My Paleo Journey – Day 4


Today marks the end of the 4th day on the Paleo diet.  I’ve managed to survive a family dinner, lunch with co-workers, and a networking event with only a couple of mishaps.  I figure it’s a long-term change, so no use beating myself up over it.  One cheat here and there is worth it if it means making it to the finish line. [take note here, all you die-hard dieters].  I never thought it would be so difficult, but I guess everything harder’s when you go in with the attitude of “can’t have it” as opposed to “don’t need it.”  As I find myself changing my outlook more, I can see that I manage to get through the day without feeling so hungry, and am starting to wake up a little bit more rested.

Tonight, I tried a Paleo re-make recipe on one of my favorite dishes: Spin-arti stuffed chicken.  This took me only about 30 minutes to make and i actually had most of the ingredients on hand.  The best part – it was super delicious, and I almost forgot that there was no creamy cheese in the chicken, or that those weren’t real potatoes.

Here’s the original recipe for the chicken.

Here’s my take!
SPINACH & ARTICHOKE STUFFED CHICKEN

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Ingredients
  • 20 cloves of roasted garlic – I get this from the antipasto bar at our local grocery store
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, low salt if possible
  • healthy pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • a bag of baby spinach, washed and ready to go
  • 2-3 toothpicks per chicken breast
Instructions
  1. Add the roasted garlic along with the artichoke hearts, sea salt and flat-leaf parsley into a food processor.  Pulse a couple times to break down the ingredients, then stream in the olive oil while pureeing the mixture.
  2. Butterfly the boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Spoon the artichoke mixture and spread into the pocket on the butterflied chicken breast. Top the mixture with a small handful of raw baby spinach.
  3. Carefully fold the chicken breast back together and secure the open side with toothpicks.
  4. Add a sprinkle of additional sea salt to the top of the chicken.
  5. Grill each side for 5 to 7 minutes and then let rest for a few minutes before serving. [I used my cast iron grill pan, but you could also bake at 375degrees for about 20 minutes]

I served the chicken with a healthy helping of mashed cauliflower, thanks to this recipe from Whole Foods.

The start of a new beginning … PALEO


My husband and I like to do food challenges a few times a year.  In January, we went pescatarian and banned alcohol.  In the summer, we bought in a community supported agriculture program (CSA), and tried to eat everything that was given to us in our boxes each week (including the weird things!).  This month (until Thanksgiving), we’re challenging ourselves to live the Paleo lifestyle, with a handful of exceptions.

For those of you that don’t know, the Paleo diet is widely known as eating like the cavemen did.  That means fresh, clean eating food (doesn’t sound so bad here), and no grains, no dairy, no legumes (GULP!).  I’ll start logging my journey on this lifestyle change and you can judge for yourself if it’s something you think worth taking on.  At the end of all this, I’m hoping to come out on top – feeling better, prolonging my health, and ready for the next challenge life has thrown over to me.

BREAKFAST IDEA – Sweet Potato Hash with a fried egg

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The best kitchen tool ever – 3 in 1 peeler! Makes great julienne cuts of sweet potato for fast cooking hash.

I found this recipe on my new favorite blog, Nom Nom Paleo.  I added my own twist to it, and kept it simple.  Just sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and cinnamon – cooked in coconut oil, topped with an egg and a local sausage patty.  YUM!

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Fall means comfort food


It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I got married, adopted 2 pups, started a new role, and moved all since my last post.  Now that I’ve gotten this “nesting” thing down, it’s time to get back to it!

This year, we bought into a community shared agriculture (CSA) program from a local farm.  It’s been great getting to try a lot of different veggies that we normally don’t eat.  One of which is the acorn squash.  Since it was cooling down outside, I thought a mac and cheese would make a perfect dinner choice.

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ACORN SQUASH, KALE, AND BACON MAC AND CHEESE
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 package macaroni pasta [I used some pasta I got from HomeGoods specialty foods section]
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1/2 bunch kale, chopped
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped [I used Applegate Farms Sunday Bacon]
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. cream cheese
  • 2 oz. parmesan
  • 2/3 cup panko
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut acorn squash in half and place open side up on a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool, then scoop out flesh and set aside.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
  3. In a large pot, saute onion and bacon until bacon starts to crisp.  Add kale and cover for 5 minutes.  Continue cooking kale down for 10 minutes, then put into bowl and set aside.
  4. Add milk and butter to same pot and simmer.  Add cream cheese and stir until melted.  Add cheddar and parmesan. Add squash and combine until smooth. [You might need to hand puree depending on how soft you cooked your squash].
  5. Add cooked pasta into cheese mixture to combine.  Add kale and bacon mixture.  Pour into a baking dish and smooth out.  Top with panko.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes with low broil for the last few minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Alert – Beef roast and winter vegetables


Learning to eat organically and more naturally is not easy. It takes research, time, and sometimes more money. But for me, it is completely worth it. Since changing my lifestyle, I have more energy and do not feel weighed down by processed food. By learning about what goes into my food and reproducing recipes of my favorite dishes in a healthier way,I am able to still be satisfied by what’s on my plate and feel better because I know my body will appreciate the wholesome meals too.

Here’s a budget friendly recipe for a roast beef with winter vegetables. Recipe serves 3-4 people. Total cost = $18

Ingredients:
- 2 lbs. eye of round roast, antibiotic and hormone free
- 1 organic beet
- 1 organic sweet potato
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp.
- 1/2 cup red wine (I used a favorite Pinot noir)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp cornstarch

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. Rub roast with thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil well. Place in the bottom of a baking dish. I line mine with foil for easy cleanup

3. Cube beet and sweet potato into bite sized pieces. Toss with 2 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in baking dish around the roast.

4. Pour wine evenly in pan.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Average of 20 minutes per pound for medium well.

6. When finished baking, place meat on cutting board and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

7. For gravy: Pour drippings into small saucepan and whisk with cornstarch. Let boil for 1 minutes until thick and coats the back of a spoon.

8. Serve and enjoy!

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Budget Decorating – Living Room Edition


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Whoever said you couldn’t decorate an entire living room to look more expensive than it is has clearly never been to IKEA.  IKEA is a swedish-based home furnishing store that has taken the US by storm over the last 10 years.  It’s known for it’s affordable, DIY, and space saving pieces that are fairly high quality I think, in my opinion.  

Pictured above is my very own living room. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up as an avid IKEA shopper that can help you conquer this massive store.

First, peruse the website.  I will warn that not everything available on the store is available online, and vice versa.  But it’s good to familiarize with what’s available and make yourself a list so you are not overwhelmed.  The website also has a “check store inventory” widget that is fairly accurate.  

Next, upon arriving at the store, grab a map.  This will help you navigate all the sections in the winding warehouse.  On the back of the map is space for you to write down all the items you want.  You’ll need to use that later to pick them up in the self-service area.

Finally, at the end of your shopping trip, check out the “As-Is” area.  Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of returned, or lightly damaged items, or floor samples.  You can save up to 80% in some cases – all it takes is a little bit of time to hunker through.

When putting together your IKEA bought furniture, make sure to read the directions first.  Mainly because everything is in pictures – you want to make sure you really understand the steps before doing.  Learn from my mistakes – there were many times I put chairs together backwards or had to start over because I missed a step.

And with that – here’s my living room cost = $404.90

Coco for coconuts.


The coconut craze is taking this country be storm.  Though I haven’t received credit for it, I’d like to think that I was really one of the first to be in on the trend.  Just kidding.. well sort of.  Coming from an Asian family somehow means that coconuts have been part of life since birth.  We eat candied coconut shreds for Asian New Year.  We cook with coconuts – flesh, water, milk, cream, etc – on a regular basis.  I have memories of waiting for the first sips of the fresh coconut juice as my mom opened one up.  And what that, I want to tell you what I’ve learned.

Fresh is always better.  And I don’t mean one of those brown ones at the grocery store.  The best place to find one is at your nearest international food market.  You want to find one that is green or what – often it’s had the shell already removed.   Give it a good shake and sniff.  Medium amount of water and just a slight whiff of coconut scent is what will yield just ripe enough fruit and slightly sweet coconut water.

You can cook anything using coconuts.  Really, no joke.  Any dish can have a coconut ingredient to it.  You can replace milk with coconut milk.  You can replace water with coconut water.  You can replace oil with coconut oil.  And the benefit?  Chances are, most of the time it’s a little bit better for you.  Less fat, no added sugars, and it adds a whole new dimension of flavor to your recipes.

Coconut water is a-mah-zing. I drink it on a daily basis – probably about 1-2 glasses a day.  I would be lying if I said it  was inexpensive – but I have found that the added electrolytes and sweetness in the water have changed my life.  I don’t crave sweets like I normally would after a splurge meal.  I also have this unexplained energy coming from somewhere.  I would guess these are the electrolytes working their magic.  Here’s a decent article talking about the health benefits.

I would encourage you to try coconuts if you haven’t yet.  And if you have, try something new with coconuts.  And if you just don’t like them at all – at least you can watch this video and appreciate what coconuts have given to our society.

 

 

Spring and summer brights – wallet have no fear!


This year’s big, bright, and bold color trend is the most daring I’ve seen in years.  It’s a far cry from last year’s nautical and romantic lace pieces.  But that in no way means that your wallet has to have a huge dent for you to keep up with fashion.  In fact, I think this is may be one of the easiest trends to keep budget friendly.

One place that I like to look for off the beat savings is a fashion and beauty blog called Refinery29.  This site is broken down by metropolitan area and allows you to subscribe to each, or the online version.  I personally subscribe to a couple of the cities that I frequent so I can see trends across the US.  Here’s your fair warning: not everything on this blog is truly affordable for the normal person, but there are plenty of style ideas and lists of places of where to find them that fit any point on the money spectrum.

Finding colorful apparel and accessories can also be as easy as hitting your local shopping mall.  Forever21 and Old Navy offer great bargains on current trends.  I bought these colored skinny jeans on sale the other week for only $19.  I also purchased this great sun dress for a mere $13.

The best part about finding deals like this? Knowing that I did not spend a fortune on them, so parting with them after the season is over does not cause any heartache.