Saturday, October 29, 2011

Life on the Brink of the Holiday Season: Studies in Indulgence, After a Month of Crossfit

We carved a pumpkin, and my azalea bush sprouted
a blossom the same week. Make up your mind, weather!
I'm living life at light speed right now. It's one of those times when the months blow by but each day can feel paradoxically slow.

My 22 month old is going through a sudden and fairly intense bout of separation anxiety. I was kinda resisting it for a while, but now I'm accepting of this phase where noone else but Momma will do. Thus, my only true 'me' time in a given day is usually my early morning Crossfit - thankfully that is enough to give me a mental head start on everything else, including managing my sweet permaclinging girl.

My 4 year old is reveling in preschool activities - and the excitement of the upcoming holidays. I'm trying to maintain a sense of humor while planning a little bit of damage control on this 10 week long season of treats -- hence my willingness to flex and make a few more paleo treats here and there like the gluten free grain free soul cakes. I don't want to clamp down so tightly (full on orthodox paleo) that sugar or other baked naturally sweetened treats become irresistible forbidden fruits in the long term, you know? So my goal for this upcoming Halloween through New Year's is to make extra efforts to craft most of the treats we'll enjoy at home, with my 4 year old's help wherever possible, so that I can use those times as a teachable moment in talking about why we use the ingredients we do, what the traditions are behind the treats, and so on. Call them studies in indulgence.

Finally, I just wrapped my first month at Crossfit. Every weekday I am going through the ringer, and I love it. Am I still one of the slowest ones in the class? Of course! But I'm also noticing little things:

  • Since I'm not jumping or running to give my ankle (which I sprained a few weeks back before Crossfit started) full recovery time, I'm doing squats to substitute for double unders, and rowing to sub for running. And whadya know? Since I'm squatting instead of jumproping and we already do plenty of airsquats anyway, I'm suddenly (go figure) finding my squats are vastly improving. An 4 minute 20-seconds on 10-seconds-off tabata round of squats the other day yielded 17 or 18 squats per 20 second set.
  • Though the scale isn't budging much, a fellow Crossfitter remarked to us newbies that we were looking more toned already. Also, my jeans are fitting a lot better. Wahoo! I'll take it!
  • I don't wake up feeling atrophied and "creaky" anymore - though there's delayed onset muscle soreness in areas we've worked particularly thoroughly, my mornings kick off feeling all-around more loose and energized head to toe, with much less creaking and popping!
  • Stuff that used to have me out of breath, like hauling my 30 lb. + sleeping toddler up the stairs, no longer do, and in fact are feeling much easier to do.
I'm so glad to have a jump start on getting fit as the onslaught of indulgent foods and sedentary indoor activities approaches, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next month of Crossfit!

How are YOU mentally and physically preparing to dive into the holidays?


Friday, October 28, 2011

How I Scored Kids' Merrell Barefoot Shoes (Retail $60) for $34.95, Shipped Free

The deals are flying this weekend, it seems! Only the beginning of the holiday crush of sales, I suppose.

Here is the pair I got for $35.
Today there is a very hot deal on Plum District which I just used to snag Merrell's barefoot shoes for my oldest daughter for $34.95. These shoes normally retail for $60 and I have never found them for much cheaper than that! Since I wear my adult versions of these shoes all the time (including for Crossfit and just running errands), I knew that it was likely that she will get lots of wear out of them. I love that they are zero dropped (most natural toe/heel positioning without unnecessary added cushioning) and sport a thin but durable Vibram sole, so I know that they will let my daughter's feet be more in touch with the ground beneath them.

I bought them a size up from her current size so that she can grow into them in the next couple of months and hopefully through the spring, when we get back outside for trail exploration at local parks.

Here's how to score these $60 shoes for $34.95, shipped free to your door:

Here's one of the pairs of the boys' version!
  • Go to Plum District's deal for today: $20 for a $40 voucher at Use the code SPOOKY30 when checking out to get 30% off the voucher price, making it just $14 for the $40 voucher. You can buy up to three of these vouchers in one Plum District transation using that coupon code - to use in three separate Online Shoes transactions, so if you have multiple kids or shoes needed, consider that - and use your coupon code for all three vouchers.
  • If you'd like an additional 5% cash back on your purchase, go to and search for "". Click through the Online Shoes link to get to - so you will get back 5% of the money spent at posted to your ebates account.
  • Once you're at Online Shoes, search for "Merrell Barefoot" and browse the kids' options. Choose your style and size and add it to your cart.
  • In a separate browser tab or window, go back to Plum District's site and click "My Account" in the upper right hand corner to access your voucher coupon code that you purchased. Copy the voucher code.
  • Go back to your Online Shoes window to check out. Redeem your voucher code to get $40 off the purchase price. In my case this left $20.95 (of which 5%, or about $1.05 will be posted to your ebates account if you clicked through ebates).
  • Grand total spent = $14 + $20.95 = $34.95! Shipping is free.

Are you looking at barefoot shoes for yourself, your spouse, or your kids as a holiday gift?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lunchbox #135

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Sliced Kerrygold cheese
  • Leftover stir fry: lamb, carrots, bok choy, and onions
  • Fresh organic gala apple
  • Slices of fresh pepper


Save 66%! $17 Buys a $50 Voucher for Gluten Free, Organic, and Natural Goods at Abe's Market online - includes PaleoKrunch!

If you've been thinking about trying out some natural and organic favorites, today Eversave is selling half-price vouchers for Abe's Natural Market. Wahoo! Even better - using the promo code SPOOKY at checkout gets you an extra $5 off, so for $20 you get a $50 voucher - that's a crazy deal at 66% off!! First time Eversave customers also get $3 credit just for signing up for a free account, so the total would be $17 for that $50 voucher!

Here are some of the Abe's Market products I've ordered and thoroughly enjoyed in the past:

There's also a gluten free foods section; just read ingredient lists carefully as some gluten free stuff is still loaded with sugar, or less desirable ingredients such as agave nectar, canola, and soybean oil.

This is a great way to stock up on some natural and organic gifts or stocking stuffers at deep discount.

What would you use your Abe's Market vouchers to buy?

This post contains Eversave referral links. If you are making your first Eversave purchase through these links, a referral bonus goes to Primal Kitchen, so thank you!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lunchbox #134

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • A mini quiche with peppers and cheese
  • Some honey and butter candied almonds
  • A banana
  • Some orange slices


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate Mousse Topped with Sliced Almonds and Cacao Nibs

I first saw the idea of combining cocoa powder and avocado in Girl Gone Primal's Choc Avocado Mousse. I'd made variations on it a few times since then. It had been a while since I'd given it another go, but this time it turned out especially tasty. My preschooler loved it packed in her lunchbox, and I'll admit that I very much enjoyed the rest for breakfast! :)

There are some great reasons to give this simple desserty dish a go:
  • You don't need to worry about avocados oxidizing and turning the dish an unappetizing shade of brown - the cocoa powder already makes it a rich chocolatey brown from the get-go! Thus it is great for making ahead, even for packed lunches.
  • Overripe avocados - which might otherwise be tossed - are perfect for this purpose - the especially soft, ripe ones make the lightest, fluffiest mousse.
  • You get a good dose of fat and antioxidants, with a little sweetness. Adjust the sweetness by adding or subtracting honey according to your dietary requirements and taste!

Chocolacado Mousse
Serves 2 generously

2 avocadoes, very ripe
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend thoroughly. Serve topped with sliced almonds and organic unsweetened cacao nibs, or the nuts and fruit of your choice.


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Lunchbox #133

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lunchbox #132

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Slow cooked shredded lamb (I tossed this with a bit of natural apricot raspberry jam)
  • Sliced local tomato
  • Mashed sweet potatoes, topped with sliced almonds
  • Baby carrots


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lunchbox #131

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Soft-baked sweet potato
  • Whole milk yoghurt with a bit of honey and vanilla extract
  • A trail mix of almonds, cacao nibs, cranberries, and a few white and dark chocolate chips
  • Some Kerrygold cheese (see the bento minicutters that made these cheese flowers here)
  • A boiled egg


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gluten Free Grain Free Soul Cakes

This post is also a part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Back in the day, it was a Catholic tradition for soulers to come calling to households, offering to say prayers for the dead in honor of All Saints' Day - and their reward came in the form of small round cakes, called soul cakes, which were often baked with raisins, currants, or other dried fruits, frequently with the shape of a cross as a way of signifying that the cakes were a kind of alms. It was an Ur-trick-or-treating.

I identify as a mixed-bag flavor of Protestant, but that doesn't stop me from loving the idea of baking up some commemorative tea cakes around Halloween and All Saints' Day, which we could enjoy while reflecting on the lives of those loved ones we'd lost in the last year.

These paleo-fied soul cakes have a hearty coconut flour shortbread, and a bittersweet chocolate base with cranberries, cacao nibs, and sliced almonds. A single cake is very rich. I chose bittersweet chocolate to signify the bittersweetness that comes with remembering loved ones gone - but you could chose a sweeter chocolate depending on the tastes of your crowd.

I have a palate that appreciates rich but not sweet desserts - thus I enjoy that the shortbread itself is not super sweet, but is still offset by the sweeter trail mixy chocolate base. You could sweeten the shortbread additionally to taste with palm sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste if you prefer sweeter treats. These would go very well with a cup or raw milk, or coffee, or tea.

The basic coconut flour shortbread is adapted from Eat the Cookie's version.

Grain Free Gluten Free Soul Cakes
Makes 12-18 cakes, depending on thickness

Ingredients (shortbread):
1 3/4 cups sifted coconut flour (If you don't have a sifter you can gently spoon/shake the flour into the measuring cup)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup room temperature butter (for dairy-free you could sub coconut oil here, making a total of 3/4 c. coconut oil)
1/4 cup soft coconut oil
1/2 cup palm sugar (or other natural sweetener of choice; add more if you'd like your cakes sweeter)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon cacao nibs

Note: You can adapt this with whatever trail mixy-items of dried fruit and nuts that you happen to have around.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a spray olive oil (or softened butter or coconut oil), lightly grease silicone baking cups. (I used round silicone muffin cups, like the ones available here, and also the Wilton pumpkin / leaf silicone cups, available here.)

Combine the flour, the salt, and the baking soda thoroughly in one small bowl - if necessary, use your fingertips to crush any clumps of coconut flour. In a separate larger bowl, cream the butter, coconut oil, and palm sugar together - and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the apple cider vinegar and the vanilla extract. Add the dry flour mix to the wet mix and combine thoroughly.

Press the dough into the greased silicone cups at desired thickness. Press a few slivers of almond and cacao nibs into the dough. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Once you pull the cups out of the oven, warm:

1 tbsp. butter (you could sub coconut oil)
1 tbps. heavy cream (you could sub coconut cream concentrate)
1 standard size bag bittersweet chocolate chips (go for quality)

...for 2 minutes and half power in the microwave. (You can also melt everything in a double boiler, though that may take a while longer.) Mix the ingredients with a spoon until the chocolate melts into a smooth ganache, and spread the chocolate over the shortbread in the silicone cups. Press some dried cranberries into the ganache.

Allow the shortbread and chocolate to cool.


Gently push the silicone cups from the bottom to release the shortbreads from the cups. Put the shortbreads chocolate/cranberry-side down on a clean paper towel or wax paper.

If desired, use the melted bittersweet chocolate to also decorate the tops of the cakes. One of my little tricks for drawing in melted chocolate is to use a sanitized medicine dropper - I find it affords a lot more fine motor control than would a traditional frosting decor bag and screw-on tip.

Here, I drew a cross shape in the chocolate and added cranberries on the top of the round cakes. For the pumpkin and leaf cakes I traced the lines.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lunchbox #130

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Scrambled egg
  • An organic gala apple
  • Some Kerrygold cheese (see the bento minicutters that made these cheese flowers here)
  • A tomato and cabbage salad, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lunchbox #129

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Two hard boiled eggs
  • Half a Bubbies lacto-fermented pickle
  • A banana
  • Some PaleoKrunch
  • Some thinly sliced potato, which had been roasted in Kerrygold butter with a little cheese


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lunchbox #128

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Three minipeppers stuffed with chicken salad
  • A single square of Lindt 90% dark chocolate
  • Chunks of soft-cooked sweet potato
  • Mozzarella and tomato salad, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and pepper


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lunchbox #127

Today, my preschooler's lunchbox featured (clockwise):

  • Chicken salad (with paprika, butter, cream, and a bit of hot sauce)
  • Kerrygold cheese (see the bento minicutters that made these cheese flowers here)
  • Two Medjool dates
  • Sliced fresh peppers


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lunchbox #126

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):
  • Strips of leftover roast chicken, with mustard for dipping
  • Kerrygold cheese (see the bento minicutters that made these cheese flowers here)
  • PaleoKrunch
  • Asparagus spears with a good dose of pastured butter

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lunchbox #125

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):
  • Fresh peppers, stuffed with leftover offal chili
  • Whole milk yoghurt with vanilla extract and honey
  • Salted almonds
  • Fresh honeydew melon (see the bento minicutters that made these cute melon flowers here)

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link - shopping Amazon through it supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you - thanks very much!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Month of New Things

Something about the paleo lifestyle just forces me to try new things. It's wonderful! As an at-home mom and an introverted, homebody creature of habit I am very rut-prone, but transitioning our family to a paleo way of life a year and a half ago has drug me into more fresh experiences that I'd ever have anticipated.

Here are some new things that I have done for the first time - in the last few weeks alone!
  • Crossfit. Oh yes, this is by far the biggest immediate overhaul. I'm still getting to bed early, still rising well before dawn. Every workout is shocking my body - but thankfully, the extreme soreness from last week is slowly starting to dissipate. And...dare I say? Even though every exercise makes me well aware of my current physical limitations, I am having fun. Today was my first day using a weighted bar instead of a PVC pipe, and though it was still relatively light, it was satisfying. I'm also grateful to have a set of very patient and attentive instructors who have helped me to scale some exercises appropriately around a lingering preexisting injury.
  • Half a cow. We did it! We have committed to buying half a grass-fed cow from a local farm. It will take a certain amount of budget accommodation on our parts -- which is making me glad that I've already thought through some of our budget and options for making or acquiring Christmas gifts. Meanwhile, I need to start clearing out our freezers a bit to make room!
  • Beef tongue. AND beef liver. TOGETHER. My first stab at making offal was in today's batch of chili. I had picked up the tongue and liver at the same local farm this past weekend. I was very suprised to see how well the tongue cooked - overnight last night on low in the crock pot, then the outer rough skin came right off this morning, revealing a very tender pot roast type meat (I used the recipe at Primal Palate as inspiration for how to approach cooking the tongue). I took the advice of Lindsay over at Wildness and Wonder and pulsed our pastured beef liver in the mini food processor until it was super fine, and then added it to the chili in the crock pot. The result was very savory, definitely reminiscent a bit of liverwurst, and tasty with sour cream and shredded cheese. I enjoyed it, and my girls definitely enjoyed it (my four year old asked for seconds!) - but next time I may add even more muscle meat in a bid to tone the robust liver taste down.
  • A touch of bourbon in whipped cream with vanilla seeds. I don't think this requires much of an explanation. :)

What new things have you been trying lately?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paleo Comfort Foods - A Slam Dunk Gluten Free Taste Extravaganza

When Charles and Julie Mayfield's Paleo Comfort Foods arrived on our doorstep a couple of weeks ago, I practically ate the book on the spot. This paleo power couple has gained quite the reputation for their Southern recipes done paleo-style, and the detailed descriptions and accompanying pictures in Paleo Comfort Foods certainly live up to that reputation.

So far, we have tried and loved three recipes from Paleo Comfort Foods: Spicy Chicken Wings (page 52), Grilled Veggies (page 168), and Oven-Roasted Broccoli (page 208) - all pictured below as we made them.
The Paleo Comfort Foods' hot wing sauce,
applied to chicken tenderloin cutlets. Perfectly spicy!
Paleo Comfort Foods' grilled veggies - delicious simplicity.
Grilled veggies as we served them. YUM.
The Recipes

Paleo Comfort Foods' recipes are generally simple, with easy to read instructions. What I really appreciate is the authors' extra notes about possible substitutions or other twists to add to the recipe - this expands the possibilities for each recipe two or three times. These usually fall in the categories of variation, ingredients, and tips & tricks.

There are detailed notes on flavor pairings, including possibilities for those of use who "do dairy", as well.

The Core Strength

I can say without reservation that this is the best lineup of adaptations of neolithic recipes that I've ever seen. In Paleo Comfort Foods you will find delicious-looking, healthy recipes for typically unhealthier classics like mayonnaise (normally manufactured with industrially extracted soybean and canola oils, but not in this cookbook!), deviled eggs, crab cakes, muffins, chipotle dipping sauce, "not peanut" sauce, barbecue sauce, biscuits, coconut flour tortillas, pancakes, bread, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, grits, sweet potato casserole, lemon squares, and much, much more.

What Ingredients You'll Wish Were On Hand

There are a few ingredients that continuously pop up through Paleo Comfort Foods which are (I'm guessing) probably staples in the Mayfields' pantry. Among them are:

  • Coconut flour
  • Almond flour
  • Celery seed
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Worchestershire sauce (The Mayfields recommend Lea & Perrins' reduced sodium sauce)
  • Cumin
  • Thyme
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Fresh garlic

By now, my pantry usually has all or most of these, but that wasn't always the case and may not be for others new to paleo who are cracking open this book. My recommendation is to figure out which recipes you'd like to try first, and then tackle them one at a time, going slowly with the pantry additions acquisition. I know first-hand from experience (last summer!) how quickly the temptation to stock a paleo-friendly pantry can result in an unexpectedly massive food bill.

The Photos

Paleo Comfort Foods is lushly photographed, with mouthwatering presentation on every single page. It's for this reason that I could see Paleo Comfort Foods as being a great "intro to paleo" gift for the cooking enthusiasts in one's life; the pictures are so lusciously compelling that you can't flip through the book and not mentally dog-ear some selections to try making soon.

The Selection

Garlic roasted broccoli.
This is one huge book - it is about the size of a standard college softback workbook. There are roughly 150 (probably much more) full color recipes, and a nice array of categories: Starters and Snacks, Soups and Salads, Sauces and Staples, On the Side, Main Dishes, and Desserts -- in other words, enough delicious options to constitute many, many satisfying paleo meals.

It's worth mentioning that I'm listing just a few of the highlights here - I very much recommend that you pick up a copy of Paleo Comfort Foods for yourself - and for your loved ones. Everyone's tastebuds are sure to thank you!

This review contains only my opinions, which are honest and my own. I was not compensated for reviewing this book, other than receiving a free advance copy. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!
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