Perfect Summer Fruit Salad (Hello 4th of July BBQ!)

n my junior year of high school, my French class when to the Alliance Francaise in Chicago. My teacher had been coy about the whole trip, only saying that it would be a “cultural experience”, which is really such a French thing to say.

The Alliance Francaise is an organization focused on the promotion of the French language and culture. They regularly screen French films, host coffee clubs, offer Adult French language classes, and connect native and foreign French speakers with one another.

On this high school field trip, however, our focus was on seeing a French movie (In French, naturally), and participating in a French cooking class. Now, because I was super nerdy (still am, let’s be honest), I was totally into the whole idea of a French cooking class. The class was conducted in French, the ingredients and directions were listed in French, and the food was French.  I was prepared to make some classic French dish like beef bourguignon, a la Julia Child, but the instructor thought otherwise.

Looking back, the simple fruit salad the instructor chose was definitely appropriate for a group of high schoolers who regularly depended on EasyMac and Ramen for their afternoon snacks. I, of course, thought otherwise: I had been cooking with my dad and baking with my mom in the kitchen since I could walk. Fruit salad in my mind was not deserving of its own lesson. I mean, you essentially cut up fruit and put it in a bowl. How was a French fruit salad any different?

But I was wrong.

Our French cooking instructor told us that the secret to making a delicious fruit salad was not only cutting fruit in somewhat uniform pieces, but adding vanilla extract. Yes, vanilla. My mind was blown then, just as is continues to be now. The vanilla, essentially make a sweet syrup, coating all the fruit and drawing out all their natural flavors. Delicious. 



Ever since that class, when I have needed to take an easy to prepare dish to a party or a gathering, I take this. Every time, someone always comes up to me and asks: “what on Earth is in this? It is the best fruit salad I have ever had.” 

Ahhh, see. The French. Their cooking. They just know.

Some cook’s notes:

  • Your fruit can be cut in advance in stored in individual airtight containers to save on prep time the day of serving, however, many types of fruit will start to brown. Adding the lemon juice will delay the oxidation process and thus delay browning, but it will still happen with time.
  • I have made this fruit salad with many different types of fruit, depending on what is in season. Feel free to swap in an out what you find at the grocery store and what you have on hand- it will always end up fantastic!
  • Softer fruits like peaches, bananas, and kiwis will become very soft at a much faster rate. Be mindful of this while you choose your fruit to use. 
  • Be careful on how much vanilla extracts you add: too much can cause an overwhelming, somewhat bitter vanilla flavor. If you want a stronger vanilla flavor, add a tiny amount at a time, tasting along the way.
  • Make sure your slices of fruit are small enough to spear with a fork; trying to shove half an apple in your mouth with a fork is embarrassing at any party. (But alone is a-ok!)
  • Please make note of the serving size. If you are making this just for yourself, or even 2 people, halve or quarter the recipe. 

Perfect Summer Fruit Salad

Serves 6-8, as a side

  • 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. high quality vanilla extract
  • 3 Apples
  • 16 oz. Strawberries
  • 4 oz. Blackberries
  • 2 Bananas
  • 1 Grapefruit
  • 2 Valencia Oranges
  • 2 Small Blood Oranges
  • 3 peaches
  • 4 Kiwis
  1. Cut all fruit into somewhat-uniform pieces.
  2. Place into a large bowl.
  3. Add vanilla, and thoroughly mix. Add more, to taste, but see note above.
  4. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.










​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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Paleo Chocolate-Swirled Banana Bread Brie Grilled Cheese with Chocolate Drizzle

Its February, that means that all of you who are did the Whole 30 in January are done, and its a good time to treat yourself. Also, Valentines Day is just in a couple days, so its a great time to treat yourself and your special Valentines Day friend.

Now that Ive pretty much convinced you to eat some chocolate, I have the best recipe for you. The best.

Yes. That's right. I took The Civilized Caveman's and PaleOMG's Chocolate-Swirled Banana Bread recipe and turned it into grilled cheese.

But not just any grilled cheese.

Grilled cheese with Brie and chocolate drizzle.

I know, Brie is not paleo. It just isn't. But I think I've been honest with you all in my journey with a paleo diet and my own personal flexibility in allowing some cheese and wine. And sometimes sprinkles. (Life's too short.)

So guys, you need to make this. Its deeeelicious, and I'm not just saying that because not only do I love George and Juli's blogs (I feel like I know them but I really don't. Creeeeper.), but I really just love banana bread and chocolate and cheese, which is like all of these things combined. George has let me share his banana bread recipe with you all, so make sure to go check out his page.

Once you try this, let me know how it goes! Perfect Valentines Day treat? Pretty much.



Paleo Chocolate-Swirled Banana Bread Brie Grilled Cheese with Chocolate Drizzle

Serves 4

  1. Slice banana bread into 8, 1-inch thick slices. Slice carefully so they do not crumble during the grilling process.
  2. Slice Brie into 8, 1-oz. sized pieces.
  3. In a skillet, heat butter. Place slices of bread into heated butter in skillet and let toast for  about 2 minutes on each side.
  4. Once all slices have been toasted, remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Assemble sandwiches by placing 2 pieces of brie in between 2 slices of bread.
  6. Place each sandwich on heated skillet and grill each side for about 3 minutes, watching closely so bread doesnt burn. Cheese should be completely melted.
  7. Place chocolate in a double boiler and melt. Drizzle over sandwiches and serve immediately.  





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. 






The Daily 5

I thought I would try a new thing here on South of Vanilla: The Daily 5. Now, I don't plan on doing this everyday, which begs the question of whether or not I should really have the word "daily" in the title. Ahh, well, semantics.

I get questions all the time from people wondering what things have helped me be paleo, what helps me stay on track, and what are the things I just can't live without. Simply stated, there are many things that help me get through the day, and many of these things change according to the actual day.

Maybe you see where I am going with this.

Or maybe not.

But here are the 5 things I am using today that help staying on the paleo track a little easier:

South of Vanilla's Daily 5, 1-19-2015

1. The Day Designer: No, this product was not intended for those following the paleo diet. However, it was intended for those that are the letmewriteeverythingdownandmakelists type of people. It is also intended for those that run small businesses, bloggers, high achievers, those that have specific goals, and people are just really busy. I've been open in talking about how following a primal lifestyle takes a lot more time- in terms of planning, shopping, and food preparation. I also run this blog (obviously), work full time, pick up PRN shifts, and travel about 2-3 times on average during each month. I have a boyfriend who I live with and an active social life. Busy is an understatement, so I really rely on this planner for a lot. I schedule the things I need to get done, plan out my days, and make lots of lists for every area in my life I am trying to manage. It even comes with worksheets that help you create goals, visions, and plans of action to help you achieve all that is possible in the areas of anything from personal finance to careers to strategic brand planning. The price tag for this one is expensive but so incredibly worth it.


2. Myrrhaculous Face Oil: I know, I've talked about Fat Face Skin Care before. A few times. And even hosted a coupon code for all my readers. I just love this company, and their products cleared up all the acne I had been struggling with for years. I wish I would have cut the chemicals from my body and beauty products ages ago.


3. Dehydrator: I use my dehydrator to make healthy snacks, which are both raw and primal friendly. My favorite, after the almost 3 years I have now had my dehydrator, are still kale chips. The dehydrator I have is on the lower end of the price spectrum, but it has suited me just fine all along. Love this gadget.


4. A really cool water bottle: I'm not the best at drinking water- I constantly have to remind myself to take sips during the day. Why? I'm not sure. That part in my brain that regulates adequate hydration must be damaged, I'm convinced of it. What does make me more attentive to water? Really cool looking water bottles. I currently love this one, and it is quite possibly the most simple biohacking experiment ever, the equivalent to "ooo look, something shiny!, to make me pay attention to something important.


5. Dry Shampoo: I do Crossfit and hot yoga, which, as you probably guessed, makes me sweat a lot. I dont have time to wash and dry and style my hair after every workout, which is where dry shampoo comes in. Not only does it keep hair smelling great and clean your hair without washing, but also it adds hair-commercial worthy volume. I've tried a lot of brands, but my favorite are Lushs No Drought Dry Shampoo and Kloranes Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk.   




What do you guys use to get yourself through your days??


Paleo Crack Donuts

Happy New Year! I know everyone is working hard away on those eat-less-exercise-more resolutions, but I wanted to take a brief intermission to share some things with you....

I'm pretty sure that almost all of us have heard about that study citing that oreos are more addicting than crack to rats. I cant even imagine the litigation that must be going on right now by Nabisco.  

Honestly, if you're reading this blog, you're probably more health conscious than most, and weren't even surprised. After all, there is a reason why you can easily inhale a whole row of oreos without flinching, while eating a whole tub of paleo cookies is actually a challenge. Why? Because paleo cookies are full of things like metabolism boosting fat (grass-fed butter, coconut oil) and proteins (almond flour, cashew flour, eggs).

Like I said, no one was surprised about the crackoreo discovery. However, what I was surprised about was that other foods weren't tested. Like fruit loops or cocoa pebbles or reese's or donuts

...Because let's be real, we all know that I especially have a donut addiction. Specifically to fried cake donuts. I absolutely love love love a great cup of coffee, but a donut topped with sprinkles WITH a cup of coffee? To me, that tastes like what heaven would taste like, if heaven had a taste. Are donuts paleo?  Nope, definitely not. Do I have them from time to time? Yep. And its pure pleasure for about 10 seconds (because I inhale them) and then I feel sick for 5 hours after. I hang onto this feeling long enough to keep myself away, or until I get tempted by those sprinkles again. Then I have another donuts and the vicious cycle continues.

Donuts. Just like crack.

I've made several paleo donut recipes, like the one here. I've also made others from likeminded paleo bloggers that are delicious, but not exactly the fried, flaky, frosting-toppped, sweet donuts that we are all so enamored with. I've found that all the paleo donuts I have tried are dense and cake-like, which makes sense because they're cake-donuts after all, but they just don't have the same texture as conventional donuts.

Until now.

Well, kind of. Since they are still paleo, they will not be quite the same as the traditional donut I have now so eloquently painted a picture of in your head, but they do have a lighter, springier, texture that is the closest I have come to an actual donut. They are indeed fried, so not the best option, in my opinion, but so much better than anything you could buy for a $1 morning special.


Paleo Sugar and Butter Glazed Mini Donuts

Makes 12 mini donuts (or 6 regular sized donuts)

For Donuts:

  • 3/4 Cup Tapioca Starch, divided
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Flour, plus extra for thickening
  • 1/4 Cup water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • About 1 Cup coconut oil for frying

For Glaze:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted, grass-fed, organic butter (I use Kerrygold)
  • 4 tbsp. coconut sugar

To make donuts:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup water to approximately 100 degrees. Add yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes until water is frothy.
  2. While yeast is activating, in a large bowl, beat egg. Add vanilla and stir.
  3. Add in 1/2 cup of the tapioca starch and coconut flour to the egg and vanilla mixture and stir thoroughly until incorporated.
  4. Add activated yeast and water to the batter and stir until well incorporated.
  5. Heat the raw honey until it has melted and add to the batter.
  6. Add in remaining 1/4 cup tapioca starch slowly, stirring after each addition.
  7. At this point, your batter should be slightly sticky but not runny. If it is runny, add additional coconut flour 1 tsp. at a time, stirring after each addition, until batter has thickened.
  8. Once batter is thick but sticky, place a towel over the large bowl with the batter and set aside for about 30 minutes in a warm place to let rise. Batter should rise, but not quite double.
  9. Once dough has risen, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll into a ball, then flatten and roll into long tubes about 1 1/2 inches thick. Connect the end of each donut tube by pressing the edges together and creating a circle. Set aside.
  10. Once all your donuts have been formed, pour coconut oil into a large frying pan on heat on medium heat. Oil should cover about 2/3 of each donuts. Fry donuts 3 at a time, for 3 minutes, until a light brown, and then flip over to brown other side.
  11. Place donuts on a paper towel lined plate to cool before glazing.
  12. Repeat steps 10-11 until you have fried all your donuts. Add more coconut oil if necessary for frying.

To make glaze:

  1. Melt Butter.
  2. Dip donuts into melted butter and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle each donut with about 1 tsp. of coconut sugar.

*These donuts are best when enjoyed immediately, while they are still warm, but not hot. I recommend eating them within 48 hours, as they start to harden after that.  





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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Top 10 Faileos of 2014

I talk a lot about how great my food is. I mean, obviously, I'm not going to post a recipe and say how deplorable it is and how you should never ever attempt to make it. That would be absurd.

But what I haven't ever talked about is how many times I have failed trying to create recipes and meals and blog posts that just never turned out. I think of all of my blog posts, I have had maybe 5 recipes that turned out great the first time I made them. Every other recipe I had to make twice, sometimes three or four or five times. And those numbers alone mean that there are a whole lot of mess-ups and failures that I haven't shared, a whole lot of failed paleo dishes, which I would now like to introduce as "faileos".

In excitement for the upcoming new year, I thought it would be nice to have a good laugh and talk about all the things that have gone wrong on South of Vanilla over the past year, all the things that had brought me to tears of frustration in the moment, but now are providing an abundance of tears of laughter. Because really, what was I thinking with some of these?? I still don't know.


10. I was really excited when one I day I found this super cool, barely been used waffle iron at Goodwill. Immediately upon seeing it, I dreamt of all the things I could make in a waffle iron: paleo cornbread! brownies! cakes! waffle bread! How has anyone ever existed without the genius invention of waffle bread?? The possibilities were endless. But first, I needed to start things off slowly with creating a basic recipe for just plain waffles. It didn't work out so well:

Yeah. Never ever coming soon to a paleo blog near you!

9. Last New Years eve, my best friends and I were throwing ourselves a NYE party for ourselves the only way we knew how: with movies, music, dancing, glitter, chalkboard paint, a photobooth, liberal amounts of alcohol, and lots and lots of food. Being the self-righteous person that I am, I decided to show my friends that great tasting paleo desserts were definitely possible:

Yeah, I showed them.

To make matters worse, we were stuck with these things for days after, since the 2014 Chicago snowpocalypse and the polar vortex snowed us all in.

8. I had this brilliant idea that I was going to show the world that brussels sprouts were nothing to fear! I was going to write this post about how sometimes getting yourself to love vegetables is just about you prepare them.

So I literally spent almost a an hour and a half peeling back each layer of each little leaf of each tiny brussels spout while watching Frozen, naturally. (Winter vegetable, winter movie. It made sense in my head.) This brussels sprouts idea of mine, I thought, was so brilliant. I was going to call them brips. As in brussels sprout chips. I was going to take the world by storm! They were going to be the new kale chips!

 

I never tried this recipe again. And then soon after, I found out that Nom Nom Paleo pretty much did the same thing but 500 times better. And did it successfully.

7. Remember those carrot fries that got a whole lot of attention when I first posted them, and then again right around Thanksgiving?

They weren't always the recipe that they've evolved to be:

6. Back when I was living and working in DC, I found this amazing book. I stumbled upon it one day, without an owner, begging to be read. Of all things, it was a cookbook dated to the mid 1800s, containing recipes and cuisine specific to Virginia. I really felt like I had stumbled upon a treasure. I was like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince wading through margin notes and shortcuts and cooking brilliance; suddenly I had access to all these amazing recipes, many of which were naturally paleo. I was going to use this book and spread it's power. Not only was I going to share the secrets of these forgotten recipes, but I was going to show how this was yet another instance of how our ancestors, though not that long ago, were following a primal diet.

So I found this perfect recipe, this great recipe that I think really embodied the mood of this whole situation. The recipe I decided upon was a fermented peach recipe. It only contained 5 ingredients, was naturally paleo, and was fermented! It was perfect. I followed all the cryptic steps, written in old language I didn't necessarily understand, and took all these fabulous pictures:



And then those fermented peaches just turned into straight up moldy, foul smelling, truly disgusting peaches. I didn't even snap a picture of the mold, because getting close to the moldy blobs was really, truly, too much too handle.

And just like that, My Half-Blood Princess dreams were ruined.

5. One time, I was convinced that I was going to make my own paleo whipped cream from real cream. Granted, this recipe wouldn't have been completely paleo because it had cream, but I was willing to look past that.

And then my cream turned into butter. But not just any butter! Butter with coconut sugar and vanilla...which sounded salvageable- it could be a dessert butter! And then I tried it and it was so awful. Firstly because it splattered all over my kitchen, second because it was watery, and lastly because I accidentally used an alcohol based vanilla. So my whipped cream tasted just like watery alcohol butter. Yep.

And did I mention that I made this mistake not once, but twice- the second time being with frosting???


4. Back in late winter and early spring while I was training for my half marathon, I went through these insane stages where I would just crave carbs. I knew it was because I was training so much, and my body really needed it, but dreams of pasta and bread rolls and pizza dough dancing like sugarplums in my dreams was just too much to handle. So I decided that I was going to make my own paleo linguine. I decided to make pasta the traditional way but with paleo ingredients: the art of rolling and cutting and chilling and drying would not be lost on me. I was culinary! I am not below paying homage to the great pasta making gods.

After I chilled and rolled and cut, for 48 hours, I turned my apartment into a pasta-drying factory:


Everything was turning out great, and I had even started writing the blog post in my head. This recipe was going to revolutionize the paleo diet!

And then I started cooking the pasta. Somehow all the eggs I had used to form the dough, started to boil up from the pasta to the top of the water in the pot, to form kind of a frothy, eggy foamy broth. The pasta turned from a nice tan color to a squeamish gray color, and then started to fall apart in the pot. BUT I STILL TRIED TO EAT THEM. So I smothered them in sauce, took a bite, and immediately wished I hadn't.



So long homemade, paleo pasta. Its Cappello's for me from here on out.

3. Four words: homemade paleo girlscout cookies.

Two words: epic faileo.

2. Remember those paleo soft-shell tacos? They were delicious. There is also a reason why the soft-shell of the tacos were not my own....

1. I went through this marshmallow-making obsession back when I was trying to perfect the recipes for my Paleo Pumpkin-Spice Marshmallows and my Paleo Peppermint Mocha Marshmallows. These two took quite a long time to figure out, and back in the original post, I shared that I broke two bowls while doing so. How did I do this? The first time, I somehow forgot to lock my kitchen aid bowl into the twist lock base, turned the mixer on high, and the proceeded to watch the bowl fly across the room, land with a crash, and dent the tile floor that we had literally just laid a week prior:

While waiting for my replacement bowl to come in the mail, I decided that I NEEDED to try this recipe again, and the only way I could do it, was to use the Kitchen Aid because it was powerful enough. In complete ignorance of the past Kitchenaidgate fiasco, I found another similar bowl, set it on top of the lock base, and turned the mixer on low to test it out. Everything seemed fine! The bowl was staying in place even though it wasn't designed for the mixer. So I turned it up high and then WALKED AWAY.

I'm an idiot. Bowl number two: gone, crashed, and shattered, but not before spreading a full cup of melted honey across every possible surface of the kitchen.


So there we have it: the best of 2014.

 

Have a joyous and very Happy New Years 2015! 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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.) 










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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Some Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas (and our 2014 Hybrid Thanksgiving Dinner Menu)

Its less than week before Thanksgiving.

LESS than a week. As in 5 days.

Five. Days.

Months ago, I decided that this Thanksgiving was the Thanksgiving I was going to head; I was going to be the master planner this year.

Ha.

Hahahahahahaha.

Not that I don’t have things under control, because I definitely do (Ummmm except I haven’t decided on how to cook the turkey in entirety yet. No. Big. Deal.), but its just a lot to think about and coordinate considering that I am flying to Tampa and have to make several trips to the grocery store (Everyone always has to make several trips to the grocery store to fight over the last can of pumpkin puree, right? Right.), and actually prepare the food. Oh, and I think the last headcount I got was for 11 people.

Now, I know 11 people for a major holiday probably doesn’t sound like a whole lot to most of you guys, but my family is so spread out (California, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and counting…) that over the past 10 years, I think we’ve had an average of maybe 4.5 people for most major holidays. And 4.5 people is not difficult to cook for, because that’s essentially the proportions I cook for regularly. (Christopher pretty much eats as much as 4 people [not kidding]. I don’t know why he is so skinny, but dear lord, life is not fair.)

A challenge I’ve already faced when trying to plan for this Thanksgiving was trying to strike a balance of paleo dishes and nonpaleo dishes. Although I’m an avid fan of the paleo lifestyle, and I am more than happy to share with anyone who asks, I definitely don’t push it on anyone, and I definitely do not want to spring a Paleo Thanksgiving on unsuspecting dinner guests. That would just be cruel. Delicious, but cruel. Singing the praises of a paleo lifestyle are never ending, but perhaps a holiday that celebrates gluttony is neither the time nor the place.

On the upside, I've outlined the menu, and created a grocery shopping excel spreadsheet with coordinated tabs by the area of where the product is found in the grocery store. OCD at its finest, folks. 

I’m sharing my menu with you all as a way to illustrate a way to plan a hybrid paleo and nonpaleo meal. I tried to choose paleo recipes that are not only tasty, but beloved by people who are also nonpaleo. I included links to all the recipes, whether they are from South of Vanilla, or not, so if you’re searching for some dishes serve, make sure to check them out. Some of these posts are also scheduled to be posted in the next week, so stay tuned for those. Enjoy!


2014 Hybrid Thanksgiving Menu

Appetizers: 

  • Sweet n’ Savory Bacon-Wrapped Dates (Paleo)
  • Brie with Pears and Apples (nonpaleo, technically)(annnd…. no recipe for this one. Just have a nice, high quality brie with some sliced apples and pears)
  • Home-baked Rosemary French Bread with Garlic-Chive Butter (nonpaleo)

Salad:

Main:

Sides: 

Dessert: 

 


Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potatoes

Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potatoes


Sweet n' Savory Bacon Wrapped Dates

Sweet n' Savory Bacon Wrapped Dates


Cranberry Sauce   

Cranberry Sauce

 


Kale Salad

Kale Salad

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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Sunday Snaps 11-9-2014

Hi guys! As hopefully most of you know, we've been doing a Giveaway here on South of Vanilla for the past couple weeks for the chance to win a box of paleo cookies from Honey + Soul. Well, I'm excited to announce that the winner is.....

Manda Overturf Shank!

Congrats Manda! Keep an eye on your inbox for an email from me so I can get those cookies shipped to you ASAP! Thank you to everyone who entered! Hopefully I'll be able to do another giveaway soon!


Its been a crazy busy past 6 weeks guys. I know everyone says this, but I don't even know where the whole month of October went. Since the last week of September up until now, I've either been traveling like a maniac or have had guests stay with me, so I haven't had much time to myself. Combine all that with squeezing in regular recipe posts, training for a new PRN job (I'll provide details on that later), my checking account being hacked and some very mean person hitting up every online store in my name, trying to keep up with Crossfit, and then...oh wait, actually working without taking too much time off of work....

...I need a spa weekend or at least a huge slice of paleo chocolate cake. Or something.

BUT I did have some pretty amazing travels, including unreal fall foliage and scenery I saw in New Hampshire:

Don't worry, there will be a whole post dedicated to this trip, and I'll share more pictures with you then.

On top of all the craziness that has been the past 6 weeks, Christopher and I not-so-sanely decided to redo our bedroom. When we bought the house, we knew it was going to need a lot of work. Well, I was the one who decided it needed a lot of work. Even though it was functional (his opinion), it wasn't exactly fashionable (my opinion). So we started chipping away on the house bit by bit, and every single project has taken longer than expected. Like 3 times longer. Redoing the kitchen was really important to me, for obvious reasons, but redoing the kitchen on a tight budget has been more of an exercise in creativity than anything else. Its still coming along, and there are still some things we need to do, but here's a little preview:

Love me some sunshine yellow &lt;3

Love me some sunshine yellow <3

Anyway, it all started with a laundry hamper- the bedroom redo, I mean. Yes, we're back to the bedroom. It started with a laundry hamper. Our bedroom has been essentially a room with a bed, some curtains Christopher's mom gave us, and one picture frame on the wall. That's it. Completely undergrad-esque. This week, I had a enraged and panicked moment when I decided that it was totally and completely unrealistic that two grown people with full time jobs and years of traveling around the world and advanced degrees were sleeping in such a room that didn't even have a proper place to throw dirty clothes. Up until now, we've been using this strange mesh and wire dirty laundry contraption that I'm pretty sure Christopher had back when he was still in law school. It is that. cool.

So after that mini-meltdown, I proceeded to go to 4, yes 4, home stores looking for a laundry hamper that really resonated with me. (Did I really just say that out loud? Yep. Of all the things to care about…) After all those stores and 2 days, I finally found one that I loved, and wasn't over-the-top feminine. Once I brought that home, I realized that the walls really needed to be painted, and the room really should be decorated to match the paint. That then started an hour (ahem, four hours) of browsing on Pinterest for ideas, when I then decided that our bedroom was going to be decorated in the theme of tan, black, white, and gold. Which sounded great to me, but the I realized that we didn't really have anything in the bedroom to go with that theme (or any theme, really), which meant that I needed to do some shopping, but I really couldn't because my checking account has been put on hold due to those aforementioned debit card hackers. So that’s when Christopher said “Hey, why don’t we go to Hobby Lobby to get some crafting stuff for the bedroom? You can have whatever you want, my treat.”

Swoon.

So that was that, and now I am happily chipping away on doing crafty stuff, like this piñata painting I created as a nod to Christopher’s Hispanic heritage:

When I proposed this gilded bedroom idea to Christopher, he was so sick of hearing about the laundry hamper drama I created in my head, he blankly said "do whatever you want". Then, he left down to go to a conference, so I painted an accent wall in the bedroom gold.

Yep. Shiny, metallic, gold.

If I sound crazy, its probably because I am.

But what is an exhausted girl to do when a little respite is needed? Paint everything gold. That's the new answer for everything. Paint. It. Gold.

The infamous laundry hamper.

The infamous laundry hamper.

Doesn't it look good so far? #allgolderrythang

I may choose to post some posts on home repair stuff, but honestly, that may be a little premature, since I am definitely not an expert on anything that requires a drill bit or a level or a tape measure. Maybe some before and after pictures? That might be nice.

Totally random, and I'm not sure if you guys have noticed, but in almost all of my recipes, I use Himalayan pink sea salt instead of regular table salt. Have you ever wondered why? Here's a nice infographic:

OH. I started doing CROSSFIT. Strangely, Crossfit was something that I was never really interested in- I'm more of a goonalongrunandthinkaboutyourlifegirl in between doing some asanas in a really hot, humid room. But then, I hurt my sacroiliac joint from running too much, my beloved barre classes and spin classes just haven't caught on yet here in NM, and the thought of paying a monthly membership fee to sweat in air conditioning while watching The Real Housewives on an elliptical made me want to puke. So I joined Crossfit, which incidentally makes me want to puke sometimes, but in a different kind of way. I don't understand how I can run 13.1 miles, but sometimes can't keep up with the WOD. (Which is not a wad of paper, its actually an acronym for the Workout of the Day- Now you know.)

Crossfit has been really fantastic, mostly because I feel so much stronger, and I am getting an insanely incredibly workout in a fraction of the time I used to spend working out before. I go to classes 2-3 times a week, and walk away incredibly sore each time. I say this while now very humbly admitting that I started Crossfit only being able to lift the bar- and that felt heavy to me. Now, depending on the movement, I can actually put some weights on the bar, so I pretty much feel like a b.a....until I look around and the dudes lifting 300 lbs. next to me. Ok, not really 300. More like 220. But NBD. Its just 220 lbs.

The weather here in NM has finally, finally cooled down. Nights and mornings get chilly, and the past week, the mornings have been very chilly. The highs here have been hovering somewhere between the low to mid 60s, which suits me just fine, but my New Mexican peers aren’t handling it too well. My coworkers show up in the morning bundled in snow parkas and mittens, and I’m the girl bouncing around excitedly because I can finally wear my fall vests (#obsessed), and asking if anyone wants to finally have a bonfire. Needless to say, they think I’m a little nutty.

Leather leggings, chambray, and vests &lt;333

Leather leggings, chambray, and vests <333

In other Paleo and food related news, I’ve got some exciting recipes coming at you guys soon, and I am thrilled to be able to share them with you in the coming weeks. (Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog.) Here’s a little sneak peak:

Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potato Hash with eggs and Bulletproof Coffee

Cinnamon-Sage Sweet Potato Hash with eggs and Bulletproof Coffee


Paleo Marshmallow Fluff

Paleo Marshmallow Fluff


Kale and Green Chile Rice + Chicken Soup

Kale and Green Chile Rice + Chicken Soup

I can safely say that just by judging the aisles and aisles of Christmas stuff in almost every store I have visited since October 1st, the holiday season is now upon us. I've been trying to work on some Thanksgiving appropriate recipes to post before Thanksgiving, but it would be helpful to know what you all are looking for. Do you want more desserts? More breakfast? More pumpkin spice? How about Christmas? What paleo holiday recipes are you looking for? Cookies Peppermint? Ham? Please let me know! You can either comment on this post, or send me an email at southofvanilla@gmail.com! I am more than happy to work on stuff that I know you actually want!

Happy Sunday! Hope you all have a fabulous start to the week.

How gorgeous is this sunset I recently was lucky enough to snap? SO PRETTY!

How gorgeous is this sunset I recently was lucky enough to snap? SO PRETTY!