Paleo Super Bowl Snacks

The Top 10 Faileos of 2015

Since starting food blogging, I have learned a ton, but definitely still have moments of utter failure.

You know how everyone puts all their best shots on Instagram to show how awesome and incredible their lives are? Everyone does it, myself included. However, I also do the same sort of thing here on South of Vanilla: I rarely, if ever show or share recipes that don’t work out because this is a food blog. I want you to want to make the recipes I post. (I want you to want to do the dishes!)

Last year, I shared my Top 10 Faileos of 2014, or paleo recipes that just did not work out. This year, even though I thought I learned a lot, I still had my fair amount of faileos. Keep reading for a good laugh…

Top 10 Faileos of 2015

10. Buffalo Chicken Bleu Cheese Salad

Ugh, this salad. Honestly, it (kind of) tastes good, and I am still hoping that maybe it will work in the future. Also, it photographs horribly. Who wants to eat a bunch of leaves slathered in orange slime? Not me, and I’m pretty sure no one else does either. Also, I tried to “bread” chicken with almond flour and garlic, but it just turned out a pile of chicken with a weird almond garlic paste that would flake off into the dressing and make it chunky- and not in a good way.

The worst part? I still set up a photo shoot because I was so desperate to try to make it work. This photo shoot was oddly at 7am, which explains the weird shadows. Lesson learned.

9. Broiled Asparagus

In spring, nothing is better than fresh asparagus. Sometimes it can be hard to cook asparagus just enough to where its soft but not limp, but I took this one a little too far….

This dish went straight into the garbage.

8. Chemex Coffee

I have long been a fancy coffee fan, and the Chemex makes a great brew, however, I quickly learned that one needs to be careful when taking out the filter. Why? Because all the ground can easily spill straight back into your perfectly made coffee…

And I did this 4 times in 2015….

7. The Sad Cake

While on a road trip to Pittsburgh, we stopped and were so enamored with this sad pumpkin cake we spotted at a grocery bakery.

But we were the real sad ones after eating this conventional cake filled with wheat, gluten, coloring, sugary frosting, and a ridiculous amount of artificial ingredients. We quickly had the re-realization of why we follow a real-food diet. Although not a faileo of my own making, this one serves as a reminder to not be tempted by baked goods with faces, however sad they are.

6. All the leftovers in the fridge green beans

Just two weeks before the end of 2015, we moved…. again. This time, it was to a permanent place (Thank the lord), but we spent a good 2 weeks trying to eat everything in our fridge and freezer to minimize waste and any transport of food.

This concoction LOOKS great, and I even posted it to Instagram excitedly before trying it.

However, I quickly learned that throwing some oil, veggies, bacon, and a mess of herbs into a cast-iron skillet does not necessarily result in something tasty. These green beans were somehow limp on the outside but slightly uncooked on the inside with so many different flavors it was overwhelming.

The worst part? Somehow in the commotion of the move, we transported this to the new place where it sat in the back of the fridge and promptly became our first moldy food of 2016.

5. Raw-Dairy Alfredo Sauce

This sauce. This. This was one of the last recipes of 2015 that I made in trying to prepare some posts for the New Year.

However, during cooking, I had the realization that buying pricey raw dairy was foolish because once cooked, it was no longer raw. Plus, the combination of cream and a whole stick of butter made my lactose-sensitive stomach quiver. Also, it tasted like melted butter, which although delicious, isn’t something anyone wants to sit down a make a meal out of. I even tried adding a bunch or parsley to make it better, but it didn’t work. Lesson learned.

4. Activated Charcoal

Early in 2015, I was with my friend Kathy, when we somehow stumbled upon the topic of activated charcoal. Kathy, who was newly pregnant, was excited about a chemical-free way to whiten teeth, and I (being not pregnant and all) was excited to share how charcoal tablets were my go-to for avoiding a hangover after drinking too much.

We then spent an hour brushing our teeth with charcoal at midnight and posing for terribly unflattering photos that her (extremely nice) husband took of us with black teeth. (PS Thanks Carl!)

These photos never made it to the blog because I soon realized that there were 100 other bloggers that already wrote about the topic more successfully, but I will always have these photos to cherish and look back upon.

3. “Crispy” Broccoli

Charred veggies are wonderful, and I tried to recreate them in the oven instead of a grill. However, I will now forever remember that when broiling, its important to watch closely because….. burning happens fast.

I even tried to still eat these because I hate wasting food, but I just couldn’t choke them down. I don’t know what I was thinking to even try them.

2. Glitter Donuts


This was going to be my New Years recipe, because glitter is synonymous with New Years. However, I somehow burnt the donuts without even realizing until I saw the pictures. 30 minutes after frosting these donuts with a coconut cream type glaze, they all melted into a slimy mess, and the glitter didn’t even look like glitter- it just looked like weird shiny bits.

I didn’t eat any of them because I thought they were gross, but the best fiancé award goes out to CK, who ate every last one in an endearing effort to show how much he supports South of Vanilla and all my weird food endeavors.

1. Exploding Ginger Beer


This was quite possibly the BIGGEST mess I have ever created in my kitchen, and uniquely sounds like something you could buy in Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. I was trying to make ginger beer, through fermentation, which was going great until the glass bottle I had newly bought exploded all over my kitchen, and because of our open home layout, all over the living room too.

This meant that shards of glass, ginger pieces, and sugar went all over the top of the fridge (where I was storing it), all of the floor, countertops, walls, and carpet of the living room which I had to scrub several times to get clean. Naturally, the week it happened, the southwestern temperatures decided to soar and our air conditioning decided to take a little vacation, which meant that hard yet sticky invisible sugary globs decided to abstractly decorate the walls and floors.  It also took weeks of walking around our house with shoes on because we kept finding tiny glass shards in obscure places. Ugh.

Luckily, no one was hurt because no one was in the room when it happened, but I haven’t attempted homemade ginger beer again for my Moscow mules since. Maybe 2016 will be my year.

Happy New Year!

October Daily 5

Happy Halloween! I am using the holiday today as an excuse to binge eat some of my favorite paleo candy. Chocolate for breakfast on Halloween? Totally acceptable.

Fall is flying by, and I've rounded up some of my favorite from the past month. Enjoy! (Recent past Daily 5 posts: July, August, September)

1. The Blanket Scarf

2014 was the year of the blanket scarf, and it has definitely made its mark again in 2015. The upside to a trend 2 years in a row? More colors at lower prices, like this gorgeous blue version of the now autumnal-staple. 


2. The Pumpkin Cocotte 

I know last month I mentioned my favorite cast iron dutch oven, but I just couldn't resist sharing this cast-iron pumpkin cocotte with you all. Stab is another quality brand that I adore, and this pumpkin dish pretty much epitomizes everyone's fall pumpkin spice obsession. It comes in all sizes, but I am definitely enamored with the mini, ceramic, version. So cute!


3. The Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is the thing I didn't even know was missing from my life until it arrived all bright and shiny one evening as a surprise from CK. Alexa, the device's software, is cloud-based, meaning it is evolving all the time. She is pretty good at playing my music upon voice command, telling me the traffic on my morning commute, updating me with the weather, and informing me of upcoming events on my schedule. She can even do quick Wikipedia searches and answer the really important questions like: "What should I eat for breakfast?", "Who's your daddy?", and "Do you wannnnna build a snnooowmmman?". Seriously.


4. The Travel Coffee Mug

The whole world is obsessed with Kate Spade, and as even colder weather approaches, we need something to keep our hot chocolate and tea nice and toasty. #goldstripeserrything


5. The Utility Knife

Knives are singlehandedly the most important tools you will ever have in the kitchen. Knives can be as expensive as you want them to be, but, I think its important to think of quality over quantity. For years, I have survived, and even started this food blog, with 3 knives in my tool-belt: a utility knife, a paring knife, and a chef's knife. This knife here is a Shun utility knife, which I personally think is one of the best. Plus, Amazon has them on special frequently, so make sure to watch out for sales.


Tangy Brazilian Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Spinach Salad with {and a special giveaway!}

 

Spices make the dish, I am totally convinced.


When I first made the big leap and eliminated all artificial ingredients back in 2008, I noticed a huge difference between conventional dried herbs, spices, and rubs than their natural counterparts. 

Most spices, sadly, have fillers and MSG (though maybe not by that name) in their mixes. Lots of spices and dried herbs are irradiated, meaning that, in summary, the packaging process removes a lot of the health-boosting properties these spices have while inadvertently adding some free radicals. The whole spice industry isn't the best situation; you really do need to be conscious and know where your spices come from. If not, you could ruin your pricey grass-fed steak with chemicals.



High-quality spices are expensive, I will totally admit that. However, like I said before, they definitely make the dish, and good spices make a big difference, which is why I support smaller spice companies that come out with quality products; Samboroso is one of those companies.


For total transparency, I am an ambassador for Samboroso, which means I receive product in exchange for posting about them. However, I want to make it abundantly clear that I will never post anything about any product, within this post or in the future, that I do not believe in or back 100%. I hope you trust me on this one.

With that out of the way, Samboroso's spices are truly high quality. Samboroso is a family-owned company, and although not paleo, they have similar view and ideals when it comes to food. These spices are Brazilian, which I sadly am not super well versed in, but honestly their spices are hands-down amazing and so full of flavor. I am really obsessed and have been using them on everything from salads to steak to veggies.

Today, I have a special gift for you all today: a giveaway with Samboroso. One lucky winner will get a spice blend all to themselves, which is perfect because I also have a recipe to go along with it. See below for a rafflecopter giveaway, you know the drill.

Today's recipe is a super quick and easy shrimp and spinach salad with a little Lemon-Garlic Samboroso twist. Its a little tangy, a little spicy, and packs a whole lot of flavor. Enjoy!


Tangy Brazilian Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Spinach Salad

Serves 2 as an entree

  • 16 oz. shrimp
  • 2 tbsp. high quality, grass-fed butter
  • 1/8 cup Shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2-cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tbsp. Samboroso Lemon-Garlic Rub
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more, if preferred)
  • 5 cups spinach
  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallot. Sauté until shallots are translucent.
  2. Reduce heat, add lemon juice, olive oil, and wine and let simmer on low until liquid reduces by about 2/3 volume, about 10 minutes.
  3. While liquid is reducing, wash and dry spinach and place into serving bowls.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high. Add in Lemon-Garlic rub, crushed red pepper, and shrimp, stirring to ensure that spices are well incorporated and shrimp are coated. Let shrimp cook for about 5 minutes while stirring, being careful to not overcook.
  5. Remove from heat immediately and pour shrimp and liquid over spinach.
  6. Let spinach wilt slightly and enjoy.




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Sunday Snaps, 08-09-15

Well, summer is winding down and everyone is starting to prepare for a new school year and preparing head first to tackle fall. Whattt? What. BUT if you haven’t seen my big announcement yet about what I am doing right this moment, definitely go check it out here. You can also  see more day to day stuff on my Instagram page. Current location? Alexandria, Virginia, which I am LOVING. I'll post an update on that sometime soon, once I am organized enough to get all my thoughts together. In the past couple weeks I've been to about 10 states. I can't even believe that one. 

My last sunset in the Land of Enchantment...for now. 

My last sunset in the Land of Enchantment...for now. 


I captured this shot just a few days before leaving NM. I took it as a sign that I was about to depart on the right path. 

I captured this shot just a few days before leaving NM. I took it as a sign that I was about to depart on the right path. 

Yesterday was Dani from Care to Pair's birthday. Go check out her blog, and then wish her a very Happy Birthday. :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANI! I will drink all the drinks for you. 

Right before I left, Swell Caroline was so kind enough to send me one of their necklaces, and they totally customized it for me. Rose gold and monograms together makes me swoon, and I have been getting a ton of compliments about it. They have everything from statement necklaces to preppy earrings to delicate, bespoken pieces. Swell Caroline, can you send me everything? Kthanks <3 Definitely go check them out.


My absolute favorite breakfast these days, even in the midst of traveling, has been high quality eggs over lightly sautéed greens. SO easy and so healthy.

I’ve found myself reading a lot this summer, and have been though a ton of books, even now as I am on the road- there is just something about reading that is so relaxing. I read The Girl on the Train in probably 10 hours, Still Alice in a couple days, and A Spool of Blue Thread in the course of a week. I recently bought Station Eleven, so I’m excited to give that one a go.  Anyone have any good book recommendations??

I was SO sad to leave my garden. This was my first year of vegetable gardening, and I did get a good run. I know my tomatoes and zucchinis and peppers will still produce well into fall, so my neighbors will definitely get to enjoy those ones. This year, I enjoyed a few different kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and herbs. A tiny little butternut squash was just starting to grow right before I left too. It was adorable. I planted the butternut back in May- I know butternut squash is fall produce, but for some reason, I thought that if I planted it really early, it would grow faster. Silly me, mother-nature knows best.





Speaking or gardening, can we all agree how amazing it is that France banned Roundup? Can the U.S. do the same thing soon please? Likely, this will never happen, not with all the politics surrounding this hot topic. That can be a whole rant in itself.

Lately, I’ve moved away from CrossFit and have been doing more yoga. Don’t get me wrong, CrossFit continues to be the best workouts of my life, and has given me more muscle tone, strength, and cardiovascular fitness than anything else, including training for half marathons. (Crazy, right?) Right now, however, I just feel that I need to focus on a workout that allows me to foster the mind-body relationship, so I’ve been doing more yoga, which has been great. I’ve done yoga on and off since I was 14 (That’s 13 years of yoga!). Wow, time flies.

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I’ve been obsessing over Stitchfix, which for those of you that don’t know, is a service that sends you 5 pieces of clothing in your size, styled by a stylist. They also send you illustration cards showing how to wear your pieces. Anything you don’t want, you send back, and it is my new favorite way to shop. Stitchfix recently found me my new favorite pair of distressed boyfriend jeans, and I am shocked that a complete stranger found me jeans that fit like a glove when I feel like I can’t even find jeans that fit me well myself. Bravo, Stitchfix! If anyone is interested in trying the service out, I definitely recommend it.  

As many of you wisely pointed out, I started KonMari-ing my house well before we decided to move. You guys definitely knew that something was going on before I even announced it. (Well done!) The whole idea was that we needed to downsize enough to be able to put things into storage, and to ensure that this rather strange we are doing runs as smoothly as possible.

The whole idea of KonMari is to de-clutter and rid of excess by discarding things that don’t spark joy. This method worked really well when going through things like paperwork and old electronics and a drawer (literally, a whole drawer, whyyyy?) of pens and scissors, but I struggled with my kitchen. Of course, I spend a lot of time in cooking. I really struggled with the difference between “sparking joy” and functionality with kitchen objects. For example, my food processor doesn’t necessarily spark joy, but do I use it? Yes, all the time.  Same goes for things like my grater and baking pans. They don’t spark joy but I sure do use them on a weekly basis. In the end, however, I decided that it was time to get rid of some cookware and dishes I had been holding onto since college. I bought them on a college budget, and for as much cooking as I do, its time to give myself an upgrade. I also got rid of a lot of multiples- there truly is no reason to have 6 wooden spoons and 5 baking sheets. If there ever is a situation in the future where I need 5 baking sheets at once, I will borrow them from a neighbor.

We must have taken at least 5 fiat-loads of stuff to be donated, and that doesn't even include things we sold on Craigslist and the loads of stuff we took in the roomier Pilot.&nbsp;

We must have taken at least 5 fiat-loads of stuff to be donated, and that doesn't even include things we sold on Craigslist and the loads of stuff we took in the roomier Pilot. 

There has been a TON of research and media attention towards gut health, bacteria colonies, and overall health lately. New research has been emerging linking the health of our digestive tract to weight loss, circadian rhythms, longevity, disease prevention, acne, etc. Seemingly, it looks like even more of our overall health is being linked to the bacteria in our bodies. However, a lot is now being said about the link between digestive health and mood, i.e. depression, anxiety, happiness. There is a really great article in the NYT about it here, and I highly suggest you go read it. I am so amazed by this new science; I am hoping that this means someday targeting mental health and mood disorders will be through a holistic, natural approach. Maybe one of these days I'll go into the probiotics I take and the fermented foods I eat. 

I know I am approximately 9 years late on this trend, but omg RHONY. Due to my disappointment with the Bachelorette this season, it was only a matter of time until I gravitated towards a different reality show. But a retro reality show was never on my radar. (Retro reality TV? Is that a thing? It is now.) But then I got Hulu and started on Season 1 and was sucked in. Alex and Simon are weirdos. Ramona is crazy. And I have 9 years of internet gossip to back up my instincts.

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If you haven’t been keeping up on my recent recipes, there have been really great summer recipes here on South of Vanilla.  I am far too lazy to link them to you right now, since I’m doing this from my ipad, but you can navigate to them through the little calendar to the right of this post. So you can, you know, #gomakethemrightnow. Or something.

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle


Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing

Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches

Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches


Ginger-Miso Dressing

Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers

Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers


Coming this week: a super special sweet treat. Hint: it involves chocolate donuts. &lt;333

Coming this week: a super special sweet treat. Hint: it involves chocolate donuts. <333


I will keep everyone updated on my travels and progress- I am in the midst of drafting a little summary of what I have done so far, so I will keep you posted!

Have a great rest of your weekend and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, but of course, I've included some other great shots below of my last adventures in New Mexico. 

XOXO, 









Top 10 Ways to Make your Paleo Transition Easier

I get a lot of questions- through email, friends, and sometimes random strangers on the street asking me all sorts of things about Paleo. (Really!! It is the weirdest thing to be recognized by strangers.) The most common question is what to expect when you first go Paleo, which I’ve detailed in this post here, but the second most common question is people asking how they can make the transition easier for themselves. So here goes, my Top 10 Ways to Make Your Paleo Transition Easier, in blog post format:

1. Educate Yourself...

  • One of the worst mistakes I have seen is people deciding to try out the Paleo diet without any real background information about the lifestyle change. There is a lot to tackle here, but the first is really understanding that Paleo is not just a diet; it’s a lifestyle change in its most basic form. Nothing is worse than deciding impulsively that you are going to eliminate some of your favorite foods and dietary staples without knowing why. I have seen this many times, especially since celebrities, like Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, and Matthew McConaughey known for their sex-appeal openly started admitting that they went Paleo.
  • Before starting, do your homework, and ask yourself lots of questions:  What can you eat? What can’t you eat? Why? How is the Paleo diet different from other diets? What are the mechanisms of the diet and how does it benefit your physiology? Are there any health conditions you may have that could interfere with the diet? Are there medical contraindications? Are there conditions that the diet may help remediate? What is the difference between a Paleo diet and a primal-based diet? Why do some people on Paleo eat white rice and potatoes but others don’t? What’s the difference between grain-free and gluten-free? Why does it even matter?
  • What are the agricultural politics surrounding food production, food policy, GMOs, and bills passed through Congress?  Who were the silent corporate sponsors of the FDA’s food pyramid and food plate? Who funded the research for the “Heart Healthy” diet?
  • All these questions, and more, are incredibly important. Not only does it give you a basis for making this change in your life, but the more information you know, the more likely you are to stick to your initial commitment.

2. ...and then Educate Others

  • I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a party or gathering and someone has made a snide comment about gluten and fad diets or Paleo, cavemen, and loincloths. (P.S. It wasn’t funny the first time.)
  • I’ve realized that people often guise curiosity with poor humor. They will often deflect your lifestyle change because they don’t want you to judge their life. That’s fine, I get it, but I have also realized that providing education to those around you results in increased understanding: you’re not just doing this because it’s a fad, you are trying your hardest to make a positive change in your own life. If anything, providing education will at least bring some acceptance to your choice to go against the status quo, a hard task for anything, diet or not.

3. Do It for the Right Reasons (your health)

  • Often, people start down the Paleo path to lose weight. (Myself included!) However, if you are truly just doing this for weight loss, there are many, many different ways to do so, which are easier and less expensive. 
  • If you choose to follow a diet to boost your health, increase vitality, be around longer for your family, or help with some chronic health condition, then you are approaching this Paleo lifestyle change from an angle that makes it easier to stick to it. Improved health and quality of life is a much better motivator then fitting into those skinny jeans, and will win every time when you rationalize.

4. Get a support system in place

  • You can’t transition to Paleo alone. You will need someone to talk to, if only to vent, commiserate, or empathize with. I highly suggest trying out Paleo with a friend or your partner. Not only will you be able to talk to someone going through the same thing, but you can hold one another accountable.
  • If having someone in person isn’t an option, I highly suggest participating in some primal forums. It will give you a place to voice your feelings, questions, and journey.

5. Prep your kitchen

  • Having a diet with a room (your kitchen) full of things you can’t eat is absurd. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Throw away or donate the foods you can no longer eat. Stock your fridge or pantry with healthy, compliant options that you like. Nothing is worse than trying to conquer a new diet and forcing yourself to eat foods you never really cared for. Don’t like broccoli? No problem! Go for the veggies you actually like, and get rid of that idea that you need to eat all the things you hate. There’s no time for that.

6. Prep your food

  • One or two days before you make the big switch, do some food prep. Trust me, when you are ravenous and exhausted after the dreaded “Paleo flu” the last thing you will want to do is prepare food. Having something you only need to reheat will make a world of difference, and will make you more apt to stick to the change.

7. Make an initial commitment, create better goals

  • Setting ambiguous goals like: “I will lose 50 pounds” or “I will be happier at work” never work. Why? Because there isn’t any accountability, and these goals simply aren’t measurable. Better goals would be: “I will lose 1 lb./week in 2015 to be 50 pounds lighter within one year”, or “I will schedule a meeting with my boss to discuss a promotion within the next 3 months”. These goals are measurable, and thus, naturally attainable.
  • Likewise, the same concept goes for Paleo. Instead of saying “I will go on the Paleo diet”, try “I will follow a Paleo lifestyle for one month”. Setting an initial commitment of one month is much less daunting than committing to a lifetime of giving up the foods you love. Stick to it for a period of time you are comfortable with, then take the time to reflect upon what worked, what didn’t work, and what to do moving forward.

8. Don’t go hungry

  • What’s the best way to ruin your diet? Starve yourself for so long that the mere whiff of an open bag of Doritos prompts you to go on an all-night binge.Eating real food had led me to some of the most delicious meals I have ever had, and always fills me up so much to where I don’t even give those Doritos a second thought.
  • However, to get there, you need to get over the initial Paleo hump, and allow your body to become more stable and adjusted. Your cravings and headaches will eventually go away, but always make sure you feel satiated. Fill up on healthy, real foods. Nothing is worse than going hungry for days in world where food is literally around every corner.

9. Don’t have a black and white approach

  • This little tidbit can be generalized to so many areas in life. The world is not black and white. Just because you had that bagel 2 weeks into your “perfect” diet, and you were doing so good, does not mean that you might as well throw in the towel, and go get a baker’s dozen from around the corner. It doesn’t mean that all is lost. We live in a sea of grey, so get over it and don’t use that one slip-up to feel that all is lost. You are not failure.

10.Get rid of your deprivation mindset

  • This one is hard. Following a primal lifestyle means that you can’t have grains, can’t have dairy, can’t have alcohol, can’t have sugar, can’t have gluten, can’t have bread, can’t have cake, can’t have French fries, can’t have cheese, can’t have wine, can’t have hot dogs. Can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t. This is all true, but that doesn’t mean that Paleo cake, Paleo bread, or even a cold glass of vanilla almond milk is out of the question. There are so many foods you can have, it just takes more effort to get there.
  • Focus on the things you can have: more energy, decreased acne, increased mental clarity, increased productivity, better focus, better sleep, weight-loss, avoidance of lifestyle diseases, increased vitality, fitting into your favorite pair of jeans. The things you can have far outweigh the things you can’t, no matter how you look at it. 

Top 12 Ways to Stay Primal While Traveling

Happy Friday guys! For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you'll know that earlier in the week, I wrote another guest post for Health Starts in the Kitchen while Hayley, the writer behind that amazing blog, is working on her cookbook. (Can't wait until it comes out!)

I'm a little behind on updating the blog this week (to say I've been busy is quite possibly the biggest understatement of the year), so apologies for the delay on this one. Without further ado, go ahead and check out The Top 12 Ways to Stay Primal While Traveling! 

Hope you guys enjoy it! 

Top 12 things to Expect When Going Paleo

Hey readers, guess what? I’ve been Paleo for a full year now! Can you believe it??? I can’t. Time flies, really, but I’ve had so many changes in my life that have come from taking on a healthier lifestyle. Case in point:

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo.&nbsp;

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 


I get asked all the time what its like to be Paleo, and what it was like to first start Paleo. All. The. Time. Friends, coworkers, and random strangers- I kid you not- approach me, text me, email me, about what its like. This happens so often, that I’ve decided to write more helpful posts about being and making the transition over to Paleo. So today, as part of a series of posts celebrating my one-year Paleoversary, I’m going to share a post on what to expect when you first turn Paleo. Here’s my top 12, in no particular order:  


1. Initially you will probably feel sick.

Everyone who has been Paleo for a few months raves about their energy levels, their mental clarity, their better sleep, increased productivity, etc. All these benefits are absolutely true, but the first few weeks are really horrible.  Personally, I felt like I had the “Paleo Flu” for 3 solid weeks, but once I was through that, I felt great, and continued to feel great. You just need to stick it out.

2. I felt constantly hungry at first

I could never eat enough the first week I went Paleo. The first two days I felt fantastic, and then I remember clearly waking up day 3 and feeling like I had a bad hangover. I was nauseous and ravenous at the same time, and the things that would quell my hunger were foods that were too rich back then for my sensitive stomach: almond butter, avocados, steak. Vegetables wouldn’t do a thing for me, but slowly, I started to become satiated by vegetable-based meals, something that I had never experienced before.

3. Its not all about bacon.

I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to say it again. Paleo emphasizes the elimination of known inflammatory foods (dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, starches), and promotes a vegetable-based diet with lots healthy fats and proteins to promote health and decrease illness. I am not positive why the logo for Paleo became bacon. Yes, Paleo allows bacon, but so do other diets. The majority of Paleo recipes don’t even involve bacon, but somehow the catchphrase for Paleo has become “you can eat all the bacon you want”. That’s just not true, you still need to be mindful about eating too much of anything, including bacon.

4. Traveling is really hard

Just try finding Paleo food in an airport. It is getting a little better in some airports (For example, Terminal 1 in D.C.’s Reagan has a whole new organic and natural foods stand, Austin and Tampa have convenience stores with a couple natural options. Houston has a restaurant in American Airline’s terminal that has gluten-free, organic, vegetable-filled pizzas.). Unfortunately, almost everything in most airport restaurants contains some form of added sugar, grain, dairy, or soy. Finding meat that is grass-fed is nearly impossible. When I have flown in the past, I have broken down and eaten anything I wanted, but then immediately regretted it. Now, I travel with snacks on hand: hardboiled eggs, nuts, Larabars, dehydrated vegetables, kale chips, and my Tuesday Oatmeal.

5. People are either curious or judgmental

I’ve noticed that once you decide to follow a Paleo or primal-based lifestyle, most people think that you are judging them for their conventional or non-Paleo diet choices. When friends have approached me on this subject, I explain to them that I am making the best decision for myself, and I do not think that my choices are meant to be followed by everyone. I reassure that I think everyone needs to make their own decisions for themselves, as diet choices are actually quite cultural and experiential. In my own story, there are many factors that have prompted me to choose this lifestyle (More herehere, and here), but and I understand that everyone’s dietary choices are their own. I also explain to people that I am not 100% Paleo all the time. Sometimes I just really want a sugary, frosting, and sprinkle topped cupcake. For some reason, this weakness reassures people that I am still empathetically human.

6. The Paleo community is incredibly supportive

Have a question about something Paleo related that you can’t find? The resources, chat rooms, and articles on Mark’s Daily Apple and The Bulletproof Executive are both fantastic. Want to learn new information? Check out the podcasts The Fat Burning Man, Primal Blueprint Podcast,  The Bulletproof Executive Podcast, or Balanced Bites. They range from easy to understand to extremely technical. All a great source of information, and are especially great to listen to if you have a work commute.

7. You will be going to the grocery store all the time

Since Paleo emphasizes a lot of vegetables, and vegetables without pesticides or preservatives nonetheless, they don’t last as long as something like, say, a box of crackers. Organic produce doesn’t last as long since it is not treated, so your vegetables have a high probability of going bad in a week or less. To extend the time of your goodies, you can buy from a famer’s market: if the product comes directly from the farm to you, there is less time that your lovingly-grown produce would be sitting on the shelf at your grocery store, meaning more time for you to hold onto your purchase before it goes bad.

8. Ketosis is the gold star, but is not easy

Paleo emphasizes cycling in and out of ketosis, a fancy way of saying that your body has been primed to run on fat stores rather than immediate food intake. There are many benefits of ketosis. For example, that hangry feeling if you don’t eat according to your schedule? That doesn’t happen in ketosis. When your body needs energy, ketosis allows your body to access fat stores, which allows stabilization of things like energy, mood, insulin levels, and hunger levels. Ketosis also allows your body to finally eat that extra layer of fat around your stomach, thighs, or butt. This is wonderful, but ketosis is hard to obtain. In order to reach ketosis, you need to decrease carb intake, as this mechanism prompts your body to look for energy in fat rather than sugar. (Your body breaks down carbs to glucose, which raises insulin levels.) If the sugar, or carbs, is readily available, your body will never look for fat initially; our bodies are lazy like that. When you’re trying to get into ketosis, it is really hard at first, especially if you’re a woman, but it does get easier. Just give yourself some time.

9. Do your research

If you decide to try out Paleo, do your research first. Know good websites for recipes, look at the role between food allergens, inflammation, and degenerative diseases. Understand how your body processes nutrients, and really try to understand the differences between grain-free, gluten-free, and low carb. Look for examples of people that love Paleo and people that hate Paleo. Understand how Paleo can affect things like relationships, moods, finances, and sleep schedules. Research what items you may be able to buy in bulk to cut costs, and try to truly understand how Paleo is a lifestyle change more so than just a diet. Doing all this research ensures that you have a solid basis for why you have made the decisions that you have when you decide to go Paleo. This will come in handy when you are struggling with not eating a roll from the breadbasket when out at your favorite restaurant: you will understand that you are not just practicing deprivation, but rather, you are embracing a healthy lifestyle choice that has implications past the first course. Having reasons and deep knowledge as to why you are doing Paleo only increases that you will stay true to your decision in the long term, but will also support you mentally and emotionally when you feel deprived.

10. Pick an approach that is best for you

So you love everything you have found out and researched about Paleo, but discover that you just can’t do it. That’s ok! Modify it to what makes you the best, healthiest version of you. Everyone is different, you know yourself best. An informed decision is never the wrong one, as long as you are acting with fidelity to yourself.

11. Do it with someone.

There is nothing like teamwork and companionship, especially when making a big lifestyle change. Having someone to talk to and confer with is invaluable.

12. Its worth it.

As hard and as time-consuming as Paleo can be, it is so worth it. I hear from people all the time that they feel amazing, they no longer feel sick, or they never realized how bad they were feeling before because they’ve never felt so good now.  Paleo is so intimating at first, but you will get the hang of it. Saying no to certain foods will soon be a habit, not a decision. Cooking and meal prep will get easier and faster. Feeling awesome will become habitual instead of something that only happens on certain days. Oh, and looking awesome? That will never get old.

Who can resist a diet where you can eat  these guys

Who can resist a diet where you can eat these guys


Exciting Announcements and a BIG Thank You!

Happy Monday night! I wanted to write a quick post to update you all on some exciting announcements!

Have you guys noticed a new page on the website? This new events page is a calendar that lists, you guessed it, upcoming events. I’ve recently been asked to teach a few paleo cooking classes and speak at seminars on everything ranging from brewing Kombucha to grain-free pasta substitutes to the link between cognition and nutrition. I’ve added this page so you can see when, where, and what I’m speaking about. I would love to meet and see you if you are in the area! The calendar doesn’t have any events listed yet, but the dates will be finalized by the end of this week. The calendar will list all the information about each event, and it even has a button allowing you to import the event details directly onto your own personal calendar with just the click of a button. (Technology is so cool.) I will let you know when those dates are up!

Second, I’m excited to announce that this week, I will be guest blogging on the fantastic website Health Starts in the Kitchen. The writer of the blog, Haley, is such a kind and clever blogger, and I’m beyond excited that she invited me to post on her behalf. I’ll be posting on this Wednesday, August 20th, and I will let you know when that post is up and ready to read. In the meantime, here a little teaser of what I will be writing about:

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th.&nbsp;

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th. 


Guess what? There are even more announcements. I know I know, this is becoming a long update, but I'm trying to not bombard your email inboxes with bunch of small updates throughout the week. I hate junk mail just as much as you do. Bear with me while I tell you guys everything all at once. But first, let me take a selfie…..

photo 3.jpg

My one-year anniversary of becoming Paleo is approaching, and I’m in the middle of writing some posts to celebrate. (How has it been a full year already?!) Among other things, I am now coining the word Paleoversary. Soon, it will make it into the dictionary right next to gazillion and selfie. Webster, watch out.

Lastly, I wanted to take the time to thank each and every one of my readers. I’ve noticed a big jump in subscribers and views especially over the past two weeks, and it makes me incredibly happy that people (other than my mom and my dog) read South of Vanilla regularly. Also exciting? I am now the first result when you search for South of Vanilla on Google. This gives me motivation to keep writing posts, and I’m starting to learn more and more from the site statistics about which recipes readers enjoy reading the most. (Currently, 67% of you love my Paleo Protein Pancake recipe the best.) Thank you everyone so much for reading! Please make sure to post comments or ask questions if you need any help in your cooking or paleo endeavors! I’m always willing to help J

Hope everyone is enjoy these last sun-filled summer days.

XOXO,

Kristina

 

Have You Ever Not Eaten?

Have you ever not eaten?

Of course! You ran out of time to eat lunch before class, you woke up too late to eat breakfast. Maybe you have had the flu so badly that even the thought of a bowl of soup makes your stomach quiver. We’ve all been there.

Have you ever not eaten for weeks? Months? How about years?

No, if you’re reading this, you have likely have not gone quite tat long without eating. But I see people every day that haven’t. I am a medical Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), and I work in a setting where I regularly diagnose and treat people who, like my title implies, have speech and language disorders. However, an SLP does much more than speech and language; about 75% of my caseload is actually treating swallowing and cognitive disorders. I see people that cannot eat, that have poor memories. I’ll attempt to restore their swallow function, even if that only means they have a few tablespoons of pureed chicken at a time. (I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at applesauce or mashed potatoes again, ugh.) Sometimes I’ll see people immediately following an infection, a surgery, or a broken bone, and in a few weeks, they’ve bounced right back to where they were: happy, independent, and ready to go home. More often than not, the people I treat have neurodegenerative diseases. This means that they won’t get better, and the things I do either slow down decline, or establish adaptations and modifications that help them become the most independent as possible. Key words: as possible.

No one thinks that these diseases will find them. No one thinks that. How can you, when at 19 you can stay up all night drinking red bulls and vodkas, but can still rally for that 9am class? How can you think that your body won’t deteriorate when you can log 8 miles on that trail, when you can eat 3 slices of cake and still look fabulous on the beach in that bikini? No one thinks that these debilitating, terrible health problems or diagnoses will happen to them, and trust me, you never want them to. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Think about that for a while, mull it over. Or better, yet, take a trip to a nursing home, or better yet, a dementia lockdown unit.

As I work with my patients daily, I learn a lot about them. I’ve heard stories about their lives, their pasts, their families. I feel like I’ve spent many accumulated holidays with them, in a sense: I know about the time Joe slid down the banister and needed 6 stitches in his forehead. I know about the time Mary eloped with the man 12 years her senior. I know the color of the dress their granddaughter wore to prom. I know the names of their children, their grandchildren, their pastor. I know the places they traveled to on their honeymoon, although now, somehow 10 years has passed as a widow. “Where does this time go?” I know what crops their daddy raised on that farm in South Carolina; sometimes I can envision those tobacco leaves growing so large and strong, so leafy and verdant that they could wrap around someone like an earthy, flat blanket, tying their body to the land.

I know the stories of the people my patients have loved and lost. My patients have shared family recipes with me, they’ve told me some of the skeletons in their closest.

 “How long have I been here? Is it still 2006?”

“You’ve been here awhile, ma’am”, is now my standard response. No use in breaking their heart. I know they’ll forget new facts, its only a matter of time, but I am convinced that the devastation stays, that it dwells deeply and roots at the bottom tip of the heart, rooting until it becomes a sense of desperate intuition,  a gnawing sense of unease and omniscience. There’s something to be said of where the memory of a feeling is housed.

How can someone not remember the past 7 years of their life, but they can remember the details of a night 40 years ago? Why do they tell me all these things? I still don’t know, but sometimes I feel as if they are trusting their memories to me, using me as some external hard drive, knowing that as their memory fails, mine grows stronger, linking my past experiences to theirs. Linking my current, dynamic,  life into their past, immovable, memories.

I know my patient’s favorite foods, their hobbies, their regrets. I know when they’re going to have a bad day, or even a good day, when who they are (were?) comes charging back to their body so suddenly and brightly, that their new diseased shell seems to fall right off, if only for a few minutes.  One of my patients, a man in his early 40s and former chef, had brain damage so badly that he couldn’t remember how to read, write, or his own address, but when I told him I had been trying to recreate my own Paleo version of Chick-fil-a, he immediately told honed in on the ingredients I had been missing. (He was right.) 20 minutes later he didn’t remember our conversation.

I’ve sat with patients who have a memory of about 10 seconds, where their life resets over and over and over again, day after day:

“What day is it?”

“April 14th”

“Oh, ok. Look at that sun!”

“What day is it?? Wednesday?”

“Its April 14th, and look how nice that sun is”

“Ohh., you read my mind! I was going to say something about the sun!”

………

“What day is it?”

I’ve been in rooms with patients that I’ve treated everyday for months, their mind so eaten away that every time they see me is like meeting a new person. “Hello, its nice to meet you! Where are you from? You look so familiar!” But amidst the memory loss and confusion, my patients still have haunting moments of clarity. I once had a patient, in a lucid moment, exclaim: “I’m tired, dear. Don’t you see? What you’re doing is just prolonging my death, and I know its your job, but I’m going to die. It won’t be now, but I wish I could go. Jesus won’t accept me if I take my own life, so I’ll just wait here and be tired. I’m so tired.”

I’ve been in the room, several times now, where my patients start talking to their dead relatives. I almost feel as though I’m intruding, tiptoeing in on a very intimate moment.

I’ve treated patients who haven’t been able to eat for weeks, months, years, because their stroke has left the nerves and electrical wiring in their body unable to coordinate the muscles to get liquids or foods down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room when a patient who is on a feeding tube, unable to eat, begs of me: “just one sip of water. Just one.”

I stand in exact juxtaposition to my patients: I happen to have an amazing memory. What did you have for dinner the night of December 28th, 2001? Chances are, if I was with you and you tell me where we were, I can recall it. What did so and so say to you during history class our Sophomore year? I probably remember that too. That argument we had last week? I can recite both sides. Verbatim. I happen to have a semi-photographic memory. I say semi- because it takes a good amount of effort for me to be able to access this skill, although when I really need to remember something, I can pull up a visual “map” of it, which always leads me to the answer.  Somehow, I didn’t even know that this skill could be further developed, shaped and moveable to help me succeed in other areas of my life. I realized I could manipulate my cognition, to make it more functional powerful, to succeed academically in senior year of college, which, not coincidentally, is the year I became serious about removing toxins, pesticides, and artificial foods from my diet.  I do think these things are linked.

All of these issues I’ve touched on in this post are heartbreaking. They are heart breaking and preventable. Many of our western diet choices result in the presence of these diseases; the foods that we eat are fueling them, planting the seeds in us, even now and 15, 25, 35 years of age, for neuro-degeneration. I fear that our culture is beginning to accept that dementias and Alzheimer’s and memory troubles are just normal aging. They are not. So I am begging of you: please take care of yourself now. Please put down those energy drinks, those fast food burgers, those sodas, and artificial sweeteners. Please stop telling yourself that the Standard American Diet guidelines have your best health interests at heart. Please look at the financial backers of food laws and regulations passed in congress. Please take ownership of what you put into your body: what you choose to either fight disease or enable it. Please, I am begging you, eat healthy, eat whole. Get rid of toxins in your food, and eat cleanly as possible.  

You deserve better, your future deserves better. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Doing my SLP thing.&nbsp;

Doing my SLP thing. 

Paleo Staples

I’m famous!

Ok, not really, but sometimes its fun to pretend.

During the last weekend in June, I was lucky enough to be invited to two gorgeous weddings. One wedding was that of a former co-worker/classmate/fellow speechie, and she and the groom seemed to effortlessly blend her Kenyan traditions into a MidAtlantic Maryland ceremony. Bride Sandra, her photographer Katie (Who is insanely talented), and close friends handcrafted her wedding flowers and bouquets. I still can’t get over how gorgeous they were, despite hearing of how one box of flowers was burned at customs from containing a bug from South Africa. (What??? Burned?) I also was very much enamored with their chalkboard mason jars at the reception AND their lawn chess game. <3 Sandra and Jonny, your wedding was beautiful. 






The other wedding of the weekend was a gorgeous vintage-rustic glamorous ceremony and reception. Think glitter and blush nestled among wood, baby’s breath, gold, and antique furniture. Still dying.  The reception and ceremony were both on a farm in horse country, Virginia. Down through hills and pastures nestled between sparse gravel roads, was an elegant barn with my friend’s most beautiful wedding. I still can’t get over how gorgeous it was, and I am still so happy for my dear friends #kathyandcarl.





This guy's name is Anthony, what a doll.&nbsp;

This guy's name is Anthony, what a doll. 

Anyway, as I was sitting outside near the horse pasture (Yes, there were real, galloping horses) watching the sunset, a wedding guest approached me.

“Excuse me, Hi. Are you Kristina? From South of Vanilla? I recognize you! I love your blog!”

What?? When did I become recognizable?  Fellow wedding guest, groom’s family member, and primal enthusiast Theresa told me all about her Paleo and Crossfit experiences. She was so kind in saying that she loved my recipes and all the information on the blog. If you’re reading this post Theresa, thank you so much. You made my month!

Theresa approaching me reminded me very much of what it was like to be brand new to Paleo, and how much I relied upon friends and Google searches to get me through those first couple months of really committing to this lifestyle. In that fashion, I wanted to share with you all the Paleo staples I always have in my house for cooking and baking. These staples give me the basis for many of my Paleo meals, and having a stocked kitchen ensures that I won’t stray too far off the Paleo track. Please note that these “staples” are for both the Paleo cook and the Paleo baker. If you are only cooking, and not baking, you likely will not need the various types of flours I have listed, but please use this list as Paleo shopping list of sorts as a reference.

South of Vanilla’s Paleo Staples for The Kitchen**

Produce:

  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Basil
  • Berries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts 
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Dates (Especially helpful for baking)
  • Garlic
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Mint
  • Lemon
  • Lettuce
  • Lime
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Parsley
  • Peppers
  • Spaghetti squash/squash in season
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Kombucha

Dairy:

  • Kefir
  • Organic, grass-fed, free range Butter (Kerrygold is my favorite)
  • Organic, preferably pasture raised eggs

Shelf Items:

  • Raw, whole almonds, cashews, or nut of choice
  • Almond Butter
  • Almond milk, unsweetened (Or another nut milk of your preference.)
  • Coffee
  • Canned coconut cream or milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee
  • Raw honey
  • Hot sauce
  • Olive Oil
  • Dried Seaweed
  • Sesame Oil
  • Vinegar

Baking Items:

  • Almond flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Cashew Flour
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Dark chocolate
  • Rice Flour
  • Tapioca Flour
  • Vanilla Extract

Meats:

  • Uncured Bacon
  • Favorite cut of organic, grass-fed beef
  • Chicken thighs/chicken cut of choice
  • Marrow Bones/Bone Marrow
  • Ethically sourced and organically raised Tilapia, Tuna, Salmon, or other favorite fish of choice
  • Ground turkey

Spices:

  • Basil
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon, powder and sticks
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Curry (Green, yellow, massaman, red)
  • Dill
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ginger
  • Hatch Chili Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Sea Salt
  • Himalayan Pink Salt

** These staples are tailored to my preference. For example, things like mushrooms, eggplant, artichokes, etc. are definitely Paleo and nutritious, healthy Paleo options, but they’re not included on the South of Vanilla list for staples because I don’t eat them regularly. If you need to go back to what is and isn’t included in Paleo, refer here. J