Friday, December 30, 2011

Road Tripping, Paleo-ish-Style

I just returned home from a five day road trip with my family. Setting aside for a moment the obvious challenges of spending lots time on the road with little ones, I also had the challenge of keeping us on even keel, blood sugar and food-wise.

Here is how I approached road menu planning this time:
  • Overnight-soaked oats as a breakfast option. Since I didn't have a lot of advance details about where I'd run into a fridge or microwave, I needed a doable nonperishable item around for breakfast. I flexed for my daughters' breakfast a couple of mornings and had overnight-soaked gluten free rolled oats - which involved all mostly shelf-stable items. I had brought some fresh lemons, which I sliced open for a bit of lemon juice (the acidic element) and added some buckwheat flour (kept in the cooler) to the rolled oats and water as well. Buckwheat has phytase, which helps to eliminate the phytate present in grains - and since phytic acid typically binds to minerals in the digestive tract and keeps your body from absorbing them, phytic acid degradation via soaking with buckwheat works for us! We also added nutritious toppings to the oatmeal - in this case we chose from dried apple pieces, unsweetened dried coconut flakes, pastured ghee, and honey. (Since I'm lower carb for weight loss, I avoided oatmeal in favor of other options.)

  • Longer shelf life fruits. Apples, grapefruit, and bananas were our choices.

  • Nuts. Dry roasted pistachios with sea salt and raw cashews were on our journey this time. (since I'm working on weight loss I avoided the nomnomnomable cashews - they were more of a rare a treat for my husband and older daughter.)

  • Coconut manna. This was a go-between option for me - a sating low carb snack that usually only took a couple of bites to take the edge off hunger.

  • For low-carbers, Chipotle salad bowls, Chili's steak and veggies, sashimi and fast food bunless burgers. Yup, I'm the only lower-carb eater in my family - my husband and girls eat lots of natural carbs from fruit, tubers, and (as mentioned above) the odd dose of soaked oats or white rice. But for me, in order to keep my blood sugar steady and cravings at bay, I had to chose shrewdly during our 7 restaurant meals on the road. I went with Chipotle salads, sashimi (which is raw fish only - basically sushi without the rice), a steak and broccoli meal, and bunless burgers of various kinds, while avoiding sugar and grains.

  • For moderate-carbers, other options. Chili and baked potato (at Wendy's, but chucked the non-real "buttery spread" that came with), a split order of steak and veggie fajitas, with extra sides (at Chili's, but avoided the tortillas), and a meal of meat, veggies, and rice at the hibachi grill. No, none of the choices were perfect, but they were the best that could be figured out in the moment.

  • Flexibility on meats and (if you do dairy) cheeses. It turned out that we did have some fridges in our hotel rooms, so I took advantage of that by storing some preservative free lunchmeat and cheeses in them - and in our small insulated zip cooler in between stops. These were often a big part of my breakfast, along with the fresh fruit and Sea Snax. Speaking of which...

  • Sea Snax. I first heard of these snacks through Dallas and Melissa of Whole9 - they are sheets of seaweed toasted with olive oil and sea salt. They provided a nice savory, slightly crispy, low calorie/low carb snack. The Whole9 page has a coupon code good for free shipping until tomorrow night, so if you're interested in trying them out, this is a good time.
And yes, there were a few instances of my husband and girls having special treats (ice cream, etc.) on the road. The key, I think, isn't to aim for 100% compliance, but learning when on the trip it is worthwhile to make those compromises thoughtfully, so that you don't end up with a whole week of wall to wall food you're not used to eating, and thus potentially sick while travelling. In my case, having avoided sugar and grains, I managed to dodge sickness and riding the blood sugar roller coaster, and I ended the week 1.6 lb. lighter.

How do you manage to do a paleo / primal lifestyle while travelling?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Acknowledging My Weaknesses, and His Grace

I'm not a perfect parent. I don't do paleo perfectly (whatever that means, depends on who's been asked!).

I'm not a perfect Christian. I'm a less than perfect wife.

By now you've guessed I'm a less than perfect blogger (hellloooooooo, backup of Advent and lunchbox posts...).

I'm awful at some things, like keeping up with laundry. I'm terrible at loading the dishwasher efficiently (my husband manages to pack in at least 50% more dishes, and they still get cleaner).

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly
about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am full of frailties and contradictions. I'm impatient with my kids and my kitchen projects. I'm at one turn legalistic, the next turn, irreverent. A reluctant believer and a born skeptic. Easily distracted yet capable of hyperfocusing on the things that matter least. Irritable, yet also tenderhearted to a fault.

I am a human. My personal character weakness and my biochemistry all but predestine me to overeat hyperpalatable processed foods. Due to their engineered combinations of sugar, salt, fat, and easily-broken down carbohydrates, they are biochemically addictive and they feed something else deep in my psyche.

I grew up overweight, and after some slimmer high school years, I continued to battle weight on and off through adulthood, but especially after my pregnancies. If you have been overweight as a child, you know the pain that comes with the endless teasing. The awful moment when you realize that your gym class is picking teams again.  The panic attack that results when some school authority determines that heights and weights need to be taken, or that the skin calipers are coming out, in front of all of your classmates.

It is for these reasons - my childhood pain from being overweight and athletically inept, and my acknowledgment of my ongoing biological and emotional vulnerabilities to processed foods - that my husband and I have chosen to generally follow the paleo lifestyle for our family. I see favoring a nourishing whole foods lifestyle as giving us the best chance to sidestep that fate as my girls grow up.

Do I know for sure that paleo is the perfect way to health? No, but I can continue my research - doing my best to counter bias by reading opposing studies and viewpoints - and allow my choices to be shaped by an evolving knowledge of how human metabolisms react to certain foods. Will a paleo lifestyle forever guarantee myself and my family members everlasting health, fitness, and wellness? Nope. I could still develop cancer (as a matter of fact, I already have, prepaleo). We could meet an untimely death through an auto accident or some other tragedy. Though no fate in this life is guaranteed - except, ultimately, death - my main comfort is that I am working toward avoiding health calamities as logically as I can, which results in our paleo-style framework, based on the evidence I've read from peer reviewed studies published in various medical journals.

In the meantime, I treasure the grace promised in Jesus' arrival here on Earth - because my efforts are human and imperfect, and thus my results will never be perfect. I am so thankful that it is not me, but He who bridges that gap instead, sustaining us all along!

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear by Sixpence None the Richer on Grooveshark

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lunchbox #152

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

  • Sliced leftover chicken
  • Pieces of whole milk mozzarella
  • A grain free gingerbread cookie, layered with cream cheese and crushed candycane (a leftover holiday treat)
  • Sauerkraut


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Update on Advent Calendar and Lunchboxes

I have so, so many lunchboxes and advent calendar pictures waiting to be harvested from my camera. The hitch? My camera card reader plotzed after about 2 years of service. I have another reader on the way...thinking it might get here early next week. Hopefully at that point I'll be able to get the backlog of posts up!

In the meantime, I'm hoping that you are finding a few moments of solace here and there. Already nearly a week until Christmas! Eek! Presents to buy, presents to wrap, cards to send. I'm way behind. And you all? How is your countdown til 12/25 going?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vitacost $10 Off Any Purchase Coupon Means Purity Farms Ghee, Shipped to Your Door for As Low As $4.47

The $10 off any purchase at coupon is still up for grabs! Using this coupon, you can get a 13 oz. jar of Purity Farms Ghee on for only the cost of shipping.

The description of the ghee says:
Purity Farms Ghee is made in harmony with nature, from organic sweet cream butter from pastured cows on small, certified organic family farms.
Honoring a traditional Indian method, pure organic butter is slowly cooked to coax out water and milk solids.  What remains is traditional delicious Ghee - a luxurious golden, semi-soft spread with a rich buttery taste and aroma. 

Here's how to score savings:
  • Optional: Go to and search for "Vitacost". Clicking to the website through ebates will get you an additional 4% cash back on your purchase - in this case it could be up to $0.52.

  • Add Purity Farms Ghee (13 oz., $8.08) to your cart. Also feel free to add anything $1.92 or less since the $10 coupon would cover both that and the ghee.

  • Use the $10 off any purchase coupon to cover the $8.08 cost of the ghee by entering your $10 coupon code in the "source code" field at checkout.

  • Pay only $4.99 to have it shipped to you. If you got cash back, your net is $4.47 spent on that ghee.

Other things you can buy with your $10 off any purchase coupon on 
  • Bob's Red Mill unsweetened flaked coconut, $3.27/bag. You can get three bags with that $10 coupon and still pay only shipping.

  • Native Forest Coconut Milk, $2.43/can. The $10 off any purchase coupon would get you 4 cans for just the cost of shipping, $4.99, which is $1.25/can - a fantastic price for organic coconut milk in BPA free cans.

  • Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Flour, 1 lb., $5.81. The $10 coupon will make two bags of this $1.62 + $4.99 (shipping), so you'd get two pounds of coconut flour for $6.61 (and even less if you get cash back through ebates). YOWZA! What a price! (Or, you could combine a single bag of the flour with something else around $4.19 to avoid paying extra.)

What's caught your eye at Vitacost?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lunchbox #151

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

  • A couple of mini cheeseburger quiches
  • Some lacto-fermented Bubbies sauerkraut
  • A piece of mint dark chocolate
  • A banana


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lunchbox #150

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

  • Egg salad
  • Fresh broccoli florets with a sour cream dipping sauce
  • Gluten free coconut macaroons
  • Slices of clementines


Friday, December 9, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 9 - Contrast

When I first went paleo, I was shocked to discover how - after a couple of weeks - previously bland or even bitter foods took on a new sweetness. Now, almonds and pistachios taste sweet to me - and even grapefruit is no longer tart to my tastebuds, but almost indulgently sweet. It's a lesson in contrast and context; if I ate a slice of store bought sheet cake, and then tried to eat some almonds, they would taste fairly bitter. But, when I've not had sugar for ages, almonds' natural sweetness comes through. These almonds, for my daughter's advent box, were very lightly coated in a bit of butter and palm sugar, and then toasted.

By the same token, Jesus challenges how we think about ourselves - He describes how God knows and cares about the status of even a humble sparrow, and contrasts that with the value of any one person's daily grind to the Almighty God. So while we're off eating the sheet cake of self-pity and withered self esteem, God is waving us over saying, "You, stop eating that sheet! Come discover the sweetness of these almonds and pistachios instead."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 8 - Forget Not His Benefits

Kumquats! I found these kumquats in a pint container at WalMart. Go figure. We've never had them, so it was a fun adventure to try them out - the outside (the skin) looks like it should be removed, but in fact you eat it - it's sweet in contrast to the tart and juicy center. I like to think of this kumquat verse as a reminder of the value in meeting God as far as you can - match his blessings on offer by giving your 100%, and just imagine the results!

Meanwhile, I had found this mini forget-me-not grow kit from the dollar section at Target. Though the pot was too big for the advent box, I simply put the label and contents into the box, and made the pot materialize later, after the box had been opened. Now the forget-me-nots sit in the sun near the kitchen sink, just barely peeking soft green buds out of the soil, and they remind us that God's blessings should always be at the forefront of our thoughts, serving as an low level, consistent exercise in gratitude.

Lunchbox #149

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

  • Scrambled egg whites with dill
  • Fresh snow peas
  • Mashed sweet potatoes with raisins
  • Cherry tomatoes with olive oil and fresh basil


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lunchbox #148

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

  • A cheese and onion omelette
  • Mashed yellow sweet potato
  • Fresh snow peas
  • A sour cream dip


Real Food Advent Calendar: December 7 - Coconut "Milk and Honey" Walnut Cups

The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert before finally arriving at their promised land, a, " flowing with milk and honey."

Sometimes - say, in learning how to eat right and to get active - even when you want the fastest path from A to B, it turns out that you need the journey, even a journey that's more roundabout. By the time you finally do reach point B of figuring out what works for you, your very character has been changed for the better because of the process.

Commemorating a final "milk and honey" goal is a little cup with chocolate on the bottom, and on top, melted coconut oil mixed with warmed coconut manna (which mimics the creaminess of coconut milk) and a trace of honey. I dropped in a few walnut pieces to give it crunchy texture and popped the whole thing in the freezer to set.

Meanwhile, to fit the idea of the process being of importance, is an egg of Silly Putty - because it is God with the end point in mind, and He is the Sculptor of our destinies. A "common use" does not denote "unvaluable" - a common water jug used every day is very valuable in its services offered - and thus is of equal importance to some finely sculpted unique object d'art. So - do not worry about whether your destiny is common or noble. Rest in the knowledge that it is valuable and fully in God's hands either way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 6 - Great Joy for All the People

Isn't this Lindt angel super precious? I thought, she's perfect for the little advent box! Then I got home and realized - she was about half an inch too long. D'oh! So, she was kind of already hanging out of the box a little when my 4 year old got to it. At least I know that she wasn't feeling stuffy. :-p

And the angel said, be not afraid! Again that phrase enters my thoughts for the umpteenth time in recent memory. The shepherds were cowering at the sight of this unexpected guest, but the angel wanted to allay their fears immediately and instead to boast the tidings: He is HERE!

The wee Christ child, born into the humblest and most awkward of circumstances, in a dank manger, to an unwed mother. Yet from this setting came the biggest of miracles!

In the same way, God asked the Israelites for their donations, knowing that they would be modest on the individual level, in order to melt down their jewelry and convert their treasures into fittings for His temple. This is where my daughter's treasure for today came in - this time something decidedly not from the dollar store - a necklace of Baltic amber.

Through His power - via the donations and skills of His people - God spun an awe-inspiring miraculous home for his Spirit. God with us. With the Israelites in their temple. With Joseph and Mary in the manger. And with us still today!

Lunchbox #147

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

  • Mashed yellow sweet potato
  • Whole milk yoghurt
  • Nuts and raisins, and half a hard pressed treat
  • Some SeaSnax toasted seaweed


Monday, December 5, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 5 - A Hard Pressed Treat

Ah, December, the most relaxing, rejuvenating, peaceful month of the year.

*ahem*, not

Are you feeling pressed in from many sides? Pressure to get the holidays just right? Unsure that you'll get the gifts and other traditions together before Christmas? Or just trying to manage "regular life" under the weight of a bunch of holiday obligations?

I hear ya, so. there. The day after Thanksgiving I got back on the lower carb train, had about two days of brain fog, then by Monday was feeling pretty good again. So here I am, trying to be faithful in weight loss efforts - and allocating my modest fruit and starch carbs intake very strategically just before and just Crossfit workouts...and I'm making advent calendar treats for my daughter every day! Though very tempting, I haven't given in to eating any of the treats yet; my stable blood sugar isn't worth compromising for me right now. 

So due to me attempting to bear down, the number on the scale is going down - 9.2 lb. since Black Friday. BUT, I'm feeling the effects in my Crossfit workouts - especially the higher cardio ones. I've read before that with Crossfit you have to prioritize leaning out or performance, so it's making sense from that perspective.

This day's treat is inspired by the concept of being between a rock and a hard place - the idea of being "hard pressed". Here we have almond butter and maple syrup combined in 1:1 ratio, then squished between two plain rice crackers, then covered in high quality dark chocolate. It's my less-processed gluten-free take on the chocolate covered Oreos that seem to emerge this time of year. ;)

So if you're feeling hard pressed this year, hang on; the chocolate covering is coming sooner or later. :)

Meanwhile, some silvery foil fingernail stickers with a star pattern appealed to the inner glamour girl. It's a reminder that doing things well does eventually stand out and serve as a testimony - whether faithful healthy eating or simply shepherding your family steadily through the chaos of the holidays.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 4 - Salted Sweet

Today's sweet was a piece of chocolate with sea salt and almonds. Sea salt! It enhances the sweetness of the chocolate - the same way that carefully seasoned words enhance the tone of a conversation. It served as a reminder to me that our words must be considered carefully when describing to someone why it is that we believe what we believe, and why we do what we do. Thus being prepared to explain oneself logically and with references, owing to continuous and scrupulous self-education is of paramount importance, whether in scripture, or in your nutritional research.

The whistle came as a thought of God using his whistle to call his faithful - the same way ancient shepherds called their sheep. Even from the greatest distance the sheep could be summoned by use of the whistle. May I always hear the whistle when God is calling me to something!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 3 - The Value of Traditional Ways

Now over a year and a half into this traditional foods / paleo lifestyle, I'm learning so much about how folks were preparing foods just a couple of generations ago. So, the Proverbs verse really rings true to me in this context; it heralds the value of learning the passed on knowledge of one's elders, like a precious necklace.

As for the chocolate covered hazlenuts, I thought that the slightly sweet dark chocolate outside and mildly bitter crunchy inside were good illustrations of the outside/inside analogy of people. Hopefully my daughter can remember as much even as she munches through them. :)

To make these, I simply melted a small handful of dark chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish in the microwave, then I stirred the chocolate until smoothly melted. I tossed a small handful of hazlenuts into the bowl and stirred them until they were evenly coated. I then spooned the hazlenuts onto parchment paper to cool before popping them into their mini silicone muffin cup.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Real Food Advent Calendar: December 2 - Strengthen Me With Raisins

Fun fact: it was recently determined by researchers in a study that raisins are a better workout recovery tool than sports gel. Can you imagine that? After a hard workout, a whole, natural source of carbohydrates does a better job at replenishing the body and muscles than artificially colored and flavored high glycemic index sports recovery gel. It's almost like we were meant to eat the raisins instead after taxing our bodies... In fact, the Song of Solomon indicates as much.

We don't consume tons of raisins at our house, but I think that they are perfectly fine, particularly for active and growing bodies. They work well for us as an on-the-go emergency snack option, usually when combined with nuts trail mix style. However, raisins are just rare enough to still constitute a treat for my girls, so in this case their advent treat for the day is a minimix of sliced almonds and raisins.

And as for the almonds? Israel sent them with his sons back to Egypt as a peace offering to the his son (then-covert) Joseph - a gustatory olive branch. (I don't know about you, but I'm definitely a sucker for nuts as a hostess gift. That Israel knew what he was doing!)

So the treat comes with the undertones of strength (for the raisins) and peace (for the almonds). I can't think of two more apt qualities that arise from those who tell their testimonies about how Christ has changed their lives - the same Christ who said, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Commemorating that verse is a fun little battery powered tealight - which can be found at dollar stores (mine sold them in three packs for a buck) or bought in bulk online.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lunchbox #146

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

  • A leftover slice of from our rare Chebe pizza night
  • Some flower cut out of liverwurst
  • A Clementine
  • A sour cream dipping sauce, and
  • Some fresh snow peas


Real Food Advent Calendar: December 1 - Coconut Manna Walnut Cups

Psalm 150
Quite the jamboree, eh? I am a person who really gets into Christmas music - I have it on almost constantly from mid-November through the New Year. I saw this little drum and thought it the perfect reminder that sometimes a good worship jam session can get me and my daughter better mentally prepared to herald the celebration of Christ's arrival. It doesn't have to be lingering fireside carols (though I enjoy those too!) - a couple of exuberant tunes with high octane drums and guitars courtesy of Relient K gets us from 0 to 60 in no time flat. :)

Drumming Up Some Christmas Worship by C on Grooveshark

Exodus 16:4-5

Now for the December 1st advent calendar treat! These are very, very easy to make - and take less than 5 minutes. I like that they involve coconut manna - it reminds me of the fact that God gives us exactly what we need, exactly when it is needed. (It's learning to trust in that fact that is the hardest part for me!)

Coconut Manna Cups
Makes about 6 cups

1/2 cup high quality dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons coconut butter or coconut manna (or coconut butter)
6 walnut halves

In a microwave, melt the chips in a microwave-safe bowl on half power (this should take a minute or two). Stir the melted chocolate until it is completely smooth. Pour just a bit of melted chocolate in the bottom of six mini silicone muffin cups (or silicone mini muffin cup liners). Use a teaspoon to spread the melted chocolate from the bottom of the cup up the side.

Allow the chocolate in the cups to cool for a bit.

On top of the chocolate in the cups, add 1/2 tablespoon of crumbled coconut manna and a walnut half broken into 2 or 3 pieces. Top these with more melted dark chocolate and use the teaspoon to smooth it over.

Place the manna cups in the freezer to further set, if desired.
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