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G-Free Salads

I’ve made some great salads lately, and thought I’d share them with you.

They’re both from Elizabeth Hasselback’s Deliciously G-Free cookbook, although neither of them have any sources of gluten in them to begin with.  (A major pet-peeve of mine is ‘GF’ labeling of items that never had gluten anyway. Truth in advertising, people.)

I whipped up the Hot Winter Salad with Kale one night and served it with roasted chicken.  Excellent flavor!  Even Andrew liked it, and he’s not a fan of beans. Or avocado.  Or kale, really.  I loved that it was hot, and the sweetness of the beans and red pepper really stood out.

I also made her Ruby Red Salad and packed two portions in containers to bring with me for lunches this week.  I like beets and had some in the fridge, and I also love fennel, and it’s the perfect time for pomegranate.  Clearly, I had to make this recipe.

Another huge winner!  It calls for a homemade dressing that features basil, but you could really use just about anything on this.  I loved the sweetness of the pomegranate arils, the crunchy fennel and herby dressing.  So good!

I’m ONE DAY away from the end of my first rotation this semester, and I couldn’t be more excited.  One down, two to go!

(I WILL write a blog post about my time at ECMC this past month.  I even have photos. Lots of good stuff coming to the blog–and elsewhere–soon!)

The not-so-simple answer: Yes.

Yes, go ahead and go Paleo.  Andrew and I found it was shockingly easy to ‘give up’ grains and dairy and continue to eat very healthy, flavorful and satisfying meals.  We felt great, dropped a few pounds and cut out much of the mindless munching that goes on when pretzels and candy lurk in the pantry.  Many of the important vitamins and minerals and nutrients found in grains and dairy–such as calcium, B vitamins, phosphorus and fiber–are abundant in fruits, vegetables and meat as well.  While relatively ‘fad-ish’, eating Paleo can be quite healthy and works for many people.

Both grains and dairy have natural sugars (like fruits and vegetables) and make up large portions of the American diet, so cutting out those two food groups will undoubtedly lead to weight loss and ‘feeling better’ by decreasing your intake of sugar.  If most Americans were eating plain yogurt, kefir and whole wheat breads and NOT eating dairy and grain products packed with added sugar, salt and preservatives, I don’t know if Paleo would be quite so popular!  Unfortunately, the ‘standard American diet’ is made up largely of highly processed convenience items, such as Hamburger Helper, Cheeze-Its and yogurts with more sugar than ice cream.  I know I feel better when I don’t eat as many ‘grain’ carbs (even too much whole wheat pasta makes my tummy bloated) and opt for lots of veggies and protein.  And don’t avoid fat!  We need it to absorb lots of vitamins and minerals, it helps keep us full and rounds out our meals.  Ditch the no-fat and fat-free imposter products and stick to real or sometimes low-fat versions.

However, NOT giving up grains and dairy is OK, too.  I don’t buy into much of the ‘philosophy’ of the Paleo movement, and therefore don’t think the processing (such as milk pasteurization and turning wheat into flour) is as evil as they say.  Giving up grain ‘junk food’ like Doritos is one thing, taking away my whole-wheat flour and homemade (and quite healthy) baked goods is quite another.  Same with dairy; omit the ‘fruit on the bottom’ yogurt and keep the plain.  I don’t know that ‘eating like a caveman’ really applies in today’s society; we aren’t cavemen and it’s clear our gastrointestinal tracts are able to digest both gluten and lactose and all the other ‘evils’ devout Paleo-ers avoid like the plague.

In short, eating a ‘Paleo-type’ diet 80-90% of the time is probably a good approach.  In the weeks since our ‘primal challenge’ ended, Andrew and I have continued to eat many Paleo meals and love it.  As I meal-plan, I’ve been relying on protein sources and produce, with some grains and dairy items sprinkled in.  For example, I might have a veggie omelet with sides of sausage and fruit three or four mornings a week, and a homemade pancake or waffle with hard-boiled eggs the other two or three mornings.  Or, I might add cheese to things here and there.  It’s easy to go Paleo at dinnertime–simply omit the bread/rice/pasta and replace it with a starchy veggie, like sweet potato, or maybe use a spaghetti squash for noodles.

Going forward, I think I’d like our default setting to be ‘pretty Paleo’ (small amounts of cheese and dairy, beans are OK, mainly produce and veggies, almond and coconut milks) with grains and dairy appearing a few times a week, rather than a few times a day.  We’re still going to eat pizza and yogurt and such, just in smaller amounts.  And really, things like pizza (at least the take-out kind), should be a once-in-awhile treat, not every week.

Here’s a sample ‘strict Paleo’ day:

Breakfast: 2 eggs with salsa and avocado, sausage links, orange

Snack: 2 T nuts and some dried fruit

Lunch: 5 oz. cooked fish and 2 C veggies (with some sort of dressing/sauce)

Snack: apple and 1 T almond butter

Dinner: Beef stir-fry with cauliflower ‘rice’

Here’s a sample ‘pretty Paleo’ day:

Breakfast: Homemade burrito (small whole-wheat tortilla, black beans, sweet potato, egg, cheese, salsa), orange

Snack: cottage cheese and pineapple

Lunch: spinach salad topped with veggies and chicken, dressing, fresh fruit

Snack: pre-workout ‘energy’ muffin (homemade with oat flour; recipe from #runningonveggies)

Dinner: Chili (meat and beans), topped with avocado and a dollop of plain yogurt, salad

I might snack on a couple squares of dark chocolate at night, too.

Here are some recent dinners we’ve had since ending the Primal Challenge:

Stuffed peppers (Practical Paleo) and salad with pear and dried cranberries:

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Roast chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and salad:

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Turkey cranberry sausage (Trader Joe’s) with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans with almonds

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Breakfast Burrito:IMG_9572

Salmon with steamed broccoli and whole-wheat couscous with curry dressing and dried fruit:IMG_9574

See?  Paleo isn’t really very weird at all; it’s a diet packed with nutrients and REAL food.  While I don’t think it’s necessary to be quite so restrictive with the grains and dairy, it’s important they not make up the majority of your diet.  Fruits and vegetables and quality protein should be the foundation, with smaller amounts of grains and dairy mixed in for variety and flavor.

If you want more information, check out these blogs, websites and books:

Practical Paleo

Balanced Bites

Mark’s Daily Apple

Primal Blueprint

Well Fed

The Clothes Make the Girl

Taylor Made it Paleo

Growing up, my mom always made Valentine’s Day special. My favorite memory is the year we (Allison and I) came down to find Barbies and balloons at our chairs at the table. How fun.

Ever since Andrew and I started dating THIRTEEN YEARS ago on February 17, we’ve generally chosen to celebrate that milestone and keep V-day pretty low-key. I do, however, enjoy making a fuss about it anyway.

This year, I made strawberry smoothies and cinnamon rolls, served on the special Valentine plates and cups I’m sure I purchased at Target many years ago.

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I gave Andrew a bag full of candy and goodies, and he gave me the stuffed purple hippo I liked in the window of our local toy store on Main Street. (I still intend to go back and get hippo’s friend, the flying pig. Perhaps it will be on sale…)

Afterward, we headed to the gym where I was able to do two of my favorite classes. I still can’t believe Andrew made it two hours at the gym…I thought he’d surely revolt before the end.

Despite the cold, we took Hadrian to the dog park and weren’t the only ones there…but almost. No matter; all he really wants to do is play fetch with his toy. I got to sport my new snow pants that Andrew got me for our ‘anniversary.’

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We had a mini-date to Firefly, our local cupcake place, where I enjoyed half a chocolate-covered strawberry and half of a ‘white trash’ cupcake. Plain-Jane Andrew got his usual: vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. Leftovers were promptly taken to the Nyes’ house.

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For dinner, I whipped up some Ruebens (well, Andrew leaves off the kraut, swiss and thousand island, so his isn't much of a Rueben), salad and soup the Nyes sent us home with. More V-day tableware: heart-shaped bowls!

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We spent the rest of the evening on the couch, watching the newest show we’re into, The Americans. So good.

It was a good day :) AND, I still have the 17th to look forward to!

Seriously.

And it won’t stop snowing. I swear we get a fresh couple inches each night, which really just means I get to shovel every morning before I take Hadrian out.

The forecast for the weekend looks pretty grim… It may be 18 degrees out, but don’t miss the ‘feels like 6′ in small print; I’m sure we won’t. The other night, my fingers froze to the point of pain just walking from the gym to my car!

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I’m definitely getting some use out of the extra-long coat I purchased in November anticipating my long walks to-and-from my car and the hospital. It goes down to my calves and the furry hood keeps snow out of my face. Best $200 I’ve spent in a long time. And it’s cute.

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Not surprisingly, the pipes to our laundry are frozen. Thankfully, I did a large load the other night anticipating this. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was getting butter on my robe last night while pepping cinnamon rolls. Not good, since it’s kind-of a necessity in our chilly house.

Off to the laundromat–aka my in-laws’–this afternoon!

Here’s something I whipped-up for dinner a few nights ago:

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St. Louis-Style Pizza!  (Who knew they had their own kind?!)

I found the recipe on Facebook via King Arthur Flour…such a dangerous page to Like.  Seriously.  That, and Kara Goucher’s page…she’s a elite runner who keeps making yummy things from #runningonveggies.  I just made some ‘pre-workout energy’ muffins using oat flour, almond milk and blueberries (and some other ingredients).  Yum!

Back to the pizza.

It’s a baking-powder crust (or use self-rising flour), so no wait time!  It’s also topped with a variety of non-traditional cheeses, like white cheddar, swiss and smoked provolone.  The crust comes out very thin and cracker-like, but not at all like Marion’s (a famous Ohio pizza I liked to describe as a ‘cracker crust with pre-chewed toppings’) since it’s not yeast-y.  The cheeses melt down and get ooey-gooey, and while you could definitely throw a couple more toppings on there, I wouldn’t overdo it.  The crust barely browned on the bottom–I used both a pizza stone and parchment on a cookie sheet–so you don’t want to overload it.  With it’s slightly smokey taste, I think I bit of ground sausage would be a nice addition, maybe some onion?

Anyway, you could literally whip the pizza up in about 30 minutes total, which makes it ideal for last-minute dinner or appetizer ideas.  It’s so light, it really could be an appetizer!  I served it for dinner with salads and we ate BOTH pizzas.  I had been a little nervous Andrew wouldn’t like the cheese combo, but it was fine.  I’m sure he could tell it wasn’t mozzarella, but I didn’t think there was a strong smokey flavor.

Definitely going to keep this one in mind for times I need a quick flatbread dough!  I could see it as an appetizer; I’m thinking friends over, light pizza pieces on which to nibble with a light rose or red wine, followed by something ‘Italian’ like a veggie lasagna with green salads…followed by tiramisu.  Of course.

This is more than a week overdue, but, as they say, better late than never. Actually, it’s my OCD more than anything else that drives me to finish blogging about the challenge–once I start, I gotta finish.

For some reason, probably all those fries and wings at the Bar Bill the night before (which was repeated almost exactly this past Friday, too), I woke up early Saturday morning and decided to just get up.

I snacked on some of those awesome Paleo pumpkin cookies around 5 a.m.

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Before our snowshoe trek, I made myself a Paleo pumpkin gingerbread smoothie, with a frozen banana, pumpkin, almond milk, molasses, almond butter, chia seeds, and vanilla protein powder. In the future, I think I would omit the almond butter and banana as I don’t think it needs either–they’re just extra calories. If I used plain protein powder, I might keep the banana for sweetness.

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After snowshoeing, Andrew and I brought Hadrian to the dog park with hot chocolate. I snagged a couple homemade Larabars, too.

Not pictured: our late lunch of Pasquale’s pizza and wings at the Layers’ house. Yup, I ate pizza. And drank soda. It was fantastic. Not Paleo.

Also not pictured: dinner with Abigail and Marvin at one of our favorites, Arriba. Two margaritas, chips and queso and a chicken quesadilla. Also fantastic. Also not Paleo.

Went to bed–I’m sure–with a much-too-full tummy.

We met Marv and Abigail at McDonalds (of course) on their way out of town Sunday morning. I wasn’t in the mood for anything meaty or eggy, so I went with the oatmeal and a milk. Not Paleo, but arguably the ‘healthiest’ choice at said establishment.

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I’m pretty sure Andrew went off to church and I stayed home to prep my food for the week, and afterward we took Hadrian for another spin at the dog park. It’s becoming our new favorite hangout with other dog-owning friends on the weekends.

Anyway, Andrew and I went on a little ‘date’ to Taste and shared a fresh Belgian waffle. Wow. So good.

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Last Sunday was also the Super Bowl, and we hosted a few close friends at our place. I threw together some veggies and dip, chips and salsa, and a white chicken chili. Pigs-in-a-blanket, Paleo chocolate peanut butter cookies and taco salad were brought by friends.

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Stacey’s taco salad was fantastic. Again, I went to bed with a VERY full tummy that night, too.

I did think the event was a perfect opportunity to make those Paleo Mocha Bacon Brownies, from Practical Paleo.

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I made them ‘extra bacon-y’ by using some bacon fat in addition to butter when making the brownies. I can’t say I loved them, but I did hear the leftovers were huge hits with some of Andrew’s GF and Paleo co-workers.

I felt our last weekend on the Paleo Challenge wasn’t really very ‘Paleo,’ but it is what it is. Or was. To me, it felt like a weekend of ‘debauchery,’ but Andrew didn’t share my view.

So that’s that. I’ll write a separate blog on how we felt about ‘going Paleo’ and how our eating pattern may or may not change from here on out.

Seriously.

So I’ve been back to school for two weeks now (hence the last two Paleo challenge day blogs are STILL forthcoming), which means ‘school Holly’ has taken over and wreaked havoc on our entire existence. Or at least that’s how it feels…

After having to drive into Buffalo in really crummy weather all last week, I’ve decided I never want to work full-time and all I really want to do is be home, work out, cook and clean (sometimes), and be able to pursue all my other interests like reading and writing and taking Hadrian to the dog park and countless other things. (There, I said it.)

Anyway, today was really our first day in two weeks that we were home for any real amount of time, and Andrew kicked some major ‘to-do list’ butt. He folded three loads of laundry (that had been clean and staring us in the face for a week), cleaned the cat box, vacuumed the downstairs, mopped up our snowy, salty footprints, played with Hadrian, fixed a noisy exterior roof fan, cleaned our bathroom (I think he forgot the mirrors, but whatever), and vacuumed the bedroom. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some more things, too.

FOR REAL.

And all this after we hit the gym before church, ran some errands (purchases: snow pants, wine, balsamic vinegar, more Valentine cards, gas) in town afterward and had a late lunch at home. He even snuck some trip-planning time in while I made dinner. (I was in the kitchen the entire afternoon food-prepping, cleaning up and making dinner, then cleaning up again. And doing more laundry, which I folded. It was only fair.)

Back to Andrew.

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I love this man. I love this picture of this man. I love that he loves me enough to clean for me. That, my friends, is true love in our house.

More blogging to come before next weekend I hope!

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