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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moroccan Zucchini Boats

It is sad to have the excitement of Mr. What I Gather's Ironman race and our little vacation behind us, but it is nice to get back into my own kitchen instead of that tiny, cramped hotel room kitchen. We were lucky to have a full kitchen, so I shouldn't be complaining. We were able to cook a lot of the meals we are accustomed to eating at home and we made one of our favorite meals, Everyday Paleo's Puerto Rican Beef, for Mr. What I Gather's pre-race breakfast.

Exploring Epcot's World Showcase last week sparked me into move my cooking out of the Southwest, as it seems to have taken up permanent residence there. These little zucchini boats were inspired by the exotic flavors of Morocco! Similar to twice baked potatoes, these are made by slicing the zucchini in half and scooping out the contents to form the "boat". You then mix the seeds and flesh of the zucchini with tomatoes, onions, ground beef and spices and bake for twenty minutes for a delicious, worldly treat. These would be great served with a cucumber salad or a Moroccan tomato soup.

P.S. - Mr. What I Gather is quite a long name, so (with his permission) I will now be referring to my husband as Ironman. He earned it.   :)

Moroccan Zucchini Boats
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

4 Medium Zucchini
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/3 lb ground beef
1/3 cup diced white onion
1/3 cup diced tomato
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tbsp parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

-Preheat oven to 350 F.
-Spray a 9''x13'' baking dish with cooking spray or coat with oil.
-Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and flesh, leaving about a 1/4 inch thick shell. Set the seeds and flesh aside on a cutting board.
-Brush the zucchini shells with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, cut side up,  in prepared baking dish. Remove from the oven and set aside.
-Heat a skillet over medium heat.
-Dice the reserved zucchini flesh and add to a bowl with the diced onions, tomato, tomato paste, minced garlic and all spices.
-Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini mixture to the pan and continue to cook until meat has cooked through, stirring often, an additional 5 minutes.
-Fill each zucchini shell with about 1/3 cup of filling and return to the oven for 20 minutes.

Paleo Eating at Disney World

Walt Disney World - at 30 years old, I still consider it the happiest place on Earth! But in the land of cheeseburgers, french fries and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, it can be easy to miss the wholesome, nutritious food options. The following tips are not only helpful for those of us following a strict Paleo diet, but also for anyone who wants to seek out the healthy options available at the Disney World.

I'll break this down into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks and give a few examples of restaurants that I know from my recent trip have Paleo options on the menu, but I would definitely suggest you do a little research before your next visit to make sure the menus haven't changed. A good place to start is the Menu Directory on AllEars.Net. You can browse menus from Disney eateries at all of the resorts and theme parks. Okay, here we go...

The best advice I can give for your first and most important meal of the day is to eat before you visit the park in the morning. On our trip, we were lucky enough to have a full kitchen in our room and a grocery store within a half mile of our hotel. This made it simple for us to enjoy the same meals we were accustomed to eating for breakfast at home. For example, on the first morning of our trip, I made a big batch of brussels sprouts and ground beef with onion, sun dried tomatoes, avocado and scrambled eggs. I made enough so that we had leftovers to heat up in the microwave the next morning before heading back out to Disney. An easy and delicious way to fuel all of the power walking that awaited us!

If you don't have a full kitchen in your hotel room, but you have a mini fridge and microwave, you could bring along some pre-cooked meat and veggies to re-heat in your room. I would suggest freezing it before you leave home and keep it extra cool in your cooler during your road trip.

If you don't have access to a heating source or a fridge, you can load up on jerky, fruit, veggies and nuts. You can fill up an ice bucket or sink with ice to keep fresh veggies and fruits cool to snack on before you go out for the day. Carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers and cucumbers with salsa or apples with almond butter along with some jerky would be a great start to the day.

Lunch is another meal that I would suggest packing your own food for. If you prefer to eat in the park, you can reference the dinner tips I give later in this post. You may even save a bit of money because lunch prices are often lower than dinner prices!

We spent two days at Disney so we hit two parks each day. We kept a large cooler in the car and packed it full of sliced turkey, sliced peppers, carrot sticks, celery sticks, salsa, hummus (I know hummus is not technically Paleo, but it doesn't give us any problems so we eat it occasionally), apple and pear slices and almond butter. While traveling between parks, we would serve up turkey wrapped veggies and fruit slices with our dip of choice. It was a quick and easy way to refuel for the afternoon.

An extra tip, freeze water bottles in your hotel room the night before and use them as ice packs in your cooler! By the time lunch rolls around, they should be thawed enough to drink or bring into the park with you to drink throughout the afternoon.

You can also bring a small cooler into the park with you if you prefer not to go back to your car. From the website " absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages. Also, you cannot bring any type of straws (even the little ones attached to juice boxes) into Animal Kingdom." You can carry the cooler with you or most of the parks have lockers near the front entrance where you could store the cooler until you are ready for lunch.

I am a big snacker on a normal day, but I would venture to guess we were walking at least 10 miles a day at Disney World. That's a lot of walking and we all stayed pretty hungry. We carried apples, oranges, nuts, dried fruits and jerky into the parks to have something to munch on while walking between rides or waiting in line.

If you don't feel like lugging a backpack around all day, I found that each park had at least one fruit stand with a variety of fresh fruit and veggie options for pretty reasonable prices. For example, Anaheim Produce at Disney's Hollywood Studios (located on Sunset Blvd. near Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster) sold apples, oranges, pineapple, mixed fruit cups, carrots and celery. Just steer clear of the included caramel or ranch dip. At the Magic Kingdom,  Liberty Square Market next to the Hall of Presidents has the same fruit options and also sells baked sweet potatoes!

Just next door to Anaheim Produce, we found Toluca Legs Turkey Company, which sells big ol' turkey legs for about $7.50. If you are craving a turkey leg at the Magic Kingdom, be sure to visit the aptly named Turkey Leg Cart in Adventureland (the only place to find turkey legs in the park).

As far as staying hydrated, which is HUGELY important when walking around all day in the Florida heat, we carried a Camelbak hydration pack. There are plenty of water fountains to re-up your water throughout the day. We filled ours with ice before leaving the hotel in the morning so our water would stay nice and cold. You could also do the same thing with reusable water bottles. If you find yourself without water, you can purchase bottled water at almost any dining establishment or food cart at Disney.

When we visit Disney World, we do like to splurge on one meal per day at the park. This was my first trip to Disney since eliminating grains, dairy, sugar and processed foods from my diet so it was a bit more of a challenge to find what I was looking for. We happened to be at Magic Kingdom around dinner time and saw on the map that Cosmic Ray's in Tomorrowland had salad on the menu. We headed that way and each ordered a Greek Salad (hold the feta, dressing on the side). We took our salads over to the toppings bar and added mushrooms, peppers, pickles and onions. I also packed a pouch of tuna in the Camelbak so we topped our salads with tuna. Plenty of veggies and protein for a complete, filling meal!

One of the best places to be during meal time is Epcot's World Showcase. Food choices from Germany, Norway, Morocco, Mexico and beyond to satisfy the appetite you can work up after walking from country to country all afternoon! In Germany, you can dine on a tasty bratwurst with sauerkraut at Sommerfest. Morocco has the Restaurant Marrakesh, which serves everything from Shish Kebab to Lemon Chicken (and maybe a glass of wine)!

By doing a little bit of research and planning beforehand, you shouldn't have any trouble finding healthy menu options and preparing nutritious foods during your next trip to Disney World. And while at Disney, you can visit all of your Paleo friends at Animal Kingdom's Dinoland!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chili Lime Jicama Hash

Last week, we made a Paleo version of these Skillet Fajitas with Jicama Salsa (basically we left out the tortillas and turned it into a huge salad. Delicious, by the way), which left us with an abundance of leftover jicama. I am fairly certain this was the first time I had ever even used jicama so I had zero idea of what to do with the leftovers.

I started reading up on jicama recipes and learned that many people use it as a low carb replacement for potatoes. It is crisp and light and has a slightly sweet taste. You can even eat it raw with salsa or guacamole.

I was having my family over for Mother's Day brunch and decided to try out a jicama hash as a side dish for my Zesty Italian Brunch Bake and some fried apples and bananas. I added onion, lime juice and chili powder to give it a little Mexican kick, so I guess that made this sort of an "Around the World" meal. :)

Chili Lime Jicama Hash
Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

4 cups peeled and grated jicama

1 tsp chili powder (more if you like it spicy)

Juice of 1 lime

Dash of salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add diced onion and cook until translucent, stirring often. About 3 minutes.

Add the jicama, lime juice, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook until brown, stirring often, 6-8 minutes.
Fast and Easy Paleo Recipes

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Review of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Paleo"

The first and probably most powerful thing I can say about Neely Quinn and Jason Glaspey’s book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo, is that I wish this book had been around when I started down the Paleo path. The funny thing is, their site, Paleo Plan, was one of my go-to resources when I started researching the Paleo diet. But I am the type of person who still loves a good book. A book I can hold in my hands, relax on the couch with and pull off the shelf for reference anytime I need it (no high-speed Internet connection required!)

There are some great Paleo recipe books out there, a few of which helped me navigate my own transition to Paleo. There are also books on the market that focus on the scientific aspect of the Paleo diet, what our ancestors ate and the benefits we stand to gain by following their lead. What is great about The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo is that it combines all of that information into one book. It has the who, what, when, where, why and how all covered in one place!

Sharing my newfound knowledge with Foster
The book is broken up into four sections. Part 1 explains the history and science behind the diet. This is important information to have on hand because once people find out you  only eat fruits, nuts, meat and vegetables they are going to have A LOT of questions. This section gives you the tools you need to understand and explain to others why eating as our ancestors did can make you healthier and keep ailments such as heart disease and diabetes at bay. This section even digs into the long-perpetuated myth that eating fat makes you fat (will this never go away?)

Part 2 helps you put everything you just learned into practice. This section answers all of your questions regarding which foods to save, which foods to toss, sticking to a Paleo diet while traveling and even how to modify the diet for athletes. There is a Honey Lemon Thirst Quencher recipe (pg. 88) that my soon-to-be Ironman husband is going to test out during his race next week.

What I really liked about this section were the detailed descriptions and nutrition breakdown of some of the foods that may be new to you if you are just getting into Paleo (coconut oil, almond flour, etc). I even learned that almond meal is made from blanched (skinless) almonds and almond flour is made from almonds with skin. Did you know that? I never knew the difference until now.

Part 3, my personal favorite, is filled with tons of delicious recipes. One of the hardest things about committing to a Paleo lifestyle is figuring out what to cook. Like most people, the majority of my pre-Paleo meals were heavy on rice, cheese, pasta and bread. My idea of a healthy meal went right out the window and I would find myself standing in the kitchen scratching my head trying to figure out what to do with all these vegetables.

Luckily, this book is filled with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and desserts galore! These recipes have so much variety, there is no reason your tastebuds should ever get bored. I am really looking forward to trying the Sausage Stuffed Tomatoes and the Thai Chicken Wraps.

Part 4 lays out shopping lists, tips for how to modify the diet to fit your lifestyle and a month’s worth of fabulous, Paleo meals. If you are new to Paleo, this section will be a lifesaver.  It is like having your own personal nutrition coach to help get you started!

While this book is especially helpful for those new to Paleo, even long-time veterans can learn a lot from the information packed into these pages. I always love learning more about the health benefits of a Paleo lifestyle and how the nutrient profiles of Paleo foods stack up against typical American fare. And, of course, we can all use a few new recipes to mix up our usual routine. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the Paleo way of eating and I plan to keep it close by so I don’t lose that recipe for Paleo Apple Cinnamon Cake!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chipotle Cinnamon Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes

Yesterday was Derby Day and, of course, we partied it up with our friends. I have always loved parties and creating fun dishes to share with my friends. We had quite a spread yesterday, complete with Mr. What I Gather's famous guacamole and brats and burgers cooked by our grill-master friend and party host, Tony. I wanted to bring a Paleo option for two reasons; so Mr. What I Gather and I wouldn't be stuck with only a bunless burger and lettuce leaves for dinner, and to show our friends that were in attendance that Paleo dishes can be easy and super tasty!

I didn't win a game all day, but I looked good doing it!

I wanted to bring a sweet potato hash because it comes together without much effort and you can make a huge batch to feed a large group. The only problem was figuring out how I was going to cook it at the right time and keep it warm so we wouldn't be munching on soggy, lukewarm sweet potatoes. I decided to try them out in the crock pot and guess worked! I was worried they would turn into a big, mushy mess in the crock pot, but they were perfectly cooked. Once they were cooked through, I just turned the crock pot to warm until we were ready to eat.

I didn't win any money on the Derby, but we had a great time being with our friends, enjoying good food and good company. I could insert a heartwarming comment here about how that makes us all winners, but I am going to restrain myself.

Chipotle Cinnamon Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-7 hours

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

3 sweet potatoes, cut into 2 inch cubes

1 red onion, diced

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced + one tsp of the sauce

1 tbsp cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

Grease your crock pot with 1 tbsp of the coconut oil.

Add sweet potatoes, onion, chipotle pepper, cinnamon, salt and pepper to crock pot.

Drizzle with remaining tbsp of coconut oil and stir well to incorporate ingredients.

Set crock pot to low and cook for 6-7 hours. You can turn the crockpot to warm until you are ready to serve.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sweet and Savory Sausage Stir Fry

Do you appreciate the alliteration that went into that recipe title? I know I do.

Seriously, though, this was one tasty meal! I have professed my love for brussels sprouts in the past and I love coming up with new combinations of flavors to mix them up with. This dish went sweet and savory with sausage, thyme, sage and dried cherries.  I like to heat the brussels in the microwave for a couple of minutes before stir frying them to speed up the cooking process a bit.

It's Derby week around here so my evenings have been spent at parades and concerts (loved Ha Ha Tonka and Walk the Moon) with friends, not in the kitchen! This was a dish I could throw together quickly and that I typically have all of the ingredients for on-hand.

Happy Derby - Go Baby Go!

Sweet and Savory Sausage Stir Fry
Serves 3-4 (unless you are feeding an Ironman-In-Training. If that is the case, don't expect it to feed more than two people)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

3 cups brussels sprouts

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 lb ground sausage

1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

1 cup cabbage

1 tsp sage

1 tsp thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Place brussels sprouts in microwave-safe dish. Add about 1-inch of water.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and poke holes in the plastic with a fork to vent.

Microwave for 2 minutes. Allow to cool.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat

When brussels sprouts have cooled enough to handle, cut into quarters and discard the loose outer leaves

Add olive oil to pan. Once oil is hot, add sliced onions and brussels sprouts.

When onions have softened, about 3 minutes, add ground sausage and all spices to pan.

Stir fry over medium heat until meat is cooked through, 6-8 minutes.

When meat is done, add cabbage and dried cherries. Cook for 2-3 minutes until cabbage has softened.

Serve it up!