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 Whole9Life.com (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?

Whole9Life.com: 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 Whole9Life.com

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!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What's for breakfast?

Sunday mornings are a time of relaxation in our household.  At some point, we eventually get around to a filling breakfast, but no rush, y'all.

Today's breakfast featured a deliciously ripe cantaloupe, strawberries, and... (wait for it).... Paleo Donuts.  I realize there are probably a zillion Paleo Donut recipes out there, but I'm going to throw mine into the mix as well. I'm also including a super-simple "egg muffin" recipe that might become a breakfast staple in your home! It's so simple, and it's a great recipe for your kids to put together themselves.

We also have plans to whip up some Paleo mayo today to go in some dishes for our fellowship potluck this evening.  (Our church gathers in the afternoon, usually followed by a potluck meal.)  Have you checked out the ingredients in the many versions of mayo stacked on grocery store shelves? Yuck!  Since beginning the Whole30, we have tried our best to steer clear of unhealthy oils (canola, soy, vegetable, etc).  Unfortunately, those oils are in so many things, so we've learned to make our own dressings and dips.

We'll include our (read: Brandon's) paleo mayo recipe soon, but first we need to measure ingredients. We typically just throw things together, which has made putting together our (free) cookbook a little difficult!

Anyway, on with it! Paleo donuts coming up!

Once upon a time in Target land, I came across a donut maker on clearance.  So, believing it was meant just for me, I took this beautiful gadget home.  The nifty thing about this nifty thing is that it bakes up donuts in 5-6 minutes. Swift, I tell you.  But, since not everyone has these thing-a-ma-bobs, I'm also including directions on how to bake them in the oven.  Don't have a donut pan? Aw, well, that's alright. You can turn these things into muffins as well!



  • 1/2 cup salted butter (that equals one stick), melted.
  • 1 very ripe banana, smashed
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour 
  • 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda 
  • 1/4th to 1/2 cup maple syrup (depends on how sweet you prefer it)
  • Cinnamon, optional (add as much or little as you like).

Melt banana in a bowl and add smashed banana, apple sauce, and eggs.  Mix well. (I use an electric mixer.) Add in coconut flour and baking soda.  Mix for about a minute. Slowly add in maple syrup. I don't actually measure- I eyeball it. Pour in a little, mix, and taste.  We don't like ours super sweet, plus the banana and applesauce will add a little sweetness to it.  Let sit for several minutes to let the coconut flour soak up some of the moisture. (This is important!)

Spoon mixture into your donut maker (mine makes 5 mini-donuts at a time), close, and let bake for 5-6 minutes. (Or follow the instruction for baking that you normally use.)


If you are on the Whole30 or the 21 Day Sugar Detox, leave off the maple syrup. These donuts are great as a paleo bread with an egg on top!  You can even put some crumbled bacon in the batter!


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Fill donut cake pan rounds 2/3rd of the way full.  If you're using a muffin pan, use muffin liners (or silicone liners), and fill 2/3rd full as well.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes.  Remember, mini muffins will only need about 8-10 minutes baking time.  Insert a toothpick or knife to see if it comes out clean.


I added in some Enjoy Life chocolate chips to the kids' donuts, and even made a batch with chopped up strawberries mixed into the batter.  Try different things- sweet or savory- to change things up!

Note- I can't tell you how many these will make because, well, it depends.  My recipe made about 15 mini-donuts.  This should make a dozen muffins. I make no promises, though!

Now, on to the easy egg muffins. I started making these long before we took on the Whole30 challenge or even considered going Paleo.  Some of my Paleo pals on Instagram posted really yummy photos of their egg muffins which intrigued me and motivated me to give it a go.  Even if you aren't Paleo, you'll enjoy this recipe. You could add in all sorts of things- veggies, meats, cheeses. 

My oldest is a pro in the kitchen, but if you haven't been training your children to cook or bake, this is a great recipe to start with.  It's nearly fool proof.  Nearly.

The rule is simple. One egg makes one egg muffin.  What you choose to do with that egg makes all the difference.  Add in cooked bacon? Yes. Ground sausage? Yum.  Cajun andouilee? Sounds good to me! Season it how you like, add in some salsa, green onions, or even spinach, and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

The possibilities are endless! You can throw a few together and pop them in the oven while you're getting ready for the day, and they'll be ready when you emerge from your bedroom all clean, pretty, and put together.

Each one can be customized to each persons preference.  Does the hubs like jalapenos but the kids prefer a milder flavor?  Would you like an extra spoonful of bacon crumbles? These are like mini-quiches that everyone will love.

Taste The Rainbow: Six foods to rock your meal plans

I say To-may-to, you say To-mah-to. 
It really doesn't matter how you say it, tomatoes are good for you. The lycopene in tomatoes is a mood lifter which reduces inflammation and helps regulate energy levels and reduce stress.  Rich with antioxidants, these pretty fruits (or vegetables, whatever you like to think of them as) not only fight free radicals, but are also packed with awesome nutrients like Vitamin B6, Niacin, and Folate which help with cardiovascular health. Buy organic tomatoes, or, best of all, home-grown organic for the most nutrition and best flavor. 

Sweet on Sweet Potatoes.
More potassium than a banana, rich in Vitamin C.... it's a bird, it's a plane... no, no, it's a sweet potato! If you've scoped out the blogs, you may have noticed Sweet Potatoes are pretty popular among the Paleo community.  That's because these babies aren't just a bunch of starch like their regular white relatives.  No, these things are beautiful.   They are high in B6 which helps prevent degenerative diseases.  (Good for your heart!)  Sweet potatoes also contain iron, so Anemics- eat up!  Stressed?  Eat a sweet potato.  They contain magnesium which promotes relaxation.  Ahhhhh.

Positively Pineapple!
Pineapple aids in food digestion thanks to an enzyme called bromelian which is also known to have anti-cancer, anti-clotting, and anti-inflammatory properties. (Yay!)  Good news for those who have taken on the Whole30 challenge or Paleo diet due to inflammatory issues!  It's rich in vitamins and minerals (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and much more!)

Eat your Brussel Spouts.
Seriously, eat them.  These little cabbage relatives are mean, green, fat-burning machines.  Brussel sprouts stimulate the production of adiponectin, a hormone that sends a message to your body to begin burning stored fat as fuel. They're full of anti-cancer agents, and, like pineapple and sweet potatoes, they offer plenty of fiber to keep your tummy satisfied and your digestive system running smoothly.

I love you Berry much.
Blackberries (and those in the blackberry family, like dewberries) are another inflammation reducer. As you may have heard, the antioxidants in blackberries destroy free radicals (which harm cells and lead to all sorts of health issues, including cancer). In addition, they are a great source of Vitamin K, a hard-working vitamin that aids in the absorption of calcium. Just one cup of blackberries contains 30% of the dietary fiber recommended (who says it's hard to get fiber without grains?). And ladies, it's said to help with PMS as well!

Does it seem like coconut products have become all the rage lately?  There's a reason! (Actually, many of them.)  Forget Sprite, Gatorade, and Pedialyte when your kiddo is sick! The "juice" from the coconut contains all five of the same electrolytes as human blood (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorous).  Electrolytes are necessary for proper muscle function and blood pressure control.  Electrolytes are most commonly depleted through sweating (so, drink up before and after a workout), but also through sickness (diarrhea, vomiting, etc).  You don't need a sugary, chemical-filled drink to replenish them. Coconut water will do much better!  That's not all, though. Coconuts are a healthy fat which contain a fat-fighting fat (True story!).  You see, these healthy fats increase the oxidation of fat which allows your body to burn fat more efficiently.  And, while coconut oil makes a great lotion, it also helps ward of viruses and bacteria (so cook with it!). Coconut oil can improve insulin use within the body, boost thyroid function, and assist with digestion (as well as absorption of fat-soluble vitamins).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Paleo Desserts- take a page from Raw Vegans

Remember how I (Mandy) was once a raw vegan? Well, those old recipes I once loved sure come in handy now.  Here's a couple recipes from my personal blog, MandyMom.com.  First up is a raw cheesecake. It's really yummy and actually reminds me of real cheesecake! A friend of mine made something similar for her daughter's birthday party and brought the leftovers to our weekly fellowship potluck and, yum, it was so good plus it reminded me how this used to be one of my go-to recipes when I wanted to surprise the kids with a yummy but more nutritional dessert that wouldn't leave them with aching tummies!

Raw UnCheese Cake

2 cups raw walnuts (you can use macadamia nuts if you prefer)
1/2 cup dates, pitted
1/2 tsp raw cacao powder (optional)

Process the nuts, dates, & cacao in food processor.  Press into bottom of a 8x8 dish or 8inch pie pan.  (You may want to line it with foil or parchment paper to keep it from sticking.)  Set aside.

3 cups chopped cashews, soaked for an hour or longer
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup honey or agave or maple syrup
3/4 cup coconut oil (slightly warmed to melt it so it's fluid)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water

Blend soaked (and drained) cashews, lemon, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, sea salt and water.  Blend until smooth.  Taste to see if you'd like to add more honey or salt.  Pour into crust and freeze until firm.  Keep frozen until you're ready to serve.

Tip: Try adding blended strawberries to the mix before freezing. Super tasty! Reserve half of the filling, blend in some sort of berry (blueberries? yum!).  Pour in the plain filling, freeze for 30 minutes, then smooth on the strawberry layer and freeze for an hour.  Viola! I delicious and fancy dessert that didn't take much work.  I've also made this without the crust and it turned out great!

Raw Brownies  (otherwise known as "Brawnies")

So, mine look a little crumbly, but I tell you, these were really good and very simple.

What you'll need:

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup cacao powder

There are various ways to do this, but they all begin with a food processor.  You can process the walnuts until they are like crumbs and then add in the rest of the ingredients, or you can throw it all together at the same time.   I liked the crunch of bigger chunks of walnuts, so I processed half of the walnuts to a powder and then added in the remaining ingredients and processed again.  It's been a while since I made this, so I definitely want to try it again and mix it up a bit.  These remind me a lot of Lara bars, except much cheaper.

You can make them as thick as you'd like.  Press them firmly into a small pan, then freeze for an hour so they get a bit firmer.  Remove and cut into bars.

Dairy-free Creamy Avocado Dressing and Dip

There's this little restaurant in Pearland, Texas called Gringo's TexMex that I have been totally addicted to since they opened in 1993.  This little restaurant grew into a bigger restaurant. They were constantly expanding their original building, even knocked it down and rebuilt a massive one, and eventually added eight more locations.  I believe their popularity comes from their delicious green sauce.  It's, well, it's really good. Words cannot explain the yumminess.  It's why one consumes four baskets of hot, crispy chips and goes through six or seven refills of the sauce bowl, and it's why I usually ask that they bring it in a cup with a straw.  It's my favorite, y'all.

Unfortunately, it contains dairy.  That's what makes it so creamy.  But, hey, no biggie, I can whip up my own Paleo friendly green sauce.  (But, really, if I'm at their restaurant, I'm totally treating myself to their sauce and the stomach ache that may follow. It's worth it.)

This recipe is just a base. You could add more or less of something, toss in jalapenos or add salsa. Make it your own!

Creamy Avocado Dressing and Dip

  • 2 small avocados, peeled and core removed. 
  • 1 & 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk* (the creamier kind in the can is best) 
  • a handful of cilantro (I love cilantro, so I throw in two handfuls, stems too)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depends on how much salt you like).
  • 1/4 cup chopped green chilis or chopped tomatillos
  • 1 heaping teaspoon or two minced garlic (You could sprinkle in garlic powder instead. I buy minced garlic in a jar) 
  • Cayenne pepper, optional, however much you like.

Throw in the blender. Blend. Enjoy! 

*Note- to make it more fluid, add in more coconut milk or even chicken broth.  

(Don't you love how the sign above says self-control?  There's no self-control happening when this stuff is on the table.)

I actually like mine a bit spicy, so I add in all sorts of other seasonings, depending on what I'm making.  You may also want to add in a few squeezes of lemon so the color stays vibrant.  We use this drizzled over fajita salads, heaped into tacos, as vegetable dip, on sandwiches, and you could even serve it as a soup (mm, with crumbled bacon on top???) or freeze it into popsicles. Because, you know, I like strange stuff like that.  Bacon avocado popsicle probably only sounds appealing to me. (See what I did there? Added bacon to a popsicle? Yes. Yes.)

Sleepiness, Rashes, and Weight loss (oh my!)

So, yesterday I decided to allow myself a little cheat. I had some tortilla chips. I really love tortilla chips, especially whenever there is guacamole around (and there was guacamole around!).  Just a few couldn't hurt, right?


Within a couple hours, I was itching. My shins itched. Tiny bumps popped up on my shoulders and on my stomach.  And Nolyn? The same appeared on his arms.

And, soon after consuming said yummy guacamole shovelers, I felt so tired.  Then my husband called just as I was crawling into bed for a little shut-eye (at about 3pm) and said his brakes had gone out on his truck so he needed me to drive across town to pick him up from the job site.

Oh crud.

I realize now that I've had this itching problem for some time, but I actually never noticed that it had disappeared during the Whole30 challenge.

See, I never thought I really had a problem with corn.  And you may not think you have an issue with wheat or vegetable oil or dairy.  But maybe you do, and have never noticed because you've been consuming it for so long.  That's what so amazing about the Whole30/Paleo way.  Maybe you'll add back dairy and be just fine, but maybe, after 30 days of clean eating, you'll add back a food that causes your stomach to grumble and twist or a migraine to invade your head.  Whether you choose to continue on with a Paleo diet after a Whole30 challenge is up to you, but you just might find that it works best for your body.  One thing is for sure, you will learn a lot about what your body loves and dislikes!

Another fascinating aspect of Whole30/Paleo is that once you get rolling, the weight often melts off. Maybe you feel discouraged because, after 25 days of eating healthy food and avoiding the fresh bread counter at the supermarket (which was tough, because the scent was intoxicating), you haven't lost a pound.  Maybe, like Brandon, you realize you are looking slimmer, maybe even gone in a few notches on your belt or are having to tug up your pants more often, but the scale hasn't budged.  This is one reason why we encourage you to take measurements and photos of your body, because the scale is not reliable.

But, eventually, the scale will begin to show your progress.  Maybe, at the end of your Whole30 challenge, you step on the scale and realize 10 pounds have disappeared.  Then, a couple days later, you step on it again and 10 more pounds are missing.  It's crazy how it works.  The weight loss seems to happen suddenly for some people.  The scale hardly moves at all, and then BAM, 20 pounds seem to melt away in a week.  Where did it go? Tap, tap. Is this scale broken?

I can't explain it. I'm no scientist. I just know it happens like that for many, many people.  Brandon started out at 285 pounds (appx 130 kilograms).  He was at 265 (120 kg) when we completed our Whole30 earlier this week, but in a matter of days, he's lost 5 more pounds.  The same has happened for me.  Five more pounds have disappeared over the last couple days. (Not that I needed to lose anymore weight. I do plan on putting it back on in the form of muscle. I haven't weighed this month since I was a teen!)  So, Brandon has lost 25 pounds in about 35 days (the weight loss only showed up in the last two weeks though), and I have lost around 15 pounds.

We weigh at the same time every day (the morning, typically before we step in the shower).  If you weigh yourself throughout the day you will notice your weight fluctuates 2-5 pounds.  Weighing yourself when you wake up is great because your body is not loaded with food or bloated.  Before I started the Whole30, my weight fluctuated between 125 and 135..... ten whole pounds of difference throughout the day.

Since being on the Whole30 and continuing to follow the guidelines (most of the time), I have found my weight stays a bit more steady throughout the day, only fluctuating a couple pounds.  I am a very petite person (I'm a little under 5'4, have a tiny frame, and big ears... which, btw, are looking all the more bigger as my face gets slimmer.)  When my husband and I married (I was 18, he was 21), I was a whopping 95 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet (and I was actually three months pregnant then).  I was able to pack away a lot of food (everyone always asked if I had a hollow leg), but my diet was very poor. Lots of unhealthy fat. Lots of fried food. And lots and lots of grains, specifically bread (Donuts? King cake? Chips? Texas Roadhouse rolls? Hushpuppies? Yes please!)

Brandon, Mandy, and Merikalyn (4 months old)

Weight loss is going to be different for everyone, and while dropping pounds will definitely make you feel like an excited mad scientist ("It's working! Muhahaha! It's working!") you absolutely cannot judge your overall progress on how much the scale moves.

I have friends who are the same height as me, have a similar body type, and eat very healthy but are twenty or so more pounds than I am. Right now, fat is falling off my body, but I'm working at putting muscle on which means I will eventually gain weight (hopefully).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Paleo Babies, Toddlers, & Big Kids

 I thought I'd share the journey our children have been on since we started the Whole30, since we often ask if our children are doing the same thing.  In case you didn't know, we have five children, current ages almost-10 (only a little over a week until her birthday!), 8, 5, 2, and 1.

Truth is, when we first started out, we didn't want to restrict our children to the same diet, but we felt it would be beneficial for them to cut out wheat and dairy, especially since four out of five of our children have obvious reactions to dairy (typically in the form of diarrhea).

Most notable is the rash on my oldest daughter's hands.  The tops of her hands have been scaly, rough, and red for months now.  At first we thought it might be the soap we use to wash dishes, so I changed the soap. Maybe the hot water was drying her hands out? We bought gloves. Since removing dairy and wheat from her diet, her rashes have almost disappeared. When we did allow the children to have a little cheat when at a birthday party (white flour buns for their hotdogs), the next day, they all had complaints of tummy aches and feeling generally icky.  Plus, Merikalyn's rash seemed to be just a little bit worse.

As time has gone on, we have come to see that having our children on the Paleo diet isn't really restrictive.  They are really enjoying the food they eat, and our older two have been very interested in why we eat the way we do.  In fact, they love informing random people about the Whole30 challenge and the Paleo diet.

On the other hand, there is our five year old, Keagan, who often asks, "Is the diet over yet?" to which his older brother replies, "It's never going to be over, dude!"

What has been the biggest challenge for the kids?  Well, our family had gotten into the habit of grazing.  It's not an exaggeration when I say we were having snacks at least five times a day.  Our mostly-plant-based diet was not filling them up, and they always seemed to be hungry.  If the younger ones (Keagan, 5, and Evangeline, 2) did not like what was for lunch or supper, they would wait fifteen or twenty minutes and ask for a snack, which they would receive.

We had also formed this lovely response every time we left the house, "I'm hungry!" because I had gotten into the habit of stopping for some sort of treat every time we ran errands.  Sometimes it would be a Happy Hour half-priced drink at Sonic, other times it would be lunch at Chick-fil-a.  So it became the expected thing- we would stop by some restaurant every time we went out, which, of course, was not good on the budget.

Snacking caused our grocery budget to be ridiculously high.  We wanted to give our children healthy snacks when we were at home, so most snacks consisted of mandarin/cutie oranges, apples, bananas, or other fruits. Every now and then they would have fresh bread, pretzels, crackers, granola or other grain-based snacks.  When I started breaking it down, I realized I was spending about $100 a week just the snacks we had at home.  That's an unbelievable amount.

Most people think Paleo is so expensive because of the meat, but we were eating mostly whole foods before we took the challenge plus a minimal amount of meat and spending what felt like a fortune.  I rarely escaped the grocery store without spending about $275 per week.  (And, we ate out several times a week as well!)

I felt like we were spending a lot, but, I know, I have five growing children, so I figured I'd better just get used to a higher grocery bill.  

The writers of the Whole30 book, It Starts With Food, recommend cutting out the snacking, so I went for it. And I cut out my children's snacking as well.  Eventually, we found that we definitely needed a small snack between lunch and supper, but one snack a day was a far cry from the five or more we were accustomed too.

At first, I felt like I was starving the children, and I probably was. The younger ones had learned they didn't have to eat a meal if they didn't really want to, and could enjoy whatever snacks (fruit) they wanted to later, so it took a bit for them to learn that they had better eat the meal set before them because there wouldn't be a snack for them later.  The older ones struggled with the snacking habit, just as I did.  We all wrestled with stomach pains, but the older ones were able to understand that we were in the process of retraining our bodies.  We would all go drink a glass of water and move on.

We usually include the kids in the meal-prep process, and some times they make the entire meal themselves. I have found it really helps to have children assist in the meals, especially if it's something they aren't particularly fond of.  Just the pride and excitement in having made it might be enough to have them actually eat it without force feeding.

We almost always sit at the table together as a family, which I believe is very important. Do not make a habit of sitting in front of the television or eating while working.  Sure, maybe on a special or rare occasion, but, again, not regularly. 
Sometimes we change it up and eat outside. We may eat on the picnic table or set up folding tables and chairs outside, especially when we grill.  The kids love it and it's less kitchen clean-up.  Little things like eating outside are very exciting for the kids and create wonderful memories.

Dinner time is a great time to talk about what kids have done that day and what they have learned, as well as to teach them about the food we are eating- where it comes from, how it's prepared, what it has in it and what it doesn't have in it (hopefully it doesn't have chemicals and sugar!).

We do allow our children a little grain treat now and then.  Sometimes its in the form of a WASA Rye cracker, or maybe it's a small slice of cake.  (Usually I make healthier versions of cake or donuts using Spelt flour and natural sweeteners if there is a birthday party planned, or I'll bring Lara bars for them to have instead.)

I always keep snacks in my purse in case we get caught up in running errands and are not home in time for lunch or dinner, or maybe we go to a potluck and there isn't much for us to eat there.  These snacks usually include Lara bars, Applesauce pouches, nuts, and little packages of almond butter. 

Overall, our children are adjusting well.  The key has been to explain why we are eating the way we do.  They have become a bunch of label readers. They are often checking out what is in products, which I love.  And, when Keagan wants something that is not on the approved list, his brother and sister will often coach him through it, explaining why it's not good for him.

Banana and Egg "muffins, a boiled egg, and grapes for breakfast

All of the kids are feeling so much better, and when we do allow treats, we always remind them that they will probably feel icky afterwards. Often they will pass on the "treat" (at least the older two will).  Our baby, Molly Jo, loves meat, fruits, and vegetables, so she's done really well.  She's no longer having those screaming fits because her tummy hurts, which is a major plus!

* Remember, if you live in another country, you will not be able to compare the grocery prices because they are often drastically different.
*We typically shop at H-E-B (a popular grocery store in Texas), Kroger, and Sprouts with the occasional trip to Whole Foods in Houston. We do not shop at Walmart because their foods are highly processed and their meat is over-priced, and, most of all, we loathe their business practices.

Conception, Pregnancy, and Nursing

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and thought, "Wait... that's me?  When did I get that big?"

This was one of those pictures for us:

This photo was taken at a family reunion in the Spring of 2009. At the time, we had three children and had experienced at least one miscarriage. (Maybe two by this point.  We had four miscarriages that year.)

A miscarriage does crazy things to the body.  First of all, the whole body doesn't always recognize that you are no longer carrying a wee little child.  Hormones are going crazy, and the whole system seems off.  Even if you hadn't gained much pregnancy weight yet, the hormonal issues can cause a gal to gain something similar to the Freshman 15. And, on top of that, there's the emotional eating.  Before I knew it, I had packed on 25 extra pounds.

This picture caused me to analyze my diet. Several months later, I decided to take the leap and go Raw Vegan, a diet I was fairly familiar with and had "tried" before. I stuck to it for several months, following our third miscarriage, because I knew I needed to reset my body. I was pretty sure my diet was the cause of our infertility problems.  I did go on to have another miscarriage while I was a raw vegan, but that was not due to my diet, but rather due to a drug I was given in the hospital for some kidney problems I was having.

By December, we were pregnant with our fourth child, Evangeline.  I've mentioned before how vegan and vegetarian diets didn't work for us because we were never full and still had some issues, but the wonderful thing about being a raw vegan was that, similar to the Paleo diet, grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed, chemical junk was totally absent from my diet.  For the first time in my child-bearing life, I had a very smooth pregnancy.  With the first three, especially the third, I had been so terribly sick the first 20 weeks I could hardly function or keep any food down.  It wasn't just "morning sickness", it was "life sickness".  It was enough to make me wonder if I could even handle another pregnancy (but, you know, those little boogers are just so stinkin' cute that I felt it was worth it).

My last two pregnancies (Evangeline and Molly Jo) have been so wonderfully smooth.  When I found out I was pregnant with Molly Jo, I was actually doing a juice fast and was about to transition into a raw food diet again. I had issues with anemia (as I have had with all my pregnancies), but I realize now something about the raw food diet was allowing me to skip over the miserableness of nausea and the worst bits of pregnancy (sickness).  I have found that other women are experiencing the same thing, not because they are raw vegans, but because they have at least removed grains, dairy, and sugar from their diet (many of them have removed legumes too).

This tells me that the Paleo diet, and even the Whole30 challenge, are safe for most pregnant women.  I am currently breastfeeding and have not experienced any negatives. My baby is actually healthier and feeling much better now, which is a huge blessing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

1 Month Transformation Photos

I have so many things I want to blog about, but I think I'll start here, with photos.

First, I (Mandy) want to show you the fantastic transformation has gone through in such a short period of time.  I know how hard he has struggled to change his health. We have tried so many things, so I don't think I have to explain how awesome it is to have found something that has worked!

These photos span from the start of our Whole30 challenge to the end of our Whole30 challenge (March 26th to about April 23rd or so).  As the woman who sleeps beside him every night, I am excited to tell you that his freight-train like snoring has disappeared. Most nights he doesn't snore at all, although last night there was a little light, soft snoring, but nothing to be concerned about.  Brandon would often stop breathing and then snort really loud as he gasped for air, snore for a few (loud) minutes, and then stop breathing again.  This made it very difficult for me to sleep, not only because it was really loud but because I was worried he was dying!  We were told by many people that he had sleep apnea, and we were repeatedly encouraged to get a formal sleep test and buy breathing machine.  I can assure you it isn't just the weight, although that has certainly helped... it's his overall health.  I have stayed awake some nights checking to see if he's even breathing (since, previously, no snoring meant no breathing!) and was so relieved to find he was breathing like a normal human being!  Tests, medications, and machines cannot do what good health can! They only treat the symptoms.

Another great benefit of being grain, legume, dairy, and junk free is that Brandon's energy is soaring.  Yesterday he had to go to work extremely early (he had to wake up at around 3:30am!).  I (Mandy) had a women's meeting to go to, so he was left in charge of all the children.  He did some cleaning around the house, took them outside and actively played with them for a long time (running, exercising, swinging), then returned to the house to clean some more. (What a great hubby and father, right?)  He told me he was really surprised that he had the energy to do that.  Typically he'd be completely worn out after supper, especially since he woke up so early.  It has been a long, long time since he's had energy like that. In fact, I've never witness him have that sort of energy in the entire time we've been married (over 10 years).

Top left, March 22.  Bottom right, April 25th!

I'm a petite person to begin with, so I always feel like people are rolling their eyes when I post of the body transformation I've undergone so far.  My progress definitely isn't as impressive or noticeable as my husband's, but I know that there are other women out there with bodies similar to mine.  

I was often told that this was just my "new body", and I should get used to it. After all, I have birthed five babies so it's "normal" that my belly would begin to grow that mommy flap.  Over and over I heard that neither diet nor exercise would help. I actually began to believe it.  I mean, come on y'all, I do have FIVE kids.  Many people told me I should be happy with how my body is- I have a minimal amount of stretch marks on my stomach, and I didn't gain a terrible amount of weight.  As one woman told me, "Well, you didn't blow up like a blimp. You should be thankful that you're still thin."

It's not that I wasn't thankful for my body, or how amazing it is to carry five children.  I just felt so uncomfortable in my own skin and had resorted to wearing extremely baggy shirts to hide the "Are You Pregnant?" gut.

It's true- exercise will not transform that mommy pudge.  You may have heard the saying, "Abs are made in the kitchen."  It's true.  You may work out your abs, but if you still have a layer of fat over the top, you will never see those beautifully sculpted muscles.  One thing I have seen in both me and my husband is that as the weight falls off, the muscles that were there all along begin to show. It's really amazing. (And that means I get a gun show every day from the hubby- hey hey!)

It's not all about weight and slimming down.  It's so exciting to have energy to keep up with the kids- to run with the dog, to jump and skip and wrestle.  I was beginning to believe that "low energy" was just who I was, but week after week I find myself gaining more and more strength and energy.

Our whole family is involved now.  We're seeing benefits and our kids are too. The main rule in the household is no dairy and no wheat. Sometimes the kids do have some grains, but mostly, they eat what we eat.  Our older two have noticed such a difference in how they feel (and, for Merika, the rashes on her skin had greatly improved), that they have become pretty committed to Paleo eating.

Merikalyn loves to help in the kitchen. She's quite the chef, and made some really delicious meatballs the other night.  (She's also a guacamole pro!)

Eating Paleo/Whole30 isn't as difficult as you may think. Sure, it's hard to cut out the things you have been addicted to for so long... things that really take a toll on your body and mind, but Paleo meals are so filling, rich, and sustaining that we really don't miss the rice, beans, and bread we used to consume in massive amounts. 

There are such a variety of foods we can enjoy, like leftover crock pot rose with Hatch chilis, salsa, avocados, cilantro, and a salad.  It was so filling, I couldn't eat it all!

Sure, sometimes we find ourselves in a breakfast rut. (Eggs, eggs, more eggs) But really, I have come to enjoy eggs and have found that changing up the sides makes a world of difference.

Today's breakfast featured bacon and eggs with banana boats. (Take slightly green bananas, slice them length-wise, keeping the peel on.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes.  I put pecans on top when they were finished.  SO yummy.

We hope our progress encourages you in your health journey.  We're thankful for those who have been open about their diets, struggles, and hard work! You have inspired us!