“Peanut” Satay Chicken

IMG_0764

Last night I had a real craving for peanut satay chicken. There are two problems with this when you are adhering to Whole 30. First, you aren’t supposed to have peanuts. Second, traditional satay has a whole lot of brown sugar in it. So, I decided to get creative. By using sunflower butter, I found the nutty flavor I was looking for, and the coconut milk added the touch of sweetness it needed without actually adding a sweetener! I’ll be honest, it’s not the perfect replica, but it was pretty darn close! I served it over fried cauliflower rice, which was the perfect compliment!

(Serves 2)

  • 1/3 cup sunflower butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teas dried minced onion
  • ½ teas garlic powder
  • ¼ – ½ teas cayenne powder
  • ¼ teas ancho chili powder
  • ½ teas lemongrass
  • ¾ teas salt
  • 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Cilantro for garnish

For the rice:

  • ½ head cauliflower, whirled in a food processor to create rice like consistency
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

IMG_0763

  1. Slice your chicken breast across the grain into very thin slices
  2. Put your sunflower butter, coconut milk, onion, garlic, cayenne, ancho, lemongrass and salt into a medium sized sauce pot and whisk together. It may look grainy with the coconut milk, but do not fear! Heat over medium heat whisking occasionally.
  3. While your sauce is warming, melt your coconut oil in a frying / sauté pan over med high heat.
  4. Add the chicken to the coconut oil and cook just through while stirring, approximately 4 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken directly to the sauce and let it simmer while you make your cauliflower rice, or up to 45 minutes with the lid on and the head turned down low.
  6. Make your cauliflower rice by melting the coconut oil over med high heat, adding the cauliflower, salt and pepper.   Stir and flip occasionally until your rice is cooked and browned to your liking.
  7. Serve the chicken over the cauliflower and garnish with the cilantro.

10 Keys to Starting Whole 30

images

I have a number of friends who like to do New Year’s Resolutions. They often involve a new exercise thing, joining a gym, going on a diet, giving up cake, starting to spend more time outdoors, or committing to reading a certain number of books in a year. One of my friends wanted to do the Whole 30, which is, in essence, a paleo cleanse. She is more or less gluten free, but she really wanted to do a “hard reset” on her diet for the new year, and she asked me for some advice since I’ve done it in the past. I offered to do the 30 days with her to support her efforts, and also because I think it’s a good form of discipline for myself. Her questions and initial apprehension in getting started made me realize that there are some easy tips to put her on the path to success.

  1. Set your mind in the right place before you even start – that means deciding from the outset that you can and will do it. If you doubt yourself, you will have a hard time. Your mind is powerful, so use it to your advantage. It also means choosing a date to start, and well, then, just start. There is always a good reason to put it off or wait or something…the fact is, making a different in your routine is hard, and that’s what you’ll be doing.
  2. Hold it lightly. What I mean is, decide that you will do this, prepare, be committed to it, but if something happens on day 10 and you have a piece of bread, don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse.
  3. Set aside one hour each Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and write down what you plan on having for each meal, list some snack ideas, and identify the prep work you need to do. For instance, note that you need to take the chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday that you are going to use on Friday.
  4. As you plan your week ahead, spread your “left overs” out across several days and don’t try to eat it all in 3 or 4 consecutive meals. Your body and mind likes variety and it will keep your food interesting. Another idea is to make your left overs into “new” food. If you make a roasted chicken for dinner one night, repurpose the left over chicken into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
  5. If you are doing this with a partner, plan your meals together. So, if you are deciding what to have for dinners, I suggest that you pick two meals and your partner picks two meals that you definitely want to have that week. The other three meals can be leftovers or “pick up meals”. Your partner’s buy-in and involvement will keep him or her invested in the effort, and will help you in the motivation department, too!
  6. Also as you are planning, take into account your “busy” days, and don’t try to do too much. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights, after work. So between getting home, taking care of the dog, changing clothes, getting to class on time and fighting rush hour, I have very little time to prep a meal. Tuesdays are a great night for me to use the slow cooker, or to have left overs, and I put that into my plan.
  7. Speaking of too much, don’t try to start lots of new things when you embark on the Whole 30. I know it’s tempting to decide that you are going to turn over a BIG new leaf and start Whole 30, a new exercise regimen and getting up 45 minutes earlier every day to take care of all those house chores first thing, all in the same week. Don’t put yourself under this kind of pressure to make so many drastic changes all at the same time. Be proud that you are making one change, and be confident that when you are ready to add more change to your life, those new changes will still be waiting for you!
  8. Don’t plan to make big decisions in the first 7 days. Your body is getting used to a new routine, and may be going through some withdrawal. It’s possible that you will be irrationally cranky.   Don’t add to the stress that you are putting on yourself by artificially adding to that, if you can avoid it.
  9. Set up your pantry and put away all the unnecessary stuff. I put all my baking supplies (sugars, flowers, chocolate chips, etc) away in a plastic bin and put it downstairs. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s amazing how this works – it’s not that I actually forget I have it, but it has been moved so it’s not as easily accessible. This means it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat that snack or bake some cookies.
  10. Lean on resources that are fun, full of ideas, and easy to use! The first time I did Whole 30, I thumbed through the Well Fed cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan almost every day. I also visited the Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl website regularly. Both of these had Whole 30 specific plans and tips that were really valuable.

Finally, decide you are going to have fun – yes, I know this makes 11, but this should be more of a general guiding principle of life, don’t you think? We can do pretty much anything for 30 days…make it an adventure, and you never know, you might even create a new habit!

Your Gas Tank

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Food matters, what you put into your body matters.  It’s like gasoline for your car.  It might still get you from Point A to Point B on regular unleaded, but your car like premium unleaded better.  Your body is no different.

When you are training for an event, a race, or just generally stressing your body, you need more calories than you do in an “off season”.  What I have discovered for myself is that I can run when I’ve been eating crap – any calories is better than no calories when I’m 4 miles into a 7 mile run….but…  But!  Absolutely, there is a but.  If I have healthy and clean calories that my body is burning, I feel so much better!  If I must run on a scone and coffee, fine, but I struggle.  If I am running on free range eggs, spinach, a piece of fruit and some homemade carnitas, I don’t find the run as hard.

It also has to do with toxin build up.  Even things that could be generally considered “good” for me have toxins in one shape or another.  Even though I believe that red wine has some incredible properties, and I enjoy the taste of red wine, drinking in excess will lead to toxin build up.  For me, that happens in my hip joints.    For others, diary or gluten can be a trigger, even if that person is not allergic to either one for example.

When I did a paleo cleanse in January, I did myself a real service, and I didn’t even know it – in essence, I gave myself an oil change.  I reset my body, and in the process, I set myself up for more success.  For one month, I removed sugar, alcohol, gluten, grains, corn, legumes, and dairy.  I am not advocating that everyone should live this way – I certainly don’t.  But after my one month “reset”, I have to admit, my joints are happy.  I am running.  I am not having hip issues, (which I have struggled with for many years.)  I attribute this to having a fairly “clean” diet while I continue to train.

This is not to say that I deny myself now that I am not on the cleanse – I had bread, wine, cheese and sugar last night…and it all tasted great.  But I don’t eat like that every day.  For the most part, I am still eating in a quasi paleo format, mostly because that is what my body responds well to.  I have found that if I listen to my body, my cravings, when I am hungry and when I am full, I actually fill myself up with what I need rather than what I think I should need.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my kinesiologist who is basically a “body mechanic” and he gave me a tune up.  Before I left he looked at me and said, “I’m really impressed with how you have done your training.  I have to tell you, when you told me that you were planning on running a half in May, I thought you were headed for a lot of hurt and pain and I was really worried about your ability to finish and accomplish your goal because of all the hip issues you’ve had.  I think that when you did that cleanse in January, you really set yourself up for success…without even realizing it!”

Way to go, me!  Listen to your gut – sometimes you know way more than you realize.

Fuel

SweetpotatoEggs

 

Fuel – we all need it.

Back in January, I started my half marathon training, and I also embarked on the Whole 30 Journey at the same time. On Whole 30, I was amazed at the sheer volume of food I needed to consume every day in order to feel satisfied.  What non-endurance athlete should be eating roughly twice the amount of food previously, in terms of “cups”?

At first I thought it was crazy and that it would surely make me gain weight, but since I was doing Whole 30 as a cleanse and an exercise in discipline, I didn’t worry about it too much.  Granted, it takes a lot more cups of raw veggies to match the number of calories found in one cup of rice.  It should also be noted that even though I was running, I was not running very much or very far during this month.  My point is, I ate A LOT, and I actually lost inches, if not actual weight.  (I never weighed myself, so I have no idea whether I lost or maintained my weight.)

After my official 30 days were over, I didn’t go back to eating as I had before, (for instance, the insatiable cheese cravings were gone so I wasn’t going through a brick of cheese every 3 days), but I didn’t remain strict paleo in my diet either.  For me, this means that about 85% of the time, I still eat just like I did with Whole 30 – a lot of vegetables, lean meat and fruit.  This also means that if I feel like having a sandwich with bread and cheese for lunch, I allow myself to have that, and I don’t feel remotely guilty about it.

My challenge now is that I’m running a lot further and faster, and to be blunt, I need more calories.  I am still losing weight, and unless I find the correct balance of the right number of calories as well as the right KIND of calories at the right intervals during the day, I am risking injury, pain, lethargy, and general un-health.  In essence, that would un-do all the good I have been doing for myself, and I don’t want that to happen.  Also, I find that I generally feel better when I stick to more paleo than not-paleo lifestyle, so the “right kinds” of calories doesn’t mean just adding pizza or bagels to my routine.  It means being thoughtful and adding proteins, fruits, carbs and vegetables.

My new favorite pre-run snack is Sweet Potato Eggs, a great mix of carbs and protein.    It’s easy to throw together in the afternoon, or it’s a great breakfast and start to my day.

Excuse me, I have to go for a run now.

 

Sweet Potato Eggs

Ingredients:
2 Tbls bacon fat
½ sweet potato shredded
2 eggs
salt and pepper

 

Directions:

Melt the bacon fat in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Squeeze any moisture out of the shredded sweet potatoes and pan fry until golden.  When the shredded sweet potato is crispy and browned, move to a plate.  Crack two eggs and cook to taste in the skillet.  I love the creamy yolk when it mixes with the potato, so I always make mine over easy.  Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Almond Butter Pears

Almond Butter Pears

Sometimes you just need a small snack….  I wanted something a little bit sweet, but I wanted healthy, and I knew I needed a little bit of protein.  Answer?  Cut up a ripe Bartlett pear into eight slices, and drizzle almond butter over the top.

It was sweet and juicy and the nutty flavor gave this snack a little bit of a backbone…just enough for a post run “something” to keep my tummy happy before my actual meal.  I started with a fork, but I switched to just using my hands.  I found it is more satisfying to lick my fingers at the end.

Cashew nut butter or sunflower butter would also work to keep this paleo and Whole 30 friendly, but if you are so inclined, peanut butter would also be tasty.  In the summer time, I might swap out the pear for a ripe banana that has been cut up and frozen.

Spicy Crispy Chicken Fingers

Spicy Crispy Chicken Fingers

When I embarked on the Whole 30 experience, I was convinced that I was going to go back to cheese and grains and everything else I had given up when my 30 days were done.  After all, this was just a way to start out my year with some discipline.

Well, yesterday was the Super Bowl, and I did, in fact, have cheese, and grains, and alcohol and pretty much anything that is on the “do not have on a paleo diet” list.  And last night, I slept horribly.  I think I might sort of like how my body responds to this new lifestyle.  I’m not convinced that I’m sticking to it necessarily, but on the other hand, I didn’t really want any cheese today.  Hmmmm.

So tonight I was inspired to create spicy crispy chicken fingers.  I served them over a pan-fried cake of left over whipped cauliflower and a side salad of roasted beets and greens.  It was sort of like elegant Super Bowl food….only healthy and tasty.

Spicy Crunchy Chicken Fingers

(serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into “fingers” (4-5 per breast)
  • ½ bag of sweet potato chips (I used Terra Chips)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whirl the sweet potato chips in a food processor to create a panko type texture.  Add the salt and cayenne and spread onto a plate.  To bread the chicken, dip each piece in the egg and then immediately roll in the sweet potato crumbs.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan over med high heat until the oil is shimmering.  Add the chicken to the pan, but do not crowd.   Do this in two batches if necessary.  Pan fry for 4 minutes on each side so that the chicken cooks and the crumbs brown, but do not burn, a total of approximately 8 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan, drain on some paper towel and put in an oven safe dish.  After all chicken is fried, place the chicken in the oven for an additional 10 minutes to finish cooking any larger pieces and ensure that everything is hot before serving.

PanFrying

Serve over whipped cauliflower, a green salad, or make them into exotic lettuce wrap sandwiches.  Slices of avocado will take these over the top.

Left overs will keep in the fridge for several days, but will be better re-heated in an oven to retain the crispy breading than to re-heat in a microwave.

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

The rest of the country has been fighting off arctic cold and/or blizzard conditions, while Colorado has enjoyed a couple of days up into the high 40s and low 50s this week!  Apparently that is about to change tonight with a forecast of 5-10 inches of snow in the city over night and even more up in the mountains.  Fine, I give in.  I will hunker down with one of my favorite soups!

The sweetness of the butternut squash marries nicely with the spice of the curry, and the creamy coconut milk give the soup a silky texture.  Adding a touch of fresh cilantro and the tang of lime juice take the soup to a new level.  If you want to leave it as a vegetarian dish, omit shredded chicken as a topping and thin your soup with water.  Invite a friend over, cozy up to the fire, and don’t forget to lick the bowl when you’re done.

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 small – medium sized butternut squash
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 -3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 2-3 teas salt
  • 1 Tbls Sweet Curry Powder
  • 1 Tbls Maharaja Curry Powder from Penzey’s (a spicier curry blend)

Directions….Sort of:

Sometimes directions are more like guidelines….

Split the squash in half length-wise and remove all seeds.  Peel and chunk the onion into 1 inch cubes and toss with garlic and a bit of olive oil.  Drizzle some olive oil on a jelly roll pan and lay the squash face down, add the onion in all the open space on the pan.

Place the pan in the oven to roast until squash is very tender and onions are somewhat caramelized, approximately 40-50 minutes at 375 degrees.  (You don’t need to preheat your oven if you don’t want to.)  To see if it’s done, you should be able to easily pierce through the skin of the squash around the “neck” area where it is thickest, to ensure the roasting is done.

Take the roasted veggies out of the oven and let cool enough so you can handle.

Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a soup pot, add the onions, coconut milk, and chicken broth or water and puree using a stick mixer.  You can also use a blender or food processor if you don’t have a stick mixer.  Add salt and taste for balance.  Add more water or broth to thin the soup to your desired consistency.  Add spices and taste for balance.  Add more curry or chili pepper flakes as needed.  This soup is better under-salted in the pot as you can always add a touch more when you serve it.

I served mine with shredded chicken, lime and fresh cilantro, but it’s up to you – be creative and have fun!

Garnish with any of the following:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Shredded chicken breast
  • Chopped macadamia nuts
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Fresh spinach leaves

Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Sweet Pork Loin

There are some nights when it’s chilly outside and I want the feel of Comfort Food, especially when I’ve had a long day at work.  This dish is great for nights like that because it only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, and then it cooks all day while I’m away from the house.  As a bonus, my whole house smells great the moment I walk in the door.  I just have to steam some cauliflower and whirl it in my processor.

Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Onion

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb pork loin
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 6 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cups organic apple cider
  • 1 Tbls dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 additional apple

Salt and pepper the pork loin.  Place half the onions and peeled apples on the bottom of the slow cooker to create a bed for the pork.  Top with the remaining onions, peeled apples and mushrooms.  Add the cider and sprinkle the thyme over the top.  Set to low and cook 9-10 hours.

After 9 hours or so, the pork should break apart into large chunks very easily.  If it doesn’t, use a knife and cut the loin into thick slices, and then place the pork back in the juices of the slow cooker.  Peel the final apple, core and slice it and add it to the top of the pork for 1 more hour.  For a paleo friendly dinner, serve with whipped cauliflower.  Otherwise, it’s great with whipped or roasted potatoes.

Braised Bison Short Ribs

Braised Bison Short Ribs

Today was a day for getting stuff done, and I had a laundry list a mile long of things to accomplish!  While normally I love spending time in my kitchen, and it is truly a place where I relax, I just didn’t have enough time to do that, if I was going to get everything checked off my list today….  And let’s be honest.  I know it’s Saturday, and technically, I could put off some of my list for tomorrow, but frankly, I love football, and the NFL playoffs are on.  What can I say?  I’ve got my priorities!

Enter braising.  It’s easy, it’s quick, and it makes a killer meal that is completely nutritious.  I have an enamel coated cast iron pot that I make soups and stews in all the time, and it’s what I used to make this dish.  If you don’t have one of these amazing pots, never fear – you can use an oven safe dutch oven.  Also, if you want left overs, you better plan on making extra because you’re going to want seconds.

Braised Bison Short Ribs

(serves 2-3)

  • ½ – 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • 1.5 lbs of Bison Short Ribs
  • 1 cup carrots in ¾” rounds
  • 1 onion sliced in rings and quartered
  • 5 oz mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (or ½ teas garlic powder)
  • 1 Tbls dried thyme
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Everything will come together very quickly, so I suggest prepping your vegetables before starting.  My bison was bone it, so I cut them into pieces, with one rib in each piece.  After cutting, each piece was about 2 inches by 3 inches, and approximately 1 inch thick.  Generously sprinkle with salt on both sides.

In a dutch oven, melt the coconut oil over high heat on your stove.  Place the seasoned meat in the dutch oven, meat side down and let brown.  Do not try to move it around – just walk away!  Letting it sit will caramelize the meat – trust me on this.  After about 5 minutes, flip the meat over so the bone side is down, throw the rest of the vegetables, except the cauliflower on top, and add the garlic, broth, thyme and some salt and pepper.  If you are not going for strict paleo, you can substitute one cup of bold red wine for one cup of broth.  Either way, it’s going to be delicious.

Cover the dutch oven, and place in the middle of your oven for 3 hours.

About 15 minutes before you want to eat, steam your cauliflower until very tender.  Drain and immediately place in your food processor.  Whirl on high for about 45 seconds.  Add some clarified butter and salt to taste and whirl for another 25 seconds.

Serve the braised bison and vegetables over the whipped cauliflower.

10 Down, 20 To Go

West African Chicken Stew

I’m one third of my way through my Whole 30 cleanse program, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.  First of all, I attribute my success so far to two things: preparing myself in mind and spirit before I started out, and setting aside time each week to organize and plan out my meals for that week.  By committing to the 30 days before I started, I’d already been internalizing the challenge and was ready to face it head on.  By doing some simple research, I knew some of the things to expect, especially in the first week, and that made it easier.  Knowing that I might experience headaches did not make the headache any less annoying, but I had a reason I could attribute the experience to.  To keep myself organized, I created my own very simple worksheet where I jot down ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as what I need to prep or get out of the freezer for the next day.   I also created a section to note what was still left over from the previous week, and any items I needed to get at the market.

Secondly, there are a ton of great resources, blogs, and other people out there also doing either Whole30 or just living the paleo lifestyle, and knowing that you’re not alone can be really encouraging.  I have become a fan of Nom Nom Paleo who shared her Whole30 experience day by day last year, journaling the food she ate each day.  The Whole9 site also has a ton of great resources including a clear shopping list of acceptable foods and ingredients for an omnivore like me.  (They also have a list for vegetarians!)  I also love the blog, The Clothes Make The Girl by Melissa Joulwan and her two cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2.  Seriously, I would eat her recipes whether I was following paleo or not, and I love how she includes tips to tweak or dress up a dish to suit your taste du jour.

Thirdly, the discipline of sticking to this plan is hard…at first, and then it really does get easier.  I’m not going to lie.  I miss my cheese.  I miss having a glass of wine with dinner, but this doesn’t mean I’m not eating flavorful, interesting dishes; I am eating like a rock-star!  Case in point – last night, I made West African Chicken Stew from Well Fed 2.  It was both spicy and creamy, satisfying and delicious… it was everything that comfort food should be.  Melissa graciously allowed me to share her recipe here, and I recommend you try it at your earliest convenience.

West African Chicken Stew

Serves 2-4

Prep 15 min

Cook 70 min

Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

salt and ground black pepper

1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon) 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper.

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.

In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.

 

Recipe courtesy of Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, Well Fed 2, and the blog The Clothes Make The Girl. You can find more paleo recipes in her cookbooks and on her site.