Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 15 (Halfway There)

The halfway mark!  I was going to celebrate by spending hours in the kitchen, cooking all sorts of wonderful experiments.  Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning, my tonsils felt like golf balls and it hurt to swallow.  I knew I had a fever even before I took my temperature (101 degrees), and everything ached.

After getting all three girls off to school, I crawled back under the covers.  When I woke up a couple hours later, I still felt awful, and I was afraid it might be strep.  So I called the doctor's office.  The nice lady said, "well, we have an opening at 9:45..."  I looked at the clock.  9:30.  "Okay," I said, "I'll pull my shoes on and leave right now."  Which is exactly what I did.  Kermit pajamas and all.  I know it's not dignified for a 42-year-old woman to go to a doctor appointment in her pj's, but... I make no apologies.  I did what I did, and I stand by it.

When they called me back to see the doctor, I had to step on the scale.  I wasn't planning to do this until the Paleo challenge was over.  The last time I weighed myself was about a month ago, and I was 129 lbs.  Today, the scale said 123 lbs.  Well, whaddayaknow?  That was a nice perk to an otherwise unpleasant morning.

After getting my throat swabbed (yuck!) twice (double yuck!), they said they'd call me in a couple days to let me know if the culture grew anything.  The rapid strep test came back negative, so I was off the hook as far as taking pills goes (I am a very bad pill-taker, I always forget).  On my way home, I drove right past Krispy Kreme.  I'm not really into donuts, but that sounded good.  No! Evil!  I kept driving.

I made a smoothie for myself (1/2 c. coconut milk, a handful of blueberries, a frozen plum, a generous helping of spinach), called Superman, and went back to bed.  I dreamed of bread.  Why?  Do we call it "comfort food" because it's our drug of choice?

For lunch, I decided I needed a nice spicy soup.  Well, at least I'd get some experimenting in.  I sliced up carrots and celery, chopped onions and garlic.  I wanted bigger pieces of garlic, which is why I didn't mince it.


I wanted to try again with the apricot juice and chili sauce combo from last night.  This is what I invented:

Spicy Apricot Chicken Curry Soup
sliced carrots
sliced celery
chopped onion
chopped garlic
1 c. apricot juice
1 t. curry
1 t. chili sauce
2 c. water
1 c. shredded chicken
1 c. soba noodles
1/4 c. coconut milk

Saute the vegetables and garlic in a little olive oil.  Mix together apricot juice, curry and chili sauce and pour over the vegetables.  Stir in the water and the chicken.  Simmer until vegetables are tender.  Add noodles and coconut milk, stir occasionally until heated through.


It was good and spicy, and it made my nose run (which is the litmus test for a good soup, you know).  I think my tongue was affected by whatever sickness I have though, because there was a weird aftertaste I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I ate a couple dates and figs to try to rid myself of it.  I brought a serving of the soup to Ballerina for her after school snack on the way to ballet class, and she said it tasted great (I also brought her a couple dates and figs, just in case).

Avocados are beautiful.
For dinner tonight, I attempted to make Riceless Sushi.  Instead of assembling everything ahead of time, I simply put all the bowls of everything on the table and told the girls to assemble their own.  Ballerina dug right in.  Actress cooked up some rice for herself (she's given up candy for an entire week, but she's not going Paleo).  Valedictorian was a good sport and reluctantly smeared avocado and shredded chicken in her nori sheet.  She took one bite and ran to the garbage can, gagging.  Okay, so it's not for everyone.

I ate a few pieces, but everything tasted weird to me.  I'd made an asian "coleslaw" with shredded cabbage and carrots, sesame oil and sesame seeds.  That tasted odd, too.  The girls said it tasted fine, not their favorite flavor, but still pretty good.  "Mom's tongue is wacko," they agreed.

Here's hoping tomorrow is a better tasting day.

Halfway Day Meals:

Meal #1
Smoothie (coconut milk, blueberries, plum, spinach)

Meal #2
Spicy Apricot Chicken Curry Soup
dates and figs

Meal #3
Paleo pancakes
almond butter
drizzle of honey

Meal #4
Riceless Sushi
Sesame Coleslaw

30 Day Challenge, Day 14 (Buckwheat Soba)

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese over Spinach

I didn't take a picture of last night's dinner.  I should have, I know.  But I was starving and in a hurry (story of my life), and I attacked my dinner because I only had five minutes to get it down and out the door.  There was only barely enough leftovers for me to put together some for lunch today, which is what you see above.

Today I did some experimenting.  Some of it worked, and I was amazed.  Some of it most decidedly did not work, but we ate it anyway.

I've been wanting to make soba with 100% buckwheat flour.  Buckwheat is a seed, not a grain, so it's acceptable in most Paleo kitchens.  I say most, because as I've researched, there is a strict faction of Paleo eaters that eschew even grain-like seeds.  I don't think I want to be that strict.

I went about making the noodle dough the same way I've made it with wheat flour:  in the Bosch.  I was dismayed when the dough didn't seem to be holding together.  I added a drizzle of water and cranked it to high mixing power.  Still, it didn't make a nice ball of dough.  I stopped the mixer and squooshed the dough together with my hand.  It seemed to holding, so I pulled it out and wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few minutes.  (The recipe said to do that, and that's good, because all my pots were still dirty from yesterday and I needed to clean one in order to finish cooking dinner.)

With trepidation, I cut off a piece of dough to send it through the pasta machine.  Would it work?  Or would it ruin my pasta maker?  It took a little trial and error, but I figured out the best size of dough to start with.  Then I ran it through the press two times at 1, two times at 2, etc., up to size 4.  I then sent it through the fine noodle cutter.  (I did try thinning it to size 5, but it fell all to pieces.  I don't recommend doing that.)

Buckwheat pasta -- it's actually working!

Resting soba

While the noodles were resting, I started the vegetables.  I had meant to make my friend Miriam's Buckwheat Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chicken, modifying it to fit our Paleo guidelines, but I realized too late that I hadn't given any thought ahead of time to how the modifications would be made.  I didn't even remember to buy mushrooms!  I briefly considered dashing to the store, but I needed to have dinner on the table, in my tummy, and myself in the car in fifteen minutes.  Time for some creative substitutions.

I sliced and stir fried carrots and broccoli until the broccoli was bright green.


Then I tossed a quart size bag of shredded chicken on top.  Thinking very quickly, I yanked a jar of my homemade apricot juice from the pantry (when I say apricot juice, I mean an experiment from last spring involving a brand new steam juicer and an abundance of apricots -- and when I say pantry, I mean a set of wire shelves in the back of my three-quarter-car garage).  I made a little "sauce" with apricot juice, honey, and chili garlic sauce.  I poured that over everything and slapped a lid on the pan so the vegetables could steam a bit.

Sweet and Spicy Stir Fry over Soba
What can I say?  It was absolutely scrumptious!  I'd add more of that chili sauce next time.  I could hardly tell there was any in it.

After I got home from rehearsal tonight, I decided to attempt to invent Paleo tortillas.  I looked up my old flour tortilla recipe that I've made several times:  flour, salt, shortening, water.  That should be easy to modify, I thought.   The first step is to heat the shortening and water in the microwave until very hot.  I substituted coconut oil for the shortening, and put that and the water in a glass measure in the microwave.  Don't do this.  After about 40 seconds, there was a loud POW! and I opened the microwave to find water and melted coconut oil dripping from everywhere.  Most smart people would have switched to a pot on the stove at this point.  Not Ms. Julie.  *sigh*  I wiped down the microwave, put a microwave-safe cover over the glass measure, and tried again.  POW!  Okay, I learned my lesson.  Scrap that idea.

I stirred (what was left of) the water and coconut oil into almond flour.  It was very, very thin.  Not at all like the flour tortilla dough I used to make.  Still, I figured I might be able to spread it around once it was on the pan.

Failed tortilla idea #1

It didn't work so well.  It was like a dense paleo pancake, with very little flavor.  Ballerina said she wished we had some paleo salsa to put on it.  The failure didn't deter her from nibbling on it until it was gone, though (kind of like the rare occasions when I'd overbake the cookies -- which hardly ever happened -- I'd tell the girls they had to make the Shameful Cookies disappear).  I didn't want to waste the rest of the "dough", so I cracked an egg into it and cooked it like a regular paleo pancake.  We drizzled honey on it and shared bites while I made attempt number two.

I found a Coconut flour crepe recipe here that suggested it could be used as a tortilla.  I gave it a go.

Failed tortilla idea #2

It turned out like you might expect -- coconut egg-white omelet.  It was pretty tasty, and I thought it might actually work for wrapping around sandwich-type fixings...until it started to get cold.  I don't know about you, but cold fried egg-white isn't my favorite.  *shudder*  Scrap that idea, too.

One last creative attempt.  I made the coconut crepe recipe above, but used one whole egg instead of the egg whites.  It cooked beautifully...



...and it tasted wonderful with a little almond butter, sliced bananas, and the lightest drizzle of honey on top.  Not a tortilla, not at all, but still a very tasty final meal of the day (and a great idea for Ballerina's breakfast in the morning).

Failed tortilla idea #3

All during the tortilla experiments, I kept thinking about that scene in Meet the Robinsons, where the genius kid fails at fixing the pb&j shooter, and everyone says, "You failed!  And it was awesome!"

Okay, here's what we ate today:

Meal #1
Sliced banana, almonds, coconut milk

Meal #2
spinach, spaghetti squash, bolognese

Meal #3
Apricot Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stir Fry
Soba

Meal #4
Coconut crepe, banana, almond butter, honey

Apricot Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stir Fry
Stir fry sliced carrots and broccoli in a little coconut oil until broccoli is bright green.  Cover with cooked, shredded chicken.  Mix together 1/2 c. apricot juice (you can certainly substitute whatever juice you have on hand, or just use water, or use water plus some cut up dried apricots), 1/4 c. honey, and at least 1 tsp. chili sauce (I used 1/2 tsp. and it wasn't nearly enough).  Cover and let steam until vegetables are tender-crisp.

Serve over buckwheat soba.


100% Buckwheat Soba
300g buckwheat flour

3 eggs (medium)

Place the flour in a food processor and while the motor is running add the eggs. You should have a soft and moist breadcrumb mixture. Turn the flour out onto a work surface and bring the dough together with your hands. Knead the dough for 5 minutes so that you have a ball of dough. Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for 10-60 minutes.

Roll the pasta dough one thickness at a time until it's thin enough to send through the pasta cutter.  Let the noodles rest while you bring a large pot of water to boiling.  Cook the noodles until they rise to the top (about 2 - 3 minutes).

Monday, March 28, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 13 (Bolognese)

There's a bit of a learning curve when switching to the Paleo eating style.   Much of what I've learned and done regarding cooking over the course of 30 years is now less than helpful to me.  I can't rely on old favorites, because I need to modify or look up new recipes for everything.  It's okay, because I love looking up new recipes.  It's just that it takes a little more time right now while I'm new at this.

This also affects how I approach lunch and snacks.  Before going Paleo, a standard snack would be nonfat yogurt and fruit, or reduced fat wheat crackers with reduced fat mozzarella or swiss cheese with shredded lunchmeat, and lunch was very often a sandwich or a can of soup with salad.  These were fast and tasty meals, which I deemed healthy food.  When I adopted the Body for Life plan, I left behind drive thru "fast food" for better choices.  Now, I need to learn yet another new kind of fast food.  With three daughters living at my house, there aren't always leftovers, which means I have to actually think of something to eat.  That fits the Paleo guidelines. When I'm hungry.  Sometimes this is challenging.

I know Ballerina's main caveat is time, so I've tried to keep easy-to-grab foods in the fridge:  boiled eggs, paleo pancakes, mini sweet peppers, cooked shredded chicken, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Even so, it can be difficult to come up with new and exciting ways to combine food -- and boredom with your food is a surefire way to fail at a new nutrition plan.

When Ballerina and Superman and I started this 30 day challenge, I made one promise:  "I promise it will be delicious."  I knew it would be a real task to banish our previous staples from our diet, but I was determined to do everything I could. 

So, tomorrow I'm hitting the internet again, searching for new favorites that fit into my budget.  And if any of you dear readers have favorite lunch and snack ideas, feel free to share them!

Today's meals:

Meal #1
Paleo Pancakes (I'm developing a new recipe.  It isn't perfected yet, but I'll share it once it is.)
Plum applesauce
Coconut milk

Meal #2
Boiled egg
Grapefruit
Cucumber spears

Meal #3
Celery sticks with almond butter
plum applesauce

Meal #4
Spaghetti Squash
Blue Collar Bolognese (my modifications recorded below)
Romaine and Spinach salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar

Meal #5
leftovers from dinner because it was so tasty, I had to eat it again.

Tonight's dinner was wonderful!  I sliced a spaghetti squash in half, laid it cut side down in a 9x13 glass baking dish with a little water.  I baked it at 375 for about 40 minutes, while the Bolognese simmered.

Blue Collar Bolognese
2 Tbs. bacon fat OR several pieces of bacon
2-3 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
1 can tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes plus ½ can water
Italian spice mix, chili powder, fennel seeds

Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered out (or just start with the bacon fat). Put the cooked bacon away for use in another recipe (I'm thinking Egg Cupcakes tomorrow).  Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and lightly fry.

After a few minutes veggies should be soft. Dump thawed ground turkey in a large pot and add a little water.  Stir and cook on high until the turkey is broken up and cooked.  Add the vegetables.

Add the spices, tomato paste and tomatoes and combine, cooking the whole time. Let the entire mix simmer while the spaghetti squash bakes.  (If making independent of spaghetti squash, simmer at least 15 minutes.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 12 (Fasting)

Today is a special day, a day of fasting.  One Sunday each month, we go without food or drink until supper, and we donate to the church the money we would have spent on food.  This money is then used to help those in need -- sometimes far away in other parts of the world, but very often right here in our own neighborhood.  There have been times since my divorce when I've been hurting for work, with not enough income to make ends meet.  During those periods, the fast offerings of my dear friends and neighbors has helped to put food on my table.

There have been numerous studies and lectures on the physical benefits of fasting.  For me, those benefits are far outweighed by the spiritual growth I've experienced.  Putting aside physical appetite helps me to strengthen my relationship with God.  It is a day for me to humbly seek forgiveness for my mistakes, and to ask for the power to overcome my faults.  Fasting is also a way to seek miracles, and to show gratitude.  Today I am so grateful to have found a nutrition plan that is working, that will make it possible for Ballerina to pursue her dreams.  I don't believe this is a mere coincidence.  It has been a real miracle in my life. 

This means our meal list will be a bit shorter today than usual.  When we end our fast this evening, I'll be making Coconut-encrusted Tilapia and steamed asparagus and fresh mangoes.  I also plan to whip up another batch of Flourless Brownies.  And Ballerina has asked for paleo pancakes tonight, which I am happy to make.  That girl has worked hard, and I'm so proud of her!

*edit*
Coconut Encrusted Tilapia
Thaw tilapia fillets.  Melt coconut oil over medium high heat.  Place fillets in pan and sprinkle shredded unsweetened coconut over each one.  Turn fish when cooked on first side (it only takes a few minutes) and sprinkle with more coconut.  Poke with a fork -- if the fish is soft and flaky, it's done!  Yummy!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 11 (Time Saving Tips)

So, I attempted to curb my granola craving this morning.

Ungranola
I sliced up a banana, toasted some nuts in a little coconut oil, topped it with a few raisins and a cut up dried unsweetened papaya spear, and poured coconut milk over it.  Sounds good, right?  Unfortunately, I think I overtoasted the nuts, so they were a little bitter.  Not quite as satisfying as I hoped it would be.

So, how does a super-busy single mom handle this whole cooking Paleo thing, anyhow?  I mean, it's pretty time-intensive, chopping all those vegetables.  True.  Last night, I was certifiably brilliant.  (Can I be certified in that?  It would be so helpful.)  I dumped an entire flat of skinless boneless chicken breasts in the crockpot, liberally salted them with coarse salt, and covered them with water.  I turned the crockpot on low and let it do its thing while I slept.

This morning, I pulled the chicken out of the crockpot and started shredding with two forks.  I got through three or four pieces of chicken before I remembered a trick someone told me about shredding meat.  I plopped the remaining chicken into my Bosch.



I turned it on, and literally two seconds later, it looked like this...



I'm not exaggerating!  Two seconds!  I put some in the fridge, some in the freezer, and some on the salad I packed for lunch today.

I was out of the house all day today, so I packed my food along with me.

Meal #1
Ungranola with coconut milk

Meal #2
Romaine/Spinach salad with chicken, strawberries, avocados, almonds, olive oil and vinegar

Meal #3
Leftover shrimp gumbo
Leftover seafood stew
Stuffed peppers
plum applesauce

Meal #4
Scotch egg
strawberries
leftover shrimp gumbo

30 Day Challenge, Day 10 (Carbs and co-dependency)

I have a confession to make.  I am really really REALLY craving my homemade granola.  It's late, I'm hungry, I want to relax with the sweet crunch of nuts and oats and molasses.  Toss some blueberries on top, cover it with coconut milk.  Mmmmmm.

Don't worry, I'm not going to do it.  I'm finding that I really do love eating Paleo (Superman, I see you chuckling over there).  Yes, I was stubborn about my breads and dairy, but I'm finding I don't miss them after all.  I thought I would, but I really don't.  Ballerina and I both realized that when we even think about bread, we immediately imagine the gluey lump we know it will make in our intestines.  But I have to be honest here.  I'm having a difficult night, missing my carbs. 

Carbs, we have a co-dependent relationship.  You need me to be unhealthy to continue loving you.  And honestly, even though you're yummy, you often hurt me.  Especially when I spend a lot of time with you.  So I'm taking responsibility for my health and my life, and I'm severely limiting our time together.

*whew!*

Today's food:

Meal #1
Scotch egg
Clementine

Meal #2
leftover Paleo Pancakes
Apricot topping
Coconut milk

Meal #3
leftover Shrimp Gumbo
dates

Meal #4
Tuna-Avocado Stuffed Peppers
Plum Applesauce
Cucumber

Meal #5
Caribbean Seafood Stew (really, really tasty)

Have I given appropriate credit to Ballerina?  First of all, she came up with the idea for stuffed sweet peppers.  She loves those little peppers just for munching on, but a few days ago, she discovered that if you cut the top off, you can jam it full of meat and veggies and it makes a great little edible container.  We've kept pepper stuffing in the fridge this week, throwing it together out of whatever we happen to have on hand.

Also, she has taken most of the fantastic photos of our meals.  Isn't her photography mouth-watering?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 9 (Cost comparison)

"Isn't this really expensive?"

Sometimes I get this question.  I'll spare you the emotional babble ("isn't your health worth it?" or "isn't your family worth it?"), because I don't have time for that nonsense, nutrition is really individual, and I'm on a tight budget.  So I get it. 

I promise to keep track of what I'm spending on groceries.  I'll report at the end.  So far, the grocery bills have been pretty similar, if not less.  In the past, I've usually spent over $100 on groceries each week (my budget spreadsheet tells me I should be sticking to $300/month, but with food prices the way they are...well, you know).  Keep in mind that I run a tight budget, plus we have no men living at our house.

What I'm realizing, though, is that it doesn't necessarily cost more to eat Paleo.  You just make different choices for your money.  How much do you think you spend on popcorn, flour, noodles, legumes, bread, milk, yogurt, cereal, etc?  It's probably more than you think.  And yes, it's true that almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter.  But filling your cart with vegetables (especially in season, especially if you know how to ad-match at your local grocery that is kind enough to do ad-matching) will cost a lot less than all those packaged foods you may currently be taking through the check-out aisle.

Just as an experiment, I removed all the non-Paleo foods from my cupboards this week, and bagged them up.

Non-Paleo fare

I was actually surprised at how much there was.  This is $35 worth of unwanted groceries.

Remember the tuna incident?  With that fresh in my mind, I went back to the store to exchange "food" for FOOD.  Now, I have a confession to make.  If I'd known ahead of time what happens to "food" that gets returned, I may have decided differently on how to proceed.  But I figured, why should all this stuff take up limited cupboard space, when I could be storing food I'm actually going to eat?  So I returned it and used my store credit to buy canned tomatoes and frozen shrimp and coconut milk and tuna and eggs and ground turkey.  To make the exchange, the cashier had to attach a slip to each returned item marking it as defective merchandise.  I said there's nothing really wrong with it, only that my daughter and I can't eat it.  But that doesn't mean someone else couldn't.  That's when the cashier told me that it's store protocol to toss out all food items that get returned.  Health and safety issues, you know.  I felt awful.  I could have, and should have, donated all those things to a food bank.  *heavy sigh*  What a waste.

Food for today:

Meal #1
Scotch egg (turns out I really like them better warm)
clementine

Meal #2
Leftover apple pancakes dipped in apricots
coconut milk
(actually, this meal was one I quickly crammed in my face as I hurried off to run errands.  I learned a valuable lesson:  paleo pancakes aren't a food that should be consumed in a hurry.  Anyone have a glass of water?  I think I momentarily paralyzed my swallowing muscles.)

Meal #3
Tuna-Avocado stuffed sweet peppers
grapes

Meal #4
Paleo Shrimp Gumbo
(we should have had a salad or something, but tonight was one of those hurry-and-slurp-it-down-and-get-out-the-door nights.)

Meal #5
celery with almond butter
homemade plum applesauce


Paleo Shrimp Gumbo
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 c. okra, frozen
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 c. shredded cauliflower
2 c. water
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
heat of your choice (chili powder, red pepper, tobasco, chili sauce, etc.)
1 lb. cooked, shelled, deveined shrimp

Dump everything but shrimp in the crockpot.  Add more water if necessary to nearly cover.  Cook on Low about four hours, then add shrimp and cook four more hours.

30 Day Challenge, Day 8 (It's Working!)

Ballerina is amazing.  She's become a Paleo "missionary".  Her friends at school have ceased their teasing, and now peer over her lunch with interest.  They sidle up to her and ask her what Paleo meal she has today, which makes other friends ask, "what's Paleo?"  And everyone looks at her food longingly and says, "wow, that looks really good."

I love to listen to her tell me about her day.  In those ten minutes between school and the ballet studio, it's just her and me in the car together.  She munches on the Paleo snack I bring for her, and tells me in between bites who has a crush on whom, which teachers are awesome, how her social life is going, and what insane thing the school served for lunch that day (which is always some combination of bread and sugar and cheese).  Oh -- by the way -- the school is trying to encourage more people to eat school lunch, claiming that they work hard to put together healthy and nutritious meals.   To entice more people, they will be giving a free cookie to everyone who eats school lunch this week!  Hooray!  (Does anyone else find this ironic?)

So, after an entire week of this challenge, I honestly want to answer the question, "How's that been working for you?"  I've already mentioned my own satisfaction with the changes I've experienced (don't worry, I won't give you a detailed account of my bathroom visits -- although I did discuss them with my sister on the phone this morning, and she was quite amused).  But I've been waiting to know how it's been working for Ballerina.  Because if this doesn't work, I just don't know what will.  Please, let this be working.

When I picked her up after class today, she told me she feels lighter, smaller.  More confident in her leotard.  "Feel this," she says, squeezing her side.  "It feels really lean," I reply, not having anything to compare it to.  I mean, it's not like I took a baseline squeeze of her waist last week.  Then she says something that amazes me:

"I can't wait to weigh myself!"  Those are words that would not have escaped her mouth a week ago.  Besides, I've taught my daughters religiously that scales are mean and they lie.  Which is why we don't own one.  I happily threw my bathroom scale in the garbage a few years ago and decided to never buy another.

After dinner (which was delicious), I took my girls to their dad's house.  A few minutes later, my cellphone rang.  "Mom, guess what?"  It's Ballerina.  I'm thinking she's about to tell me she accidentally left something at our house when she says,

"I've lost four pounds!  And that's fully dressed and after eating dinner!"

RIGHT ON!  I tell her to let me know what tomorrow morning's weight is, because it will surely be less.  I'm so grateful I could cry.   How's that been working for us?  It's working!!!

*edit*  I just saw this on Ballerina's facebook status:  "Thank you, DinoChow!! I can tell we're going to be good friends :)"  And thank you, Mel, for giving Paleo such a cute nickname.


Today's food:

Meal #1
Blueberries, walnuts, coconut milk

Meal #2
Scotch Egg
sweet peppers
figs

Meal #3
Fresh Crunch Salad (Ballerina and I agreed to name it that.  It's a mixture of carrot coins, diced jicama, diced cucumber, chopped cilantro, chopped boiled egg, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  When I got home from dropping her off at class, I made one for myself, but instead of olive oil, I mixed in a tablespoon or two of pureed pumpkin.  That gave it a nice creamy texture.)

Meal #4
Homemade Turkey Sausage
Paleo Pancake Smorgasbord
Buckwheat Blueberry, Almond Pumpkin, Apple Cinnamon  (which I made using my homemade plum applesauce, because I'm awesome like that.)
Frozen, thawed apricots

I was very impressed with the homemade sausage.  It really tastes like sausage!  Here's what I did:

Throw this in the blender, and whir together until fennel seeds are broken up sufficiently:

½ T. salt
1 T. chili powder
½ t. fennel seed
½ t. ground black pepper

Dump mixture into a quart size freezer ziploc bag with one pound of ground turkey, and smoosh it around until the seasoning is well mixed into the meat.  Refrigerate for a couple hours for flavors to fuse.  Cut a corner off the bag and squeeze sausage lengths into a hot frying pan.  Turn the sausages during cooking so they brown evenly on all sides.
Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon pancakes (see my lovely homemade plum applesauce?)

Homemade Turkey Sausage, amazingly delicious

Unsweetened thawed apricots make the perfect topping.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 7 (Scotch Eggs!)

Well, we're rolling into completing our first week of the challenge.  Ballerina and I have been feeling great.  Valedictorian and Actress are tolerating (sometimes only barely) the fact that we have no more breakfast cereal.  I may have to stop buying regular milk, since without cereal, it doesn't get used very fast.

I had a surprising experience this morning.  See, I've been working on increasing my back squats.  Today I was slated to do 20 reps at 105 lbs, before beginning my prescribed wod (workout of the day, for those of you unfamiliar with Crossfit terminology).  I loaded up the bar with confidence -- I had, after all, squatted 20 reps at 95# and three days later 20 reps at 100# just last week.  I was looking forward to seeing that strong lady in the mirror hefting that bar (this, from a woman who has always hated working out where there's a chance someone might see -- Crossfit changes people).

I got in position and started my squats, and realized that I hadn't been squatting low enough last week.  Somehow that escaped my attention...I must have been mesmerized by my own bulging muscles.  So I decided to correct the problem, and break parallel like I've been taught.  Oh man.  I slowly cranked out four squats and nearly blacked out.  I backed up into the rack and set the weight down.  I didn't want to just give up, so I removed 10 lbs and tried again.  I could squeeze out six more, but then I had to stop so I wouldn't faint.  Ugh!  What was happening to me?!

Frustrated and disappointed, I decided to listen to my body and simply proceed to the wod: 10 rounds of 10 kettlebells @40# and 10 toes-to-bar (I realize this is unfamiliar territory for my family, but instead of me listing definitions for everything, you can always ask if you don't understand something).  I figured the entire wod would easily take under 15 minutes.  After the second round, I was seriously considering quitting.  I felt dizzy.  Out of breath.  I had plenty of strength, but all I could do was stare at that bar and say, "No way.  I'm not jumping up there."  I'd lean against the wall and press my face to the nice cold surface, practically praying to it, "Thank you, cement wall.  Thank you for being cold and comforting my 42-year-old body in this time of need."  Then I'd take a deep breath and keep attacking the wod.  I promised myself that if I could make it to five rounds, I'd quit then.  But before I got that far, I vowed I would finish the workout if it took an entire hour.  I've never quit a wod, and I wasn't going to start today.  (Well, okay, there was that one time I stopped and gave up, but that was the morning after I gave blood, and I probably should have taken a rest day that day anyhow.)  I muscled through, fighting my mounting frustration with my sluggish body.  This wasn't a question of strength, but of stamina.  Where was my energy?

Disgruntled with my 28-minute finishing time, I dragged myself to the car and drove home.  I wanted to call Superman and cry.  Or lie.  I was disappointed with myself, and sure that he would be too (which is absolutely ridiculous, because he's never been anything but loving and supportive).  But he's my trainer and he needs to know how my workout went.  So I called and tried to explain what happened.  I didn't get very far before my throat closed off and the tears started.  (*eye roll*  There's no crying in baseball!  Crossfit!)  And then he chuckled.

"You're laughing!"  I sobbed into the phone.

"No.  Not at you," but I could hear him smiling.  Then he proceeded to praise me for correcting my squat technique, and recommended we decrease the squat weight and work back up again, with excellent technique this time.  He further explained that he's seen this in everyone who has ever taken on a Paleo challenge.  As their bodies adjust to using a different kind of fuel, there is a period of sluggishness and dizziness during exercise.  Instead of being disappointed in me (again, ludicrous notion), he lovingly told me how amazing he thinks I am (*blush*).  And I cried some more.  (Oh...did I mention that emotional upheaval is also part of changing up your diet?  Beware.)

Side note:  I love that man.

Food for today:

Meal #1
onion and spinach omelet
grapes
fresh squeezed orange juice (from a not-very-juicy orange.  I think I got maybe 4 tablespoons to sip.)

Meal #2
stuffed-a-few-prunes-and-almonds-in-my-face-before-an-appointment

Meal #3
Tuna-stuffed peppers
steamed asparagus

Meal #4
Sweet Potato Curry Apple Soup
Chicken Salad (I forgot I'd need to make mayonnaise, so I ignored the store-bought stuff in the fridge and drizzled olive oil and lemon juice over the salad.  It was pretty good.)

Meal #5
Scotch Eggs (inspired by Mel's recipe, my alterations below.  So. danged. good.)
Sweet Potato and Carrot Hashbrowns (divine!  shredded sweet potato and carrots and onion, fried up in a little bit of coconut oil, sprinkled with Hawaiian ONO salt)





Scotch Eggs
½ T. salt
½ T. chili powder
½ t. fennel seed
½ t. ground black pepper
1 lb. ground turkey
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
finely shredded plain coconut

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Pulse the salt, chili powder, fennel seed and pepper in the blender until the fennel seeds are broken up and powdery.  Mix the ground turkey and seasonings until well-combined (smushing them in a ziploc bag works well and isn't messy).

3. Divide the turkey mixture into 6 equal servings. Flatten the turkey into an even pancake shape, and wrap around a hard-boiled egg, sealing it all the way around and making sure the meat is evenly distributed. This is WAY easier than its sounds. Just roll and lovingly pat it into place.  Roll in coconut shreds to coat.

4. Place the wrapped eggs on a baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes, or until the outsides are nicely browned and starting to crisp.

Monday, March 21, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 6 (My Hero, Mel)

Melissa Joulwan doesn't know it, but she is one of my heroes. She doesn't know me at all.  In fact, she has no idea that Ms. Julie, single-mom-searching-for-the-right-answers-for-Ballerina, exists.  But that's beside the point.  Her witty, no-nonsense style and fantastic recipes were just the inspiration I needed to launch into a nutrition style that flew in the face of everything I'd been taught about "healthy eating" all my life.  And today, she posted this lovely morsel of fantastic insight:

Bodies don't really follow rules.

And now that I've grown accustomed to that idea, I like it!
How lovely that my body isn't just like yours – and yours isn't just like mine. But because we're all beautiful and unique, it's immensely helpful to think of all of this as an experiment to find the best way to care for our bodies, which are really just unpredictable bags of water and hormones that act as a container for our big brains and boundless hearts.

Thank you, Mel.  I adore you, even if you don't know me from Eve.

Ballerina and I are feeling great.  Lots of energy, clear skin, a stupendous lack of constipation.  (I talk about my intestines sometimes.  You'll get used to it.)  Plus, we have to admit we feel a little "hoity toity".  We've given up sugar, and we're pretty darned proud of it.

Today is one of those crazy-busy days.  We have a lot of them at our house.  I'm using my only spare 1/2 hour today to quickly write this post.  I rushed around this morning to fetch and deliver forgotten items to kids at school, then squeezed in my workout before hurrying through the shower and driving to the University to teach a theater audition master class.  On my way home, I stopped by the store to return four cans of tuna.  For some reason, they have soy in them.  Why?  I just don't know.  It's a puzzle.  The lovely woman at Customer Service said I could exchange food for food, so I went in search of soy-free tuna.  You know what?  It's hard to find.  Try it some time.  Thankfully, I succeeded.

I returned home while complaining to Superman about the condition of canned food in America.  I assured him I'm not becoming an extremist or a political activist, but gosh -- why can't I just have FOOD in my food?

Meal #1
Coconut milk
Clementine orange (yes, I've been eating a lot of these sweet little morsels.  I say, eat them while they're in season, because before you know it, they won't be available and you'll have to wait until Christmas.)

Meal #2
Stuffed Peppers (Ballerina came up with this one last night.  "Sandwich meat"  has now become "pepper meat".  Tuna, avocado, minced carrots and celery -- all stuffed into several sweet peppers.  Delish.)

Meal #3
Celery, chopped turkey, peppers, strawberries

Meal #4
Coconut shrimp, asparagus, strawberries

Meal #5
Celery with almond butter
grapefruit

Sunday, March 20, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 5 (Paleo Friendly "Free Day")

Sunday was traditionally "Free Day" when Ballerina and I were doing Body for Life.  We've committed to 30 days of Paleo eating, without cheating.  However, I decided there was still a way to have the semblance of Free Day, even on Paleo.

This morning, I made paleo pancakes.  True, not nearly as sweet as traditional pancakes, but our mouths were very happy with the bread-like breakfast.  I got the recipe here:  Quick Applesauce Paleo Pancakes.  I also made a blueberry topping by simmering blueberries in a little coconut milk and water, upon which I sprinkled one teaspoon of powdered dates.

Today, I plan to spend several hours cooking breakfasts to store in the freezer for Ballerina and her older sister, Valedictorian.  They need items they can quickly grab and eat, and breakfast cereal is no longer on the menu.  Today's workload:  Scotch Eggs, Paleo Pancakes (several varieties), Paleo muffins.  Perhaps I can even find a way to make and freeze Carrot Hashbrowns.

Obviously, the day isn't over yet, but here's what we've eaten, and what we plan to eat:

Meal #1
strawberries, blueberries, coconut milk

Meal #2
Paleo Apple Pancakes
Blueberry topping

Meal #3
nuts
celery sticks

Meal #4
Walnut Encrusted Tilapia
Pecan-Cilantro Quinoa (I originally got the idea here: Laura's Best Recipes, but I changed it up a little, so I'll include my version below.)
Romaine Salad (with strawberries and avocado)

Meal #5
Paleo ice cream (1 can full fat coconut milk, 2 c. mashed ripe bananas)
cinnamon toasted almonds (almond slivers, shaken in a frying pan with a little coconut oil and cinnamon)
Paleo brownies

First of all, the brownies are amazing (pictures are coming posted!).  We spent so much time cooking our treats that I didn't cook up the storm I planned on, but it was worth it.  Ballerina and I were practically fainting with delight over the brownies and ice cream.  We realize they aren't an every day thing, but how amazing to have a treat that fits into our new nutrition choices! 

Walnut-encrusted Tilapia
Pecan Cilantro Quinoa
Pecan Cilantro Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
¼ c. lemon juice
¼ c. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 T. honey
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

First -- in big pot of boiling water with big pinch salt, add the quinoa, and let boil for 4 minutes. Strain and rinse.

Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and honey in a bowl.  Add onions, cilantro and pecans.

In another pot, add 1 cup water, a pinch of salt, and a little olive oil.  When it comes to the boil, add the blanched Quinoa, cover, and turn down heat to LOW. Let cook for about 10 minutes or so, or until all the water is absorbed.  Turn off heat, but keep cover on for additional 5 minutes.

Fluff up Quinoa with a fork.  Stir in the dressing.  Serve.


Paleo Brownies and Ice Cream
Flourless Brownies
(gluten-free, casein-free, sugar-free)

Set oven to 325 degrees

Add to Bowl:
1 cup almond butter
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder (no more than 1/4 cup - or they will be dry)

Beat with electric mixer.
If the batter appears too dry add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water.
Pour into square greased cake pan. Spread slightly (it will even itself out).
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup homemade sugar-free chocolate chips.
Bake on the middle rack for 25 - 35 minutes.

Sugar Free Chocolate Chips
Sugar Free Chocolate Chips

1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/4 c. softened coconut oil
1 t. vanilla
1/8 c. honey

Combine all ingredients. Stir. If the mixture is too warm to hold its shape, refrigerate until it thickens a little. Line a small cookie sheet with wax paper.  Fill a cake decorating icing bag (or a plastic bag with a tiny hole in one corner) with the chocolate. Squeeze out little chocolate chips.  Place in the freezer until firm. Remove from wax paper and store in a bag in the freezer.

30 Day Challenge, Day 4 (Surprise Soup)

Today we had a birthday party for Actress, my 13-year-old.  Since I'm not "making" everyone in the family participate in the Paleo challenge, I (somewhat reluctantly) provided non-Paleo party food:  Doritos, m&m's, chocolate chip cookies, zucchini muffins, lemonade.  Actress also requested a veggie tray.  With ranch.  *helpless shrug*  In addition, she and her dad spent hours making an ice cream cake.  I also bought a piñata and over ten bucks worth of candy to go inside.  That was probably my most difficult purchase.  Why was I spending money on something I deem as garbage?  On the other hand, I refuse to be the mom who fills a piñata with little bags of baby carrots.  I am not an extremist.

The party went well.  The guests were happy.  They ate nearly all the veggies, about half the zucchini muffins, almost the entire bag of Doritos, less than half of the cookies, lots of m&m's, and drank all the lemonade.  Most of them opted to not eat ice cream cake.  Come to think of it, we probably could have gotten away with far less sugar at the party.  Even after the piñata was broken open, very few kids decided to take home candy.  Anyone want a tootsie roll?

Even with a party happening at our house, I did manage to make yummy paleo fare:

Meal #1
Peach Melba Smoothie

Meal #2
"Surprise Soup"
Clementine orange

I couldn't bring myself to have lettuce wraps one more time this week.  They were good, but it was getting a bit repetitive.  I took the lettuce wrap filling out of the fridge, threw it in a pot, and poured some coconut milk over it.  Letting my imagination take flight, I pulled out a couple dried apricots (home-dried, or over-dried I should say...they're nearly hard as rocks) and threw them in the blender, pulsed them until they were powder, then I sprinkled that in my soup.  I added fresh garlic, zucchini, and okra, sprinkled a little garam masala over it, and dabbed a little hot chili garlic sauce in.  I let it simmer until the vegetables were cooked but not soggy.  I knew I'd still eat it even if it tasted weird, but surprise!  Oh my goodness, it was good.  I was about to eat all of it, when I realized Ballerina would be home from ballet class soon, and would need lunch.  So I tucked it in the fridge.  She concurred -- Surprise Soup was a success.

Meal #3
Coconut-crusted Tilapia (I was in fits of delight over this.  YUM.)
Strawberries
Grapefruit
Sweet peppers

Meal #4
Layered Salad (chopped romaine, chopped spinach, chopped turkey, chopped almonds, diced strawberries, sliced avocado half, olive oil, red wine vinegar)
Clementine orange

I was a little hungry when I got home from my performance, but being tired won out over food.  However, it was such a wonderful day for my tastebuds, I couldn't bring myself to complain.

30 Day Challenge, Day 3 (Sugar is in everything)

Friday.  Grocery shopping day.  I knew I'd be heading to at least two different stores, since my main grocery store doesn't stock items like sugar-free almond butter.

Much to my surprise, my main grocery store doesn't stock sugar-free mostly anything.  I guess I thought those options would just be sitting next to the full sugar versions that the rest of the world is eating.  And even though I've been reading food labels for years, I was genuinely shocked at how much sugar is in everything.  Even good wholesome lean Honeysuckle White turkey sausage.  You have to be smarter than the label.  Sure, you'll recognize sugar and corn syrup, but sugar hides behind many names:  fructose, sucrose, glucose, lactose, maltose, galactose, sucralose.  Take a second look at "evaporated cane juice" -- yep, sugar.  True, a less refined sugar, and perhaps marginally acceptable, but still.  For a longer list of sugar names, try this:  http://www.dietriffic.com/2009/03/26/names-for-sugar/ .  I read the list to Ballerina, and she exclaimed, "What's galactose?  Sugar from space?!?"

I bought a bag of chopped dates recently.  The ingredients were "dates, dextrose".  At first, I thought dextrose was simply an anti-clumping agent, but I decided to look it up.  Dextrose is a naturally occurring sugar, one that dates are already rich in, but which is commercially derived from grains...doubly bad for Paleo eaters.

I popped a plain pitted date in Ballerina's mouth.   "Wow!  That's like candy!"  Yes.  Then I told her what I'd learned about dextrose and the packaged chopped dates I bought (and will be returning).  "Wait...they added sugar to this?  That's like adding sugar to sugar!"  My thoughts exactly.

America, it's time for an intervention.  You have put sugar in absolutely everything you eat.  You don't even know what food really tastes like anymore.  Try finding sugar-free beef jerky.  You won't see any at your grocery store.  Nope.  Not one ounce.  Sugar free ketchup?  Doesn't exist.  And why?  Why do we add sugar to that?  Have you ever opened a can of tomato paste?  That stuff is very sweet already!  Trust me, the list goes on and on and on and on and on and on...

Now, lest you think my rampage about the prolific use of sugar in our food signals a belief that sugar is all evil, please understand -- I have a love and healthy respect for sugar.  As a self-proclaimed kitchen chemist, I recognize and adore what sugar can do.  After my 30 day challenge, I plan to make a perfect, beautiful cheesecake for Superman.  But I won't be eating sugarfull foods all the time any more.  Sugar will be a rare experience in my life from now on.

So, what delicious things did we eat today?  Here you go:

Meal #1
Peach Melba Smoothie (coconut milk, frozen peaches, frozen home-juiced cherry juice, raw walnuts)

Meal #2
Almonds, prunes, dates, sweet peppers

Meal #3
Leftover lettuce wraps

Meal #4
Celery with almond butter, strawberries, clementine orange

Meal #5
Walnut-encrusted tilapia (cooked in coconut oil), zucchini

Meal #6
strawberries, raw veggies

Saturday, March 19, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 2 (Make Ahead Lettuce Wraps)

Today was a difficult day. 

Thursdays are my menu-planning days, and it took much longer than usual because I was researching recipes instead of just throwing together old standbys.  I found some great stuff, though, so the planning was exciting -- just time consuming.

I had to make dinner early in the day, since I'd be at work until 6, then would be dashing off to the theater to get there by 6:30 for my opening night performance of "The Plan", a new play by Eric Samuelsen.  As a result of my busy schedule, meals were mostly leftovers and sort of redundant.  But some days are like that, even when you're not eating Paleo.

While I was at work, I got a phone call from the director.  The actor who plays opposite me was suddenly in the hospital, preparing to go under the knife for open heart surgery.  This was completely unanticipated.  Another actor in the show was asked to step up and take on the role, and I was needed at the theater at 6:00 to run the scene with him.  I wept a bit and made a couple of urgent phone calls to manage transportation for Ballerina, then left work early.  Thank goodness dinner was already made, because this would have totally thrown me off track.

I have to say that my new scene partner is amazing.  In the course of one afternoon, he managed to memorize a 15-minute two-person scene.  He performed brilliantly that night, and I'm completely in awe of him.  Our good friend is doing well, in good spirits, and we anticipate his full recovery.

Today's food:

Meal #1
Leftover chicken/veg stir fry

Meal #2
Leftover mini turkey-veg burgers, wrapped in lettuce, with avocado and grape tomatoes

Meal #3
Leftover chicken/veg, warmed with coconut milk and curry

Meal #4
Chicken lettuce wraps (recipe follows)
Fresh kiwi

Meal #5
Leftover lettuce wraps

Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
I totally ignored the measurements for the mushrooms and onions, and just chopped up what I felt like, which ended up being more like equal amounts with the can of water chestnuts.  You can do that, too.

3 tablespoons oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup water chestnuts
2/3 cup mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I minced a fresh clove of garlic without measuring)
ginger
4 -5 leaves iceberg lettuce (I recommend just using an entire head of iceberg)

Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan.

Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or done.

As chicken cooks mince water chestnuts and mushrooms to about the size of small peas.
  
Remove chicken from the pan.

Add a little more oil, add garlic, onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms to the pan.

Mince the chicken as small as the mushrooms and water chestnuts are.

Add the chicken to the pan.

Season and saute the mixture for a couple minutes then serve it in the lettuce "cups". 

30 Day Challenge, Day 1 (Launching the experiment)

Goodbye, beloved homemade granola.  You are banished to the deep freezer for the next 30 days.

So what is Paleo, anyway?  Basically it's this:  meat and seafood, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruit.  No sugar, no grains, no legumes, little starch.

You know, I'm really impressed with Ballerina.  She stands up to accusers ("but that diet isn't healthy!") and tempters ("come on, have a slice of pizza...you knoooowwww you waaaaannnt iiiiiit...") and doesn't cave in.  Peer pressure, you have met your match.

Are we dealing with a food allergy?  Diabetes?  Hypoglycemia?  I honestly don't know.  But if we can head off those problems with eating smarter, why not start now?  And why, oh why, do others need a doctor's diagnosis before they will respect these unusual dietary choices?  Mind your own business, I say.  I'm just trying to find the best way to help my daughter be healthy and live her dreams.

So, here's the breakdown of today's meals:

Meal #1
omelet (eggs, onion, spinach) and blueberries

Meal #2
turkey-veg burgers, wrapped in lettuce, with avocado and grape tomatoes

Meal #3
Celery sticks, almonds, dried apricots

Meal #4
Stir fried chicken and veggies, paleo strawberry tarts

Meal #5
Strawberries, blueberries, almonds, coconut milk

Day 1 was the birthday for my youngest daughter.  She insisted on strawberry tarts, so I made two kinds...the traditional way with a flaky refined wheat flour and butter crust...but how to make a tart Paleo-friendly?  I threw a handful of almonds in the blender, with a pinch of dried dates, and pulsed them until they were crumbly.  Then I cut in a very small bit of coconut oil and pressed a bit of the mixture into a dozen tiny muffin cup liners, then baked it for about 8 minutes.  At dinner time, we topped those babies with naked chopped fresh strawberries.  Even the non-Paleo girls in the family decided they were absolutely delicious.

Why Paleo?

When Superman first told me about the Paleo diet, I scoffed.  Loudly.  Live without bread?  Without rice?  Without milk or yogurt or, heaven forbid, cheese?  It can't be done.  It's stupid.  And what's more, it's probably not healthy.  Grains are good for you, right?  They're wholesome food.  That's what I was always taught, anyhow.

You need to know that I consider myself a pretty healthy person.  Just over ten years ago, I lost nearly fifty pounds doing Body for Life.  I run and I lift weights and I rarely buy pre-packaged foods.  I love to cook, and I love to cook healthy.  I started doing Crossfit about six months ago, and I feel better than ever.  I admit, with the increased intensity of my workouts, I've indulged in "Free Day" foods more often...but it hasn't really mattered, at least as far as my body weight goes.  I've followed the plan that worked so well for me:  balanced protein and carbs at every meal, plus veggies.

Still, I was willing to experiment and give it a go.  Why?  Well -- TMI alert -- I've been dealing with severe IBS symptoms for years.   Sometimes things got so plugged up, I couldn't move my bowels for up to two weeks, sometimes more.  Superman wondered if changing my diet would help. 

But the thing that really pushed me toward this experiment was my daughter.  My 16-year-old is a gifted ballerina, hard working, muscular, passionate and devoted.  She dances 15 - 20 hours a week, is contracted with a pre-professional ballet company, runs, lifts weights, and watches what she eats.  She knows more about nutrition than most kids in high school, truthfully, more than most adults.  And yet, her weight continues to increase.  One of the hardest things about ballet is body image...there you are, wearing leotard and tights, seeing yourself and the other members of the company in wall-to-wall mirrors.  But even beyond that, if you're dancing on pointe, there are risks to carrying too much weight.  Her dream is to pursue a career in dance, but at her current weight, will probably struggle to even get accepted into a dance major.  I had to do something.

I figured that the God who created my body could tell me how I should fuel it.  I pondered and prayed to know how to help my daughter.  And these were some of the thoughts that snuck into my brain:
  •  diabetes and hypoglycemia are well represented in my family
  • sometimes we form allergies to foods we over-use, and I know we've been relying on wheat and cow's milk heavily
  • we avoid foods that give us heartburn, gas, diarrhea, or that make us gag or feel nauseated.  Why don't we avoid foods that make us fat?
But then I watched a segment of the Dr. Oz show, where he went head-to-head with Gary Taubes.  And Mr. Taubes said something that really resonated with me: "It's unfortunate, it's unfair, but if you have a tendency to gain weight, carbohydrates are fattening."  He never said any of those ludicrous things like all-grains-are-poison, or cow's-milk-is-only-for-baby-cows.  I just don't buy into that stuff.  But being aware of what my body can and can't tolerate?  Yes, that idea is for me.

I did a little research, and felt confident I could pull this off.  Paleo, on a budget, as a single parent with a busy schedule, with three teenage daughters.  Yes, I was up for the challenge.  And to naysayers who assert that it can't be done, I say keep reading.  I believe I'm about to prove you wrong.