Thursday, January 29, 2015

Paleo on a Budget: Don't Buy Organic

     The proponents of the Paleo diet will tell you that eating organic is key to being at the peak of health, and it's true, but what's worse: eating grains and junk food because you can't afford organic or eating non-organic Paleo foods?

    For us, it's more important to eat non-organic Paleo foods. We would love to eat organic, but we can't afford it. The fact is, we love feeling better from eating this way, so we do what we have to in order to continue to eat this way.

     There's also the middle way. This involves buying as much organic as you can afford, especially the fruits and vegetable that rank the highest in pesticide load known as the Dirty Dozen Plus. These include:
  1. apples
  2. strawberries
  3. raspberries
  4. blueberries
  5. grapes
  6. cherries
  7. celery
  8. peaches
  9. pears
  10. spinach
  11. bell peppers
  12. nectarines
  13. cucumbers
  14. potatoes
  15. cherry tomatoes
  16. hot peppers
  17. kale/collard greens
  18. summer squash
     We eat a few things from this list, including apples, blueberries, pears, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, hot peppers, kale, and zucchini on a regular basis. We always buy organic raw spinach, but our frozen spinach is not organic. We also always buy organic pears because they are more of a weekly treat than a daily fare,  and we try to buy organic apples whenever possible because we eat those almost daily.

     On the other hand, there is a list of fruits and vegetables that rank lowest in pesticide load known as the Clean 15 Plus, and these can be eaten without concern for how they are grown. They include:
  1. mushrooms
  2. sweet potatoes
  3. cantaloupe
  4. watermelon
  5. grapefruit
  6. kiwi
  7. eggplant
  8. asparagus
  9. mangoes
  10. papayas
  11. frozen sweet peas
  12. bananas
  13. cabbage
  14. avocados
  15. pineapple
  16. onions
  17. corn
  18. broccoli
     Unfortunately, corn is not Paleo, and should not be eaten, and peas are in the gray area, so if they are eaten, it should be only occasionally, and you should see how it makes you feel. We eat several things from this list as well, including: mushrooms, sweet potatoes, watermelon, kiwi, eggplant, mangoes, bananas, avocadoes, pineapple, broccoli, and onions.

     The choice is yours. You don't have to be perfect to follow this eating plan. There are few purists, and most of the Paleo community is pretty accepting when it comes to doing the best that you can in order to improve your health. The true joy of the Paleo diet is to make it fun, tasty, and above all doable.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bacon Gravy

1/2 pounds uncured bacon
2 Tbs. almond flour
2 cups full fat coconut milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Heat small amount of bacon grease or coconut oil in frying pan over medium heat.

2. Cut bacon into quarter inch long pieces and cook until thoroughly done. Remove from pan. There should be at least two tablespoons of grease left in frying pan. If not, add more coconut oil or bacon grease.

3. Sprinkle almond flour into the pan. Stir it with a fork to blend it into the grease. Break up any clumps. Continue to stir and cook for two minutes until golden brown.

4. Slowly whisk in one cup of coconut milk and cook another two minutes. Once the gravy begins to thicken, whisk in the other cup of coconut milk. Bring to a boil and continue stirring.

5. Add the bacon back in and cook until the gravy reaches a desire consistency.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fiesta Quiche

(Inspired by Waffle House)

(Serves 5-6)
6 eggs
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 hot peppers, chopped (pick the hottest pepper you can stand)
1/4 cup diced uncured ham
1/4 cup shredded fresh, whole milk mozzarella (optional)
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, peppers, and optional cheese.
4. Pour into greased 9-inch pie pan.
5. Bake for 40 minutes.
6. Slice and serve.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Was a Teenage Vegetarian

     In my study of psychology, I found that a lot of teenage girls become vegetarians as a way of exerting some modicum of control over their lives. I came to vegetarianism in a completely different and strange way.

Debra at 13
     It all started in my grandmother's upstairs bedroom when I was twelve while watching Oprah with my cousin and best friend J. T. We would hang out upstairs and listen to music on my little pink radio while dancing until Oprah came on. Then we would do strength exercises while watching. That was our glorious routine and how I fell in love with exercise and fitness.

Debra at 14
     Then school started back, and my mom asked me to come home after school, since I was almost a teenager, so I could clean the house. I had new responsibility, but I still harbored my love for exercise, so when I got home, I would exercise. I would do aerobics and strength training before cleaning and getting my homework done. Then when my parents got home, we would go for walks or ride our bikes. I bought fitness magazines, and in their wonderful pages, I found an intriguing thing called yoga. I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to do yoga. It fit into my dream of becoming a Cirque du Soleil performer/contortionist.
     The videos advertised in the magazine were a bit on the pricy side. I think it was a four-video collection for $80, so I started saving my money. Then one day, my mom came home from the library with the Sivananda yoga video. I turned it on and began my wonderful journey into extreme flexibility. I was able to accomplish amazing asanas within a short period of time, and I loved it.

Debra at 15
     Then the next summer on a trip to Fort Walton, Florida for a bowling tournament, I found a copy of the The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. This book contains not only the physical exercises but also breathing exercises and diet. The yogic diet is purportedly neutral on the yin/yang scale, if done right. Cooked grains, cooked beans and cooked vegetables are supposedly yin/yang neutral, but because so many grains these days are genetically modified, they have become more yin. And since the yogic diet relies heavily on grains, the body will become more yin from eating this way. Although the modern take on yogic cooking is to stay away from genetically modified grains, I still don't feel that this is the best way to eat for my body. Really sweet foods are also considered yin, and I was born with a sweet tooth, so with the diet changes, the lack of yang foods, and the increase of yin foods, my body began to morph into something softer and lumpier because yin foods cause body and organ expansion. They are cooling and make one feel sleepier. Yang foods, on the other hand, warm the body, increase the need for movement, improve muscle tone, and make one less sleepy. When looked at in these terms, the Paleo diet is pretty yang, especially if you limit fruit, starchy vegetables, and Paleo-friendly sweeteners while your body goes back to a state of equilibrium.

     At this time, I was dating a guy who was in pretty good shape and had a nice body. He enjoyed exercising with me and would meet my family and me at the track to walk. He walked everywhere, since he was not old enough to drive. Neither of us where, so most of our dates consisted of meeting up at friends' houses, meeting up at the track to walk, or him coming over to hang out with me at my parents' house. We enjoyed swimming and walking through the woods, and when we ate together, it was usually what my mom fixed us.

     During this time, I began to feel worse. I had always been a sick person, but now, I was also always tired and foggy, and I began to develop food allergies and aversions. I went from mostly A's and a few B's to mostly B's with a few C's. I would work on my chores and then fall asleep while doing my homework. And it was off to the doctor's again for more test. My blood work came back, and my total cholesterol was 24! That may sound good until you know that cholesterol is key to making bile acids to aid in the digestion of foods, especially fats, coating the outer layer of cells, and allowing the body to make vitamin D and hormones, such as estrogen. It was during this time that I started having trouble with my gall bladder and having irregular periods. The doctor asked me if I was eating a vegan diet, and I told him that I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, minus the ovo because of my dislike of eggs. He told me to eat more eggs, and if I couldn't make that work to at eat peanut butter. As I said before, I began developing food allergies and aversions during this times, so eggs were very off-putting to me. The smell of them in the morning would make me gag, but I found I could tolerate peanut butter (something I had all but stopped eating after a year-long binge when I was younger), as long as I ate it in the afternoon. This was the beginning of my addictive afternoon ritual. I would come home, make myself four peanut butter crackers and a glass of soda. After a while, I was eating as many as eight peanut butter crackers and drinking up to a liter of soda a day! The extreme soda consumption led to the worst bladder infection of my life wherein my urine was the same color as the cola, and I gave up the sickly sweet beverage cold turkey and for good.

     The next guy I dated was a stocky, older guy, and he liked to take me out to eat. At this point, I could also drive, but he usually took me out to his favorite restaurants, and exercise was not a big part of his life. He spent his days doing manual labor and didn't feel the need to be very active once he got home, so while I diligently continued to do yoga, if nothing else, I felt I was alone in my desire to be healthy and thin. Since that relationship lasted for a couple of years, and with the weekly meals at restaurants, I started putting on weight, gaining 20 pounds in those two years. You can see the progression in the following pictures:

Debra at 16
Debra at 17
Debra at 18
    And the food aversions and allergies just kept getting worse. My dad was going through his mid-life crisis and was on a health kick of his own. He started juicing, which was delightful because it made the entire house smell fresh and fruity, but he also began ordering this green powdered wheatgrass drink, and I was made to drink it. At first, it just made me itch all over, which was bad enough because HIGH SCHOOL! But after a few days, every time I drank it, I would throw up.

     Drinking the high-chlorophyll drink made me sensitive to many different chlorophyll-rich plants, and I was soon breaking out in welts every time I walked through the grass, which made outdoor activities an uncomfortable prospect.

     I felt worse after becoming vegetarian than I ever had before in my life, but I had developed an aversion to meat, so I went to eating mostly junk food and dating guys who didn't give a flip about healthy eating, exercise, or active lifestyles.

     Then I started college, and I decided to make a change. I decided to eat more home-cooked meals and to go on a guy fast. Within a year, I was back down within a healthy BMI, and I started feeling better, but I still wasn't happy with myself or my life. I was still really tired all the time with lots of pain and depression that seeped into my art and my writing.

     I've read several places where former vegetarians came to Paleo, but my path was a little more convoluted because while I was a vegetarian, then I left it behind to just eat junk. And though I still considered myself mostly vegetarian when I changed over to the Paleo diet, seeing as how I had become pretty adverse to meat, I still had a long and twisting road to travel to get to where I am now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bacon Jerky

1 pack of uncured bacon
1 bottle balsamic vinegar
sea salt

1. Cut bacon slices in half.

2. Put bacon in a bowl and add enough balsamic vinegar to cover.

3. Salt liberally and stir to make sure all the meat is covered with the liquid and salt.

4. Place in refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours. (Overnight it better.)

5. Place on dehydrator racks and allow to run for 12-14 hours, flipping once half-way through, or heat oven to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use the oven method, lay bacon out on cookie sheets covered in foil and flip every 30 minutes. Jerky is ready when it is stiff, and you can fold it in half to show white fibers.

6. Once done, allow to cool before serving, or refrigerate and enjoy within 5 days.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Capricorn Dates

(1 Snack Serving)
4 pitted dates
1 oz. goat cheese
2 slices uncured turkey
1. Make sure the pit is completely removed from the date.
2. Fill each date with 1/4 oz. goat cheese.
3. Cut turkey slices in half and wrap half around each date.

Book Review: The Paleo Kitchen: Finding Primal Joy in Modern Cooking

     I just got this book yesterday, but I have not been able to put it down since. It's by Juli Bauer, who writes the blog is,  and George Bryant, who writes the blog

     This is more than just a cookbook. It contains checklists, getting to know your body, and lots of tips. Plus it's all done in the fun style of a couple of people who love Paleo and have fun working together.

     Since I just got this book, I have yet to try any of the recipes, but we're going to try the slow cooker ketchup today. There are so many more recipes in this book that I'm looking forward to trying, including: Banana Bread Waffles, Baked Banana Chip Crusted French Toast, Vanilla White Peach Muffins, [sweet potato] Biscuits & Gravy, Bacon Sweet Potato Hash with Apples & Pears, Sweet Plantain Guacamole, Candied Bacon, Twice-Baked Stuffed Butternut Squash, Shredded Pork Meatloaf, Loaded BBQ Sweet Potatoes, Four-Layer Beef & Bacon Casserole, Honey-Mustard Chicken Thighs, Spaghetti Squash Chicken Fritters, Shrimp Scampi, Honey Dijon & Rosemary Grilled Sweet Potatoes, Dill Butternut Squash Fries, Parsnip Puree, Afternoon Pick-Me-Up (Coffee Smoothie), Honey Pistachio Ice Cream, Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream, Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookies, Black & White Cake, Chocolate Coffee Bread Pudding, Blueberry BBQ Sauce, Tangy BBQ Sauce, and Coconut Butter.

     Not only do these sound delicious, but this book is beautifully done, so they look delicious as well. I'm really looking forward to trying out and tweaking these recipes!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Getting Organized: Week Two, 2015

     This is week two, and boy has it been an insane week. I had a three-day weekend, which was awesome. Two of those three days, it was just Ray and me, and that was just fabulous, and that is why it's been so long since I blogged. I'm working on another post, but it's a long, tough one. Then Monday, we went with my mom to Dothan for a day of fun. Then all hell broke loose.

     Tuesday, one of my co-workers had to leave work because of family illness. Then I ended up having to go to the hospital after I got off work because Alex cut his foot open on a metal grate and had to get stitches. Then yesterday, another co-worker had to leave because of family illness, and another left because of personal illness, so I ended up staying until after we closed to help out.

     But I have the most awesome family, so while I was at work today, they cleaned up the counters. All I had to do when I got home was refill the herbs and spices and organize them and take pictures.
     This is our prep area. It's right between the refrigerator and stove. We have our vegetable cutting board here. This is also where we keep our spices, arranged alphabetically. We use apple pie spice, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, ginger, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric a lot, so they are out on our counter. We have a few that we use a little less, so they are in the cupboard. Our local honey is there, with our salt, our pepper grinders, our vanilla extract, and our vinegars. The other side of the stove is where our microwave, blender, and coffee maker are kept. The spice jars that we use are from the spice organizer Ray and I got for a wedding gift. We repurposed them to only hold the herbs and spices we actually use constantly.

     Then there's our other counter. This is where our sink is. This is also where we make our delicious bone broth. That's what's in the white slow cooker. We also have a scrap bowl that put our compostable scraps in. We have a few gluten-free/corn-free flours that are used in our beauty products and some baking. They are tapioca flour and arrowroot flour. We have raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and whole flaxseeds. We also have a three-pot slow cooker for occasions when we have to cook more than one thing in the slow cooker. I wish we had more counter space, but this is a small, single-wide trailer, and we have limited space everywhere, so we have to make the best of it, so I like this arrangement. Organizing is a great way of making what you have work for you. So make your space work for you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Paleo on a Budget: Plan Your Meals

     Menu planning can be both fun and a nuisance. It can be simple or elaborate. It can take hours or a few minutes. But above all, it is vital to successfully following a Paleo lifestyle if you live a busy life, and it is even more vital to successfully eating Paleo on a budget.

     The first rule of planning your menu is to decide how often you want to go shopping. I hate grocery shopping. If I had the storage space and a larger kitchen for prep and cooking, I would only do it once a month, but since I don't, we shop once a week, for the most part, so our menu is set up to get us through 7 days.

     The next thing is to decide how many meals you'll be eating a day. We eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks, and a little bit of dark chocolate every day. Our first snack is usually something a little more filling, and our second snack is usually fruit. If you work or go to school, and you plan on taking food with you, which is both economical and helpful when trying to stick to Paleo eating, you'll want to consider what to take your meals in and where you can store them. I have an insulated lunch box. It's not ideal, but it is something I had on hand because we bought it years ago. I hope to replace it soon with something a little nicer, but until then, it will do. I have ice packs that I use to keep my food cold because I keep my lunchbox in my car. I eat in my car every day because I really have to take that time away from work to relax and unwind and take a short nap, and my car is my haven, since I live so far from my job. My husband packs my lunches and snacks everyday, and we mostly re-use glass containers that we've bought other foods in because plastic can cause worsening of allergy symptoms.

     The third thing you should think about is how much prep time you have and want to spend on food. If you don't have a lot of time, you might want to make quiches for breakfasts and salads for lunch the night before. Then you can throw something in the slow cooker in the morning so you have a hot meal waiting for you when you get home from work. As I mentioned before, I'm blessed to have a husband who packs my lunches and snacks. He also fixes my breakfasts and dinners, so I don't have to cook when I get home. But we still do pretty simple dishes because his back and legs start to hurt really bad if he has to stand in one place for long, so we eat a lot of stuff that can be left in the oven to cook, so it doesn't have to be watched like quiches and roasted chicken, or stuff that can just be thrown together like salads.

     The fourth thing is to decide how you want to incorporate seasonal foods. Seasonal foods are almost always cheaper, so they're a great value way of boosting nutrition without breaking your budget. If you've noticed the app at the top of my blog, you've found that it displays the food that is in season. You can change the location to find the seasonal food for where you live. Mine shows that in early January in Alabama, the foods that are in season are pecans, greens, and sweet potatoes. Greens are a very important part of staying healthy. They are full of nutrients, detoxify and alkalize the body, and they help keep uric acid from forming in the body. That's important since the increase in protein can increase uric acid which can cause gout. And as I've said before, I love sweet potatoes. I am allergic to pecans, though, but I do know of several places where you can just pick them off the ground. In fact, I spent a lot of my childhood picking up pecans for family members who knew I wouldn't eat them, so they could make candies, baked goods, and pies, and sell the rest of them.

     The next thing to do is to decide a way to streamline the process. This can be done in one of several ways, so I'll just tell you some of the ways that we've tried.
  • Cultural theme days: Mexican Monday, Tropical Tuesday, Indian Wednesday, Mediterranean Thursday, Far East Friday, American Saturday, Italian Sunday
  • Family member days: Daddy Monday, Mommy Tuesday, Lydia Wednesday, Victor Thursday, Alex Friday, Daddy Saturday, Mommy Sunday
  • Rainbow food theme days: Red Food Monday, Orange Food Tuesday, Yellow Food Wednesday, Green Food Thursday, Blue Food Friday, Purple Food Saturday, Satvic/Vegetarian Sunday
  • Comfort Food Make-over Themed Days: Mexican Monday, Burger Tuesday, Chinese Wednesday, Italian Thursday, Pizza Friday, Fast Food Saturday, Southern Sunday
  • Carb-Cycling days: Low Carb Monday, Mid Carb Tuesday, Low Carb Wednesday, Mid Carb Thursday, Low Carb Friday, Weigh-In/Mid Carb Saturday, Cheat Day Sunday
  • And for all the nerds out there the Random Food Generator using a 20-sided die to roll up a menu. With this option, you need at least one twenty-sided dies, but it's better to have as many different ones as number of meals you plan to roll, so our family would have 5D20, 1D20 for breakfast, 1D20 for lunch, 1D20 for dinner, and 2D20 for snacks. Then you write a random table with 20 different choices for each meal, such as below. Then you roll up your menu with the dice.
  1. eggs and breakfast patties
  2. eggs and bacon
  3. sweet potato hash and eggs
  4. pumpkin muffins
  5. blueberry waffles
  6. sweet potato and sausage quiche
  7. caramelized onion and bacon quiche
  8. banana pancakes
  9. pumpkin waffles
  10. apple streusel egg muffins
  11. mini cini scones
  12. breakfast scramble
  13. fiesta quiche
  14. chocolate chip scones
  15. Paleo Elvis
  16. BLT quiche
  17. apple cinnamon pancakes
  18. green eggs and ham quiche
  19. bell pepper quiche
  20. smoothie
     The always rule for meal planning is to keep what you have in stock and what you can afford in mind, so if almond flour is too pricy, stay away from a lot of baked goods, but if you have a friend or relative who gives you eggs, make sure you have plenty of egg variations in your meal plan. That's another always rule, keep variations in mind, so you don't get bored. If sweet potatoes are in season, you can do sweet potato-crust quiche, sweet potato salad, sweet potato fries, baked sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato chips with salsa, sweet potato nachos, sweet potato hash and eggs, etc.

     The process may seem a little overwhelming at first, but it does get easier. It may seem like a lot of extra stuff to add to your routine, especially if you have kids, but in the long run, it makes things so much easier, especially if you have kids. I personally like themes because they keep everyone from suggesting the same foods over and over again. Once when we were letting everyone pick the meal plan on a given day, the boys kept picking the same foods, so for two days straight we were having sushi for lunch and pizza soup for dinner, week after week.

     Finally the most important thing about meal planning is to stick to your plans. If you make the menu and go purchase all the required ingredients and then go out to eat several nights, then you've not only wasted the money on eating out, but the money you spent on food. If you just have to eat out a few nights a week or every lunch while you're working, schedule that into you menu and your budget, and try to find Paleo, or at least gluten-free options.

     I'll now include this week's menu, just to give you an idea. Our recent theme is eating the rainbow.
Sunday Jan. 4th (Lydia's birthday)
B Bacon Waffles
S Granny's concoction
L eat at Granny's
S bacon guac sammies
D Marceline's paprika chicken, Rock People biscuits, Flame Princess sweet potato chips, Ice King ice cream, Candy Kingdom chocolate doughnuts

Monday Jan. 5th
B Fiesta Quiche
S bugs on a boat
L beet and carrot salad
S apple
D chili

Tuesday Jan. 6th
B scrambled eggs & bacon
S carrots and ranch
L leftover chili & mushroom sandwiches
S orange
D eating out for Lydia's birthday with Ray's parents

Wednesday Jan. 7th
B butternut quiche
S yellow peppers with honey mustard
L chicken salad
S banana
D lemon pepper chicken with veggies

Thursday Jan. 8th
B green quiche
S cucumber spears with ranch
L Caesar salad
S apple
D Moc Broc soup with Italian herb chicken

Friday Jan. 9th
B nori quiche with blueberry smoothie
S Capricorn dates
L chicken and cranberry salad with blueberry vinaigrette
S apple
D sweet potato hash

Saturday Jan. 10th
B bacon concoction
S carrots with baba ghanoush
L sweet potato salad
S devils on horseback
D chicken zoodle soup

     Once you've created your meal plan, write down what you need. Keep in mind that a serving of protein is about 4-6 ounces a person or 1-2 eggs per person. This will help with calculating how much you need. We like to organize our shopping list by store, then by aisle, so we spend the least amount of time in the store possible. And don't forget your essentials, like freezer bags, parchment paper if you plan to bake, coconut oil for cooking, olive oil and vinegars for salad dressings, herbs and spices and sea salt to add extra flavor, and extra eggs for making mayonnaise. And the most important thing of all: NEVER GO TO THE GROCERY STORE WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY! This will help you stick to your list.

     If you mess up, it's okay. I've been doing this for almost 15 years, and there are still weeks that we run out or completely forget to get stuff. Just this week, we ran out of eggs, so instead of scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast today, we substituted bacon concoction because after working a nine hour shift yesterday and getting out after 7:30 because I ran into a friend and we ended up talking a while, I did not feel like getting out in the freezing cold again to go to the secondary grocery store that closes at 8:00 pm to pick up some eggs, so we got creative with what we had left in the house. Now take a deep breath. Take it step-by-step, and remember that it may take some trial and error, but you can do it. I believe in you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Getting Organized: Week One, 2015

     I'm going to try to do this every week, but we'll see. So this is week one, and since we've emptied out all the bad food, and bought some good food, it's a perfect time to organize our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.

You may find that without all that pre-packaged food, you have a lot more room in your pantry. I have filled my pantry with bulk herbs that we use a lot. Don't buy bulk herbs if you aren't going to use them quickly because they're only good for a short period of time. I also have gelatin. It is not from grass-fed animals, but you have to decide what's more important, eating the best you can to stay Paleo on a budget, or giving up entirely because you can't be 100%. There are lots of herbal teas and dried fruit. We also have some organic ketchup, coconut sugar, almond butter, tahini, olives, tomatoes, canned coconut milk, almond flour, coconut flour, onions, and sweet potatoes.

Cleaning out the freezer has never been one of my favorite things to do, but I did it. I only do it once a year, but it gets done. Since meat should never be kept longer than 2-3 days in the fridge, and we try to only shop for groceries once a week, we freeze most of our meat. We buy large packs of leg quarters and freeze a family-sized serving in individual freezer bags. We also keep some frozen broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, mixed veggies, and fruit. I like having frozen fruit around for the occasional smoothie, berries are my favorites. We only have a small freezer and very little space in our home, so we don't do a lot of freezer meals, but it is a great practice if you feel you're up to it.

Last but not least is the refrigerator. I clean this out once a week, usually when it's pretty empty right before we go grocery shopping again. We have a water tank in ours, so we can drink cold, filtered water all day. If you make drinking water convenient and fun, you'll be more likely to do it. Plus, I really dislike using a bunch of plastic bottles. The other pitcher that is full of what looks like dirty water is actually our bone broth. Keeping it in a lidded pitcher makes it easier to add to recipes. As you can see, we have eggs, bacon, and veggies. We've made our own mayonnaise. I don't have my own recipe for this because I find that this recipe from Melissa Joulwan is the best by far. We have some open coconut milk, half a butternut squash. They miraculously seal up if you put the top back on them. There are some pickles. I have yet to make my own because I've yet to actually see a crop of cucumbers make it past the bloom stage. We have colorful peppers that are full of vitamin C. There's fresh kale, carrots, mushrooms, apples, cucumbers, oranges, zucchini, an eggplant, and some goat cheese. Since you'll be eating a lot more fresh produce, you'll want to keep your fridge cleaned out because festering, uneaten fruit and veggies past their prime tend to get fuzzy and liquefied. Besides it's just a good feeling when you look at your fridge, freezer, or pantry and know where everything is, so happy organizing.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Paleo on a Budget: Know Your Grocery Stores, Farmer's Markets, and Friends

     One of the most frustrating things about trying to eat whole foods on a budget is that there are seldom coupons for things like carrots and beets.

     Knowing your grocery stores may take a day and a good bit of gas initially, but it's worth it. A couple of years ago, Ray and I went to all our local stores with a list of most used items and a pencil. We spent hours roaming the aisles, writing down the prices and new things we found that we thought we wanted to try. You have to be a little sneaky with this because if you get caught, the staff gets suspicious. They tend to think you are pricing for the "competition," but if you go in with a list, instead of a book, it's a little less suspicious.

     In our hometown, we have a few grocery stores, but we have three that we pretty much stick to. They are within about 10 miles of each other. Our primary store is where we get most of our food. We can find uncured ham and bacon, almond butter, coconut milk, coconut flour, almond flour (it's expensive here, but it's the only place in town that carries it), ground turkey, goat cheese, frozen veggies, and most of our produce.

     Our secondary grocery store is where we get our chicken. They have really great deals on whole chickens, chicken thighs, and chicken feet, and their chicken products are hormone- and antibiotic-free. It is also where we get our local honey, our eggs, our lemons, our zucchini, and our sweet potatoes.

     Our tertiary grocery store is the most expensive store in town, but they have bottles of organic ketchup for $2. They are also the only place that sells dried shiitake mushrooms and pomegranate vinegar.

     We also like to go out of town once every month or so to either Montgomery, AL or Dothan, AL because they have things that we don't. We tend to make a day of it. We pack a picnic. Sometimes we got to the park. Sometimes we eat in the car. On those days, we tend to stock up. There's a store in Montgomery that sells bulk almond flour. They also offer pretty good weekly deals and have coupons you can print out. We get our coconut aminos there, as well as our organic spices, gluten-free mustards and uncured hot dogs for our occasional cook-outs. Dothan also carries a few of these things, but we enjoy going there more the non-food stores and because we used to live there, so we get to see some familiar faces now and then.

     Getting to know your farmer's market can keep you in fresh, seasonal produce throughout the growing season. Our town does not have a large farmer's market, but when we go, we can usually find some good deals. We once got some patty pan squash $4 for 6 squash and $2 for a large box of blueberries, and we were able to have a delicious meal of stuffed squash for dinner one night with blueberries and coconut cream for dessert.

     Since the produce you find here can change, if you employ this option, you should make a menu afterward around what you're able to find. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting money and end up with a fridge full of ruined produce.

    Last is knowing who among your friends does some heavy gardening or light farming. They usually have more than they will ever eat in this lifetime and are more than willing to share. If you feel bad about just taking what they offer, you can always pay them back by giving them a can of something you make using their produce that they may not make themselves, like your grandmother's secret spaghetti sauce, or in other ways, like finding out things they need or like.

    Now that you are armed with these tools, it's time to go out and employ some modern-day foraging techniques. Happy hunting.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chocote Chip Coconut Milk Ice Cream

(Inspired by Lydia's birthday wish. Perfected by Debra McVay.)

2 cans full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup local, raw honey
1/2 cup soy-free dark chocolate chips, ground
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Process all ingredients together in a blender.

2. Following instructions for your ice cream maker, add ingredients and run until done.

3. Enjoy this creamy treat. It's a lot less expensive than any coconut ice cream you'll find in the store.

Happy Thirteenth Birthday, Lydia!

Adventure Time!

     Today my firstborn turns thirteen! She is such a sweet, wonderful, and talented girl. She can make doll clothes and dolls without a pattern. She can quilt. She has a cool drawing style and makes comics for her brothers. She loves to cook and is really good at baking tasty Paleo treats. She loves Monster High and Ever After High. She also loves Adventure Time so much that it's the theme of her birthday party. And on top of all that, she's beautiful.

     Lydia also has some fairly bad food allergies. She used to love those cheesy, fish-shaped crackers for snacks. Then one day, I can home to find a red, sad Lydia crying and hurting. I asked my husband what had happened, and he thought she had gotten too hot, but on careful inspection, I found she was covered in hives. I gave her an allergy pill and a soothing, cool, baking soda bath. Then we covered her in hydrocortisone cream. After lots of questioning and another day of the same thing happening, we found the culprit was cheddar cheese.

     She is so happy to eat Paleo food because it is delicious, and she gets to eat lots of bacon and some dark chocolate, and she has never felt better. Since she dances all the time with her clogging group, she needs lots of energy and good food, and she gets it from Paleo foods.

Victor and Alex got Lydia the new Dark Element Skylander
     Lydia has chosen her menu for the day. She even made her Bacon Waffles for breakfast. We're going to my mom's for her lunch. But dinner is Adventure Time-themed and involves Marceline's Paprika Chicken, Rock People Biscuits, Flame Princess's Sweet Potato Chips, Ice King Ice Cream, and Candy Kingdom Chocolate Doughnuts.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Paleo Lifestyle Tips: Eliminate SAD Foods

      It's time to clean out your fridge, freezer, and pantry. It's hard to give in to temptation if you don't have it in your home. That's why you need to get it out of the house. I found this part pretty easy because we'd done a few different diets before, so all we really had to get rid of the grains and legumes.

Here's what needs to go:
     Drinks: coffee drinks (coffee you brew yourself is fine), energy drinks, sweetened teas (unless it tea you sweetened yourself with honey), juices, drink mixes, sports drinks, soft drinks, diet drinks, any drink with sugar or artificial sweeteners, milk (except whole milk, if you're not lactose intolerant), rice milk, soy milk, and almond milk

     Dairy: nonfat milk, low-fat milk, frozen yogurt, sweetened yogurt, low-fat yogurt, nonfat yogurt, processed cheeses and cheese spreads, and ice cream

     Baking ingredients: flour (except nut and coconut flours), corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, baking powder, anything with gluten, milk powders, canned milks (except coconut milk), maltodextrin, and sugar

     Fats & oils: margarine, vegetable shortening, buttery spreads and sprays, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, all high polyunsaturated oils, all products containing trans fats and partially-hydrogenated fats

     Sweets: candy, baked goods, candy bars, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, ice creams, flavored milks, packaged/processed sweets and treats, agave, artificial sweeteners, brown sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, honey (unless it's raw and local), molasses, powdered sugar, sweetened nuts, prepackaged trail mixes, popsicles, most frozen desserts, milk chocolate, and milk chocolate chips

     Legumes: all, including peas, soybeans and peanuts. These are full of anti-nutrients and stimulate increased levels of insulin.

     Condiments: honey (unless it raw and local), any mustard containing gluten, jams and jellies, ketchup, mayonnaise, lite mayonnaise, any salad dressing containing high fructose corn syrup or oils from the list above, low-fat salad dressings, barbeque sauces, soy sauce, salsa with corn, teriyaki sauce containing high fructose corn syrup, and any other products with sugar, HFCS or bad oils

     Grains: pretzels, crackers, cereal, corn, rice, wheat, bread, pasta, doughnuts, Danishes, croissants, tortillas, flat breads, oatmeal, popcorn, rice cakes, baguettes, muffins, cupcakes, cakes, toast, grits, granola, pancakes, waffles, chips, barley, graham crackers, taco shells, pitas, pizza, rolls, biscuits, amaranth, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, millet, rye, barley, couscous, and puffed snacks

     Meat and fish: pre-packed meat products, cured meats, meats processed with chemicals and sweeteners, smoked meats, frozen meal meats, meats containing nitrates or nitrites, meats raised with hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, most farmed fish, fish from polluted water or caught by environmentally-objectionable methods, and fish at the top of the food chain, like shark and swordfish

     Processed foods: all of it; if it comes in a bag, box, or wrapper, read the ingredients carefully, that includes energy bars, fruit candies, frozen meals, and protein bars

     Fast food: again, basically all of it; if it has a bun, a box, or a wrapper, it's not worth the "convenience"

     You may be asking yourself at this point what you can eat. This is understandable if you are used to eating all the foods listed above. It's pretty easy. You eat high-quality, whole foods like meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats (animal fats, grass-fed butter, and coconut oil for cooking with, avocados, olives, olive oils, and small amounts of nuts for eating), and small amounts of fruits, high-fat dairy (if you're primal), starchy tubers, nut butters, herbs, spices, extracts, and dark chocolate. In fact the flowchart below was created by and is a fun way to show what's Paleo and what isn't: