Every now and then I get tired, un-motivated, and frustrated. I want to lay on the couch, order a pizza, and stay up way too late watching movies while eating ice cream. It could be stress, crappy weather, lack of results, or just plain feeling tired. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe in myself, and I am without a doubt a fighter, but sometimes I need to reach out there and feel like I’m not alone. Pinterest has been huge lately, and while most of us use it to pin outfits and houses we could never afford, or plan weddings even though we’re not engaged, it has become a valuable source of inspiration for me. Here are a few of my favorite photos from my Inspiration Pin Board that keep me going.
Archive for February, 2012
This steak is great on the grill, but during the cold winter months I use a cast-iron grill pan.
Beef or Bison Flank Steak, about 2 pounds
Ground Ancho Chili Powder
Salt & Pepper
1. Remove the Flank Steak from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking.
2. Preheat the pan on medium-high heat.
3. Season both sides of the steak with Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder and Chili Powder. Make sure it is completely seasoned.
4. Place the steak onto the grill and sear on one side. Flip and sear the other side. It takes about 4 minutes per side for Medium Rare.
5. Remove the steak from the pan and place on a cutting board. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
6. Slice the steak against the grain, holding the side of the slicing knife almost parallel to the meat for a nice thin slice.
That is a statement that I struggle with. Many of us grew up with the Conventional Wisdom outlook on food intake: eat three square meals a day, no snacking between meals, and eat everything on your plate. For most people it starts during childhood, and I was no exception. We always ate together as a family, with all of the food in the center of the table so you could conveniently grab seconds (or thirds, or sevenths…)
I was a somewhat picky eater as a kid. I remember bringing Campbell’s Chicken & Rice Soup in a thermos to lunch every day during second grade, and a peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich every day in third grade- yes, I would have starved to death if peanut butter had been banned from schools back then! In school, they would show us videos or ancient filmstrips about nutrition facts. We were told that snacking between meals was very bad, bread was very good, and eggs had so much cholesterol that they would clog your arteries and you would die.
For dinners, when you are served a lot of Filipino food, you learn to build up a pretty adventurous palate. Oxtail soup, fish heads, and squid were pretty common. As long as there was enough rice on my plate as an accompaniment, I would eat them. But I was also a very slow eater, which was another thing I was scolded for at the time. I needed to eat faster so everyone would not be waiting for me to finish. I also had to eat everything on my plate, not missing a single grain of rice. Now, this could be from the fact that both my parents grew up extremely poor, so wasting food was frowned upon. This is something I believe in to this day, and I hate throwing away food. Nevertheless, I often showed off my perfectly clean plate with pride, and received praise for it.
Since then, attitudes towards eating have changed. Every diet I have tried has tried has encouraged people to savor their food, eat smaller meals more often, and stop eating when you are full and not when your plate is clean. Paleo makes it a little easier, as it is a lot harder to gorge yourself on a plate filled with steak and broccoli than a plate filled with pasta.
But how do I undo 30 years of believing that cleaning my plate is a good thing? It’s a question I deal with daily. Everyone knows that most restaurants serve gigantic portions, but it’s not unheard of for me to eat all of it and leave feeling stuffed, bloated and absolutely miserable. For me, it goes beyond looking for the signs that I’m full and not hungry anymore. It’s more about getting over the guilt and knowing that I can throw the rest away or save the rest for later. As my appetite changes with Paleo, it gets even harder to gauge how much food to put on my plate, so out of habit I fill it completely. This is something I definitely need to work on, and my biggest challenge for this second round of Whole30. I don’t have to eat it all, and I need to constantly remind myself that I am worth so much more than what is leftover on my plate.
Traditional spaghetti with meatballs has always been the ultimate comfort food for me. It was my go-to meal every time I tried a new Italian restaurant, and I could eat it every day without getting tired of it. For quite a while I bought whole wheat spaghetti, jars of spaghetti sauce and bags of frozen meatballs from Costco, making sure to always have it on hand should a craving strike. So what’s a Paleo eater to do when a big plate of wheat noodles and breadcrumb-laden meatballs are just not possible? This dish is my answer.
1 large Spaghetti Squash, cut in half lengthwise (My store had very small spaghetti squash, so I cooked 2)
Coconut Oil Spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium Onion, diced
2 cups Mushrooms, sliced
2 28 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
2 cups Beef Broth or Stock
Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper to taste
1 lb. Lean Ground Beef
1 lb. bulk Hot Italian Pork Sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped
Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Almond Flour
1. Preheat oven to 375. Scoop out the seeds of the spaghetti squash with a spoon and place cut-side down on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
2. In a large pot, heat Olive Oil on medium heat. Add garlic, onion and mushrooms and saute until onions turn clear. Add Canned Tomatoes and Beef Broth. Add seasonings, stir and cover. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Ground Beef, Sausage, chopped Parsley, Garlic, Almond flour,Eggs, and Seasonings. Knead the mixture with hands until well combined.
4. In a large skillet, melt coconut oil on medium heat. Roll each meatball about 1.5 inches in diameter and place into the preheated skillet.
5. Sear each meatballs until golden brown on all sides. Drop each meatball into the pot of Marinara sauce as they finish searing.
6. When all meatballs have been added to the marinara, allow the sauce to simmer for another half hour. Stir very gently to avoid crushing any meatballs.
7. When the spaghetti squash halves are col enough to handle, use a fork to separate the strands for serving. Pour the meatballs and marinara over the spaghetti squash.
I thought it would be helpful to do a food log of what a typical day looks like. I am normally the three-meals-a-day type (old habits die hard) with maybe one snack mid-morning. Here is what I ate on Monday, Day 2 of Whole30:
Breakfast: Veggie Omelet (bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and jalapenos) and 3 strips of Bacon from the Cafe at work. If I’m eating breakfast at home, it’s usually 2 eggs over-easy, a banana, and black coffee.
Mid morning snack: Small bowl of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, also from the work Cafe. I also bring avocados or olives to work, and I keep an emergency stash of Larabars in my desk for when I’m really hungry and don’t have anything else.
Lunch: Red Robin. Royal Red Robin Burger- 2 beef patties, topped with a fried egg and bacon, no cheese or mayo, wrapped in lettuce with a side of sweet potato fries. I forgot to snap a photo of my meal, but it looks a lot like this photo, minus the cheese. My lunch options vary every day as there are plenty of restaurants around the office, or I’ll bring dinner leftovers.
Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Paleo Meatballs and Mushroom Marinara (recipe coming tomorrow). You have probably noticed that I do a lot of bulk-cooking so I have leftovers throughout the week. This helps IMMENSELY, since I can just heat up a plate if I come home tired and don’t want to cook.
As you can see, I am far from starving on this lifestyle. Really good food and plenty of it, and it gives me a lot more energy.
It was super cold outside, a great day for comfort food. I make this pot roast in the crock pot on a work day, or in a big cast iron dutch oven when I’ll be home all day. Special bonus: this smells AMAZING when you get home at the end of the day.
1 2-3 lb. Beef Chuck Roast
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 lb. Beef Cross-cut Marrow Bones
2 stalks Celery, diced
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
2 cups Baby Carrots
2 cups Small Red Potatoes (optional)
2 cups Whole Mushrooms
1 can Tomato Paste
2 cups Beef Broth or Stock
Herbs& Spices to taste (I used Basil, Oregano, Minced Garlic and Paprika)
1. Melt coconut oil in a large skillet. Season both sides of the roast with salt and pepper and sear on both sides until golden brown.
2. Place marrow bones, celery and onion into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the seared roast.
3. Add the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms to the crock pot.
4. In a large measuring cup, combine the tomato paste, beef broth, herbs and spices. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved.
5. Pour the tomato paste mixture over the vegetables.
6. Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on Low for 8 hours. The roast should fall apart easily with a fork.
It’s no secret that food, especially fresh food, is super expensive these days. Beef is headed towards record high prices, and so is bacon. Weather-related disasters and agricultural blights have made some fresh fruits and vegetables difficult to find, and very expensive if you can find them. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil are also expensive, as is butter. Comparatively, grain and processed foods are cheap. You can load a plate with 2 cups of cooked white-flour spaghetti noodles or re-heat a frozen single-serve Chicken Pot Pie for less than a dollar. That pack of Ramen Noodles that I referenced in my post the other day is often on sale for 10 cents, or 10 packs for $1.00. Even if you dine out, grain-heavy foods are also cheaper. Little Caesar’s advertises a large cheese pizza for $5, while you can get a bottomless bowl of Fettucine Alfredo (with unlimited breadsticks) at Olive Garden for about $10. Financially, a diet high in processed food and refined grains appears to be much easier on the wallet, so why would one go on a diet that demands fresh meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables?
Like many diets, Paleo has “degrees.” The most ideal conditions for a Paleo eater? Access to a local organic farmer’s market all year round, where seasonal produce, free range chickens, cage-free eggs, local-caught fish, pastured dairy and grass-fed beef are always available. A step down from that is an organic market like Whole Foods, where produce is organic and labeled with country of origin, naturally-raised meat and eggs are available, and any of the processed food contains a limited number of additives. Both of these options are not feasible for everyone by any means. The farmer’s market is financially feasible for most, but not available year-round unless you live in a very temperate climate. And Organic Produce, especially when bought out of season, gets to be expensive quickly. Many families are able to afford an all-organic lifestyle by cutting back on luxuries like dining at restaurants.
For me, as a person living by myself and cooking mostly for myself (my boyfriend eats with me on the weekends), the cost of eating 100% organic is not feasible. So, I make choices for what I buy organic and what I buy conventional. This list helps me choose what I will buy organic. A good rule of thumb is that anything with a heavy peel (bananas, oranges, onions) I will typically buy conventional, while anything I eat whole (broccoli, kale, spinach) I will buy organic. For meats, I will typically buy what is on sale and stock my freezer. On the receipt below, you can see that Sirloin Steak was on sale, so I bought 3. (The most expensive item on there is a beef chuck roast, which is for tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day meal). None of this meat is grass-fed since grass-fed is expensive and not always available, but I do occasionally buy it. Chicken is another story. I always buy naturally-raised chicken because I notice a difference between the flavor and texture of natural chicken vs. one that is injected with saltwater solution. But like beef, I will always buy whatever cut happens to be on sale. The two items that I will always buy no matter the price are bacon and eggs. The bacon I buy is uncured and nitrate free, and I always buy cage-free eggs. When you think about how much protein you get out of one egg, paying $3.99 per dozen really is not that bad.
You can see on the receipt below that I spent about $82 on groceries this week, which seems like a lot for 1 person. However, keep in mind the special $14 Chuck Roast, and I also have a $9 jar of Ghee on there. I typically do a full-blown grocery trip once every 2 weeks, averaging about $60, and another trip for just eggs and produce during the off weeks that costs about $25. So, my monthly grocery cost (minus any special occasion meals) is usually less than $200. Not too bad considering I used to spend a lot more on fast food and restaurant meals during the week. (I still go to restaurants quite a bit on the weekend but even those eating behaviors have changed, that’s a subject for another post). If $200 for 1 person still seems like a lot, especially if you are feeding a family of 4, know that my way of shopping is not the end-all be-all of shopping on Paleo. The Paleo lifestyle and Whole30 both stress a clean, unprocessed way of eating. Frozen vegetables and fruit, as well as canned or frozen meats with no additives on the label are considered acceptable. Costco is a lower-priced option for buying larger quantities of fresh meat and produce, and home-canning fruits and vegetables while they are in season is also a good idea.
So, it is true that my personal food-cost has gone up. But it has helped me to sleep better at night, have more energy, get my cravings under control, and even lose weight. Compared to my $40/month Weight Watchers membership along with the general sick feeling from eating too much processed and fast food, I have to say that the money spent on Paleo is definitely worth it!