Sunday, 26 February 2012

Winter Sloth Has Set In...Where Do I Go From Here??

...So, what now?
I started this paleo journey in early August, 2011.  I know the rules.  I understand all the elements of not eating grains, avoiding sugars and processed foods.  I make my own mayonnaise, I buy only organic full-fat greek yogurt and I control my dairy intake.  I get out and play.  Sometimes I lift heavy things.  But what now?  Where do I go from here?
I’ve dabbled in all the uses for organic coconut oil.  I’ve made my own shampoo (a very unsuccessful venture) and I make my own toothpaste (much more successful).  I'm slowly learning how to live a cleaner, less chemical-filled lifestyle.
But where do I go from here?  I seem to be veering steadily off-course.  It’s winter.  The desire to hibernate has set in.  Laziness has begun to overtake me.  Sloth.  I only manage to get out and do something fun and active maybe once a week right now, rather than the 3-4 times I’d like to be out there.  And I’m not happy with that, but I’m having trouble motivating myself to do more.
We’re going through a move at my work.  The process of renovating a building, coordinating that and the move has been stressfull on everyone (me included), but particularily on the owner of the company.  He has this deep, well-meaning need to alleviate this stress through food, and he’s loath to eat alone.  He’s taking us all down with him.  I have this irrational inability to say no to free food.  Never turn down a free meal....  Of course I can’t blame anyone but myself for this habit. 
At the beginning of my primal/paleo journey, I promised myself that the once a week lunch/pig-out that we in the front office are privy to would be my one “cheat” each week.  That I should not turn it down, that I “earned” it and should be out there with the management of my company.  But due to the stress of this move, that once-a-week has ballooned into 2-3x per week.  I’m not proud.  I’m pretty embarrassed for myself, for my weakness of willpower.  For my poor choices and the resulting fallout (bloating, gas, constipation, cravings and the cycle of continued poor food choices).  It’s a vicious roller-coaster I can’t seem to get off right now.
Recently, after sparking a debate with Robb Wolf, one that I lost and am not too proud of, I decided to research ketosis, and the multitude of benefits it offers.  He suggests it is excellent at appetite suppression.  I could use some of that.  There’s also a lot of research out there suggesting that it can be used to control migraines (more on that science later, in another blog entirely), and Mark Sisson concurs but recommends a more friendly approach—consuming 50-80g carbs per day, allowing the body to move in and out of ketosis as necessary.  Despite "going primal", I continue to have regular headaches and about one migraine per month. 
So with this in mind, I have been experimenting with ketosis.  Or at least, trying to.  In between binge meals and cheat meals.  I’ll have a good day, consuming 60g carbs, then go for takeout the next day and spike my intake of carbs to 200g.  I may have two more good days, then cave and eat something terrible once again.  Yes, I CAN control many kinds of headaches with a low-carb diet.  Despite alternating days of hi-carb and low-carb eating, I managed to go 9 whole days without a headache.  So there is some truth in there, somewhere.  If only I can stay on-track long enough to fine tune it and come up with some conclusions.
Early this week, I stepped on the scale to discover that I'd lost a couple of the pounds I'd gained during this yo-yo month, but having caved and made a bad meal choise thursday, friday, and saturday, I am afraid to step on the scale again anytime soon.  I can tell without any scale that I will not be happy with what it has to say.  I am not happy with what I see in the mirror already.
I’m committed to eating and living this primal life, but I seem to be falling off the wagon more times than I would normally tolerate.  If willpower is learned, then so is weakness, and it seems that weakness is getting a lot more practice than willpower lately.  Poor choices are causing me to gain weight, which just increases my stress.  The stress will continue for several weeks yet.  The move is approaching, but we are not ready for it.  Permits and inspections are causing a multitude of delays that are just compounding the stress.  This renovation/move also has me working through meals, away from my carefully packed meals at inconvenient times so that I have little choice but to eat something not appropriate, if I chose to eat at all.
But maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I should just chose not to eat.  Maybe I should just say no.  Maybe.  Can I say no?  In the face of overwhelming hunger, do I have the strength to say no?  I like to eat.  Often.  In fact, despite all the talk of how eating these super-filling “real” foods has allowed other people to go down to only 2 meals/day, I am still eating 3 meals plus a snack.  I am still hungry.  But maybe I am hungry lately because I keep breaking down and having cheat meals.  Maybe I am hungry because I eat until I am satisfied, not until I am stuffed.  Maybe I should be eating more at each meal, not less, and therefore eating less often.  This is something I will be trying this week.  It’s something I have to try in order to understand.  Eat more so that I can eat less.
And I will try to just say no.  I will practice my willpower, one day at a time, one meal at a time, perhaps one minute at a time if that is what it takes to succeed.  Every “no” will be a victory.  But I will also say yes to my business lunch.  Only this time, I will only say it once this week.  These will be small victories.  The war will be won one battle at a time.
And how did your week go?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Stovetop Beef & Cabbage Enchilada

Now, I found this recipe originally on Healthy Living How-To here 

This is how the idea started out...

The picture looked delicious, and I'm a complete sucker for all things Mexican.  Oh, how I have tried to re-create a grain-free tortilla, really I have tried.  But they always come out....dry as the sands of the desert, or just eggy like an omlette and it's just not right.  Then I found this recipe, and thought--hey, wrap the enchilada filling in cabbage?  That sounds brilliant!  So we tried it (and perhaps we are kitchen-disabled), but it took us an hour to get the cabbage cooked soft enough, to get them out of the pot without burning ourselves or shredding the cabbage leaves, and then rolled around the meat without tearing them even more.  They baked up fine, but then, with two of us in braces, we could not easily cut and chew those tough cabbage leaves and the kids, despite liking cabbage, just removed the meat from the filling and ate the filling because, well, because they could...

 ...And then I remembered.  I've seen this game before.  My kids were masters at de-cabbaging a cabbage roll.  But then I also remembered (I can play this game, too)--I have a recipe that we all love and ate frequently before going paleo/primal--"Cabbage Roll Stir-Fry" by using shredded cabbage.  Good luck seperating the cabbage from the meat when it's shredded and cooked down!!  My cabbage roll stir-fry recipe is totally convertable to paleo-approved eating by just omitting the rice.  (Maybe I'll post that recipe sometime soon--it's my favorite take on the cabbage roll with only a half hour worth of effort...)   Was it possible to make this a half-hour meal?  You betcha!  I'm all about the speedy cooking.  I work a regular full-time job--and don't we all come home tired at the end of the day?  Who wants to spend hours in the kitchen after a full day of work??  So this idea for a one-pot stovetop beef enchilada with cabbage began...

Just a quick note--if like Mexican flavours, but you don't like spicy, the enchilada sauce that Vanessa makes (follow the link) is absolutely perfect.  It is delicious and she gets it dead-perfect.  But me?  I can't resist messing with a recipe.  I like fire.  My son dares me to make something hot enough that he'll actually admit is hot.  Even with everything I added to this, he still doused it in X-tra Hot Frank's Hot Sauce (and discovered the next day, for the first time, what happens when you eat something THAT

Serves about 5 large meals.
Takes about 1/2 hour

The Enchilada Sauce:

1 5-oz can tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs liquid from jarred jalapenos
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mexican coriander (optional)
2 tbs olive oil

Add all ingredients except oil to pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in oil.  Set aside.

The Meat Mixture:

2 lbs ground beef
1/4 spanish onion
1 clove garlic
4-5 jarred jalapeno rings, minced with garlic press
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs chipotle hot sauce
4-5 cups cabbage, shredded
1/3 c fresh cilantro/coriander
cheese, full-fat yogurt and avacado for garnish

In very large skillet or in a dutch oven, on med-high heat, cook beef, onion and hot sauce until beef is no longer pink.  Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute more.  Add cabbage and enchilada sauce, stirring to combine.  You may want to add about a cup of water to keep everything moist until the cabbage begins to cook down.  Cover, reduce heat to med-low, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender.  Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary, stir in lime juice and chopped cilantro, serve and add garnishes.


Enjoy!  Add more hot sauce if you like things spicy, like I do!  Just not too much.  Or you'll regret it the next day.  You know what I mean....

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Zucchini-Stuffed Flank Steak (Mock Duck)

Alright, so this was a really old recipe in my cooking "binder".  I'm sure you all have one of those binders--a combo of recipes torn out of magazines and glued onto pieces of paper and stuffed into plastic page-protectors, some hand-written recipes from friends and families, scraps of paper so old you don't know where they came from anymore, and many loose clippings floating around that fall out every time you touch the binder...  It's normal to have one of those, right?  Ok, so I actually have 2.  One is for dinners, the other is for everything else.  I have been called a recipe whore on more than one occasion.  I like alot of variety.  So I collect these recipes like a hoarder, but unless its a dinner idea, I rarely get around to trying half of them.  Fortunately, this is a dinner recipe, and I've cooked it many times. 

At least 10 years ago now, I was brave enough to have my grandparents over for dinner and without knowing that they both had dentures, I fed them this.  My mom told me about the dentures just as I was serving it and I had one of those "oh, crap!"  moments.  And held my breath.  And watched my grandfather carefully chew for a moment, before he declared, "Good mock duck--we never get this anymore.  Enid, how come you don't cook us mock duck anymore?"  And I stared at my mom, wondering, what the heck--I didn't cook duck!  This is beef!  He can't even tell the difference between duck and beef?  But eventually they clarified it for me, and we had a really good meal.  Sometimes these lean cuts of beef can be really hard to chew, but not this one.  Maybe I did an excellent job beating the crap out of it with the meat tenderiser, maybe I just happened to slow-cook it for long enough--either way, it came out great.

There is dairy in this recipe, but you won't actually be able to find the mozzarella once it's cooked.  It seems to become one with the meat and act as a kind of tenderiser, disappearing altogether.  Like how Parmesan does in tomato sauce.


1 medium flank steak
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs olive oil
1 medium zucchini
2 tbs dried parsley or 1/2 c fresh
1/2 c grated mozzarella
3 tsp Parmesan
1-2 cans crushed tomatoes or diced, stewed tomatoes
salt and pepper
1/2 tbs Italian seasoning
2 cups (or more, your choice) cubed butternut squash--you could use frozen

Ready to cook, just sitting in my crockpot...


Spread meat out on cutting board and pound meat thoroughly.  You want to break down all the connective tissues that could make this meat tough.  Get all your frustrations out on it!  Rub garlic on one side of meat, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Slice zucchini into long, thin strips.  Graze mozzarella.  Cube squash if you are using fresh.  Arrange zucchini down middle of flank steak, sprinkle with mozzarella, half of the Parmesan and half of the parsley.  Carefully roll the flank steak so that when you cut it up later, you are cutting across the grain.  Tie or pin with toothpicks or skewers to hold it closed.

Oven version:
Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Place rolled flank in middle of roasting dish, spread cubed squash around the meat and pour 2 cans of tomatoes over squash and meat.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan, parsley, and add Italian seasoning.  Cover and bake for about 1 1/2 hours.  Baste 2 or 3 times.

Crockpot version:
Place tied meat in crockpot, arrange squash cubes around the meat, pour 1 can of tomatoes over everything, add remaining Parmesan, parsley, and add Italian seasoning.  Cover and let cook for 10-12 hours on low, or 4-5 hours on high.  Crockpots vary; check guidelines that came with crockpot.

It was the oven version I fed to my grandparents.  It came out plenty tender enough for them to chew.  You will notice that the crockpot version only requires 1 can of tomatoes because of the amount of juices that remain in the crockpot when you cook it this way.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Cocoa and Pebbles

OMG, the food-gasm continues even as I think about this now....  But let me start from the beginning today...

So the very, very strange winter continues.  In all my life, I can't remember a milder winter.  It was 0 degrees today, not entirely unusual, but there's no snow to speak of and it's been like this so far all winter.  This is not a singular exceptional day.  this is every day this winter.  The light breeze coming off of Lake Ontario felt more like late March than early February.  Now, with the wooded trails iced over (as we discovered last weekend), we thought it would be a good day to head down to the waterfront and let the dogs splash around in the water. 

Apparently, after WW2, there was a man-made sandy beach here in Ajax.  Old pictures suggest it was beautiful until one powerful winter, the water came up high and washed the whole beach away and it has never since been rebuilt.  I would love it if they'd rebuild the beach.  This time, it would be prudent to build a man-made breaker-wall, creating a cove to protect the beach.  It would take many, many tonnes of sand to make this beach sandy once again, and probably not the best thing to do to mother nature, but it certainly would be awesome for the residents here.  There are many spectacular natural beaches along the toronto waterfront.  We got short-changed out here in Ajax.  We got pebbles and cliffs--scenic, but not swimmable.

Boy, the dogs were in heaven.  Chinook took the opportunity to sniff around looking for mischief, but Zephyr felt the need to lead a full-scale assault on the little waves rolling into the pebbly shore.  She always chases the waves like a maniac.  She exhausts herself doing this, and then about an hour later, has to pee, like, 15 times. 

But the weather was spectacular.  So spectacular, in fact, that I found this little guy on the pathway just a little ways from the beach.  I'm not sure he knew what he was doing.  I kid you not, this is a live caterpillar, crawling across the pavement.  This is probably the sign that comes before the apocalypse or something, but it was strange to see, for sure.  He shouldn't be out until about April or May.  He's a little confused.  He's not going to find much green stuff to eat--there's no leaves on the trees or grass growing anywhere.

Eventually, the wind picked up and it started to get colder so it was time to head home.  I was pretty hungry and chilled by then.  Warm as it was, it was still a couple of hours spent by the lake in the wintertime, so the cold can get into your bones pretty good.  What I really needed was some hot chocolate to warm me up.

Just this morning I found a recipe in my email from Chatelaine for Mexican Hot Chocolate.  So what is a hungry, cold paleo girl to do?  Paleo-ify herself some hot chocolate, of course!

This is, hands down, the thickest, richest hot choloate I have ever tasted.  Steve and I both had food-gasms and had to go sit down to enjoy this for a little while.  If you're having a chocolate craving, this is waaay richer than just eating a piece of dark chocolate.. Guaranteed you will not need more chocolate for some time after this gem.  If you have good-quality dark chocolate, use that in place of the Bakers chocolate and chocolate chips--you want about 160-200 grams or about 6 squares of the chocolate bar.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Makes 3-4 servings

1 cup canned coconut milk
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or plain, it won't make a difference)
1 square Baker's unsweetened chocolate
1/3 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
4 tsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp arrowroot powder
splash of vanilla


Do not shake coconut milk can!  Using a spoon, lift 2-3 tbs of the fatty coconut milk cream out of the can and set it aside.  Stir in a splash of vanilla.  Heat remaining coconut milk and almond milk in a saucepan until it begins to steam.  Add chocolates, cinnamon, arrowroot, and cocoa.  Wisk frequently as chocolate melts and mixture will thicken (alot!).  When it's hot enough to your liking, pour out into mugs.  Add a dollop of coconut-vanilla cream to each mug.  It will sink slightly, adding a flavour burst to the middle of each mug.  This drink will be almost thick enough to drink with a spoon.  Believe me, you will be hard-pressed to drink a full cup of this.  It's like liquid pudding.  It is absolutely spectacular.  If you've never had a food-gasm yet, this may very well be your first.  Trust me.  You won't regret it.  You don't even need to feel guilty.  Its dairy-free, sugar-free hi-fat goodness in a mug.

Crockpot Meatloaf

Ok, so I seem to make meatloaf kinda often.  It's funny; to me, meatloaf is total comfort food, but I'm not particularily fond of meatballs at all.  It's weird, I know.  I should just be able to make meatballs with my fave meatloaf flavours in there and voila--but no.  Not the same.

So this recipe idea originally came from the Wellness Mama, who did an entire month of blogging crockpot recipes (my hero--I love things I can throw in the crockpot and come home to a house full of good food smells and dinner waiting for me whenever I'm ready for it...).  But I was feeling saucy (aka cranky and tired and difficult) two nights ago, when we were trying to assemble whatever ingredients we could in advance so we could just stick it in the pot and turn it on the next morning.  I wasn't feeling particularily helpful, so when Steve asked me what I wanted in the meatloaf this time, I said, "I dunno, I don't care, get creative."  Hmm.  So he scowled for a minute while I emailed him a copy of the crockpot recipe to his laptop, and then he pulled out the dog-eared "Company's Coming Crockpot Recipes" book at the back of our cookbook cupboard and began asking me questions about which ingredients are paleo and which aren't.  So this is what ended up going into the meatloaf...
I'll be the first to admit that anything cooked in the crockpot, while delicious, comes out looking like crap.  It does not make food look pretty.  But slow cooking meat with spices draws out so much more flavour, all flavour, that less spices are needed, and the meat is fall-apart tender no matter what cut you use.


2 lbs ground meat--I used beef
1 egg
3 tbs worchestershire sauce
1/3 c salsa
1 small cooking onion, or 1/4 large spanish onion, finely diced
1 5-oz can tomato paste

Combine everything except tomato paste in the crockpot.  Steve literally packed it down to the shape of the crockpot and didn't even try to make it a loaf shape or anything.  Spread tomato paste all over top of crockpot.  Cook according to crockpot instructions--in my crockpot, its always low 10-12 hours or high 4-5 hours.

Now, the Wellness Mama suggested her kids liked their meatloaf with applesauce (whatever made them think of THAT?)  But the British in me loves anything even more if there's a sauce involved, so I thought, why not?  I have unsweetened applesauce in the back of my fridge--and wow, it IS better yet with applesauce.  I have a new love:  Applesauce with my meatloaf.  Who'da thunk it?