This Week I Loved…

My awesome new desk chair.

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Lunch with a friend in my old neighborhood.

VillageIdiotPaleo granola.

DSCN0696A leisurely walk through my neighborhood.

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Finishing the rough draft of my paper on Frank Lloyd Wright and sustainability.

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Being featured with the So Cal Lady Bloggers here: http://socalladybloggers.com/meet-sclb-member-kim-porter/

Also, this video.

Paleo Challenge Update: The Finale

Well folks, that’s in. The month of April is over, and my paleo challenge with it. But the thing is that I don’t think I’m going to end it here. I’ve talked about how even my energy level has been and how much better my skin is, and I don’t want to mess that all up! So here are the usual updates for my last few official days of paleo, plus my plan moving forward.

Favorite Meal

DSCN0691On our last official night of paleo, we had some oven roasted chicken thighs with grilled onions and herbs, and on the side a yam with a delightful pad of melting butter. I like yams because they’re a little sweet, just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth without doing too much damage.

Favorite Snack

I have been loving snacking through this whole diet (as you’ve probably noticed from my past lunches). I’ve especially  loved exploring paleo recipes that remind me of non-paleo foods. It has been helping me feel like I’m not missing anything by eating paleo, and makes me feel like I could keep this up for a lot longer if I wanted to.

DSCN0687We had friends over for dinner one night, and I whipped this almond cake up for dessert (adapted from this recipe). It was super easy to do! In fact we made a second one using orange instead of lemon, and I have to say I think I prefer the orange version! Drizzled with a little honey, it made the perfect sweet finish to a delicious meal.

DSCN0696I also made some paleo granola (adapted from this recipe), which is so delicious! Before this month, cereal was my breakfast pretty much every morning. On paleo we almost always have eggs and bacon for breakfast, but I was looking for something to mix it up a bit. This granola is oat-less and basically all nuts and dried fruit, so it’s very filling and a great kick start to the morning

Something Learned

Ok, I have a confession to make. There were two meals when I was unable to truly stick to paleo. I was at a conference where lunch was provided for us, and I have to say the options were limited and left few choices for anyone with special dietary needs. But what it taught me, which will help me moving forward, is to make better decisions about what I’m putting into my body. For example, when confronted with pizza on the first day I could choose between regular pizza, gluten free pizza, and vegan pizza.

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First I loaded up with as much salad as I could without seeming like a hog, and then I chose a small slice of gluten free pizza, deciding that the processed soy and gluten in the vegan pizza was probably worse for me than simply having some lactose and doing without the gluten. And I topped it off with a couple of baked chicken wings.

On the second day of the conference there was only chicken in mole (delicious!), corn tamale, and white rice served. So in that case I skipped the rice altogether, and then after hearing that the corn was all organic and that they did not use any soy in their cooking but instead used grape seed oil, I decided to eat some of the tamale as a means to get enough energy to carry me through the rest of the day.

How I Feel

As I’ve mentioned, my energy level remains even and my skin is still healthy, and I aim to keep that going for as long as possible! But now that my paleo month is over, I also feel a bit relieved that in situations like the conference lunches, or when I go to a friend’s house for dinner, I can let loose a little bit and not worry too much about eating bread, pasta, or milk products if that’s what’s being served. Which leads me to…

The Plan Moving Forward

Here’s what the hubby and I have decided to do, for our health: At home, we will continue to basically eat paleo, adding in occasional legumes (beans and peanuts) and whole grains (quinoa and farro) to be sure we’re also getting the valuable vitamins and nutrition they can provide. But the legumes and grains will be limited. Mainly our diet will continue to consist of protein and veggies, and we’ll continue to avoid lactose and gluten as much as possible. However, we’ve also decided that when we go out to dinner or find ourselves in a situation with few paleo options, we’re not going to stress about it. There is so much delicious food out there to be had, why miss out on it all the time. There are too many non-paleo things we love to taste! But the idea is “everything in moderation,” and that’s what we will be sticking to.

Besides, when we head to Abu Dhabi and Turkey in a few weeks, and are confronted with incredible foods we’ve never even heard of, we will be trying it all!

Will you be changing your eating habits moving forward? What changes are you making to be healthier?

Paleo Challenge Update: Week Four

Well, April is almost over, and so will be the month of my self imposed paleo challenge. Only a few more days! Although I have to admit, I don’t mind this new way of eating. I doubt I’ll stray much from it once the challenge is over!

Favorite Meal

Sausages! Need I say more? Yum! My hubby put together a delicious meal of Italian sausages with peppers, onions, and mushrooms all cooked together in a cast iron skillet and seasoned with basil, salt, and pepper. I didn’t miss the sausage bun at all!

DSCN0445I also really enjoyed this breakfast! We’ve gotten in to a routine in the mornings where I first make coffee and then bacon and eggs for us to have together before the hubby heads off to work. But one morning, he beat me to it and whipped up some baked frittata-like scrambled eggs with basil, a side of bacon, and berries to fill the corners. This was my favorite breakfast all week!

DSCN0625Favorite Snack

Of course, my go-to prosciutto plus fruit snack wins again, but this time with berries! (This was my late-night snack after class on Wednesday night.)

DSCN0651We also made chicken liver pate, and in a search for something to spread it on found this simple recipe for paleo crackers and adapted it a bit. (We used garlic olive oil, and skipped the rosemary to avoid an extra trip to the grocery store.) They were delicious, a little bit addictive, and very munchable even on their own.

DSCN0644Something Learned

I learned that fruit is perfect for satisfying a sweets craving. Really what you’re craving most of the time is sugar, and fruit has plenty of that! It’s just the all natural kind. It makes me realize that I can rely more on fruit for sugar and less on things like cookies. So in the future when I do have a cookie or three, it will be a more enjoyable special treat!

How I Feel

Honestly, my body has really normalized to this way of eating! I continue to have clearer skin, more predictable and less dramatic hunger over the course of the day, and my energy level remains even. All good things! It definitely motivates me to be more paleo than I was once the challenge is over (even if there are occasions to fall away from it every now and then… like ice cream on a hot day). But more on my plans for the future in my final paleo update next week!

Have you been trying this along with me? How do you feel?

Paleo Challenge Update: Week Three

I’m through week three and going strong! The hardest part has been on the few occasions where I’ve eaten out. I thought it would be easy to find paleo-friendly menu options, but it is admittedly harder than I realized. Salads wind up being the default, which can get a little boring after a while. But hey, you can never have too many greens I suppose.

Favorite Meal

Meatballs! I know they traditionally go with spaghetti, but of course we can’t have spaghetti. In retrospect, a great paleo alternative to spaghetti would have been spaghetti squash, so maybe we’ll have our meatballs with some spaghetti squash next time.

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I also really loved this meal, which was actually our dinner last night. I am definitely a beef and pork eater but if given the choice I tend to gravitate toward poultry, so this was my kind of meal. We had chicken roasted with sweet potatoes and apples, with a side of greens.

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Favorite Snack

Bear with me here because I had lots of good snacks this week. In fact, for some reason I’ve found myself having large snack-like plates for lunch instead of full meals on most days. This snack plate was my lunch the other day. Prosciutto with a little drizzle of honey, olives, sugar snap peas, a pear for “dessert”, and some tea to warm me up on a windy day.

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Another day I broke open this papaya to snack on. Yup! Just me, my spoon, and this baby. Sweet and delicious!

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I also got a little more creative with the nuts this week. and put together a mixture of walnuts, almonds, and dried cranberries for a little munching.

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Something Learned

I have been noticing this week that my skin has been clearing up dramatically during this paleo challenge, and after a bit of research it turns out my love of dairy and bread has probably been a significant factor in my acne to begin with! This resource explains it more in depth, but basically a diet high in carbohydrates and lactose can cause your insulin to react differently than intended, and the hormones that create the oil in your follicles become out of whack. Voila! More of those little red enemies. Also, lactose generally can cause inflammation of all sorts, so it makes sense that less lactose would mean lowered inflammation of your skin. Here are two resources that I fond helpful to understand this better:

How I Feel

Like I mentioned, I have noticed a huge improvement in my overall skin health. My energy level has been staying pretty consistent still. And I’ve even noticed that my pants are fitting better! Now I don’t want to tout this as a weight-loss diet, because it truly is all about getting healthy and eating more naturally. But I’m not surprised if a little weight loss comes a long with it. I am so much less inclined to snack because I don’t have those dramatic drops in blood sugar that scream “feed me” at all odd times of day. Plus, the types of foods I snack on are no longer potato chips, cheese and crackers, or bowls of cereal (yes, I used to have that for a snack… all lactose and carbs). Instead, I snack on papaya or nuts. Much more interesting and tasty! So all in all I’d say I am a lot healthier than I was just a few weeks ago!

Paleo Challenge Update: Week Two

Another paleo week down! Honestly, this is a lot easier to do than I thought! It requires a little creativity on occasion, but I’m really enjoying eggs and bacon for breakfast and almond milk in my coffee every morning. Plus, I’m getting much more versed in what it means to eat a paleo diet, so it’s getting much easier to explain to people what it all means.

Favorite Meal

I can pick two, right? I’m picking two. The truth is, there have been way more than two incredibly delicious meals this week, but let’s not belabor how spoiled I am at dinner time. So I’m picking one home cooked meal and one meal out.

Over the weekend after taking one of the LA Conservancy’s walking tours through downtown Los Angeles, we spent the rest of the day wandering around downtown… an old used and collectable book store, the fabric district, and the arts district. We stopped at one of our favorite sushi spots for lunch, and since rice is out for paleo we ordered a mouth watering collection of sashimi. Yum!.

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Then, a few nights ago the hubby brought home a flank steak, grilled it to perfection and put together a sort of broken down fajita. We had the steak with roasted zucchini  eggplant, and peppers. I even got to use the leftover guacamole for a cobb salad the next day for lunch, so I’d call that a double success!

DSCN0544Favorite Snack

Ok, this has been by far my favorite discovery of this week. For No Tech Tuesday this week we decided to do a little paleo baking. Yes, that’s what I said. Paleo baking. We made this recipe for “‘I Can’t Believe It’s Paleo’ Banana Bread“, and it was so delicious!

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Great as a snack for sure, but my favorite way to eat it was pan fried with a little butter and a side of eggs for breakfast. It was almost like having french toast! I will definitely be making this again this week. (By the way, if you are gluten challenged, this is completely gluten free and definitely worth a try!)

DSCN0569Something Learned

This week I was learning to limit my snacking. Especially with that delicious banana bread, I wanted to just keep eating more. Same with almonds, they are so easy to grab a handful and snack away! But part of a paleo diet is balancing the kind of foods you are eating. Remember last week when I mentioned there are a lot of gray areas for what foods are ok or not? Some of them (like almonds, and I’m sure all the stuff that’s in that banana bread) are considered “paleo, but…” Meaning it’s paleo, but in moderation. The idea is to limit yourself to the amount of food that you might come across if you were actually in a forest somewhere gathering your meal.

How I Feel

I feel balanced. Ok, how do I explain that… My energy level has been pretty consistent throughout each day, which I’m attributing to the lack of my usual sugar highs followed by sugar crashes. I surprisingly have not been having crazy cravings for things though. I think I’m actually getting a reasonable amount of sugar to satisfy my would-be cravings just by eating delicious things like pineapple and mango on occasion. This little “challenge” of mine has been surprisingly easy to adapt to. Now, onward, to week three!

I would love to hear about your paleo experiences! Leave ’em in the comments!

Paleo Challenge Update: Week One

Earlier this week I wrote about the hubby and I challenging ourselves to one month of the paleo lifestyle. So far so good! And since there was so much interest in my post on Tuesday, I thought I’d keep you all posted with an update at the end of each week, where I’ll address each of these four topics. So, here goes!

My Favorite Meal

We tried a few different meats this week, but I’m going to have to go with the pork roast of night one as my favorite! It was delicious, flavorful, and really made me feel like I wasn’t sacrificing anything in the way of dinners. So thanks to the hubby for being an awesome cook and whipping this up for us on the first night!

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My Favorite Snack

Ok, so actually this was my lunch yesterday, but earlier in the week I was snacking on smaller portions of these when I would start feeling munchie. Strawberries, almonds, and prosciutto, oh my!

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Something Learned

I learned that legumes are not ok on the paleo diet, so apples with peanut butter is out. But almonds are a great alternative! Throw some almonds in a food processor and viola, instant almond butter! (I prefer almond butter over peanut butter anyway.) Also, almond milk in my coffee has been quite delicious; I don’t miss my usual sugar and soy creamer at all! In fact, I might switch to almond milk for my coffee permanently.

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How I Feel

The biggest change I’ve notice in week one has been that I don’t get those sudden intense hunger feelings. Normally, hunger works like an off/on switch for me. One second it’s off and the next it’s on… and then it’s a count-down to get food before I start getting cranky. I’m starting to think that might have been because of all the refined carbohydrates I usually eat! I have not had that kind of instant hunger sensation even once all week. So that has been a big and welcome surprise in all this!

Are you living paleo too? How’s it going? If not, are you intrigued yet?

My April Paleo Challenge

mmmmm… my favorite…

If you know me, then you know I love chocolate chip cookies, cheese, and especially ice cream. I have been perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was 7 years old, and my husband’s friends often request them for Guys Night. Any time there is cheese in the kitchen, I am right there on top of it like a hawk. And ice cream… well… it is the loveliest stuff on the planet. Ok, maybe a bit dramatic I know, but no sense in hiding my emotions.

Why the ode to my favorite tasty treats? Because the hubby and I have decided to give ourselves a little challenge of sorts. We are attempting to go completely paleo for one month.

Now I’m not the type to go on diet after diet just to follow the latest trends in weight loss, and this is definitely not a diet designed specifically to lose weight (although I suppose it’s possible that could be a side effect). But I have been known to diet or restrict myself of things or try to improve my lifestyle in an effort to be healthier. I think this should be the real reason people change the way they eat. Not because you want to squeeze into that bikini this summer, or because you were hoping to order one size smaller in that dress you’re dying to wear to such-and-such event. But because you realize that maybe you could be healthier, and healthier means more energy, better blood flow, feeling less out of breath up that flight of stairs, and raised self esteem once you realize how awesome you feel.

Jack Black and Michael Cera in “Year One”

So why go paleo? Well, the whole idea behind a paleo lifestyle is to eat like hunters/gatherers, which is how our bodies are made. So this basically means sticking to meat, veggies, and fruit. Grains are not generally acceptable because they are high in carbohydrates and have been highly farmed and genetically enhanced over the years, none of which is natural to our bodies. Milk products are another result of an agrarian lifestyle that doesn’t fly in a paleo one. And definitely no refined sugars. The idea is not to quit all sources of sugar altogether, but rather to get your sugar from fruit instead (and maybe a little honey from time to time).

It seems to me that there are a surprising number of gray areas on this diet, things that seem like they don’t meet the basic qualifiers of paleo but are actually ok, or vice versa. So I’ve been using this awesome blog (Eat Drink Paleo) to better understand it. She has great recipes, resources, and explanations on the paleo lifestyle, and on top of that there is a search field on the home page that lets you search for items to find out if they are paleo or not. (I will definitely be using that feature a lot over the next month!)

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Paleo Dinner – Day 1

We started yesterday and the hubby (definitely the superior chef of the two of us!) made a delicious pork roast with sweet potato, tomatoes, and kale, roasted together in a cast iron skillet. It was delicious, and I have to say not tremendously different than how we normally eat for dinner! But his healthy cooking is not what I’m worried about… It’s my habitual cereal, bread, and sweets eating that will be the hardest to kick over the next few weeks.

Do I see myself being 100% paleo forever? Definitely not. I love chocolate chip cookies, cheese, and ice cream all too much to quit them forever! But my hope is that this will encourage better, healthier eating habits over the long term (meaning less of the things I shouldn’t eat and more of the things I should) and maybe even boost up my energy a notch or two. Plus, one other aspect of paleo is regular exercise which we are combatting with a nightly walk through our very hilly neighborhood after dinner, and that little extra time with my guy will make every “no thank you” I dish out to my beloved ice cream completely worth the sacrifice.

Have you tried the paleo lifestyle? I’d love to hear about your experience!