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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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Mom says I never make any of my great creations while M is home. Geez. It’s not like I’m a professional here. But I promised that I would feed M well while she is home for the holidays. The holiday baking was quite intense, but we all survived. Unfortunately, the pounds of brown sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate, flour, eggs, and vanilla did not make it past December 25th. Christmas was a big baked goods extravaganza. But now, it’s time to settle back into reality.

So, I’ve been repeating a number of the recipes I’ve already tested for M to try out. Poor girl never got the chance to indulge the first time around. She finally tried the caramel corn when I made it for Christmas. Yesterday we made strombolis with tomato basil sauce, pepperoni, salami, and mozzarella. This morning, we made buttermilk pancakes. M didn’t quite understand the process. It is obviously more effort than using pancake mix from a box. However, like I said before, it is well worth it. M gobbled up the light, fluffy, airy, scrumptious buttermilk pancakes hot off the griddle. So good that she didn’t even want syrup! What a happy camper.. Made me happy to share the same pancake heaven I experienced for the first time a few weeks ago.

It’s been nice having someone around to eat all this food! Sometimes, it gets overwhelming producing so much food without enough mouths to finish everything when it’s hot, fresh, at its most desired eatability. Today, after buttermilk pancakes, I made the pizza dough again. This time, we used the pizza dough recipe to make pizzas instead of strombolis. We had a whole bunch of extra ingredients. In addition to the tomato basil sauce, pepperoni, salami, and mozzarella, I loaded some sauteed chopped broccoli, red bell pepper, and onion onto my pizza.

We had a couple somethings hot.. so, to mix it up, here’s something cold. It may be winter, but you can’t fool me– it’s never too cold for ice cream. As you know, I’ve only made ice cream once before and I told you I would continue to put my ice cream maker to use.

Last night, I adapted my own Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream using the Ben and Jerry’s French Vanilla Ice Cream recipe as a guide. The plan was to create a vanilla ice cream base and orange combination that will model the idea of an orange creamsicle.

Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs
3/4 cups white granulated sugar
2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fl oz. (1/2 16 fl oz can) frozen orange juice concentrate

DIRECTIONS

1. Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy

2. Whisk in the sugar until completely blended.

3. Pour in the whipping cream and milk. Whisk until blended. Then add vanilla extract and frozen orange juice concentrate, and keep whisking until smooth.

4. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Store in an airtight container and keep in the freezer.

If you love ice cream and orange like me, you will adore this recipe. It’s refreshing, creamy, and better than any creamsicle you will ever eat!

For a special treat, ditch the extra sweet toppings and make an ice cream float! I placed a couple scoops of my Orange Creamsicle ice cream into a glass. Then, instead of using soda, I topped my glass off with Martinelli’s Apple Sparkling Cider. It’s fabulous!!

M will be around for a few more days before she returns back to the other coast right after New Years. I’m sure we will have a many more adventures in our kitchen before she leaves. With that said, I should start coordinating a few more meal ideas for the rest of the week.

nom nom nom.

B

P.S. Thanks for the mention, M. 🙂

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Last night was the season finale of Top Chef: Las Vegas. It was sad to see Jenn go last week, but I’m glad she made it to the final 4. The final 3 contestants– Kevin and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio– battled for the title of Top Chef. When presenting their dishes to the judges, each of the finalists had successful and faulty dishes. At the Judges Table, I honestly couldn’t figure out who would be pronounced Top Chef! For me, it was a complete tossup. Kevin, Bryan, and Michael have been the most consistent all season. They all deserved to be in the finals, and they are all great chefs. I particularly enjoyed the fact that each of them portray very different styles in their cuisine. Kevin: Flavorful simplicity. Bryan: Combining traditional and modern styles. Michael: Fearless innovation.

Kevin was eliminated first. Thus, like we suspected from the beginning, it was a battle between the Voltaggio brothers. The brothers have continuously proven their culinary proficiency by creating and successfully executing dishes with greater difficulty than any of the other contestants in the competition. So, though we may have foreseen this brotherly battle, which Voltaggio would take it all? The comments from the judges made it seem like Bryan had it; his venison dish and dessert were on point. Instead, to my personal astonishment, Padma proclaimed Michael Voltaggio as Top Chef. Yes, Michael Voltaggio one-upped his big brother with his passionate love for food, creativity, and his unwavering ability to take risks.

My reaction was: I can’t believe Michael won! I thought, sure enough, Kevin and Bryan both had a better chance than Michael. Then, once it came down to the brothers, I was still thinking Bryan.. Bryan.. It’s definitely Bryan. I was disappointed when I heard “Michael, you are Top Chef.” WHAT??!?! But after sleeping on it, I stopped being so bitter and started to understand why the judges chose Michael.

Both Bryan and Michael are very detail-oriented chefs with a great amount of skill and technique. However, Michael is willing to try something unique with the risk of failing. He doesn’t ever play it safe, and that’s the main reason why I believe he ended up winning the competition. The difference between a good chef and a great chef is the passion to create.. To do more than just produce tasty food.. To tell a story on the plate. When I think back to the previous challenges, Michael has always intrigued the judges in that sense. His odd pairings would always progressively come together with each bite. That. Is. Amazing.

Also last night, on Man v. Food, Adam Richman found himself in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He took on the Fat Sandwich Challenge at the R.U. Hungry Grease Truck. But before his challenge, Adam uncovered some massively delicious looking sandwiches at Harold’s Deli and Stuff Yer Face. Since the episode last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the stromboli from Stuff Yer Face. I wanted one so badly, but NJ is so far away… Like over 3000 miles far. So, as I was up all night suffering from a serious stromboli craving, I came up with this idea to create my own stromboli! Oh, what I will do for food..

I have a tendency to make everything so much harder for myself in the kitchen. Though I could have bought a pre-made pizza dough at the grocery store, it wouldn’t have been as exciting to see the final stromboli product. My favorite part about cooking is the challenge– tackling recipes from all walks of food without really knowing how it will turn out. I want to know I can make anything! And since I started this blog– the encouragement I needed to expand from my normal repertoire– I’m slowly finding that I can.

I’ve only made pizza dough one other time and I don’t remember the recipe being that great. So, I looked for a new one that would be right for my stromboli. First, I look at the ingredients (to see if I have them all) and scan the directions. If it looks doable, I skim through comments or reviews about the recipe. Usually, I don’t risk using a recipe without any reviews.. that can’t be a good sign. Eventually, I came across Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust featured on AllRecipes. Very good ratings from almost 2,000 people. Sold. I began my mission with the dough.

Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water (110 degreesF)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water, and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Stir the salt and the oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2-1/2 cups of the flour.

3. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until double; this should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out. Use for your favorite pizza recipe.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If yu are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15-20 minutes before topping and baking it.

5. Bake pizza in preheated oven, until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Without a bread machine or even a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, my dough turned out wonderful! I tried to use only enough flour. So although in the INGREDIENTS section it says 3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, this is just an estimate. If you read the directions, you start out with only 2-1/2 cups. From there, I kept the remaining flour nearby but gradually worked just enough flour into the dough. I didn’t end up using it all even after using some to flour my surface.

While my dough was rising for about an hour, I had time to make my filling. That’s the best part about making a stromboli; you can stuff it with whatever you want! I decided to go big.. spicy sausage, pepperoni slices, sauteed green pepper and onions, sliced tomato, and mozzarella cheese! Mmmmm. For the spicy sausage, I just removed the casing from the links and cooked the meat up in a saucepan. Threw the green peppers and onions into another saucepan. Then, after everything was to my liking, I let the ingredients cool for a little bit. Putting the hot ingredients directing on my dough might damage it! I intended to make a pretty large stromboli (I was incredibly hungry for it!), so I cut out 1/3 of the dough and rolled out a pretty good length. I made sure to give it some width, because I knew I had a lot of ingredients to get in there! Just do not roll your dough too thin– there is a good chance it will break while you are trying to seal it up or it won’t be able to carry the weight of the filling.

The dough is very elastic, so I was able to seal it up with a few pinches! Instead of 425 degrees F, I set my oven to 45o. I turned over my stromboli (pinch side down) and plopped it on a lightly greased baking sheet (just a little cooking spray). To ensure that I would get a nice crisp exterior, I drizzled a little less than a teaspoon of olive oil into my palm and rubbed it over the stromboli– a light coat. Then, I sprinkled a little Italian seasoning and shredded parmesano reggiano on top. About 15-20 minutes later..

Sure, it looks like just a piece of bread with a very nice golden crust.. But when you cut it open..

There are no words. It was heaven on a platter. This is the only way to eat a stromboli.. hot from the oven with everything oozing together! LOVE IT.. making more more more!

Thank you, Adam Richman.. After watching you eat that stromboli in last night’s episode, I got inspired (and hungry) and accomplished this homemade feat.

nom nom nom.

B

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