Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Best 12 Hours!

So - Melissa Byers posts this sleep-apalooza challenge over on her blog a few days ago and I join in immediately - verbally at least. I'm all down for more sleep. I work best on 8-9 hours a night, but seem lucky if I manage to get 6.5 - 7.5. A constant issue for me! But make it a challenge and I'm all over it like peanut butter on rye! But unlike the Paleo challenge, which I started the very day after hearing about it, this sleep one is throwing me for a loop. And you'd think it would be easier! But I had plans, people! Wonderfully amazing, cheesy, girl-bonding, then ass-kicking plans that I was not willing to give up just for some extra sleep! So my wild and crazy twelve hours are now done. I will tell you all about them, and then hit the hay for the first of my 30 day sleep challenge.

First up: last night me and my girls, Amanda and Sharan, rocked the HOB in San Diego! We went solely for Pyromania! The Def Leppard Tribute Band and were wholely and pleasantly surprised to be treated to an amazing AC/DC Tribute Band, Highway to Hell, as the opening act. Now, I do realize that it takes a very special kind of person to appreciate a tribute band, but both these ones jammed! And 'Angus' was spot-on! Awesome musicians, great tunes, a crapload of dancing, and maybe one too many drinks (for me) - all in all a first-rate, girl-power Friday night! Though a little home around 1:30 a.m., still feeling a bit drunk (variations on long island ice teas are potent, potent beverages!), washed my face, brushed my teeth, and crawled into bed...setting the alarm for a measly 5 hours later...

And when that alarm rang I was up like a bunny, feeling relatively fine, all things considered. Another quick wash up, threw on my Crossfit duds, tossed down some Dino-chow and headed off to U.C. Riverside with Mike, a fellow CF'er, for a Saturday morning workout with Josh Everette. Yeah....JOSH EVERETT!!! frickin' cool is that? That is about the only thing that would have gotten me out of bed this morning!

Now Josh is the Head Strength and Conditioning coach at U.C.R., so he gets to train and torture high level athletes on a daily basis...he even has his own special area called 'The Patch'. But ever Saturday during July and August, he graciously allows CF'ers and others to join in the fun. An opportunity to get my ass whipped by Josh Everett is a no-brainer,but we had no idea what to expect. According to the email he sent when we asked for information '...For those unfamiliar with the patch the workout is a hybrid between military obstacle course & parkour'. Uhhhhh - PARKOUR?!?!?! Have you guys seen this stuff? Crazy! Still haven't had a chance to figure out how to post a link in time, I promise. Until then, cut and paste and go watch this crazy stuff!

So we get to U.C.R. and it's already in the 80's and climbing. There ended up being about 40 of us all together. And I don't want to give away any of Josh's secrets, so I'll err on the side of caution. But the warm ups had us all drenched in sweat and out of breathe and newly cognizant of the fact that bear crawls can apparently be performed forwards, backwards, sideways...hell, Josh could probably figure out a way to do them upside down! And then we get to the obstacle course, which is basically five different configurations of ginormous lincoln logs - all expressly designed to kick butt and take names! And in the course of the next hour, those logs were lunged under, leaped over, squatted through, walked on, crawled on, jumped on, and kicked off of. Ever went through a row of twelve stumps in the ground - probably about 20-24 inches off the ground by jumping up both feet, then jumping down into a full-on ass-to-the-ground squat, then right back onto the next in the line? We did and loved it! Though having never squatted from a high jump before, the first one landed me backwards on my hands. Definitely a core workout! Then more bearcrawls! This time across a single log raised in the air. Forward. Then backwards. So challenging! Then bearcrawl sideways across 2 logs set about 4 feet apart from each other and up in the air too...then crab walk sideways across them. Then inchworm across them, with a push up everytime you hit the plank position. It feels very weird doing that knowing if you slip, you're going to face plant a few feet below! Definitely gives you incentive to push UP! There were falls and slips and tumbles left and big one was coming off a jump and not getting back far enough. I came down and my foot got caught between two logs and I continued to fall backwards. Luckily the two quick-thinking gentlemen on either side of me caught me before my ankle snapped and a third extricated my foot. Then we all finished the set! After about an hour, we then ran an obstacle course through them - which is where the parkour came in - it was all about jumping, leaping,and bounding over them. Or, as the coaches kept saying, do it 'in the most athletic way possible for you'. It was so frippin' fun! And now the hardest part: waiting until next July to do it again!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eggs in a Nest

'Eggs in the Basket' is a fried egg in a hole in a slice of bread. Doesn't sound that appealing, but tastes pretty good! Especially if you add cheese to the whole package. This little, sort of plain-jane, meal has a thousand different nicknames: "frog in a log," "hen in a nest," "Rocky Mountain toast," "Soldier in a Boat," "moon egg," "cowboy egg," "egg-in-the-hole," "one-eyed monster breakfast," "hobo eggs", and "One-eyed Jack". My Paleo version has been dubbed 'eggs in a nest' because that's what it looks like to me. And branches, grasses, and twigs are certainly Paleo grub! But whatever you decide to call it, it's what's for breakfast at my house this morning!

And I've decided that I can sum up all my recipes as follows: chop veggies, cook if you want, add spices and protein. Eat. How easy is that? This specifically was chard, red onions, asparagus, and a little tomato all sauteed up until they were warm and snuggly...added some s&P and crushed red pepper for warmth. Cracked two eggs in the middle and flipped them oh-so-gently to ensure lots of warm, runny yolk to mix in. Then, of course, the whole kit-n-kaboodle was doused in a crapload of tabasco and summarily dispatched of! *licking her chops* Such a good start to a busy day!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Morning Hodge Podge

Various interesting tid-bits gleaned from my reading this week. None of which alone are enough for a blog unless I pretend I'm back in college and am writing a research paper and spend three weeks studying and writing. Not gonna happen! But here's a quick run-down of some of them and my musings, which you know I hate keeping to myself!

~ According the the American College of Sports Medicine, fit girls get hungrier than guys who are just as active. Women experience a higher rise in ghrelin - the hunger hormone. Gnosh on protein-rich snacks between meals to satisfy that hunger without packing on pounds. (So just one more thing to add to the list of unfair advantages you guys have over us girls in the whole weigth loss/strength gain arena! But we still love you!)

~ In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, eating low-glycemic foods before a morning workout can help you burn more fat during exercise compared to eating high-glycemic foods like sugar-packed cereal. (Hmmmmm! Paleo anybody? Or at least no processed carbs or tons of fruit at breakfast?! Discover the joy of a veggie-packed omelete with yummy avocado!)

~ Having trouble gaining muscle? According to a recent study, it could be your birth control. 73 women were given a 10-week total-body workout program to follow, some took oral contraceptives, some did not. At the end of the 10-weeks, those not taking contraceptives gained 60 percent more muscle mass than those taking the pills. (That is a huge difference! A scarily huge one! I take birth control for my migraines. I'm now wondering if my Paleo diet would have enough of a positive effect on my migraines to give up the pills and maybe see a quicker muscle gain. My CF trainer who put me on probation for a day (love you!!!!) said that with my diet and the intensity and duration of my workouts everyday, I should be seeing more gains. She blamed it on overtraining, which I will say is probably true. But I'm wondering if these birth control pills might be playing a big role also. Something to ponder!)

~ Exercise can affect the placement of breast implants. How much so depends on the surgical techniques used to insert the implants and then on the actual forces appled to the muscle as it contracts during workouts. A lot of times, women will find their implants moving out to the side and might need further surgery to mitigate the implant migration. (Another reason why I'm determined to love these 40 year-old, nursed three kids, boobs in their natural state. But can I just say here that I have first hand knowledge of the actual physical changes in your breasts that pec exercises WILL make! When I first lost the last of my weight, it was all in my boobs. I would jokingly, and very sadly, say that I was a '36C Looooooooooong'. In the last 6 months, I've taken that 'loooooooong' part off? Hmmm - shall I credit Crossfit with a non-surgicial breast lift? Ha~!)

~Yet another reason to love how Paleo levels out your blood sugar levels: Looking at medical records for people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that a severe sugar crash was linked to a 26 percent increased likelihood of developing dementia in older age. (So if you are already a proponent of functional fitness, you probably already know that one of the goals is keeping our decrepit bums out of the nursing homes if at all possible. We want to live strong and die quickly at a ripe old age - though we will admit that feeling this terrific now isn't such a bad side effect - without having to have someone wipe those afore-mentioned bums for us. So here's a reason to make sure you diet regime is as functional as your exercise one! It would be very nice to know when exactly those afore-afore-mentioned bums needed wiping!)

~Drinking Pomegranate juice is actually healthier than eating the fresh fruit! Why? The heart-protecting antioxidants are packed in its inedible but juiceable rind. (SuperHealth by Steven Pratt, M.D.) (Now ya'll know I'm not a proponent of drinking juice at all. Even before I was Paleo,or had lost half of me, I didn't drink juice, neither did my kids. Total waste of calories, as far as I'm concerned! Drink water! Eat fruit! This is one mash-up that's a waste. Buuuuuuttttt....: -) If you happen to be having a treat and maybe enjoying a drink, if you HAD to mix it with something, pomegranate juice might be the way to go!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paleo Pork Larb

So what the heck is Larb, you ask? Larb is the unofficial national dish of Laos and it is also popular in Northeastern Thailand. I discovered it at the Thai Kitchen a few years back, when I was attempting to steer clear of the more 'weighty' noodle dishes, while still fostering my love of all things Asian. You can get it with beef, chicken, pork, even fish...the main thing is the meat is ground. And mixed with those amazing flavors that I love SO SO MUCH that I sometimes wonder if I wasn't actually conceived when my parents were on vacation in Thailand!

When I was making that awesome Paleo chili last night, I browned both pounds of ground pork together, even though I only used half for the chili. When I do that I tend to use spices that will compliment most of what I eat. You can see exactly what I used in the chili recipe! So after it was cooked and cooled down, into a bag it went and I threw it out in the fridge with it's compatriots, bags of grilled pork, sirloin, and chicken. I could NOT survive without my prepped meat! I don't care if you're not even eating paleo...if you're super busy, especially if you have kids, and you want to eat healthy, make sure you have pre-cooked stuff at your beck and call so you always, always, always have something for dinner!

This is my version of Larb. Obviously no fish sauce or toasted rice (or the chopped peanuts that you sometimes see instead). But you won't miss it! I promise! I mean, it's so damn good that I'm sitting here writing the blog while I eat it, because I wanted to make sure to get it down while it's still fresh in my mind!

Paleo Pork Larb

If you're not lucky enough to have a bag of meat ready and waiting, you'll need to start by browning about 1 pound of ground pork (or chicken or hamburger or whatever you want!). Use the red onion and the spices just like when we made the chili here: (I will figure out how to do links another day, when I have more time!) This will give you enough meat to make Larb for 4 people or 4 lunches...or get creative and find something else to do with it. I'd offer to share what I do with the rest of the meat, but this Larb is so unbelievably choice, that I believe it's what's for lunch tomorrow also! If you're going for the decorative element, read down a bit and make sure you mix up the dressing and dress the greens before making the top look pretty!

Then get a nice bowl and fill it up with shredded napa cabbage, shredded red cabbage, chopped mint, tons of chopped cilantro, thinly sliced red onions, tomato wedges and cucumber slices. If you want to impress company, take the minute it took to artistically arrange the cucs and tomatoes. Ridiculously easy, but has big crowd appeal! : -)

Whisk together lime juice, garlic, ground ginger, salt, tumeric (I just love it! it finds it's way into lots of recipes that don't necessarily call for it), and crushed red pepper. For my one salad, I used the juice of 1 lime, about 1 Tbs crushed garlic, 1 tsp each ginger, tumeric, and red pepper, and a couple turns of the salt mill.

Once the dressing is mixed, pour the majority over your greens and toss. Add about 4-6 oz of your cooked pork in a nice round mound smack dab in the middle of your greens. Surround with pretty tomatoes and cucumbers if they're not already mixed into your salad. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the meat. Sprinkle with finely chopped almonds.

TO. DIE. FOR. !!!!!! If you make it, let me know how you like it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seven-Alarm Paleo Chili and a Cooling Chaser!

So today was a cool day here in Southern California. A brisk, refreshing 83 degrees that just begged for a bowl of warm, soul-satisfying chili! ; -) Now, I love chili. I adore chili. And what I used to adore about chili was filling it with a colorful array of beans - kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, those fun dalmation looking beans! - the more beans the better. But no more. No beans for this Paleo Goddess! So I challenged myself to make a chili that would seem as satisfying to me as the old bean-laden ones were. Game on!

First, I knew I didn't want to use chunks of meat...even though I have some amazing pork loins grilled up that could have been transformed into a tasty Chili Verde (making a mental note to try that next time I get a hankerin' for some chili)...because then I'd have mostly a bowl of veggies with some random meat chunks in it. I wanted something more 'chili-esque'...thick and with substance...that my spoon would stand up in. Luckily I have just been to the Asian market and bought my usual couple pounds of ground pork. I love the stuff - especially in Larb (an amazing Thai salad full of lime and cilantro and cabbage. Hmmmmm - I think I'm basically doing my next week's meal planning while I write this post!). And I've never seen it anywhere else, so I get a dorkish little bit of pleasure out of buying it because of it's slightly mysterious, out-of-the-ordinary, off the beaten path background. I'm sure it tastes much better than if I could have bought it at the grocery store also! Plus it's freshly ground! Yum! (Now if only I'd get over my squeamishness at the delicious looking squirming around blue crabs they have in a blue garage tote in the corner. I love crab! I don't think I could kill them myself. No matter how much of a cook or how Paleo I am!)

The veggies were the basics that I use in chili. And I will admit to adding the last 1/2 ear of grilled corn to the mix, which isn't Paleo, but is damn good. And honestly, 1/2 an ear over the three or four meals this will be is not going to send the paleo police to my door. I hope.

And if you're going to gnosh on something that leaves your taste buds trembling and smoke coming out of your ears, you need to make sure you have something cool and refreshing to chase it with. Enter my delicious Coconut Banana Walnut 'Ice Cream'. It was actually so good, that I will admit right up front that it wasn't the chaser to the chili. Nope. Ate it all up yum about thirty seconds after taking the picture. Because I totally deserved to eat dessert first today! Then I ate the chili. And chased it with some water instead!

Seven-Alarm Paleo Chili

****************Add 1/2 diced red onion and copious amounts of crushed garlic to a nice large pan that you've pre-heated. The pan needs to be big enough to hold all the ingredients for the chili, so err on the side of bigger if you're not sure how much room you'll need. Give the onion and garlic a little time to get to know each other. Once they've been stirred a few times, throw in 1 pound of ground pork (or hamburger or turkey or meatless soy crumbles...whatever floats your boat!...though you'll have to drain the whole mess once the meat is cooked because hamburger always has so much grease. That's another reason I like the pork - no grease!). Salt and pepper the meat. Add, based on your tastes, ample amounts of cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, ground coriander, lots of paprika, and ground cumin. Brown the meat. If need be, remove excess fat after meat is browned. Add approximately (you guys know how I cook! And honestly, a little (or a lot) more or less isn't going to screw anything up here!) 3 cups diced tomatoes, 1 cup diced celery, 1/2 ear grilled corn (removed from the cob!), 1 diced green pepper, 2 stalks of celery, also diced, 1 finely diced jalapeno (I include the seeds. If you're less ballsy, don't!) and a crapload of chopped cilantro. (Please remember, that in my recipes, there is no such thing as too much cilantro...or too many spices!) Stir it all up really nice and let it simmer away over a medium flame for a bit, stirring when you remember to. The tomatoes will start to break down and it will stop looking like salad in a pan, and start looking like chili. I promise. If you need to mash those tomatoes up a bit to speed up the process, go for it. You have my permission. And it's fun! Once it's all chilified, taste it and play with those same spices above, adding a little of one, a lot of the other, until you get that perfect taste. Then stir the last of those spice additions in real good, let cook another 5 minutes or so on low heat then serve up in a bowl. My personal favorite way to top this off is with lovely slices of avocado and a generous squirt of lime juice. It was definitely stick-to-your rib's filling too!

Coconut Banana Walnut 'Ice Cream'

*****************(Serves 4) Take 4 frozen bananas and throw them in your food processor (or blender, if you have to - though you'll have to stop and help stir the bananas if you use a blender) along with a can of coconut milk, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. Personally, when my bananas start to get brown, I throw the whole things into my freezer. When I need them, I take one, pop it into the microwave for 20-30 seconds and it peels very easily. Anyway, add the coconut milk and blend it all up. Throw in a handful of walnuts and pulse a few times to make them into nice little chunks. Then stir in by hand a cup of unsweetened coconut flakes. If it's a bit runnier than you want, put it in a freezer safe bowl and chill it down a bit. Then eat. Yum! I even used a green spoon from white lime to make the whole dessert experience more complete!

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Ode to Aubergines

So this week I'm in lust with Eggplants...or Aubergines, as they're known in Europe. Full, unbridled, intense, I want to spend every minute in its company, and do lots and lots of things to it, LUST. *sigh* It's so glossy and purple and smooth (though they used to be white...hence 'egg'plant!) - you just want to stroke it! And it's as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside...high in dietary fiber, Folate, Potassium, Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. They are an excellent food to aid in weight loss, since they're low in calories and fat. Eggplant is a nutrient dense food, which will help you feel full, and there are almost no calories in eggplants. And though you can peel it, like most fruits and vegetables many of the health benefits of eggplant are contained in its dark purple skin. The skin contains a high amount of phytonutrients that helps protect the lipids in your brain cell membranes. Eggplant also contains tons of antioxidants.

So why wouldn't you eat it?

Well, a lot of people are still under the impression that you need to slice, salt, let sit, then rinse eggplant to reduce it's bitterness (an act that's called 'degorging'). This is an old practice, however, and it is not as necessary these days because modern eggplants are less bitter. And honestly, that's a lot of work for a vegetable that has been mis-cooked for so long that in some minds, eggplant is synonymous with slimy, squishy, brown, and icky. But how about if it wasn't gross and took only 5 minutes. Come on - you know you want to try it now! And just an FYI ...though not necessary for taste, salting eggplant will reduce the amount of oil absorbed in cooking - but I'm only telling you that in the interest of full disclosure. I'm hoping none of you are going to be deep frying your eggplant. Even for eggplant parmesian, try prepping the eggplant this way!

Saffron Eggplant Chips

1. Preheat your grill.

2. Mix 1 TBS olive oil, sea salt, crushed black pepper, Mexican Saffron, and Cumin in a small bowl.

3. Thinly slice an eggplant, and lightly brush one side with the oil mixture.

4. Lay oil side down on heated grill. Brush other side with oil mixture, if desired. I never do, but it won't hurt anything.

5. Flip when you've got some nice little grill marks on the one side. Remove from grill when done cooking. Watch closely, because the thin slices will burn easily, but they'll also crunch up the best!

Easy-peasy, huh!? I find myself eating them as I take them off the grill, they're that good! I layered them with lemony cucumber salad and scallops last night (recipe to come!) and it was super-delicious! Today I wanted them AGAIN! So I grabbed my other eggplant, which was much wider in diameter and sliced some slightly thicker slices this time. Same olive oil treatment as last night, grilled them up, and used them as the 'bread' in a flank steak sandwich. The concept of eggplant 'bread'...solid. The reality...not so! I ended up rolling the steak, greens, and pepper in the eggplant slices like little summer rolls! Super tasty and fun to eat! What more could you want in a food?

So there you have it...all the reason's to eat eggplant and a quick, no muss no fuss way of cooking it. What more could you ask for? Give it a try and let me know what you think. And if you have a favorite eggplant recipe (that doesn't involve frying) shoot it my way. I need to go to the store and buy more eggplants - then I'm going to test run the baba ganoush recipe I got from another amazing blogger named Melicious. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm thinking eggplant chips with baba ganoush? Too much of a good thing? Never!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coming Up Next...

...Saffron Eggplant Chips, Lemony Cucumber Salad, Paleo Blueberry Crumble, and Sweet Creamed Red Bananas. It's what's for dinner tonight here at Chez Clements...along with some tasty, tasty scallops. I'll share the recipes with you tomorrow! Aren't I a tease?! For to spend some time with the family...


Oh My Goodness! I discovered something wonderful today. Something totally new for me...and ya'll have to admit I'm down with my vegetables! Peel cucumbers? Never! Peel anything? Not if I can help it! Not even my beets! Eat my kiwis complete with skin - of course! And let me digress a minute to tell those of you who've never tried this to do so immediately! Besides ramping up the fiber and nutrients in that green little gem, it's just plain ole' fun to gross your friends out! And I promise you it's not itchy/fuzzy/tickly/insert any other kiwi-centric word here! You don't even need to cut it. Grab out of the fridge and start eating. You'll be left with one cute little nub at the end. That's getting your monies worth!

And do you know how much time I've saved by ignoring that whole 'cilantro LEAVES' or 'parley LEAVES'. What an annoying chore...pulling little wet leaves off of little wet stalks. I have better things to do with my time. Almost 90% of the time, I just chop the whole bunch, stems and all. Again - more fiber and more usable herb. The stalks do have taste also! This works anytime you're cooking something, in salsa...usually anytime you're not interested in making a Food Network worthy presentation out of your meal.

So back to asparagus. I love it! I'll buy the big bags at Costco and grill some up. I'll do that again maybe two nights later...but then I don't want asparagus anymore and the rest goes bad in the bag and I throw it away. I hardly ever throw food away, so I was feeling guilty about this. I wanted to eat some at lunch, but I hate re-heated asparagus with a passion. And I usually don't have time to cook some up for lunch. So today I was making one of my infamous car lunches (throwing chicken, nuts, and veggies in a bowl that would sit on my center console in my car as I picked up high schoolers and ran errands). I had to move the asparagus to get to those tasty little grape tomatoes and I thought - well, why not try?! So I grabbed a stalk and put it in my mouth! That's it! Raw! How much simpler could that be? It tasted like asparagus (surprise!) but cleaner...greener! So good. If you gnosh on cold sugar snap peas, you'd definitely like this. If you are lucky enough to have baby asparagus, or stalks that aren't too big, you can eat the whole thing. I had one bigger stalk, and if I was cooking it I would have snapped off the end. Since I was in my car with nothing better to do, I decided to give it a whirl. I bit the end off after only one yank and started chewing. And chewing. And chewing. And chewing. It was like I'd imagine chewing cud would be. I couldn't swallow it. Had to spit it out. So, unless you want a good jaw workout, just go ahead and snap those ends. Compost them if you can!

I was so surprised that I had never considered this revolutionary and delicious way of eating asparagus. And then I thought...well, if I had never thought of it, maybe some of you had never thought of it either. So I am sharing! 'Cause I'm nice like that!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


So I was answering comments on my blog, and realized I still had an old draft sitting out there...alone and unread. Looked at the date and realized it was written 4 days before Brett told me that he was moving out...that, without a word or a shot at working things out, he was simply walking away from our 20 year marriage. And I was struck by my last couple sentences... "I'm learning, I guess. Life doesn't usually work exactly how we'd like it to, or think it should...but I guess you let yourself be maudlin...for a second! and then move on and make the best of it." ha! how's that for a nice bit of foreshadowing?! Thank goodness I already was thinking like that, huh?! It's been six months now...and I'm truly happier than I've been in years. And though I hate what the kids are going through right now, I do have to respect him for having the courage to do what I'd been wanting to for years. I have a couple friends going through some really tough times right now...and I just want to remind them that things happen for a reason and that you are never given more than you can handle. And that no matter how crappy things seem, you still have us...all your friends...who love you tremendously! And though sometimes it seems that fate is awfully heavy-handed in dealing with us, maybe it's because we're just too damn stubborn to do what needs to be done on our own!

End of Summer Blues

So today was the last day of summer for my kidlings. My daughter starts her first day of high school tomorrow. My boys are still at school right down the street from the house. They went to bed excited and a bit nervous. Reilly asked me when you stop feeling like that before new things and I'm not sure how much he appreciated me telling him that I still get those wriggly worms in my stomache before I do something new. Now they're finally asleep and I'm supposed to be loading the music for my back-to-back Xbiking classes tomorrow morning. Instead I have those same wriggly worms in my stomache, but it's because I feel guilty.In years past we always celebrate with something special. One last trip to the beach for them and our favorite fish tacos at Harbor Fish and Chips. Or going to see a movie, which we very seldom do. Or having friends over for a last fling. Today I taught smack dab at noon...and we had to pick up Katy's clarinet from school...last minute school supplies...a two hour meeting. We did go to the mall so Katy could buy the coveted checkerboard Vans for the first day of school and we gnoshed hardcore at Soup Plantation for an early dinner. So we did have a little treat, but nothing spectacular. What sucks - is that I KNEW today was going to be like this - so we went and saw Harry Potter 6 last Friday when Brett was actually home with us. But today was sort of anti-climatic. And I honestly don't know whether they are feeling gyped or not.So today was the last day of summer for my kidlings. Which means that tomorrow is the first day of school. Funny how one follows the other, huh?! Katy is set. Carpool is picking her up and she would absolutely die if I even entertained the idea of walking her into high school for the first day. But my boys are still my babies. And regardless of whether they might normally walk or ride their bikes to and from school, everyone knows it's a mandatory mom duty to take them the first day and embarrass them with pictures and generally make a nuisance of yourself. But tomorrow I can't. Our one instructor had knee surgery today and the other one has kids of her own. Not a lot of options. I'm praying that the entire population of Riverside County stays healthy tonight, so that Brett can get off half an hour early and do the honors. If not, the boys will be off to school alone on the first day. And that makes me sad.But I will wake up early in the morning and make them a kick-butt breakfast and give them big hugs and kisses and make sure Ian walks Reilly to his class if Daddy isn't there. Then Thursday morning, I'll be up bright and early to walk the boys to school - camera in hand - ready to get a picture or two with the teacher. I'm learning, I guess. Life doesn't usually work exactly how we'd like it to, or think it should...but I guess you let yourself be maudlin...for a second! and then move on and make the best of it. Tomorrow - bright and cheery me will be back. Tonight - thanks for listening to me ramble!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grilled Pepper & Tomato Salad

This delicious looking recipe is courtesy of the amazing Alana, who writes a blog called 'A Veggie Venture', as well as a column in her local St. Louis newspaper. I've gotten so many amazing recipes from her that I don't think twice about running straight to the store and buying ingredients, like I did for her amazing Roasted Carrots last week!

What it did get me thinking twice about was the fact that I've never come up with this one my own! Do I grill peppers? Yep...only for fajita or a roasted salsa. Do I grill tomatos - you betcha...big ones and little ones! Nothing is more fun than little roasted yellow pear tomatoes. Do I combine things I roast? Most definitely! One of my and my kid's favorite is grilled zuchinni, yellow squash, and asparagus. Grill it, chop it all up. Mix in a bowl with EVOO, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Pure bliss! Eat as is...throw in meat...the cold leftovers ROCK in a salad the next day! But combine peppers and tomatos? New one for me. Will be trying this as soon as I have time to run to the store tomorrow. Amazingly enough, I am out of peppers!? So give it a try and let me know what you think!


* Peppers - a mix of bell peppers (red and green, say) and hot peppers (poblanos and serranos, jalapeƱos and Anaheim peppers, say)
* Tomatoes - preferably something meaty like a Roma tomato

*Garlic & kosher salt
*Onion - chopped into thin lengths
*Red wine vinegar Good olive oil
*Plenty of kosher salt

PEPPERS & TOMATOES: Trim the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes to discard. Cut into quarter or halves, press with the back of your hand to flatten. Grill the peppers and tomatoes skin-sides down until the skins blacken and blister all over. Leave the skins on (they provide great flavor) and let cool. (Stop here if prepping ahead.) Chop both the tomatoes and peppers into rough pieces, one-inch pieces or lengths for a side dish, or into tiny bites for a salsa.

SALAD: Mash the garlic and salt into a paste by chopping the garlic as fine as possible with a knife, then mashing the pieces into the salt with the side of a knife; stir into the peppers and tomatoes.

Gently splash the vegetables with equivalent volumes of vinegar and olive oil. Now get salty -- stir in salt, tasting after each addition, it should taste a little salty so that later, when the juices flow from the peppers and tomatoes, the flavour is still where it should be. If the peppers and tomatoes don't taste that good, it's likely because the dish needs more salt.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Surviving my First Potluck as a Paleo

Yesterday we had a huge potluck for end of Marching Band camp for my daughter. Even MY contribution wasn't paleo (Meatballs...but the sauce has added sugar) so I wasn't really planning on being able to eat. I had a Larabar in my bag...and knew I was going to go have BBQ and watch the UFC fights with some fellow paleo eaters later that night - so I figured I'd be good. There were hundreds of people, and three separate serving areas and you were only supposed to go to one. So I eeny-meeny-miny-moe'd and started down a line...absolutely nothing that wasn't fried, breaded, covered in goopy sugary sauces or globs of congealed melted cheese. Even the salads were pre-dressed, wilty, sad little piles of once-proud vegetable. Then there in the back was a little bowl of food that pre-paleo I would have passed over as boring and not worthy of being eaten. But right then the plain little strips of beef, cauliflower and carrots, though overcooked and under spiced, was at least something I could eat. So I took a little bit. A very little bit. I still have some standards! But at least I would have something to gnaw on with everyone else. It's never fun being the only one not eating at events like these...and even if I just sat there eating my Larabar, I still wouldn't have felt like I was 'part' of the festivities. I know you guys know what I mean!

I then proceeded to sneak into the second line. SCORE! Someone had brought the mixed greens from Costco and just plunked the bag down with a bottle of dressing next to it. I proceeded to say 'Yes!' very loudly and start piling it on my plate. Of course, I had to open the bag first - apparently no one else had wanted any?! And when I say piled, I meant my whole paper plate was covered in a generous pile of leafy green goodness. And I was getting some strange looks from my fellow buffet goers. Then I notice someone putting the last of a huge platter of enchiladas on their plate...and leaving all the beautiful, fresh cut pico de gallo behind. Tomatoes and onions and cilantro, OH MY! It hadn't even been touched! I so don't understand what people where thinking when they left that beautiful pile of deliciousness there, but I was grateful! So, before anyone could re-consider, I scooped all that pico de gallo up lickety-split and covered my lettuce with it.

Time to have a go at the third line - harder to do this time, because I now had a plate full of food, albeit lettuce and tomatoes, but it was obviously I'd already sampled the fares of the other heaving tables and was being unfaithful ~ but it was worth it! ~ A half of a grilled chicken breast - El Pollo Loco, I believe! Removed the skin and we were in business! And then the coup de resistance (please mentally insert the accent aigu's and read with appropriate 'Frenchness' and feel all cosmopalitian and sophisticated!) ~ some amazing person had brought a homemade salad of cucumbers and tomatoes and cilantro that wasn't oily looking at all. It did have vinegar, which I adore but isn't Paleo, but all things considered, I was extremely happy with my haul. Yeah, it took a bit of work to scavenge, but still a heck of a lot less then the cavemen I'm emulating, who spent the majority of their days hunting and gathering and foraging. So really can't complain. It actually made me enjoy the meal more than warranted, having had to put some thought and energy into procurring it!

I even had a handful of people comment on how refreshing and healthy my plate looked, while loading up on junk that even a healthy non-paleo eater should steer clear off except for special occasions. And, for the record, a Marching Band potluck DOES NOT qualify as a special event worthy of eating poorly! Nor does your co-worker's birthday! Or the kindergarten picnic! Or any of the million's of other 'special events' that crowd our calendars! I think we'd all be well-served to re-prioritize what events are worth eating a spectacularly decadent meal without any guilt or second-thoughts. There really shouldn't be more than a handful, should there? It would seem that the more there are, the more you are devalueing the ones that are truly special!

So, back to the potluck. I sat down and I ate my meal, while everyone around me scarfed down theirs. I watched as they went back for seconds, and thirds, and first desserts, and second desserts. And I remembered how not so long ago, that was me. And I felt proud of myself for all these changes I've made over the last seven years. And I'm so grateful that my children will benefit from all that they see me doing. Most mornings I come back from the gym and Ian and Reilly have been 'working out' in the loft or the backyard. They love finding exercise videos on the computer and hefting the one- and two-pound weights to bust them out. I love that Ian has been making salads with meat for lunch. And this morning he asked me if he could try eating paleo like me ~ which I will let him do, but not as strict. I think dairy and beans are just fine for his growing body! And it allowed a discussion about how even though it's called a 'Paleo Diet', it's referring to diet as 'habitual nourishment' not a restrictive, short term program designed for weight loss, which he obviously doesn't need.

So I finished off my first potluck adventure quite comfortably sitting in the sun watching the nascent 2009/2010 Marching Band perform their first pieces publically. And listening to some people next to me complain about how much they'd eaten and how stuffed and uncomfortable they were. At first I chided myself for my fleeting feelings of superiority and self-righteousness. But then I forgave myself because I think it's exactly what I need to be doing right now to really cement in my mind how necessary this is for me. Not to just see and feel the positive...but to have some concrete reminders of the negatives. Especially helpful since I'm smack dab in the middle of my 30 day strict challenge and may be needing to buff my shiny new Paleo toy just a bit! Everything losses it's dazzling newness after a while ~ but the way I'm feeling after just a couple weeks is monumental! I think I'm going to have this toy for a very long time!