I survived Vegas!

We just got back from our first vacation since starting eating paleo and I was a bit worried. We went to Las Vegas and rules were broken several times… The first couple of days were for a work conference and the lunches brought in were not paleo friendly. But, I did the best I could. I resisted the pizza and the mid-day snacks (all sugar heavy candy bars, protein bars, cookies and rice crispies), I took apart the sandwich, burger and hot dog to avoid the bread and buns, I skipped on the pasta salad, and I avoided soda. Breakfast was the only course where I had no issues – I readily enjoyed the scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh fruit.

Once the work aspect was done, I still worked on choosing as best as I could. Here are some of our meals:

  • Had an exceptionally good Parmesan crusted pork loin and crispy Brussels sprouts & potatoes appetizer (malt vinegar aioli dipping sauce was not paleo but was yummy) at the Yard House.
  • Had a great wild mushroom & goat cheese omelet (the mushrooms were cooked in truffle butter) with breakfast potatoes in downtown Vegas at a place called Glutton (with an amazing seasonal watermelon salad)
  • Enjoyed escargot (with a slice of dinner bread), French onion soup, filet mignon and french fries at Mon Ami Gabi
  • Had a yummy bacon appetizer and another great filet mignon with roasted asparagus at HEXX
  • Enjoyed a delicious mushroom soup and grilled salmon at Mercato della Pescheria in The Venetian.
  • I focused on the seafood at Rio’s Carnival World Buffet – but cheated with a taste of some creme brulee & some delicious mango gelato

Alcohol – here is where I just cheated. I chose ciders or wine more often but did give in to a few cocktails like something called a Blue Envy, a margarita from the Flamingo and the Alexxa at HEXX.

Additional cheats – we were hungry so we had a fruit-only smoothie at Jamba Juice and I did pick a couple of chocolates at the Jean Philippe Patisserie in the Aria. But those were bite-sized and were all dark chocolate so I don’t even count them as cheats.

So what was the damage? Believe it not, I actually lost weight! I am 0.4 lbs lighter than when I left on vacation! Woohoo! But how?

Well – we walked. A lot. Like my Apple Watch usually only tracks about 2500 steps for me on a regular day and it tracked between 8500 to as much as over 18,000 steps one day. That is over 3-4 times more activity a day than average. Just walking to the parking garage was about 1/2 a mile. We spent one afternoon at Valley of the Fire State Park, another day visiting Hoover Dam and walking between casinos and up and down the Strip can add up.

So even though we had some cheat meals and we did drink, the extra activity helped ensure that the cheats did not hit me too hard. And I’ve learned that even though I still have to make some good dining choices, the extra activity inherent in vacationing that involves sight-seeing helps keep those cheats off the weight scale.

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15 lbs down!

So, aftimageer a few weeks of stalling on the weight loss despite no major changes on how I ate, something happened and I started losing again which resulted in reaching my 3rd goal of 15lb. lost. Woohoo! Clothes is noticeably looser too.

Tomorrow though, I leave for my 1st trip/vacation since we started eating paleo and my first week away from home-cooked meals. For the next six days, meals we have to be eaten at restaurants, in Vegas much less. It is a much needed vacation and I will be having a cocktail or two but I hope to not go too crazy and will work to pick the best entrees possible – I’m thinking steaks and seafood. Hopefully walking around more than usual will help too. The first couple of days will actually be for a work conference so it should be interesting to see what they will offer for lunch. I may have to give in and have a sandwich if that is my only option.

Wish me lunch and I’ll check back in when we get back and share how things go!

 

Instapot Butternut Squash & Ginger Soup

Heimagere is another one of my modified recipes using bits and pieces from a couple of other butternut squash soup recipes – this one and this one to be exact. Using the InstaPot makes this super easy to make and will be perfect for the fall and winter. An immersion blender lets you blend it right in the Instapot (but a blender will work too).

I love the crisp taste of ginger and think the few slices of fresh ginger in this recipe gives it a wonderfully subtle flavor. Kenny also noticed the nutmeg and I think these two flavors work really well together. I hope you like it too.

BONUS TIP: We had some leftover shredded chicken from a store bought rotisserie chicken that we added to make it a heartier meal when we had it for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, ~4 lbs
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or ghee
  • 1/2″ fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp herbs de provence
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can of coconut milk, full fat
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Peel butternut squash, remove seeds and cut into 1/2″ – 1″ chunks.
  • Use the saute feature on the Instapot and cook the onions in the olive oil or ghee until they are translucent.
  • Add the butternut squash and all the other listed ingredients.
  • Stir to mix things up, making sure to get the onions at the bottom mixed in as well.
  • Now use the soup feature on your InstaPot. It should cook on high pressure for about 30 minutes.
  • Once complete, use an immersion blender (or pour into a standard blender) to puree and blend the contents till the mixture is smooth.
  • Serve! You can garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or chives if you’d like.

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Recipe: Spicy Italian Sausage & Mushroom Frittata

I’ve been getting braver with my recipes… and today I took inspiration from a handful of frittata recipes to create my own version using what we already had on hand. I’m posting here my version to share and for me to remember my modifications for future reference.🙂

imageSpicy Italian Sausage & Mushroom Frittata
makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil (mine came from my garden), chopped or cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or 4-cheese blend (use fresh)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
  • Saute the onions in ghee in an oven safe skillet – preferably a 10″ cast-iron skillet.
  • Start browning the Italian sausage in a separate skillet.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms to the onions a couple of minutes later.
  • Cook the onions & mushrooms on medium heat until the mushrooms are cooked through – about another 5 minutes.
  • While the onions & mushrooms cook, whisk the eggs, almond milk, cheese & basil in a bowl. Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Add the browned sausage to the onions & mushrooms (be sure to drain the oil before adding).
  • Add the egg mixture to the onions, mushrooms and sausage mix already in the oven safe skillet.
  • Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  • If you’d like to brown the top, switch to the broiler setting and broil it for another 3 minutes.

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Baking Paleo Muffins

Once imageWhole 30 was done and both honey and baked sweets was allowed, I’ve tried my hand at a couple of paleo muffins.

I did follow Sherry‘s advice though and I bough these great silicone muffin cups online (less than $7 for 24!) since she warned me that the various paleo flours when baked tend to stick to regular liners more than regular baked goods. These things have worked perfectly and I love the bright colors!

My first attempt at paleo muffins were these Lemon-Blueberry Paleo Muffins. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of them. The texture was different than standard muffins due to the almond flour and they were almost a bit too moist – I might try less lemon juice next time but the flavor was good. I did add a few more blueberries than the recipe called for. I also tried the “sprinkles” topping (lemon juice & coconut sugar) but felt it didn’t really add anything to the muffin so I’ll just skip it next time. So, yea, the recipe is a keeper and will stay in my recipe book.

My second attempt were these *delicious* Paleo Chocolate Banana Muffins. I did take a photo of these! I brought some to work so I don’t end up eating all of them myself and they were well received. Be warned though – you can taste the banana in these so I don’t recommend these if you don’t like bananas.

I must confess – I did use semi-sweet mini morsels instead of more paleo friendly dark chocolate ones because I still had some in my pantry. Next time I bake these I will use the dark chocolate ones. Although, to be honest, the mini morsels were a perfect size (vs. regular size chocolate chips) and I don’t think I have ever seen dark chocolate mini morsels. Also, the topping wasn’t paleo, but again, it’s what I had in my pantry.  If you feel like breaking the rules a bit too, I recommend Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Dessert Topping. It was perfect for these muffins! These are also staying the recipe book but will only be made as an occasional treat since they were rather decadent but oh so good!

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Checking In

Well, so far so good. I am down *almost* 11 lbs (10.8 to be exact) and I’ve stayed pretty true to the paleo diet. I know we can now have honey but I am working on not using it too much (limiting it to baked goods and a tbsp or so in recipes every now & then) and same with dairy (no yogurt, no milk, limited cheese). I have had a couple of sugar-free apple ciders but really can’t recall outright and deliberately cheating on the diet (do semi-sweet chocolate morsels instead of dark chocolate ones in some paleo muffins count?). A few things may have snuck in inadvertently due to eating out but I’m trying!

I hardly lost any weight this past week (0.2 lbs) but it wasn’t a gain either. I’ve adjusted my snacking habits and am slowly adjusting to this new way of life. Just this past week alone I’ve avoided birthday cake (red velvet and strawberry), donuts, chips & queso, buttery garlic bread rolls and Mexican coke.

My personal triumph at this time is I am down one pant size. I had kept a few pair of favorite dress slacks that were one size too small and had gotten too tight for me. I can now wear them again (some size 14s!) and today I am even wearing the only pair of brown slacks I own. These had gotten so tight they gave me a bad case of camel toe and they were uncomfortable but not today! I’m also wearing some shirts again I had avoided because they had gotten a bit tight across the stomach. It’s nice having some new wardrobe options without having to buy new clothes. Small victories, I know.

Some habits I have changed:

  • I now drink my coffee black or with almond milk. Also drinking cold brew coffee over ice that we made at home.
  • I drink unsweet tea too – with lots of lemon! And sparkling water with fruit essence.
  • I stopped drinking fruit juices (we always had OJ in the fridge). I do miss it.
  • I also stopped drinking my daily glass of milk with Ovaltine (I have had a glass of chocolate milk every morning since I was a child so this was a big deal).
  • We now cook a LOT more at home.
  • I myself actually cook a meal about once a week and help Kenny more in the kitchen. I’ve baked a couple of paleo muffins too!
  • Pinterest is my new BFF again – it’s invaluable in helping me pin recipes and meal plan.
  • I am bringing my lunch to work almost every day when I used to actually eat out every single day. We fill the dishwasher with a lot of to-go containers.
  • We go grocery shopping on a weekly basis when before we only went every few weeks with quick stops at Target for some staples (like milk).
  • Not paleo related but still a new habit – Pilates class twice a week. I haven’t missed since starting!

Thanks to all of you who continue to encourage and support!

2nd Goal Met! 10 lbs down…

image Yay! I met my 2nd goal with this morning’s official weekly weigh-in – I’m down 10.6 lbs! The transition from Whole30 to Paleo has been good. I’m still avoiding dairy in most forms but I have allowed for cheese as garnish on some dishes (like real grated Parmesan or queso fresco). I’ve reintroduced my almond milk using it as my “creamer” in my coffee. Also made my 1st paleo baked good – these lemon blueberry muffins* to be exact – since we can now have honey in moderation. Hope I can keep taking off a pound a week!

* Sherry gave me a tip and said that paleo baked goods tend to stick to the paper muffin baking cups and to try using silicone ones. I bought these and they worked great! I love the colors too!

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Seared Scallops Appetizer

I ate at a local eatery, CRISP, last week and enjoyed their Houston Restaurant Weeks menu. The appetizer I had, simply labeled “Seared Scallops”, was a wonderful combination of flavors I had not had before. They had the ingredients listed on the menu so I tried to recreate it for our weekly dinner with friends. They gave it a resounding vote of approval so I thought I’d share my version of this seared scallops appetizer.

By the way, Kenny cooked us Asian Glazed Five Spice Pork Tenderloin and wow! That recipe will be used again. It came out perfectly on the first try. So much flavor!

On to the appetizer…

Ingredients

  • fresh scallops (I served 3 per person)
  • onion sprouts (you can use other sprouts but make sure they are paleo, no legumes)
  • cucumber, diced
  • fresh basil (mine came from my garden)
  • fresh mint (also from my garden)
  • raw honey

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the basil and mint together (3 parts basil to 1 part mint).
  2. Lightly sear the scallops using a about a tbsp of olive oil.
  3. Drizzle honey onto a small plate, then sprinkle about a 1/2 to 1 tbsp of the chopped basil+mint mix onto the honey (depending on how many scallops you serve).
  4. Place the scallops on the honey sprinkled with basil & mint.
  5. Place a generous amount of sprouts on top of the scallops.
  6. Place the diced cucumbers on top of the sprouts.
  7. Be sure to get all the flavors in each bite!

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This picture is courtesy of EJ

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Last week of Whole30!

Sorry this post is a week late but we have made it through our first Whole30!

Here are my observations on the final week:

  • I felt my pants were looser but I did not realize I had lost 9 lbs! I am officially back under 200 again and hit my 1st goal. It’s been a couple of years I think since I had been under that threshold. I seemed to have been holding steady between 206 & 208 for a long while.
  • I now actually like apples & almond butter.
  • Still missing a few items but I’m resisting temptations pretty well… even when you shoot a toddler’s birthday portraits with Krsipy Kreme donuts instead of cake. They looked so delicious but I was good!

Week 4 Meals:

  • leftover Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie (from their book) – used sweet mini peppers instead of carrots, added some Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning
  • Grilled chicken breast with various veggies (had this several times)
  • InstaPot Mole Pulled Pork (pork shoulder) with homemade chili sauce, sauteed mushrooms and sweet fried plantain slices
  • Bacon-wrapped scallops with baked Brussels sprouts (also with bacon)
  • Sous-vide beef filet with fried plantains
  • Paleo Swedish Meatballs (ground beef & turkey) & Cauliflower Couscous (added some celery)

Eating Out:

  • Fajita Willies beef fajitas & gaucamole (skip the tortillas)
  • Fuddruckers beef patty & hot dog with shredded lettuce (working lunch
  • Luby’s Blackened Tilapia with green beans and zucchini/summer squash mix
  • Skewers gyro meat with side salad and grilled veggies
  • Logan’s Roadhouse Chopped Steak, grilled mushroom skewer & house salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Snacks:

  • raspberries, grapes
  • apples with almond butter
  • mixed salted nuts (no peanuts of course)
  • boiled eggs
  • Larabar lemon bar
  • Bare Apple Chips

Support & Challenges

So we’ve got a couple of more days left of the Whole30 and it hasn’t been that hard per se but that has been because my husband is also doing this with me and between the two of us, we have a great partnership. I like to research, pin recipes, create the weekly menu and make the grocery list. I don’t like to cook though, nor does it come natural to me at all. That is where my husband comes in. He is a great cook and he has been making the recipes I select especially delicious with his kitchen skills. I do try to help as I can without being too much of a bother. Just call me his sous chef, LOL.

I also appreciate the support from my friends at work and my friends on Facebook and of course, in real life. As I mention the diet to people, I actually find out that several friends have tried it, are doing it or are (more often) doing a modified version of paleo. I am especially grateful for Sherry & EJ who patiently answer our questions and give us their own tips that they’ve learned along their paleo journey. We get to try Sherry’s delicious paleo meals and in turn share ones we like during our weekly get-togethers.

My challenges have been minor but I wanted to put them out to paint a realistic picture of *my* particular journey… these are in no particular order. Just my random thoughts.

  • Whole30 (and Paleo) drink options are really limited. Sparkling water with fruit “essences” is not as good as fruit juice. And unsweet tea is getting easier to drink but I’ll never enthusiastically love it (I didn’t even really like it when I could add sweetener). I’m getting used to black coffee but do miss cafe mochas. Unfortunately, drinks with any flavor mean that they have sugar. So yea, not thrilled about my drink options but I’ll live. I may try mixing some pure OJ with some sparkling water as a treat occasionally since no sugar added pure fruit juice isn’t technically against the rule, just should be avoided on a regular basis. I may also try adding almond milk to my coffee and see how coconut sugar works in some drinks. Again, not trying to get back to sweetening everything since that defeats the purpose but may try every now & them.
  • I miss freshening my breath with gum or a mint. I bought a paleo compliant breath spray that EJ told me about and EJ & Sherry even found me paleo compliant mints (no sugar, no artificial sweeteners added) to try. We’ll see how those taste.
  • I miss eating popcorn at the movies.
  • Energy levels have not changed but that’s OK. I know I need to go to bed earlier to help on that front.
  • Hunger levels vary. My snacking habit has been harder to break than the sugar habit. Just because nuts and fruit are OK does not mean I can have them whenever I want, especially since I am trying to lose weight.
  • The 2nd half of Whole30 we backed off all the meal planning. Cooking elaborate recipes every night was just not sustainable for us. We got lazy this last week too and just started to cook simpler meals from what we had in the freezer and fridge. We were still able to stay compliant because we still are going to the grocery store each week and stocking compliant items and fresh meats and veggies but leftovers weren’t as yummy. We also need to work on making better sides. In the future I need to find a better balance of recipes and we need to work on actual meal prep on Sunday to help with the week-day cooking.
  • There have been a few leftover lunches that I have not been thrilled about. and couldn’t even finish. Times like that is when I get a bit frustrated that I can’t easily go grab something better.
  • Pants are finally feeling looser. I don’t expect much weight loss but I am hoping for 5 lbs. at least. Wish me luck!

I’ll post a wrap up Thursday morning with final Whole30 thoughts so till then…