Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers and Eating More Vegetables

We’re all adults here. We all know we’re supposed to eat vegetables, because they’re good for you.  But the reality is life happens.   We get caught up in things; we forget to eat vegetables…  Not cool, guys.  Eat your vegetables.

I’m a big proponent of vegetables and exercise being the cure for most things.  I’m not a nutrionist or a doctor but I’ve realized that when I eat more vegetables and exercise regularly, I tend to feel better.

Last week, Melissa’s Produce reached out to me asking if I’d like to review one of their boxes and maybe come up with a few recipes from the content.  I said Yes, because 1. I love vegetables and 2. it seemed like a great opportunity to blog about things.

So let me tell your a little bit about the produce box I got.  I got the “Organic Mixed Vegetable Box – Southern California Delivery.” I chose this one because I didn’t want a box with fruit.  I would rather just have vegetables.  It arrived while I was at work.  Since I live in a housing complex, it was delivered to the apartment office, so the box didn’t sit outside all day.  Luckily, I was able to make it home a few minutes before the apartment office closed at 5pm.  If not, I would have had to wait til the next day, which would have sucked.

I got the box and it was jam packed with deliciousness.  I definitely give them props for their packing skillzz.  Everything was in there, the lettuce wasn’t smashed or wilted.  Thumbs up for that! There was also an ice pack in the box  that kept everything cool.

Here is everything my box included:

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This is a good amount of produce for two people.  But Jesse and I eat a good amount of vegetables so we’re good to go.   One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about produce delivery services and CSA shares (aside from cost), is that it’s simply too much produce. I agree, it is a good amount, but not really too much.  When I first saw the enormous pile of vegetables, I got concerned and thought, oh goodness how are we going to eat all this?  But really, having this box forces us to eat more vegetables, it’s just about prioritizing and planning. Using this produce, I’ve planned a variety of meals to use up almost all the vegetables, and today I’ll share one of these recipes: Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce, served with Grilled Zucchini. Sounds delish right?  I think it looks pretty great too! turkeylettuceburger2

The most important thing to remember with CSAs and produce delivery is that certain things go bad faster than others.  Lettuce and kale are the most perishable, so they should probably be eaten first.  Then Zucchini, Broccoli, Cucumber and Celery.  Beets, Carrots, Potato, Garlic, Onion, Leeks and Ginger, will all last a pretty long time.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve been having green smoothies with kale for breakfast everyday to make sure to use the kale.  To consume the lettuce as quickly as possible, I decided lettuce wrapped burgers were the way to go.

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Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce

For Turkey Burgers: 

1 package lean ground turkey (a little more than a pound)
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
garlic salt to taste

For Creamy Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
1 lime
Garlic salt to taste

Extra:

Lettuce
Tomato  

Combine all ingredients for turkey burger.  Work together and form into patties (4-6 depending on how big you want them, I did 6).  Grill on a hot grill, or on a skillet or you can even bake them.  If you’re grilling on a grill or in a pan, it’ll be about 5 mins per side (depending on how thick your patties are).

In the meantime, prep your yogurt sauce by combining yogurt, grated cucumber and lime juice.  Mix together and add garlic salt.  Taste until you get the right saltiness.  Then refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: You can make this sauce is advance.  As long as it’s refrigerated, it’ll be good for a few days)

Next assemble your burger.  I doubled up and used two lettuce leaves per side of the burger “bun” (so 4 lettuce leaves total per burger. Remember, we’re packing in those vegetables!).  Put down two pieces of lettuce, top with burger and tomato, drizzle with yogurt sauce and top with more  lettuce.  Serve with some grilled zucchini and enjoy!  

This recipe will make 4-6 lettuce wrap burgers (I made 6). I was really happy with this recipe.  Confession: I ate 2!  I don’t feel guilty.

If you’re curious about how I grilled the zucchini, I just sliced it into 1/2 inch thick strips then drizzled with olive oil and tossed with some garlic salt.  That’s it.  And seriously delicious. turkeylettuceburger3

This meal was chock full of vegetables, which is always awesome, but also super tasty and satisfying.

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I can’t wait to make use of the other vegetables.  Here are some of my ideas to make the most of each ingredient…

  • Use Ginger to make awesome peanut sauce to go on zucchini noodles.  Or just drink with hot water, because ginger is great for your immune system!
  • Roast beets to make an amazing kale salad with onion, almonds, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  Doesn’t that sound amazing? I also intend to saute those beet greens and add those to the salad as well.
  • I cut up the rest of the cucumber that I didn’t use in the yogurt sauce just for snacking.  Because don’t we all need some extra veggies as an afternoon snack?  I think yes.
  • Carrots: Gluten free carrot cake.  Yup. I made it happen.  Recipe soon!
  • Celery: I love filling celery with tuna salad for an awesome and light lunch.  I can seriously go through 10 celery ribs in one sitting with a bowl of tuna salad.
  • Leeks + Potato… Do I even need to say it?  Potato-Leek Soup!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Melissa’s Produce delivery service.  It’s the most reasonably priced delivery service I’ve seen.  I used to pay about $19/week for my CSA share in Ithaca.  The box I got through Melissa’s Produce costs $25 (although I got it free this time, thanks to Melissa’s Produce!).  For $25 you get 7lbs of organic produce.  Not bad.

Are you a fan of lettuce wrapped burgers or are you a bun purist?

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a free produce box in exchange for this blog post.  Opinions and recipes are my own.

Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Leek-y Meatballs

I’m going to be honest.  I’m a terrible meatball maker.  I’m also a terrible meatball namer.  They taste great, but generally look horrible and leek-y? I couldn’t come up with something better?

I don’t know how people get their meatballs to be round and beautiful.  Mine end up a little bit like patties, but they taste awesome.

Because they taste awesome, I really can’t complain.  So let me tell you about these (slightly ugly but delicious) meatballs.

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What I love about these meatballs is that the vegetables are still a little bit crunchy, so they have a great texture.  But what I REALLY love is the peanut sauce that went with it.  I intended to make Italian flavored meatballs with added leeks, but then I tried them and they reminded me of potsticker filling, so I decided to go for an Asian twist.  And thus peanut sauce was necessary.  Peanut Sauce is the perfect addition.  I’m totally into it.    

 

The other magical part of this meal is that it’s almost paleo and 100% healthy.  The paleo part doesn’t really matter to me, but the healthy part does.  I’m always looking for great-tasting healthy recipes, that’s why I’m such a big fan of this.  That said, if the paleo part matters to you, use almond butter or sunflower butter in place of peanut butter and it’s 100% paleo! ZucchiniPeanutNoodles4

Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Leek-y Meatballs

6 zucchinis, spiralized or julienned
1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp olive oil

For Peanut Sauce:

1/4 cup coconut aminos (or low sodium soy sauce, if paleo doesn’t matter to you)
1-4 tbsp water*
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter or almond butter if you want to make it paleo)
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 small knob of fresh ginger (about 1 inch, about 1 tbsp)
1 tsp sriracha, or more to taste (optional)

 

Make meat balls.  Combine turkey, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, leeks, egg, salt and pepper using your hands.  Roll into 25-30 small balls (a little larger than a walnut).  Heat olive oil in a pan.  Cook meat balls about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until cooked through.  Alternatively, you can bake them at 450F on a parchment paper lined sheet for about 25-30 minutes.  (Note: I made these another time but I caramelized the onions and leeks first and it was awesome.  Just saying… in case you want to try that)

 

Next make peanut sauce.  Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until well combined. *I’ve made the sauce with 4 tbsp of water, it’s a bit runny, which I like, but if you want it thicker, use less.  You might need to adjust the coconut aminos to make sure it’s not too salty.

 

Toss zucchini noodles with sauce (reserve some extra peanut sauce for drizzling), plate noodles, top with meat balls and drizzle with extra peanut sauce.   Garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts if you’d like.  If not, just serve and devour.   I’m having a really hard time deciding the serving size for this recipe because I eat massive amounts of vegetables.  This recipe will serve about 4 people, but I got 3 meals out of it with left over meatballs (because I tend to eat more vegetables than meat).

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I’ve made this twice now and loved it both times.  It’s pretty quick and easy, but seriously tasty.  I recommend it, if you’re looking for a tasty meal to add to your healthy dinner rotation.

 

Do you have any awesome meatball-making tips?

Ceviche de Jaiba

I’ve been agonizing over this post for about two weeks now.  I’ve had a million ideas about what to write and none of them seemed to work out.  Instead of agonizing any further, let’s talk about what led up to the amazing recipe I’m going to share with you… It all started with a hike… a 10 mile hike to a bridge where people were bungee jumping.  If you’re in the LA area and have never been to the Bridge to Nowhere, I recommend it.

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Given how NOT graceful I am when it comes to balance, I’m really impressed that I could cross streams on rocks and logs.  I think the hike is medium difficulty, and overall really fun.  It took us about five and a half hours.  On the way back, we were all ready to be done, because it was hot and we ran out of water.  Clearly a bad combo.  Next time, I’m bringing a water filter and a swim suit.  There were tons of little pools in the stream for swimming.  It would have been great to swim given the heat.

That particular day, my legs were sore.  The previous week, I had hurt my arm at crossfit.  While I let it heal, I modified all my workouts to involve only lower body movements.  Basically I just squatted and ran for a week.  Then on Saturday, Allison and I ran.  So by Sunday, my legs were toast.  This hike did them in.  By the end of the hike, all I wanted to do was drink a gallon of water and sit for a bit.  Being the dream boat that he is, Jesse made this:

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I’m going to go ahead and say that this is really his recipe, but I’m sharing it with you because it’s damn delicious.  Gentlemen, make this for your lady.  She will appreciate it.

Ceviche de Jaiba

1lbs imitation crab meat, shredded (or Real Crab meat)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 4 limes
salt to taste
Avocado and Chips/Tostadas, for serving  

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve with sliced avocado on a tostada or with chips and cover in hot sauce.  Jesse likes to put ketchup on his too.  That was tasty enough but I was a big fan of the hot sauce.  You can also add fresh sliced jalapeños or habanero peppers for some extra heat.

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This ceviche with a nice cold beer was the BEST post-hike meal.  It’s light and citrus-y, and if made by a nice fella… it’s pretty much everything a girl could ask for.  I can’t wait to go on another hike and eat this again.

What’s your favorite place to hike? How about post-hike meal?

Moroccan Spice Blend

As we’ve previously discussed, dinner is a struggle for me.  Waking up at 5:15am to workout, then going to work all day leaves me little motivation to make a meal when 5:30pm rolls around, especially if it’s just for me.  I’m one of those people that prefers to cook for others.  Cooking for myself is extremely unappealing.

When Jesse has dinner with me, it’s awesome.  I tend to make an actual meal, but most days, on my own, I tend to snack.  So I’m trying to come up with better solutions.  My number one solution right now is to keep it simple.

So in my quest to keep things simple, yet flavorful, I discovered a Moroccan Spice Blend that is so versatile you can basically kick up any plain dish without adding fat.  The best part is you can control how much salt goes in it.

moroccan spice blend

Moroccan Spice Blend

Adapted from Epicurious

1 tsp  cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt (or less if you’d like)*
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp  cinnamon
1/2 tsp  coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp mace

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Combine all ingredients until well blended.  Store in an air tight container until ready to use.

*Feel free to adjust the amount of salt.  You can completely omit it, if you’re trying to go low sodium.  You can also add more if you like things salty (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt, but I tried that and thought it was too much.  1/2 tsp was more to my liking).

I mixed up a bunch to keep on hand for easy meals.  So far using this blend I’ve made: Moroccan Spiced Chicken Thighs and Moroccan Spice Tilapia.

Super easy! In both cases, I sprinkled the chicken (bone-in thighs, skin and excess fat removed) or fish generously with the spice blend and baked.  Both times it turned out awesome! I can’t wait to keep making this. If you’re interested, I can do a full recipe post on either of these.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Tonight, the ultimate quick dinner for 1:  I took a piece of tilapia, covered it in moroccan spice blend, then roasted it along side some asparagus for 17 minutes at 400F.  Done in less than 20 minutes, and easy clean up.  I like it.

Give this Moroccan Spice Blend a try! It’s a great way to add a ton of flavor while still keeping things healthy.

What’s your favorite quick and easy weeknight meal?

Healthy Baked Turkey Meatballs

This past weekend was a very Italian weekend for me.  I went to the Getty Villa.

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If you’re in Southern California and haven’t been to the Getty Villa, you should go.  I grew up here and had never been.  It’s a beautiful museum built to look like a villa you would around Pompeii or Herculanum around 30 AD.  It’s seriously beautiful, not to mention the exhibits are awesome.

To add to the Southern Italian-ness of the weekend, Jesse and I also saw Pompeii.  While I question the historical accuracy, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s as if Titanic and Gladiator came together to make one ridiculous film.

If there’s one thing Pompeii taught me, it’s that Jon Snow is hot in a skirt.  After leaving the theatre, the one thing both Jesse and I had to comment on was Jon Snow‘s abs (because Kit Harington will forever be known as Jon Snow to me).

Image source: Torontosun.com

First we thought, those have to be digitally enhanced or airbrushed.  No one can have abs like that.  Of course then the conversation transitioned to: how does one get those abs?

I did some research.  Basically, if you want abs you have to lose fat and build muscle (no surprises here). Vanity Fair confirmed with an interview by the actors of the movie:

The four-hour workout: two hours of fight training with weapons, an hour of weight lifting, an hour of cardio, and an 1,800-calorie diet “designed specifically for our bodies to be attuned to lose fat and pop out muscles,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje told us.

Great.

So for the rest of us that aren’t working out for four hours a day or consuming a diet “designed specifically for our bodies to be attuned to lose fat and pop out muscles,” we should probably just stick to eating clean and maybe increasing our protein.

I’m not really in the market for Jon Snow abs (yep, that’s what I’m calling them now), but getting fit is always a good idea.  So to help you in that direction, I made you dinner:

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Healthy Baked Turkey Meatballs

1 lb lean ground turkey (from 1 package in the meat section)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Using your hands work together all ingredients and form into golf-ball sized meat balls.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through (note: this might vary depending of the size of your meatballs and your oven). healthyturkeymeatballs2

Serve over cauliflower puree, on spaghetti squash or with your vegetable of choice and enjoy!  This recipe will make about 20 meatballs.

This low carb (paleo, gluten-free) meal will get you in the right direction to getting those Jon Snow abs.  Or if you’re like me and you just want to be a little bit healthy, to balance out an enormous piece of cake, this meal is great for that too.

Anyone else see Jon Snow’s abs in Pompeii and have their jaw drop?

2013 Highlights

I hate to be that person, but I’m going to say it: I can’t believe 2013 is coming to a close.  Seriously, where did the year go?

I remember when I was in college, my friend Hazel would laugh at me because I recounted my days through my meals.  So in traditional Karla (Foodologie) fashion, let me recount my year by favorite things I made/ate.

In January, I was all sorts of awesome (modest, right?).  I made two of my favorite things:

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Bourbon Banana Pie

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Orange-Pistachio Biscotti

Seriously, those are probably my two favorite sweets I made all year.  So much so that I made them for Christmas.  After January, I had clearly eaten too much pie and biscotti so I felt the need to do a crazy thing: a 30 day paleo challenge.

30daypaleochallenge

It was a shit storm, for lack of better words.  If you want to relive that (I don’t, but that’s cool), check out these posts:

Paleo Challenge: Day 1
Paleo Challenge:
Day 2
Paleo Challenge: Day 3 & 4
Paleo Challenge: Day  5, 6, & 7
Paleo Challenge: Day 8 (Plus 1 Week Thoughts)
Paleo Challenge: Day 9 & 10
Paleo Challenge: Day 11
Paleo Challenge: Day 13 (apparently 12 doesn’t exist?)
Paleo Challenge: Ending Early  <— spoiler I quit!
Life After the Paleo Challenge

But after Paleo, I became a semi-normal person again.  I tried to make healthy things

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Like Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash

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and Eggplant Rolls to balance out my ridiculous desire to ALWAYS eat cake

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This year, I also made awesome blogger friends.  Now I can say Allison from Sweet Potato Bites and Samantha from Little Ferraro Kitchen are real life friends, which is cool!  Who wants to be real life friends next year?

(photo stolen from Sweet Potato Bites)

This year I also decided food parties were a good idea. So I started with a Fried Chicken and Waffles party.

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Because I had never fried chicken and that seemed like a good idea.  It was.

Then Allison and I teamed up with Peanut Butter & Co and threw a Peanut Butter Party.

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That was all sorts of fun.  Next year, I’d like to do a pancake party, a cocktail party and, if we get crazy, a tamale making party, because why not?

Then let’s not forget how in 2013 I became obsessed with protein powders.  And it continues because I keep putting protein powder in everything, like these pancakes

pumpkinproteinpancakes4But the highlight of the year for me was our trip to Peru

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We hiked, we ate guinea pig, saw llamas, walked everywhere and had a great time.  It was amazing.  I only wish it could have been longer.

Now that 2013 is almost over, I’m excited for 2014.  I hope you’ll follow me along next year as I continue to make sweets and healthy things to cut the guilt.  I promise I’ll keep the crossfit talk to a minimum and I’ll keep taking pictures of myself in dressing rooms and sharing those, like this shirt I bought yesterday…shirt

Just kidding! Well, actually, no I’ll probably still do that, but I promise one day I’ll get over that habit.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve filled with Champagne, goodies, friends and family! I wish you the best in the New Year and thank you for following my blog in 2013!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Life After the Paleo Challenge

A few months ago, I was frustrated with my body and how I felt.  I’m a firm believer in the idea that your diet can affect how you feel about yourself. So I decided I wanted to try to do a 30 Day Paleo Challenge.

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Remember that?

Yeah I had a terrible time and ended the challenge after 14 days.  It’s funny because I was miserable but that post has become one of the most popular posts on my blog (after Samoas Bars and Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash).  Paleo really wasn’t for me, and I came to terms with the fact that I need to listen to my body and NOT force a lifestyle on myself just because it’s popular.

Today, I went to lunch with some co-workers to 118 Degrees.  It’s a raw, vegan restaurant.  Afterward, another co-worker who didn’t go with us, asked me what I thought.  I said it was tasty.  He suggested I try a vegan diet for 30 days.

I said no thanks.

I’m not against vegans.  As a former vegetarian, I’m ok with meat-free meals.  But the real reason I said no is I think I’ve finally figured out what works for me.  So I figured I’d go ahead and tell you a little bit about how I figured it out.

Note: this is just what I’ve found works for me.  I’m not a nutritionist or advocating you eat the way I do.  I’m just sharing what works for me in hopes it’ll help you figure out what works for you. 

It’s All About Balance

This is going to sound cheesy, but what works for me is balance.  I know you’ve heard it a million times, but really, being able to have everything in moderation keeps me sane.  So just to give you a little bit of a breakdown, this is what an average day look like:

Breakfast:

greensmoothie

Green Smoothie: 1/2 frozen banana, 5-6 frozen mango chunks, handful of spinach, handful of kale, protein powder, water and ice.

After I did my search for the best protein powder, I bought some Garden of Life Vanilla protein.  Then Garden of Life was nice enough to send me some Raw Fit to try, it has more protein and green coffee bean extract and a bunch of other stuff.  That stuff is seriously amazing.  Flavor-wise, the vanilla raw protein is better tasting, but Raw Fit seriously keeps me full for 4-5 hours.  And that’s even after crossfit.  I’m amazed.  I hate to sound like an ad for Garden of Life, but I’m definitely buying the Raw Fit as soon as I run out.

Lunch:

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I rarely ever buy lunch.  Honestly, most weeks I eat the exact same thing for lunch everyday, just because I cook once per week and eat leftovers.

When putting together my meals, I try to keep this ratio in mind: 2 parts vegetable, 1 part whole grain, 1 part protein.

So here are some examples of lunches I’ve been having recently:

  • Tilapia with cumin and paprika, with Quinoa Salad
  • Kale salad (just kale with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) with ground turkey cooked in spices with bulgur wheat
  • Kale salad with rotisserie chicken and rice
  • Kale salad (can you tell I’m obsessed) with a veggie patty

Honestly, I eat a lot of kale salad because it holds up well and there’s no cooking involved.  I can throw it together in the morning, put dressing (really just olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) on it and it’s not soggy and gross like other salads would be by lunch.  Also, I just think it tastes good, which is important.  Lunch should be fun, even if it’s healthy.

Dinner:

meatsauceoverpolentaOk I wish this was my dinner all the time but yeah right.

Especially now that it’s been hot, the last thing I want to do is cook, but I’ve been trying.  Either way, the fact that breakfast and lunch were so healthy makes me feel better about eating a banana with peanut butter and ice cream for dinner.  Not that I recommend that, but baby steps right?

But I’ve been working on it.  Recently I’ve made:

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  • Grilled Pizza and grilled corn
  • Grilled Tilapia

Now that it gets cooler, I’ll concentrate on making more stews (which I’m a huge fan of). Like:

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Caldo de Pollo

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Coconut Curry

In a Nutshell…

Overall, I feel better about life.  And honestly, making sure I go to Crossfit at least 3 times a week really helps.

But in terms of diet, I’ve found a few key things:

1. More protein early in the day helps keep me fuller longer.  Raw Fit has 28g of protein per serving.  That’s a lot.  I’m thinking of trying two scoops of the raw protein when I run out of Raw Fit to see how that tastes/feels (that would be 32g of protein, woah! too much?).

2. Whole grains help keep me full and satisfied.  I still try not to eat too much bread, because that’s processed but I’ve been having of whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, and barley.  But even then, I usually only have about 1/2 cup at a time.  Moderation is key.

3. I like eating a lot of vegetables.  If I concentrate on having 4-5 servings of vegetables per day, I feel great and usually end up eating pretty healthy.

4. Snacks aren’t essential and actually discouraged.  I can’t really snack.  Once I start, I have a hard time stopping the consumption process until I’m full.  I’d rather just eat meals.  Might not work for everyone but works for me.

5. Nothing is off limits.  I’m more likely to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full when I don’t feel like I can’t have a certain food.  On the Paleo challenge, I remember I was constantly thinking about what I could eat.  Lately, I just haven’t found myself worrying about that, which is great.  I mean, let’s be honest, as a foodie, I constantly think of food, but now it’s things I want to make, as opposed to thinks I want to eat.  That said, I am conscious to not over eat certain things.  I always want to eat 3 pieces of cake and 4 slices of pizza, but I stop myself because I can always have more later when I’m hungry if I still want it.  So while I can have everything, that doesn’t mean stuff my face to the point of feeling ill.  I’m definitely guilty of doing that at times, but I’m trying to keep it under wraps.

In retrospect, I’m still glad I tried Paleo for a few weeks (despite how miserable it was).  I still think if you haven’t found what works for you, you should definitely give it a try, because it could be amazing for you.

I just found that lots of vegetables with some grain and protein is the best strategy for me.  No labels, just real food.  Overall, I try to eat well 70-80 percent of the time.   That helps keep me happy and healthy.

The other 20-30 percent of the time involves things like this…

IMG_8958Oh wait, that was only true when I lived in Italy.  Now it looks more like this…

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Because Bacon = ‘Merika!

I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to eat less of that stuff, but I guess that’s the lifelong struggle of a sugar addict?

Have you figured out what works for you? Do you love paleo? Is a vegetarian or vegan diet what keeps you happy or healthy? Are you still figuring it out?  Tell me where you’re at!

Healthy Chocolate Smoothie

I love dessert, and I love feeding people dessert almost as much (or maybe even more) than I like eating it myself.  But some days,  I have a major guilt trip.  Today is one of those days.  I know sugar is terrible for your health.  I shouldn’t eat so much of it, and sometimes I feel guilty that I feed my loved ones baked goods so often.

I generally think I’m a pretty health-conscious person,  but then I turn around and make things like this:

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I know dessert makes me happy, but I also know I shouldn’t be eating it all the time so I give it away.  So pretty much I’m a jerk, a jerk that pawns off things that are too unhealthy for her to eat onto other people.  And when jerks feel guilty, they turn to fruits and vegetables.

I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m about 293048292 years late to the party and finally watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and this article I read in National Geographic about Sugar.  That documentary didn’t convince me that I need to start juicing, but it did remind me that fruits and vegetables are always a good idea. The sugar article just reinforced my original idea that I need to eat less sugar. I’m not a nutritionist, but it seems like juices are lacking fiber and all the healthy things you get from the skins of fruits and vegetables. No? So instead of juice, I’m sticking to smoothies and less sugar.

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I’ve been having green smoothies for years.  My normal go-to combination was strawberry, banana, spinach.  But I decided to try a new combo to help me get past my enormous cravings for big handfuls of chocolate chips in the evenings.  It’s a bad habit.  So let’s replace it with something better:

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Healthy Chocolate-y Smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks (I eye ball it)
1-2 cup frozen spinach (I really just grab a huge handful and shove it in the blender)
1 date, pitted
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or more if you want it more chocolate-y)
1 cup ice
1/2-1 cup water or almond milk (this might vary)

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  In my Vitamix, I don’t need that much water and I can get it to be pretty thick.

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I actually eat it with a spoon!  Note: This makes one large smoothie for one person.

The key here is really the cocoa powder.

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You get the chocolate-y flavor without all the sugar.  The sweetness here comes from fruit, particularly the date.

It’s not like eating a Wendy’s frosty. Let’s be clear.  It’s not.  But it’s pretty darn tasty and it definitely helps me get my chocolate fix in a much healthier way.

So what do you think?  Is it bad to feed your friends and family unhealthy foods?  Should I (or you) feel guilty about it?

Easy Roasted Chicken with Vegetables and Being Fearless

My friend Liz texted me this weekend with a quote from a book she’s reading: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This couldn’t come at a better time, because I spent half the day having a mild panic attack. I made a very large purchase.  An investment is more what I like to call it.

It arrived around 11am, but I couldn’t bring myself to open it until about 7pm.

I bought a new camera.  You’re probably thinking… are you nuts? I’d be so excited.  I am!  But I’m also slightly scared out of my mind, because not only am I terrified of spending money but I bought this camera with a purpose.  To try something new and pursue something different.  I’m going to be vague and all sorts of mysterious until I get my act together.  But what it comes down to is that I need to be fearless, because I have no reason to be afraid.

I realize that to many people I might seem like a risk-taker.  I’m perfectly fine with traveling across the world on my own.  I’m not scared of getting lost or trying new things.  I love walking around foreign cities on my own.  But everything I do, I do because I know I’ll be good at it.

I know what I’m good at, and I hate being bad at things.  So sometimes I stay in the safe zone.

The best comparison I can draw is roasted chicken.  Like this roasted chicken dinner that I shot with my old Canon Rebel Xsi on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is safe and simple.  We know it’ll taste good with minimal prep work required.  All you need is olive oil, salt, pepper, chicken, onion, tomato and summer squash, put it in the oven at 425F for 45-60 minutes.

The oven does the work for you.  It’s quick, easy and safe.  Roasted chicken is one of those things I know I make well.   Roasted Chicken2

But for now, I’m working on being fearless.  No more roasted chicken for a while. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to try new things and invest in things I want to accomplish.  I shouldn’t let fear get in the way, because fear only makes matters worse.

So I pose that question again to myself, and to you: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 

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