Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March: Days 24-30

I cannot believe I am sitting here writing this on our LAST day of our 30-day paleo experiment.  Today is day 30, and we totally survived.  There were days when it felt ridiculously hard and unmanageable, and many days where I barely even thought about it and life felt normal as can be.  Overall, it was an incredible learning experience and has altered the way we will think about and approach food for a long, long time.

As for where these last 7 seven days landed on the Whole30 timeline, we had the last few days of the TIGER BLOOD phase on days 24-27, a day 28 interlude of trying to convince ourselves that 28 days is just as good as 30, followed by what is hilariously and accurately coined the "HolyOprahIt'sAlmostOverWhatAmIGoingToEatNow?!?!?!" phase on days 29-30.

As I mentioned here and here regarding the other parts of our TIGER BLOOD! phase, I think we both did see changes in our energy levels.  However, I personally think many of the benefits of eating paleo were slightly offset for me by the fact that this experiment coincidentally coincided with some of the most stressful weeks of my life (work-related ... long story ... don't ask), so given the fact that high amounts of stress certainly affect things like energy levels, weight gain and loss and even skin issues, I'm feeling like I kind of got the shaft on experiencing some of the benefits. But I'll get into that a bit more later....

Phil and I both definitely did have moments in our last few days where we were presented with opportunities to indulge (like post-work happy hours or lunch with friends), and the thought did enter our minds to just say "welllllll we've learned a lot and have experienced what it's like.... let's just call it good."  But knowing we'd kick ourselves for not lasting the entire 30 days, we both stuck it out! If nothing else, this is a great experiment in simple willpower.

Additionally, yes, our brains have been very occupied over the last few days with what life will be like post-paleo-experiment.  The notion of being "allowed" to eat anything is indeed quite overwhelming.  Phil and I planned to treat ourselves to something delicious we have been deprived of, and we haven't even nailed down what it is we want to treat ourselves to because there are just. so. many. options.  French fries? Chocolate cake? Beer? Chips and salsa? We don't want to go NUTS and just indulge in everything, because a) that defeats the purpose and b) I'm sure we'd regret smashing our bodies with a wrecking ball of junk food later.  But the thought of narrowing down just one treat to have is hard. Ironically, the notion of reintroducing paleo-approved items that are generally off-limits during Whole30 experiments or other, more strict, paleo phases is absolutely thrilling.  Red wine? Dark chocolate? Honey? Don't mind if I do!!

Regardless, the burning question at the end of this journey is obviously "so, what now?" Phil and I have decided to try to eat paleo long-term as much as possible.  We plan to try to follow the 80/20 rule that many paleo-ers follow, which just means eating paleo 80% of the time, and allowing treats and indulgences in non-paleo foods 20% of the time (or about 1-3 meals a week).  Given the stressful month I've had, and just the acknowledgement that really, 30 days is not that long, I believe that many benefits of eating this way are yet to come (especially for me), so I want to give myself some more time to let my body continuing to adjust and seeing how it affects me long-term.  And, just overall, Phil and I have enjoyed knowing we are eating healthier and just being more mindful and intentional with what we eat.

Our last Whole30 dinner - paleo burger and sweet potato fries!

So wow. There you have it. 30 days. We did it. I will surely continue to share our ongoing paleo adventures (such as recipes and our first attempt at paleo camping, etc), so keep on comin' back if you've enjoyed the ride so far. Thanks for tagging along on this craziness. And thanks to all our friends and family who had to deal with us turning down offers to go out, demanding there be ample meat available to us wherever we go, or generally moaning and groaning while we watched them eat cookies.

Monday, March 31, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March: Days 19-23

*If you are keeping track, you might realize that this blog post is coming a bit late - today actually marks the big day 3-0 for us (gasp!), but I didn't get a chance to post this until now, so let's travel back in time for a bit.... and I will post about the remaining days and the end (gasp!) of our 30 day journey asap!*

Well, here we are, the 3-week mark of our experience came and went without much bravado. Really, we are just chugging along in our day-to-day, with paleo eating feeling more and more like the norm.  According to Whole30, we are still supposed to be in the TIGER BLOOD! that we started up in days 16-18.  Additionally, day 21 is supposed to be a small interlude, where for whatever reason you snap a little bit and just. want. to. eat. some. damn. junk. food.  So where are we at with all of this?

Tiger blood - well, we both arguably have lots more energy throughout the day, more sustained energy and really do not "crash" or ever feel starving.  I think Phil is feeling the tiger blood a bit more than I am (which is okay, because that's the thing he was hoping for most, so I'm glad he's feeling it).  I have been dealing with loads of stress on the job-front, so I'm thinking that is dragging my energy levels down a bit, so I'm still hanging with my kitty blood, for now.

As for the interlude, I actually did experience it exactly on day 21.  I went to the grocery store after work on Friday, and after an extremely stressful week, I was looking for the chance to treat myself/relax/indulge/etc, and just DID NOT want to plan another meal of meat. and veggies. But, alas, I pushed through and made what ended up being a yummy, and relatively simple, easy meal of stuffed peppers and brussel sprouts with bacon (mmm... bacon!).

Since then I've found continuing on to be much easier.  We are close enough now to the end of our 30 days that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel - so now we can fantasize about what treats we will indulge in when we are done and it feels more like a reality, rather than a fantasy (although, as we've progressed, those cravings and food fantasies have become less and less enticing. I'd still kill for a piece of chocolate cake, though). 

A big milestone this weekend, though, was navigating our first potluck.  We were invited over to a friend's house for game night, and the plan was for everyone to bring some food to share.  LUCKILY the main dishes being provided were meat (pot roast with some veggies, and a rotisserie chicken).  There were also some mashed potatoes and chips and salsa, and key lime pie (oh, the key lime pie) which we had to gaze at from afar.  But we were able to bring a yummy side dish AND an appetizer that were paleo friendly as well as yummy for all, paleo or not (or at least I'd like to think so). 

Starting with our appetizer, we simply brought a variety of veggies, and homemade paleo ranch veggie dip (which I made using this recipe).


For the side dish, Phil and I collaborated to create a paleo version of swirled potatoes.  Traditionally, this recipe involves white potatoes and sweet potatoes swirled together.  To make it paleo, we swapped out the white potatoes for mashed cauliflower.  It turned out delicious - and since I could not for the life of me find a recipe for this (so we had to totally wing it), I will share the recipe soon for all to enjoy. In the meantime, here's a picture of the deliciousness for you to gaze at.

Hard to believe we only have  5 more days before our month-long experiment is over.  I'll wait until the end to share our plans moving forward, but I will say now that saying it will be "over" at that point is inaccurate.

And our next big challenge will be paleo-friendly camping!! I find it incredibly ironic that living in the wilderness for 4 days actually presents a CHALLENGE in eating like cavepeople.... but that's how the grain-free dairy-free sugar-free cookie crumbles, y'all.  Until next time....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March: Days 16-18

Well, here we are, in the beginning stages of the namesake phase of this whole experiment... days 16-27 are, according to Whole30 folks, the days you are supposed to feel TIGER BLOOD aka energy upon energy upon energy upon loose pants upon delicious food experiments upon Hulk-style workouts.

Do we have tiger blood yet? Well.. as Phil put it yesterday, it's more like kitty blood. We are both feeling more sustained energy throughout the day, but we are definitely not leaping buildings with a single bound or anything like that.  In fact, day 16, for me, was quite the opposite, where I seemed to have a resurgence of the "I just want a nap" phase of days 6 & 7, during which time I was just absolutely exhausted all day.  I think our bodies are just definitely still adjusting... good news is, the digestive adjustments seem to be coming to a close. Joy!

The successful food experiments have indeed continued, though, and we are finding more and more recipes and dishes that are delicious! I adapted a recipe that Phil's mom sent us, that I'm lovingly calling "Bag-O-Dinner!"  It required just a couple tiny adaptations to become paleo-friendly, and I like this recipe because it's easily tweaked to fit with a variety of protein/veggie combos - so it's more of a formula than a recipe and you can throw whatever you have in the fridge in there, which makes it pretty easy and "omgidonotwanttocookandwedonothaveanyfood" friendly.

Paleo Bag-O-Dinner
(recipe adapted from "One-Shot-Deal Dinner" from "Eat to Lose, Lose to Win" by Rachel Beller)

2 cups veggies of your choosing, cut into bize-size pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
4 oz fillet of fish of your choosing (almost any fish will work - cod, halibut, salmon, tilapia, etc.)
1/2 tsp coconut aminos
1/4 cup vegetable broth
Splash of white wine
Lemon wedges
Seasonings of your choice

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Lay a large rectangle of parchment paper on a baking sheet; place all veggies and garlic on one end of the rectangle, and season lightly with salt and pepper
  • Place fish on top of veggies; brush with coconut aminos
  • Sprinkle vegetable broth and white wine on top of fish and veggies
  • Fold parchment paper in half, covering the fish and veggies, and crimp the edges to seal it completely (you'll end up with what looks like a giant calzone... mmmmm. Calzones.)
  • Bake for 15-35 minutes (depending on what veggies you used and how strong your oven is, cook time will vary)
  • Set aside to cool for 5 minutes; sprinkle lemon juice on top; serve.
Every teacher I ever had ever says visual aids are a good thing:

Our Bags-O-Dinner ready to go into the oven

And here's what you find inside! Om nom nom.

This is one of those recipes that once you have the formula down in your head, you could easily whip this up without thinking too much about it. And it's so nice you can mix it up with whatever fish and veggies you have on hand.  We used halibut with onion, zucchini and carrots, and I added a sprig each of thyme and rosemary for seasoning.  It was delicious, and easy, and will only get easier with time. Hurrah!

On the house front, I will have lots of updates to share soon.  In the meantime, can I just proclaim how much of a house-nerd I've become given how excited I got this morning when I found a lamp we've been eyeing on a clearance website for $50 less than regular price?! Booyeah.  Maybe once this TIGER BLOOD! thing kicks in, we'll be able to wrap up all the lingering projects we have going on so I can finally share all of the updates we've been making. Rawr!

Monday, March 17, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March: Days 12-15

Well, here we are, at the halfway mark, and still going strong! These  last three days, according to the folks at Whole30, are supposed to be the days in which we start feeling some of those awesome benefits of paleo, like boundless energy and better fitting pants.  But this is also the phase during which time we are supposed to have pregnant-lady style dreams about food. Basically, our brains are supposed to be trying to force us back into our comfort zones by craving weird junkables. 

So far, energy levels are good (the 2pm crash has all but disappeared from my life), and my pants are for sure looser.  The night of day 13, Phil and I both dreamt of food (for him, it was bite sized Baby Ruths and Butterfingers - for me, it was deep-dish pizza).  Day 14 involved a series of random cravings (damn you Ikea and your cinnamon roll scented house of temptation!!), but not one craving caving has occurred.

Our digestive systems are still working out some kinks for sure, but mentally we've both fallen pretty solidly into the habits of paleo... to the point where it doesn't take much thought at this point as far as whan can we eat? What can't we eat? Feels pretty automatic to us at this point, and the extra "work" of preparing food just feels like the norm.

Friday night, we did both feel extremely uninterested in cooking, so we got to have our first paleo-take-out experience, which just involved ordering up 3 lbs of meat from a local barbeque joint...

Meat meat meat! (Fear not, we did not eat all of this meat in one sitting. It provided leftovers that has lasted us 3 days and counting).  We baked up some kale and broccoli real quick to have with it, and enjoyed our PaleoChef Peach Barbecue sauce on top. 

Not to shabby! Nice that we can still enjoy the luxury of paying people to bring food to our doorstep.

We now get to embark on the next phase, which is the namesake of this whole endeavor... TIGER BLOOD!!!!! To be continued......

Thursday, March 13, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March - Days 10 & 11

Well, Phil and I were able to fork-five over our delicious stuffed acorn squash last night because we made it through day 10 without quitting! According to Whole30, days 10 & 11 are the hardest days, with day 10 being the day you are most likely to quit the whole thing altogether and go on a cake bender.  But, alas, we did not! We didn't even come close, really.  It helped that for dinner we were able to whip up a paleo-version of a dish we make all the time, so it was quite easy to even just ignore the fact entirely that we were doing anything different. 

The dish that helped get us through, you might ask? Apple and Bacon Acorn Squash, which I adapted from a recipe by Door to Door Organics (the nice people who leave a box of organic produce on our front stoop every week).  It's almost paleo-friendly as is, but with a few minor substitutions it is 100% paleo friendly....

Here are the ingredients:

6 slices bacon      
3 small carrots       
1 acorn squash       
½ cups sliced almonds       
1 tbs maple syrup  
1/8 cups heavy cream  The cream and syrup can be left out entirely and the dish would still be delicious, but we substituted some of my homemade paleo coffee creamer (coconut milk and date puree) and it turned out a-ok.
¼ cups breadcrumbs (optional)  This is optional to begin with, so is easily left out (which is what we did), but you could theoretically sub some ground up nuts or something like that to mimic the effect of breadcrumbs.
1 large apple       
1/8 cups white wine      
salt and pepper to taste

Oh, and we in the past have added bleu cheese to the recipe as a delicious little extra topping, so we of course had to leave that out.  But all in all, it was still extremely delicious and filling.

I also decided to treat us by attempting to make paleo banana bread.  I adapted this recipe from Civilized Caveman.  Basically I just left out the baking soda and baking powder, since they are not technically paleo during those more strict experimental phases like we are in (long-term, they'd be acceptable in moderation, I believe).  I also cut the recipe in half because Phil ate two of the four bananas I was planning to use.  Silly, banana-eating Phil. 

Of course, there is a lot of debate around paleo baked goods.  Some people believe trying to make the foods you used to eat and would crave and indulge in fit into the paleo box defeats the purpose of overcoming food habits, etc., because you are still satisfying that part of you that craves sweet, bread-y yummables.  Willy Wonka is a skeptic for sure...

But, whatever, we had some overly ripe bananas, and all the other ingredients on hand, so I went for it. 

What's the verdict on paleo baked goods, you may be wondering?  Disappointing.  The texture is good and moist, but the flavor leaves a bit to be lacking. Sugar, namely.  In hindsight, I wish I had thrown some date paste in the mix to add a bit more sweet flavor.  Next time.  

 Long-term, I think I'd rather just save the baked goods for my cheat meals, and eat the real deal.  But good to know there are options for making quasi-baked goods that are paleo if the need arises.  I probably won't experiment with baked goods beyond this during our 30 days. Not worth it.

Lastly, check out the delicious soup Phil made.  That right there is Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Soup.  So good. The only thing missing was something crunchable (I have a weird need to chew all my food - soups, ice creams, etc., that don't have chunks of stuff that require chewing are not appealing to me), so I threw in some crushed up cashews. Om. Nom. Nom.

Monday, March 10, 2014

TIGER BLOOD! March: Days 8&9

Alrighty, well, we are officially into week 2.  Days 8 & 9, according to the folks at Whole30, is supposed to be the day we curse Ryan Gosling because our pants are actually tighter than before (due to bloating, etc., as your gut heals and continues to adjust).  I'd say I maintain my netural feelings towards Ryan Gosling, as my pants are fitting just fine, if not a little better, thanks.  Plus, Ryan supports my experiment, so I really shouldn't be too harsh on him...

 I may be experiencing other digestive adjustment issues (I'll spare you the details), but nothing too significant.  Still just adjusting both mentally and physically is the name of the game. 

So far one thing about this experience that has downright shocked me, mostly due to naivety I guess, is the cost of this experiment. I'm talking financial cost. 

We speculated we'd actually save money on food this month, seeing as how we pretty much wouldn't be eating out at all.  Oh, were we mistaken.  Nine days in and we've already blown through the majority of our food budget for this month.  Granted, we did a fair amount of stockpiling meat and basic staples in the beginning so our costs were probably (hopefully) front loaded within the month, but we will for certain still need to make quite a few trips to the store before the month is over.  And, paleo food is downright expensive.  Buying organic fruits and veggies, and organic and/or grass-fed meat ain't cheap.  So that has been a painful part of this month.  If anyone knows how to make this more affordable, I'll be eager to listen, because I really can't figure it out. So far all I've managed to do is pay attention to the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen lists and only buy organic when necessary, instead of as a general rule.  But that only saves miniscule amounts, because, of course the most expensive things, and the things we buy most often, are on the Dirty Dozen list (bell peppers? berries? holy cow. so expensive. And we eat so much of them). And of course, organic produce rarely goes on sale. End sob fest.

Money woes aside, I think we are getting better at being able to whip up quicker and easier paleo meals than when we first started.  For times when we don't want to put  a lot of time or effort into cooking dinner (and we normally would just throw some pasta in a pot or have a PB&J sandwich), we've found that grilling up some chicken and throwing it in a salad or roasting up some veggies to go along with it is as mindlessly easy as you can get. So we have done that a couple times so far, and it's pretty painless, and luckily doesn't take all night.

As you can tell, I have discovered the world of paleo memes. So I hope you like memes. Because there will be more. Oh yes. There will be more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Paleo Coffee Conundrum

So as I alluded to here, here and here about my first few days of the 30-day paleo experiment we are embarking on, coffee has been one of my biggest challenges.

I toyed with the idea of forgoing coffee entirely, but decided in the end that enduring the hellish withdrawal to get to the other side of my fierce caffeine dependency was just not something I felt like dealing with.

The problem is.. I like my coffee creamy. And sweet.  And it is difficult to create creamy sweetness with non-sugar, non-dairy, non-soy items. Here's a rundown of my failed (and eventually successful) attempts to continue clutching to my morning ritual of warm, creamy, delicious uppers.


Verdict? Decently sweet and palatable, but not at all creamy.  I used the kind of coconut milk that comes in the milk-carton, rather than the canned type (which is creamier).  So, too watery.


Verdict? Awful. Undrinkable. Somehow the combination of these ingredients made for an unbearably bitter taste.  I tried to choke it down for the sake of my addiction, but couldn't do it. (Hence why I question the source of my day 2 headache)

This is the point at which I went to the interwebs for some ideas, and found some recipes for paleo coffee creamer.  I found one from Deliciously Organic that seemed simple enough (and didn't involve eggs, like some, which grossed me out), and was easily adaptable for various flavors.  So I gave it a try...


COFFEE + PALEO COFFEE CREAMER (pureed dates + canned coconut milk + cinnamon)
Verdict? MUCH better. The dates and coconut milk provide a little bit of creamy sweetness.  However, I started to notice that the bitterness from Attempt #2 came along as I drank my coffee.  I theorized that for some reason the cinnamon was getting increasingly bitter, so on my next batch I left out the cinnamon, and that was definitely much better.  However, since the pureed dates is by no means liquid, it does mean that, especially towards the end of the cup of coffee, you end up kind of chewing your coffee. So... the best option so far, and totally doable, but not ideal. Which is when I finally tried...

COFFEE + BUTTER + COCONUT OIL (aka Bulletproof Coffee)
Verdict? The holy grail of delicious paleo coffee!!

Putting butter and coconut oil in your coffee sounds super gross, I know, it's why it took me a week and 3 failed attempts at making delicious coffee before I finally decided to give it a try.  But it results in a super creamy, tasty, delicious coffee that might even be better than regular non-paleo coffee choices, I swear! To make it you put about 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp grass-fed, unsalted butter or ghee and coffee in a blender and voila....

And the result is kind of like the best damn latte you've ever had - super creamy, with a little bit of foam on top, with a really nice flavor too. I usually have to sweeten my coffee, but it's not even necessary with this (but I did throw a little vanilla extract in it which gave it a nice flavor).  You can certainly flavor this with any other spices or flavorings to kick it up a notch too. 

But for real, this stuff is liquid creamy coffee heaven, and I clearly saved the best for last.  Paleo Coffee Conundrum is officially over.   Bonus points that there are major health benefits (getting the good, healthy oils and fats you need which also help slow down the absorption of the coffee so the caffeine crashes and spikes are no more).  

So there you have it! Now excuse me while I continue to sip on my epically delicious cup of coffee....