Monday, December 31, 2012

December Paleo Pen Pals Roundup!

Paleo Pen Pals started out as our little baby a couple of months ago, but it is really growing quickly! Brittanie, from Three Diets One Dinner, and I were so excited to see all of the tasty recipes that came through this month and I am happy to share them with you today.

If you would like to become a part of Paleo Pen Pals and sign up for next month's food swap, click here to learn more. You can also become a fan of Paleo Pen Pals by visiting our Facebook page.

Now, without further ado, here is a roundup of our December recipes!!



























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Thursday, December 27, 2012

“It’s Pizza Night” - A Guest Post from my Paleo Penpal, Amy


Read on for a guest post from my Paleo Pen Pal, Amy. I sent her some of my favorite Trader Joe's goodies. Ready to be a part of Paleo Pen Pals? Visit our Facebook Page and fill out the Contact Form to sign up!

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I have 2 boys. Ron is 6 and in first grade. Conor is 5 and in kindergarten. When I was growing up, I always got school lunch. I know now that the food was not that good for you. However, times have changed (somewhat). At the beginning of each month, my boys bring home the following months lunch calendar. They like to go through it with me and let me know which days they would like to get school lunch instead of home lunch. I cringe at some of the days (and then silently cheer when they don’t chose them). However, Friday’s are a given. Every Friday is pizza day. Whether it’s stuffed crust, square, or sticks, they always want to get it.

And that makes pizza nights at home fun too. Whenever I tell them I’m making pizza, they run through the house and cheer (and ask for fries to go with it). The difficult part about pizza night is that I’m a Paleo eater in a non-Paleo household. So there are always 2 pizzas ready to go....one for me, one for the husband and kids. Since going Paleo, I’ve grown to love the meatza!! Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting down to a round piece of cooked meat piled high with tasty toppings? I know I do. And that’s what I decided to do with the goodies I received from my December Paleo Penpal, Tarah. She runs the fantastic blog What I Gather. You’re reading her blog now, so you already know how fabulous she is!!


For December, Tarah sent me California Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Fire Roasted Yellow & Red Peppers...both from Trader Joe’s. Living just outside of Boston, it’s a good thing there are a plethora of Trader Joe’s nearby. Both items are delicious!! After showing my husband what Tarah sent, he gave me a few ideas on what I could do with them. I decided on these http://everydaypaleo.com/sun-dried-tomato-meatballs-with-creamy-pesto/. However, instead of doing meatballs, I did a meatza (just flatten the meat into one large burger). And since it was only me eating it, I adjusted all of the ingredients down to accommodate 1/2lb. of ground beef. After cooking the meat mixture for 15 minutes, I topped it with some homemade pizza sauce, tomato, avocado, and the yellow & red peppers sent to me from Tarah. I then tossed it back into the oven and cooked it for another 10 minutes. Can we say delicious? I can....100 times over!!


Thank you Tarah for the tasty ingredients. I know where I’ll be heading when I need to restock.

Cranberry Spiked Sausage Balls

This month, my lovely Paleo Pen Pal, Amy, sent me some fresh-from-the-farm cranberries! I have never cooked with cranberries so I spent some free time brainstorming ideas and came up with these sausage and cranberry balls. In my pre-Paleo days, I loved those sausage balls that everyone has at the holidays, but they are made mostly with bisquick, sausage and cheddar cheese.



I wanted to make a healthier version with sausage, almond flour and herbs and sweeten them up with a bit with the cranberries. These will definitely be making an appearance at some of my family's holiday get togethers!

If after all my Paleo Pen Pals rambling, you still aren't familiar with Paleo Pen Pals, it is a fun Paleo food swap for bloggers and non-bloggers alike! To learn more and sign up, visit the Paleo Pen Pals Facebook page.

Read on for the recipe!



Cranberry Spiked Sausage Balls
Serves: 4-6
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 lb Italian sausage
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
Dash of salt and pepper, to taste


Directions
Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Once hot, add onions to skillet and cook, stirring often, until translucent (2-3 minutes).

Add the diced celery and cook for two minutes, until softened.

In a large bowl, combine onions, celery, sausage, almond flour, cranberries, egg, and all spices. Using your hands, mix gently (so as not to burst the cranberries) until ingredients are well combined.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place heaping spoonfuls of the sausage mixture onto the pan. You should have about 25 sausage balls.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until sausage balls are cooked through and browned on top.

Paleo Pregnancy - Getting the Nutrients You Need

Being a typical pregnant lady, I have been visiting all of the pregnancy websites and reading the books. I receive the weekly email updates on my baby's development and the tips for what I should be eating to keep my baby healthy and strong. I also cry at random Christmas songs, but that really isn't the point. 

The point is that in many ways I am an atypical pregnant lady because I don't automatically subscribe to the pregnancy diet guidelines laid out for me in these books, emails and websites. Most recommend a diet rich in whole grains from bread, rice and pasta and calcium from sources such as milk and cheese. I am trying my hardest to stick to my pre-pregnancy Paleo diet, but I do believe it is important for babies to get all of the nutrients that are essential for healthy growth and development.

I've spoken with my midwife about my diet and her advice was that as long as I am eating a variety of whole, fresh foods I should be getting everything I need. I have done some research on my own, as well, and wanted to share with you how you can incorporate all of these important nutrients into your diet, while still following a healthy, whole foods, Paleo way of eating.

A few of my baby's favorite foods

>Folate/Folic Acid - Folate is extra important in early pregnancy because it assists in the proper development of the brain and spinal cord. Most of the pregnancy literature out there recommends a diet rich in cereals and other grains fortified with the synthetic form of folate, folic acid.

Because cereal has been off of my menu for almost two years, I went out in search of other forms of folate. Spinach is my go-to source for folate. I use it in salads, add it to smoothies (I promise you can't taste it) and throw a handful into stir frys and omelettes. Speaking of stir frys, add some asparagus into the mix and a squeeze of orange juice and you've just upped the folate level even higher!

Stir-fry-a-licious!

If you are trying to get pregnant, I would suggest upping your folate intake now to ensure you are getting this important nutrient early in pregnancy, before you may even realize you are pregnant.


>Calcium - Throughout life, calcium is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth, and it is even more important when you are growing another tiny life inside of you. Along with dairy, fortified grains are encouraged as part of a balanced pregnancy diet to ensure you are getting the daily recommended 1,000mg of calcium.

Anybody who has followed a Paleo diet for a while, though, knows that the RDA goals don't always necessarily match up with our own. There is research that suggests that much of the calcium we consume is never absorbed due to our gut lining being irritated by Standard American Diet foods. Because of this, I don't freak out if my calcium intake doesn't match up 100% with the RDA standards. Also, I do choose to take a prenatal vitamin, which should make up for anything I may be lacking as my diet varies from day to day.

To get the calcium my baby and I do need, I again turn to spinach and other dark, leafy greens. Almonds and dried figs are also good sources of calcium - try adding them to your next batch of trail mix for a yummy snack.

Trail mix time!
Salmon is another rich source of calcium that I try to eat at least once a week (minus those couple of months in the first trimester when I couldn't even LOOK at seafood). I even have a few tasty salmon recipes on the blog!









>Vitamin D - Another important nutrient for bone and teeth health, Vitamin D can be found in seafood, eggs and even mushrooms. Maybe my baby knows this because I have been craving eggs like nobody's business and eat them daily.

Yum, eggies! Serve 'em up!
>Protein - During pregnancy, protein is necessary for healthy fetal cell growth and brain development. Luckily, protein intake is usually not an issue for those of us following a Paleo diet. Eating plenty of red meat, poultry, nuts, eggs, and fish can guarantee that you and your baby are getting all the protein you need. Here are a few of my favorite protein-rich recipes.








>Iron - Last, but certainly not least, on the list is iron. Because your blood volume increases during pregnancy, your need for iron also increases to help prevent anemia. Again, fortified grains are recommended, but are never as good of a source of nutrients as foods with naturally occurring iron, such as red meat and poultry. A couple of surprising sources are cocoa and molasses, which is why I never feel guilty about my molasses-sweetened chocolate smoothies!


Really, it all goes back to the advice I received from my midwife. If you are eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and meats, you are your baby will be well taken care of in the nutrient department. As always, talk to your doctor or midwife about your eating habits. It is helpful if you are both on the same page with your diet and they can monitor you and make recommendations if necessary.


Source - Mayo Clinic

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paleo Pregnancy - Craving Swaps

I spoke a bit about cravings in my last pregnancy post, but today I wanted to get a little more in depth with some healthy (sometimes healthy-ish) craving swaps. Some say that that cravings could be hormone induced, but others believe it is your body's way of crying out for some nutrient it is missing. For example, if you crave a Big Mac, maybe you really just need some sodium or protein. I am not sure which I believe, but I definitely believe that our minds and bodies have been so confused by all of the fake foods out there, that it is entirely possible our brains are sending us some pretty confusing messages.

It is important to remember that you are in control and as long as you are eating a variety of healthy, whole foods, your baby is getting everything he or she needs. My cravings were strongest early in the first trimester when my hormones were raging and so many foods sounded unappetizing. Below are a few better-for-you ideas when those cravings hit. Fair warning - they can hit hard!


  • Swap Ice Cream for Banana Soft Serve - If you have not had banana soft serve, you are missing out! With a base of bananas and a little bit of coconut milk you can make a tasty soft serve with tons of flavor options. I like to mix in cocoa powder and sometimes frozen strawberries or blueberries. If you Google Banana Soft Serve, you will find hundreds of results, but here is a tasty looking chocolate version from Fast Paleo.


  • Swap Chocolate Candy for a few square of Dark Chocolate - Dark chocolate has a host of health benefits because of its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties. There are many options out there, but the best we have found is the Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa bar. It can be found at most grocery stores and has only five ingredients - chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. You can enjoy the yummy taste of chocolate without all of the added ingredients. Another great option is Green & Black's Organic 85% Dark Chocolate bar. I love the organic ingredients, but it isn't as easy to find.

Photo Credit: Paleo on a Budget
  • Swap French Fries for Roasted Potatoes or Roasted Sweet Potatoes - A lot of french fries (especially from a fast food joint) can be more sodium and oil than actual potato. A better choice would be to whip up some homemade, oven-roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes. We consider white potatoes a treat in our house as they do not have the same health benefits as sweet potatoes, but they are definitely not off limits. Preparing potatoes or sweet potatoes this way could not be easier! Here are a few recipes from Paleo on a Budget to help get you started.
                   Paleo on a Budget - Roasted Sweet Potatoes
                   Paleo on a Budget - Roasted Potatoes



  • Swap Apple Pie, Brownies, Banana Bread and Cookies for Grain-Free Paleo Treats - Seriously, there is a Paleo substitute out there for EVERYTHING! If you can dream it, someone has created a grain-free, refined sugar-free option. In my opinion the best place to find these treats  is DessertStalker because you can type in the treat you are searching for and view pages of results that match your craving! Fast Paleo is another great online resource and there is also a Paleo Indulgences cookbook that includes goodies such as Ginger Peach Scones and classic Vanilla Cupcakes.




  • Swap Milk Shakes for Fruit-Filled Paleo Smoothies - Milk shakes can be full of chemical sweeteners, colors and flavors. For a healthier option, blend up one of my tasty fruit smoothie recipes. There is even a chocolate cherry version!



  • Swap Fast Food for a Flavorful Homemade Burger - Burgers are SO much yummier when you make them at home and know exactly what is going into them. The same definitely cannot be said about any burger you pick up at a fast food joint. I like taking a basic beef, lamb or turkey burger and adding flavor with herbs, spices and homemade toppings. There are endless Paleo burger recipes out there, but I am going to share a few of my own! :)
                   What I Gather - Greek Stuffed Lamb Burgers
                   What I Gather - Hatch Green Chile Burgers with Fried Egg

                 



Monday, December 10, 2012

Kevin's Famous Chocolate Chili

I have another one of Kevin's tasty recipes in store for you today! Kevin first made this around Christmastime last year and it was so good that I have requested it at random times ever since. The problem is that Kevin is such a natural in the kitchen that he often throws ingredients together without remembering exactly what went into it so he would always give the excuse that he couldn't remember the original recipe. Even with his protests, it was just as tasty each time he prepared it. I finally pinned him down this time (not literally) and got the recipe.

As the name suggests, the secret ingredient here is chocolate. Cocoa powder to be exact. It does not give the chili a chocolate-y flavor...more of a deep, rich taste. Add to that a little heat from some jalapeno peppers (we were a little heavy handed here, feel free to use less if spice isn't your thing) and traditional chili ingredients, and you have yourself one tasty winter meal!

P.S. - Don't tell anyone, but I have eaten the leftover chili and topped it with a fried egg for breakfast the next morning. It was delicious!!




Kevin's Famous Chocolate Chili
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 9 hours

Ingredients
2 lbs beef stew meat
1 yellow onion, diced
4 jalapenos, diced (use less if you like a little less spice)
2 cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup stout beer (optional, but incredible)
2 cups chicken broth (can sub beef or vegetable broth)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions
Set your slow cooker to the low setting.
Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir well.
Cook on low for 8-9 hours, until meat is cooked through.
Shred meat with a fork before serving.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Handle Food Aversions and Cravings While Sticking to your Paleo Diet

Sadly, we are still talking about the trials and tribulations of the first trimester and nausea is just the tip of the iceburg. Many women, along with the never-ending hangover, experience strong food aversions and cravings. Most research chalks this up to hormones, while some believe it is a deep-seeded biological influence from the days of old that helped women to steer clear of foods that could easily be contaminated (meat, for example).

Carrots? No, thank you!
My first aversion was raw carrots. I used to snack on carrots and salsa or guacamole at my desk, but one day as I was snacking away I just had to spit them out! I could not stand to eat another carrot and I haven't touched a raw carrot since (cooked carrots, on the other hand, seem to be fine). Next up was tomatoes, followed by any and all raw vegetables. No more salad for this girl!

Soon after, I could barely stay in the house when Kevin was grilling chicken on our stovetop grill. The smell was sickening, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I could no longer eat seafood either, other than shrimp, which was the inspiration for these Green Chile Salmon Muffins.

Green Chile Salmon Muffins
My cravings have calmed down as I am moving into the second trimester, but early on they included eggs, berries, bananas, ice cold water, hot sauce and mustard. I actually think the hot sauce and mustard were more attempts to cover up the taste of all the foods I hated than actual cravings, but I certainly was eating a lot of both condiments.

More eggs, please!

A bowl full of berries? I'll take it!

So, what is a girl to do when the majority of her favorite foods make her want to run away screaming? Here are a few quick tips that should help you power through...

*Don't force yourself to eat foods that make you feel sick - Even with all of the foods that I couldn't stomach, there were still plenty of foods that I was able to eat. It is possible that Kevin grew tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every morning, but if he did, he was too sweet to ever mention it to me. I packed the same lunch over and over again. Eating something is better than eating nothing, just make sure you are eating healthy, whole, natural foods.

*Keep plenty of nutritious snacks on hand - Similar to staving off morning sickness, I found it helpful to have plenty of foods around that I knew I could eat and enjoy. It stopped me from making unhealthy choices when the cravings for not-so-good foods tried to creep in (I'm talking about you, candy corn!) as I feel that most of my food-related symptoms were heightened when I let myself get too hungry.

*Think of healthy substitutes - There was a night recently where I had a crazy craving for vanilla ice cream. Considering the fact that I haven't eaten ice cream in over a year and it would most likely make me sicker than I already am, I never considered running to the grocery store and purchasing a pint of Breyer's (okay, well maybe I considered it). I did, however, take to the interwebs to find a healthy-ish Paleo substitute. I landed on a vanilla ice cream recipe that consisted of only coconut milk, frozen bananas and vanilla bean and I was not disappointed! It was more than enough to satisfy my craving. My point is that you needn't necessarily give in to your cravings...try to find a healthy substitute that will both satisfy you and keep your body (and baby) happy.

*Remember why you are eating this way in the first place - This probably helped me out more than anything! The knowledge that I am following a healthy, whole foods diet and providing my baby with the nutrients that are essential for his or her development helped me stick to my Paleo diet and make healthy choices. It isn't only about what I am feeding my baby, it is about what I'm NOT feeding my baby. I am proud and excited that my baby has a chance at a life without foods full of chemicals and sugar and, right now, I am the only one who can determine what goes into my baby's body. That is a huge responsibility and I don't want to let my baby down.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Paleo Pregnancy: News Flash - Paleo is not a "Get Out of Morning Sickness Free" Card


I have been haunted by fears of morning sickness for years. I know my Mom suffered from horrible morning sickness with both my sister and myself. My sister is pregnant with her third child and she was not spared in her pregnancies, either. Once I found out I was pregnant, I knew it was just a matter of time before the morning sickness hit.

After doing some reading on the all-knowing Internet, I came across many blog posts and message board posts from women following a Paleo way of eating who somehow managed to completely dodge morning sickness during their pregnancies. They attributed it to their clean, Paleo diet. That gave me a small glimmer of hope that maybe Paleo would be my morning sickness savior.

Let me tell you something. Paleo is not a "Get Out of Morning Sickness Free" card and I am living proof. My morning sickness started just as I entered my sixth week of pregnancy. I was queasy all day long, from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I fell asleep at night. It was definitely worse in the morning when I was operating on an empty stomach. After lunch, it seemed to lighten up a bit, once I had two good meals in my belly.

Once I had a good breakfast and big lunch in my belly, I started to feel a bit better

There are plenty of women following a Standard American Diet who never go through one day of morning sickness and there are plenty of women, like me, who avoid grains, dairy and processed foods but still get to enjoy all-day nausea and cringe at the sight of what used to be their favorite foods.

No more salads for me, please!

There are so many factors that contribute to morning sickness, even doctors are not exactly sure what causes it. I definitely think diet can be a factor, but hormones are also a HUGE part of it. I will say that I never actually threw up, which I am thankful for every day. Was my morning sickness more mild because of my diet? Possibly, but there is really no way to know without extensive scientific research.

Here are a few tricks and remedies that I tried in an attempt to stave off morning sickness -



*Drink lots of water - I always carry a 32 oz Nalgene with me and usually drink about two bottles each day. Since being pregnant, though, it is closer to four a day. I am thirsty all the time, but I also think it just helped me to never have a completely empty stomach. I also think ice cold water was more refreshing than room temperature so I drank a lot of ice water.

I drank lots of these!

*Get some ginger - I tried ginger tea and added powdered ginger to my smoothies, but I didn't notice too much of a difference. I have heard other women have had success with this, though. What worked for me were these AWESOME ginger pills that I purchased at Earth Fare. Since the day I started taking them I have felt almost like a normal person! Definitely talk with your OB or midwife before taking any type of supplement.



*Eating throughout the day - Again, just not letting myself get too hungry seemed to help keep the sickness to a minimum. I would eat my regular breakfast in the morning and then have a bowl of fruit a couple hours later. I would sometimes have a Lara Bar before lunch if I was still starving. I would eat lunch and then have usually two more snacks before I left work. Depending on how late we ate dinner I would sometimes have an evening snack, but sometimes not.

*High protein/fat - Protein and fat keep me feeling full longer than other foods so I added avocado to my breakfast and lunch and snack on turkey or pepperoni in the afternoon.



*Snack Drawer - I am all about the snacks anyway, but it definitely helps to be extra prepared during pregnancy. I keep a handy snack drawer at work full of Lara Bars, nuts and jerky. I also keep a stash of bananas, berries, avocado and deli meats in the refrigerator. I have these same snacks at home, but I think it is important to have healthy foods around so that you don't just reach for the closest cookie when nausea and hunger hit.

Did you suffer from morning sickness? What helped you out the most?