Mini Road Trip: Grand Canyon

Doesn’t seem like bloggers are always on trips?  Maybe it’s just the blogs I read? But seems like they’re always fluttering around the country.

Aside from my trip to China, I haven’t really gone anywhere for a while.

This weekend, I decided to be one of the cool kids and went on a semi-last-minute trip to the Grand Canyon.

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That’s about 7 and a half hours way from Orange County, CA.

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Left on Friday, got back on Sunday.

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Clearly, I did a lot of looking.  I also ate some Buffalo Jerky… tasted like beef jerky to me…

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There were also some super cool Native American ruins.

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with tiny doors…

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And some two-door not-so-native American relics…

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Totally worth the drive

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Caldo de Pollo (Guatemalan Chicken Stew)

If you asked me what my favorite food is, I would spend forever trying to decide and ask you a million follow up question… is it my favorite food to eat all the time? or for a special occasion? Savory or sweet? Appetizer? Main dish?

If you were my boyfriend you’d probably just say, “answer the question.”

To which I would respond “Caldo de Pollo, if we’re talking about what I like to eat on a normal day.”

I have a habit of not answering questions, or if I do, qualifying that response with a million follow up excuses as to why I can’t really answer the question.

I’m very indecisive.  So here it is.  If I had to choose a favorite food to eat all the time, it would be this: Caldo de Pollo.

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That just means chicken stew, but this is how my family (and I think most Guatemalan families) makes it.

The vegetables are all in big chunks and there’s a bit of chicken in there.

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It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to make.  It’s also delicious and healthy.  Whenever I go home, I want my mom to make two things: black beans and caldo de pollo.  It’s just delicious.

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Caldo de Pollo

1 lb chicken thighs, bone in (boneless is fine too)
1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato, whole
1 onion, ends cut off and peeled
1 chayote (güisquil), quartered
1 cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
1-2 celery ribs
a few pieces of fresh or frozen corn*
2-3 small potatoes
1 small bag frozen yucca
salt
Avocado, Lime, Sour Cream (for serving)

Fill a medium saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil.  Add frozen yucca.

frozenyucca

Boil until tender, it should take about 30 minutes.  This is crucial.  If you put the yucca in the water before it boils, the yucca will stay tough.  Make sure your yucca is tender and keep it in the freezer until the water is boiling, then add it to the water.

While the yucca cooks, start the rest of the soup.  The beauty of this soup is that it’s fast and doesn’t involve a lot of chopping.

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Big chunks of carrot and güisquil (güisquil in Guatemala, but chayote in Mexico so that’s what you’ll probably see it labeled as in US grocery stores) are appreciated.  But the cabbage is my favorite part.  Not familiar with guisquil/chayote?  It looks sort of like a pear from the outside:

chayote

And sort of on the inside, just quarter it and cut out the seed in the middle

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In a large post, add all of the ingredients.  Add enough water to cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes or until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through.  The take a fine mesh strainer, take out the tomato, peppers and cilantro.  Pour some of the broth on it and using a spoon, mash the tomato, peppers and cilantro to get the most flavor out of it, then discard.  Add yucca you cooked separate to the pot.

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Serve with lime, sour cream  and avocado.  I usually just eat it with lime and avocado, but sour cream makes it super tasty, just mix it into your bowl just before eating.

*I don’t like corn, so I never use it, but most people (including my mother) add it.

I like to pack mine up into 6-7 containers (that’s how many meals a big pot makes), and take them for lunch for the week.

Healthy and delicious lunch that is totally Paleo friendly if you omit the potato and yucca.  Even though yucca is a root, I think it’s too starchy for Paleo.

But seriously, what makes this delicious is the lime and avocado.

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It takes a regular soup and makes it out of this world.  Don’t skimp on that!

So what’s your favorite food?  Something you could eat everyday and not get tired of.

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Ending Early

So I started the 30 Day Paleo Challenge 14 days ago.

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Unfortunately, I’m cutting it off at the half way point.

I feel guilty for not committing to the full challenge, but then I remembered this is just a blog.  It’s not my job.  I don’t get paid to do this.  My life doesn’t depend on it.  It’s for fun.  This challenge became more than not fun and everyone around me noticed.

My boss asked if I was depressed.  My mom asked why I kept it up if I wasn’t getting positive results.  My poor boyfriend.  I don’t even know what he was thinking.

Ultimately, my blog is not a diet blog.  It’s a food blog.

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I love food.  Cooking and sharing what I make is just fun, so I want to keep it that way.

But all that said, I wanted to share my thoughts on my two week attempt at Paleo:

1. Paleo is just NOT for me. 

I think everyone’s body and metabolism is different and you need to find what works for you.  I was hungry all the time, unsatisfied, cranky and I had strange bowel issues (that I’ve NEVER had before) that I never talked about because that seemed like TMI.  If you haven’t found what works for you yet, then Paleo’s worth a try.  Even if you have found what works for you, sometimes trying something new (like Paleo) is a good reminder of that.

2.  Paleo was just too much meat for me. 

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When I say meat, I mean any animal protein (including chicken and fish, not just beef and pork).  I used to be vegetarian.  Even though I’m not anymore, I’m used to eating beans 3-4 times a week.  Honestly, I felt disgusting eating as much meat as I did during these past few days.  This is definitely not an environmentally-friendly diet.  I’m ready to eat beans.

3.  There are some things I’ll keep.

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I don’t think I’ll go back to putting milk in my coffee, and honestly I really enjoyed the paleo pancake and green smoothie breakfast.  I’ll probably keep that up instead of yogurt.  I felt great in the mornings after eating that, and I would stay full for a good while.  So there’s a plus!

4.  I didn’t lose weight, and that’s ok.

I think I didn’t lose weight because it wasn’t that drastically different from my previous diet, and I don’t have that much weight to lose.  I’m used to packing my lunch and cooking from scratch.  So that wasn’t that big a change.  The biggest change was the elimination of beans and tortillas (I don’t even buy bread or cereal).  I think if I wanted to have the drastic results that other people talk about on paleo, I would have had to eliminated fruit and nuts.  That means basically only eating meat and vegetables.  That’s limiting WAYYY too much.

5. I need to make dinner. 

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I used to just sort of snack for dinner, and that made me want sweets.  I realized that when I eat a full meal for dinner, I don’t want dessert as much.  Lesson learned: cook dinner, sit down and eat it!

6.  I can go without sugar for a week, no problem. 

I did it for 2 weeks just now.  I passed up cake at a wedding, didn’t eat chocolate chips, eliminated all added sugars, and I didn’t die!  I originally wanted to give this a try because I thought I ate too much sugar.  I think it’s totally feasible (and healthy) for me to stick to once a week treats.  I just proved to myself that I can do it for longer than a week.  I just need to stick to it.  Saying NO isn’t that hard.

7. I know my body. 

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As someone who has maintained a 50lb weight loss (fluctuated 10-15lbs over the years but managed to keep it off), I know what works for me.  Having everything in moderation keeps my happy, healthy and satisfied.  It encourages me to exercise more and not overeat.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating bread, cheese, wine, cake, cookies.  You just shouldn’t be eating it everyday.  But like I said, that’s me and my body.  Paleo might work great for others.

8.  I’d rather not binge.

Last night, I had 4 and a half pieces of pizza, about 3 pieces of cake, and a bunch of flat bread with eggplant dip.  More than I need to eat in a day, and while I was happy to eat carbohydrates again, I didn’t feel good eating that much.  I can’t remember the last time  I had a binge like that.  I’d finally kept it under control and gotten by by practicing moderation.  Feeling deprived makes me binge.  If I had a totally normal relationship with food, then cutting out food groups probably would be fine.  But let’s be honest, I don’t. But that’s just me and my issues.

Overall, Paleo was a good experiment, but it just wasn’t for me.  I know what works for me.

I remember the first day I started a diet, over 10 years ago (funny the things we remember, right?), we had guests over that night.  My mom made something delicious that was totally NOT diet-friendly.  She said not to worry.  Have dinner with everyone and continue the diet tomorrow.

That’s the best advice I ever got. 

This weekend, my mom gave me a large pieces of cake that she brought from Guatemala. My aunt in Guatemala made it.  I don’t know how she does it, but I swear it’s the best cake on Earth.  I cut the large piece is half, put each piece in a ziploc bag and stuck them in the freezer.

The pieces are waiting for me for that moment when I really want it and it’ll taste best, not just when it’s there.

Cake in the freezer.  That’s what works for me.

Thanks for following me on my Paleo experiment.  It’s been fun (or something).

Now, back to normal blogging?

 

UPDATE: In case you’re curious… here’s an update on Life After the Paleo Challenge

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 13. It’s Just Food.

This morning, I woke up and did a St. Patrick’s Day themed 5k with some friends.

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It was nice, relaxed and fun.  At the end of the race, they passed out a bunch of snacks.  I’m not really sure what I was thinking but I grabbed a Kind bar, a Think Thin bar and a Gnu bar (all mini sample sizes), along with an apple and banana.  Those bars are totally NOT paleo.  But I figured I’d hold on to them for after the challenge.

So I came home after the race and had the usual green smoothie and paleo pancake breakfast.  That was all good and fine.  It was a cloudy day and I had no plans, so I curled up in my pajamas and watched Girls.

Around 1pm, I got hungry.  I looked in the fridge and there was a paleo meal waiting for me.

Left over pork chops and cauliflower and sweet potato fries.

I totally did NOT want to eat that.  I also didn’t want to leave the house to get a salad.  So instead, I ate the Kind bar, ThinkThin and Gnu samples. Then I had a spoonful of peanut butter with jelly.

Paleo Fail.

For a while, I felt bad about it.  But then I remembered.  It’s just food.  It’s NOT a big deal.  Some sample bars aren’t going to kill me.  Neither will some peanut butter and jelly.

For the sake of all female-kind, let’s remember, it’s just food.  No matter what our relationship to it is, it’s just food.  Eating the “wrong” thing shouldn’t make me feel bad.

So I’m over it.  I messed up.  Last night, I also had a few bites of Pad Thai.  Then I had a massive stomach ache.  Karma? No.

It’s just food. 

I probably ate the Paleo-friendly coconut soup too fast.  That’s it.

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Now I’m going to the mall to distract myself…

Do you feel guilty after a diet mess up?  Should we?  Thoughts?

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 11

Two nights ago, I made a super tasty dinner.  I’ll tell you about it because it was also day 11 lunch.

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Seriously, it was ready in about 15 minutes from start to finish, and I thought it was pretty tasty.

Pork Loin and Sauteed Vegetables

Few slices of pork loinMixed vegetables of choice*
Garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

That’s all you need.  Season pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Heat some oil (about 1/4 a tbsp is good for 5 pieces) in a pan on medium/high heat.  Add pork.  Cook 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside.

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Add vegetables to the same pan.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Sautee until tender.   Serve and enjoy!

*I used the asparagus stir fry mix from Trader Joe’s, but I won’t lie, while it’s convenient, the asparagus was really tough.  A lot of it was the tough ends that I would cut off on asparagus.  Half the time I felt like I was eating twigs and branches, so maybe steer clear of that?

Quick, easy and tasty.  And I always make too much for one person, so there were plenty of leftovers.

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Day 11 was an interesting day.  Apparently, March is the month of Karla trying new things, because  I went to Bikram Yoga for the first time.  My co-worker talked me into going with her, since they offer new students 2 weeks of unlimited classes for $20.  I figured why not?

So the studio is located in The Camp (if you’re an OC local), and it was interesting.  I’ll start by saying, the place is stinky, which is totally expected given the heat and sweat and warm bodies.  Definitively, not cute.  I had been having anxiety all day about it.  I thought for sure I would die.  But good news, guys!  I didn’t die!

In fact it was sort of fun.  I’m not sure I love it, but I’ll definitely have to give it another try, especially since I’ve got two weeks of classes.

I will say I came home with a pretty bad headache that lasted pretty much all night and an overwhelming desire to take a shower.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that sweaty in my life.  As a self-proclaimed “yoga hater,” I’ll say I definitely enjoyed it more than I disliked it.

After a much needed shower, I surprisingly wasn’t hungry!  Can you believe it?  So I decided to make a dinner that takes a while and it included sweet potato fries!

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Apparently I’m late to the game, but if you cook your sweet potato fries on a cooling rack (over a baking sheet that is) you get crispy, evenly baked fries!  Who knew?

So along with my tasty, crispy fries, I had cauliflower puree (because I’m OBSESSED) and some rotisserie chicken left over from Sunday.  Delicious.  Simple.  I swear the cauliflower puree was the tastiest thing on the plate!

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On nights like this, when I’m not starving and I have a tasty dinner, I might even like Paleo… That’s probably because it just feels like I’m eating normal food I like, not making myself eat one thing when I really want another.

Have you ever tried Bikram Yoga?  Love it? Hate it? 

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Days 9 & 10

So after my Monday freak out, I was ready to quit this challenge.  Thanks everyone for your supportive comments.  They were very encouraging and I truly appreciate it!

I decided to tough it out a little longer.  During the week, Paleo isn’t that hard.  I’m used to making my own lunch and bringing it to work, so that’s not anything new.  I used to bring salad, soups and beans a lot.  Now I’ve just replaced the beans with meat (which I’m not a huge fan of).

I think the challenge will remain the weekends.

On the hunger front, things have also been better.  This is potentially for 2 reasons:

1. I’m busy at work so I don’t think about food as much as I would on the weekends.

2. I’ve started packing enormous lunches that are guaranteed to keep me full.

Day 9 Lunch:

paleospaghettisquash

It looks small, but there is literally half of a spaghetti squash in that container, with spinach, marinara and two pieces of chicken.  Ordinarily I would consider that to be two meals, but now I eat it at once.  I’ve had this two days in a row and it has kept me pretty satisfied.

Later that night, I had dinner at my sister’s house.

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We had salad, sweet potatoes and tilapia.  I had a bit of non-paleo mayo (with the sweet potato).  Not the worst slip up on Earth.  I’ll survive.

Day 10:

I decided to switch it up.  Everyday I had been eating a Paleo Pancake with a green smoothie.  Today I had this:

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Bacon Avocado Egg Scramble

1 slice of bacon
1/4 avocado, dice
2 eggs

Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan (once cooled, chop) and wipe off some of the bacon fat with a paper towel.  I think a lot of people would have kept the bacon fat but it just looked like too much to me.  In a bowl, beat 2 eggs.  Add eggs to pan with remaining bacon fat, add bacon and scramble.  Just before the eggs are done, add avocado and mix around.  Serve with coffee for a super breakfast or a great dinner.

This one is pretty easy to scale up.  You can add salt and pepper too.  I didn’t, but I won’t stop you from doing so.

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This was pretty tasty.  It was a great manly breakfast after my manly feeling crossfit workout (clean & jerk, 15-12-9!).   I won’t lie my black coffee was a little less enjoyable without my paleo pancake.

For lunch, I packed a mighty salad of lettuce, spinach, mini bell peppers, pickles, and avocado, along with a chicken breast.

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Again, I was full for a long time.  I’m glad the hunger levels are going down.   That makes it all a little more manageable.

Unfortunately, I am still pretty much always up for a cookie.

I’m starting to think that won’t ever change…

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 8, 1 Week Thoughts

It’s been one week since I started the 30 Day Paleo Challenge.

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I decided to do a weekly reflection, in case anyone else out there is doing a paleo challenge and wants to know how someone else is feeling (I know I do! So if you have a blog, share it with me!).  In case you need a recap of the week, here is:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 & 4
Day  5, 6, & 7

Before I started the challenge, I read all these blogs with people saying things like “It’s only been a week but I already feel awesome!”  “I already notice a huge difference in my complexion” “I have so much energy!”

Well guys, not to be a debbie downer…

…but I going to go against the grain and say I totally do NOT feel awesome.  So let me elaborate a little more…

  • I’m hungry all the time.   Seriously.  I’m hungry ever 2 hours and ravenous every 3 hours.  Honestly, it’s just not fun.  Not to mention, a lot of times, I’ll eat and when I’m done, I feel like I haven’t actually eaten.  I’m not sure if I haven’t been eating enough fat or sweet potatoes, but this weekend it felt like a minute didn’t go by when I couldn’t have eaten a huge plate of food.
  • Because I’m hungry all the time, I think about food all the time.  As a foodie, I think about food a lot, and I’m totally ok with that.  But this is a different type of thinking.  I feel like I spend the day obsessing about what I’m going to eat next, which makes me feel like I’m on my way to an eating disorder.  It’s pretty sad when your boyfriend has to tell you to stop thinking about food…
  • My skin is NOT clearer.  I realize it’s only been a week, but I actually feel like I have more breakouts around my mouth/chin.  This might not be tied to diet, but just pointing it out.
  • I don’t have tons of energy.  I will say, the mid-afternoon sleepies have gone away.  So that’s a plus! But this weekend, I was just exhausted all the time.  Maybe because I just didn’t sleep well this weekend?  Not sure this has anything to do with diet.  I think I was just super sore from crossfit on Friday and couldn’t find a comfortable position all night.
  • I still want sugar.  Not all the time, actually I realized that having a real, filling meal makes me less likely to want something sweet afterward.  But last night, all I wanted was a brownie covered in ice cream.
  • I lost 1 lb.  I guess I can’t complain about this, since weight loss isn’t my number 1 goal, but for the amount of time that I’ve spent being hungry, you’d think I’d at least have lost more than 1 lb.

So obviously, 1 week is not long enough to truly reflect on whether or not this is a lifestyle I like.  Right now, most of my thoughts are probably a withdrawal symptom.

Unfortunately for me, the biggest negative is that because of the above points, I’ve been in a terrible mood lately (particularly this weekend).  Honestly this has been my biggest motivation to quit.  I’m generally a happy, positive person, but apparently when I’m hungry I turn into grumpy cat.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying Paleo, but I want to paint a realistic picture based on my own experiences.  It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns over here.

That said, I’m not quitting yet.  Just writing down my thoughts and hoping it gets better.  How about you?  Have you tried a paleo challenge?  How’d you feel after 1 week?

Any thoughts? Please share!