Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Look Back at What Was and a Look Forward to What May Be



     It's been a good year. My family and I found Paleo. I lost and kept off 20 pounds. Lydia turned 12. Victor turned 8. And Alex turned 6. I began training as a pharmacy tech and passed my exam. I go back in touch with an old friend. My family and I made it through several successful major holidays and most of the birthdays while sticking to the Paleo diet. I attempted making things that I've never even considered before, including marshmallows and Caesar dressing. And I started this blog.

     Some of the things we tried were not successful. We did not get much to grow in our garden, and we were unable to get chickens. Ray is still fighting to get disability, but he is improving with every passing year.

     And I went from having an average of 11 call outs a year for illness to three. I have big plans for the upcoming year. I want to lose at least another 20 pounds. I want to continue this blog. I want to get more exercise and more sleep. And I want to continue to improve my life.

     Happy New Year! Here's to a better tomorrow.

     I want to fill this blog with all things Paleo, including tips, crafts recipes, and stories. I hope you will all

Monday, December 29, 2014

Green Eggs and Ham Quiche

(Created by Debra & Ray McVay)

(Makes 6-8 servings)
6 large eggs
6 slices uncured, pastured ham, diced
1/3 cup greens (if frozen, thaw and drain), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup bone broth
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix eggs with broth, turmeric, and salt.
3. Add diced ham and greens.
4. Pour into greased 9-inch pie pan.
5. Bake for 40 minutes.
6. Slice and serve.

Primal Moc Broc Soup

(Inspired by Lyn-Genet Recitas and Outback Steakhouse. Perfected by Debra McVay)

Makes 4-6 servings
2 Tbs. coconut oil
1 sweet onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 bunch kale
6 oz. goat cheese, soft
4 cups bone broth
2 cups water
2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp. ginger, ground or freshly grated
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1. Clean , peel, and dice all veggies.
2. In large pot, melt coconut oil. Add onion and allow to cook until tender and golden.
3. Add carrots, and cok an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add zucchini, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon juice. DO NOT add salt and pepper, yet.
5. Add kale and cook until kale is slightly wilted.
6. Add broth an bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook 14 minutes.
7. Add goat cheese and cook additional 6 minutes.
8. Put soup in food processor, or use stick mixer to blend together.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Approaching New Year

     This year has flown by, and 2015 is so close. I have bittersweet memories of New Years as a child. My mom, dad, and I would go to a family friends' home for dinner and spend the night, staying up until the ball dropped (at 11:00 because of the time zone), then going to sleep at their house, waking up to eat breakfast, watching the Rose Bowl parade, and then trying to amuse myself while everyone else watched football.

     All of that was pretty good. What wasn't so good was the fact that I was an only child, and my parents' friends had two boys, one a few years older than me and one a few years younger. And they terrorized me. While I enjoyed playing dolls and dancing, they enjoyed chasing me with toy guns and hitting me with stuff. It wasn't until the oldest boy was in college, and the youngest boy started playing drums that I had a great time hanging out there. Then it was a blast, but a short-lived blast because it wasn't too long before I was grown and had a life of my own and didn't get invited anymore.

     But the thing that was always wonderful was the food. Mrs. J. was a wonderful cook, and she could make cornbread so thin and crispy and delicious it would make you want to smack yo' momma. Then there was a mess of black-eyed peas and greens; you know, typical Southern good-luck food because greens look like money, and the Union soldiers left the black-eyed peas because they didn't think they were worth eating, and that's supposed to bring good luck because the South didn't go hungry. At least, that's what I found when I looked it up.

     But what topped it all was her dessert. I don't know what to call it, exactly. I never paid attention to the name because I was usually busy staring at it and drooling and calculating how hard it would be to scrape off all the pecans. It had a crust of some sort, with pecans, so I scraped it off the crust, leaving a chocolate pudding and a whipped cream/pecan topping. I'm not doing it justice with my description, so just imagine eating a chocolate-flavored slice of heaven. Angels would sing as you took a bite.

     But that was then, and this is Paleo. And I have to work New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, but we have plan. We have a menu, and we're going to have our good luck meal for dinner on New Year's Eve, and it's one of my favorite soup recipes that is full of greens. It's called Moc Broc Soup, and it tastes like the Broccoli Soup that you can get at Outback Steakhouse, but instead of broccoli and cheddar, it's filled with kale and goat cheese.

     We're also going to have some Paleo doughnuts because ring-shaped baked goods are traditional New Years fare. That will be an experiment because we've never made them, and Lydia just got a doughnut pan for Christmas. And for breakfast on New Year's Day, we're having Green Eggs and Ham Quiche.

     Establishing new and delicious Paleo traditions are pretty important to making this a sustainable lifestyle, and planning ahead of time and making it a family decision takes out a good bit of the stress that could occur. That is why I'm looking forward to this New Year. It will soon be a year since we started eating Paleo, and I've never felt better in my life. We are forging new traditions with every passing holiday, and eating this way just makes that New Year's Resolution to get healthier and/or lose weight a lot easier to obtain, so I welcome 2015 and look forward to posting many more Primal Wishes and Paleo Dreams.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Paleo on a Budget: A Look Back at What Could Have Been

     A friend of mine asked me to do some stuff on budget Paleo, and since I'd already planned on doing just that, I told her that it wouldn't be a problem and that I would probably begin in the new year. Then this morning I woke up with the thought, "If Ray and I had known about Paleo when we first got married, would we have been able to do it?"

     You may be asking what this has to do with anything, and I'll tell you that it has everything to do with everything. It has to do with the fact that we had a food budget of $30 a week for the two of us when we first got married back in 2000.

     But I wish we had known about Paleo. For one thing, look at that picture. While I did look pretty good, I was still about 15 pounds over my ideal weight. I had to wear a corset because I had so much back pain, and the dress was 25 pounds. I had to wear boots because my ankles were weak. (And I wanted to wear boots because I have a thing for boots!) But look at that picture. Let me point it out:

     I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet, and Ray was a dairy addict who lived off of convenience food. So how did we spend that $30 a week? We spent it on canned tomatoes, whole wheat bread, frozen ravioli (for a weekly treat), sugar (I was a sweet tea addict), a bag of frozen cheap chicken breasts that would last us two weeks, ranch dressing, honey mustard dressing, peanut butter, jelly, cucumbers, frozen veggies, cheap frozen meals, black tea, milk, and blocks of cheese. We'd also occasionally buy a $1.00 bag of cookies and eat the entire thing in one sitting. Not to mention the liters of soda that we'd get for gaming nights and the occasional pint of ice cream. The rest of our money was budgeted for bills, and essentials. Some of those essentials included ibuprofen, sinus medication, cough medicine, muscle rub, antacids, anti-diarrheal medicine, and anti-gas medication. And any extra money at the end of a paycheck, instead of going into a savings account like a smart thing to do, went towards eating out. So in less than two years, we went from this:
To this:
In my defense, I was four months pregnant, but still, it was not a healthy pregnancy.

     So I calculated what we could have gotten, using 2014 prices, which are much higher than 2000 prices to see if we could have lived off of $30 a week (so not even factoring in what we would have saved on "essentials"). Here's what I got. We could have bought a bag of antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken thighs, a dozen cage-free eggs, a bag of apples alternated with a bag of onions, a bunch of bananas or a can of coconut milk, frozen broccoli or frozen vegetable medley, frozen spinach or frozen turnip greens, a bag of carrots, a few bell peppers, and a bag of avocadoes for about $32. Our occasional splurges could have gone toward special vinegars, local honey, and light olive oil to make our own mayonnaise and dressings. Plus, we got fresh eggs pretty frequently from my aunt, so that extra $3 could have gone toward salad greens. And the chicken could do double duty by becoming delicious bone broth after the chicken was eaten.

     So you might ask yourself if it's possible to eat Paleo on a budget, and the answer is a definite yes. You can eat and eat well. And the health benefits, the lessened lack of medical costs, and the increased quality of life are more than worth it. Plus, you feel fuller longer, so you find you're not eating or snacking as much or as often.

     I am looking forward to going more in depth into this topic. We've calculated it, and we spend an average of $30 per person per week now, so there's a bit more variety. Occasionally, we spend more, like when we have birthdays or holidays, and we do some tasty baking or special meals. Occasionally, we make a trip out of town to get something a little more special that can't be found around here, like coconut aminos. But we eat a variety and rarely get tired with flavors inspired by Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Southern, etc. And best of all, we feel great.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Was an Overprotected Child with a Secret

I could also beat my dad fishing
     When I was 5-years-old, I weighed less than 25 pounds, so my mom kept me out of school until I was almost 6. And because she was scared that riding on a bus with a bunch of kids bigger than me might be dangerous and because I was constantly sick, she put me in a private school that was closer to where she worked and that she could drive me to. I don't blame her. My son Victor is also a tiny guy, and he's not even sick like I was, and I'm terrified of putting him into a public school environment.

     So there I was already 6-years-old, the oldest in my class, and in kindergarten, and I was eating lunch. I went to a really small school. My entire grade was comprised of 15 people. We ate in the classroom, and we ordered our lunches from "The Lunchbox." They sent out hot lunches in Styrofoam boxes with meat, two veggies, bread, and fruit. I had gotten peas that day. I opened up my box, and there among the peas was a worm the exact shape and color of the peas. I have never eaten peas since that day, and I couldn't bring myself to eat school lunches after that day, either. That's when I started taking my own lunches, and that's when I became addicted to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
A PB&J would go good with this outfit.

     I have a really good memory. I have a few memories from when I was two. I remember three pretty well. From four to six is full of memories of all sorts. Then there's a lapse of my entire first-grade year. Then the memories resume. Why is it so hard to remember that year? Because I have a secret. That's the year I had a seizure.

     I remember that night very well. I was wearing a lavender Care Bears night gown, and I was reading Mr. Magoo Goes to the Zoo. I had a loose tooth, and it was worrying me. I really wanted it gone because I was terrified I would swallow it in my sleep. I made my mom pull it, and that's when I started feeling terrible. My stomach started hurting from the blood that I was swallowing, so my mom made me some salt water to swish with. I didn't want to rinse. It was terrible. The salt burned, and I just wanted to lay down. I kept laying down in the hall in front of the bathroom, and my mom kept telling me to get up and rinse my mouth. Then I was at the zoo. I was hiding behind a tree watching Mr. McGoo talk to a monkey in a cage. It was terribly funny. Then I was back in the hall, and my mom was freaking out.

     I spent a good bit of the next year in doctor's offices hooked up to EEG's. I can still smell that gel. While I don't remember much about my school or friends from that year, I do remember the doctor's visits. They had trouble figuring out what had happened, so I kept having to endure the same tests over and over. They also gave me a CAT scan. I got a lot of gifts that year for being a good patient. I got a Popple after the CAT scan for being so good. The medical staff convinced themselves enough of what was going on with my brain, and they put me on some terrible drugs that changed my personality, but after a year, my mom took me off of them because I had not had another seizure, and the medicine was horrible, and it was one of the hardest decisions she had ever made. My seizures were not caused by epilepsy, so it all worked out for me, but my mom told me that I had to keep it a secret. She said that if anyone ever found out that I'd had a seizure, I'd have a hard life. I wouldn't be able to get my driver's silence. I would have a hard time getting  job. I just wouldn't be normal.
Because memorizing a three-page-long song against your piano teacher's wishes in two months time is normal.
     In my reading on food allergies, I found research findings that suggest that a lot seizure activity is caused by food allergies, and I think this might have been my problem. I'm not suggesting that anyone should just change their diets and go off their medication without medical supervision because they read this and thought it was a good idea. My mom took me off my medication Against Medical Advice, and it worked out for me. It was a decision that she struggled with and prayed about. I am saying that my own seizure, as well as a lot of my other medical problems were more than likely caused by food allergies. I know it's why I've suffered from so many stomach problems.

     In fact, almost all chronic health problems are caused by food allergies, including: hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast infections, all manner of stomach problems, colic in babies, asthma, bronchitis, other lung problems, eczema, rosacea, other skin problems, sinus infections, frequent sore throats, as well as any number of ear/nose/eye/throat problems, migraines and other headaches, behavior/mood/nervous system problems, urinary infections, bed wetting, arthritis, and joint/muscle pain.

     I have suffered from several of these, including: hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, stomach problems, bronchitis, rosacea, frequent sore throats, allergy-caused conjunctivitis, migraines, bladder infections, and back pains. In fact, my headaches were so bad that I couldn't grow my hair out too long without triggering them. Since switching to Paleo, I've had fewer of these problems.

     It makes sense to me that allergies would be the culprit in all of these things. It is the underlying cause in a number of seemingly unrelated problems. And then there's the whole issue in which your body is being bombarded with the allergens it's having to deal with. While it's dealing with the allergens, the rest of your body goes haywire, germs and viruses sneak in that your immune system is too busy to handle. Your body uses it's best defenses to try to deal with the constant bombardment, and you end us with chronic inflammation. Your body just naturally raises temperature where there's a problem. When you have a bug, you get a fever because the immune system is fighting infection throughout. When you have allergies, it's like you get a fever where it would do the most good, if it weren't for the chronic nature of the problem. Like stomach problems; you eat something that triggers a reaction, and your body heats your guts to bake out the invader. Your stomach reacts with gas, bloating, increased acid, cramping, diarrhea, etc. You take a fast-acting pill, and it gets better. That's because a couple of the most popular stomach medicines are actually histamine blockers. That's right, they block the nasty little things that happen in an allergic reaction. I learned that while studying for my pharmacy technician exam.

     I wish I could go back and teach that little girl what to eat in order to make her feel better. I can remember so many days of just feeling bad and not knowing why, so many times that I couldn't make it to school because I was so sick, so many doctors visits, so many medical tests. I can't go back in time, but I can educate my children and feed them the best food. I can help them lead healthier lives full of natural foods and lots of active play. And in the process, maybe I can retroactively heal that little girl.

Happy Birthday, Ray!

     Today is Ray's 38th birthday! That's his birthday cookie in the picture above. We did his birthday dinner last night since the kids are staying with my parents this weekend. Lydia was a huge help, since Ray and I both felt horrible. My cold has turned into bronchitis, and Ray has gotten my cold. I was really hoping that I wouldn't get bronchitis this year, but I started the year with it, and now I'm ending the year with it.

     Ray almost didn't make it this far. A few years ago, when Alex (also pictured above) was just a baby, Ray almost died on me. He went into a diabetic coma and was unresponsive for 10 hours. The doctors were so sure he was going to die that they got together and prayed for him. He was so acidotic that he holds the record around here for the most potassium pumped into a person. The hospital pharmacy had to order more K+ from other pharmacies just to have enough for him. He was so deficient in nutrition because of inability to process what he was eating due to lack of insulin that he was literally starving to death. He had lines running into each arm, a line in his chest, a tube down his nose, and he was on a respirator.  He was in the hospital for 5 days, but he only remembers the last two or three days of it. It was beyond horrible, and he's still recovering.

     The last six years have been tough. When Ray got out of the hospital, he could barely walk. He couldn't move around well. He was beyond thin. I had a six-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, a baby, and a thirty-two-year-old man to take care of, no money coming in, and I was overwhelmed. I didn't really have much help. Ray was not only having physical problems, but memory, mood, and mental problems, as well. But I put on a brave face and pretended that I could handle it all.

     I wish I had known about Paleo years ago. Maybe it would have helped. It has been a big help in getting him better, but he still has a long way to go. I'm just glad that we've been able to have these extra six years, and I hope we have many more. Happy Birthday, Ray!

     The plans for today are just to rest and watch some of the shows we got for Christmas and try to get well. I hate being sick.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, 2014!

Santa Came!
     Today was a truly wonderful day. We got up at 3:00 am, to see what Santa brought. While the highlights for the kids were Monster High dolls and Legos, the highlight for me was watching their faces light up with joy as they got some of what they asked for and also a few surprises.

     I got a new Paleo cookbook that I'm looking forward to delving into. I glance through it a few times, but when you've only had two hours sleep because you helped Santa wrap gifts and several interrupted naps, it's hard to go in depth into anything. The book is Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. We also got a few things to make some Paleo goodies with. We got a candy bar making kit. I know, it's so bad. And Lydia got a doughnut pan. We're going to totally have to try that out.

     We had the cinnamon rolls for breakfast, along with bacon and eggs, and that was wonderful and delicious. Lunch was probably really good, but my sense of smell is limited right now because of the cold, so it wasn't as good to me today as it was Thanksgiving. I'm sure it's me, though, because even the sweet potato chips didn't have much flavor. Sadly the pie did not turn out well because it didn't have enough gelatin in, so it was runny. The meringue, however, was delicious. Oh well, we were together, and it was a wonderful day. We even watched some videos of me when I was a teenager.

     Not to sound too conceited here, but I was so cute. It was motivating to get back to that. So I have a few days before the New Year to plan before getting back into the swing of things and losing weight, instead of maintaining. But that is a subject for another post.

     Well, it is time for dinner, so I'll wrap this up. I hope everyone had a great holiday. I'll leave you with this funny image:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cranberry Jelly

(Inspired by my favorite Thanksgiving condiment in a can and Danielle Walker. Perfected by Debra McVay)

(Makes 4 cups)
4 cups organic cranberry juice
1/2 cup honey (optional, or could use less, depending on tartness preference)
2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. unflavored, grass-fed gelatin
1. Pour one cup of juice into a bowl, and sprinkle gelatin in. Set aside.
2. Place remaining 3 cups of juice, plus honey in saucepan and cook over medium heat. Mix and cook for 10 minutes. Do not boil.
3. Whisk hot juice into gelatin until dissolved. Pour into shallow dish, and place in refrigerator overnight. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Getting Ready for Christmas: Part 5

     I'm feeling better today, thank goodness, but the poor boys are sick with the stomach virus that Lydia, my mom, and my dad had. Lydia is also feeling better, and has been working on Christmas presents for everyone. It's good to see her up and about again. I just hope that everyone else gets better by tomorrow, and that I don't get it. I'd like to have one Christmas where everyone felt pretty good.

     While she was working on gifts for her brothers, I made the cinnamon rolls I meant to make yesterday. At first, I thought about making them exactly like Danielle Walker's recipe, but she says that they turned out more like biscuits, so I was inspired by the coconut cupcakes that we make, which are moist and delicious, but a little too runny to make into rolls, so I combined them for moist, delicious cinnamon rolls, which I posted here. Then I ate two of them. So did Ray. The last time I ate two cinnamon rolls, which was last Christmas, I felt pretty terrible afterwards. I felt all full of sugar and fail. I ate two of these, and I feel great, but a little full. It was a lot for a

      This is the final prep for Christmas since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I have to work. Then it's cookies, opening a Christmas Eve gift, and trying to get a little bit of sleep while being too excited to sleep. So it's time to discuss Christmas lunch. Christmas dinner is easy because it is leftovers. Christmas lunch is usually a lot like Thanksgiving, in fact, my mom came down here yesterday to request the recipes for what we made at Thanksgiving, but I assured her that we'd be bringing exactly what we brought last month. My mom will make roasted hen, a ham, and possibly some beet and carrot salad and deviled eggs, and we will bring cranberry jelly, cranberry aioli, lemon meringue pie, and sweet potato chips because we can make them the day before (or two days before in the case of the jelly).

     Speaking of sweet potato chips, I had an epiphany last night. I was looking through one of my cookbooks full of burgers. And I was thinking about sweet potato chips. And then I thought, why not turkey burger sliders with sweet potato buns?! I'm definitely going to have to try it and get back to you on that one. I have a good feeling about it, though.

     I hope that everyone reading my blog has a very Merry Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate! It's been fun getting ready for it. I guess I need to make the cranberry jelly, so it has time to set before I make the aioli tomorrow night after I get home. And don't forget to charge up your batteries, so you get all the pictures and videos you want to get. Merry Christmas from the our Paleo family to yours.

Cinnamon Rolls

(Inspired by Danielle Walker's cinnamon rolls and altered by Debra McVay)

Makes 9 rolls
Dough Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
3 large eggs
1/6 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs. coconut sugar
1 Tbs. coconut milk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs. cold water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsalted grass-fed butter, melted
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
2 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
2 Tbs. full-fat coconut milk
1 Tbs. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, and salt.
2. Add eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, water, and vinegar and mix until a ball of dough can be formed. Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Mix together all the filling ingredient.
5. Line a 9-inch pie plate with parchment paper.
6. Roll the dough out between 2 pieces of parchment to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Spread filling evenly over dough then using the parchment paper to help, roll the dough tightly into a jelly roll, gently making a seal of the seam.
7. Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 9 equal pieces, about 2-inches each.
8. Place rolls into prepared dish and bake for 35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before glazing.
9. To make the glaze, combine all glaze ingredients into a blender or mini food processor, and blend until smooth. Add a small amount (no more than 1/2 tsp.) of water at a time to thin, if needed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chest Rub

(Made by Debra McVay)

2 Tbs. coconut oil
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil

1. Melt coconut oil in glass container in microwave for about 20 seconds, or until liquid.

2. Put in small container and a
dd essential oil. Stir well with toothpick.

Getting Ready for Christmas: Part 4

     Today is a special day because it is my first day off after the Winter Solstice, and before Christmas, so we have a special tradition that we try to differentiate from Christmas a little by calling it Yule. On this day, I go around and deliver homemade treats to my friends. These things are not Paleo, so I will not include the recipes. Over the past years, I've indulged in them as well, which is probably why I have felt so bad come Christmas morning. I'm not saying that I'm giving people stuff I know will make them feel bad (if I didn't give these out, some of my friends might come after me because these are very popular); I'm saying that these treats contain peanuts and peanut butter, and up until last year, I didn't know I was allergic to peanuts. I don't know if I've said this before, but I was a peanut butter addict. I thought I couldn't live without it. Then last year, I got a hold of The Plan by Lyn-Genet Recitas, and it changed my life and started me on my path to Paleo.

     This is also the day that we have a special family dinner and give each other family presents. If you continue reading this blog, you'll probably notice that we have a special family dinner about once a month or more, but this is a special dinner with gifts. Ray and I give each other and the kids a gift on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, but most of Christmas Day gifts are from Santa.

     You might be asking why we celebrate this way, and I'll tell you. It's because I'm a big kid at heart. There's even an old New Kids on the Block Christmas song that sums up my sentiments exactly:
"I still believe in Santa Clause/Maybe that's just because/I'm still a child at heart."
I can't wait to open presents and celebrate. I want to have dinner by the light of the Christmas tree. I want my kids to open gifts from me that aren't overshadowed by what Santa brings. I want to drink hot apple cider spiced with cinnamon. And I want to eat something a little bit more special than the every day, but maybe not as special as Christmas dinner.

     In the past, we have had Cornish game hens, roasted chicken, cranberry sauce, that sort of thing, but this year, we're going to switch things up and have Paleo Pizza Pasta and Stuffed Mushrooms with Cinnamon Rolls and Spiced Apple Cider.

     We're also having Vegetable Soup made with nourishing Bone Broth for lunch because I have a cold. But as far as colds go, I don't really feel bad, which is a dramatic shift from the past where every cold was a miserable experience that I knew would turn into bronchitis. This time, other that a productive cough and runny nose with occasional sneezing, I feel pretty good. I drank some bone broth before bed, and that made me feel better. That stuff is magical, and is so rich in umami flavor that even though it was made with chicken bones, it tasted like drinking a delicious perfectly-seasoned, grilled steak. I also slathered myself is some Chest Rub that I made myself. This stuff is fantastic, and doesn't contain anything that you don't include yourself.

UPDATE: Today was a wash. After writing this, we went grocery shopping. Lydia, who had felt better after a bad stomach virus started feeling really bad again. And after getting out in the terrible weather, I started feeling worse, too, but I got most of my presents delivered.

     I did manage to take a nap, and we opened Yule gifts and ate the pizza pasta, but I couldn't tell you if it was any good because I can't taste anything, so I didn't take pictures or post the recipe. Ray didn't make it the way we usually do, so we'll have to do it again on a better day. We have also decided to wait until tomorrow to do the cinnamon rolls because Lydia didn't feel like eating much today, and I can't enjoy them. I'm having the cider right now, and it is so soothing to my throat. I hate being sick this time of year. At least the kids enjoyed their gifts.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas: Part 3

     I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this, but this is our first Paleo Christmas. Last year's Christmas, while fun and special, was excruciating because the food made me so sick, and I love to eat.

     Christmas breakfast has to be one of the most wonderful meals of the year. Maybe it's just because I love Christmas so much, but there's something just special about the first meal you eat on Christmas. Last year, we had cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. They were what I like to call "WHOMP" rolls, in the same category as "WHOMP" biscuits, named because of the sound made when you open the wrapper and the dough inside expands quickly. I really love cinnamon rolls, but I don't want to have them too often, so Christmas seems like the special occasion worthy of them, but this year, if we have them, we'll have to make them ourselves.

     I wanted to try out a recipe I got from Danielle Walker's Joyful. I just passed my Pharmacy Tech exam this past week, and I asked for them as a way to celebrate and experiment with the recipe, but the first night they were to be made, everyone forgot, and the second night, they couldn't remember which recipe I said, so they made cinnamon buns, instead. So we can either experiment on Christmas day, or we can go with something we know, and experimenting on Christmas morning doesn't appeal to me because if it isn't great, then I'll be sad. We could go with bacon waffles, but those are usually reserved for birthdays. We could go with Paleo biscuits and gravy, but Ray wants that for his birthday breakfast, and that's exactly two days after Christmas. We have a plethora of egg breakfasts, but we eat those every day, and Christmas breakfast should be a little more special.

     So it's time for a family discussion. I have a feeling my daughter Lydia will suggest banana bread with chocolate chips. It's pretty delicious with either almond butter or grass-fed butter and honey. Family discussion over, and I was wrong. Their suggestion was to experiment with the cinnamon rolls tomorrow, so I guess that's what we'll be doing. I'll post the results later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bone Broth

(Perfected by Ray and Debra McVay)
Makes about 4-6 cups of broth

2 1/2 pounds assorted beef, chicken, and or pork bones
2 chicken feet
1 small onion, peeled, trimmed and cut in quarters
1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 pieces
8 cups water
2 Tbs. Paleo-friendly fish sauce or 2 anchovies pulverized in a blender
1 tsp. raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup mushroom stems
Sea salt to taste

1. Place bones and vegetables in slow cooker.

2. Cover with water, making sure all is submerged.

3. Add fish sauce or anchovies and apple cider vinegar. You can also add garlic (2-4 cloves, peeled and smashed), but I don't because of allergies.

4. Cover and set to cook on low for 8 to 24 hours. The longer it cooks, the more nutrient-rich it becomes, but you may have to add more water.

5. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve (or cheesecloth-lined colander) to filter out the bones and veggies. Season with salt to taste.

This can be refrigerated for about a week or frozen for up to 6 months. It will become thick and jiggle in the fridge because of the gelatin content, but it will liquefy again when heated.

The Benefits of Broth

     I woke up this morning to the delicious smells of bone broth. If you have read anything about Paleo foods before, you've probably come across something about this wonderful, magical potion. I feel it necessary to write about it because I can't add any of my favorite soup or egg recipes without including how to make it.

     But first, I would like to go into some of the benefits of bone broth. First of all, this is the stuff that used to cure all ills. This is what your great-grandmother made when people were sick, not that store-bought stuff that's mostly water and salt. Real broth made from meat bones contains glucosamine chondroitin, collagen, gelatin, and trace minerals like calcium ad magnesium. Glucosamine chondroitin has been purported to help with arthritis pain and joint health, and collagen has been linked to better skin, fewer wrinkles and healthier hair and nails.

My nails have never been so healthy. They used to just split all the time!
     The store-bought broth is weak sauce compared to what you can make at home, plus, you get to control the ingredients. Did you know that most store-bought broth contains gluten?

     In the picture above, you can see my fingernails, which is the whole point of the picture. Well, when we started eating Paleo, I started reading everything I could get my hands on and came across a method of getting ready to make bone broth, so that it wasn't such an overwhelming process. It talked about putting a few empty freezer bags in your freezer and labeling them "Beef," "Chicken," and "Vegetable Scraps." Then when you prepare or cook these items, you place the scraps or bones into the appropriately labeled bag. This is what is later used in the broth making process.

     We followed this method, making broth about once a week and using it in soups, and my nails started looking great. They stopped splitting as badly. They started growing longer without cracking and breaking off. Then summer came, and light, fresh salads replaced the warm, comforting soups, and I started to notice my nails getting bad again. I told Ray that it was really important to me to get more bone broth, and we started making it again and adding it to eggs. Now my nails look good again! I feel like I could sing the praises of this delicious stuff all day and not tire of it. It can be added to so many things and used so many ways. You can even freeze what you won't use in a week, but we use so much, we hardly have leftover, and we usually have to make it twice a week.

     By the way, this method uses a slow cooker because I believe it really gets the most out of the bones, and I believe there are three critical things you should have if you want to make delicious Paleo food, and they are a slow cooker, parchment paper, and a blender or food processor.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sugar Cookies

Makes about 1 dozen cookies

2 1/2  cups almond flour
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
2 tsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

2. Form dough into a ball. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4" thickness. Use cookie cutters to make shapes. Excess dough can be balled up and flattened again for re-use.

5. Place cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Getting Ready for Christmas: Part 2

     Every year, we make cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. We don't have any set thing, just that cookies are made. Some years, Lydia and I have made cookies. Some years, I've made cookies by myself. Some years, Ray and I have made cookies together. Some years, Lydia has made cookies with her Granny. Some years, we've made cookies from scratch and some years store-bought.

     There was one year, when Lydia was little, and I'd made cookies for Santa and placed them on a plate under the tree with a note. I explained to Lydia what was going on, and we went to bed. The next day, Lydia came out of her bedroom, bypassed the gifts left by Santa, and went straight for the plate. Upon seeing the missing cookies, she got very upset with Santa and pitched a fit. I told her that it was the least we could do for Santa who was kind enough to bring gifts. When that didn't calm her down, I told her Santa would come and take her presents away. She was two at the time.

     This year, we're leaving Santa a Paleo treat with Paleo sugar cookies. I don't think Santa will mind. These cookies are delicious, and you can decorate them, and Santa probably remembers how sick I got last year after eating some of the SAD cookies that we made for him.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Was a Very Sick Baby

     I talked a little about traditions in my last post about Getting Ready for Christmas, but I left out one tradition. Every year at Christmas, we tell the story of how I almost died when I was two.

Who Would Have Helped Sort the Laundry?
     I was a very sick baby. If I remember some of the things my mom has told me over the years, I was constantly getting sick, so that every time I would gain a little weight, I would get sick and lose it. I was very small as a baby and as a child.

     So the year that I turned two, my mom was really looking forward to Christmas because it would be the first year that I was really aware of what was going on and interested in what Santa brought me. And Santa had brought me some really cool stuff, including a rocking horse.

     That morning, my mom woke me up, and I'm pretty sure she got out a movie camera, the kind with reels that you had to send off to get developed and run on a projector. This was the height of 1979 technology. She says that I looked around, sat on the rocking horse, climbed on the couch and didn't show much interest at all. (I not so secretly anymore believe that she blames me a little still, even though I couldn't help I was sick. There's always a hint of bitterness in her voice when she tells this story. I'm just saying.)
How Can You Blame This Face for Anything but Stealing Shoes?

     That night when we went down to my grandmother's house, I was listless and as lifeless as a ragdoll. My mom asked her sister's then husband, who happened to be a doctor, and he told her that I was very sick and needed to go to the emergency room.

     I had pneumonia, and I was NOT running a fever. That was worse because my tiny body was not able to fight off the infection by itself. I spent a good bit of time in the hospital in an oxygen tent with people reading books to me. I was so tiny that I apparently fit my entire self with room for another to join me, at least their head and upper body, in the oxygen tent. My mom even sent out for books because she got tired of reading the same ones, but her least favorite, and my absolute favorite, were the Dr. Seuss books.

     I honestly think that my food allergies stretch back to infancy because I remember just never really feeling good, and sometimes just feeling downright terrible, and I was always getting in trouble for not eating, even when I knew it was something that made me feel bad. I look back, and I'm sure that I've always been lactose intolerant because I could always belch louder and longer after drinking milk than I ever could while drinking soda. (We're talking epic burps that could leave me breathless.) And I was formula fed, and I had nasty rashes. Plus I itched all the time, just a mild low-grade constant itch over my entire body that persisted until I took out my food allergens.

     I was constantly getting upper respiratory infections, which is probably what led to the pneumonia. And I'm not trying to place blame anywhere, even though I know my mom feels partly responsible. She shouldn't. It was a  different time, and you just didn't hear a lot about food allergies. I don't remember a single person with a peanut allergy, even though it turns out that I had a slight peanut allergy the entire time. I think I only remember one or two people getting the allergy test when I was a child, and I was not one of them. We thought we knew all the things I was allergic to: grass, codeine, garlic, and acetaminophen. But in the last two or three years of my study of allergies, I've concluded that a lot of what was wrong with me as a baby, child, teen, and young adult had one common factor, and that is food allergies.
The Hardee's Hat Doesn't Lie

     I'm not saying that I wouldn't have gotten pneumonia back then if I hadn't been eating the Standard American Diet or SAD for short, but I like to think that I would have been a little healthier. Maybe I would have at least ran a fever to try to help my body fight the infection.  I am saying that I grew up on a typical Southern diet. Breakfast was grits and eggs or cereal and milk. Lunch was usually a PB&J because I was literally addicted to them. And dinner was....well, I've always said that my dad is so OCD about food that if I could remember what I had for dinner, I could tell you what day of the week something happened. And there was always bread and milk and endless sweet tea, and Thursday night was always beans, bacon, and banana sandwiches. And of course, we ate lots of fast food, not as much as most people eat these days, but we went at least once a week. It was mommy-daughter bonding time when my mom didn't have to cook, and I would actually eat, no matter how bad it made me feel. That poop is tasty.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas: Part 1

    'Tis the season to start planning for Christmas, if that is indeed what you celebrate, and this will be our first Paleo Christmas. But I'm not as freaked out as I would have been if it hadn't been for such an awesome year of delicious Paleo food.

     You should have seen me at Easter. I was freaking out! I didn't know if the Easter Bunny could even find Paleo treats to bring to the kids.
He did!
Those are dark chocolate bunnies, dark chocolate eggs, pistachios, and pouches of almond butter, along with the rest of the fun stuff to play with and one of my favorite Paleo cookbooks: Paleo on a Budget by Elizabeth McGaw. I really don't remember what we ate when we got together with the family because it was just such a relief to have successfully planned and executed a Paleo holiday.

     So I'm trying to stay calm about Christmas, but I've downloaded several Paleo Christmas cookbooks, and it's weighing heavy on my mind. It doesn't help that Christmas is sort of shaky in our family when it comes to traditions, but that may be a good thing, since it's harder to change something that is more firmly established.

     When I was a kid, we had traditions. I would wake up around 3 or 4 am to see is Santa had come. I would wake up my mom and jump up and down in anticipation while she got the camera ready. I would gleefully open my presents, play for about an hour, then fall asleep, usually in the middle of my new toys. My dad would get up around 6, and my mom would make a big Southern breakfast of grits, eggs, bacon, and toast, and her parents would come over to see what I got before leaving to go to the next grandkids and see what they got. Then my dad's parents would come over for a lunch of dressing, turkey, ham, green beans, candied "yams," chicken pie, biscuits, lemon meringue pie, and chocolate layer cake. Then we would go down to my mom's parents' house for dinner with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins and eat from a buffet of covered dishes brought by such a large family. My cousins and I would bring a new toy or two to show off, and we would all wait around for my dad to stop eating before we were allowed to open the presents under my grandparents' tree. I really miss those days, but all of my grandparents are dead, and my family just doesn't seem as tightly knit anymore since my aunts and uncles now have grandkids of their own.

     My husbands' family have their own traditions, but a big part of them includes traveling to Virginia from Alabama. I've been to a couple of their big Christmases in Virginia and they are crazy-busy. And the food - oh boy! Breakfast was like the best continental breakfast at the best hotel. There was biscuits and gravy, fruit and nut breads, a big plate of scrambled eggs, fruits, cheeses, crackers, spreads and dips, cereal, milk, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, and THE most artificial drink mix I've ever encountered that featured Tang as one of the ingredients. Christmas lunch was oyster stew with oyster crackers out of specific oyster stew bowls. And then the Christmas dinner! Some of the foods that we had are things I'd never even tried before, including a corn chowder that I fell hopelessly in love with. But even that is different now because my husband's mom's dad died a few years ago and his mom's mom is in a nursing home, but his parents still go to Virginia, and we haven't been since Lydia was a baby because we haven't been able to afford it.

     But I swear I gained about 10 pounds that first Christmas I spent there, and I don't think that's an exaggeration. The second Christmas wasn't as bad because Lydia was a baby, and I was breastfeeding.

     So here we are at Christmas with a bunch of broken traditions, non-Paleo feasts, and a slightly new protocol that was established at Thanksgiving. Did I mention the delicious Thanksgiving we just had? We had beet and carrot salad, a hen, sweet potato chips, Paleo cranberry jelly, cranberry aoli, Paleo sandwich bread, and a Paleo lemon meringue pie. Right now, I'm not even sure what I want to make, and budget will be a factor.  We will be at my parents' because part of our new tradition is to spend Christmas Eve night there. Santa knows that's where to bring the toys, and we just spend all day there hanging out, eating, napping, and playing.

     And being sick. It seems like almost every Christmas, either Ray or I have been sick, usually the flu. Last year, I inadvertently ate pecans, which I'm allergic to, and ended up getting really sick. I'm hoping to end that particular tradition since I hardly get sick any more now that we've switched to Paleo.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chocolate Almond Butter Icing

(Altered from a Danielle Walker recipe in Against All Grain by Debra McVay.)

6 Tbs. almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cut soy- and gluten-free dark chocolate chips
1/4 cut raw, local honey
1/4 cup cold coconut milk
1. Place the almond butter, coconut oil, and chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat until melted. Do not allow to boil.
2. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the honey and cold coconut milk.
3. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
4. Stir frosting until fluffy before frosting.

Coconapple Cupcakes

(Inspired and guarded by Lego Mixels. Created by Debra McVay.)

Makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 large eggs
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs. coconut milk
1 Tbs. real vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line a muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.
3. Add all dry ingredients into a food processor and blend.
4. Add wet ingredients into the dry and blend well again. Allow the batter to sit for about 5 minutes.
5. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners until 3/4 full.
6. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of cupcake comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool before frosting. They can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for a week.

Sweet Potato Chips

(Recipe perfected by Ray McVay)

One Sweet Potato per Person
1 sweet potato per person
Olive oil in a spray bottle
Sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash potatoes and cut coins about 1/8" thick.
3. Grease cookie sheet.
4. Arrange coins in single layer on cookie sheet. Spritz chips with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
5. Cook for 10 minutes on bottom rack of oven.
6. Increase temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and move cookie sheet to top rack for additional 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fang Gang Salad

(Inspired by Lego Mixels. Created by Victor McVay.)

Makes 8 servings
5-6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn
6 slices uncured, pastured ham slices, chopped
6 slices uncured turkey slices, chopped
5-6 slices uncured, pastured bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked
2 Roma tomatoes
2 bell peppers, any color, chopped
1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
Toss all ingredients into a large bowl and enjoy with friends and/or family.

Granny's Concoction

(Created by my mom, Peggy McVay)

Makes 1 serving

2 Tbs. almond butter
1 Tbs. soy- and gluten-free dark chocolate chips
1 Tbs. dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a pretty tea cup and serve.

Paleo Elvis

(Inspired by Elvis Presley and Lisa Lillien. Created by Debra McVay)

Makes 1
1 banana, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 Tbs. almond butter
1 slice uncured, pastured bacon, fully cooked
1. Spread nut butter on banana slices.
2. Place bacon slice between banana slices.
3. Enjoy!

Bacon Waffles

(Inspired by Adventure Time. Created by Lydia McVay)

Makes about 10 waffles

6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
6 Tbs. maple syrup
6 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 cup almond flour
6Tbs. coconut flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
5 strips of uncured, pastured bacon, fully cooked and cut into pieces
1cup soy- and gluten-free dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat waffle iron to lowest setting.

2. Place all ingredients in the order listed, except the bacon and chocolate chips in a high speed blender.

3. Blend until batter is completely smooth.

4. Mix bacon in by hand.

5. Spoon batter into the waffle iron, filling halfway and spreading evenly. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter.

6. Close the lid and cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until the steam stops rising from the machine and the waffles easily release with a fork. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven while you finish making the rest of the waffles.

Happy 6th Birthday, Alex!

Lydia giving Alex a birthday hug!

     Today will be my first official post, and it is a special one. Today is my youngest son's 6th birthday! Alex is a very sweet little boy, most of the time. He can get aggressive when he's tired, so we try to make sure he doesn't get too tired.

     One of the ways we accomplish that is to feed him Paleo food and make sure he has a consistent bedtime because he is not a napper. In fact, if you make him take a nap, he finds it very hard to fall asleep at night.

     Some people ask if the whole family eats Paleo, and the answer is, "Yes." Why would I deny the wonderful benefits of this diet and how it makes me feel to my loved ones.

     Some people ask if it was hard to get them to switch, and the answer is, "A little bit." I have three children, and a Type I diabetic husband. My husband took it the hardest, but not in the way you might think. He was completely on board, but the detox from the "health food" we were eating made him feel bad for about three days. My oldest, Lydia, really enjoyed it, but she loves to cook, and so she really got to help out with everything. My youngest thought everything was delicious, but he was a true fan of oatmeal and cried when he found out he couldn't eat it anymore.

Victor sharing a moment with Alex.
    My middle son surprised me the most, though. Victor had always been small for his age. He barely ate anything we gave him. He asked for snacks all the time, but didn't eat them either. He played by himself. He hardly ever went outside, and he just basically kept to himself. After about a week on Paleo foods, he turned around and looked at me and said, "Mommy, I'm so glad we're eating Paleo. It makes me feel really good." I asked him if he had been feeling bad before, and he said that he pretty much felt bad all the time. And the improvements didn't stop there. He began to eat more of the food we gave him, though he still asks for snacks, and he started playing more with others and going outside to play without anyone having to drag him. I don't know that he's gotten much bigger, but his physique has changed, and he just looks healthier. And he loves reading Paleo cookbooks. He takes them to bed almost every night to read. His favorites are Danielle Walker's Against All Grain and Michele Tam and Henry Fong's Nom Nom Paleo.

     The only real threat seems to come with "Candy Holidays" such as Halloween and Christmas. The kids get candy, and they want to eat it. I tell them they can have a few pieces, if that's what they want, and then we throw the rest away.

     Halloween was especially funny because after they had eaten a few pieces of candy, I went in while they were at their Granny's and threw away the candy and replaced it with some dark chocolate, Paleo gummy treats, and Paleo trail mix, then I put their bags on the couch. When they came in, my youngest son saw them, and his face fell. He looked at me like I'd betrayed him and said, "I thought you were going to throw the junk candy away." I smiled and told him to look inside. He did, and his face lit up. The other candy had made them feel pretty bad, but as soon as they got some a few months later when visiting Santa Claus, they wanted to eat a piece again.

     But today is Alex's birthday, and he has designed the menu for the day. We begin with Bacon Waffles (inspired by Adventure Time, but created and made by Lydia). Lunch is (primal) sushi. Snacks are Granny's Concoction and Paleo Elvis.  And dinner is Lego Mixel-themed, featuring Fang Gang Salad, Infernight Sweet Potato Chips, Cragster Biscuits, Frosticon Vanilla Ice Cream, and Spikel Coconapple Cupcakes.

Drop Biscuits
     I just wanted to include a picture of these beautiful biscuits, and give you the link to the awesome book I got them from. It's by Lyla Brooks, and it's called Southern Gal Simple Southern Paleo Recipes. These aren't only beautiful but delicious, too. I eliminated the baking powder in mine, no matter how minimal, I'm allergic to corn, so I can't tolerate it.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Primal Wishes, Paleo Dreams, and a Need to Feel Better

     Around this time last year, I got fed up with feeling bad and decided to do something about it. Little did I know what was in store for me.

     This blog is going to be about my journey into the world of Paleo food and living, as well as whatever I feel like including that has to do with all things Paleo.

     If you lived through the 80's, but probably remember Robin Leech's famous words on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, where he would say something about, "Champaign wishes and caviar dreams," well I think Primal Wishes and Paleo Dreams beat that out any day of the week.

     So you might be wondering why I think this is so interesting or important that I should feel the need to blog about it. I don't want to give too much away, just yet, but since going Paleo, I've lost over twenty pounds and I've had fewer illnesses!

     I hope you join me and enjoy, and I hope I inspire others to make healthy changes of their own.