Sunday Snaps, 01-04-2015

Happy first Sunday of the year! It has been quite the month, hasn’t it? (I also now do realize the irony of “Sunday Snaps”: this doesn’t seem to be a weekly thing at all. More like monthly. Ah well, better luck next time.)

Its been a whirlwind guys. I suppose the holidays always are, but this year seemed to go really fast. Now I have the post-holiday blues, mostly because Christmas isn’t for pretty much a whole year minus 1 week, and it won’t be appropriate to wear all glitter errythang until next New Year’s Eve. Life is hard sometimes.

This Christmas was low-key, which was exactly what Christopher and I needed after a stressful and crazy busy fall. We figured out that since September, either one or both of us had been traveling or having guests stay with us almost every other weekend and sometimes back to back weekends. Also a perk of a New Mexico Christmas? Shooting guns. And biscochos. And Ponchoclaus. (He had a donkey. With a reindeer antler headband.) Nope, not a joke, and yep, a New Mexican staycation was just what we needed:

Old town Mesilla on Christmas Eve

Old town Mesilla on Christmas Eve




Ponchoclaus is real. 

Ponchoclaus is real. 



Can't stop eating

Can't stop eating

And it has been full of gorgeous scenery, especially the past couple weeks:





A friend just told me that eggs are actually considered protein/meat and not dairy. Whatt???? Mind blown. I mean, it makes sense, it does. Its not like an egg is made of cheese and milk or anything, but then why is it always found in the dairy section?? And why hasn’t anyone informed me of this? I’ve gone almost 27 years thinking eggs were dairy. Step it up, world. I’ve lived in ignorance for far too long.

I’ve really noticed the prices of food going up the past few months. Admittedly, healthy eating, and especially following a paleo diet, is always more expensive than conventional diets, but really. Is it just here in the southwest? Anyone have insight on this one? I am baffled.

I am currently obsessed with my new Christmas gift acquisitions, which include a blanket scarf and a pair of Hunter boots. I think they're super cute, but Christopher has been looking at me quizzically and asking why I am insistent upon wearing a blanket around me neck and bright red rain boots in the desert. Men. They will never understand. 

Many in the paleosphere are doing a Whole 30 this month, which is admittedly a great idea following holiday eating. Currently, I feel like this:

I thought about doing a Whole 30 as well, except I’m going to D.C. soon, where I will inevitably eat 10 Georgetown Cupcakes and drink approximately 12 moscow mules, so I’m holding off. Until then, I’ll be continuing to indulge in these wonderful paleo treats I recently posted:

Paleo, dairy-free caramel hot-chocolate with homemade marshmallows

Paleo, dairy-free caramel hot-chocolate with homemade marshmallows


Paleo hot chocolate bar

Paleo hot chocolate bar


Paleoish Kombucha Gin Ricky

Paleoish Kombucha Gin Ricky


Non-dairy chocolate "ice cream" with peppermint-mocha marshmallow swirl

Non-dairy chocolate "ice cream" with peppermint-mocha marshmallow swirl


After I’m back from my D.C. weekend, I’ll be strict paleo…at least until the next sprinkled pastry comes along. But really, I’ve even working on some detox-ready, paleo-friendly recipes. I can’t wait to share, but here’s a sneak peak:



Clearly, this photo is appropriate right now. Except I have been diligent about doing Hot Yoga lately, which I feel detoxes my body, but I really have no scientific evidence to back that one up. I just like sweating. It makes me feel good. And the showers after a long sweat are epic. I also like wearing my lululemon yoga pants for doing actual yoga, and not my normal lululemon routine of drinking coffee while browsing through instagram.

Today is my last day of break before returning to work, and I am so sad. My days of lounging and doing nothing are over. During break, Christopher has figured out a gentle way to tell me to go find something else to do and not bother him while he watches football. Very subtle:

 

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 brings you lots of happiness and health!

 

P.S: If you haven’t seen my Top 10 Faileos of 2014, go check it out here. You’ll get a good laugh:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Merry Christmas and a Special Sweet Holiday Treat!

Merry Christmas!

Down here in New Mexico, I've pretty much given up on any hope of White Christmas this year. I guess thats what I get for picking up one day and suddenly moving to the southwest.

I actually don't know what to do with myself. I've never had a Christmas without snow or cold weather (my whole life has been in Chicago, Iowa, or D.C.) except for the one year my family was in Costa Rica for the holidays. With the exclusion of that year spent in Central America, even when we travel, the cold weather seems to follow us. In 2010, we spent Christmas in South Beach, where there were lows around the 60s that sent Miami residents running to buy parkas and sent my grandma and I to lounge on the beach in our swimsuits.

So here I am, basking in the southwest sunshine in a bit of a confused haze. The past couple weeks, I've been celebrating Christmas the only way I know how: by listening to Christmas music, decorating the tree, watching Love Actually, drinking paleo hot chocolate, and lighting lots of fires in the fireplace, subsequently making my house really really hot.

There's one other thing though.

I've been eating a lot of ice cream, since temperatures aren't in the teens like I'm used to. Ice cream in December? So much better than Ice cream in July. Out with the old Christmas sugar cookies, in with the new..... ice cream.

Happy Holidays everyone!


Paleo Chocolate "Ice Cream" with Peppermint Mocha Marshmallow Swirl

  • 1 recipe of your favorite chocolate ice cream recipe (I like this one…because its mine ;) )
  • ¾ cup peppermint-mocha marshmallow fluff *
  1. Follow directions to make ice cream according to your recipe.
  2. Once ice cream mixture is ready, place in your ice cream maker and churn to your manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Watch churning ice cream slowly, and as ice cream starts to harden, add your marshmallow fluff in ¼ cup increments as mixer is still turning.
  4. Once ice cream is finished churning, scoop out and place in an airtight container.
  5. Put ice cream in freezer and let harden for about 2-3 more hours, at least, before eat.

*Marshmallow fluff is derived from making the peppermint-mocha marshmallow recipe, and instead of letting the fluff set (to turn into marshmallows), use the fluff immediately to mix into this ice cream recipe.








Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

I've discovered that chestnuts are an ancestral type of food. Why is that? Because our ancestors wrote and sang songs about them.

Ha! Get it? I'm hilarious.

I originally intended to post this recipe before Thanksgiving, so you all could have it to serve to your families for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or perhaps both, but then the holiday travel season got the best of me. Oh no, don't get me wrong, I made these chestnuts before Thanksgiving, took all the photos, and then.... well, I decided to go to Crossfit and take a really long hot shower and straighten my hair the night I was supposed to write this blog post. Sorry, friends....but at least you'll be getting this one in adequate time for winter holiday cooking. Maybe. If you're like me and leave cooking up to the last minute. #procrastinationforever

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While developing this recipe, I realized that most people had never eaten chestnuts. When I was looking for them in several grocery stores, one person even asked "what are you going to do with chestnuts?", to which I wanted to reply "roast them on an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at my nose", but that seemed a tad bit too snarky to a complete stranger. So I very nicely replied "roast them and eat them!". I thought that answer was obvious, but this stranger had a perplexed look on his face as in he never really thought to eat chestnuts.

I also realized that there are actually specialty tools for roasting chestnuts. Serious. There are chestnut knives and chestnut pans and chestnut....hair dye? Ok, maybe the hair dye isn't so much for eating, but I've discovered that chestnuts are actually the color and vibrancy of Kate Middleton's coveted hair. (See, she knows.)

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I don't eat chestnuts often: they're a lot of work to peel and can be pricey. I was only able to find chestnuts near me at an organic specialty market for $10/pound, and after doing some research online, that seems to be the status quo for organic pricing; I unfortunately couldn't find any price point data for any "big box" grocery stores.

Despite the price, I really think that everyone should try roasting their own chestnuts at least once. They're incredibly festive and taste wonderfully warm and nutty just out of the pan. The roasting is quite easy, but the hard part comes with having the patience to diligently cut the chestnuts open before roasting, and then to peel back the hot, but still firm, shell to try to get the nut out whole. I like chestnuts plain with a little salt, but I also like them with a little spice, which is the recipe I've provided for you below.

When I first set out to try to roast these chestnuts, I decided that I was going to invent a new way to roast them.... and I quickly failed. I knew that if you did not cut open the shells of chestnuts before, they were likely to explode. I decided that I was going to do an experiment to see how long it took a chestnut to explode and at what temperature, so I threw one in the oven to test. It was going to be my own foodie version of Myth Busters, but then I got scared and removed it before it was even in the oven for a full 5 minutes. Whomp whomp. Next, I decided to roast them in olive oil on the stove top, but that produced so much smoke that I immediately had to open all the windows and doors to air things out before I got a surprised visit from the fire department. After that, I decided that perhaps I could actually roast them in the fire in my fireplace, but after doing some research, I realized there was a high probability of losing both my pan and the chestnuts at the same time. Take it my advice: roasting in the oven is the easiest, safest way.

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This recipe uses a red Thai curry seasoning, which I found at a specialty spice shop, but you could easily create your own blend, or use whatever curry you had on hand. I think that the spice and flavor or the curry combined with a little sea salt against the warm, nutty flavor of the chestnut is a real winner; it is almost like Asian spiced peanuts, but of course, a bit more festive for this holiday season.


Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

  • 1 lb. whole chestnuts
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Thai red curry blend*
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, take a very sharp knife and very carefully slice an X in each chestnut shell, being careful not to puncture the actual nut. If you cut the nut inside the shell, the chestnut will crumble as you try to peel it from its shell after roasting. Cutting an X allows the heat to escape and ensures that you do not have little chestnut-bombs going off in your oven. Cutting these Xs can be difficult since the chestnut shell is extremely hard, but I found that the easiest way is finding the flattest side of the chestnut and then cutting one diagonal line downward and away from you, and then rotating the chestnut again to ensure that you never cut upward. (Which is a recipe for disaster when you are handling a sharp knife.)
  3. In a large cast iron pan or baking sheet, place each chestnut X side up, making sure that each chestnut has a little space to itself.
  4. Place the chestnuts in the oven, and let roast for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes, remove the chestnuts from the oven, and let cool until they can be handled without burning your fingers, but not completely cool. They should still be warm.
  6. Peel the chestnuts from their shell by firmly tugging back on the corners of the Xs , which should have opened slightly during roasting.
  7. Discard the chestnut shells and place the nuts in a medium sized bowl.
  8. After all nuts have been shelled and are in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and gently stir to coat.
  9. Add salt and curry, gently toss until chestnuts are evenly coated with spices.
  10. Serve immediately.

*The Thai red curry blend I used contained black pepper, paprika, cumin, onion, garlic, coriander, lemongrass, cilantro, chili flakes, and ginger.




Southwest Adventures and Peppermint Mocha Marshmallows

In the beginning of December, two of my coworkers, a fellow SLP and a PT doctoral student, dragged me to Carlsbad Caverns in the Southeast portion of New Mexico. Perhaps “dragged” isn’t necessarily the appropriate term, but they definitely needed to cajole me to wake up at 7am on a Sunday to drive 3 ½ hours each way the morning after our open bar work holiday party.

One of the factors in my decision to move to the NM was to be able to explore a quadrant of the country that I haven’t seen much of. After moving, I started off my explorations strong, but then quickly faded as work piled on more tasks and the holiday season set in. In the end, I was really glad they convinced me to go to the caverns.

Carlsbad was amazing: it is the western hemisphere’s largest cave, and its largest room is about 4,000 feet long by 625 feet wide. There are actually two known caverns within the cave: an upper cavern open to the public, and a lower cavern that has been preserved for research and is only available to scientists by permit. They are still discovering offshoots and rooms with the cavern, which was first estimated to discovered in 1898. (Although it is still not known if Native Americans knew about the cave sooner.) My favorite recent discovery story is that of the Halloween Cavern, which was discovered accidentially by a balloon on Halloween, therefore inspiring it’s name.

No worries, we actually did not touch any of the cave in this picture. (Its one of those optical illusion pictures.)

No worries, we actually did not touch any of the cave in this picture. (Its one of those optical illusion pictures.)

I’ve explored several caverns throughout my life before, but Carlsbad was by far the best. It is the most decorated cavern I’ve been to, meaning that there are stalagmites and stalagtites galore; there are dots of water pools, rock windows with views of smaller rooms, pockets illuminated like passageways, and even a whimsical area called Fairyland. Venturing into Carlsbad is like entering a different world. While touring the cavern my friends and I were trying to create descriptions to describe the sights: “the Middle East”, “The Moon”, “a fossiled coral reef”, were all thrown out but quickly abandoned simply because there just are no adequate words.

Since we went in winter, there weren’t any crowds, which turned out to be eerie. To enter the cave, you can either take the elevator down or walk the winding path that slowly descends into the natural mouth of the cave, switching back and winding through and around boulders and growths and moss-covered rocks. The day we went, we chose to walk down, and since we were one of the few groups of people there, our voices echoed as the three of us descended into the quickly engulfing darkness. If not for the lights along the path, it was evident that we would have been in complete and total darkness within 3 minutes of entering the cave.

The natural mouth of the caverns from above.

The natural mouth of the caverns from above.


The natural mouth of the cave, but this time, looking up from total darkness. 

The natural mouth of the cave, but this time, looking up from total darkness. 


The entrance of the cave is a natural mouth, meaning that the ground naturally opened up into an entrance, or in summer, a grand exit. It is estimated that Carslbad Caverns is home to an estimated hald a million bats, and at dusk in summer, they exit in flocks through the natural mouth, creating clouds of flying creatues swirling and dipping through the sky on their way to hunt. I’ve linked a video of this here from a user on YouTube so you can see this magnificnent show; unfortunately the bats had already migrated to warmer Mexican locales by the time of our winter visit, so I did not see the bat show first hand. I’ve already decided, however, that I will be back to see the nightly mass exodus when the bats return to their home in spring.

The caverns, amazingly, keep a stable 57 degrees year round. My fellow SLP, Alexa, told me that in summer, the caves are refreshingly cool: the cave’s placement within the Guadalupe mountain ranges on the border of southeast New Mexico and rural Texas, in the middle of a vast stretch between the middle of nothing, desert, and borderlands, creates soaring and dry temperatures in summer. Alexa explained that visiting the caves in summer is like a little cool oasis, and the constant humidity of 90% underground is refreshing. Even when we visited in winter, the humidity in the air felt cool and comforting: after living in the desert, suddenly stepping into a room of sorts with moisture in the air is novel and refreshing.

Our timing to visit the caves was incredibly appropriate. As much as I love working with kids, trying to gather their attention and cultivate growth during the time period after Thanksgiving and before winter break is incredibly grappling, difficult, and taxing. Those few weeks between each holiday are really exhausting, and I’m sure everyone can relate. In the past, I have plowed through the holidays with constant stream of coffee and a candy induced sugar high, but I’ve since realized that that is not sustainable for long. Instead of creating burnout that takes weeks of solitude and relaxation to recover from, I’ve decided to boycott that entirely. No more gathering willpower to muscle through our self-induced periods of stress and anxiety; its just not a way to live. This holiday season, and hopefully for every one after, I’ve decided to make time to take breaks, to explore to recharge, just like I did in Carlsbad Caverns, and to take time for the activities that I really, truly enjoy engaging in.

I challenge you all, this holiday season, to take the time to do whatever is you need to do for yourself: whether that is reading a book, taking a road trip, or spending all day in the kitchen decorating holiday cookies. Recharging is important, and necessary for a well-cultivated, enjoyable, and productive life.

So what will I be doing in the coming weeks to recharge? Dreaming of Carlsbad Caverns, mapping the rest of my Southwest adventures, and curling up with a good book and a mug of these holiday-inspired Peppermint Marshmallows. (I just can’t get enough!)

Happy Holidays.



Paleo Peppermint-Mocha Marshmallows

  • 3.5 oz. high quality, dark chocolate
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 3 tbsp. powdered beef gelatin
  • 3 tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • ¾ tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • Tapioca Starch, for dusting
  • In a large bowl, mix all powdered beef gelatin with ½ cup water. Let set for at least 10 minutes to soften.
  1. In an 8x8 baking pan, line with parchment paper. Dust bottoms and sides with a small amount of tapioca starch. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine remaining water, vanilla, peppermint extract, coffee granules, and coconut sugar. Stir and then bring to a medium simmer, then immediately reduce heat so mixture has only occasional bubbles. Let heat for approximately 10 minutes longer, until mixture is thoroughly heated and all coconut sugar has dissolved. Mixture will be a dark amber color.
  3. Add ¼ saucepan mixture to bowl with softened gelatin. Turn on mixer and beat on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add second ¼ of saucepan mixture and continue to beat on medium-high heat. Repeat process until all saucepan mixture is used.
  4. Once all of saucepan mixture has been added into the mixer bowl, increase mixer to high speed (setting #8 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) and beat for about 3 minutes, then on highest speed (Setting #10 on a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) for about 4-5 minutes more. Marshmallows will be done when they have the viscosity of marshmallow fluff. Be careful not to over mix, as they will become too springy and difficult to handle.
  5. Using a spatula, pour the marshmallows into your prepared baking pan and gently shake until they are level. Dust the top once more with tapioca starch, and then place another strip of parchment paper over the top of the marshmallows for evenness and protection.
  6. Store pan of marshmallows in a cool, dry spot for approximately 4-6 hours, or even overnight, to let set.
  7. Once set, remove top strip of parchment paper, and lift marshmallows out of pan by pulling out the parchment paper. Cut marshmallows into evenly sized squares.
  8. In a small bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring in between to avoid scalding or burning. (You could also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate, if that is your preference.)