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Yes, I am less than a week away from completing my whole30. I haven’t blogged since Day 2 because, at times, I’ve actually forgotten about this challenge all together. I’ve been so consumed with bringing all the creations in my head to life! When making the decision to participate in this challenge, I was somewhat afraid that I would run out of ideas and run out of energy to make the journey seem new and exciting every single day.

It’s funny how eating cleaner has not only cleansed my body but has also rejuvenated my perspective on life. I have always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. But comfort food to me used to equate to lots of rich, buttery, and likely cheesy fattyness I don’t even really regret eating because I can’t deny it was good. Within the past 22 days, I have redefined what comfort food means to me. And, dare I say, I have surprised myself along the way.

People have a lot to say about paleo/whole30. I agree that there are negative aspects, like cutting out milk– as it is a good source of calcium. However, for the most part.. the grain, the starches, and anything with added sugar.. I realize I can really do without. I’ve learned that fresh produce can be equally as satiating when cooked well. If I’m craving something sweet, I immediate think fruit.. dessert.. yes! I’ve grilled, sauteed, baked, boiled, steamed, and Magic Bulleted my way through every meal and I’m absolutely loving how something as simple as careful and conscious preparation can make food taste better!

Let me update you on some of my creations:

Day 3: open faced omelet with sauteed peppers and onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, fresh lime juice, s+p

 

 

 

 

 

chicken salad (roasted chicken breast, avocado, lime , cilantro, onion) on a bed of romaine with apple slices drizzled with cashew butter

 

 

paleo blueberry muffins- made with almond flour, almond butter, and coconut oil

 

 

 

 

zucchini ribbons with mushrooms, coated with a light garlic sauce and topped with chopped almonds

 

 

 

 

smashed strawberry, peach, mango, pineapple, lime filled with pellegrino and finished off with some blueberries

 

Day 4: mixed greens salad with apple, avocado, tomato, green onion, and almond flour and coconut encrusted chicken

Day 5: homemade real fruit popsicle

 

Day 6: paleo pancakes with warm blueberry syrup and bacon on the side

Baked salmon with lemon pepper, steamed veggies, and zucchini bacon scallion fritters

Day 7: grilled burger with lettuce, tomato, homemade guac, and crispy bacon

 

Day 8: salmon with basil and walnut pesto.. And maple glazed sweet potato fries.

Sliced banana, almond butter, blueberries, and toasted coconut

 

Day 9: Zucchini boats with sausage and vegetable marinara filling

Day 10: Egg scramble with bell pepper, salmon, and green onion. And banana and almond butter drizzled with honey

Personal paleo pizza.. leftover sausage marinara, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, olives, arugula, tomato, and basil

Apple sauteed with orange juice and topped with warmed slivered almonds, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey

Day 11: Fried “rice” made with cauliflower.

Day 12: Frozen fruit blended with banana.. nice and thick and refreshing. Better than ice cream!

Day 13: Paleo waffles with warm strawberry syrup

Day 14: BBQed chicken over slaw.

Day 15: Asparagus and sausage frittata

Day 16: Paleo banana pancakes topped with almond butter, warm strawberry syrup, and cinnamon

Day 17: Fish and chips– white fish battered with almond flour and coconut flour, baked sweet potato chips, and roasted red pepper and garlic dip

 

Day 19: Homemade trail mix– almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and toasted coconut. Great snack! I make a big batch so I always have some on hand!

Grilled zucchini, bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, and chicken

Day 20: BBQed pork chop with grilled vegetable, avocado, cilantro, and lime slaw

Frozen mashed banana with toasted coconut mixed in.. topped with warm strawberry sauce, slivered almonds, and extra toasted coconut

Day 21: Fried egg with mixed greens salad drizzled with balsamic

Personal portobello pizza with homemade sauce, hot Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and olives. Also, simple arugula and seasoned sweet potato salad

Day 22: Turkey and spicy sausage meatballs baked and then simmered in homemade marinara sauce.. on top of a sweet potato and roasted red pepper mash.. and arugula salad with avocado, tomatoes, olives, and red onion

Clearly, I had to make up for all the posts I never wrote. As you can tell, most times I’ll use the same ingredients over and over.. but I do try to prepare them differently each time. For some things, like the paleo waffles, pancakes, muffins and almond flour pizza crust, I did search the web for a good recipes to follow. But that’s about it.. for the most part, I’ve been cooking based on my instincts and it’s worked out well so far.

Each day, I’m learning more and more about food and expanding my palate to tastes and food pairings I’ve never really tried before. Since I started my whole30, I have not used any processed foods. Everything, including all the sauces and dips, have been made fresh.

I’m finding that now when I go grocery shopping, I’m usually walking in without a real plan– which is so unlike me. Usually, I make a list and check it twice. But I truly believe that clean eating is really about how food inspires you. I spend the most time in the produce section, circling around a few times to scan all the fresh goodies. Not relying on a list is actually a very freeing experience. I also scope out multiple grocery stores to grab ingredients.. Whole Foods for the freshly ground almond butter, almond and coconut flours, and coconut oil.. Trader Joe’s for just about everything else.. And a few trips to Safeway just because it’s closer.

I hope some of my whole30 creations have made the 30-day challenge a little less intimidating for those of you who are interested. Paleo/whole30 is not difficult at all. But, like all good things, it does take time. I do have lazy days where I contemplate just eating the same meal for a few days in a row. The key to staying motivated and sticking to eating clean is avoiding those lazy moments. I literally open all my cabinets and stand in front of my refrigerator for a few minutes at least once a day– sometimes more when I feel like my creativity is fading– and asking myself “What will I make today?”

 

I’m shocked that I’ve completed Day 22 already. I’ve really never felt better! I’m definitely appreciating and enjoying food so much more and I have also established way more confidence in the kitchen. I know I have a lot more paleo/whole30 left in me! Stay tuned.. it’s not over yet!

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Today is my second day of paleo/whole30. Sometimes, after eating a big pasta meal, the morning after I feel like crap.. like why did I overindulge? I felt so energized and happy. My stomach didn’t feel like I had just grown a food baby overnight.. always a positive.

I had early morning class today, so I was able to establish a routine for school days. I woke up 30 minutes earlier than usual, so I could make a good breakfast before class. My usual cereal in a bowl with milk takes about 1 minute, but that is all over now. I made a quick egg scramble with a little bit of diced onion and tomato. I was in somewhat of a hurry, so I skipped the green bell pepper, avocado, and lettuce.. but that’s all going in tomorrow for sure!

On the way to school, I snacked on an apple that I had sliced up. I wanted to make sure I had enough sustenance because it’s a long class– a pretty quiet class that can definitely hear my loud grumbling stomach. Luckily, I got out of class earlier than I thought, so I was able to get home and relax. I warmed up a spoonful of the turkey filling from last night’s meal and chopped up some lettuce to go with it. Just as good as it was last night. I also snacked on a couple wasabi seaweed and trail mix again. So addicting. But, I realized that I should start putting together make-ahead meals on my days off. Knowing I’m always a little bit lazy after class to do all the prep work, it’ll be much easier to keep up with the plan and also not overeat and scour the refrigerator for something to inhale.

After I gulped down tons of water, I went outside to get some vitamin D. Poolside pilates is my favorite summer activity. I have to take advantage of this beautiful sunshine while I can! My neighbors definitely think I’m crazy.

For dinner, I kept it simple. Roasted chicken, medley of steamed veggies, and kale sauteed with garlic and tossed with chopped walnuts.

Although this was a basic meal, it did take a bit of time.. not that I mind, personally. In order to maximize the flavors from all the fresh produce, it’s important to not rush the process. I steamed the broccoli and carrots. Then set those aside on a plate. Using the same pan, I added a little bit of olive oil, sauteed onions and added mushrooms once the onions were already softened. I threw the broccoli and carrots back into the pan and seasoned it all up with a little bit of salt and pepper. These veggies were amazing! The sweetness of the onions and carrots balanced out the broccoli and mushrooms. I could have just eaten the whole batch of veggies for dinner alone. Using the same plan, I sauteed kale with garlic. Then, I was thinking I needed a little bit of texture and at the last minute added a handful of chopped walnuts.

I’ve been looking on instagram, blogs, etc etc for paleo/whole30 ideas. I feel so inspired looking at what other people are making! Tomorrow is my day off, so I will be on a mission.

A little more pilates before bed and tomorrow is another day!

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Sadly, my camera has been idly uncharged for quite a few months now. However, my new Blackberry is equipped with a WordPress application and a flash camera that will hopefully help me chronicle more of my food adventures.

One of my co-workers recently went on a low-carb diet, omitting heavy starches and sticking to whole grains. Eh.. That is way too extreme for me because I depend on starch to maintain daily sanity. I could never give up potatoes, a fresh baguette, pasta or white rice. You might be expecting a post depicting some food ideas for someone pursuing the same feat as my co-worker. Sorry, wrong. Instead, I would like to celebrate my love for starchy goodness.

I have grown up eating rice with pretty much everything. However, when it comes to dishes over rice, I’ve never really explored outside of my comfort zone. Lately, I have become a big.. HUGE fan of arborio rice. I had the sudden urge one day to make risotto because I hear it is one of those dishes that can easily go wrong. But, I bought a jar of arborio rice and went for it. On the back of the label, the brand (RiceSelect) even included a simple “cooking arborio rice” recipe. If you can believe it, you only need 5 ingredients that are most likely already stocked in your kitchen.

I feel like they should just tell you the key to arborio rice ahead of time: stirring. And you’ll see why. Here’s the recipe that RiceSelect offers:

Cooking Arborio Rice

INGREDIENTS

1 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, salt and pepper optional

DIRECTIONS

1. Saute onion in oil and butter for 3 minutes
2. Add rice, stirring for about 2 minutes
3. Stir in 1 cup of broth. Continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed.
4. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup.

Yields approximately 3 cups cooked rice.

Just like any rice you will make the rice soaked up the liquid you cook it in. That’s why, a little bit of arborio rice will go a long way. It will soak up the 3 cups of broth you use and fluff up into 3 cups of flavorful, decadent starch.

For my first risotto meal, I made zucchini risotto with brown-buttered chicken tenders. I followed the instructions on how to cook the arborio rice, except I also tossed in a whole zucchini (thickly sliced and quartered) about a minute after adding the rice. By the time the rice was fully cooked and ready to serve, the zucchini was also very tender.

A day later, in my risotto frenzy, I put another dish together: mushroom risotto with lemon peppered salmon. Mushrooms can be a bit tricky.. Mushrooms retain water, so when you heat them up, they will not only shrink but expel a great deal of liquid as well. I questioned whether or not I should satuee the mushrooms first, drain, and add them at the very end. However, I decided that by doing so, my mushroom risotto might not be as mushroomy as I would like it to be. I added the mushrooms in the same time I added the zucchini previously– about a minute after adding the rice. From there, “cooking arborio rice” became more of a guessing game. I added lots of somewhat thickly sliced mushrooms (knowing that they would cook down a lot before serving). The “mushroom liquid” adds extra moisture; thus, I accounted for this while adding the portions of broth. I ended up using just enough broth that will cook down and also fully cook the rice. With the mushroom risotto, I prepared a lemon peppered salmon.

To reiterate once more, keep stirring. If your arm gets tired, try switching off between the two. At least by the time you eat, you know you’ve squeezed in a light workout. Always keep an eye on your rice, which shouldn’t be hard since you will be standing there stirring the whole time. But after you add the final cup of broth and the risotto is really coming together, pay extra attention to the doneness. You do not want mushy risotto! If you aren’t sure, find yourself a small spoon and take a taste. And finally, make sure you plan your meal accordingly. Risotto is to be served piping hot hot hot. So, if you don’t have a sous chef in the kitchen to help out, prepare your meat/fish/vegetables ahead of time before you begin cooking the rice. Keep in mind that you want everything to be finished at about the same time! Otherwise you will be waiting on something and that will be no bueno.

Wishing you the best on your risotto adventures. Long live starch!

nom nom nom,

B

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In my last post, I mentioned  buffalo chicken I made the other night. And, I know at least one person is wondering, So where’s the buffalo chicken? Well, unfortunately, I misplaced my camera after buffalo chicken night and could not upload the picture. In fact, my camera was still M.I.A when I wanted to document my buttermilk pancakes this morning (which explains the poor quality photo taken by my camera phone)! I know, the perfectly scrumptious pancakes were somewhat misrepresented because of me.. If only my camera was around to capture their drool-worthy stature. My fault.

But, Huzzah! Good news.. I found the little fellow! So we are back in business.. finally able to report back to you about buffalo chicken.

Best Buffalo Wing Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup Red Hot Frank’s hot sauce
2 teaspoons cayenne* (I only used 1 teaspoon!)

DIRECTIONS

1. Bring ingredients to a boil and toss in your choice of meat (wings, shrimp, etc–) to coat.

2. Serve HOT!

*Recipe courtesy of RecipeZaar.

Simple enough. I didn’t have chicken wings, so I used chicken tenders instead. White meat. Good.

I blotted the moisture from my chicken tenders (I rinse my raw chicken tenders first because they are handled before they are packaged!) with a couple paper towels. Then, I dunked my tenders into a somewhat shallow bath of buttermilk. Let them hang out for a few minutes. While they were wading in the pool, I prepped my dry mixture. Here’s the secret.. wait for it.. finely food-processed saltine crackers (salted or unsalted). The saltine crackers are a great alternative to bread crumbs and I actually enjoy it more! My grandparents use the finely food-processed saltine cracker powder to bread their fried chicken and it’s delicious!! I’m addicted!

So, with my bowls of wet and dry ingredients ready, I also had a small bowl of unbleached all-purpose flour. I heated up 1/2 cup of oil into my pan on medium to medium high heat. While I waited for the pan and the oil to get hot, I started preparing the tenders for their fry. From their buttermilk bath, I coated each of them with the flour and set them onto a rack (I used a cooling rack). Once I floured all of my tenders, I started from one end of the rack– redunking into the buttermilk, then coating into the cracker mixture, and setting them back onto the rack.

The double dunk technique ensures that the tenders will be fully coated. The fattiness of the buttermilk definitely helps the dry ingredients stick! Setting the tenders onto the rack allow the excess of the dry mixtures to fall off the tender. You don’t want the excess to float around in the oil of the pan (those will turn into little burnt pieces)!

When frying chicken, try to be patient. I do my best to flip only once– looking for a nice golden crust. Once I plucked them from the pan, I set them onto a plate lined with a paper towel. The paper towel soaked up the excess oil on the tenders so they aren’t greasy tenders! A brown paper grocery bag works really well, too!

When my last few tenders are almost done cooking, I start heating up the buffalo sauce (using the recipe above). Cut down or double the recipe accordingly (whatever the amount you need for your chicken). The butter helps the Red Hot Franks stick to the chicken. (And from the comments posted on this recipe, it is important that you use RED HOT FRANKS hot sauce.) Because I already like the taste of Red Hot Frank’s hot sauce, I didn’t use 2 teaspoons of cayenne. I only used 1 teaspoon, which was the perfect amount of spiciness for me. The sauce heats up pretty quickly.

When everything was ready, I placed a few tenders (what I planned to eat) into a bowl and tossed just enough buffalo sauce to coat. I prefer not to overdo it. When the rest of the tenders were ready to be eaten, I heated up the sauce again and tossed it with the tenders. Don’t toss and sauce too early or else the tenders will get soggy.. and you want to enjoy them while the sauce is hot and the tenders are crisp!

The bright orangey-red color is incredible!! Serve with blue cheese dip, celery, and cornbread.. OR if you want to try something unique, consider pairing this with a blue cheese cornbread!!! I haven’t done it yet, but you know I will!

nom nom nom.

B

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