Girls Day Out at Bridge Street

I had the day off last Friday, so I took advantage of the nice weather and met a girlfriend of mine for lunch at Watercress in Bridge Street, “the premier mixed-use lifestyle center in Huntsville, Alabama.” Um, yeah, it’s our only mixed-use lifestyle center, whatever that means. That description sounds like an old-fashion 70’s style swingers’ club with lava lights and shag carpet on the walls to me, but I’m sure whoever wrote that wasn’t alive in the 70s. Anyway, I would less suggestively describe Bridge Street as an upscale outdoor mall that’s pretty cool except for the piped-in inescapable 80s music. Really, why does there have to be music everywhere? Half the population has surgically implanted ear buds anyway! But I’ve digressed enough. I’ll save the rant on overstimulation for another post.

The first thing I noticed about Watercress was that the tables were spaced a good distance apart. The restaurant has a clean, open feel. It is elegantly decorated with wood on neutral, and the music was low and unobtrusive. The wait staff was attentive and helpful but not overbearing. The maitre d graciously helped my friend pick out a Pinot Noir to her liking. They brought us mini corn muffins to start, which I declined. My friend said it was quite good, especially with a dab of the brown sugar butter. She ordered the crab cakes, which looked delicious. I ordered Salad Nicoise. I never can remember how to pronounce that word, so I frantically looked it up on my phone and found out it was pronounced, “ni-swah” just in time to save face.

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I almost hated to eat the salad. It was a work of art! I was pleased that the best Paleo choice on the menu was also something this beautiful and tasty. My only complaint was that the chili seasoning overpowered the tuna; it seemed more the type suited for pork. This was a large, meal-sized salad, but I had no trouble finishing it.
We both found some good deals at White House Black Market. They offered us Gigi’s cupcakes since we both have birthdays coming up. To me a cupcake piled high with frosting is enough to trigger a gag response, all Paleo eating aside. But the sales lady was super sweet – she gave me a tote bag from a previous promotion instead! I love shopping there because everyone is pleasant and helpful. Oh, and it’s well-lit and they don’t blare the music.
My next stop was Earth Fare. They have a good selection of grass-fed beef, and they are used to me (the crazy container lady) asking them to put meat into the glass containers I bring. They also have a good supply of bulk nuts and coconut products. However this time they were running low on coconut oil.

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Wow, is the whole town going Paleo? (Turns out the manufacturer was back-ordered)

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Happy Monday!

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That’s about how I felt about getting out of bed this morning! My back acted up all weekend, and it didn’t feel any better today. But enough complaining and on with another breakfast idea.

I saw this recipe on Mark’s Daily Apple and knew I had to try it. Dora had requested hard-boiled eggs anyway, so that part was done. I bought the bulk breakfast sausage that the whole family loves at Earth Fare. This is seriously good stuff – freshly ground pork seasoned perfectly, no added fat or preservatives. They don’t shrink down to half their size when you cook them, unlike most breakfast sausages. Anyway, you just form the sausage into thin, round patties and then wrap them around the boiled, peeled eggs.

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I used my Dutch oven to pan fry the Scotch eggs in bacon grease until browned all around. Then I popped them in a 375* oven for 7 min.

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Mine did not turn out as perfect as Mark’s, but they were delicious nonetheless.

Jewel’s Presto Pesto Sandwich Goes Paleo

Jewel’s original recipe:
The other day at school, my friend brought a wrap that had spinach, cheese, turkey, and ranch dressing. When I got home, I told my mom and she thought we should substitute homemade cilantro pesto for the ranch. Of course this tasted delicious, but soon I had a better idea. The new and improved sandwich has spinach, pesto, avocado, and prosciutto. Not only does it look and sound fancy, it tastes fancy too.

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First gather the ingredients, which are bread (or sandwich wrap), pesto, spinach, avocado, and prosciutto. Next, on one side of the bread place 2 slices of prosciutto, spinach and avocado and slather the pesto on. Now, simply enjoy.

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Ten seconds later…

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Jen’s Primal version:
I found a recipe for a gluten-free burger bun so I used that to make the sandwich.

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Gather the ingredients together.

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Place all ingredients in a small food processor and mix until well combined.

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One of the comments said that this recipe works in the microwave. Pour mixture into a corningware dish or small bowl, cover and cook on high for 90 seconds.

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This worked great!

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I sliced the bun in half with a bread knife and toasted the halves in the toaster oven. I didn’t trust it to survive the regular toaster.

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Primal sandwich. Jewel thought this was good too although a little spongy.

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Another satisfying Primal meal!

21 Day Primal Transformation Summary

Overall diet success score: 9

Overall exercise success score: 2

Overall lifestyle success score: 6

Hardest parts:  Although I didn’t struggle with the diet, I had a difficult time at the end with nearly constant hunger.  This was also accompanied by weight loss, so I think I just need to eat more.  I thought the exercise plan was quite reasonable, but my back was giving me too much pain most days to exercise.  Even as a child I wasn’t much one for spontaneous play, and this certainly hasn’t improved with age.  I prefer to focus on a task until it is done rather than take breaks and have to figure out where I left off.

Best parts:  The single best part of this transformation was reconnecting with my family.  I had been spending too much time on my computer and not enough time with my family.  I was devoting my emotional energy to work and then coming home and spending time on social media instead of real social interaction.  Jewel especially has gotten excited about trying new Paleo recipes, and she has gotten more involved in cooking now, as has Tom.  (Dora already is quite the cook!)  The second best part is the diet itself.  The food is so satisfying that I don’t miss grain products.  I thought after awhile the novelty would wear off, but at least as of yet I am content to eat this way indefinitely.

Remaining needs to improve items:  I need to figure out a way to manage my back pain.  I can’t predict when it will flare up, and I can’t take anti-inflammatories, so I am limited in how I can treat it.  Also, I haven’t figured out a way to both get adequate sleep and exercise.  The only time I can count on being able to exercise is very early in the morning before work.  I’m working on going to bed earlier, and now that I won’t blog every day, maybe I can make that happen on a more regular basis.  The other item I am still dealing with is hunger.  I do not want to lose any more weight (or even fat for that matter), so I am adding back in starchy vegetables to see if this helps.  I also quit tracking my calories for the time being so that I am not artificially limiting myself.

Overall comments on 21 day challenge:  My primary reason for attempting this challenge was to see if this diet would improve my back pain.  It was disappointing to find that it didn’t help at all.  Perhaps I need to give it more time, but I would think that I would have seen at least a small improvement by now.  The improved relationships with my family have made the challenge worth it.  Many of the daily challenge items were difficult or impossible for me because of the nature of the work that I do and the fact that I live in Alabama and it’s winter.  I do feel that Sisson wrote the book with a southern California bias.  Also I felt that the book was more geared to a single male lifestyle, or at least a male with no children.  He addressed the issues of being a mother (especially a working mother) very briefly.  I would have had more success with this challenge in the spring, when the days are getting longer, it’s warmer and the farmer’s markets are open.  I do think that this was a great way to jump into the Primal life with both feet for those who are ready to make this leap.  Other people may find it easier to slowly adapt parts of the diet and lifestyle over time.  This wasn’t all that different to how I already ate, and I was already trying to follow the exercise program, so for me it made a lot of sense.  I also enjoy cooking from scratch and absolutely detest most processed foods.  Aside from not eating crap, I’m not a picky eater, and I’m open-minded about trying new foods.  I think a picky eater, especially a picky eater in the typical American sense of wanting things to be breaded, deep-fried and free of anything green, would have a hard time with this diet.  I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to make positive steps to optimize their diet, exercise and lifestyle .

Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto

This is another recipe that Jewel chose from The Primal Blueprint Reader Created Cookbook, and it was another great choice! I’m sorry that I didn’t take more pictures of the preparation. I was so hungry that night that I didn’t think about it.

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The important thing to keep in mind about this recipe is that the pork needs to marinade for at least 2 hours before you cook it. I frantically cut up the pork and had Jewel throw together the marinade before she had to go to school and I had to go to work.

That evening I concentrated on frying up the pork and Jewel was in charge of the pesto. We used 1/2 cup of coconut milk and did not use honey. The next day the sauce was thicker but still soft. It tasted good on everything, included the steamed cauliflower I ate the first night we had it. I fried the pork in bacon grease. I see so many recipes that call for olive oil for high heat cooking, but olive oil should only be used in low heat cooking. Dora doesn’t usually like pork tenderloin, but I dubbed this “bacon pork” and she gobbled it down. She even requested it for leftovers the next day!
The following evening I made a side dish Jewel had requested from the same cookbook, zucchini chips. Of course I did the fast version since it was a week night.

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Dredge sliced zucchini in an egg and then coconut flour. The food processor makes short work of slicing. Place on baking sheet or broiler pan.

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These were yummy. Even Tom liked them, and he doesn’t usually like zucchini.

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My meal also included Swiss chard and peas and carrots.

Can’t BEAT This Breakfast!

I thought that I had finally reached the point that my hunger had subsided, but it came back this week with a vengeance. Dora had requested hard boiled eggs, so I decided to try the tempting Bacon, Egg, Avocado & Tomato Salad that Jewel pointed out to me. I didn’t think I could eat a whole avocado for breakfast, so I used half. I also used lime juice instead of lemon.

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This held me over for 5 hours, which is unprecedented for me. Even with using only half the avocado, I could barely finish it. If I can find another good tomato again this winter, I will make it again soon. I also think this would be good as a lunch stuffed into Romaine leaves.

More Primal Changes
13. I am drinking less often, and not because it’s discouraged on the Primal diet. Most nights I just haven’t felt like it. I think that I feel less stressed since limiting screen time and giving up multi-tasking.

Since I am making sleep a priority I’ll sign out for now!

Shepherd’s Pie

Jewel is particularly enamored with Paleo recipes. She flipped through The Primal Blueprint Reader Created Cookbook and commented on how wonderful all the recipes sounded: avocado, bacon, coconut, chicken, pork… I asked her to pick out some recipes to try, and she said that everything sounded good except the spicy recipes. We settled on two recipes to try this week: Shepherd’s Pie and Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto. I decided that Shepherd’s Pie would be a good choice for a Sunday dinner.

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Jewel teasing me that she’s going to eat all the ground beef raw

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Steam a head of cauliflower until tender, then process with butter and cream until smooth. We used a large head of cauliflower, so we ended up with some leftover.

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Sauté chopped onions until tender.

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Add ground beef and cook until browned.

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Add vegetables. I didn’t think green peas were Primal, but since this cookbook is from Mark’s Daily AppleI guess they’re ok.

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Slowly add beef stock. I think this was a large part of why this recipe turned out so incredibly delicious. I used a pot roast stock that I had in the freezer.

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Spread the mashed cauliflower over the top of the beef and vegetable mixture. Top with pieces of butter. If you didn’t use an ovenproof skillet, you’ll need to transfer this to a pie pan.

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Bake for 30 minutes.

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Tom’ dinner. I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. A few minutes later I smelled the asparagus getting a bit too crisp in the oven. We ate it anyway. I thought that this was one of the best things I had ever made.

Day 21 Journal
Success Score: 7

Sensible Indulgences
Difficult to eliminate: peanut butter. Potential Primal swap: almond and cashew butters
Difficult to eliminate: oatmeal. Potential Primal swap: Oatless Oatmeal
Difficult to eliminate: breakfast cereal. Potential Primal swap: eggs, nuts (if eaten as snack)

Full-Length PEM Workout
Moderate Aerobic Workout (swapped with Saturday)
Activity: 4 mile walk
Location: Indian Creek Greenway
Duration: 56 minutes
Comments: We really pushed the pace! I got my heart rate as high as it used to get on an easy run.

More Primal Changes
11. Fearlessly cooking in bacon fat
12. Eating coconut

Summary Comments
Daily energy levels: 2
Hunger level between meals: 5
Satisfaction with meals: 10
Struggles with Primal efforts: balancing listening to my body with getting things done
Benefits noticed from primal efforts: more family participation with meals
Daily highlights: Vigorous walk and good conversation with a friend, cooking with Jewel
Daily needs-to-improve: endurance