Sunday Snaps, 08-09-15

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle

Watermleon-Mint and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle


Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing

Seared Sunflower Tempeh salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches

Grain-Free Garden Sandwiches


Ginger-Miso Dressing

Ginger-Miso Dressing


Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers

Grain-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers


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

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


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

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

XOXO, 









A Big Announcement! (#yolo)

Ok friends, we need to talk. Is it serious? Yeah…kinda, and this post is a little lengthy, so feel free to skip to the end if you just want the big news I’m going to share.

I moved from D.C. to Las Cruces, New Mexico on July 18th, 2014, just barely over a year ago. The decision to move was a hard one, but at the time, it really was the best option, for a multitude of reasons. If you recall, or maybe you don’t because it happened so fast, I packed up my D.C. apartment, with lots of help from friends, and moved within a week. I was ready for a new adventure, and New Mexico was the natural choice.

You probably see where this is going now. New Mexico has been fun: I have seen a lot of great things, met many wonderful people, have eaten the best Mexican food of my life, been on some magnificent hikes, and have seen some of the greatest vistas and sunsets. New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment.

However, I also knew from the moment I moved that New Mexico was never going to be a long term home for me. I thought I would be here a few years, maybe 2-4. As beautiful as it was, living in a town of 100,000 after living in cities and metro areas ranging from 1 to 10 million was really, really difficult. Being so far away from my family in the Midwest and the east coast was even harder. New Mexico, as many benefits as it has, also very much has a “mañana” culture, something that I just don’t blend in with very well.

In January, things suddenly started to shift again for us. Moving away from New Mexico, both for Christopher’s job and a new one for me, seemed like again, another natural choice, but we just didn’t know when or where, which you know, are two pretty important pieces to moving.

I am the type of person who likes plans. I like dates. I like lists. I like things being in order. I typically have reports at work written 2-3 weeks in advance. My South of Vanilla blog posts are written anywhere from 2-6 weeks in advance. When I go to the grocery store, my list is organized by category AND by geographical location of items. Maybe its OCD, maybe its because I don’t really like any surprises, maybe its my German heritage coming through, I don’t know. But I really, really like order and planning. Having anything not planned out is difficult for me to deal with.

Oprah once said that:

"…the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. It's that subtle…and if you don't pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder… like getting thumped upside the head. If you don't pay attention to that, it's like getting a brick upside your head. You don't pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down…”

Since 2009, I have been in countless situations similar to the one I am facing now. I have strangely been in unstable, unpredictable, un-plannable scenarios. To say I handled this ambiguity with tact and grace would be a huge misrepresentation. Living in a shade of gray without concrete plans would throw me into full-blown meltdowns, overwhelming anxiety, and sleepless nights. I like, I need plans.

Here is the big difference this time: I’ve decided to just surrender to this ambiguity. The fact that I have not learned to modify my behavior after living through these past scenarios, despite my meticulous planning, leads me to believe that there is a life lesson here that I need learn. There is a reason why these patterns keep reoccurring. I have been resisting these seas of gray for years, and at first, it started off small, a whisper. The past few months especially, I have felt like bricks were being thrown at me.  I need to handle this, figure out whatever life is trying to teach me, before the brick wall crumbles down around me.

So it is with happiness, hesitation, pure fear, and exhilaration that I now officially announce that we are leaving New Mexico. Christopher will be traveling around the East Coast, searching for some jobs, finding a landing place where both of us will be happy; we don’t know yet where exactly that will be, or when it will happen. I will be leaving New Mexico (probably) the first week of August, although I don’t exactly know to where. I don’t have a solid job lined up. I don’t have a solid location of where I will be going. I don’t know where I will be living the next few weeks, let alone the next year. I am currently looking into doing some travel therapy jobs, but I might not- whatever job I choose needs to be the right opportunity and fit for both me and the organization. I do know that for the next couple weeks I will be doing some road-tripping around the U.S., seeing some new places, revisiting some past haunts, and hopefully seeing some people that I love. I don’t know how long this nomad, soul-discovering phase of mine will last, but its of course dependent upon things that are just out of my control right now. 

To say that I am terrified is an understatement. My life was more stable and figured out at 17 than now at 27. For the first time, I am embracing this ambiguity I once again find myself in and just going with it: there has got to be a life lesson for me here.

So what does this mean for the South of Vanilla? I will still be posting regular recipes: the uber-planner in me (of course) has worked really hard over the past few weeks to make sure that the recipes will be posted consistently while I am (maybe) away from a kitchen. My Sunday Snaps will probably reflect more of what I am doing on these trips, and I might throw in a post here and there about what I am doing and where I am. I will be posting more regular updates on my Instagram page, so you can follow along with me there. I will still be available via email, and I will be more than happy to chat or answer any questions, paleo or otherwise.

I hope you all follow along with me: this will be quite the adventure, and quite the learning experience! I am terrified, but excited, and I hope I can share it will you all every step of the way.

XOXO,

P.S. Below I have compiled a bunch of my favorite New Mexico pictures. (Which admittedly is a lot.) Feel free to swipe through them- I just can't even believe how gorgeous this state is! Definitely sad to leave these gorgeous landscapes. 












Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

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

Ha! Get it? I'm hilarious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

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

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




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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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


Dog Days of Summer

I have a confession to make, and it’s a weird one. Strangely, I’ve heard of several other people who have this same problem. (Hi, Sandra!)

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Are you ready for it?? I don’t like raw tomatoes, BUT I am obsessed with homemade tomato sauces, tomato soup, cooked diced tomatoes, salsa, stewed tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes. Ketchup really isn’t my thing (It’s the Chicago in me), but sometimes my tomato cravings get so intense that I will walk to the nearest store to pick up tomato-based goodies. My tomato cravings happen especially when it comes to tomato soup. Right around 2nd or 3rd grade, my tomato-obsessed friend, Justine, and I would go over to her house after school to play. Before our playtime commenced, we would demand tomato soup and popcorn as a snack. What oddball kids we were.

Clearly, I have no problem with cooked tomatoes in any way; I think raw, uncooked tomatoes have a totally different flavor. Raw tomatoes are brighter, tangy, acidic, and juicy in a not-so-great, want-to-throw-up kind of way. So when my boyfriend excitedly showed up with 15 Roma tomatoes, because he got them all for $1, I didn’t know what to do. Roma tomatoes are notoriously great for making Salsa, but I’m not sure if gnawing on some Romas is appropriate. 

Tomatoes are in season in the heat of summer, and one of my favorite things to do is go look at the mounds and heaps of tomatoes at farmer’s markets. There’s just something about the stacks of the round, juicy, bright orbs that makes me happy. To me, they seem to signify the end of summer, the start of a transition into fall, which is arguably my favorite time of year. (Changing leaves, football, corn mazes, pumpkins, crisp mornings, and Thanksgiving all in one season.)

Sometimes there are so many tomatoes at the farmers market in August that it is not uncommon for vendors to let you take home a whole basket for only a couple bucks. They would rather them go to a happy family and get eaten than have them rot for the sake of a profit. Farmers are good people. Its one of the things I miss about living in Iowa the most.

For these Romas, I decided to dehydrate them and make them into a chip, an incredibly healthy and savory snack food. Since the dehydrator merely draws out moisture, these tomatoes are, shockingly uncooked yet extremely palatable. They’re similar to sundried tomatoes, but they can be made overnight in your home instead of drying them outside with the use of a sundial and guard to keep away pesks. ;) Please note that because of the high moisture content, these take awhile to dehydrate, so plan accordingly. These chips will also shrink in size considerably; they won’t make as much as you think, but don’t worry, they’re still worth it.



Paleo Roma Dill Chips

Makes 1 bowl of chips

  • 15 Roma tomatoes
  • 1.5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill, or 3 tbsp. fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. dried chili powder (I use hatch chili powder, yummmm)
  1. Slice tomatoes about ¾ inch thick and place them in a strainer or colander. Place colander in the sink and let the water/juice naturally drain away from the tomato slices for about 10 minutes. Shake occasionally to let additional juices drain.
  2. In a bowl, mix all spices with the olive oil.
  3. Add tomatoes and coat all slices evenly with olive oil mixture by stirring with a spoon or using your hands.
  4. Place slices onto dehydrator, being careful not to overlap. Turn on dehydrator and let dehydrate until slightly chewy but dried. My own dehydrator takes about 8 hours, or overnight, but follow the manufacturer directions for your particular model.


Sunday Snaps, 7-13-2014

I’m trying something new here on the blog, and I’m a bit excited about it. Mostly because I get to write more blog posts, but also because it’s a surefire way to avoid writer’s block.  (According to my fellow bloggers, anyway. I’ll let you know if their advice is true J )

I’ve decided to create a weekly post, “Sunday Snaps”, where I will share all the fun, random snapshots I’ve taken throughout the week that perhaps don’t make it onto the blog during my regular posts. I’m surprised I haven’t done this earlier, because everyone knows that I love taking pictures of things. Camera phones were probably not supposed to fall into the hands of people like me.  

But seriously. Really.

Without further ado, I present to you the inaugural Sunday Snaps! 


Sunday Snaps, 7-13-14

I went to a birthday BBQ , where the birthday boy was turning a certain age. Here was his eloquent banner, and I think it deserves a regular place in their home:

And they have the cutest dog….who I kept slipping food to under the table. If you’re reading this Dianne and Todd, sorry about that. I just couldn’t resist this face:

My best friend was going through her parent’s basement this week, and found this darling photo of us. We have been looking for evidence of this night for many years, and this is the only piece of evidence we have of our clever but embarrassing Halloween costumes circa 2000? 2001? Not sure, but they are AWESOME:

The past week in D.C., its been extremely sunny and humid during the day with severe thunderstorms in the evening. One night, just after it stopped down pouring, amid all the warning to “take cover” and “stay inside”, I ventured up to my roof and saw this:

I am pet sitting my friend’s fish while she is on her honeymoon with her husband in Italy. Their pictures I’ve seen from their trip are To. Die. For. Pasta and gelato for days, my friends. Beautiful.

While they have been exploring Roman ruins and sunning on the Amalfi coast, I’ve been taking pictures of Betta Fish Azul next to pictures of them in Italy. So Azul won’t get too homesick. I know, I’m so smart….

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Like the rest of the world, I’ve been obsessed with OITNB. So obsessed, that when the second season came out, I stayed up all night watching episodes for week. I was like a zombie at work, and when people asked me why I was so sleep deprived, all I could say was: “So there’s this T.V show on Netflix…” And now I feel like this:

One of the hardest things for me about becoming Paleo was giving up cheese. I still eat fermented cheese occasionally, but I don't have fresh cheese too often. Except, sometimes I just can't resist. Like with this tomato mozzarella salad I made myself the other day. Bellissimo! 

Happy Sunday SoVs! (South of Vanilla-ers) 

 

 

 

Paleo Staples

I’m famous!

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

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






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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produce:

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

Dairy:

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

Shelf Items:

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

Baking Items:

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

Meats:

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

Spices:

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

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

 

Just like the Jurassic Era

Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but I have been OBSESSED with succulents lately. Succulent potters, succulent floral arrangements, succulent wedding favors, succulent wreaths, succulents in jars, succulents, succulents, succulents. The species has taken over Pinterest, successfully putting the gerbera daisy and country sunflower trend to an end. I've even recently noticed my local farmers markets selling them.

Mmm green smoothies and green succulents

Mmm green smoothies and green succulents

I obviously love the trend, but city living doesn't lend itself well to gardening. Once, I tried to grow basil on my windowsill, and it died. Then, I did some research, realized that basil needs to be in full sun (don't quote me on that), and it still died. So I gave up.... And then I realized that I REALLY like succulents.

So one weekend, my friend Kathy and I found ourselves in the aisles of Home Depot, trying to find materials to make our own succulent terrariums. After about 20 minutes of staring at soil types, I decided to call my mom, an avid gardener, for some help.

"Oh, honey? You're getting out this weekend? To plant some succulents? On a Saturday night? That's nice, I'm happy for you. I'm glad you've found a nice friend to plant succulents with."

Thanks, Mom.

Anyway, we learned that succulents can grow in any soil, but they prefer cacti soil... Or get this, succulent soil. Succulents also don't like to be in direct sun because their delicate leave-y arm things will singe. Also, in order to make a closed ecosystem (aka you don't need to water it, it automatically becomes its own ecosystem), you need some charcoal, stones, and a jar/container with a lid. It's pretty simple, and it took Kathy and I longer to acquire all the materials than to actually put it all together. (Albeit, our Terrarium Day Adventure included a class at our gym, some shopping, lunch, and a few wrong turns.) Another great benefit? These were much cheaper to make than ones we found premade at stores or on Etsy. Overall, I think we spent around $30 (Thanks in part to our thrift store/TJ Maxx container finds) to make two of these, and we had lots of material left over.

In terms of materials, in addition to soil, you need large stones to help drain water, and charcoal help things clean and recycle. I actually don't fully understand the details, but it's been about 3 months since Kathy and I first made our little home science experiments, and they're still going strong. Actually, my succulents have grown so much that it kind of looks like the Jurassic era in there. I expect to find some dinosaurs soon. I will call that a success.

 

Easy Succulent Terrariums

  • Succulents
  • Potting soil/cacti soil/succulent soil
  • Charcoal (This can be found in pet stores)
  • Stones or rocks
  • Closed container or jar

 

  1. Place large stones in an even later on the bottom of the jar
  2. Put a layer of about 3 inches or charcoal over the stone layer
  3. Fill with soil
  4. Plant succulents
  5. Water, slightly and then close lid.
  6. Place terrarium in a place that gets sun, but not direct sun.

 

 

Update: while still on the succulent trend, I made these for my boyfriend’s house (he regrets giving me his credit card):

 

The glass containers I got from (you guessed it) a thrift store for 50 cents each, and this time, I took the soil and rocks from his backyard. Cheers!

 

Of course, no girls night is complete without some Paleo snacks, kombucha, and some bubbly ;)

Of course, no girls night is complete without some Paleo snacks, kombucha, and some bubbly ;)