The Strong Girl Survives

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to  change. ~Charles Darwin

Changes in my life have changed me for what seems a million times.  I’d like to think it’s eased up by now and definitely getting better.  Most changes that I’ve endured have also changed my body, looks and self-esteem over the years…for the good and many for the bad.  And for those reasons I thought I would go more in-depth to some of the occurrences in my life that have made positive or negative changes.  Back at the beginning of my blog I gave you my health and fitness journey for the past couple years, but I think the body and mind affect each other over time.  I can’t go into the “why’s” of it all…because I just really don’t know why…I think change (shit) happens and I guess the strong girl survived.

Let’s dip back in time to early teens…yes the awkward stage for most girls and boys and geez was I ever awkward.  I was overweight, had bad acne, glasses until the 9th grade, not “popular” and add in that it was the early 80’s…not a good image!  Eating at home wasn’t that bad, but there was a corner store across the street that was full of candy bars and chips just for me!  The poor self-esteem started to develop.  My best thing going for me was my artwork. By the 11th grade in high school being able to draw Prince, Michael Jackson and Simon LeBon made me a hit for a while.  And my weight fluctuated of course because I was feeling good.  That is until  September 26th, 1984 when my mom passed away from leukemia at age 39.  I’m sure I do not need to go into how devastating it was for me and my family.  I was 16, starting my senior year in high school…life was not good.  I remember my art teacher telling me I needed to snap out of it…not to be harsh, but I was becoming comatose.  I did a little, but starting college my funk grew worse on the inside and for the next few years and I gained and gained and gained weight.  I would cope on the outside trying to stay happy and focused (at least I think that’s the game I played), but my insides needed hot fudge sundaes and big plates of whatever I could shove in.

Then I saw the photos of my drunken 19th birthday at the bar (yes in Canada the drinking age is 19) and I was horrified!  Had I not looked in a mirror for a few years?!  What happened to me?!  The oversized baggy clothes covered me up.  I stepped on a scale and it tipped at 180lbs for my little 5’0″ frame.  BOOM…Change!  I went on a “health” kick or what I would call now a starvation diet.  I kept track of every single calorie that went in my body.  If it was low-calorie, low-fat, low portion then I was in.  I kept myself to 500 calories a day during the week and on Saturdays and Sundays I would splurge a little, but on going out/drinking nights I wouldn’t eat so I could drink.  Nice.  I also exercised a lot…whatever excercise video I could fit in. In a year I lost 81 lbs…down to weighing 99 lbs!  Sounds good…uh no…someone actually told me I had a big head.  I learned some good exercises, but I had no muscle at all (because it weighed more so why do that!) and I was skinny.

The next 20 years, and boy have they flown by, can be considered a roller coaster of life events that would affect me mentally and physically over time…some of it literally a blur; a whirlwind of depression to happiness and seemingly going nowhere in-between…from marriage/divorce to moving adventures to owning a restaurant to a hurricane to this, that and the other.  The final “blow” per se, would be the day my Dad passed away suddenly in 2006…rolling about life, doing pretty well, the phone call comes in.  Back to that numb feeling.  Yes, it affected my weight again and put me in a sad state, but after a year of that I knew something in me had to change.  It sounds corny to say I had to “find myself”, but I think everyone does at some point in their life…and since it didn’t take overnight to get myself into this rut, it wouldn’t happen overnight to get out of it.  My dad had a huge change in his life when my mom passed away…he could have withered away, but decided to take life by the horns and live it to the fullest…knowing there is only one life to live and it’s pretty short, relatively speaking.  I would say he was, all in all, having a happy, fun life up until the day he died.  Hmm…something to learn from this man.

Since that day, the changes kept coming…trying to figure out how life is supposed to work…I still stumbled and I think earlier this year the lightbulb went off, which lead to my current journey.

A few months ago, when I started my blog, my cousin sent me a message on Facebook: “Congratulations, I’m really impressed with your transformation.  You should feel proud.  I’m only sending these so you can gloat.”  And attached was three photos, which I thought were from my worst moment at 19 years old, but looking closer, it was only about 10 years ago.  I was shocked because I didn’t recognize that lost, overweight woman.

And then I received another message from him that really touched me and means so much to me…I would have been hesitant to include this, but support like this keeps the journey going : “Hi Denise, First off, congrats again on the tremendous transformation.  Unreal.  I want to say though your greatest accomplishment is the mental toughness that it took to see it through.  Your determination is remarkable.  Even more though, good for you finding your solid ground of independence.  I know you’re a victim of mental abuse for at least a period of time.  I heard it myself.  Your breakthrough should be a celebration of self-confidence, determination and belief.  A lot of people spend a lot of time believing in something else, but you’ve shown a wonderful belief in yourself.  I’m happy for you.”

Writing this today, I have most certainly almost come full circle.  Even I have realized health, fitness, food, love, positivity and doing what you enjoy are the keys to happiness.  It’s not just one thing.  Coming full circle means connecting each of those rings of life.  Making it happen.  And still as I’m typing, I am still trying to figure part of it out.  I want my art to be a bigger part of my life, some way some how.  That will connect the rings.  I guess the changes will keep coming, but now I know to just adapt to the change and not just react by grabbing the first box of cookies and hiding in my cave.

I know my story pales in comparison to some and similar to many.  If you have a life story of overcoming the many obstacles you faced, let me know and possibly write a post about it.

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Stop the Holiday Bulge

So you’ve finished gobbling down pounds of turkey with gravy, sugary cranberry sauce, hoards of stuffing, marshmallowy sweet potatoes and ooey gooey pies and cakes.  And probably couldn’t move….but today you barely lifted your ass out of the bed or away from the TV to hit the sales at the stores. Well, this is just the beginning of 6 weeks of holiday fun, or should I say: don’t buy that holiday outfit yet because at this rate you wont fit in it!  And in New Orleans we get another 6 weeks of indulging with Mardi Gras, aka King Cake season. starting right after New Years.

I love the Christmas season…the lights, the trees, the music, the scents, the magical feeling, but last year I stood strong and did not give in to the holiday extra pounds.  It’s not that I didn’t or won’t have some fun in the way of food or drinks, but I’ve learned how to not let it control me.  Aren’t you tired of starting the New Year with another useless resolution to lose weight, get in shape and get healthy?  Well it’s okay to start now and still have some Holiday fun.  So, let’s put the Thanksgiving pig-out party aside and go ahead and buy yourself a new outfit for the holiday parties…and girls make it cute and sexy….this will be your first incentive to not gain any more weight this Christmas season.

No more jumping up and down trying to get your jeans on and laying down hoping they will button up…and no more having to wear sweat pants to Christmas dinner because you filled up on Holiday party goodies since Thanksgiving.  I’ve complied a few ideas to keep you on track and no, it won’t include forced vomiting after inhaling piles of cakes, cookies, breads and pies!

  • If you have a workout schedule now, don’t quit.  If you do 4 days a week, do 4 or at least 3.  If you don’t, then take up walking outdoors.  Winter, especially those of you with snow (or even sand) have a great advantage to keeping that heart rate up and staying fit.  Lift some weights!  Chop down your own tree.  Move all those boxes filled with decorations.  Holiday cleaning. Keep moving.
  • Before the holiday parties, eat at home.  Eat a meal or a good hearty snack.  I know you don’t want to cook, but having a good size portion of protein or even some nuts and healthy carbs like fruit or a big sweet potato will fill you up and keep you focused.  There is no worse decision (and I’ve done it before) than to starve yourself all day so you can eat and drink whatever you want that night at the party.  Not sure what is worse, the hangover from not eating all day or the misery of stuffing your face so much because you were starved when you arrived.
  • Choose not to bake this year.  I always felt obligated to bake numerous mounds of family cookie and pie recipes.  And although they bring great memories and taste oh so good, I would say I ate half of them! I’d give them away as gifts, bring them to work…bake and bake and bake and really would eat and eat and eat.  As you’ve read before I am addicted to sugar and most people are…so why put the crack in front of the crack addict?  I WAS a Christmas treat junkie and have put that aside.  Last year I only made meat pies and gave those away.  This year…I am making nothing.  Saving myself and my bank account.
  • If you do want to or need to bake for a party, then choose wisely.  Choose a cookie or treat that won’t make you weighted down, bloated and miserable for giving in.   I can’t go into enough why sugar and gluten (grains) are bad for your health and waistline, but instead of putting all that here, just believe me that using some recipes from many Paleo websites, blogs and cookbooks are definitely the way to go and you will be able to leave the guilt behind. (of course provided you don’t eat the whole pan of those too).  Choose coconut or almond flours instead of gluten filled flours.  Don’t use sugar, but if you must use extra dark chocolate without soy products added or a little local real honey. Nuts and dried fruit make a cookie or dessert hearty and sweet.  Don’t use vegetable shortenings, but instead use lard, grass-fed butter or coconut oil.  Keeping it full of good fats and nutrient filled ingredients instead of glutenous globs of gunk will make your new Christmas desserts a hit!
  • Go ahead and drink some adult beverages (if you are of age, of course).  Since I’ve discovered hard apple cider (or Pear) drafts, I’m hooked.  If that doesn’t suit you for a beer substitute, then just try to steer clear of gluten filled regular or light beer.  And try to steer clear of sugary liquors.  Opt for wine (red preferably) or clear liquor like vodka or tequila.  Egg nog is probably not a good choice because of the sugar and dairy, but if you do have some, and who can have much anyway, stick to the full fat egg nog made of egg and real cream…it’ll be so rich you will only have one.
  • When you hit the buffet, make good choices (as a friend of mine always says).  Go fill up your plate with the meat, seafood (not fried), veggies and fruit.  That will be the most satisfying and you probably won’t want much more. And stay away from the pastas, fried food, sauces, dips, crackers and breads. IF you still crave a “treat”, then go for it after you have filled up on the meat, fruit and veggies.  Just try to hit the non-bread or cake/non-gluten varieties…a piece of fudge is better than a piece of cake or cheesecake and don’t eat the crust or have homemade ice-cream.  Control yourself Sweet Cheeks…one treat is fine…

So, now you’re ready for the Holiday Season right? Let’s have some fun and start it off right with some good decisions we won’t feel guilty about and with a little Christmas cheer from New Orleans (the last time it snowed here in 2008)…

Pain in the…

…Shoulder!  Geez, I use my right arm for everything!!!  Well, last week the shoulder area was bothering me so I lightened up my workout, but still kept at it thinking lighter weights were still a “rest”…sort of.  Then by Saturday after I vacuumed (why do I feel the need to clean sometimes), it hurt even more; a throbbing pain all night.  Some were worried: go to the doctor – could be a tear – you may not be able to workout for weeks.  WHAT? Hell no!

Ok, so I eat pretty strict Paleo to avoid inflammation (I know it’s not arthritis or my bones) and I try not lift more weights than I’m supposed to…like I said I try.  My head tells me I just pulled something or it’s stress in my neck and shoulders.  Nothing that rest and a deep tissue massage won’t cure, right?  I am trying rest for a week or 2, whatever it takes.  No doctor yet.  I don’t do doctors well besides the $40 co-pay will turn into an enormous medical bill I’m sure.

I guess what has put me in a bad mood about all this is, first of all, I cannot work out like I usually do.  Cardio?! YUCK!  Everyone knows I do very little cardio…but I am doing it just to do “something” and not use my arms.  On leg days, well there is more I can do, but I am used to doing dead lifts and weighted squats and lunges and now it’s just using body weight, which isn’t bad, but now I have to do 250 squats compared to 4×15 weighted squats!  Pain in the ass…I mean shoulder.

And not just that, it is amazing what I use my right arm for like vacuuming, mopping, washing dishes, laundry, drying my hair, walking the dogs…it’s almost impossible not to use it just getting ready for work in the morning.  The worst part, however, is not being able to paint.  I attempted to gesso (prime) a canvas and get ready to paint my next big painting and it killed my shoulder.  I tried with the left arm to no avail.  Frustration.  This is screwing up my new schedule of fitting in time to paint.

I will try again today to paint and go easy on the workout.  I have to.  I have goals I need to meet and a lousy shoulder problem cannot stop me!

Sunday Morning

Ahhh, relaxing on a chilly Sunday morning.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

BANANA PANCAKES

3 bananas

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1/2 cup whole organic coconut milk

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or macademia

1 Tbsp cinnamon

pinch sea salt

1 1/2 cups almond or coconut flour

Mix all together in blender. Use a 1/4 cup portion and make small pancakes (don’t make large because they fall apart) in coconut oil or grass-fed butter or ghee.

Top with some chopped fruit like apples, strawberries or coconut chips.  Serve with a few strips of bacon, a fried egg and a hot cup of coffee.  Enoy your Sunday!

Changes…

 I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

~Andrew Wyeth

I’ve been focusing on the positive in my life; trying to keep to what is real to me.  So I’ve changed the look of my blog.  I wanted to focus more on the healthy balance of life and I will start another separate blog focusing on New Orleans.  A challenge…yes it is.  I also want to focus on my Paleo lifestyle and the positive affects it has on me.  With many parts of my life falling into place, I suddenly got my inspiration to paint once again…to paint what is real to me and what feels good at the time.  I think I was feeling I had to paint what others wanted, but art is individual and subjective…maybe you will hate the painting I am working on or maybe you will love it.  I will paint or draw a subject which pulls me in.  What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you think, but how it makes me feel and if it makes me feel whole, then I am on the right track.  It’s the same with my blog…it’s for me as much as it is for you.  I thought my blog was scattered and indecisive, which resulted in a rut, so I’ve decided to stop trying to please with my words; just put down what I feel I want to at the time.  So, it may go from a recipe to the meaning of life, but it’s as scattered as my thoughts are sometimes and that’s okay.  I want it to be quirky and meaningful at the same time, because that is me.

Physically I feel right, mentally I feel perfect.  Now it’s time to take that feeling and express it in my art and my words here.

By the way, this is a favorite song of mine and some words have a lot of meaning for me…so please take the time to find the meaning for you also.

For the love of BACON!!!!

Who doesn’t love bacon?! (okay, vegans, but if you are one then you may not be reading anyway)

It makes everything taste better…hell bacon can down right make you happy!  Have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Chop bacon in your favorite dish, mix in salads, make bacon-wrapped asparagus, top your burger or just pre-cook some slices for a snack with an avocado.  I’m even going to try a recipe for bacon brownies (gluten/grain free of course).  Really, bacon has endless possibilities.

Bacon is not the food enemy it was made out to be.  Dietary saturated fat and cholesterol are good for us and not just in moderation.  It’s important to keep in mind that fat is a great source of fuel and bacon’s excess fat should not be feared. Of course, when it comes to fat, some choices are better than others. Pork’s fat, or lard, is approximately 40% saturated, 45% monounsaturated and 12% polyunsaturated. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the ones that should be consumed liberally, while polyunsaturated fats should be kept to a minimum. The only bad thing about bacon and/or pork is that it is higher in Omega 6 than our wanted Omega 3.  So what?  have more fish and grass-fed beef that week then your “Omega’s” will be in-tune.  Another concern is the levels of nitrates in bacon. It’s true that most bacon, other than the nitrate-free versions, will contain varying amounts of nitrate, but this is often an unfounded concern and should not hinder your consumption.  So what? There is nitrate-free bacon available everywhere these days.  High sodium? choose lower sodium.

I made this last week: Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf, aka: Bacon Bomb or Touchdown Bacon or Bacon is F-ing Awesome Wrapped Around 2 Pounds of Ground Beef…that’s what I’m talking about.  Serve with some sautéed vegetables and a sweet potato topped with a little coconut oil, cinnamon and chili powder for a nice well-rounded meal.

BACON-WRAPPED MEATLOAF

1 medium onion chopped

4-6 garlic cloves chopped

1/2 red bell pepper chopped

6-8 fresh mushrooms chopped

2-3 Tbsp coconut oil (unrefined) or bacon grease

2 lbs grass-fed ground beef

1 lb fresh pork sausage (I used butcher made green onion pork sausage or use any)

1/4 lb ground grass-fed calf liver (I had my butcher ground it in the ground beef and used it for this, chili, burgers, etc…) – optional

2 eggs

Seasonings: Cayenne, sea salt, black pepper

12oz package of bacon (nitrate free and low sodium if possible)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Saute onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms.  Mix meat ingredients together (except bacon) and eggs.  Then mix in sautéed vegetables and add into meat mixture.

Form the meat mixture into a loaf in a pan larger than the loaf so you can form the bacon around it.

Next separate the bacon slices and place over the loaf in a basket weave or slightly overlapping diagonally.  Whichever way you choose leave at least 1/2 inch overhang on the sides to accommodate shrinkage.

Bake for 50-60 minutes then put under broil for 5 minutes to crisp up the bacon.

The loaf will be sitting in bacon grease but that adds to the flavor.

Cut into slices.  Will make 6-8 servings.

Apparently I’m not Superwoman

I know, what a shocker to me too.  I thought with all my cavewoman ways and the fact that I haven’t had so much as a common cold in 3 1/2 years that I had become indestructible.

But reality hits. Started with a scratchy throat…the usual…so I jacked up the nutrient dense foods and extra vitamins C, D and Echinacea.  Except it turns out I have strep which equals the worst sore throat ever! It’s been 4 days and I can’t eat and can’t barely drink…it’s like shards of glass when I swallow even water. Antibiotics aren’t kicking in yet. I’m frustrated.  Ear ache, teeth hurt, swollen glands and tired all the time…how fun!

Ensure – surely not good for you

I tried the usual pain narcotics like Vicodin, but hate the goofy useless feeling I get.  A friend got me a case of Ensure…I drank it out of desperation for some calories and nutrition, but it made me feel bad and then I looked at the ingredients…it’s a bottle of sugar and soy with I guess a One-A-Day inside. I really appreciate her going out of her way to get it, but I have to get some nutrition in my body. So I’m having smoothies with protein powder and fruit…no, still not Paleo, but it’s the only thing that’s giving me some calories and making me feel a little human…Smoothie King and Bolthouse!  Last night I tried some ground beef with eggs all chopped up really small and I couldn’t eat it…well now I have leftovers I’ll try again later.  Wishing I had some bone broth or some kind of healthy soup prepared for times like this.  I’m 3 pounds down so far and I don’t want to lose any weight.  I’ll need ankle weights to hold me down soon!

Much better choices!

Although I’m still wallowing in my pity party out of frustration…I realized I have to let the healing run its course or find a different doctor, different medicine or some miracle shot. I am all for it right now.  I am hungry.  I am not Superwoman. I can’t get well in a couple of days, it could take a few more days or a couple of weeks and I just have to take one step at a time.  Back to snuggling up with the dogs and cats on the couch and watching football; back to texting and having one-sided phone conversations…waiting because I know tomorrow will be a much better day.

“That’s Not Paleo!”

So at work this week, we had our monthly birthday cake and ice-cream gathering in the kitchen.  All I can smell is the sugar from the cakes and it doesn’t even smell good to me anymore.  We sing Happy Birthday and leave to go back to my desk.  Someone asks me, “Aren’t you going to have a piece?”.  And I say with disgust, “No indeed!”…I want a huge grass-fed ribeye for my birthday!  I now realize I think I might be a health food snob!  Oh no!

But I’ve found I really want people to be healthy; know what I know!  I want to help, but is it coming across that way?  I find myself looking at people’s carts at the grocery, even Whole Foods, and judging what’s in their carts.  I somehow find it hard to believe people still buy things in a box!  Cereal? Yuck. Milk? Quinoa? Pasta?…now they know that’s not Paleo, right?  They don’t know about GMOs and why to buy grass-fed beef and pastured chickens and eggs?  How could they not, I talk about it all the time?  And why is anyone still drinking and eating out of BPA filled plastic bottles and containers? Eww.  Gluten and grains, really?…it will destroy you!  They don’t even know the difference between Omega 3 and Omega 6?  Don’t they know if they just do Paleo for 30 days they will feel great.  I say or think all this.  I think about these things while I’m listening to the Robb Wolf podcasts, cooking my pastured eggs and grass-fed burger in bacon fat, while rubbing coconut oil on my body after I cooked my broccoli in it! And I talk the foodie talk with other people I got to do Paleo, like they’ve been doing it forever too. We can’t figure out why everyone isn’t just jumping on our band wagon! We have a “language” now.

Oh and I’m the same at the gym.  Really, people who look like hamsters on wheels on those cardio machines for an hour are annoying.  I look at those wimpy guys who have been working out for months and I lift heavier than they do…makes me want to scream.  And the people who look the same after a year of working out 5 days a week when I have transformed in the same time…how have they not figured it out?…I’m not performing miracles!  I eat Paleo and weight train…it’s easy!

Or is it?

I can laugh at myself for what I say with no regret, but I realize I am never going to change the way people eat or exercise by judging them or making them feel guilty.  I truly do want to help and I want them to see my results and know they can be healthy and happy too.  I need to get people to be excited about food and health; bring them into my conversations and ask me questions.  So I will be patient and remember the long journey I had also; that it took a long time for that lightbulb to go off for me.  I will be ready to answer if they ask.

Tailgate Food!

It’s football season ladies and gentlemen!!  I absolutely love football…live for it this time of year!  And if you know me well, you know when it comes to Michigan Wolverine football or New Orleans Saints Football…I am in full football fan gear and ready for the game.  Feed me, give me drinks and do not bother me for 3-4 hours!

That being said, lets talk food!  My Paleo lifestyle screams tailgate!…I mean it’ consists of a lot of M-E-A-T!

No, you don’t need chips and dips and processed cheese to make a good tailgate.  Plan a little and it will be outstanding, whether you are at the game or at your house.

DAD’S BBQ SAUCE (PALEO STYLE)

My dad made an awesome BBQ sauce, mostly spicy with a little tang.  This is perfect for your ribs, chicken wings, hamburgers and sausage on the grill.  And it makes enough for a few games.  I’ve taken out the sugars and replaced it with pureed fresh pineapple for the sweetness.

1 cup mustard

1 1/2 cups sugar free ketchup or organic tomato paste

2 1/2 cups pureed fresh pineapple

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Blend all the ingredients well and refrigerate.

PALEO MAYONNAISE (Or as I call mine COCO-BACON-NAISE)

Oh yes, the basis for most dips for the tailgating season.  There are many recipes on the internet and I combined what I had and made my own version.  You can make this using a whisk to stir, but if you don’t want a cramp in your hand, just use a blender, but still be patient.  This should make enough for a big dip or salad.

4 eggs yolks

2 teaspoons of mustard

5 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup bacon fat melted at room temperature

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt and  white pepper to season

Put the yolks in a bowl with mustard and 1/2 the lemon juice and beat with mixer.

Mix the 3 fats/oils together. While still on high speed, drizzle the oils mixure slowly in with the egg yold mixture.  Mix non-stop and you will notice it starting to thicken like mayonnaise.  Keep up this process and after all oils are mixed in, add the remaining lemon juice and cider vinegar. Refrigerate and enjoy!

CHIPOTLE CHICKEN SALAD

Serve in lettuce wraps cold and top with some avocado.  Great starter for the early fall games when it’s still hot.

4 chicken  breasts and 4 chicken thighs grilled lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and chili powder

1   yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped

1/2 red onion diced fine

1/2 cup  green onions sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 to 1 cup Paleo mayonnaise (see above)

1/2 cup canned chipotles in adobo sauce, puréed or finely chopped (this is not usually Paleo, but is not that much compared to the dish – use organic or one with no sugar or oil)

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup of grape tomatoes halved

Dice your cooked chicken.  Mix in the bell peppers, cilantro and onions.

Mix the mayonnaise with the lime juice, chipotle and salt and then stir in the chicken mixture.  Put in a bowl and top the salad with the halved grape tomatoes and more chopped cilantro and/or green onions.  If anyone wants added heat, use Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce to taste.

AL PASTOR IN THE CROCK POT

Ok, not really Al Pastor, but it has similar flavors.  It picks up the heat of the peppers and the sweetness of the pineapple. Use butter lettuce wraps instead of taco shells and top with fresh avocado.  Use leftovers to stuff and omelet the next day.

6 or 7 lb pork shoulder roast

Dry rub: 3 Tbsp chili powder, 2 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp black pepper.

Mix together and coat the pork roast and put in the crock pot.

Dice a fresh pineapple or get a large container in the produce section of fresh chunks of pineapple.  Dice 3-5 chipotle peppers. Add both on top of the roast.  You will cook the pork roast for approximately 8 hours on low.

In the meantime, saute 2 medium sweet onions, 1/2 each green, red and orange bell peppers in larger chunks, 5 fresh garlic, 2-3 chilis (hatch, Anaheim, jalapeno, poblano – or a combo), 1- 8oz package of white mushrooms – sliced.

Add the sautéed mix to the roast after a few hours cooking time. (roast will still pick up the flavors, but veggies won’t cook down too much)

The pork will fall apart with some amazing flavors.  If you want a little extra carbs or veggies, add a couple sweet potato chunks and/or baby spinach to the crock pot.

GRASS-FED BEEF ROAST WITH BACON AND MUSHROOMS
Here is this weeks football tailgate.  The crock pot is the best kitchen tool to have…slow cook easy recipes.

5-6 lb chuck roast (grass-fed if possible)

12-16oz bacon – or more if you want (good nitrate free, low sugar), partially cook, keeping the bacon fat. Chop.

2- 8oz packs of white button mushrooms

3-4 Portobello mushrooms whole and sliced

2 onions, chopped and sautéed

7-8 garlic cloves

Slice notches in the roast and put a garlic clove in each.  Season the roast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper. Put in the crock pot and top with onions, bacon and mushrooms.  Cook for 6-8 hours until the roast falls apart.  Serve with mashed or French fried sweet potatoes and a vegetable of course (check out the mashed cauliflower from a previous post).

More recipes to come!  Let us know what you are making for the game this week.

So get ready for some football…Put your eye-black on, wear your lucky shirt, pull on those game-winning socks….GO BLUE….AND GEAUX SAINTS!!

Darkness, Sweat and Fears

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting,
dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
~ Edgar Allan Poe

My only light during the hurricane.

The past week has been long. Too long for a supposed minor hurricane. With all the preparing we do it still turns our lives upside down.

4 full days without power in the Louisiana heat. To me this is living primal…I got to live like a cavewoman for 4 days. Even though I had a few modern necessities like texting (although I had to charge the phone in the car) and a flushing toilet, I took my Paleo lifestyle to a new level.

I prepared my Paleo survival food and cooked like mad before the storm came…it was coming a half day earlier than expected. Burgers, beef jerky, cut up vegetables, bacon, Paleo pancakes  sweet potatoes, pork roast and lots of water. Got the food cold knowing power would go off. I guess our hunter gatherer ancestors would have prepared what they could or consumed what food they could knowing they would be without for a few days.

Survival mode sets in. The hurricane came by overnight. Howling winds shaking the house. Up all night I tried to see the rain and watch the streets. Watching for flood…calling our tugboats on the Mississippi River to see how much it’s rising. It’s a little unnerving. Katrina didn’t hit us direct so what would Isaac do? He stalled and moved North. Thankfully.  On Tuesday evening, when the wind barely started, the power went out. Flashlight broke so I lit a few candles. Total darkness and I mean the scary boogeyman type of darkness. Alone with the dogs and cats in the dark.  One time at night I sat in the car charging the phone and getting some air with the dogs and a knock at the window by a neighbor, drunk and scaring the shit out of me.  I felt very alone.  Note for next time: Get a gun.

Rain and wind continued until the next day then it stopped. Then no breeze and the sun came out. Then the heat set in. Topping 100 degrees and extreme humidity. It was too hot to even go upstairs in the house.  I can barley function. I tried to exercise in the house but too hot. Walking the dogs was all I could do other than picking up debris and tree branches outside.  This is just what you do.  Ice was melting quick; so I stand in long lines to get ice. Throw out food going back and eat what I could. I still had to work…Grace had power, she took us in to her nice cool home to work for a few hours, then Ken did the same. I worried about the dogs and cats in the heat, and I would rush back to my hot home.  It’s still home so I don’t want to be away long.

And sleep, boy did I sleep. I slept as soon as the sun went down. Too dark and hot to stay awake. It was a little scary. I wait for a comforting voice to call. And after I would sleep more.

By Saturday with the sun and heat, although unbearable, it almost seemed normal and hoping this new “normal” would end.  Sweat is just pouring down me; standing under a cool shower feels wonderful.

And just as the sun is setting and the Michigan football game begins, the power comes on!  Glorious air conditioning…close the windows and make it cold!  Sprawl out on the couch and celebrate.  Just in time.

Out of cavewoman mode to recovery mode.  Work, clean, work.  The stress experienced after almost makes you want a little of that primal life…just without the scary parts.

Great Things to do with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has become one of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen.  LOVE the flavor my unrefined coconut oil gives to my eggs, vegetables and meats.  Hell I’ve had spoonfuls of it and it makes me feel great! And the healthy fat it provides my body is so beneficial.

And over the past few months I found out other wonderful personal benefits of coconut oil.  With research, I’ve found that not just what we put in our bodies is harmful to us, but also what we put ON our bodies can be harmful also.  Liz Wolfe at Cave Girl Eats says, “If you’re serious about improving your health from all angles, take the ‘I don’t eat crap’ mentality one step farther – start getting rid of the crap in your self-care products. What do you have to lose?”  And if you think all skin products are safe because they are on the shelf, think again.  Liz also says, “The best part, though, is the new sense of connection to your body that arises when you take your routine out of the hands of Methylparaben and Benzalkonium Chloride. There are very few laws governing the ingredients in personal care products. If an ingredient won’t kill you instantly, it can probably find its way into a PCP.  A product has only to contain CARBON to be TECHNICALLY considered part of an “organic” body product. “Dermatologist Tested” means very little. And “Non-comedogenic” simply means the product doesn’t cause comedones. Zits. Congratulations, Zit-fighting product. Your best advertising technique is to tell everyone your product doesn’t. Cause. Zits. Because if it did, I suppose we’d have a REAL problem on our hands.”

Rubbing layers of chemical-filled creams, lotions and sunscreen on our bodies goes IN to our pores.  Even the hair products we use can enter the body.  Knowing all this I have started in simple ways to change some of my daily body care habits and like all things in my life these days I have a goal to change all my body care to natural products.  I don’t eat junk anymore and I don’t want to put junk on my body anymore.  I’m going to live this Paleo lifestyle inside and out!

Since it will take some time and effort to make soap, lotions and other products, I started with the best and easiest product I could find already at home…Coconut oil!

  1. No more lotions from Bath and Body or Victoria Secret…I started spreading on coconut oil all over my body after my shower instead of lotion.  Smells delicious and my skin feels wonderful; super soft.  No more dry crusty feet or elbows! Eventually I will add some other scents to infuse into the oil.
  2. Coconut oil makes a perfect make-up remover.  I looked at the ingredients in my regular make-up remover and couldn’t believe all that went into it and the coconut oil worked great.
  3. Have you seen how expensive products for hair shine or de-frizz are?  Forget them…try a little (just a little!) coconut oil to smooth onto your hair.  Works great, well the best it can in Louisiana humidity!
  4. And for hair again, it makes a great occasional full conditioner.  Put a good amount over your hair and leave on for about 30-60 minutes then wash out with shampoo or even cider vinegar works too if you want to go very natural.
  5. For make up I use coconut oil  to put on my face before foundation and I use very little of that anymore.  I know you are thinking your skin would break-out, but believe me my skin is very sensitive growing up with acne, and it’s done wonders for my skin.  I believe eating real food only and putting good products on my skin, the appearance is much better!
  6. For the lips. Makes a nice light gloss and moisturizer for my lips. I found a small little container for my purse to put on whenever.
  7. And finally one I haven’t tried, but will (on a day off alone first…LOL) is for deodorant!  Cavegirleats.com says, “go with the trusty combo of baking soda and coconut oil. A swipe of oil topped with a dash of BS will leave you odor-free all day.”

That’s a start!  I’ve been searching for good recipes also for lotions, bars for soap or insect repellents, shampoos and even laundry cleaners and I have found some great ones on http://cavegirleats.com/ and http://wellnessmama.com/ if you would like to check them out.  And if you try them before I do or have recipes of your own, then pass them to me and I’ll share.

Well, I know you’re thinking I’m going hippy, but it’s more Paleo hippy…it’s the hippy that’s healthy and smells good…like coconuts.

It’s Not Just a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle

Paleo diet, Caveman (or Cavewoman) diet…whatever you want to call it, it’s more than a diet, it’s a decision to change your life for the better.  It’s about obtaining and maintaining ultimate health…more and great sleep…forming a community…little stress…making time to play…make time for yourself…positive attitude…loving yourself…more fun…lifting heavy things and enjoying it…happiness.  It’s getting back to the basics.  Adapt to nature.  It’s about spending time with family and friends, laughing together, eating together, playing together…sharing life.

When I took on the diet part I didn’t know about anything more than taking control of my health, which really, when you take care of this main part the rest of it falls into place.  With all the research I did, I realized in order to have the best health possible I would have to put the whole picture into perspective.

Surprisingly most of the changes came naturally with the diet; hard to explain.  Even though I’ve adapted to the diet 100%, I am still working on the lifestyle…this requires more discoveries, more time and more changes I am more than willing to make.  I like this life.

  • Exercise becomes more natural.  Lift heavy things.  Take long walks (walk dogs).  Feel stronger.
  • Enjoy nature.  Listen to the night sounds.  Savor the sound of waves on a beach.  Watch sunsets and sunrises. Encounter nature alone or with others.  You will just be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Discover all the parks around you.  I know of several parks in Southeast Louisiana that I would love to visit again.  It’s peaceful.
  • Enjoy the sun and feel the benefits of natural vitamin D without coating our skin with chemicals.
  • Sleep for 8-9 hours a night because it makes us feel good, productive and necessary for good health.
  • Learn to appreciate real food and how it is made.  Discover real farmers who raise animals, vegetables, eggs and fruits in a natural way.  You will just be more thoughtful about your food and make better decisions about what you put in your body when you commit to only eating whole real food.
  • Discover new local places to get your meats like a local butcher or a farmer’s market.  Plant some vegetables or herbs.
  • Researching to know what foods make you healthy and why.  What nutrients and vitamins are contained in food you eat.  It not only gives you more knowledge for yourself, but you will be able to help others.
  • Spending time with family and the people you love.  My last trip home was more significant to me than I ever thought it would be and that is saying a lot. Laughing, playing, cooking together.  From sunsets and boating to a concert to happy hours to BBQ family gatherings to cooking together and laughing together.  Really enjoy good times.
  • Finding people with like interests with the Paleo lifestyle and forming a little community of friends to bond with.  Maybe it’s in the city or an online group.
  • Simple living.  Cut things out that have no meaning.  Throw things away that aren’t necessary.  Maybe it’s time to just live a little more basic because it is really all you need.  You will find you will appreciate what you own more than before.  It might be papers, books, Mardi Gras beads, clothes that don’t fit.  Maybe it’s people in your life that clutter your head.
  • Enjoy slow living.  Have a campfire or make a fire pit.  Walk in the rain…I do have my shrimp boots :). Have a picnic.  Go camping.  Go canoeing or kayaking.  Go fishing. Go boating to enjoy that sunset. Plant a garden. Stare up at the sky and star-gaze.  Play games.  Be silly. Throw water balloons.  Build a fort inside or outside.
  • Be creative.  Creative art, writing (hey who would have thought I would have started a blog!), photography, building things, collecting, sewing.  Make it fun.  Creating makes you happy…believe me.

You get the idea.  I still like the Paleo or Caveman lifestyle to describe it…maybe that forgotten world is really what it’s supposed to be like for us humans. We know all animals should eat, live and play in their own natural way, but that’s changed for us, but why? Sure progress is wonderful, but not if we are too sick, too busy or sad to enjoy it.  It’s a nice feeling to eventually have a stress-free, peaceful, happy life…one in which I am fulfilled on the outside and the inside.  Euphoria.  That’s what I’m striving for.  I feel I make discoveries about myself, my life and my surroundings daily.  Ever-changing.  Becoming fearless.

Love this song…it’s a little primal in sound and the only words “Don’t think about all those things you fear, just be glad to be here”.

Paleo Pizza Recipe

Well, vacation is over and as I’m cooking my turkey meatballs and chili for lunches and dinners and decided to post some recipes this week.  Along with some I’ve played with over my vacation, a good friend of mine, Lyle Gadin, had a couple wonderful recipes he has sent me that I wanted to share with you.  Lyle is a personal/group trainer, who was one of my trainers at GymMatrix and he has since moved his family back to Seattle.  Like many people, even being a trainer at a gym does not mean you always keep your diet healthy.  He is the one that first mentioned the Paleo Diet to me and got me interested…so we started approximately at the same time.  What is special about Lyle’s situation compared to mine is that he has a wife and small children to satisfy and keep healthy…and in the past couple months he has dropped 20+ pounds and he feels better than ever.  Lyle came up with the following recipes for Paleo Pizza (yes Paul and Kim we can enjoy PIZZA!) and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf aka “The Bacon Bomb” that I plan on trying soon.   The Bacon Bomb will be coming up soon.  If you are wondering why regular pizza should not be consumed, well…sugar, gluten, grains, processed ingredients…so go ahead and try this one that you can make and not feel guilty…filled with good fats and necessary nutrients.

Please follow Lyle on Twitter @lyle_g or his group training facebook page Peak212 – Small Group Training

PALEO PIZZA (from the kitchen of Lyle Gadin):

Ingredients (found them all at Whole Foods):
2 cups almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill – not as coarse)
1 cup arrowroot powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. – ish oregano (I used fresh organic and diced oregano)
1 1/2 tsp. – ish basil (I also used fresh and diced basil)
1 tbsp. – ish of finely diced garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 425°. The batter is like pancake mix consistency, FYI.

I mixed everything and put it in a butter greased round 9″ cooking pan (you might want to use some type of lard, the base did stick a little to my non-stick pan even with butter. After some patient utensil work, I got the pizza bases out unbroken)

I wanted thin crust so I cooked the batter for 6 – 8 mins to firm up then took it out to cool down so I could put the toppings (then I repeated this 4 more times since I only have one Pan, lol). Just make sure the middle is firm. I was able to get 4 thin Pizza bases out of this. If you want a thicker base, maybe cook it 8 – 10 mins so the middle is firm.

I used organic tomato sauce, turkey pepperoni, roasted bell pepper, mushrooms…whatever.

Then I cooked for another 8 – 10 mins at 425° to cook ingredients ( and I like a crispy crust)

I would like to add that you can use any meats or veggies on your pizza, be creative and when you use bacon or pepperoni please use “nitrate free”.  And having made my Paleo pancakes several times, in order to keep from sticking, try some grass-fed butter room at room temperature mixed into the crust ingredients.  For some Paleo people who can tolerate dairy, please use grass-fed raw cheeses or a good parmesan. If you make this, please let us know what toppings you tried! Enjoy!!

And I’m Feeling Good

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

The fear of change is very real, but all it takes is believing in yourself and the movement of one step forward.  What do you have to lose? Even if you tell yourself you can’t make a change, you have to think past that; think past the heart pounding or the lump in your throat and just move forward.  Every time you make a decision to do something that makes you feel better about yourself or makes a beneficial change in your life, your whole experience will be great.

When you stick to your health and fitness goals the change may take a while but great things happen to you.  I am often asked about my change and my experience.  The first step was the decision to make the change in my life and these are the wonderful things that happened to me.

The first time I was able to buy a smaller clothing size.

Learning how to weight train properly and then managing my own training routine.

Deciding to eat clean and feeling proud of the change in how I felt and then quickly losing weight.

Meeting my first goal of losing 25 lbs.

The time I could fit in my skinny clothes, which were a size 4.

Reaching my next goal of losing 35 lbs and feeling confident and hungry for more.

The time I went to buy a pair of jeans and it was a size 0 and so happy I told everyone about it, even the girl at the store!

Going to a different store and verifying it really was a size 0.

The feeling that I could do anything!

Bringing all my former skinny clothes to the Salvation Army.

Noticing some muscle definition.

Reaching my next goal of 40 lbs lost.

Changing my eating and living plan again, deciding it is a life change to give up sugar, processed foods and grains.

Losing 2 more pounds for a total of 42 lbs and 2 more inches off my waist!

Being able to lift heavier weights easier.

Actually having muscle definition in my arms and legs and noticing stomach muscles for once in my life!

And others noticing too!

Being able to do 2 semi-assisted pull-ups.

At 44 years old I now look younger and feel 20 years younger.

Feeling super confident, sexy, healthy and alive!

I made the decision to step forward and change my life; to nourish myself and my well-being and I don’t mind patting myself on the back because I feel good!  And if you are looking to make that change…go ahead give yourself the push to take that step!

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.” ― Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own Words

A Day of Cooking for Eating on the Road

I’ve been very busy preparing for my road trip home this week.  By eating Paleo, I will not stop at a fast food place along the way, besides I just want to drive and get there, so I will pre-make food to eat along the way.  It’s approximately 17 hours and I always want to eat when I drive… chewing keeps you awake.

First up was pumpkin pancakes and chocolate banana pancakes.  You can see my so-called recipe on my Breakfast post a few days ago.  I still don’t have a set recipe, so for those who asked or those who wish to make it, you will need to adjust the wet and dry ingredients.  And just to advise you they are not sweet and not meant to be (no sugar, right?…has anyone conformed yet!?).  Anyway  ingredients include organic canned pumpkin, eggs, unsweetended almond or coconut milk, coconut oil, almond butter, cinnamon, spinach, flax seed, baking powder,almond and coconut flour (this is not flour, it’s just ground product and nothing else…no grains!).  For the chocolate banana, I used 3 bananas and about a half cup of pure cocoa powder (which tastes awful alone).  Cook them in coconut oil and top off with some fresh chopped fruit…Yum!  I only eat 2 because they are very filling.  Although I can’t heat them unless I stop at a truck stop, they will be great right out of the cooler

Second thing I made was turkey sausage meatballs, which are so simple to make and also the recipe is on my Breakfast post.  A pound with the other ingredients makes 16 meatballs.  I can have 4 of those and a couple hard-boiled eggs and some veggies.

For later in the day I will have a grass-fed burger or a chicken breast and some veggies.  Again eating chilled or car temp, but I like it anyway.  Cavewoman eating 🙂

Paleo beef jerky

Last up, the best part was for the first time I made beef jerky!  I used the recipe from the Latest in Paleo site and I attached the link to the recipe.  A friend of mine made it last week and I loved it and Ithought it would be a perfect snack for the road trip.  It turned out awesome except I added maybe a little too much cayenne.  And by Louisiana standards that means eyes are watering and must drink a bottle of water after consuming (maybe I should put that on the bag).  I have found a wonderful butcher, Emmett’s close to work.  He carries only grass-fed beef…actually all his meats are great quality and he’s honest if it’s not the quality I am looking for.  And Emmett is personable…gives you that old style butcher quality.  He cut the London Broil for me, 3lbs worth; cutting it the way he makes his jerky.  Next time I will ask him to go a tad thicker on the cut…just a preference.  The big part that was different from the recipe is I did it in an oven on the lowest heat…except my oven is about 80 years old and well, the numbers aren’t really there anymore and the lowest number I could see was 250 degrees so I guessed at the temp to be about 170 or so. Without a dehydrator I lined the cookie sheets with foil and laid out the meat not overlaying so it dries evenly.  Set a timer in case you are distracted.  Put the trays in on different levels.  Depending on the thickness it will take 4-5 hours.  Four hours later a big, well not that big batch of beef jerky.  I found out that 3lbs of meat when dried looks like about a half a pound! It’s a great, easy, healthy recipe if you want to try it.  Only other thing I wish I would have done was make some plain ones for the pups, but I have their treats ready for the road anyway.

Latest in Paleo beef jerky recipe

Another thing that helped me out in my food preparation and an item I will get a lot of use out of is a handheld Foodsaver.  It vacuum packs your food so it freezes better with no freezer burn and helps store better keeping it fresher longer.  It was only $20 plus the bags…this is compared to the machines, which are $80 to $130 and too far out of my price range.  If you portion food like I do it’s a great item to buy.

My new Foodsaver kitchen toy

Anyway, food is ready.  Time to pack!