Paleo Chili

It’s been so cloudy and damp that today called for a warm meal for the tummy. Being that we are socially isolating and there is an apparent hoarding issue with chicken, my fridge is only stocked with ground meat at the moment. I grabbed out some ground pork and got to work on this super satisfying meal!

Ingredients:
1 pound ground protein (I used pork, but chicken, turkey, or beef would do)
1 medium onion – diced
3 cloves garlic – minced
28 oz. canned pumpkin
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 head of cauliflower – trimmed and riced (I just chop the florets finely)
1 sweet potato – diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. tumeric
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 (ish) cups beef broth
2 swirls of EVOO

  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat and swirl some EVOO. Add pork and brown the pork until it crumbles.
  2. While the pork browns, heat one swirl of EVOO over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until fragrant.
  3. To the pot, add pumpkin, tomato, and spices
  4. Stir in cauliflower, sweet potato and browned pork.
  5. Add enough beef broth so that all of the ingredients are just submerged in liquid (approximately 2 cups).
  6. Once it begins to bubble, reduce to low heat and allow to simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Serve topped with sliced avocado or jalapeno if you please (my family slathers completely non-paleo compliant cheese and sour cream on it).

Paleo Honey Ginger Pork Loin

My paleo world has been flipped upside down since I discovered coconut aminos. Why on Earth haven’t I been using them all along!? This meal is delicious with a side of roasted veggies – I am served it with roasted cauliflower and broccoli and it was scrumptious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3.5-4 lb pork loin
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

For Dry Rub:

  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme

For Glaze:

  • 3 Tbs. coconut aminos
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced

Up to 24 hours in advance, mix the dry rub ingredients, rub them into the pork loin, and refrigerate. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on high heat then sear all sides of the pork (about 5 minutes per side). Place the pork on a large foil lined baking pan, fat side up. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients and pour over the pork loin. Roast for 50 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Several times throughout the roasting process, baste the roast with any glaze that accumulates on the foil. Remove from oven and cover with foil to rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing and serving with pan drippings. Trust me, you will be happy you waited!

Sara’s Green Smoothie

For me, finding paleo breakfasts that were quick and easy was not an easy task. Breakfast seemed like it was the most carb dependent meal and developing this smoothie has been a life saver for me! I keep a bag of the smoothie mix in my freezer at all times and all I have to do in the morning is scoop, pour in almond milk, scoop in some protein, and blend! It is super fast once you make it a part of your routine and the best part is that it keeps you full if you sip it over the course of the morning. Not only is it quick and easy, but I also call it my “nutrient bomb”. By adding a solid source of leafy greens to my diet each day, my immune system is supper happy and my iron levels are higher than usual.

This recipe will make enough mix to make 7-10 smoothies depending on the volume of your blender cup. Store the smoothie mix in your freezer in a gallon bag to always have easy access. A quality blender with an individual serving blender cup is important to have a smooth texture. I use my Ninja blender every morning.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen spinach
  • 1 bag frozen kale
  • 1 bag frozen strawberries
  • Vanilla almond milk (approximately 3/4 cup)
  • Vanilla protein powder to fit your dietary needs (serving as per packaging)

In a gallon freezer bag, mix the spinach, kale, and strawberries and store in the freezer. When ready to make a smoothie, scoop the mix into a single serve blender cup, add one scoop of protein, pour almond milk in until it reaches the fill line. Blend until smooth and enjoy over the course of the morning for a satisfying breakfast.

Instant Pot Paleo Lemon Chicken

I am slowly learning how to use and embrace my Instant Pot. However, I do not think I will ever get over being terrified releasing the pressure! This recipe is a quick and easy crowd pleaser. I served it over a mound of steamed broccoli, but it would be good over cauliflower rice or wilted spinach too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken breast – cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ghee
  • 1 lemon – juiced
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 16 oz fresh mushrooms – sliced
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. basil

In a large mixing bowl, combine salt, pepper, and basil and toss with the chicken. Using the saute function set to high on your instant pot, heat the ghee and then brown the chicken and garlic until browned on all sides. Add the mushrooms lemon juice, and chicken broth. Scrape all the brown goodie off the bottom before putting on the lid and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Allow to natural release for 5 minutes then quick release the rest of the way. Serve over steamed broccoli, wilted spinach, or cauliflower rice.

Salmon Topped Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Managing healthy eating and a busy lifestyle is possible with advance planning! I am not one to meal prep the same meal for 5 days straight, but I do plan the week’s meals ahead. This allows me to spend more of my valuable time with my family since I only have to go to the grocery store once a week. Tonight’s dinner was prepped earlier in the day with directions for my husband to cook the salmon while I was at the gym. I got to come home from a killer CrossFit workout and enjoy a protein and veggie packed dinner waiting for me! Even better? Leftovers are ready to go for tomorrow’s lunches! This recipe makes enough deliciousness for four large salads.

This one isn’t only delicious for adults. Check out my 5 year old’s plate that she inhaled! She’s not a lettuce fan, so we improvised.

Ingredients:

  • 4 serving sized pieces of salmon – 5 oz. each
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic – minced super fine
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Salad Fixings (I divided the following among 4 salads: 3 hearts of romaine, 1 pt. grape tomatoes, 1 English cucumber, 1/4 thinly sliced onion)
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and place the salmon with skin side down on it. Squeeze the juice of half of the lemon on the fish. Sprinkle with thyme, salt & pepper to your liking, and half of the garlic. Cook for 13 minutes or until salmon flakes with a fork. While the salmon is cooking, prepare the salad veggies according to your taste on 4 plates and refrigerate until ready to serve. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 lemon’s juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. When the salmon is cooked through, dress the salads with the vinaigrette and top with salmon. If saving portions for later, dress when ready to eat.

Paleo Very Berry Muffins

There’s nothing like the smell of warm muffins wafting through the house on a Sunday morning! Enjoy these yummy muffins with whatever berries you have on hand. I used half blueberries and half blackberries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil – melted
  • 1/4 c. almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup berries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 9 muffin cups with paper wrappers. Mix together dry ingredients (except berries) in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and fold in the berries. Distribute in 9 muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they begin to brown.

Paleo Stir Fry

This recipe has become my go-to at least once a week. It is so versatile and can be switched up depending what ingredients you have! Tonight I used stir fry pork, but any thinly sliced or ground protein works! The veggies can also be swapped out for any shredded combination. Pick what appeals most to you. I serve my paleo version over a mound of cauliflower rice, but the rest of the family gobbles it up wrapped in tortillas as Asian burritos!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. protein (ground turkey/pork/chicken/beef or thinly sliced chicken/pork)
  • 1 lb. shredded veggies (bagged coleslaw or broccoli slaw are super easy)
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut aminos
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add sesame oil, choice of protein, and garlic. Cook until browned while stirring frequently. Drain out any excess water and stir in veggies, coconut aminos, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cover and cook until veggies are wilted – approximately 5 minutes. Serve over a pile of cauliflower rice or by itself and sprinkle extra pepper flakes to taste.

Paleo Fig & Walnut Cookies

Paleo Fig & Walnut Cookies

1 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (melted)
1 Tbsp. almond butter
4 large dried figs chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, mix almond flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, vanilla, coconut oil, and almond butter.
3. Mix wet ingredients into dry until incorporated. Fold in figs and walnuts.
4. Scoop into 12 heaping spoonfuls on cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until they begin to brown. You do not want to overcook them! They have a delightful soft cookie chew to them!

Paleo Pointers

Are you about to embark on a paleo lifestyle?  I am by no means and expert, but I have been following paleo guidelines (with varying degrees of strictness) since 2013 and I have some helpful hints for getting started.  Whether you are starting a nutrition challenge at a gym or looking for a total nutrition overhaul, I highly recommend these guidelines for success!


Know the Paleo Rules:

Depending on how strict you plan to go, the rules vary.  Autoimmune paleo is super strict while “paleo friendly” typically bends the rules. Big things to remember are:

  • Eat real food – shop the perimeter of the grocery store for produce, meat, seafood, and eggs.  If it is processed, it is going to have ingredients that are “no, nos”.
  • Pick your fat – Vegetable oils are on the list of oils to avoid, but olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oils are all acceptable.
  • Choose your sweetener – Stevia, raw honey, and coconut sugar are all acceptable.  Steer clear of anything that has sugar (sometimes cleverly disguised as cane sugar), corn syrup, or any other sweetener that you can pronounce.
  • Avoid dairy – Yep, that delicious cheese, yogurt, and ice cream is off the table.  Don’t worry, there are alternatives to some of these which you will discover!
  • Avoid grains – That means wheat, oats, rye, barley, and various others.  No pasta, bread, rice, or quinoa.  Even worse?  No beer!
  • Avoid legumes – Legumes (gasp, this includes peanut butter!), lentils, beans, soy and soy products.  I was shocked to find out that peas and string beans weren’t allowed.
  • Keep your carbs nutrient rich.  Vegetables and fruits have plenty of carb energy!  Avoid white potatoes, but sweet potatoes and squash offer a boost of carbs that also carry nutrition.

Plan Ahead:

Some people prefer to meal prep their week one day and then eat the same thing all week long.  I am not one of those people.

Instead of meal “prep”, I meal “plan”.  I attempt to do one trip to the grocery store a week which prevents impulse buys and gives me extra time to do much more enjoyable things.  I plan six dinners (allowing our family to eat out one night or have the hubby cook) and make extra portions for lunch the following day.  When I first started doing this, I would sit down with the supermarket circular and a notebook and actually chart out the meals for the week.  With years of experience I can avoid this step and purchase on the spot.

When planning your meals out, pick one protein and one vegetable and then decide how you will prepare it so that you keep things new.  Options include stir fry, roasting, grilling and sauteing.  One pan?  Even better!

Breakfast can be tricky.  Who doesn’t want processed carbs for breakfast since they are so quick and easy?  I have found the perfect solution to the breakfast dilemma and it is a major time saver every morning.  I swear by my green smoothie!  Every week, I get a big freezer bag and combine a bag of kale, bag of spinach, and bag of strawberries.  In the morning, I fill my blender cup with the mix, add a scoop of vanilla protein (pick one that works for your plan), top it with almond milk and blend until smooth.  Having a good blender helps get the right consistency (I love my Ninja).  I bring my smoothie to work with me and sip it over the course of the morning.  I find that I stay full until lunchtime by delaying my breakfast and (knock on wood) I don’t get sick because I drink a vitamin bomb for breakfast every single day!

Having two snacks a day planned between meals helps curb the impulse to grab a handful of your kid’s goldfish crackers in a moment of weakness.  I typically make sure that my snack has protein in it so it is more satisfying.  A hard-boiled egg with hot sauce (beware of butter), apple with almond butter (read the label for sneaky sugar), or a handful of nuts (steer clear of peanuts) makes a yummy snack that will tide you over until your next planned meal.

Find Your Staples:

Your kitchen should be stocked with the things that make good food yummier!  Always have lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon, herbs, pepper, and quality salt available.  I also recommend a trip to a spice store.  My town has a local business that sells the most incredible spices and spice blends.  Keeping jars on hand help with mixing up your foods.

Adjusting to a paleo lifestyle can be tricky, but finding replacements for some of the “no no” foods is helpful.  Here is a list of some of my favorite products that I have come to love as I transitioned my diet.

  • Almond milk – I put it in my smoothie everyday.  I opt for the sugar free vanilla option.
  • Almond coffee creamer – There are many options available, but be sure to check the label for sugar.
  • Almond flour – I use it for baking and “breading”.  There are many varieties, so find the one that you like best!
  • Almond butter – I love a smear of almond butter on my apple slices!  I opt for the salted variety, but have accidentally purchased jars with added sugar, so be sure to check the label.
  • Coconut sugar – Once again, a great option to bake with.  Add it to paleo muffin, cookie, and cake recipes.
  • Coconut aminos – Since soy is out, I avoided stir fry all together due to the soy sauce.  Once I discovered coconut aminos (my favorite is from Trader Joe’s), I prep a stir fry meal at least once a week!
  • Cauliflower rice – This can be purchased fresh, but I prefer keeping the frozen variety on hand.  It is great for bulking up meals, serving sautes on top of, and serving in soup instead of pasta or rice.

Drink Your Water:

Keeping yourself hydrated is a good idea no matter what.  If you are reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you are hungry or just thirsty.  Water is the perfect drink, but let’s face it, it gets boring.  In addition to plenty of water, mix in flavored seltzer and decaffeinated tea.  Instead of reaching for a bedtime snack, a cup of chamomile tea is a great way to wind down.

Treat Yourself:

Find the things that you love and enjoy them!  I have played around with lots of recipes and have perfected a Fig and Walnut Cookie recipe that I LOVE!  I make a batch a week and know that I can always grab one without sidetracking my progress!  I also find that I miss the crunch factor of carbs when eating paleo.  Luckily, there are root chips (think cassava and beet) and dehydrated veggie chips (I just found dehydrated carrot chips at Trader Joe’s and they are fantastic!).


Now that you have a overview of the basics of the paleo diet, it is time to explore!  There are many resources out there that have recipes for all palates! Not sure if something is paleo?  Google it!  The most important tip for success is to think about all the options you are “allowed” to enjoy while eating paleo instead of thinking about what you are avoiding.  It may take some time to get excited about a plate full of roasted veggies, but once your body starts to feel great because of the fuel you are providing it, things become easier!

Mission Accomplished

It’s official, I don’t have the time to blog my recipes every day anymore.  Between teaching, working out, and spending every spare moment with my family, there just are not enough hours in the day.  Summer break starts next week, and at the end of a school year, I always seem to find myself reflecting on my journey through life.  After recent discussions with friends, followers, and other people that have found themselves in my shoes, I have decided that it is time to write an update.  I am officially in a great place.20160623_103344

I was very down when I last shared stories of my personal battle to regain my health after giving birth to the most fabulous baby girl.   I wrote a blog called New Year. New Me. which was essentially a pep-talk for myself to make a change in 2015.  I had hoped to inspire others by sharing.  I had plans to get my strength back, fight my thyroid issues (more specifically Graves Disease), and lose that dreaded baby weight.  I found myself at a new low in March of 2015.  I had grand plans, but I was only becoming discouraged.  I am thrilled to report that while it may have taken me a bit longer than a year, but I. AM. BACK!

April of 2015 was a game changer for me.  The bootcamp program that I had been involved with underwent some major changes.  I no longer looked forward to going which was a cue to me that I had to find something else that worked for me.  I stumbled across a Groupon for a CrossFit gym in the next town over.  It was $199 for 3 months.  Cheaper than bootcamp and 3 months was long enough to decide if it was right for me.  I don’t deal with change well, but I reluctantly laced up my shoes and stepped into the box.  I would never look back.

Instantly, I knew it would be a challenge.  I wasn’t used to lifting anything heavier than 15 pound dumbells, and minutes into my first WOD I already had several plates slipped onto a 35 pound bar.  Maybe this was the change I needed?

Fast forward one month.  It was May of 2015.  I quickly adapted to CrossFit.  My coach was absolutely incredible in that process.  When I had doubt in my mind, he believed in me.  I also had a friend from my old program that started CrossFit with me. His support (and trash talk) motivated me as well.  I religiously went 5 days a week and by Memorial Day weekend, I received a call from my endocrinologist.  It was official.  My Graves Disease was in remission.  I stopped taking my meds that night and haven’t had a single issue since.  That was over a year ago now!

After my 3 month trial Groupon was up, I knew that this was absolutely the right place for me.  I paid for the next year in full upfront.  I could no longer use the excuse that my thyroid was broken.  It was time to finally make that change.  I spent the next 6 months gaining my strength back and learning new skills in the box, however, the scale was not budging.  In December I started wearing a Garmin activity tracker (Vivosmart HR) and I noticed that while I was having great workouts, I wasn’t burning nearly as many calories as I thought I was.  This is when I kicked things into full gear.

I needed to keep myself honest.  I would stay after the WODs and do cardio until I burned at least 500 calories.  I started logging my food intake. I made better choices when it came to what types of calories I was putting in my body.  I started drinking my greens.  I made lifestyle changes which made me take more daily steps. Holy crap, IT WORKED!

Within the first 6 months of 2016, I have lost over 25 pounds.  I am slipping into clothes that I never thought I could possibly fit into again.  I wake up in the morning and can’t wait to workout that evening. I am back to my pre-baby weight and have more muscle on my body than I have ever had in my life.  I can deadlift 300 pounds which is over 200% my body weight.  I can do real pull ups.

While all of these things are great, as far as I am concerned, the most important outcome is that I am a strong role model for my nearly 2 year old daughter.  She sees what it means to be healthy.  Not skinny.  Not pretty.  Healthy.  It melts my heart when I hear her say “strong like mommy”.

Since it is a Thursday, I will leave you with a couple Throwback Thursday images.  I started blogging as I worked towards getting in shape for our wedding.  I was in the best shape of my life… until now.  Below are pictures from 3 years ago and then today.  I did it.

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For those battling Graves Disease:

  • A healthy lifestyle is great medicine.
  • Remission is possible.
  • There are good and bad days, please embrace the good.
  • Finding an endocrinologist that you are comfortable with is priceless.
  • Stand up for yourself.

For nursing mamas:

  • It is possible to continue to nurse while working out.
  • If you are worried about supply, up your calories a bit when you first start.
  • Stay EXTRA hydrated.
  • A side note: Through life’s curveballs, I am proud to say that I am only one month away from my goal of nursing my daughter for 2 years.