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A Little Shift

15 Aug

It’s been an eternity since I’ve posted anything on this blog! The big reason behind my absence is that writing out a recipe takes a lot of time, and I’ve discovered it just doesn’t jive with how I cook on a daily basis. I like to cook simply and intuitively, and often what I am making doesn’t seem to warrant writing down. But David (my husband) thinks what we cook and eat will still be helpful or inspiring or fun in a food-voyeuristic way, so I’ve thought about how I could make this blog more a paleo lifestyle sharing site — which was my initial intention — as opposed to a recipe site.

SO — I’m going to make a little shift in how I approach recipe sharing here. What I will do is more casual “snapshot”postings of what I am eating and cooking, thinking of eating and cooking, as well as other relevant paleo lifestyle things like fitness. I will continue share how I am cooking something, but maybe sometimes it will be less formal. I think this will be a good change.

Stay tuned!

I ♥: Harissa

26 Oct

harissaEarly this summer I discovered harissa at our local Brooklyn Whole Foods, and this spice blend has really changed up our “easy and quick” meat game.  Harissa — at least the Whole Foods blend — is made up of paprika, caraway, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic, peppermint and sea salt.  It’s a little spicy, and packs a lot of flavor.  You can mix the powder with water or olive oil to make a paste, or simply use it as a dry rub.  I started using the rub when I wanted to change up the simple roast chicken or a steak, and have used it when roasting cauliflower as well.  When we went on our dive vacation in Bonaire recently and I knew we would be cooking either beef or chicken everyday due to island grocery limitations, I brought harissa with us.  It was a life saver from the monotony of eating the same thing day after day, literally spicing up our meals in a different way.  The only thing to watch out for when using harissa is that it will burn — so for instance with whole chicken I make sure the bird is covered until the meat is cooked and is ready to be exposed to crisp up the skin, or with steak I like to put it only on one side, the side that will be seared/cooked second.  The rub will also be great on ribs.  Harissa is a great spice blend that packs a lot of flavor and aroma — if you see it at your grocery store, it is definitely worth trying and experimenting with it!

Spice Marinated Skinless Chicken Breast

1 Mar
Tender AND flavorful lean chicken breast?  It's possible!

Tender AND flavorful lean chicken breast? It’s possible!

With chicken, I definitely prefer thigh meat to breast meat.  Thigh meat has so much more flavor and, of course, more tasty fat.  And who doesn’t love crispy chicken skin?  Unfortunately for me, thigh meat and chicken skin also contain more Omega-6 fats, the kind of fat David and I are trying to decrease in our diet (while upping our intake of Omega-3 good fats).  So I recently experimented with baking skinless chicken breasts as a source of protein “snack” we can have in our fridge.  My idea was the have cooked chicken breasts available in our fridge, which we can slice up and eat on top of a salad or just as they are when we wanted some protein boost.  It seemed like a good “make ahead” and “keep” in our fridge.

After making the Indian-spiced curry, I have been experimenting more with spices, especially garam masala.  To make chicken breasts interesting flavor-wise and also tender, I knew that I had to marinate them overnight.  I combined a variety of spices, and also added balsamic vinegar as well as lemon juice, to help tenderize the meat.  The result?  The breast meat was so tender and so flavorful, even a chicken thigh lover like me was satisfied.  David loves having these chicken breasts in the fridge, because it’s so easy for him to put together a lunch (just add salad and avocado).  If you are looking for some tasty lean meat to have on hand in your fridge, I highly recommend cooking up some skinless organic chicken breasts!

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On Learning to Put the “Work” in Working Out

21 Dec

Here are some facts about me:

  • I love cooking and eating
  • I love trying out new restaurants
  • I love wine and cocktails
  • I love clothes and fashion
  • I hate going to the gym
  • I hate working out

The last two facts don’t jive particularly well with the first four facts.

And here’s what I’ve discovered:

Even if I eat well — lead a gluten-free lifestyle — without exercise, it is hard to get that good, toned body that looks great in clothes… especially when I like to try new restaurants or recipes, as well as have my wine and drink it, too.  Until I married David, going to the gym was not remotely in the picture for me; it just wasn’t something I was accustomed to even thinking of doing.  This approach (or lack of approach toward fitness) was fine in my 20’s and I guess I got away with it for the most part.  But once I hit 30, I could feel my metabolism slowing down.  Add to that the fact that David is always trying to put on weight (muscle) and eats like a large zoo animal, I found it increasingly difficult to not put on weight myself.  So I started going to the gym, once, maybe twice a week, under David’s guidance doing mostly weight training, because I hate running and, really, cardio-anything.  I was not a good trainee.  Although I got stronger and could see some muscle definition taking place, I was still very good at finding excuses not to go to the gym (inside our building) or not to push hard.  I wasn’t motivated.

And yet, I coveted a more toned body.  I wanted to be able to wear crop tops, which was so big this past season and looks like will continue to be in the fashion picture in the upcoming seasons.  There were also quite a few outfits in my closet that I couldn’t quite fit into anymore, and I wanted to change this situation.

Nothing motivates you quite like vanity, perhaps.

And so, I decided to try exercise DVDs at home.  “Maybe if I could work out inside the comfort of my own home, I’d do it more” was my thinking.  I kept seeing commercials on TV for the Insanity exercise program… and finally, last February, I took the plunge and started it.  It was, indeed, insane.  It was hard.  The self-described “extreme” exercise program calls for working out 6 days a week for 8 weeks, with a “recovery” week in between.  Each exercise session takes about an hour.  I got through it, but my knee was bothering me by the end because there’s a lot of jumping involved.  Although it was a good program to whip me into a resemblance of cardio shape, it wasn’t a sustainable workout regimen.  I lost some weight, but not a lot, although I felt a little leaner.

The good thing about Insanity was that it started me down the path of working out at home on my own, using DVD’s.  David preferred this arrangement, too, because I was such an unwilling trainee.  After Insanity I did P90X.  P90X is a much longer program.  90 days, 6 days a week, and a lot of the workouts are more than an hour long.  I liked the exercises but found the duration very difficult to fit into my life on a 6-days a week basis.  I did get through the 90 days, though, and I got stronger (hello, push-ups) and more flexible thanks to the yoga element, but the time it demanded was not a sustainable option for a more long-term exercise lifestyle.

If you do a bit of googling for results on Insanity and P90X, you will find a lot of amazing “before and after” photos of people who achieved great body successes on the program.  Although I was getting leaner and stronger, my progress was rather slow, not exactly magical.  But doing the two programs was a good way for me to learn how hard it is to get a good body.  Toto, I’m not in my 20’s anymore, and I need to put in the work to get the results!

And then T25 happened.  T25 is a new program developed by Shaun T, creator of the first program I did, the Insanity workout.  Each workout in T25 is only 25 minutes long.  25 minutes!!  It is very hard to not find 25 minutes in your day.  The T25 program calls for working out 5 days a week; on Fridays, you do a double session (2 sessions of 25 minute workouts, or 50 minutes).  There are two cycles, Alpha and Beta.  Each cycle lasts 5 weeks.  Alpha is the “foundation” cycle, which basically paves the way for the Beta cycle.  No equipment other than a mat is necessary in the Alpha cycle, because you use your own body weight for resistance.  The Beta cycle focuses more on the core and in sculpting muscles.  Light dumbbells or resistance bands are added.  The main thing about T25 is that you don’t stop or have breaks at all in the 25 minutes.  You press play, and push hard, for 25 minutes.

I just completed Alpha and Beta cycles (10 weeks) and I LOVE the program.  I LOVE Shaun T, the trainer.  I feel like I have found a program that I can do for a long time to come. That the workouts are 25 minutes long instead of an hour or more makes a HUGE difference for me.  Even I — queen of wiggling out of workouts — can’t really come up with an excuse for not being able to fit in 25 minutes.  There is a Gamma program that follows Beta, sold separately, which focuses on strength — and so I am onto the Gamma phase next.

The most surprising and impressive thing about T25 is the visible changes I have achieved.  I’m sure if I had abstained entirely from wine and cocktails, I would have seen much more results, but I am looking for a workout lifestyle I can live with… anyway, pictures will say a thousand words, so here are my results photos (first time sharing my workout “look” photos with the public!):

Fitness progress frontFitness progress sideFitness progress backI can now fit into clothes I haven’t been able to wear for a long time!  It’s like shopping in my own closet!

If you are looking for a short but intense workout program, I highly recommend T25.  Putting the work in working out is easier, I find, when it’s only 25 minutes.  It’s just long enough to feel like you’ve accomplished something, but not too long so that you feel it is tedious or overwhelmed at the prospect of fitting it into your busy life.  Interestingly, last year the American Physiological Society found that a half hour exercise works just as well as an hour-long exercise to maintain/shed weight.  You can read a little bit about it here.

I turn 35 next summer (gulp!).  My goal is to rock a crop top come summer time… and even more importantly, I am going to work at being the fittest I’ve ever been when I turn 35.  Wish me luck!

Happy Thanksgiving!

27 Nov

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope those of you who are celebrating the holiday have very safe and smooth travels to wherever you are headed.

Today I baked my paleo pumpkin pie, among other things we will bring to Eleanor and Michael’s house for Thanksgiving.  This weekend, I hope to *finally* catch up on my blogging (it’s been a while) so please stay tuned!!!

Eat on the Wild Side

6 Aug

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Recently David began reading a book that is having an enormous influence on how we buy, cook and eat fruits and vegetables — and so I thought I’d share it with you.  Written by Jo Robinson and called “Eating on the Wild Side,” the book examines the nutritional history and fruits and vegetables, what impact generations of farming and selective breeding have had on produce, and how we can best “forage” the modern day (super)markets to best eat fruits and vegetables to increase one’s health benefits.

NPR did an interview with Jo Robinson, which you can find here.

We love the information provided by this book, and enthusiastically recommend it!  We truly feel like we are making smarter, more informed and healthier choices in how we eat fruit and vegetables.

Here are a few gems of knowledge we’ve gained from the book so far:

  • Blueberries: eat more of them.  They have the potential to slow brain aging, fight cancer and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.  Frozen blueberries are almost as good as fresh ones — cooking blueberries (and many other types of berries) increases the berries’ nutritional content as “the heat rearranges the structure of the phytonutrients and also makes them more bioavailable.”
  • Apples: in general for red apples, the redder the apple the more sun exposure it’s had, which means the more phytonutrients it has — and so better for you.  Granny Smith apples, however, are among the most nutritious varieties available in regular supermarkets.  Eat the skin and try to buy organic.
  • Garlic: best to way to use garlic is to mince it, or, even better, microplane it and rest for 10 minutes without heat (i.e. don’t cook it) in order to create more Allicin (it’s most active beneficial phytonutrient).
  • Blue/dark purple is your friend: whether potatoes, corn, kale, berries or carrots — dark purple, is a great signifier of high phytonutrient content.
  • Tomatoes: smaller is better and tomatoes that are darker red in color have more lycopene.  To maximize health benefits go for the small, darker red tomatoes (cherry and grape tomatoes are the best).  Cooking tomatoes for more than 30 minutes can more than double your uptake of lycopene (as in a pasta sauce).

Happy healthy eating!

Happy August! And introducing SWICH

6 Aug

An old friend of mine just launched a wonderful, progressive and world-friendly business, which I’d like to introduce here.  Although the business doesn’t have anything directly to do with recipes or paleo-eating, this new venture embraces the idea of making smart choices that reflect one’s values and goals, just as we try to do with health and diet.  The company is called SWICH and it helps people identify, shop and invest in “better” businesses, helping people spend money on business that share their values.  Do check out the website and video here.  You can also check out the SWICH blog, where new “better businesses” are introduced.

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

25 May

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  David and I kicked off our weekend today with a little gardening.  Our tomato plants are coming along nicely, so we put up some tomato “cages” to support them as they grow taller.  This year in our petit jardin we have: 4 types of tomatoes, 3 types of basil, serrano chiles, habañero chiles, sage, thyme, some shiso/perilla (stray seeds from last year were in the soil, it seems), mint and rosemary.  Although the temperatures aren’t as summer-like as we’d want this weekend, it’s so nice to look out onto our balcony to see so much (edible) greenery.

Blogging had stalled here for a while, but I will pick it up this weekend with new posts and recipes.  Stay tuned!

I ♥: (new + improved) Blender Bottle Sportmixer

9 Feb
Mixing up green drinks or protein shakes, it’s important to have a good, BPA-free shaker bottle.  (And now that I drink protein shakes in the morning, I use a shaker bottle on a daily basis.)  We used to have the classic version of the Blender Bottle, which worked fine but had little nooks and crannies around the spout that made it difficult to clean thoroughly.  The bottle always began to smell weird, no matter how you washed it, and I really hated drinking from it.  The new and improved Blender Bottle Sportmixer, however, is great!  The spout is designed in such a way that cleaning is easy; you can just rinse it after most drinks, not put it through the dishwasher.  It also comes in a variety of colors, and, as with the classic style, it is BPA-free.  I still never use the “Blenderball” that comes with the bottle, but I am very happy with my new shaker bottle.  (Bottles come in 20-oz and 28-oz sizes.)  If you are looking to purchase a shaker bottle, and are considering the Blender Bottle brand, definitely go with the Sportmixer style over the classic!

Tera’s Whey Protein Shake

9 Feb

3D_ORG_Choc_Can1000I am not a morning person, and so I tend to skip breakfast during the work week.  David frowns upon this habit, especially as he has read somewhere that one should eat within 45-minutes of waking up to kick start one’s metabolism.  And so I have started to drink a protein shake in the morning.  Initially, I tried a protein shake that was plant/veg-based with pea protein, but I didn’t react to it very well (my stomach felt funny).   Wanting a protein shake that’s low in sugar but still tasty, I tried Tera’s Whey — and their shakes are good!  I don’t do anything fancy with the shakes (e.g. blend them with anything), but the shakes are tasty enough and definitely makes for a quick “breakfast.”  For every serving, the shake contains 20-21g of protein and 5g of carbohydrates (3g sugars).  I have the chocolate flavor as well as the pomegranate cranberry — the cool thing about the pomegranate cranberry is that it is made of goat whey (you don’t see that often), while the chocolate one is organic and fair trade.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s simple, tastes great, and now David is happy.  If you’re looking for high-protein, low-sugar, gluten-free protein shakes, do check out Tera’s Whey (they sell single serving packets, too, so you can try a flavor before committing to it in the full-size version).

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