Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Side of Sweet Potato Fries with Ketchup

I love ketchup.

It's truly my favorite condiment.  Fries, fried chicken, anything friend actually just doesn't taste as good without ketchup.

Of course, I knew right away that not only would I be giving up French Fries on the Nutrient Dense Challenge, but inadvertently also ketchup. While I'm definitely mourning the loss of those greasy, salty sticks of potato, I was nearly heartbroken about ketchup. 

But then I remembered how delicious sweet potato fries were!  And if I loved sweet potato fries, surely there would be a Paleo-friendly recipe for ketchup!

Thank goodness for Google.

I found this recipe for Simple Ketchup on

While it calls for using only 1 can of tomato paste, I knew My Man and myself better and quadrupled the recipe.  Now, we have a whole jar of ketchup awaiting consumption.
Since the Nutrient Dense Challenge and other Paleo resources promote sweet potatoes as a great source of complex carbohydrates, we also decided to give sweet potato fries a try.  While I was a bit hesitant since my complete fail at making sweet potato chips, I let My Man lead the charge on this one.

He decided to go for a Cajun Sweet Potato Fries recipe on  He also decided to quadruple the recipe, but realized that maybe he shouldn't have quadrupled the chili powder.  Still, they're pretty tasty.
4 Sweet Potatoes Worth of Fries
I have to admit that while there are some things that feel like I'm "depriving" myself of, there are some ridiculously tasty alternatives.  It takes a bit of work on our part, but everything so far has been delicious and healthy. 

In the end, I'm certainly not feeling deprived of anything.  I noticed in this first week that I don't feel as hungry or "snacky" as I usually do, especially when my meals consist of protein, lots of veggies, and a small amount of fat as the guides are all suggesting.  I'm paying more attention to what my body actually needs and not what it wants because I'm stressed or bored.  It feels quite good.

Toesies of the Month - February 2013

Nail Design by Betsy at Nails2000, Jamaica Plain, MA
Color: Essie  - Jag-U-Are with Essie - Shine of the Times
Occasion: Valentine's Day
February 2013
Need I say anything beyond how cute the design is?  I don't think so, except to say that it's just awesome when the nail technicians know what they're doing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Some Successes and Some Burnt Sweet Potatoes

After spending most of last summer and the beginning of our dating relationship at different restaurant tables, My Man and I decided to do a lot more cooking and meal planning as we got settled into ourselves.

I'm lucky that he's so supportive of my efforts with this Nutrient Dense Challenge.  He even reminded me earlier today that I had already been moving to eat this way, but that I just didn't have the guidelines.  But it's great that he's been so helpful about shopping, meal planning, and even putting up with what I'm sure will be multiple cranky sessions.

Today, I decided to make some sweet potato chip treats for the both of us.  After doing a bit of searching around, I found several recipes that I wanted to try: a great all-around simple Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Sea Salt style, a cinnamon style, and a chili lime style.  My only concern with all the different recipes was that none of them seemed to have the same oven temperature or time in the oven.  Well, I figured that if I wanted them to be more crispy, that I should leave it in the oven for the longer range. 

I was wrong.
sweet potato chips
Chili Lime, Cinnamon, EVOO and Sea Salt
A little delicious, a little burnt...
Some came out not crispy at all, some had great crisp but were a little more burnt tasting, and some were straight out burnt.

I'm honestly bummed about it.  But, at least I know that the seasoning choices I made were quite tasty.

With My Man's help, we made a delicious Cottage Pie.  This was the first time I've ever eaten so much cauliflower.  After this meal, I was pretty convinced that the cauliflower was mashed potato, and I'm certain I'll enjoy it as  rice substitute.  The recipe was a combination of the Shepherd's Pie recipes in the Well-Fed cookbook and Elana's Pantry.
Cottage Pie
Cottage Pie with It Starts With Food, Well-Fed Mashed Cauliflower
recipe, and bacon on the Griddler while Cauliflower cooks.
I don't think I've ever had Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie before in my life.  This recipe took much longer than we anticipated.  There are multiple steps that need to be prepped before putting it all together.  It definitely help to have two of us.

Day 2 on the Nutrient Dense Challenge has reminded me to be okay with making mistakes and that I don't have to do it alone.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Going Nutrient Dense-Whole30-Paleo

I had been thinking of going to see a nutritionist.  At this point, working out, while not easy, was something I knew I could do consistently.  But the ingesting was something I found more difficult than waking up early to go to the gym.

Enter MindBodyHealth.  In partnership with my bootcamp, they brought in this Nutrient Dense Challenge.  We would be changing the way we eat, with a focus on eating real and healthy food as opposed to the overly sweetened, salted, chemically-altered foods.

I had already started focusing more on eating more vegetables, more fruits, less of the processed stuff.  But my downfall is ultimately sweets.  Give me a piece of chocolate to satisfy my craving any day.  Any. Day.

So, when I saw the list of foods to enjoy vs. foods to avoid, I decided I would take up this challenge.

I can get behind all the foods in the "Yes" category.  The idea, really, is to eat real food.  It's based on what is now known as the Paleo diet, called so because it's going back to the basics.  But it's refined by the folks at who focus more on the science and not evolutionary theory.  I bought their book, It Starts With Food, and I can honestly say I'm getting behind the stuff they're talking about.

I'm still in the first chapters of the book, but I'm feeling really committed to what they're throwing my way.

So let me address all the thoughts I had about the "No" items.

Not eating dairy is fine for the most part.  I only really crave ice cream and cheese when it's in the house and I know it's in the house.  But I also know that if I eat too much of it I get a little gassy, and that's not good for anyone involved.

Not eating soy/tofu?  Well, I've been living off soy milk for a while now.  I tried almond milk and I definitely disliked it.  I've decided to give coconut milk a try.  I like it so far, but I have to be careful about any added sweeteners.  Now, there's also soy sauce.  How am I supposed to make chicken adobo???  After a Google search, I found Coconut Aminos (which I bought at Whole Foods), and I'm more than willing to try to make chicken adobo with this.

No beans of legumes might be a bit difficult, but I don't have too much of an issue staying away from beans.  Of course, I'm kind of wondering where the plant protein will come from in this diet, but I'm assuming that the answer is "another vegetable."

No grains means no bread, no rice, no quinoa.  That also means no pancakes, no pastries, no English muffin with my bacon egg and cheese (not that I get that too often).  But wait, I thought, how do they make those vegan pancakes at the All Night Costume Dance Party every year?  I knew there had to be a way!  So, for rice I will take some cauliflower and stick it in a food processor.  For pancakes, the base will be bananas.  For pastries, there's almond and coconut flour.  Thank you, Google and the multitude of resources out there!

No alcohol will be tough on tough days.  But I can get behind that easily.  I will miss wine a bit, though.

No processed foods of any kind include no artificial sweeteners.  That means no sweets, no candies, no sweetened chocolates.  This one is probably going to be the most difficult next to no grains.  I got me a major sweet tooth.  But, I do know that I can have unsweetened chocolate, which Trader Joe's has.  Basically, anything that has a long ingredients list that includes more real food is on the No list.

For the next month, I will try to be as hardcore as possible on this new meal plan.  I refuse to call it a diet, because my main focus will not just to eat less - but eat less bad stuff.  I decided to go for the group challenge in addition to some individual coaching, for the times when it feels tough or for when I have questions.  I will be relearning how to eat, and how to make better choices.

In the second month, we get to reintroduce the different categories of foods one by one.  This way, I get to see what food groups my body doesn't like or doesn't react well with.  I already know that dairy and beans make me gassy  I already know that all that processed sugar makes me extremely tired.  So, if I know these things, it's time for me to follow through.

This challenge is going to be hard.  There will be times when I might inconvenience others, and there will be a lot of work in terms of planning meals, snacks, and eating out.  But I want to change my eating habits.  I want my body to change.  And as many a wise person has said:

I'm ready, and I know I have the love and support of those around me.  Let's do this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reflections on 2012 and 2013 Goals

Well, hello there!

Happy 2013!!!

It's certainly been a busy time.  A lot has happened in the past year, the first half being extremely different from the second half.  But before I get going on details, let's review some unresolved goals from the past, shall we?

2011-1.  Get a full-time job that I feel excited and passionate about.
Well, the part-time job didn't become a full-time job.  I'm actually realizing that maybe having several part-time jobs is the way to go.  At this point, there's still not enough financial support for the things I want to do, and I'm not ready to go for creating an organization quite yet.  But, I have been hired for a part-time position in a place I love with tasks I wanted more experience in!  So, yay!

2012-1.  Seriously learn how to budget and handle my finances better.
Completely neglected.  Again.  I don't have much finances to manage, so, there's that.

2012-2.  Reach my 30th birthday at least a little lighter, physically, emotionally, and mentally - including learning how to lessen the busyness in my life.
This is both a point of pride as well as a laughable goal! I definitely did a great job at the physical, emotional, and mental lightness.  But the busyness hasn't stopped!  In fact, I was crazy in the month of December with so many social and work engagements!  I think maybe I just need to learn how to manage the busyness a lot better.

2012-3.  Visit the ocean even more than I did in 2011.
ACCOMPLISHED!  I went to the beach so many times with the man.  I went to new beaches, familiar beaches, cold beaches, and warmer beaches.  It was lovely.

2012-4.  Learn to cook and bake at least 2 new items.
I learned how to bake Buko Pandan Cupcakes and I learned how to cool Eggplant Parmesan!   This year, I'd like to tackle pies, frittatas, and quiches.

2012-5.  Make more music and dance more.
I am happy to report that I definitely danced more, with the help of the Dance Central game on the XBOX Kinect and the encouragement of my belly dance teachers.  I didn't necessarily make more music, but I did sing a lot more karaoke!

Honestly, 2012 was an amazing year.  I feel like I could feel how awesome 2012 was going to be, and I'm looking forward to a fun 2013 as well.

So, let's get to my 2013 Goals!

1.  Like, seriously do better about managing my finances.  Like, seriously.

2.  Keep in touch better both with people I care about and people I'm only acquaintances with.

3.  Take more trips.  The first goal is a long weekend in Vegas.

4.  Refocus on being healthy for myself, and not get bogged down by what others think I should be doing.

5. Refocus on building the kind of career I want.

Let's do this 2013!

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