​Summer Veggie and Egg Flatbread

So….

I created and photographed this recipe back in September, but then forgot all about it. Like totally, completely, utterly forgot about it until I had a dream about it. What?? No, really. I had a dream about flatbread.

Granted, some of my dreams have involved food before, however, they usually involve things like cupcakes or cookies or brownies or dancing marshmallow fluff. Essentially, I only dream about incredibly unhealthy desserts. Except I sometimes will dream about coffee, but thats more like a nightmare that I ran out in the morning before work on a Monday.

Analyze that Freud.

Even though I have a really excellent memory, I still do forget things. It happens with stress, which is a typical reaction from most people. But guess what? Its May, which means Cherry Blossoms in D.C., intense thunderstorms in Iowa, 75 degree weather in the southwest, and…snow in Chicago. Ok, maybe not snow quite still snow-season in Chicago, but its happened before. (Sorry guys.) You cant be stressed with all this excellent weather on the horizon, literally. (Heh heh heh, get it??!)

This flatbread is very versatile: for being grain and gluten-free, it has an incredible texture that is both chewy near the middle and crispy around the edges. It is fantastic the way I styled it, with an egg and avocado, but lends itself well to piling high with other fresh veggies….dare I even say this could be your new favorite paleo flat-bread pizza crust?  Make sure to try this recipe alongside some fresh spring veggies and some fizzy drinks. And dont forget to grab those sunglasses while you eat this outside on your patio. It is almost summer!


Summer Veggie and Egg Flatbread

Serves 3

For crust:

  • 1/2 cup warmed water, divided  (about 100 degrees)
  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 1 cup tapioca starch, divided 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. coconut flour
  • 1 tsp. freshly chopped thyme 
  • 2 tsp. freshly chopped basil 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 2 tbsp. flax seed 
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus additional for oiling

Toppings:

  • 2 tbsp. butter 
  • 1 tsp. fresh garlic 
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 cup Porcini mushrooms 
  • 1 small tomato, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast (or cheese of choice if you can tolerate dairy)
  • ½ cup fresh arugula 
  • 1 egg 
  1. In a large bowl, add ¼ cup warm water. Add packet of active yeast. Let sit for about 10 minutes until yeast has activated. It should be foamy. If water has not foamed, throw out yeast and start over; no foam means that yeast is not alive.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Add remaining water to bowl. Mix in tapioca starch, coconut flour, thyme, basil, salt, nutritional yeast, flax seed, and olive oil. Stir by hand until all ingredients are well combined and a dough begins to form.
  4. With oiled hands, form dough into a large bowl.
  5. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet. Place ball of dough in center of sheet. Begin  to roll the dough out with an oiled rolling pin to create flatbread. Flatbread should be about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Place flatbread on middle rack of oven and bake at 450 degrees and bake for 6 minutes.
  7. After 6 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and remove flatbread from oven.
  8. Top flatbread with butter, fresh garlic, and mushrooms. Return to middle rack of oven and continue to bake for 15 minutes.
  9. After 15 minutes, add basil, tomato, avocado, nutritional yeast or cheese, and arugula to the flatbread. Add the egg by cracking over the center of the flatbread, being careful not to break the yolk.
  10. Return to the middle rack of the oven and continue to bake for 7 minutes. 




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Your Paleo Cinco de Mayo Fiesta (Ole!)

Heeeyy, friends. I’m sure you’ve noticed, but between myself and Care to Pair, we’ve been a little Mexican Food crazy. (But is this ever a bad thing? No. Nope. Of course not.) Oh, and guess what? Its just 2 days away from Cinco de Mayo, which means that now you have everything you need to plan a Paleo Cinco de Mayo fiesta WITH ALCOHOL. Nicely timed, huh? This is going to be theeee best fiesta. Thanks Dani!

I’m going to keep this post short, so you guys can get to your fiesta planning, but these past couple weeks, Care to Pair and I have given you:


Delish. Oh, and of course, South of Vanilla has some other Paleo Mexican recipes in the archives that weren’t posted in the past couple weeks, are definitely fiesta-worthy:

You see? Now you have Mexican drinks, main courses, and a dessert all in one place. (Oh, and don’t forget you also have breakfast, lunch, and dinner if your fiesta is going to be an all day thing. No shame. You fiesta-it-up.)

The only thing you need now is a piñata. Happy Cinco de Mayo!


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Tomato Soup Sky: a sign from above

Guys. The night I made this recipe, I received a sign.

Like, a sign from above. Literally.

I was making this soup, when I saw this orangey-red light from outside my window. I stepped outside, and saw the best winter sunset so far in New Mexico. And it was THE EXACT SAME COLOR AS THE SOUP I WAS MAKING. That’s right. Tomato soup sky. A sign from above. Yep.

This was such a change for me, I mean actually having gorgeous weather past October and having sunsets instead of watching the light start to disappear at 3:30 is a huge deal. Spending my childhood in Chicago means that I am used to the darkness and the cold. Bitter cold, snowy cold, blustering cold, bone-chilling cold- I think there are just a many words to say “cold” in the Chicago vernacular as there is to say “snow” in the Inuit cultures.

After childhood, I went to college in Iowa, where it was, surprisingly, even colder. Even more, I spent many weekends traversing over into the Dakotas, on road trips and adventures, where I discovered that it was even colder. As in colder than Iowa and Chicago. Perhaps combined. I spent a spring break in college on a farm in central South Dakota, and it was by far the coldest spring temperatures I had ever seen.  (On the other hand, summers were temperate and blissful.)

One of my takeaways from these trips into the tundra were the foods served. Fresh greens in winter were scarce, even in grocery stores. Fruits were more common, but they were often not very flavorful, presumably from the long journey that the fruits had to go through to even get to that often forgotten corner of the country.

Meals served were often heavy, hot, and filling: dumplings, liver and onions, potatoes galore, pot roasts, steaks, and soups.

Oh, the soups.

There’s a reason why our grandmother’s ate so many homemade soups in their time: if made from bones, they are packed with nutrients that ward of viruses, which typically come knocking as the temperatures start to drop. Soups are a way to incorporate tougher vegetables that survive throughout the winter months: parsnips, potatoes, carrots, yams. And of course, soups are warm, which everyone agrees is both comforting and soothing in those dark, wintery days.

One of the greatest soups I have ever had came from a woman in South Dakota who created this recipe all on her own.  It is hot a bubbly and frothy and pure goodness in a bowl. It’s a tomato soup, which sounds boring and wimpy, but this homemade tomato soup packs so much richness and flavor that it really should be in its own category. The original recipe called for 4 cups of heavy whipping cream (!!!), flour, and a multitude of other ingredients that just aren’t paleo. For this post, I’ve modified the original recipe to make it dairy free and primal friendly, but have still kept the integrity of the rich flavors. I’ve also added my own flair to the recipe, a flair that is definitely influenced by my most recent Southwest, warm-winter, adventure. If jalapenos aren’t your thing, just omit them. You can also omit the swirl, especially if you just want a classic tomato soup recipe.  You’ll still get a full-bodied soup, but without that spicy, South of Vanilla twist.


Paleo Jalapeno Tomato Soup with Sundried Tomato-Avocado Cream Swirl

For the soup:

  • 6 cups fresh, whole tomatoes
  • ½ large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 roughly chopped jalapenos, plus additional for garnish (or more to taste) (Optional)
  • 6 tbsp. grass-fed, organic, unsalted butter (I love Kerrygold)
  • 6 1/3 cups unsweetened original flavored almond mild, divided
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • Salt to taste

For the swirl:

  • ¼ cup Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1 Avocado
  • ½ cup unsweetened, unflavored Almond Milk

For the soup:

  1. Remove skins from tomatoes by slicing an X on the bottom of each fruit, then placing in a large pot and covering all tomatoes with water.
  2. Bring tomatoes in water to a boil for about 6 minutes. Once skin starts to peel back from tomatoes, drain water from pot.
  3. Let tomatoes cool completely before peeling off skins. Discard skins, and place peeled tomatoes back in pot. Peeled tomatoes should be soft at this point and slightly cooked.
  4. In your pot with peeled tomatoes, add butter, garlic, onion, and jalapenos. Sauté on medium-high heat until garlic and onions are fragrant and onions are translucent.
  5. Add 1/3 cup of almond milk to tomato mixture, and let simmer until almost all the liquid is gone.
  6. Remove from heat, and spoon tomato mixture into a blender. Be very careful not to burn yourself, as this blending process emits a large amount of steam. You may have to blend in two separate batches depending on your size of blender. Blend until smooth.
  7. Place blended tomato mixture back into the pot, but reserve 1 cup of the mixture. Place this 1 cup of the tomato mixture in a separate large bowl.
  8. In your separate large bowl with 1 cup of the tomato mixture, add the tapioca flour and baking soda. Whisk until frothy and all the tapioca flour has been absorbed. It may take awhile for the tapioca flour to absorb completely, and it is important to keep whisking, as the flour can easily clump.
  9. Add tomato mixture with the flour and baking soda back into the large pot with the rest of the blended tomato mixture.
  10. Add 4 cups of the almond mild, and heat of medium-low. The soup should never come to a boil, it should just bubble. Stir often to ensure that the soup does not stick to the bottom of the pot, about 15 minutes.
  11. Once the soup is bubbling, add remaining 2 cups of almond milk, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, garlic salt, and paprika. Stir in spices, and heat on medium heat for about 15 more minutes.  Scrape up any burned pieces from the bottom of the pot; this will add a richer flavor.
  12. Serve immediately, or garnish with swirl or jalapenos. (Optional)

For the swirl: 

  1. Combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. (There still may be small pieces of sundried tomatoes.)
  2. With a spoon swirl in the cream 1 tbsp. at a time until you have desired swirl. 






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.








Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte with Chocolate-Dunked Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows <3

After I made this drink and shot the photos of this drink, I couldn't stop staring at them. It was love at first sight. And sight. And sight. And....

Before I was Paleo, especially in college, I was an avid fan of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. I even worked at Starbucks for 3 years, and in that time, I learned to love every drink, but especially the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was working at Starbucks from 2006-2009, which is when the PSL really started picking up steam. Even back then, my coworkers and I all saw the signs that this was going drink was going to have a cult-like following. While working at Starbucks in college, I often would pick up the shifts that no one wanted: the 4am open, the 11pm close. I was in college, had endless energy, needed the money, and never really adjusted back to a "regular" sleep schedule.

During these frequent clopens, I would often just stay up, because it didn't make much sense to me to go home and sleep for maybe 2 hours before I would have to be wide awake and perky; after all, there was literally an endless supply of coffee at work.

Our first indication at Starbucks that the PSL was going to be scarily huge was when on the first day of the PSL season. At 4am, there was a line of cars wanting their first PSL of the season....and we didn't open until 4:30. Meaning that several people woke up sometime before 4am to make sure they were the first ones to get their PSL fix. No big deal, you crazies. No. Big. Deal.

I eventually tired of the iconic Starbucks PSL: the high sugar content and 20-ingredient list eventually started to wreak havoc on my stomach. However, I still do crave the pumpkiny drink from time to time. On another note, have you thought about the fact that pumpkin is a squash? Which means that the PSL is essentially Squash Coffee. Perfection in a glass. Mmmmmhmmmmm.

There are 100 Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte's out there, but I really wanted to make my own variation on this iconic drink, and I'm pretty sure I did just that. Instead of milk, I used a combination of both almond milk and coconut cream. This combination ensures that this PSL doesn't taste too "coconutty", as coconut milk drinks can often be, and the almond milk also has a thinner consistency which is important for ensuring that this drink is not pudding-like since it does use real pumpkin puree for flavoring.

The real kicker of this drink? Its topped with melted chocolate and Chocolate-Dunked Pumpkin Spiced Marshmallows. Yep. Its pretty great, so make sure to drink up these last days of fall. (Ha! Pun in.ten.ded.)


Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte with Chocolate-Dunked Pumpkin Spiced Marshmallows

Serves 2

  1. Combine coconut cream, unsweetened almond milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and pumpkin spice in a large saucepan and heat on medium heat until bubbly and all ingredients are well incorporated. Make sure to watch closely and stir to ensure that the mixture does not become scalded.
  2. In a small bowl, melt chocolate. (I use the microwave by watching closely and stopping every 10 seconds, but the correct way to do it is by using a double boiler.)
  3. Once chocolate it melted, dip two mugs, upside down, in the chocolate to rim the edges of the cups with the melted dark chocolate. Dust with pumpkin spice, then set the mugs aside.
  4. Brew coffee, and then pour coffee into a blender.
  5. Once thoroughly heated, carefully pour the saucepan contents into the same blender with the coffee. Blend on high for 2 minutes.
  6. Pour your pumpkin spice lattes into your prepared mugs, and top with pumpkin spiced marshmallows.




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The meaning behind South of Vanilla and an easy Thanksgiving Recipe You Won't Be able to Resist

Over the years, I’ve gotten several questions of where and how I learned how to cook, and the answers usually tend to surprise people.

First, my mom is a terrible cook. I mean that in the nicest way possible, and she is the first to admit it, which is why I don’t feel quite so bad announcing this statement to the general public. She just really is. She never liked cooking, and she never found joy in it the way so many others do. Now, there are a few dishes that she gets right, mainly the one I am sharing with you today, but for the most part, cooking just isn’t her thing.

What my mom is fantastic at, however, is baking. I learned how to bake from her, and I grew up alongside her on weekends baking everything from chocolate chip cookies to blueberry muffins to marshmallow-topped brownies. We baked so much that baking for me became natural, and by the time I was 10, I didn’t need to measure ingredients. I could eyeball the difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon, a half-cup and a quarter cup. I knew when something was done baking, not by the timer, but by the type of smell coming from the oven. My mom used, without fail, more vanilla than what any recipe called for, and we went through bottles of vanilla so rapidly, that we often bought 3 bottles at a time from the grocery store. Vanilla was such an important part of my memories from learning to bake, that it became rooted in the title of the blog: South of Vanilla.

In a stark contrast, my dad was an incredible cook. I learned how to cook both through my paternal grandmother and my dad. My dad grew up with his mom in the kitchen, which is how he learned many of the things he knows today. To this day, my Grandma, who has sadly now passed, and my dad are two of the best cooks I know; the two of them have prepared some of the best meals I have ever had, which says quite a lot considering my extensive traveling and my healthy appetite for frequenting restaurants. My Grandmother grew up in the south, and her cooking reflected that sweet southern charm. She made grits like no one else I knew, and her meals were exquisite works of art that took hours to prepare. She wasn’t afraid of butter, and it was through her that I learned that a properly placed tablespoon of bacon fat could transform a whole dish. During my visits with her in Georgia, I would often watch her cook and try to figure out what the magic was behind her meals. A whole lot of it was love, but she was truly a very talented cook that took great joy and serenity through those hours in the kitchen. I would like to say that I get that same peace through her.  I credit my love and ability to cook to my dad and grandma: their southern style of cooking influenced the first part of my blog title: South of Vanilla.

In wasn’t until college when I realized that all of those hours spent watching my dad and my grandma in the kitchen had somehow, by osmosis perhaps, stuck with me. In high school I habitually burned anything from toast to mac and cheese, but I like to think that I just never really cared that much, as is the story with so many teenagers. There was a moment, while in college at Iowa, where my roommate was sick, so I made her homemade chicken and rice soup with homemade chicken stock. I had saved the carcass and bones from a chicken, and when asked how I did this, how I knew to do this, and which recipe I followed, I realized that my answer of “I don’t know, I just knew”, was atypical; most young adults away from home for the first time know nothing about cooking from scratch.

My mom, however, was able to cook several dishes extraordinarily well. This recipe that I share with you now is a twist on her original recipe: I’ve modified it to make it paleo, and have also added star anise, which I think is a nice seasonal flavor that is widely underutilized. I hope you make this recipe with love, and think of my family while you serve it to yours on this Thanksgiving.


Paleo Lemon-Anise Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce

  • ¾ cup freshly pressed orange juice
  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • Zest from 1 large lemon
  • 3-4 star anises
  • 1/3 cup water
  1. In a large pan, combine orange juice, cranberries, honey, lemon zest, and star anise. Turn on high heat until mixture is slightly bubbling, then after 4 minutes while stirring frequently, reduce to low heat and let simmer.
  2. Let mixture simmer for about 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, and watching to ensure that cranberry sauce does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. When most of the thin liquid is no longer visible in the cranberry sauce, when the sauce is thick (after about 30 minutes), add water and stir.
  4. Continue to simmer for about 20 more minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool. Sauce will jelly as it cools.
  6. Remove all star anise from sauce before serving.
  7. Serve or store in an airtight container int he fridge. 






Not ready for pumpkin spice to end...

Its cold.

Like, really cold. And yes, I realize I am saying this as a Chicago girl who is now living in a climate where the average temperature in winter is 50 degrees, but its been getting down to 25 degrees overnight and in the early morning here. Which is chilly, but then our heater broke….

…which means that it is probably 40 degrees in the house in the morning. As one of my coworkers would say, “When it pours, it rains”. Or in this case, maybe snow.

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Trying to wake up for early morning Crossfit workouts when it is 40 degrees inside the house is really hard. Really really hard. I’ve started walking around the house with a down comforter wrapped around me, kind of like a red-headed big foot lookalike, while guzzling coffee before the air temperatures make my brew cold. At that point, since I’m all wrapped up in a blanket, drinking coffee, I naturally start reading the news and browsing on Pinterest and going through articles on Flipboard; I’ve realized that those moments in the morning are sometimes the only time during the day where my mind isn’t running a million miles a minute trying to catch up with all the things I have to do. Its blissful, those calm morning moments, even if they are cold.

I will say, however, that this cold weather is really making the holiday season seem more imminent. I realize that the holidays have been imminent for awhile, but now it finally seems appropriate to see Thanksgiving displays and Christmas lights at the stores and on my neighbor’s houses. Its also made me realize that its time to start saying goodbye to fall, even though I realize that these plummeting temperatures around most of the U.S. has made fall seem like forever ago, and that winter started early this year.

To celebrate fall, I vote we try to enjoy pumpkin spice at least a few more times before Thanksgiving comes and goes. After all, I think everyone knows that Black Friday indicates the start of the winter holiday season, and after that, its goodbye pumpkin spice and hello peppermint. (Not that I’m complaining!)  Now, I give you one more pumpkin spice recipe that definitely deserves a little sliver in your pumpkin loving heart, and would make a great addition to the dessert table at Thanksgiving or alongside a nice steaming cup of tea or coffee during these chilly mornings.


Paleo Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Banana Bread

Makes 8 servings

For the pumpkin bread:

  • 15 oz  pumpkin puree
  • 3 tbsp. primal friendly pumpkin spice
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp. grass-fed butter, melted
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/s tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Nonstick coconut oil or olive oil spray

For the Chocolate swirl:

  • 2 tbsp. grassfed butter
  • ½ cup high quality, dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, coconut sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add pumpkin spice and continue to mix.
  2. Add in almond butter slowly, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  3. Add coconut flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  4. Grease a bread pan with nonstick spray, and add batter to the pan.
  5. Make chocolate swirl by combining honey, chocolate, and butter in a small bowl and microwaving in 10 second intervals until chocolate has melted. Stir to ensure that everything is mixed together.
  6. Pour chocolate swirl on top of pumpkin bread batter in bread pan.
  7. With a knife, swirl batter with chocolate swirl.
  8. Place bread in oven on middle rack and bake for about 75 minutes.
  9. Bread is done when fragrant a a toothpick comes clean.


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Bet you didn't know this paleo dessert existed

Remember how I said last week that it didn’t feel at all like fall yet since the temperature wasn’t dropping? Well, just after that, the highs of 101 dropped to 85, then to 80. Just like that. But then, the highs crept right back up to 100 and 101. Essentially, still no fall boots for me.

In the short of it, I realize that most people are begrudgingly transitioning into fall (P.S. I talked to Emily- she’s already wearing her fall boots), but here in the southwest, I am enjoying an extended summer.  So much so, that the other day, Christopher and I bought a whole watermelon because it was on super sale; the end of summer is the season for extra large melons. (Heh, heh, heh…) Someone once told me that the best way to choose a melon is to knock on it, like you’re knocking on someone’s front door, and listen for a hollow sound. If its hollow that means the fruit is ripe. Well, without Google verifying this, Christopher and I dug headfirst into the watermelon box, knocking all the melons. Every. Single. One.  We spent probably 20 minutes in this box of Watermelons, and it almost reminded me of one of those ball pits in Chuckie Cheese, but with far more bruising at the end. After deadlifting 30-pound fruit for 20 minutes, we really decided that we needed to get back into Crossfit or some sort of weight-lifting regimen. In the end, we got the hollow-est sounding watermelon of the bunch.

So there we were, now at home with a gigantic watermelon. Here’s the kicker: I don’t even like watermelon that much. (Or melons in general, really.) In college, the cafeteria filled their fruit quota as much as possible from honeydew and cantaloupe. (I’m guessing because it’s the cheapest to buy in bulk.) I ate so many melons those years, that I haven’t enjoyed them much since. Another fun fact? Cantaloupe is called Muskmelon in Iowa and the Dakotas. Muskmelon! What a funny word.

In short, I set out experimenting with watermelon to figure out a way to enjoy the fruit since I was now in possession of approximately 30 pounds of it.  I eventually decided to try creating a reduction with both blueberries and balsamic as a watermelon topping, since balsamic reductions really bring out wonderful flavors in fruit, and blueberries are also in their peak at the end of summer. I had made both berry reductions and balsamic reductions independently before, so this time, I mapped out what I thought would be a good combination of the two. The end result was a blueberry-lime balsamic reduction that pairs exceptionally well with watermelon: the tartness of blueberries balances out the sweetness of ripe watermelon, and the lime adds a little zest. Everything ties together nicely. The balsamic reduction can be used as a dip for watermelon, but my favorite way to enjoy it was as a drizzle over a watermelon round, cut into eighths to resemble a “fruit pizza”.

When making the reduction, it is important to note that the concoction needs to be watched closely and stirred frequently, as it can stick and burn easily. If you doubt your ability to correctly make a reduction, do not fret! You can take the process slower by simmering on a lower heat to ensure that there is a lesser risk for burning. Just know this this significantly increases the time to complete the task.


Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for later use

  • 2 cups of fresh blueberries, washed with stems removed
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup raw honey*
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  1. In a saucepan, melt honey on low heat, and be careful not to burn.
  2. Add balsamic and blueberries, increase to medium heat to bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add limejuice and vanilla, and then stir.
  4. Let reduce on medium low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or scalding. Reduction will be done when mixture is syrupy and has reduced in volume by about half.
  5. Let cool completely before handling.

*This reduction is tart, so if you prefer something sweeter, up the honey to ½ cup, or potentially even ¾ cup. (Although ¾ of a cup might be very sweet. I haven’t tried this yet, so if you do, let me know how it turns out.)


Paleo Fruit Pizza

Serves 2-5 (Varies greatly on your watermelon size)

  • ¼ cup Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction
  • 1 round of watermelon, about 12 inches across
  • Berries, lime quarters, or lime peels for garnish (optional)
  1. Create a round of watermelon by cutting your watermelon first in half through the center, then cutting another piece from the half about 3 inches thick. Cutting a round directly from the center ensures the biggest diameter, however, you may choose to cut from the end to serve a smaller pizza. Note that if you slice a round with a smaller diameter, do not use as much of the reduction. If you don’t adjust this, your pizza will be much too tart.
  2. Place the watermelon round (Should just be one big watermelon circle) on your serving platter, tray, or board. Drizzle the blueberry balsamic reduction over the watermelon. For better presentation, you may choose to drizzle some reduction on your serving piece. (See below.)
  3. Using a pizza cutter, slice watermelon into pieces, like you would do to a pizza. You of course can do quarters or sixths, but I prefer eighths.
  4. Garnish with berries, lime peels, or lime quarters. (Optional)




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


Motivation. Dedication. Perseveration.

I think we all know that emotional eating is a dangerous thing. The consequences of alleviating emotions with food can manifest itself in even more emotional turmoil as well as create physical scars and loads of unhappiness.

But you know what? I’m an emotional eater when it comes to pancakes, and I fully own up to this one. Feeling sad? Time for pancakes. Angry? Some pancakes will do.  Stressed? Sounds like its time for breakfast for dinner. With some pancakes.

Imagine my deep sadness when I realized that pancakes just wouldn’t fit into my primal lifestyle.  I think I have, to this day, tried every Paleo pancake recipe listed on every Paleo blog, cookbook, and Instagram account I laid my eyes on. No offense to the creators, but their pancakes just weren’t good enough for my overly critical pancake palate. So I decided to create my own pancakes, which was much, much harder than I initially anticipated. A problem with recreating recipes into Paleo recipes is the lack of gluten. Gluten is a binding ingredient: it is what makes cakes airy, makes cookies not equivocal to bricks, and makes pancakes fluffy. Essentially, gluten is a miracle in creating amicably textured food, and devastation in gut health for many people. (Side note: why has gluten become so problematic in many people? Here is one theory linked to mycotoxins by Dave Asprey of Bulletproof. Definitely worth a read.) So amid my pancake-less fueled depression, I started to build my own perfect Paleo pancake recipe. The first batch I burned so badly that they were inedible. The second batch tasted solely like gritty coconut flour. Batches 3-10 were either too watery, too dense, not fluffy, or flavorless. Sometime after my 10th attempt, I finally started to move in the right direction, and now, finally, I have created a pancake recipe that suits my tastes. I’ve tried to perfect this recipe so many times that I can’t tell you what attempt number this final one is.

Motivation. Dedication. Perseveration. Never give up. Pancakes 4 eva.

Paleo Protein Pancakes

Makes 4-5 medium sized pancakes

  • 1 egg
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ cup canned coconut cream
  • ½ tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup cashew flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 scoop (about 23 grams) whey protein*
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum**
  • Coconut oil spray, coconut oil, or grass-fed butter for frying
  • Berries, almond butter, kefir, or dark chocolate shavings for topping, optional.
  • Syrup***
  1. In a large bowl, whisk egg thoroughly and then add salt. Let rest for 4 minutes.
  2. Add coconut cream, vanilla, and raw honey to bowl with egg and stir until incorporated.
  3. Add coconut flour and cashew flour to mixture and mix well.
  4. Add baking soda and baking powder and continue mixing.
  5. When all ingredients are well mixed, add water slowly.
  6. Add whey protein and ensure powder has incorporated well into batter.
  7. Finally, mix in the xanthan gum to thicken the mixture.
  8. If using butter or oil to fry your pancakes, heat in a pan until melted. If using spray, spray the pan. When the pan is warm enough, pour batter into the frying pan in approximately ¼ cup increments.
  9. When small bubbles start to appear on the surface of the batter (about 3 minutes) in the frying pan, flip to other side.  Watch these pancakes carefully! They burn easily.)
  10. Top with toppings if you desire, and serve.


Some notes:

  • *Make sure the protein powder you use it gluten free and comes for sustainable, organic sources.
  • ** Xanthan gum is a thickener many gluten free bakers use to thicken their batters. Although this recipe only calls for 1 tsp. of xanthan gum, it is essential for the texture of these pancakes. If you do not have, or do not wish to use xanthan gum, you can thicken your batter by adding more coconut four, 1 tsp. at a time. However, your pancakes will taste more coconutty.
  • ***In moderation, syrup is Paleo. Why? Because the sugar found in syrup is unrefined. Also, it is from a plant. (Tree.) So we can pretty much call syrup a salad, right? Right. ;)