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…

Week 3 of Whole30

75% done with Whole30!

Here are my observations this week:

  • No headaches really!
  • Still not feeling any smaller. Clothes fits the same, again, maybe a tad looser.
  • Keeping up with Pilates twice a week
  • We slacked on our pre-planned menu this week and only ended up making one of our pre-selected recipes. Instead, we made quick, still compliant but not as fancy dinners.
  • Been a bit frustrated when eating out – have not feel 100% great about my selections but know I did the best I could under the circumstances. I think the one I really regret is the bagged potato chips.
  • Cravings – still am really bored with limited drink selection, still snacking  too much
  • Still too much fruit but I did eat less bananas and more berries.

Week 3 Meals:

  • leftover Slow Cooked Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Beef Stew
  • leftover sausages with fried plantains
  • fried eggs, bacon & sausage
  • Grilled Lemon Rosemary chicken w/ mixed root veggies
  • scrambled eggs with mini peppers, chopped prosciutto & onions & bacon on the side
  • Zucchini Pasta with Chicken and Scallion Avocado Sauce (we didn’t have scallions so we used fresh chives from my garden)
  • Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie (from their book) – used sweet mini peppers instead of carrots, added some Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning

Eating Out:

  • Cracker Barrel Scrambled Eggs, Sausages & Potatoes (no bread, no grits, no hashbrown casserole) with a small side of fruit (mostly berries)
  • At Sherry’s – pulled pork with homemade paleo bbq sauce, Brussels sprouts with bacon and roasted sweet potato half
  • At Mom’s – Cuban picadillo and plantain tostones (Mom only cooks in olive oil)
  • At a commercial shoot for work – Fudds burger – beef patty alone – and potato chips (questionable, I know)
  • Pronto Cucina – half roasted chicken with green beans (upset they had no selection of side items that had no cheese or bread crumbs – even the green beans had parmesan and bread crumbs but it was barely noticeable so I let it go)

Snacks:

  • raspberries, bananas, cherries,  apples, dried fruit
  • mixed salted nuts (no peanuts of course)
  • Sweet & Salty Bacon Egg Muffins
  • boiled eggs

Shopping Paleo at HEB

When we started this journey we cleared out our pantry and refrigerator of non-compliant items. That left us with a pretty bare pantry & fridge so with some research and various lists in our hands from paleo books and websites, we restocked with some basic paleo items.

As we rework our eating habits we also have to rework our grocery shopping habits. We live in sort of a “food dessert” with the nearest good grocery store several miles away. So now we plan our meals out a week ahead and hit the grocery store each weekend when we have more time and can go a little further out to the better stocked grocery stores. Right now our more traditional favorite stores are H-E-B and Sprouts, both Texas based chains.

If you live in Texas, then you will recognize the name H-E-B and Sprouts. They are the best grocery stores in our area and pride themselves on stocking high-quality items with a good variety of organic and locally sourced choices. That being said, they are way more accessible than a Whole Foods in terms of price. Between H-E-B and Sprouts though, although comparable in price, Sprouts loses out to H-E-B because they simply don’t have the variety since H-E-B carries all the big brand names you expect to see as well (neither Sprouts or Whole Foods does).

With that in mind, H-E-B is a good place to grab some paleo-compliant groceries. The list below is definitely not conclusive –  it’s just based on a couple of our visits. The list is also for me to keep track of brands we have found that a) are paleo and b) we actually like. Reading through all the ingredients on so many items is time-consuming and such few end up being compliant that I want to remember the names!

So, besides a good beef, chicken, seafood and produce section with lots of organic (and grass fed and hormone free as they apply) options, H-E-B also has large gluten-free section but not much there since most GF foods have sugar or soy or rice which are not paleo. We did find the coconut aminos sauces in that section though so it never hurts to look!

Additional paleo items we have found:

Below is our haul from a recent shopping trip… Please excuse the beef links in the 2nd picture – they were bought at Costco – which I will write about separately.

If you are in Texas and shop at H-E-B, do you have any favorites not on our list?

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Week 2 of Whole30

Kenny and I are halfway done with our Whole30!

Here are my observations this week:

  • The headaches came back at the beginning of the week.Ugh. Not sure why they came back! I got rid of one pretty quickly though when I had a cup of black coffee. Huh. I am not a daily coffee drinker but I guess I was missing the caffeine anyway?
  • Some recipes have been hit or miss. I also came to the realization that I need to pick a couple of easy recipes. We have good intentions but cooking recipes that a) needs more than 10 minutes of prep (in regards to chopping, browning, etc) or have multiple steps/multiple pans are hard to do every day of the work week.
  • And about those recipes – not all have made enough food for lunch leftovers so I ate out more than I had planned to this past week.
  • Still struggling with snacking – I am relying too much on fruit. Found some compliant nut mixes for next week.
  • Will also work on eating out less and backing off potatoes.
  • Clothes still fit about the same, maybe a tad looser?

Week 2 Meals:

  • Stuffed Bell Peppers (we used veal instead of beef) with home-made fried plantain chips
  • Skillet Balsamic Garlic Chicken with oven roasted broccoli & cauliflower
  • leftover roasted chicken with oven roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus
  • Slow Cooked Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Beef Stew
  • Broiled Tilapia with Balsamic Carrots & steamed broccoli
  • Grilled Steak with Mushrooms & Red Onions cooked in Coconut Aminos Garlic Sauce, garlic & ghee
  • Sausage & Fried Eggs

Eating Out:

Snacks:

  • bananas, cherries, blackberries, grapes, apples, pineapple
  • cashews
  • Bare Apple Chips
  • Sweet & Salty Bacon Egg Muffins

Trying out Pilates

I hate exercise. I am jealous of those who enjoy it or at the very least, feel invigorated after a workout or any physical activity. I feel the opposite. I feel drained and usually hungrier than ever! Still, I know it’s a necessary evil. Every study out there shows we must remain active to stay healthy as we get older.

In the past I’ve tried various things – more recently bike riding (often too hot or too rainy to ride) and Zumba (I have become too uncoordinated and the routines were complicated, I was getting flustered).  We have a treadmill in our bedroom and I have also gotten on it and walked a few miles while watching TV. But, I never stuck with anything and I know I needed to do something. I tried to do a small workout on the machines at the gym (with some guidance from a friend who is a personal trainer)  but the gym experience was not for me. People hog the machines I needed and I was just not comfortable.

Over the years I had read about Pilates and was interested in the concept – it seemed up my alley. It is low-impact with a focus on core strength and balance and flexibility. The gym I had a membership to though does not offer it and the friend who helped me above, who is a certified Pilates instructor, was way too far of a drive for me. I put the thought aside… until I went to lunch with a friend recently and he mentioned that he had taken some Pilates classes just down the street from my home and office. I called, met the instructor, liked what she had to offer and have signed up for classes twice a week. Her gym is what I was looking for – it is small and intimate with only six machines (they are called Reformers, you can see the pic below). The small class size lets the instructor personalize the workout for each person. While we may all be doing the same exercise, we are doing it at different spring tensions, with or without a box on the machine, each doing the number of reps appropriate for our level.

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I am not doing it for weight loss (that is what the change in diet is for) but rather to try to build some strength again. I know I will need to get some cardio in at some point but I’m not worrying about that just quite yet. Maybe when I am ready I will get back to the treadmill or convince my husband to join me at the gym for some laps in the pool.

I have been to five classes and I do find myself slightly sore but never so sore that I am pain the next day. And the hour class seems to go by quickly. I usually am looking at the clock every ten minutes during any other type of exercise but in Pilates I may only glance at it once. I am glad I found this place less than 2 miles from my home and from my office so I have no excuse since it is literally on my way home from work!

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

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