Chunky Tomato Avocado Salsa

Tomato avocado salsa & our Saturday night salmon dinner

Whipped this tasty combination up to kick off another Whole 30 Challenge. Dave will be cheering me on from the sidelines on this one, but still eating as healthy as ever. Not everyone needs this kind of structure or challenge, but if you’ve ever had “issues” with your food, or want to reset your metabolism or clear out allergies, it’s great. I’ve been craving food that’s “FRESH” lately and looking forward to having the kind of health that reflects that – so with that in mind, bon apetit!

By the way, I put together this recipe after receiving a request from a friend, but in truth most measurements were after-the-fact guestimations, so feel free to tweak to your taste.

Chunky Tomato Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 8 tomatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 2 med or 3 small onions, diced
  • 1 med green pepper, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • ½ cup cilantro, sliced
  • 2-3 avocados, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can tomato paste

Instructions:

  1. Combine onions & green peppers in glass bowl; microwave about 5 mins or until soft-ish
  2. Combine tomatoes, jalepenos, cilantro and cooked onion/pepper mix in large glass bowl
  3. Blend tomato paste, spices and apple cider vinegar in magic bullet & blend; pour over tomato mixture and stir to mix
  4. Stir in avocados gently at the end
  5. Enjoy!
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Whole 30, Days 29 & 30 – It’s a Wrap (but hardly over)

Hard to believe, but we’re at Day 30 of the Whole 30 Challenge. Was it challenging? Oh yeah. Rewarding? Absolutely. And honestly, now that it’s over not much will change. We’ll probably turn down a glass of red wine, I’m definitely having a coconut bliss bar and Dave will likely tear into a bag of rice chips, but then really, we’ll be back to Whole 30 eating.

This whole experience was really an introduction to eating primal for us – and we love it. Neither of us have any intention to reverting back to old ways of eating. We’ve learned a lot about our cravings and what they mean. We’ve organized our food shopping and prep to minimize time in the kitchen. We’ve come up with a gaggle on new most-loved recipes and we feel better than ever physically. Will we never indulge again? Of course not. We’re human and we love food. But our attitudes have definitely changed.

I knew this for certain when I moved the stove out the other day to sweep behind it. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you what I found – a Christmas cookie. And not a home-baked, so good your eyes roll back in your head, to-die-for cookie. Just some store bought processed piece of white flour and sugar junk. It made me realize that while there may be cookies in my future, they won’t be this kind. If I am going to put something in my mouth I know full well won’t support my health and fitness goals, it damn well better be the most delicious, decadent, divine version of whatever it is. It better nourish my soul and my senses if it’s not going to nourish my health. And for me, I think that’s the biggest reward of all, coming to this new place of thinking about my diet.

Now where’s my corkscrew…?

Whole 30, Days 27 & 28 – Spice Rubbed Roast Chicken (yes, it’s local)

roast chicken and veg

What says Sunday Dinner better than a roast chicken? Black cardamon is the secret that gives this recipe a nice smoky barbecue flavor, while the liberal rubbing with coconut oil crisps the skin up nicely. Since it’s an organic chicken  raised without hormones or antibiotics, I feel good about eating the skin. It’s when your protein is commercially raised you want to steer clear of the fatty stuff. If you’ve never cooked with black cardamon before you’re in for a treat. It lends a lovely smoky, almost bacon-type flavor to your dishes. Awesome in meatballs, burgers, chicken fingers and all sorts of things. Hope you enjoy!

Spice Rubbed Roast Chicken & Veg

  • 4 – 5 large carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic
  • coconut oil
  • garlic powder
  • chilli powder
  • paprika
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • black cardamom
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Chop vegetables and put in bottom of roasting pan
  3. Pre-mix spices in a small bowl
  4. Wash & pat dry bird
  5. Rub chicken with coconut oil, inside, outside and under the skin, coating generously
  6. Pour spice mix over, inside and under the skin of the chicken; rub in well
  7. Place bird breast side down in over, uncovered for 15 – 20  minutes
  8. When nicely golden, flip bird over
  9. Roast for another 25 – 35 minutes until legs wiggle easily and internal temp reaches safe range (180)
  10. Let cool before slicing

Whole 30, Days 23-25 – Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

pre workout options of muffins or chicken and avocado, and post workout options of a protein shake or beef and yams

It’s been a few days since we’ve posted. No, we haven’t been stuck at the bottom of a pint of hagan daz. Truth is, thanks to bulk cooking and a handful of reliable high-yield dishes, our daily meals are down to a sweet science – which is good since both our schedules have kicked up into the decidedly hectic range. But now that we have B, L & D under control, what about pre and post workout nutrition? Well as it turns out, this is an area where the Whole 30 approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

In traditional body-building circles, pre-workout meals are mainly complex carb, often from grain or fruits, plus a little protein. Think cottage cheese and fruit, a whole grain muffin or oatmeal and egg whites.

Whole 30/primal pre-workout meals on the other hands are smaller snack size combinations of protein with a little fat. Think sardines in olive oil or chicken with avocado. Choose easy digesting foods and allow enough time so you’re not working out while you’re still digesting.

Post workout, old-schoolers will tell you to get an easily absorbed protein and a quick sugar into your body after training – and most do it via a protein and fruit or juice “recovery shake”. The idea being that quick absorbing simple sugars help shuttle protein into your muscles.

The “new school” approach agrees on protein, but differs when it comes to fruit and simple sugars. Instead, the Whole 30 Success Guide recommends eating a meal size portion of easily digesting protein and a fist size portion of a carb-dense vegetable like yams within 15 – 30 minutes of training. They say relying on fruit as your primary carb source post workout is a mistake because fructose is processed exclusively in the liver, which means the  “fuel tanks” in your liver get filled before the “fuel tanks” in your hungry muscles.

I’m going to be honest, as important as Dave and I both know pre and post workout nutrition is, we sometimes find it a challenge to get these meals in. For one, I find my paleo meals fill me up and I’m not hungry for another meal before my workout. Poor excuse, but there it is. Our workouts also falls within an hour or so of a regular meal, so that last meal essentially becomes our  “pre-workout” fare. On the other side of the coin, we also sometimes launch right into another regular meal post workout and miss the benefits of getting that extra nutrition to our hungry muscles right away. To be clear, your post w/o meal is a ‘bonus’ meal. You should still be eating your next regularly scheduled meal 60 to 90 minutes afterwards.

We know it’s a challenge to schedule these meals; we struggle sometimes too, but we still can’t emphasize enough how important it it to optimize your training. If you’re working out hard, and you should be, it just makes sense to get the most out of it.

What’s your strategy for pre and post workout fueling?

Whole 30, Days 21 & 22 – Sunday Cook-off & the Superhero Salad Dressing

four photos: salad dressing, broth in a pot, stew in a crockpot and baked eggs in containers

Here’s what we managed to get done & checked off the list today:

  • kale chips
  • beef & venison stew
  • meat lover’s egg bake
  • delicious citrus salad dressing
  • cucumber salad
  • tomato salsa
  • chicken broth
  • whipped butternut squash
  • clean berries
  • cut & marinate chicken

By the time the end was in sight, I realized we really didn’t have food ready for tonight, so I whipped together an impromptu omelet (would you call that I brinner?) with pan fried Portobello mushrooms and spinach, topped with the salsa I just put together, side of coriander spiced butternut squash and wedge of purple yams. Yum.

plate with omlette, yams and whipped butternut squash

Of all the things we made, I’m particularly excited about the salad dressing, not only because it tastes absolutely delightful, but also because I used Carlson’s Orange Flavored Cod Liver Oil, which makes it a Double Agent: part condiment – part nutritional super-hero. I love double duty foods.

Delicious Citrus (“Super-hero”) Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2  cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup Carlson’s orange flavored cod liver oil

Instructions:

  1. Place the ACV and spices in a food processor and blend;
  2. Drizzle in the oil slowly while the blender is going;
  3. Adjust spices to taste; and
  4. Pour those yummy Omega 3’s all over your salad completely guilt-free!

Whole 30, Day 20 – Shopping & Menu Planning Made Easy!

Produce section of grocery store

It’s Saturday, so that means grocery shopping at our house. Before embarking on this Whole 30 Challenge, we often found ourselves stopping by the grocery store 4 or 5 times per week. Sometimes more. Thanks to some necessary planning head however, we’ve now got it down to one big shop per week, plus a trip to the butcher.

Before we left the house today, I used my white board to create a list of what I want to cook for the next week, looked at what I needed, compared it to what we already had on hand and made my list accordingly. Here’s what it looked like:

Day Item to Make Ingredients I have Ingredients I need
Sunday Stew Beef, venison, onions, garlic, rutabaga, carrots, yams, broth, spices Turnips, parsnips
Salsa Tomatoes, green peppers, onions, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste Jalapeno pepper
Salads Grapefruit, peppers, carrots Lettuce, fennel, peas, cabbage
Egg Casserole Eggs, portobello mushrooms, spinach, turkey sausage, ground turkey
Dressing Apple cider vinegar, walnut oil, Dijon, spices Apples, avocado
Kale chips Olive oil Kale
Monday n/a
Tuesday Chicken fingers Chicken breast, coconut, coconut milk, spices
Cucumber salad Cucumbers, ACV Light olive oil (to make fresh batch of mayo)
Wednesday Sheppard’s pie Carrots, broth, coconut flour, spices Cauliflower, *ground beef, beans, peas
Egg Casserole *ground beef
Thursday n/a
Friday Fish *fish
Saturday n/a

there you go, the last column became our grocery list for today and the table itself goes on the fridge for easy refernce when cooking. Handy, since I rarely follow recipes.

The beef I’ll get at the butcher on Tuesdays (when it’s freshest) and the fish I’ll buy fresh on the way home that night, but otherwise we’ve managed to pare our shopping trips from shopping 4 – 5 times per week, with cooking and cleaning every night, to shopping once a week, cooking 4 and having a full 3 nights out of the kitchen, while still having a fridge full of tasty Whole 30 approved meals whenever we’re hungry. We think it’s brilliant. You can use the framework of our plan. Fill in your favorite dishes and customize  your own menu plan and grocery list.

Do you have time-saving tips to help make eating healthy easier? We’d love to hear them!

Whole 30, Day 19- Linkalicious

sausages making the shape of a heart

A few days ago a friend sent a facebook message asking if we knew of any good site with good clean-eating recipes. Do we?!?!

Now while my friend is looking to clean up her diet by eliminating processed foods and white stuff – a good start to be sure, she’s still eating grains. Now that Dave and I are 100% paleo, all of our favorite sites are too, but I told her to go ahead and add in whole grains to any of the dishes she finds on these sites …unless of course she follows up on some of the other resources I suggested and realizes she might be better without them. Her call, of course. 😉

One of my FAVE sites is theclothesmakethegirl.com, the site’s  author Melissa  just come out with a cookbook, Well Fed (which I am currently coveting and will probably order) – though her site is also full of free recipes. She writes like the Dickens (pun intended) and her posts are always fun to read. I’ve made her Czech meatballs and home made mayo, which is funny because neither of us really liked mayo before but making your own makes you feel like a kitchen DIVA and allows you to make tasty sauces, cole slaw and cucumber salad etc.

I also love The Food Lovers Primal Palate, Their paleo coconut pancakes are great – though not Whole30 approved, so don’t even THINK about it if you’re following along with us on the challenge. That’s having SWYPO (Sex you’re your Pants On) and “paleofying” is strictly off-limits.

Another source I often go to is marksdailyapple.com, by Mark Sissons. He’s the author of The Primal Blueprint, the first book that turned us on to eating primal/paleo by explaining how grains block the absorption of many nutrients and cause inflammation and how the body runs better as a fat burner than a sugar burner. Type whatever you’re looking for into the search bar and tonnes of recipe options pop up. Note though that his site is Primal as opposed to Paleo so you’ll find recipes using dairy, sweetners and a few other things not allowed on the Whole30.

I also suggested she check out delightfultastebuds.com by Jos. She was actually the first person who introduced me to the paleo diet by mentioning it on the Bodyrock.tv community. She blogs about her own diet and shares easy, wholesome recipes. I mentioned to my friend her Oven Baked Coconut Chicken Fingers were to-die-for and just thinking about them made me want them so I whipped up a batch for dinner. (Side note: after devouring a nice plate-full I wondered if I’d made a slip and had “Sex With My Pants On”, but when I asked Melissa on on the Whole 30 facebook page, she said only if I had a serious KFC addiction and was filling the void. Hate KFC, so we’re clear.)

I also suggest nomnompaleo.com. The site’s author swears like a trucker, so be warned if you have virgin ears – or eyes, I guess. But she’s funny as hell and does a great job of marketing herself. Plus she has a tonne of great recipes on offer.

There’s also a couple of sites that do a round-up of healthy recipes from across the webiverse, thefoodee.com and chowstalker.com. It’s like searching dozens of sights at once, while getting a snapshot of the of the latest offerings in one place.

Since my friend was looking to reset her metabolism, I also suggested she check out The Whole30.

So yeah, we’ve got resources – and we’re happy to share! Check out these fine folks and let us know what you think or share YOUR favorite links below!

Whole 30, Day 18 – Chicken “Kitchen Sink” Salad

We love our one-dish meals. This is one of the “everything but the kitchen sink” dishes that came together effortlessly and turned out incredible.

If you remember our weekly cooking plan I shared in a previous post, you’ll know we didn’t have kitchen duties last night, but I found myself peering into the fridge wondering how I could jazz up  the left over meat I’d pulled off a roast chicken from the night before. I don’t know about you guys, but plain salad topped with plain chicken meat is a little too much like “diet food” for our tastes.

So I decided to check the produce drawers and see what I could throw together. I added some broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peppers, fennel and green apples, then mixed up a dressing of home made mayo, lemon juice, cumin, basil and a good glug of Carlson’s yummy orange flavored cod liver oil. The result? An incredibly nutritious, fresh-tasty one-dish meal that satisfies the body, the eyes and the belly. Brilliant! …If I do say so myself! 😉

You can do the same with whatever you find in your produce drawers. I’ve also replicated this idea with canned salmon or tuna. Be creative and give it a try the next time your fridge contents are making you snore. And be sure to share the results. You never know what kind of masterpiece is just sitting there, waiting to be created.

Bon appetit!

Whole 30, Day 17 – Beef Crackers (aka dry beef jerky)

bowl of home made beef jerky

Alright, so our batch of jerky wasn’t our best effort this time. Still edible – and still about 1000% better than most store-bought crap, but definitely  a bit on the dry side.

We started with a good cut of meat recommended by our butcher Rob at Brady’s Meats. Trust me, you only pick the wrong cut once because what you end up with is akin to beef flavored chewing gum. We’ve also been experimenting with marinades and are faced with the added challenge that most paleo jerky recipes use coconut aminos, which aren’t available in Canada. Why not? Who knows? Maybe for the same reason you couldn’t buy stevia for years. Actually, this calls for a little tangent…

So way back when I first heard about stevia (for those in the dark, stevia is a herb used as a sweetener, it’s related to the chrysanthemum flower, 300x sweeter than sugar and doesn’t elevate blood sugar, cause cavities or feed candida – brilliant stuff) but back then, not available in Canada. I had to try it so I found a supplier willing to ship to Canada. Since it wasn’t legal here, the supplier filled out the customs label with Anonymous White Powder. No kidding, that  they let into Canada, but a harmless herb – no way. Crazy!

Anyhow, so my search for jerky marinade sans coconut aminos led me to jensgonepaleo.blogspot.com and her A Really Tasty Beef Jerky Recipe, using apple juice as the base. I didn’t have the Penzey’s BBQ 3000 spice she recommends, so I used an equal amount of ground black cardamom, which gave it a nice smoky barbeque flavor. I think next time I’ll also add a little balsamic vinegar to replicate the tangy soy sauce flavor I’m guessing the coconut aminos would give.

Just a note for those who don’t know. Tamari is NOT a good substitute for the aminos. Despite how many paleo jerky recipes you’ll find that use it, It’s made from soy, which of course is a legume and doesn’t belong in a paleo kitchen. Not to mention the questionable effects it has on hormones and the fact that virtually all soy grown these days is GMO. No thanks.

For those toying with idea of making your own jerky – try it! The Food Lover’s Primal Palate has a great post (and a good recipe if you can get your hands on coconut aminos) plus step-by-step instructions using the oven if you don’t have a dehydrator.

Like making your own mayo, it’s one of those things that fills you with pride when you’re done. Even if you do accidentally leave them in too long at too high a temperature and end up with tasty beef  “crackers” like we did, you can still feel proud that you’re eating a healthy, home-made, 100% paleo and Whole 30 approved snack.