
I know some of you are major cheese addicts, much like my husband.  But, if Brandon can give it up, so can you!  The first few weeks of breaking an addiction are difficult. I'm not going to tell you that it will be easy, because it won't be, but you just might find it's worth it.  

Many foods cause inflammation- even some of the foods allowed on Whole30 may cause inflammation issues for you. But, the great thing about removing dairy, grains, and legumes is that the main inflammation culprits are taken out of the game!  If you are struggling from back pain, arthritis, migraines, or various forms of chronic pain, you may find some relief in removing these foods, just as many others have.

Another reminder- you can't just give it up for a few days or a week to see if "it works".  Your body requires time to cleanse your system and recover.  That is why the Whole30 challenge is so beneficial.  In 30 days, you can see a lot of changes and experience a good bit of healing.  For many, it will take even longer.  In 30 days, you might find a lot of food idols being broken down, and you will see that you can indeed live without the foods you thought you could never go without.

Some find that raw dairy suits them just fine, but, for many of us, the only dairy we can handle is butter.  And I love butter, so that's fine with me.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Paleo Berry Breakfast Cake

Today is our oldest's 10th birthday.  We can't believe the's that old. I mean, who said she could hit double digits? Not us, that's for sure.

Here's Mandy's dad, experiencing grandparenthood for the first time!

Mandy with Merikalyn (M + Erika = Lyn)

To celebrate her birthday, I (Mandy) decided to throw together a quick recipe that could very well be a breakfast treat (treat, not daily thing) or a dessert.  I altered a coffee cake recipe and came up with this.

What you need:
    1/2 cup to 2/3 cup honey (depending on how sweet you want it. I used 1/2 cup.)
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    4 eggs
    1/2 to 3/4 cup coconut cream*  (You want to make sure there is plenty of moisture because coconut flour really soaks it up and it can be too dry if there is not enough liquid. I used 3/4 cup one time because I was a bit too liberal with the coconut flour, and the next time I used 1/2.)1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    3/4 cup arrowroot flour
    3/4 cup coconut flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    5-8 strawberries, sliced  or a cup or two of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
    * You could use almond or coconut milk, and it will be good, but the richness of the cream makes it all the more better. I used almond milk for the strawberry cake and coconut cream for the blueberry, and the blueberry was SO MUCH TASTIER.  If you don't have coconut cream on hand, you could also use So Delicious Coconut Creamer (even the flavored ones), or.. add regular dairy creamer if milk isn't an issue for you).
What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or butter an 8×8 baking pan.
2. Combine honey, butter, eggs and cream/milk in a bowl until well combined. My honey is thick, so I melted the butter just a tad, added the honey to it, and then melted them together a little bit longer.
3. Combine arrowroot flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
4. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir well. (I used my mixer to make sure there were no lumps.
5. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and spread out evenly.  Then place a layer of sliced strawberries down on top of the batter before adding the other half of cake batter.  If you are using blueberries, pour in ALL of the batter and put the blueberries on top (they will likely start sinking to the bottom anyway).
Bake at 350*F for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned and no longer jiggly in the middle.

Happy Birthday Merikalyn!

*Note: This recipe was a HUGE hit at our church potluck brunch this morning.  Even people who are not gluten-free or Paleo asked for the recipe. It really tastes like it's made of wheat flour. It's so delicious! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Becky's W30- Day 10

Several of our friends have decided to try out the Whole30, but today I (Mandy) want to introduce you to my "sister-from-another-mister", Becky.  I love this girl.  She's really beautiful, inside and out, and her smile just lights up a room. She has a bubbly personality, and she's very outgoing.  She knows no stranger. She's always friendly. And, at the risk of sounding like a ten year old, she's my very bestest friend, after my husband, of course.

Becky took on the challenge when she realized she was using food as a crutch.  Just as I did, she suddenly saw that she had been turning to food instead of Jesus Christ. She found comfort in grazing on food throughout the day rather than running to her Savior.

Becky and I have a lot in common. We both have five children (similar age ranges), we both home school, we're both pretty nutty in the noggin, and we both really want to be healthy and provide healthy food for our families.  (See her beautiful family above?)

Becky with Evie (my daughter), Joshua (her baby), Abigail (her toddler),
and Me (Mandy) with Molly Jo
(March 2013)
Abigail (Becky's toddler), and Evie with Becky in the background.

Becky has struggled with food and weight since she was very young. Recently she confessed to the Lord that her willpower and knowledge simply are not enough, and now He's transforming her body in more ways than weight and body shape!

But, right now, in this post, I'm going to post about weight and body shape until I can do a proper interview.
When we first took her measurements, she was four days into the Whole30 (April 25th).  Today she is 10 days in!

April 25th measurements:

185 lbs (weight)
42 inches (breast)
36 inches (below breast)
40 1/2 inches (belly button area)
43 inches (widest part of hips)
27 inches (thigh)

Today, May 1st she's measuring in at:

179 lbs (weight)  
41 inches (breast)
36 inches (below breast)
37 inches(belly button area)
43 inches (widest part of hips)
24 inches (thigh)
and today we also measured the widest part of her bicep, which was 15.25 inches.

TEN DAYS, people. Ten days of eating healthy, satisfying, flavorful food.  Ten days without constant snacking.

While I don't have Day 1 photos of her, I did snap photos today.  I want to thank Becky for letting me share these on my blog, because, yes, I did ask if I could share all of this.

Toddler photo bomb!

I've already noticed major changes in her (I mean she did lose over three inches around her middle! WHAT? In only TEN DAYS?).  And, that smile seems all the more bigger now. I love that smile!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to season meat so it blows your face off with flavor.

If you've been around us for even a small amount of time, you know we like to grill. Brandon is the undefeated grill master, mainly because he grew up in the grilling/smoking business. In case you forgot, Brandon's family owned a barbecue restaurant which we eventually took over before we moved to Houston.

Some men dream of having a man cave. I (Brandon) dream of having a brick lined pit with a real chimney.  My grill would be big enough to fit three or four briskets on it.  It would all be built into a pit house featuring a prep table, sink, and a big stack of woods like oak, mesquite, and pecan ready and waiting for use... plus a smoke room at the end for hanging sausages and meats.

One key to having the tastiest grilled and smoked meats is learning to season your meat well. The average person loves flavorful food but does not know how to properly season.  I get it, you're scared of over-salting, and it probably feels like you're really putting it on thick.

Put it on thicker.

Here's a starter recipe for those of you looking to jazz up your burger recipe. This is just a basic burger recipe. We add various other seasonings, and you can too, but first you need to grow accustomed to pouring on the seasoning.

Mandy doesn't like digging her hands in the meat, so the job of seasoning the ground beef usually falls to me. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, but if the thought of getting them all beefy grosses you out, find a big spoon to mash it around and mix it up with. But really, it's best done by hand.

What you'll need:

  • 1 pounds ground beef
  • 1/8 cup of garlic powder (Really. If you can't stand to put that much in, put half of that. Make sure it is NOT garlic salt or this will be really salty and gross.)
  • 1/8 cup onion powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBSP hot sauce (They won't be too spicy. It's a small amount, relatively speaking.)
  • 1 TBSP mustard
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 teaspoon salt.  You don't want to over salt, so you might want to start with 1/2 teaspoon. Everyone has a different amount of salt they prefer.
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne for a spicy kick, which, obviously is optional.
So, dump it all in a bowl in the order listed, and start mushing it around with your hands.  Once it's all mixed in, form patties, and put them on the grill. Then chase your wife around with your gross meaty hands.

Make extra hamburger patties so you can throw one in your lunch of have one for breakfast with an egg on top.

How to season chicken breast:

I wish I could just give you a simple specific recipe, but that wouldn't work because the size of chicken differs. So, I'm going to tell you how to really season a chicken breast so it's super flavorful.

First of all, we want this chicken breast to really stretch because we're frugal. Take each breast and lay it down.  Starting at the fattest side of the chicken, butterfly the chicken from one end to the other.  You are basically making two really thin chicken breasts out of one piece.  The video below shows you how to butterfly a chicken.  Technically, you don't cut it all the way through, but in our house, we do.  This means each person gets half of the breast, and it usually fills them up, allowing the chicken to go further. (Remember, we have a family of seven, so making food stretch is important.)

Another thing we do, which you could take or leave, is pound each of the butterflied pieces with a meat tenderizing "hammer".  If there are uneven thicknesses, this will even them out.

Now it's time to season.  People typically lightly sprinkle seasoning on, and then they feel like it's just not very flavorful after it's cooked. My technique is pretty much to crust the chicken with seasoning.  We call it "seasoning-crusted chicken". Actually, we just call it chicken.

One of the reasons people over-salt meat is because they have various seasonings that are loaded with salt.  Tony Chachere's and various other seasoning already have a good bit of salt, so you may want to buy salt-free seasonings so you can control the amount of salt.  Liberally sprinkle on garlic and onion powders. Make sure you are not using garlic salt. DO NOT BUY GARLIC SALT. It is the devil. Not really, but, we've ruined some good dishes because someone bought garlic salt without realizing it and... anyway. No blame. I'm not bitter about it. Really. I've moved on.

When I say liberally season, I mean DUMP THAT STUFF ON THERE. Cover every millimeter of that chicken with it, both sides.  Buy a good steak seasoning that doesn't have salt (or only has a small amount of salt) and really go to town with it.  Our favorite steak seasoning is from Saltgrass Steakhouse, but, unless you're from Texas, you may not have heard of this place, even though they do have a few locations in Nevada, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Colorado. But, hey, you're in luck because TexJoy sells it on their website. (Yeeeehaw, y'all!)

Saltgrass' 7 Steak Spice has the perfect amount of salt. You can really season up the food, every millimeter of it, without over salting.  We're working on replicating this spice recipe ourselves, but you can't use cheap seasonings. It's got to be good quality stuff.  The only downside to this seasoning is that it's probably made with table salt, which is why we're working on a mixture that caters to our favorite flavors and is made with sea salt. And, that's yet another reason why it's best to buy salt-free seasonings!

Since you made the chicken thinner, it's going to grill quicker.  So, watch the pit closely.  You won't have to worry about part of it being under cooked since it's all the same thickness.

Grilled meat is a must when you're on the Whole30, and grilling up a bunch of extra food to have later will provide you with "fast food" without running through a drive-through. Today, my wife and I prepared about 20 pounds of meat to eat throughout the week.  Chicken, fresh sausage, hamburger patties, and breakfast sausage.... it's all ready and waiting, which means meals won't be frustrating and time-consuming because the hard work is already done! Plus, tomorrow she'll throw some things in the crockpot so we have shredded chicken or pulled pork on hand.  You could also use this time to make some hard boiled eggs. Always nice to be prepared and having something to grab on your way out the door in the morning.

Links to Check Out: Ancestral Chef

I love checking out Paleo blogs. There's always ideas, articles, and recipes that encourage me, and Louise at Ancestral Chef goes a step beyond.  First, she offers her book, Simple Paleo Recipes, for free on iTunes.  Sweet, right? She also offers a 4-week Paleo meal plan for free. (It's on the column to the right of her blog! Easy to sign up!)  Seriously, how awesome are these freebies?

When I signed up for her meal plan, she emailed me to ask if I was new to the Paleo diet, and then offered to help me if I had any questions or was looking for any specific recipes.  Aw, nice!

Check out her blog, read her Paleo testimony, and try out some of her recipes!  And, if you're on Instagram, follow her @Ancestralchef.  Nothing like some great Paleo foods to get your mouth watering! 
(Photos below property of Ancestral Chef.)

(I'm McMandyMom on IG, btw.)

Paleo Chocolate Cake

Our oldest has a birthday coming up.  Instead of taking a break from Paleo to allow a store-bought, chemical-laden cake, I'm working on several Paleo desserts to make sure her birthday is a happy one for her  whole body, gut included.  I mean, really, no one wants the nasty rash that accompanies her wheat-feasting. That's not the sort of birthday gift she's looking forward to.

I had intended this dish to be brownies, but they really weren't brownie-like in my opinion. Maybe that's because I'm used to the gooey, fudgy kind that come from box mixes (why do those things have to be so good?).

This recipe is pretty simple, and you could call them brownies or call them cake. You could top them with walnuts or a Paleo icing.  And yanno, your kids will still love them either way.

And they will still want to lick the bowl. They'll sneak into it when you're not looking, and instead of scolding them, you will probably grab your camera instead.

Paleo Chocolate Cake

What you'll need:

1/2 cup butter (that's one stick)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or agave (Depends on how sweet you prefer it. I used 1/2 cup. Also, I need to go grocery shopping so I used a combination of all three because I was running out of everything.)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (optional)
Chopped raw walnuts (optional)

What to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2.Melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave. I've been trying to avoid using the microwave, so I did it on the stovetop over low heat.

3. While you're doing that, get out a medium mixing bowl and beat eggs, maple syrup, baking powder, and vanilla together. (Save back the coconut flour. Don't add it yet!)

4.  Is the butter melted yet?  Great. Remove from heat and add cocoa powder to the melted butter, whisking in thoroughly with a fork.

5. Add cocoa and butter mixture into the medium bowl with the egg mixture and mix well.

6. Add coconut flour and mix together (an electric beater works best) until no longer lumpy.  I added in chocolate chips at this point for an extra bite of chocolate-y goodness. You could add walnuts in here, or you could save them and put them on the top for a pretty touch. Let it sit for a couple minutes to the coconut flour can soak up some of the moisture.

7. Grease an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  There are several ways to do this. You can use spray or you could put a dollop of butter or coconut oil in the pan and put it in the oven for a couple minutes.  Once melted, remove the pan (with hot pads!) and tilt/rotate the pan until it's completely greased up. Pour in the batter and top with walnuts (if you want)!

8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  It depends on what pan you are using, so set your timer for 18 minutes and give it a check.  I used an 8x8 pan and it took about 22 minutes. (The middle was still very wet at 18 minutes. I probably could have pulled it out at 20, and let it sit for a bit, and because it retains heat, it would have finished baking and have been a bit more moist.)  Smaller pans will have longer baking time. The bigger the pan the quicker it will bake.  You can test it with a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle. If it's still really gooey and sticks to the knife, then it's not quite finished.

I'm thinking that, next time, I might add in a touch of coconut cream. I'll have to continue working on a brownie recipe I really like.  I'm pretty sure this recipe would make a great cupcake with chocolate avocado pudding for icing.  Also, I don't really MEASURE stuff, I eyeball it, to it's totally possible that I may have put a little too much cocoa, which could have accounted for it not being so fudgy. Either way, it was really tasty, especially since I haven't had a brownie, or chocolate cake, in a long time.

Gluten-free baking used to seem to daunting. I mean, most recipes called for a mixture of flours (rice flour, tapioca flour, sorghum, etc) plus add in other strange stuff I had never heard of.  It seemed like such a huge hassle, and not only that, it required me to have a zillion different kinds of flours on hand (most of which were pretty expensive) or buy that pricey gluten-free flour mixture.

Grain-free baking is such a breeze. Normally, there are not a lot more steps than what I was once accustomed to. And, if it's grain-free, then it's already gluten-free, so my gluten-free friends and family don't have to worry about the dishes we make. They can indulge!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Paleo Granola

So, you're tired of eating eggs for breakfast every morning (not that you have to, but that seems to be the rut you're in, right?) and you wish there was something else you could throw together.  Maybe you're starting to miss cereal, because, boy, is it easy to pour a bowl of cereal.

Ah, well, I've got just the thing for you, my dear.

Paleo Granola

What you'll need
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup raw pecans
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (shell removed)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (or raw honey)
- 1 cup of your favorite dried fruit (raisins?) to add in afterward.

What to do:

1. First, preheat oven to 275F.  Toss the almonds, cashews, and pecans (along with the coconut flakes) in your food processor (if you have one) and give it a couple pulses to break them up into smaller chunks. If you don't have a food processor, place ingredients in a big plastic food bag and pound it a bit with... something. A rolling pin, a meat tenderizing hammer, or even the bottom of a heavy glass will do.  

2. Get out a small pot to heat up the coconut oil and maple syrup (or honey)so that it all melts together. You could do this in the microwave too if you prefer. Throw in seeds, nuts and coconut flakes and stir to coat.  (Remember, don't throw in the dried fruit!)

3. Now you're going to get out one of those handy-dandy silicone spatula thingies (more like a spoonula, as Rachel Ray calls it) and spread the delicious granola mixture onto a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, but even foil will work) in an even layer.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, mixing a couple times if you remember.  I'm sure your mouth will be watering when you smell the delicious scents wafting from your kitchen.  

4. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then add in dried fruit. I'm not that patient, and I really like it hot, so I typically eat half of the pan a little before it cools.

Eat plain, with a bunch of fruit, or in a bowl with some delicious almond or coconut milk. Mmmmmm.  This also makes a great dessert when you have guests over!

Whole30? What is that?

There are many 30 days plans out there.  What is Whole30, and what makes it so different?

Whole30 is a Paleo-based nutritional 30-day challenge focused on real, whole foods.  This challenge helps reset your system in many different ways, but especially through the healing of the digestive system.  While many people can and do lose weight on the Whole30, the ultimate goal of this challenge (and the Paleo diet) is not weight loss but, rather, optimum health.  If you are seeking to lose weight, this is a healthy way to do it.

Usually, when people ask us what our challenge is about, they tend to hear a lot of "can'ts", but the off-limits section is important because it's not just about what we eat, but what we don't eat as well.  The following was taken from (because they say it better than we can)!

Omitting all of these foods and beverages will help you regain your healthy metabolism, reduce systemic inflammation, and help you discover how these foods are truly impacting your health, fitness and quality of life.
  • Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.
  • Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
  • Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. Yes, we said corn… for the purposes of this program, corn is a grain! This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.
  • Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).  (Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are an exception to this rule.)
  • Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. 
  • Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.
  • Do not eat white potatoes. This is somewhat arbitrary, but if we are trying to change your habits and improve the hormonal impact of your food choices, it’s best to leave white, red, purple, Yukon gold and fingerling potatoes off your plate.  (Sweet potatoes are allowed.)
In addition, no Paleo-ifying dessert or junk food choices. Trying to shove your old, unhealthy diet into a shiny new Whole30 mold will ruin your program faster than you can say, “Paleo pizza.”  This means no desserts or junk food made with “approved” ingredients—no coconut-flour pancakes, almond-flour muffins, flourless brownies, or coconut milk ice cream. Don’t try to replicate junk food during your 30 days! That misses the point of the Whole30 entirely.
What else?  Oh yes, the "last and final" rule of the Whole30 is that you are not supposed to weight or measure yourself during the challenge. They do encourage before and after measurements, but recommend that you skip all that during the 30 days. Obviously we didn't listen very well to that.  I rather enjoyed following our process with photos throughout the 30 days (a photo every week, typically).

Remember that Whole30 is a stricter form of Paleo.  The Paleo diet typically allows for stevia, maple syrup, honey and natural sweeteners, but we are trying to break sugar addictions and transform our bodies, so it is necessary to remove it for your diet for these 30 days.

What else do I need to know? These foods are exceptions to the rule, and are allowed during your Whole30. Including these foods as part of your varied healthy eating plan should not negatively impact the results of your Whole30 program.
  • Clarified Butter or Ghee. Clarified butter or ghee is the only source of dairy allowed during your Whole30. Plain old butter is NOT allowed, as the milk proteins found in non-clarified butter could impact the results of your program. Refer to our Butter Manifesto for more details on the milk proteins found in butter, purchasing high quality butter, and how to clarify it yourself.
  • Fruit juice as a sweetener. Some products will use orange or apple juice as a sweetener. We have to draw the line somewhere, so we’re okay with a small amount of fruit juice as an addedingredient during your Whole30… but this doesn’t mean a cup of fruit juice is a healthy choice! Refer to your Shopping Guide for clarification.
  • Certain legumes. We’re fine with green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas. While they’re technically a legume, these are far more “pod” than “bean,” and green plant matter is generally good for you.
  • Vinegar. Most forms of vinegar, including white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine, and rice, are allowed during your Whole30 program. The only exceptions are vinegars with added sugar, or malt vinegar, which generally contains gluten.
  • Processed foods. Minimally processed foods like canned coconut milk, applesauce, tomato sauce, chicken broth or canned olives are all acceptable on the Whole30 – but remember, avoid anything with carageenanMSG or sulfitesWe’ve singled these three additives/preservatives out because they all have potentially nasty side effects – and you can easily find processed foods without them. (Refer to It Starts With Food for details on why we exclude these three in particular.)

So now we've gone through the OFF LIMITS list, and you may be in a little bit of a panic.  Do without grains and legumes?  No rice and beans at your favorite Mexican Restaurants?  No tortilla chips? What???  But really, if we can do it, so you can you because, believe us, we really have a passion for many of the foods that are now off limits.

Fear not, because your meals do not have to be boring.  For thirty days you are going to making good food choices. You are going to be reading labels (and finding that so may foods have some strange, weird ingredients in them).  You don't have to weigh your food or count calories.  And while grass-fed, organic, and free-range meat/eggs are best, you don't have to throw out the Whole30 if you cannot afford those things.

For 30 days you are going to focus on eating healthy, whole foods. No cheating. No slip ups. No off-days. No special occasions. The folks at Whole9Life said it best:

The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days, no cheats, slips or “special occasions.” This isn’t Whole9 playing the tough guy. This is a FACT, born of education and experience. You need such a small amount of any of these inflammatory foods to break the healing cycle – one bite of pizza, one splash of milk in your coffee, one lick of the spoon mixing the batter within the 30 day period and you’ve broken the “reset” button. You must commit to the full program, exactly as written. Anything less and we make no claims as to your results, or the chances of your success. Anything less and you are selling yourself – and your potential results – short.
It’s only 30 days.

Your goal may be to lose weight, but the more important factor here is to give your guts some love. Give them time to heal and stick with it for 30 days.  Healing your gut is key to healing your body.  I guarantee you will find other problems going away. (Freight-train snoring? Itchy rashes? Hot flashes? We saw all of these things disappear!)

There is plenty you can eat, so don't feel deprived.  Learn to season your food properly. It does not have to be bland.  Grill meats and veggies. Marinate steaks. Look up recipes and try new things. You never know, you might fall in love with this way of eating like we have.

There's no shortage of awesome Whole30 friendly recipes. You can make fancy meals or you can go simple.  Sometimes my brain cannot process much so it helps to think, "All I need is meat, and then I fill the plate with vegetables."

Here are some great links for those interested in the Whole30 challenge.

Introduction to Whole30 from

The Whole30 A-Z Testimonial Page-  Real life testimonies from people who have experienced life-changing results from this program.

Paleo Poor: Your Guide to the Grocery Store- Paleo/Whole30 does not have to be expensive. Really. We feed a family of seven (Granted, one of those seven is a baby, but they all eat a good bit of food!), and we are actually spending less money than when we were vegans/vegetarians and are more satisfied!  Whole9Life also offers a printable grocery list to help you out!

Whole30 Facebook Page- Join the community!

And of course, it helps to purchase the book It Starts With Food. This has been a great resource for us! (See top right column for a link!)