Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Melanoma, the Sun, and Me


(A post on how to roast beets to follow because yes, I have been that red before.)
There's really no way to make this long story short.  I am a strawberry blond, with fair skin, blue eyes and Irish ancestry.  I have had more sunburns than I can count, especially as a teenager.  (I was actually grounded for it one summer.)  I did go to a tanning bed for one month before my wedding.  Those are pretty much all of the risk factors for skin cancer.  If you lined up ten people and asked who is the one diagnosed with Stage 3b melanoma, I would be your obvious choice.
And you'd be correct.
I have really had a hard time getting this post done.  May was actually Melanoma Awareness Month and I started writing about it then.   I logged in to finish up and look for some pictures.  The words didn't come, but all of the emotions did.  I think the photos did it.  Being a real trooper,  I went shopping.  Like four times.  I even mostly caught up on the ironing and that is really something I do when I am in avoidance mode. 

Now it's the middle of June and Hubs and I are enjoying some time on Hilton Head Island in our home state of South Carolina.  My thoughts had been going back to actually publishing this post and getting back to my long neglected Paleo blog writing when Hayley Mason Staley, half of the awesome young couple who make up team Primal Palate,  posted this article about how toxic some of the more popular sunscreens are and how we actually need the sun. Well, I have a lot to say about that and by 'say' I mean in this post, right here.  It's pretty wordy and rant-like.  And it has the skin graft picture that probably freaked me out of finishing because it is super oogie.  At any rate, here is my experience with melanoma and a few choice thoughts on the medical stuff that went along with it. 
Let's face it.  Melanoma is one scary, bad cancer.  I was misdiagnosed three times, had lymph nodes dug out of my arm pit, skin grafted from my butt onto my hand, had the tumor lost somewhere between the operating room and the pathology lab, told not to worry, had a lump judged to be a ganglion cyst, had a lump determined to be recurrent metastatic melanoma, I've been scanned which included being pumped full of radioactive tracers, biopsied, punched with needles in my neck, and diagnosed with basal and squamous cell carcinomas to boot.  In addition to that I've seen five oncologists, one of whom was a pretty ornery guy who I really wish I'd never met.
 I messaged an online friend for some statistics. She was and has always been there for me and reminded me that what matters isn't a number, which is what I've had such a hard time understanding. There are so many support groups out there, and the Melanoma Patients Information Page  is certainly one of the best.  Problem and truth is that many of the kind people who helped me out almost ten years ago when I had my primary diagnosis have died.  Yes, people you have never met in person can grow to be your friends and losing them to this crappy cancer is all kinds of tough.  I have no idea how I got so lucky because the key to surviving is early diagnosis and my tumor was only removed because I kept pestering the docs.  Sometimes I feel pretty guilty for being alive and well, which probably makes no sense. 

I had a mole on my left hand, between the webbing between my ring and middle fingers for as long as I could remember.  It looked like this: 
It itched and peeled off and was gone for a while.  It came back and just looked funny, so I got a referral to a dermatologist who told me that melanoma is usually diagnosed on the torso or legs and not to worry about it.  Besides, if he removed it, I would have a scar.  I told him that I really didn't think the ugly brown mole looked that great either, but he told me to stay out of the sun and sent me on my way.  With this thing on my hand:     
Nice.  So I bugged a couple more docs and one actually froze it with liquid nitrogen which only seemed to make the mole angry and it actually turned a nasty shade of purple.  A primary care doctor that I visited for a backache finally did the biopsy and we learned that it was melanoma.  Four days later I walked into Blumenthal Cancer Center in Charlotte, North Carolina pretty terrified.  Melanoma can, indeed, be anywhere on your body sun exposed or not. I needed a wide local excision to remove the area around where the mole had been.  I also needed to have some lymph nodes removed to see if the tumor had spread.  I learned that my tumor was in a pretty bad area because of the risk of losing hand function.  I also learned that I could possibly have to have both fingers associated with it amputated.  That didn't happen, thank goodness,  because the plastic surgeon was able to  graft some skin over the area.   The whole experience was decidedly not fun and started me on a road to a deep wariness of the medical profession in general.  The tissue was lost so no one was able to say if they got all of the cancer  the first time.  On the bright side, the lymph nodes were negative.  I was seriously glad that they made it to the pathology lab.  It does seem that both the tissue and the nodes would have gone together, on the same tray or whatever, but that's just my way of thinking.  I also had a big wonkin' place to heal where the mole had been. 
Once again, I was told to stay out of the sun.  Stage 1b melanoma was a pretty good stage to be if you have to have melanoma.  I was also to visit the oncologist every six months for two years and a dermatologist every six months for the rest of my life. 
About fifteen months later, we had moved to Birmingham, Alabama and a lump popped up in the incision line of the skin graft.  My new oncologist, the ornery one, said it was just a cyst and it did disappear When a second lump appeared one morning about an inch and a half away the skin graft, I sought out a different oncologist.  He thought the lump should be removed.  Bingo.  Stage 3b, recurrent metastatic melanoma with a very real chance that it had spread to distant organs.  I needed a PET/CT scan to determine this and more surgery on my hand.  Thankfully, and to every one's surprise, no trace of tumor was found.  But the staging and statistics followed me around in my head and I was a stressed out mess for the next couple years as I went for every scan, chest x-ray, blood test and doctor appointment I was supposed keep.  It was like waiting for another shoe to drop and breathing a sigh of relief until the next appointment.  I had so many biopsies that I bought a pair of little scissors to be able to remove my own stitches.
The testing and stress of it all is what brings me to what this all has to do with living a Paleo Lifestyle.  I know a lot of things about melanoma that I wish I didn't; knowledge is power, but knowledge can also mean worry.  I spent too much time worrying and probably strained some relationships because I was obsessed with stuff like how likely I was to go to stage 4 and have brain tumors popping out my eyeballs. I rarely got out in the sun.  When I did, I loaded my skin with powerful sunscreens.  I went for test after test and was exposed to lots of nasty see when you have a PET/CT scan, you get an IV full of a radiopharmaceutical called FDG something or other and the techs shoot your through this donut-shaped thing head-first.  Then feet-first, just for good measure.  Before you leave, you are sent to a restroom with the Nuclear Fallout Symbol on the door and told not to hug or hold any babies or small children for a day or so. 
Now I've had five of those scans.  I don't really care if the half-life of FDG something or other is super-short.  It's still a scary radioactive thing.  There were a few things that showed up and led to other tests that never turned up anything except more panic. 
Something dawned on me one day when I saw a new dermatologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.  He said that there were plenty of people out there with a lot more sun damage than I have who will never have melanoma.  His take was that sun exposure and skin type isn't the biggest risk factor; it's more genetics and exposure to chemical and environmental crap. 
Now doesn't that just fit into a Paleo philosophy?  I hear more and more people say that their blood work shows them deficient in Vitamin D.  We spray and rub high SPF sunscreen blocking out a
vital nutrient while slathering our skin with chemicals.  And for someone like me, with my medical history, I am a sitting duck for tons of testing that can expose me to Heaven knows what, especially since I have good health insurance. Yep, a bad statistic with good health insurance.  I'm convinced that's what some docs have seen in me. 
Over the last few years, I've taken a different approach.  I was advised to have scans every six months for two years for a total of four and then chest x-rays every six months after that.  The folks at Moffitt wanted me to have the fifth one and I did.  Then I decided to take a break.  I needed to take some time off from it all and have not seen a doctor in over five years.  I could make up a  bunch of excuses, like I've found everything that was every anything malignant on my skin all by myself and pointed it out, which is true, but it is still just an excuse.  I am not sure that was the best decision, but it was what I needed to do.  It has probably been so long that the dermatologist I want to see (at a friend's recommendation) will yell at me.  And do some biopsies.  And yes, I do plan to go this summer or at least later this year.  No particular reason, not worried about anything on my skin, just probably need a check.  But I am skipping the chest x-ray, if it is recommended,  unless there is a really convincing argument to have one done.  There's too much radiation flying around as it is.

Now about the sun.  I stayed out of it for years.  But that cuts out lots of fun things to do.  I found a great sunscreen and started enjoying seeing the light of day again, but now this worries me too.  It is a broad spectrum, highly effective, waterproof, and approved by all sorts of skin cancer organizations.   I left a can of it in my cosmetics bag once and I guess somehow it leaked.  It ate the paint off of my tweezers and melted the plastic handles on my make-up brushes.   Maybe I don't want to use it on my skin after all.  So my general plan is to soak up the free Vitamin D for fifteen or so minutes on each side and then hide under a tree, umbrella or some kind of UV-protective clothing.  It works well most of the time.  I managed to spend a week on a sailboat in the Grenadines back in March and did not even have a tan line when I got home.  But then a few days later, (in the picture at the top of this page) I  spent a little too much time yacking by our neighborhood pool and managed to get a lot too red.  So I screwed up.  Hopefully, the things I've read lately are true.  We need some good sunshine within reason and the effects of too much sun are cumulative.  One sunburn will not set forth a malicious melanoma attack.  The die is pretty much already cast through a whole slew of factors so I  just need to keep a good check for weird stuff and lumps. 

And I know, I know...get a skin check.  I hope you will too.

Take good care, k.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


No you never see it coming,
Always wind up wondering where it went.
Only time will tell if it was time well spent.
It's another revelation,celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun.  - Jimmy Buffett

Today is my fifty-fifth birthday.  It's actually pretty exciting to think that I haven't really done too much wrong this last year so I think I'll just celebrate the things I did do.  I am strong, fit, and really healthy.  I feel great.  Well, my knee hurts a little.  That's probably from the workout Hubs came up with yesterday for us to, run, run, do a dozen burpees, run, run, run, do 24 air squats, run, run, run, do 36 walking lunges on the beach, run, run, run, do 48 flutter kicks on those big wooden boxes where the lifeguards stash the beach umbrellas-

Yep, on the beach.  So that is something to celebrate for sure.  If you are going to mess up your knee a little bit, it might as well be on the beach in the beautiful low country of South Carolina.  By the time all that was done, we'd been four miles.  I am just going to have to celebrate running four miles, too.

I do have a clever husband who can come up with this stuff.

I could easily think of quite a list of things to celebrate this day, but it would certainly get tedious to read it all.  What I do want to write about today is a revelation that the above mentioned Hubs came up with the other day.  There are too many blogs out there devoted to Paleo recipes.  I really have to agree.  The glitch that folks have in going Paleo has nothing to do with what to cook; it has to do with adapting to the Paleo Lifestyle.  And what that lifestyle means is different for everyone.

I watch people a lot these days, which sounds creepy, but I am naturally curious about stuff.  I see people who move slowly when they get out of  their cars and wonder if they are in pain.  I wonder if the overweight guy who was grunting as he fixed our fridge the other day was so really so uncomfortable because of inflammation in his body.

I can relate to that because I was in pain and I was uncomfortable almost all of the time.  That was only a year and half ago.  What  a new outlook this hard work, and I must say, God's Good Grace have brought to me!

We had a challenge at our gym last month and Coach asked me to speak about the Paleo Lifestyle.  I had to admit that I came to this from a different place than someone who wants only to lose weight.  Being in pain was a huge motivation for trying something so new and different.  I mean I was a vegetarian, for crying out loud.  I never really had a hard time adapting to eating the  whole, nutritious, satisfying foods that we now eat.  (Probably because they are whole, nutritious, and satisfying...but that's just my comment because not only am I naturally curious, I am a natural smarty-pants as well.)  I don't slip up and cheat because I don't want to go back to the way I was.  That was not only being overweight, but hurting from all of the issues with my back.  I know that those issues are still there; they are just silent.  And I would like it very much if they would just stay that way.

It's a little hard for both Hubs and me to understand why Paleo is difficult for a lot of people.  It is also pretty disappointing, in all honesty, to share something that has been life changing and have it not catch on. Especially when it's someone you love.  We've had family members give up after asking for help.  It was our choice, of course to spend our time explaining and coaching.  It was also their choice,as Yoda says, to do or do not.

I choose to do this.  For whatever reason... whether it's the most valuable one of  feeling good,  the fun one of being able to run four miles and do a crazy WOD on the beach, or the vain one which is the joy of fitting into a size zero or two (!!!)  I choose to live the Paleo way which I have adapted for my own needs.

I'd like to make this blog more about exploring ways to adapt to living the Paleo Lifestyle and I may be in for some disappointments, but that's okay.  I can't come to your house and cook for you, but I can write lots of thoughts and tips on how Hubs and I have made things work for us.  I agree with him that it may be a more helpful approach.

I did say that I have a clever husband, didn't I?

Just to end my birthday post, I want to share a story.  The picture above was from my birthday dinner last year.  We had a lovely time at a really fancy steak house and the wait staff wanted to bring me a dessert.  I turned it down, I hope graciously enough, which elicited a big grin from Hubs.  It also elicited a candle and a Happy Birthday wish written in icing from the chef.  Someone told me that it was just sad to 'have' to turn down a treat.  I disagree.

It's a celebration of choosing what is best for me. 


Take good care, k.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lovin' Us Some Butternut Squash


Well, we were a little under the weather for quite a few weeks so far this year.  I guess even eating healthy, Paleo foods can't keep the creeping crud away when you've been exposed to family members recovering from the flu over the holidays and a Hubs who brought home whatever bug was going around his office.  Oy.  But we're feeling much better and ready to share our new/old fave vegetable.

We've been in love with butternut squash for a long time.  In our vegetarian years, we ate many bowlfuls of a yummy butternut squash soup I concocted.  I never experimented with other ways to prepare this biggo delight other than to bake it, halved in a water bath.  (because I was too lazy to peel it, I must confess.)

Well, that was until I discovered how easy the work is when I used my Y peeler.  I think I got mine from the grocery store a while back, you know, just 'cos I saw it and didn't have one.  And I must not stop until I have all of the kitchen gadgets known to man because I am an idiot for them. I never really used it until a couple months ago.  And wouldn't know it?   You can peel yourself up a butternut squash likkety split with this bad boy!  An obsession with this squash has been born in our kitchen...

The carb count of butternut squash is lower than that of  sweet potatoes, but higher than carrots at 16, 23, and 12 grams, respectively per cup of raw cubed/sliced product.  (Here's an easy way to get your carb info; it seems pretty accurate:  Butternut squash is a bit of a carb splurge, so decide when you can treat yourself.  We work out pretty hard and haven't had any problem eating any of these three orange delights. There's a lot of bang for our buck in one of these squashes and we certainly don't eat the whole thing at one meal.  Here's what I mean:

To make these fun little disk things, hang on to the bulbish end of your butternut squash and slice it into pieces that are about 1/2 inch thick; put a little dollop of coconut on the top of each one. Roast the disks at 400 degrees (that temp seems to be the go-to oven setting on all roasted butternut squash) for 40 minutes, turning them half way through.  I like to use silicone baking mats to keep everything from sticking.  These come out a little crispy on the outside and gooey/tender on the inside.  Three for each plate is enough to serve as a side dish.  If you don't use all that you've cut up, just stick 'em in the fridge for up to a week and have 'em again (and again) 'cos they are that good!


Here's a pic of the rounds topped with a little rosemary/garlic/olive oil paste that I made up, a nice grass-fed steak and some sliced avocado.  I don't know what tasted better, the squash or the steak.  I do know that the longer I eat Paleo foods, the more satiated I am and I was not able to come anywhere close to finishing this much food.  I've read in quite a few places that one of the jobs of the mac-daddy hormone, Leptin, is to signal the brain that you've had enough to eat. It can get all out of whack pretty easily with a diet devoid of good, whole foods.  Happy to report that I think my Leptin is in good shape 'cos I don't eat nearly as much as a did a few months ago!  We usually save leftovers and scramble up them with eggs for breakfast.  And the CappiDog sometimes gets a bite as long as it is dog-friendly for her tummy.  (She is delighted to say that this was quite a nice bite for her tummy.)

Now for some other stuff to do with the giant squash you have on your cutting board.... 

 Cut a little bit off of the bottom bulbish part of your butternut squash so that it is flat and will sit up, roast it  at 400 degrees with some coconut oil drizzled all over and you'll have a perfect, edible bowl for your Paleo Chili.   It takes about 45-50 minutes.  Just test it with a fork to the side and see if it is tender.  I used two here, so Hubs and I could each have one.  (I like to use a spoon and a melon ball utensil to get those pesky seeds and pulp out.)  There's a super easy recipe for chili that I need to post, so that will be coming soon. 

And yep, that guacamole on top of the chili was made by none other than Chef Hubs himself. Perhaps a guest post is in order soon! 
Last, but not least, here is something that turned out to be yummy fun.  And it resulted in me getting a brand-new kitchen gizmo.  (I know, I know.  Spoiled rotten.)  I had read where you could make a kind of pasta like thing with butternut squash by cutting long strips with your Y Peeler (Did I mention how awesome this thing is?  Which reminds me, I need to send one to my sister-in-law since yesterday was her birthday...she'll understand 'cos she knows how I always kind of late getting things done girl who assumes everyone loves gadgets.)  Now, cutting the strips is-er-well time consuming, so the first time I tried it, I didn't cook enough.  (I get bored a little easily and become a slacker.)  Honestly, this was not a lot of fun and Hubs was disappointed when his plate was empty since I didn't make a bunch of the strips:
So I went shopping on Amazon Prime and shazam...found me my very own spiralizer  (!!!)  

Oh the joy of it!  It only takes what my Beloved Grandma would call a 'jiffy' to turn an entire butternut squash into a big  pile of curly goodness that is ready for your saute pan and a little coconut oil.  This little gem comes with three blades, so you can make your veggies into small, medium, and large spirals.  Oh, and did I mention that it works with lots of other vegetables like sweet potatoes and zucchini? It was love at first sight and now I am sort of running out of kitchen space here in the little towncasa  because I seem to always have to have one more thing.

 It takes 6-8 minutes to cook the spirals up; I usually put a lid on the pan for a minute or two to help soften them.   You do have to be a little careful not to break them up with your spatula.  If you do, they may lose their charm, but not their flavor.  While I'm at it, here is my favorite spatula.  It is called a fish spatula, but it's great for turning delicate stuff and it has a blade to help scoop things up.  Yep.  Kitchen Geek strikes again.
You can use spiralized veggies much as you would any kind of pasta.  The picture below is spiralized butternut squash with some pulled pork that I had cooked in the slow cooker.  We just topped it with some avocados.  


H-m-m-m.  Seems like avocados go well with most everything we eat.

That's it for now.  I'd sure love for you to share some of your ideas on how you jazz up  this fabulous vegetable! 

Enjoy and take good care, k.






Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cup of Paleo Bread



Well, yes indeedy that is some good lookin' toasty bread, if I do say so myself.  It is completely Paleo, made from almond and coconut flour, and I keep coming up with ways to eat it.  And you make it in a cup in the microwave.  Srsly.

There could be some controversy that arises over this recipe, however, and I will attempt to defend some of it here:

 1) It is a treat. Hubs and I generally cringe a bit when someone is chatting to us about Paleo stuff and the first thing they ask is 'what kind of treats can you eat.' The eating of treats is what has most folks sick and inflamed. Temptation is out to get us, that is for sure. Although this bread is totally Paleo, it is pretty loaded with calories and they still do matter.  It is as my Super Hero, Robb Wolf, likes to say, "your mouth is not a vacuum cleaner."  On the plus side, it is very filling so usually one 'cup' is enough to share. Just don't eat it every single day. In fact, if you are still in your first month of making the switch to Paleo, you may want to save the recipe as a celebration thing. I am reading Chris Kresser's book, Your Personal Paleo Code, on my Kindle now and it reminded me about how important what he calls the 'reset' month is. You really owe it to yourself to be super strict for this month. You can do it, trust me please.

2) Some folks may not want to use their microwave ovens and I can't say that I disagree since I am kind of afraid of radiation, magnetrons, and stuff I just don't understand. But, I don't use it very often and in general, key in the time, hit the start button, and run. (In this case it's a minute and a half plus a few seconds for melting the coconut oil.)

3) This recipe uses palm shortening which is not sustainably harvested in many parts of the world. This has caused orangutans and other beautiful animals to perish through clear cutting and loss of habitat.  I did some research and the Spetrum brand says that it harvests its palm oils from small farms that do practice sustainability. I will just have to take them at their word.  Palm oils are really good fats and Mark Sisson's blog has a good post on it.  I have tried to use coconut oil in the bread recipe, but with the coconut flour...well it tastes a little too much like coconut for me.

All that aside, it is actually fun to make. It comes out looking like this: 

It isn't very pretty at that point, but you can toast it for about four minutes and make stuff like this:
Open faced BLT with avocado or...

    breakfast and some bacon, butter, and strawberries with  yummy fig balsamic*


    Not bad.  And see the bacon?  Hubs is away on a business trip, so I made up this fancy breakfast just for me this morning using the bacon cooker his sister gave him for Christmas.  It also goes in the microwave, one minute per slice.  (Guess I am living a bit dangerously today.)  But this cooker is a very cool gadget AND it goes in the dishwasher.  OMG I do so hate to wash dishes.  So it's a total keeper.  I did eat the entire loaf by myself with the bacon this morning at 7:00 and it is now almost 2:00 in the afternoon.  No hungries at all.

    I've also cut the bread into wedges and served it as strawberry shortcake or with soup like it is cornbread.  Saturday night we had  my new precious friend, Noha, over for a spur of the moment lamb dish.  I didn't have an appetizer planned, so I made a cup of bread for the three of us to share and used it as pretend bruschetta with just some good olive oil, fig balsamic*, and tomatoes.  Oh and yep, Noha has been eating Paleo for about three months now. I did share my treat theory with her and she agrees.  She's doing great and even had to get some size smaller pants.  YAY!  I am so super proud of my Paleo workout/shopping/cooking buddy.  She loved the bread.  She even liked the lamb, which Hubs and I took as a great compliment since she is from Egypt.  (Please Dear Noha, ignore the bacon pictures.)  And we're still gonna collaborate on a recipe for the tahini sauce that I mentioned here.

    Well, it's time for the recipe I've been babbling on about.

    Cup of Paleo Bread
    Some notes on this recipe:
  • You'll need a one or two cup glass measuring cup or something like the biggish ramekin in the first picture...I think it's a Corning Ware thing.
  • Use between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; 1/4 tastes a bit too salty to me and 1/8 isn't enough.

    1/3 cup almond flour
    1 tablespoon coconut flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder**
    1/8 -1/4 teaspoon sea salt

    2 tablespoons palm shortening
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon water, if needed


    Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

  • Use your microwave to melt the palm shortening in the cup or ramekin; it takes only about 20-30 seconds in my microwave, but yours could be different. 

  • Carefully swish the melted oil all around the sides of the cup or ramekin to grease it.

  • Add the egg to the oil and mix with a fork.

  • Stir in the dry ingredients; it will usually need a tablespoon of water to loosen the batter a bit.

  • Place the mixture in the microwave; mine takes 1 minute 30 seconds, yours could be different, but no worries...add 15 seconds or so if needed.

  • Let you cup of bread cool for a bit; invert the cup or ramekin and give it a tap to release the bread.  Toast the entire loaf and cut into eight wedges to use as an appetizer or for soups.  Slice the entire round to half thickness and toast them if you want to use it as a sandwich.

  • Take good care and enjoy!   k.

    PS  *  I am in love with these specialty balsamic vinegars and olive oils from  little specialty stores that are popping up everywhere.  We visited recently discovered one near us.  Thank you, Mount Dora Olive Oil Company!  No berry is safe from my bottle of dark mission fig balsamic.  If you get a chance to stop in, please do and support a small business.

           **  Remember to get baking powder that is gluten and aluminum free.  This brand, Rumford, is what my mom and Grandmama used and it's still the right stuff.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lower Carb Sorta Pastelon Slow Cooker Thing


Imagine is completely OK to post two entries in one day.  I just wanted to share this with my Friend, Junior 'cos we were talking about it today at our January event, The Color Run, down at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.  We had such a blast!  (Yep, a color blast.)

Here we are after the run...well we didn't actually run very much, because I don't think we CrossFitters like running. We did manage to get pretty colorful and have a fun time hanging out with each other outside of the gym. It is the greatest thing to be surrounded with like-minded people. Talk about keeping yourself grounded!  We work out super hard at our box and we love it; this is the most encouraging group of folks you could ever sweat with; heck we get really ugly and still love one another.  Even though not all of us eat Paleo, we are concerned with eating whole foods and understand the benefits of eating well in every aspect of our lives.  We all even hand lunch after the race today at our local Burger FI restarurant. They feature grass-fed beef and will even wrap it in lettuce for you, sans the bun! YUM. Paleo burgers all around!

I do not think, however, that the colors we were doused in were Paleo...but it all washed off pretty easily in the shower and I tried hard not to breathe any of it in.

Getting back to my pal, Junior.  He is such a great sport!  Prior to our Color Run adventure, we had a running tutu making party.  The girls did, that is.


The guys just headed upstairs here at the little towncasa and shared some beverages. But, Junior had no problem modeling my running, though. He looks quite dashing and gangster-ish, don't you think? 

 So for being such a swell model and great guy, I dedicate this recipe to you, Junior!  And thanks for always being there to help me at the gym.  You never miss an opportunity to recognize the successes I've had and the encouragement really helps keep me going.  I am so proud to call you Friend.  And not to leave out that precious wife of yours, Melissa.  It is special to see couples work out together and share so much love.  You both just really rock.


And now for the recipe and a little background.  I've been looking for more ways to use a slow cooker.  It's way more versatile that I ever imagined back in my vegetarian years when all I used it for was to cook dried beans!  This made kind of a casserole and we really liked it more than the pastelon that I made a few weeks ago.  I used sweet potatoes, which have a few less carbs than plantains.  (Next time, I am going to try it with butternut squash for an even lower carb option.)  Anyways, it turned out super delish and made a lot of food.  Junior and Melissa have two awesome boys, so I hope they will enjoy this dish and fill their bellies!
Lower Carb Sorta Pastelon Slow Cooker Thing
with sweet potatoes
1 sweet onion, chopped

4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup red wine
1 six ounce can tomato paste
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled
8 eggs, beaten
Coconut oil for cooking onions and to grease your slow cooker.
Saute the chopped onion over medium/low heat in a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.  While the onion is cooking, prepare the peeled sweet potatoes by popping them in the microwave for about 4 minutes, just to soften them a little.  Slice them either into rounds or lengthwise, making sure they are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch don't have to be exact.

Return to your onions and add in the chopped garlic; when you smell it, it's ready  (quick quick!); add the ground beef and brown it, just until it loses that red, raw color.  Add in your spices and let them hang out together for about five minutes.

Stir in the wine and let it reduce a bit.  Add in the tomato paste and mix sort of melts into the sauce.

Grease the crock of your slow cooker and place a layer of the sweet potato slices on the bottom.  Add a layer of the meat sauce, and alternate for another layer each of sweet potatoes and meat sauce; make sure you end with a layer of sweet potatoes on top.  Add about a teaspoon of salt to the beaten eggs and pour them evenly over the mixture in your slow cooker.  Set the temperature to low and cook for 4 hours.  Let the dish cool for a while and slice into 8 portions.
Enjoy and take good care, k.

noGRAINola Recipe and Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions

Yes, I'll make a resolution
That I'll never make another one
Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun.
Just enjoy this ride ...
Until it's done- Jimmy Buffett
But that doesn't mean that I don't look forward to the New Year and Fresh Starts and whatever is next on the horizon.  I just don't automatically set myself up to fail by making promises on January 1st.  I wait until, um I dunno, later.  Like last year, on October 24th, I promised to write in my blog for 30 consecutive days.  That didn't happen, so I won't promise to write any number of times per week, month, year, or decade ever again.  I have a habit of taking on more than I can handle.  That and being plain stubborn are my two worst habits.  I also hate failure, but I am good at it. 
I am making an effort to take on smaller projects.  And I always learn from failing.  I have no idea what to do about being stubborn.
I do want to keep doing lots of the good stuff that Hubs and I started last year and the year before.  Like CrossFit and eating Paleo.  The rewards just keep adding up and it has just become a good habit.  (Oy, to think of all the bad habits I've I am stuck with actual good ones!)  We both keep getting leaner and that is just so awesome.  Here's an example...I have a nasty scar on my lower abdomen.  It's a five inch long (yes I measured it), really ugly thing from the hysterectomy that I had back in 1998.  There's always been pudge above and below it, I assumed because of lymphatic drainage or just 'cos it's a big wonkin' scar.  Well, the pudge is going away; lo and behold, I have pelvic bones that are actully poking out.  How freakin' cool is that?
(Probably TMI, I know. Sorry.) (More TMI, that's not actually the ugliest scar, it was just the one with the most fat around it; there are about six more bad ones from biopsies, skin cancer, etc. but what the heck.  I am here, alive and very, very well.)
Being well is really the name of the game and I really have to hand it to this Paleo stuff for getting me there.  So if I did make a resolution, er...well I won't.  But I will make a solemn vow to try and spread the word and help folks in any way I can.  How 'bout that?  I believe that will be an easy follow through because I am living what I believe.  We are lucky to belong to a circle of friends who are genuinely curious about better health.  We get lots of questions about the Paleo Lifestyle and it is fun and gratifying to be able to answer them or at least point to the direction on how to find out.
And I will never fake perfection.  (Just hope not to make so many mistakes.)
So, Happy New Year.  I think it's off to a great start!
And to start a morning's a fun recipe for a noGRAINola thing for breakfast.  I can't believe that we ever get tired of all the things you can do with eggs and bacon, but we had this the other moring and it was very filling.  I had been looking at some Paleo granola bags and thought I'd just try to figure it out from scratch...and it tasted really good.  (Hubs added an avocado on the side, though, just 'cos he loves 'em so much.)


Thoughts on this recipe...
I used raw almonds, pecans, and walnuts...then we decided that cashews might have been a better choice than the walnuts.
*I think one of my handfuls is about 1/3 cup...this recipe makes enough for 2 servings.
3 handfuls* of your favorite nuts
1 handful* unsweetened coconut flakes
6 dates
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
berries of your choice (optional)
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk (optional)
Use your toaster oven (if you have one) preheated to 350 degrees.
  • Mix the nuts and coconut flakes together on a parchment lined baking sheet; toast them together in the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes, watching carefully that nothing burns.
  • Pour the toasty mixture onto your cutting board and combine with the dates by chopping them altogether.
  • Scrape the dates and nuts into a mixing bowl and stir together with the coconut oil, cinnamon and salt.
  • Spoon into bowls, top with some berries,and drizzle on some coconut milk.

Enjoy and take good care, k.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Paleo Pot Luck and Pastelon

Back in late October, before Thanksgiving and the craziness that can be the Christmas Season, Hubs and our fellow CrossFitter, Junior F., came up with an idea to have a Paleo Pot Luck. 

our esteemed Savage Race team from Seminole CrossFit
The plan hatched during the weekend we spent in Tampa while they participated in something muddy and scary called the Savage Race.  (No, I didn't sign up because 1) I don't like to get dirty and 2) they did some crazy stuff that involved fire and barbed wire.  I did, however, tag along.  I stayed clean and took some pictures.  And had lots of fun staying clean.)  Have I mentioned how much I love our CrossFit Family?
The rules for the Pot Luck were easy.  The food had to be Paleo and had to be homemade.  It was really pretty awesome because not one person brought grocery store cupcakes or a cheese tray.  Many of us shared our recipes and I  hope to feature them and their chefs here on the blog  because we really made some outstanding dishes. And I hope that we will have many more Paleo Pot Lucks in the future.  It was a huge success and so much fun.

First up is Jose's (aka HispanikPanic) version of Pastelon which is a Puerto Rican sort of lasagna made with sweet plantains instead of pasta.  I made this on took a while but it was well worth the time.  Yep, that's him in the picture on the right.  It's hard to miss him in a crowd, especially when he's wearing his mask and cape.  It is very appropriate since he is a super hero at the gym and is always super helpful to me when I'm confuddled about a lift or lose count during a WOD.  He even made me an honorary Hispanic one night; dubbed with a PVC pipe that we use for warming up.  What a guy!  Here we go....


Some notes on my first experience with this dish...

You can certainly use any regular meat sauce recipe that you like...this one is great and was super easy though.
Jose's recipe called for 1 cup each of chopped red bell pepper and chopped green bell pepper sauteed with the onion.  Hubs and I are trying to avoid most night shades, so I roasted some carrots as a substitute.  I know tomatoes are night shades too, but I can't think of a substitute for tomato paste.
I researched a few versions of the classic version of Pastelon (which has cheese; promise you will not miss it!) but could not find another one that uses eggs as the bottom layer.  I may leave it out the next time and see how it does.

6 ripe plantains
8 eggs
1 sweet onion, chopped
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry wine (red or white)
4-6 tablespoons coconut oil (maybe more)
salt/pepper to taste

Cookware needed:   saute pan for sauce
                                     larger skillet for cooking plantains
                                     glass casserole dish for baking Pastelon
                                     roasting dish, if you roast the carrots

Your oven will need to be heated to 350 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your saute pan and add the onions.  I like to cook them on low for around half an hour so that they become golden and caramelized.  In the meantime, you can roast the carrots at 400 degrees with a little coconut oil for about the same amount of time.  (You will need to stir the carrots and onions every ten minutes or so.  Don't worry too much about them, but don't go out for a run either...)  Roasting and caramelizing just adds a depth of sweetness and flavor that is great.  You can just saute them both until they are all soft; it's a little quicker.
While the onions and carrots are cooking, peel your plantains.  You will need to slice them lengthwise into long strips, about a half inch thick which is usually 4 slices per plantain.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in your skillet to about medium low temperature.  Add the plantain strips and cook for 3-4 minutes per side; they will need to be lightly browned and soft.   Drain them on paper toweling and sprinkle with a little salt while they are still hot.   You will most likely need to cook the plantains in several bathes and add more oil as you go.  (Go ahead and sneak a taste of good!)
Beat four of the eggs with a little salt and pepper.  Grease the bottom of your glass casserole dish with some coconut oil and pour in the eggs.  Bake in your oven for 6-7 minutes until they are set, but not done.  Put the dish aside and finish the meat sauce.
Stir  the carrots  into the onion if you didn't cook them together; add the minced garlic.  When you smell the garlic, it's ready.  Add the ground beef and cook it with the veggies, until it has lost its red, raw color. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the chicken stock and wine.  Let this simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste your sauce when it's done and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Place a layer of cooked plantain slices on top of the partially cooked egg in your casserole dish.  Spoon all of the meat sauce over the plantains.  Layer the rest of the plantains over the meat sauce.  Beat the remaining four eggs with a little more salt and pepper and pour over the casserole.  Let the eggs soak in for a few minutes and then bake your Pastelon in the oven for 40-45 minutes.  Let it rest for five minutes before serving.  Enjoy 'cos this is yummy...
I am sure that you will want to give Jose a big THANK YOU for this recipe when you see him!  (He's always easy to recognize in that mask and cape.)

Take good care, k.

PS Our friend from the gym, Noha, came over for dinner when we had our Pastelon the other night.  She is a fabulous cook, originally from Egypt.  She is teaching me all kinds of Arabic recipes and I am teaching her how to shop.  (grin)  Hopefully, she'll let me share her recipe for tahini sauce in a future post.  In the meantime, she really loved the roasted asparagus that we served with dinner and asked how to make goes, nothing to it:

1 bunch of asparagus spears
2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil
salt to taste

I love my little convection oven and use it every day, but you can sure roast in a big one as well.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  I usually use a stoneware baking dish, but any ceramic dish or even a shallow pan will do.  Rinse your asparagus and snap off and discard the hard ends.  Place the spears in the dish with a couple of spoons of coconut oil on top.  Place it in the oven and stir to coat the asparagus after about five minutes, when the oil has melted.  Toss them again in about 10 minutes, then let them cook for another 10 or so minutes after that.  Don't get too far away,  because these guys will burn.  When they are done to your preferred amount of crunchiness, take them out and away from the heat.  (I did say that they will burn, right?  And that would be a shame.)  Sprinkle the roasted asparagus with a little salt while it is still hot.  Easy as anything.
Noha and me cooking in the towncasa kitchen