Paleo and Primal: Searching for the “Sweet Spot”

When you’re trying to eat as naturally as possible, having a sweet tooth can be a dilemma.

I decided to bite the bullet and try Nikki’s Coconut Butter (amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/node/index.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&me=A1FIUJ0SCBZA3U&merchant=A1FIUJ0SCBZA3U&redirect=true) and was, again, sadly disappointed.
I tried 2 very different flavors to get a feel for the product.
Vanilla Cake Batter: What vanilla? I LOVE vanilla! This tasted, to me, like lightly sweetened coconut butter and nothing more. DOn’t get me wrong, I do like coconut butter. But there’s not discernible “vanilla” or “cake batter” flavor.
Honey Pecan Pie: Slightly better flavor, a deeper flavor but, being a Southern gal, this does not taste, in any way, like pecan pie. Mild honey undertone. Not really any pecan flavor, but there’s something nutty (above the coconutty lol) taste so it’s passable.

Neither of these would sate a sweet tooth, and at 100 calories + per tablespoon, and $15 per jar, it’s not really a great snacking item either.
Because of the cost, I wouldn’t be tempted to use it in a “fat bomb” or other recipe either.
I am going to try to mix the cake batter with a little vanilla stevia or vanilla essence and sweetener and see if I can get a flavor profile that’s actually cake-battery.

My score: a C+ , and that’s just because the ingredients are fairly straight forward, and the flavor – not as described – is tolerably coconutty.

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Are You Cheesy?

Are you too cheesy?

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All 3 of these piles of sharp cheddar are 1oz by weight.
When you use cheese, use it sparingly. It’s calorie dense and can tank your diet quickly at approximately 100 calories per ounce.
But, other than part-skim mozzarella, use full fat cheeses to get their health benefits.

Use finely shredded for topping vegetables and where you want smooth melting and lots of coverage.
I prefer the larger shred for burgers and meats to give it a thicker coating.
Cubes are great for snacking, though I usually cut each ounce into 8 pieces, not 4 (I was lazy this morning).

Small town, not a lot of variety, so I do order cheeses online when I really want something different.
I’ve had some bad shippers: package send UPS slow boat with 1 ice pack that probably melted before it left the shipper.

However, I’ve successfully ordered from Amazon using Parthenon Foods(cheeeses and sausages) : http://www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main?ie=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=&isCBA=&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&orderID=&seller=A11UN9M6O9YNVF
and Igourmet:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main?ie=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=&isCBA=&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&orderID=&seller=A3NV2OI88UT1KZ

Both of these sellers had exceptionally packaging, loads of ice packs and fast shipping (also reusable ice packs and ice coolers!). Yes, the shipping is high, so it does pay to order a few things rather than one.

For a cheesy and crunchy snack, I like these 2 from Netrition.com:
Just the Cheese Popped Cheese
http://www6.netrition.com/specialty_cheese_popped_cheese.html
and
Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese
(I get the White Cheddar because some of the other flavors have MSG)
http://www6.netrition.com/just_the_cheese_page.html

A note about packaged shredded cheeses: read the ingredients lists. Most add some sort of anti-clumping agent, which may not be what you want to consume.
Instead, shred your own and add 1/2tsp arrowroot (or whatever starch is acceptable to you) per 2 cups shredded cheese, put in a gallon size zipper baggie and toss around to coat.

Is Dieting an Eating Disorder?

eat·ing dis·or·der
noun
noun: eating disorder; plural noun: eating disorders
any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).

If you ask a life-time dieter that question, they’ll probably laugh and say “no, that’s silly”.
But, is it?

If you’re like me, your diet becomes almost an obsession.
Planning meals, tracking your food, getting angry and abusive towards yourself if you slip up, treating your diet like a 12-step program.
Sound familiar?

Let’s be honest: our weight and our diets are a love-hate relationship.
We get excited when we start a new plan and especially when we feel great and the pounds fly off!
Then the honeymoon phase is over.
We stall, or “hit the wall”, and our mood turns to depression, self questioning, even anger at ourselves for failing.

So how do we break the cycle?
It’s different for everyone, but these may help:
1. If you go off plan, don’t hate yourself. Stress/cortisol = bad mojo for your metabolism. Own it and move on.
2. Don’t believe every miracle weight loss story you hear!
How many weight loss forums have the “miracle” people who lost 100 pounds in 6 months? No, really?
While it can happen, and probably does, a lot of times it’s attention seekers using that line to get attention. It’s the internet, anonymity reigns supreme. Scams happen even on the best of forums because WE WANT TO BELIEVE!
Maybe “kim” lost 200 pounds in 10 months. She sells her plan on the forum, gets a fan base, starts her own site, then you find out “kim” is just another fraud. It happens. It HAS happened ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimkins ).
While not everyone who makes these false claims may be in it to rip you off, some are. And some just crave the positive attention and don’t know how to legitimately get it.
3. Believe in yourself. I know, that sounds like some pseudo-cliche, but it’s true. Talk positively to yourself, stop being a Negative Nelly when it comes to you.
4. While success is a fantastic motivator, failure builds character and learning to soldier on in the face of adversity.
So maybe I wasn’t meant to be a size 2 (I’ve NEVER been a size 2 lol), setting an impossible goal then failing to attain it takes a toll on the psychie.
Set realistic mini goals, and not scale based ones. Decide to stick to your plan for 24 hours. Success makes the next 24 goal easier.

I know this is a lot of rambling and really just based on my own self experiences, but I hope it may help someone to see themselves in a different, and more positive light 🙂

50 Shades of Green

I couldn’t wait any longer.
I had to have it.
Underneath that rough, abrasive exterior I knew lay my prize: the soft, creamy flesh inside beckoned to me….
Or: the ever so seductive avocado! 😉

If you’re never had an avocado, naked (lol), you’re missing out on one of natures truly tantalizing taste bud delights.
Not to mention a nutritional powerhouse.

There are many varieties of avocado. I prefer the dark, pebbly skinned Haas.
Depending on the time of year, and where you are, these can run from as cheap as 3 for $1 to as much as $4 each.
For my purposes, the smaller Haas avocados work well. These generally yield from 1.5oz to 2oz of flesh. The larger, and more expensive varieties, yield about 4oz-5oz and cost approximately $2 each in my area when they’re in season.

On their own, the avocado has a lovely, mild flavor that is hard to describe.
If you’ve never had one, simply cutting it in half through the skin, remove the pit, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and enjoy with a spoon is an easy way to enjoy them.

Basic Guacamole
4oz haas avocado flesh (about 2 medium or 1 large avocado)
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Cut the avocado lengthwise all around, twist and remove the pit. Score carefully though the flesh and use a spoon to scoop it into a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over it, sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently toss OR smash with a fork to make a smoother guacamole.

Of course, the basic is delightful on its own, but you can guild the lily by adding your favorites:
diced jalapeno
diced onion
diced tomato
cilantro
even shredded pepper jack cheese

My aunt used to make one that was weird but good.
To the basic recipe above, she would add 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of Worstershire sauce.
Weird. But it worked and was an interesting twist.

Primal Vinegar Mustard BBQ Sauce or “sop”

Mustard BBQ sauce is pretty indigenous to the South, especially South Carolina and that region.
We make some pretty wicked variations here in Texas though 🙂
Here’s my take on it, partially borrowed from the most wonderful step-dad ever(mine!) and partially from the classic SC sauces.

Primal Vinegar Mustard BBQ Sauce or “sop”
1 large onion diced small or sliced paper thin, your choice
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced paper thin
1/2tsp or more crushed pepper flakes(optional but adds nice heat)
4T good salted butter (I use kerrygold or anchor usually, but Challenge isn’t bad either)
1-2 cups plain white apple cider vinegar***
3/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
3T molasses, maple syrup or honey, your choice
3T gluten free Worstershire sauce (I know I spelled that wrong)
2T coconut aminos or gluten free Tamari soy sauce
copious amounts of fresh cracked black pepper (ok to taste lol)
1/2tsp sea salt

Melt the butter in a deep pan and saute the onion. garlic, and pepper flakes(if using) until the onion is soft and it smells great – you can go so far as to caramelize the onion if you like.
Once that’s done, add everything else and simmer over very low heat for 15-20 minutes.
That’s it!
Cool and refrigerate until you need it. Stores well refrigerated fpr up to 3 weeks (mine’s never lasted longer than that without running out, so that’s all I’ll vouch for lol.
Note: It’s important to use the Wostershire and Tamari/coconut aminos to help soften the vinegary taste of the mustard and vinegar combo and give it a more complex flavor. Don’t skip the stuff 🙂

*** I show 1-2 cups vinegar. If you’re using it as a BBQ sauce, 1 cup. If you’re using it to sop your bbq as it cooks, use 2 cups to increase the volume for sopping.

BTW yes, Hubbs totally screwed up my birthday. No shocker there.

Buzzword Dieting

Paleo, Primal, Atkins, NK, Weight Watchers, Southbeach, Stillmans, Protein Powder, Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, Metabolism Miracle, 5 Hour Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Johnson Up Day Down Day Diet, or Eat Fat Get Thin.
Chances are you’ve heard of at least one of these diet plans.
At one time or another, they were the Buzz Word Diet of the Day, or decade, or “diet to end all diets”, or “you’ll never have to diet again” diets.
They get a lot of hoopla and media attention – good and bad.
A lot of people try them. And a LOT of those people jump in with no idea what the actual plan is, just the synopsis offered on the cover of a magazine you pick up and page through at the checkout line, or a short news video, or “hey that looks interesting, I’ll google a few blogs”.
Ok, that last one usually will get you a lot of detailed info BUT nothing is better than the horses mouth: the actual book (or ebook) that the diet plan is laid out in.

With the invent of the ereader, you can have the actual reading materials in your hot little hands in a matter of moments.
Many are free, some (shockingly) cost more than the printed versions. Many are available for free from your local libraries (remember those?) in ereader and printed formats.

This entry is about a simple truth: Don’t depend on others to do your homework!
A “new and popular” diet may sound great, but it may not be for you. Too restrictive; not restrictive enough; foods are expensive and hard to find; foods are ones you simply don’t like; the plan for some reason just isn’t a good fit for you.
Do your homework and start off on the right foot 🙂

A little note: If you are an amazon prime member, make sure you check out their kindle freebies daily. Many diet and recipe books are free for a day or two to download to your kindle.
No kindle? Free app for your phone or tablet, or free program for your computer right on the amazon site, as well as the google play store, among other app sites.

Dressed or Naked?

How do you like your salad? 🙂
I love a good salad with nothing more than salt, pepper and olive oil sometimes.
I do get asked often about Paleo or Primal salad dressings and how boring it is if you don’t use commercially prepared dressings.
Here’s one that is tasty and definitely not boring!

Avocado Lime Salad Dressing

1 large haas avocado (about 4 ounces of avocado flesh once it’s peeled and seeded)
2T home made mayonnaise
1/3 cup good quality oil (avocado, olive, macadamia, etc)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (I like the acidity, start with 3T, taste and adjust if you like it less tangy)
cilantro (I use about 1/3 cup sprigs, stems and all, so call it 6 full sprigs roughly)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2tsp ground cumin
1 small fresh jalapeno or other pepper, optional*
a few drops of stevia, optional (if you want a little sweetness, add a little fresh or frozen mango or pineapple!)
Water to thin as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Puree everything until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your tastes.

*If you don’t want to use a pepper, I do suggest adding a dash of cayenne pepper or hot chili powder. It really brightens the flavor. You don’t want it spicy-hot, just a little kick for the taste buds.

I find that it takes about 1/4 cup of water to make it a good salad dressing consistency – not too thick, not too runny.
The addition of fruit makes this a really nice summer salad dressing.

Birthday Anxiety Anyone?

I know this is selfish and dumb, but I get birthday anxiety.
Not about my age, but about the fact that hubbs is the worlds worst gifter!
Not just birthdays. Anniversaries, Christmas, every “gifting” holiday.
I know, I know. I AM thankful I have him.
Did I mention we’ve been married 27 years? And yes, I know: he’s not going to change now. I am ever hopeful!
But…
I put so much thought and effort into gifts for him and for our son, and to get flowers (that he picked up on the way home from work) or an excuse “gee honey, sorry but I had to work the weekend and didn’t have time to shop” really, really, REALLY annoys the living crap out of me.
I mean, did it sneak up on you? ‘Cause, I never have a birthday, Christmas, Anniversary EVERY YEAR ON THE SAME DAY. It just *poof* happened?
Argh.
One of the really bad things it that son is pretty much the same way. Of course he learned from hubbs. That’s going to really stink for his future girlfriends and wives. Maybe they won’t be so forgiving of the lack of thought behind a gift.
Anyway, rant over.

BTW: I’ll be doing birthdays and Christmas this year the same way.
No more hunting the internet for the perfect gift. No more shopping for hours.
I’ll go to Home Depot and get him a screwdriver or something.

Simple Summer Tomato Soup

About a month ago, Hubbs came home with a giant bag of home-grown tomatoes from a work buddys bumper spring crop.
Of course I couldn’t use them all before they would go bad, so I froze half of them.
I do this the way my grandmother always did: wash and toss them in a freezer bag, whole. I don’t core or peel them.
I’m using these for this recipe, but any fresh tomatoes will do.

Simple Summer Tomato Soup
3-4 pounds fresh tomatoes (I used 8 big ones)
4 cloves peeled garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
7 cups water
4 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, diced small (about 2/3 cup diced onion)
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Bring the tomatoes, garlic, water, salt and pepper to a simmer.
Cover and simmer low for 15 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break up.
Uncover and raise heat to high and boil the heck out of them for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients, reduce heat and simmer another 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, spoon out about 1/2 of the solids BUT make sure you get all the tomato cores and the large pieces of skin as well as the garlic cloves.
Puree or blend these until smooth, then add them back to the simmering soup.
Adjust seasonings and serve.
After the cooking and evaporation, this leaves you with about 6 cups of soup.

You can, of course, add things like diced carrots, potatoes, zucchini or yellow squash to make it heartier.
Hubbs likes this with some rice cooked in. I usually add his cooked rice to his bowl then ladle the soup over.