Florida is for (Food) Lovers

Readers, I am so sorry. I think it has been the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a post. In the past two weeks, I somehow managed to get stuck working overtime, get stuck in traffic constantly both ways, and successfully evaded my lovely, comfy apartment for 15-hour spans at a time. Ugh. In the middle all of that, I traveled to Florida. Because really, what’s a girl to do when she’s exhausted? Sleep first, of course. Then go to Florida.

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Whoever started the whole "Virginia is for Lovers" trend has never been to Florida. Or maybe they have, and they're bitter that they live in Virginia and not Florida. (Who wouldn't be? I would be.... Although I realize that DC is essentially Virginia without the southern accent and a whole lot of government. Or DC could be Maryland, if that's your choice and you're in love with the Chesapeake and crabs...but whatever, I'm rambling. ) 


One of the best family vacations I've been on was in Miami, where my family descended upon the beach at Christmastime and stayed at the magical modern wonderland that is the Delano. (Hotel of my dreams.) On that Christmas, I sat on the beach and drank a whole bottle of rose champagne in my bikini. Ever since then, my grandmother is convinced that I am on my sweet, sweet bubbly way to alcohol addiction. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots. 

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots. 

In my last post, I shared a little of my traveling-while-staying-Paleo tips, so this time, I’m going to expand a little by sharing with you a simple on-the-go Paleo recipe.

It can be a challenge to stay true to Paleo when the people around you don’t follow the same diet, but this particular recipe is so good that your non-Paleo travel companions will try some with you. I promise. In this particular recipe, the protein powder and ground flax seed both pack and travel well in reusable containers, and almond milk and bananas can be purchased nearly anywhere. MCT oil and aloe are a bit trickier to travel with, but they can be disguised as cosmetics in your toiletries bag. (You are so welcome for that tidbit of advice. J )

In addition to traveling, I routinely use this recipe after or before a tough workout, and occasionally on my way to work. It really fills me up, and tastes so decadent even though it has a ton of health boosters in it. I like hemp based proteins the best because I’ve found that it comes from sustainable, natural sources, and it doesn’t give me a stomachache. (Anyone else get stomachaches with conventional protein powder products?) The health benefits of hemp are also pretty impressive.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the incorporation of flax seed into my diet has cleared up a lot of my residual acne, and has made my skin appear more radiant than any other remedy I've tried. Finally, MCT oil, or medium triglyceride chains, will give your body a great, all natural energy boost that fuels your brain for less brain fog and increased cognition. I'm not an expert on MCT oil, but I have noticed an increase in energy levels such I started supplementing with it. If you do not supplement with MCT oil, you need to start.right.now. And finally: aloe. Aloe is such a great all natural cure for anything from sunburns to acne to reduced inflammation to boosted immunity. It tastes disgusting, but since I've started supplementing with it, I haven't gotten sick. Seriously, there was a week where my work was quarantined with a GI bug. Almost all of the rehab team came down with the bug despite full universal precautions, but I was just fine. (And guess what? It's a succulent. <3333)

This recipe doesn't need all the extra supplements, but isn't supplementing with a chocolate summer-inducing smoothie better than just taking a bunch of pills? Yep, I think so too ;)

Chocolate Health Elixir Smoothie

Makes 1 smoothie

  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or nut milk of preference. You can use chocolate almond milk for extra chocolatelyness, just make sure it is unsweetened to avoid added sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. alcohol free vanilla extract
  • 1 medium overripe (brown and spotty) banana
  • 1/4 cup chocolate hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp. MCT oil
  • 1 tbsp. aloe plant extract
  • 1/3 cup ice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ice has broken into small pieces.
  2. Blend until incorporated. (Wasnt that easy?)









Our Pizza Had Eyes


I love having visitors, and I love being able to share my recipe creations with guests. Wouldn’t it be great if I just owned a little operation where I could just have visitors and then cook for them? What’s that called? A Bed & Breakfast? 26 going on 70 over here. 

My visitors the past couple weeks have kept me very busy here in the South of Vanilla household, and for the next couple weekends, I’ll be traveling places myself. The weekend before last, my best friend Nikki stayed with me and we were major tourists in DC…. As in: “Excuse me, sir? Can you take a picture of us with this beautiful, historical, Washingtonian tree? No, no lengthwise too…..hold on, let me put my hand on my hip.”

Besides taking pictures of trees, we managed to perfect the ambitious Unicorn Selfie:

And thought of clever ways to take pictures with the monuments:

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We even found a walk-in wine cellar filled floor to ceiling with champagne behind a secret, hidden "door" (spice cabinet) in a basement kitchen. Umm hello? DREAM COME TRUE. 

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One evening, we decided to get a non-Paleo dinner at an authentic Italian pizzeria, and we were excited when we saw shrimp pizza on the menu. Shrimp Pizza?? We were thrilled, but then disgusted when the shrimp on the pizza still had their tails….and their heads….with their eyes on them. Their eyes. THEYWERELOOKINGATUSEATINGTHEM:

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Never again. It was the universe telling us to think twice before veering from Paleo, even if that weekend special looked pretty tasty.

What was tasty though? A weekend full of Paleo cooking. I even made a nice vegetable dish for breakfast one morning while Nikki was here: Almond Zucchini Sauté. Of course, you can serve this any time of day, but I served it as breakfast one morning along with an Avocado Egg. (There has got to be a better name for an Avocado Egg, but I haven’t found one. I make this so often, it has become its own word in my head. Not “Avocado Egg”, but more like “Avocadegg”. Maybe I will call it that. Avocadegg. It will be a trend….maybe.)

Anyway, this veggie dish looks elegant, and it only takes 10 minutes to throw together. I highly suggest it:

Almond Zucchini Sauté:

Serves 2

 

  • 1 cup mini zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • ½ c sliced almonds
  • 3 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toss almonds in olive oil in pan.
  2. Heat almonds and oil on low heat until just fragrant. Stir frequently so almonds do not burn. 
  3. Add zucchini and parsley to pan and increase to medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes. Zucchini is done when tender to the fork but not soggy.
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Was St. Patrick Paleo?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Normally, I would say what a great spring holiday it is, but here in DC, its miserable. Overnight, it snowed up to 10 inches in some places, effectively shutting the city down for the 10th snow day since January. I even got stranded in Houston overnight on my way back from my weekend trip to New Mexico, although to be honest, I didn’t mind- it extended my time in the sunshine just a little bit more. I literally went from this beautiful southwestern weather:

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To this:

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Ugh. Take me back.



I'll be the first to admit it: I have a serious sweet tooth. Scratch that- I have a serious chocolate tooth. Forget sugar, just give me chocolate. (Unless, of course, you have some German-quality Gummy Bears, then you can give me those...in addition to the chocolate.) I also have serious mint cravings. Mint chocolate chip ice cream and I go way back. Shamrock Shake season at McDonald’s used to be my favorite. It was my favorite up until I realized that every time I ate one, I felt so incredibly sick. Somewhere along the line, I put two and two together and figured if I something was making me feel sick, I shouldn’t put it in my body. Also, I'm a little creeped out by just how green those things are. So there’s that.

When I switched over to Paleo, I was worried about not being able to enjoy the *ahem* sweeter things in life. Giving up grains? No problem? Processed foods? No problem. (Good riddance.) Most of dairy, starches, and limiting fruit? No problem. Desserts? Problem.  BIG problem.

A lot of my Paleo recipes and experiments focus on desserts, mostly because its what I really enjoy. When I first switched to Paleo, I tried to replace all the foods I had favored throughout my life with Paleo friendly versions of them: almond flour pizza crust, coconut flour cupcakes, cashew flour cookies, almond butter banana bread. These are great alternatives, don't get me wrong, but I quickly learned that even these replacements should be limited. Although lots of these recipes follow the Paleo formula, the focus really should be on consuming vegetables, healthy fats, and animal proteins. These are the things that combine together to create optimal health, immunity, and energy.  Paleo baking recipes are wonderful treats, but should you really be consuming the 100 almonds that have been crushed to make that almond meal pizza crust? The 30 cashews that have been crushed to make the batter in that single Paleo cupcake? Probably not- diets should be more balanced, even if it still is Paleo.

So after a few months of Paleo baking my little heart out, and finally realizing that I can't exist off of almond flour everything, and realized that I needed to start approaching pleasing my sweet tooth in a different way. Eventually, I came to this recipe. Actually, I didn't really come to it, a friend of mine asked me one day: "So have you tried Chia Seed Pudding?".

What? Chia Seed Pudding? What? I hadn't heard of it, but she immediately listed off a recipe, and ensured that it was "the best". This girl knows her stuff. and she really nailed it on this seed pudding thing. Chia Seed Pudding is so easy, has only a few ingredients, and can be flavored probably 100 different ways. It really is the best. (Thanks Kathy!)

Since it is St. Patrick's Day, I festively flavored this pudding version with mint. If you don't like mint, just leave it out, and you'll have chocolate. I've also listed some varieties below if you would like to try out a different pudding flavor.


Shamrock Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

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  • 16 oz. canned coconut cream (canned coconut milk will work too)
  • 2 tbsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 11/2 tsp. mint extract
  • 4 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 7 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp. melted raw honey
  • Chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients together
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour and then serve.
  3. Really, that's it. 

 

Variations:

  • Mint Cream: omit the cocoa powder from the above recipe, increase the vanilla extract by an additional 1 tsp.
  • Chocolate: omit mint extract from above recipe
  • Vanilla: omit the cocoa powder and mint from the above recipe, increase the vanilla by an additional 1/2 tbsp.
  • Maple Pecan: reduce the honey by 2 tbsp, add 2 tbsp. maple syrup. Stir in pecans.
  • Mocha: add 1 tbsp. instant coffee granules, omit mint extract
  • Mint Mocha: add 1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • Coconut chip: omit mint extract, add 1/2 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 
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Tuesday: the worst day of the week

Ugh, Tuesdays. TUESDAYS.

At my old job, my coworkers (Now I am lucky enough to call them my friends) and I came up with this theory that Tuesdays are the worst day of the week. Here’s why: when Tuesday morning rolls around, you’re still exhausted from Monday shenanigans. On Tuesday, you still remember the happy glow of your past weekend, and realize that there are so many days until you can get to that bliss again. On Tuesday, you haven’t even gotten to hump day yet…and we all know that there are just no inappropriate jokes to say about Tuesdays. Tuesdays are just the worst. The. Worst.

 

On Tuesdays, I am rarely motivated to do anything. It’s amazing if I make it to the gym after work, and to be honest, its miracle if I actually go out and do something social on a Tuesday night. Most of the ridiculous fights I’ve picked with my boyfriend have been on, you guessed it: Tuesdays. And the worst night classes in both my undergrad and graduate school years? On Tuesdays. (You’re such a jerk, Tuesday. I hope Karma gets you.) By the time Tuesday night rolls around, I rarely cook- I usually eat leftovers or whatever snacks I can piece together to try to form a legitimate meal. I call this technique creating an artful, eclectic charcuterie (Haha, yeah right), but really, this is just Tuesday speaking through me again in food form. Oh, and actually getting up on time Tuesday morning to make a decent breakfast? Ha. Please……..Oh, was that a serious question? Yeah…. No. Tuesday breakfast never ever happens. Not ever.

For all the reasons I have listed above, I bring you a recipe I have titled “Tuesday Oatmeal” because it is quite possibly the easiest 4 minute Paleo breakfast you can make in the morning. I make this mix ahead of time and store it in a water bottle for easy pouring. (Helpful when I am trying to make myself breakfast at 6am and still fumbling around because I am half asleep.) You can choose to keep this in any storage container of your choosing, and please note that the serving size for the “preparation” stage is for one ½ cup serving, not for the entire prepared mix.


 

Tuesday Oatmeal

Mix makes 4 servings

Grain free, dairy free, gluten free

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To make ahead:

  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed) Golden flaxseed meal is also an option
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

When preparing:

  • ½ cup already prepared chia seed mix
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla almond milk
  • Toppings of your choice (chocolate pieces, fruit, almond butter, cashew butter, nuts etc.) optional
  • 1 tsp. raw honey optional
  • 1 cup water
  1. Mix chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and coconut together. Store in a container.
  2. When ready to prepare, pour ½ cup chia mix into a bowl and add water and almond milk. You may add honey if you would like some sweetness, but it is not necessary.
  3. Microwave for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir well, add toppings if you would like, and enjoy!
  5. Just get through Tuesday J
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P.S I originally saw this recipe months ago on another grain-free blog. I tweaked this recipe for my own tastes, renamed it, and now cannot find the original recipe author. If anyone out there sees this recipe out on another blog, can you let me know? I would love to cite them and be able to give them credit for the inspiration! Thank you!

 

P.P.S. Once, I put in a spoonful of Nutella into this, and it was amazing. And then later I tried a spoonful of cookie butter. That too was amazing, but so not Paleo. But, you know what they say about Tuesdays….. 

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