Category Archives: Food

Start your morning off with a tasty peanut butter protein smoothie

I hate breakfast.

Why do I hate breakfast? I’m usually not hungry when I wake up, it’s a hassle to prepare when I’m rushing out the door to the office, and I get sick of breakfast foods very quickly – at least those breakfast foods that I should be eating within the guidelines of the Paleo lifestyle  I’ve adopted over the past couple of years.

When I first “went Paleo” back in 2011 I was *very* strict with my food intake. And that meant no smoothies, which had been a go-to breakfast for me in the past. However, over almost two years of tinkering and eliminating foods and then adding them back in, I’ve discovered that while I do feel better when I don’t drink milk or consume copious amounts of cheese, that I CAN handle whey protein and greek yogurt VERY well, and in fact enjoy better satiety, weight control, and overall well-being  when I combine them as part of a tasty breakfast smoothie.

Smoothies get a bit of a bad reputation in the Paleo community because we’re supposed to eat organic, whole (real) foods and avoid dairy. They also get a bad rap in general because of the high calorie and sugar content in the commercially available smoothies. But thanks to a powdered peanut butter product called PB2 that I found while browsing the health food section of my local grocery store, I have developed a high protein, low calorie breakfast smoothie that will keep you full for hours, and provide almost half the daily requirement of protein for an average-sized, athletic female (assumes a weight of ~ 130-150 pounds).

Here’s the recipe, complete with calories and macronutrients:

pb2smoothie

For 328 calories, this smoothie packs 52 (!!!) grams of protein and only 12 grams of sugar. A much better nutritional profile than your typically soy and fruit-based smoothies from a certain juice chain.

This recipe makes a pint-glass sized portion, of medium thickness. I’ve been enjoying one of these almost every morning for the last month, and notice a significant boost in energy and satiety on the days I start my mornings with a large amount of protein.

Question: what’s your favorite go-to breakfast? Do you have a healthy smoothie recipe you’d like to share?

Gluten-free, high protein pizza crust

Before I dive into the recipe, a bit of background on why I would make something as weird as a chicken crust pizza may be in order. 🙂

In September 2011, I read a book called “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. I was overweight and out-of-shape despite being a cardio junkie and years of following a low-fat “whole healthy grains” approach to eating. Looking around at my fellow Americans, I knew I couldn’t be the only one who had been failed by conventional diet wisdom.

As I read the book, it immediately made sense to me. on a very basic level. The way of eating recommended in the book was almost exactly how I remember my grandmother eating: meat with fat on it, real butter, whole milk, lots of vegetables, nuts, and fruit. No margarine, soy-this-or-that, nonfat milk, nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt, or anything like that. Just reasonable portions of real foods, combined with an active lifestyle that at her age meant lots of walking. She did eat grains, but not large servings and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t GMO wheat brought to you by Monsanto back in the day.

Overall, the transition to “Paleo”, or as I prefer to call it “Grandma style” eating has been very easy. I don’t miss pasta at all, bread only occasionally. I never was a big fan of dairy and still do allow a serving of greek yogurt every day because it has a lot of health benefits. I never drank soda of any kind, and my sweets cravings are satisfied with a piece of dark chocolate every day. My diet now revolves around vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, and a small amount of full fat dairy. By eating this way I’ve been able to lose fat, add a lot of lean muscle, and generally just feel better with plenty of energy throughout the day. I have fewer headaches and skin problems eating this way, also.

I do have my moments when I crave my “old” foods, however, and that craving is probably strongest for wood-oven pizza. I *love* a super thin pizza topped with mozzarella and fresh basil, or perhaps some amazing soppressata. I have indulged a few times in the past several months and I’m always sorry the day after. Not only do I have a headache from the gluten, but my belly looks bloated and it takes a few days to work through that. Not a good feeling!

Imagine my joy when I came across this recipe for a wheat-free pizza crust made with, of all things, chicken and cheese! It sounded as odd to me as it probably does to you, but I’ll try anything once! I headed out the store and picked up some part-skim mozzarella, a can of chicken breast, and some fresh basil.

I will respect the wishes of the blogger and not post the recipe here, but you can get the recipe and step-by-step instructions, here. It really is easy, and takes just a handful of ingredients, so it’s totally doable for a weeknight meal.

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The crust after it finished baking. Mine took about 20 minutes instead of the 12 listed in the recipe.

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The finished product. Pizza Margherita, protein style. 🙂

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Two slices of this pie gives you about 400 calories and 49 grams of protein!

The verdict? While the crust didn’t have that crackly quality of a very thin-crusted wheat crust baked in a wood oven, it was WAY better than a lot of pizza crusts I’ve tried. It was fairly crisp, and held up well to eating with the hands. I could still taste the chicken a little bit, but that wasn’t a bad thing, and I think the chicken flavor could be pretty much masked by a spicy meat like
pepperoni or soppressata. But since my toppings were cheese and basil, the chicken was definitely a complimentary flavor.

I’ll definitely make this again, and will keep tweaking the flavors to see what I like best!

If you try the pizza, leave a note in the comments and let me know what you thought!

(Egg) Salad Days

As a young child in the 1970’s, I divided the world neatly into two distinct camps: people who ate Best Foods mayonnaise, and people who ate Miracle Whip. Our family was firmly in the Best Foods camp, and so were most of my closer relatives and friends. Best Foods mayo was what you added to your canned tuna, to your hamburger bun, and certainly the only acceptable addition to your egg salad.

One day, I was at a new babysitter’s house and I was super excited to see that she was serving egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Yes! I LOVED egg salad! The new babysitter RULES!

Soon, my sandwich was placed before my eager 6-year-old self on a paper plate. There may or may not have been some potato chips, but I didn’t care. I was in it for the sandwich. I took a HUGE bite and immediately recoiled in horror. What the hell???

Miracle Whip.

I was a mayonnaise kid in a Miracle Whip household. It was years before I could eat an egg salad sandwich if it wasn’t prepared by my mom.

Tonight as I was driving home from work I started to crave an egg salad sandwich. So, I stopped at Whole Foods, picked up some eggs, and got to work. Tomorrow, I’ll have an egg salad sandwich for lunch (on lavash instead of squishy white bread, mind you) and probably one for dinner too (the recipe makes a LOT). Here’s what ended up going in the bowlr:

Cheryle’s Egg Salad

6 large hard boiled eggs
1 C celery, finely chopped
1/4 C red onion, minced

2 T light mayonnaise
1 T dijon mustard
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 t dill pickle juice
cracked black pepper (to taste)

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl to combine. Add in next five ingredients and toss to coat.

I would say this makes 3 moderate servings, at about 175 calories per serving.
If you’re an egg salad fiend like me,  more like  2 servings at 260 calories.

Egg Salad Recipe
The finished product.

Mmmm … I can hardly wait for lunch tomorrow!

How to make flourless chocolate walnut cookies

At my office, everyone on our team takes responsibility for bringing treats for another team member’s birthday. Although store-bought treats are certainly welcomed and eagerly consumed, I always like to take the opportunity to bring something that I’ve baked from scratch whenever I can.

I haven’t been baking much lately – partly because I’ve found that eating a lot of gluten tends to trigger headaches, and also because I’ve had a fair amount of success losing weight and feeling better following the Paleo diet. However, a girl does like to splurge (smartly) once in awhile and what better excuse than a birthday? And what better way to celebrate a birthday than with a rich, dense, chocolate dessert?

I have tasted flourless chocolate cake and cookies before, and was always amazed by how delicious they were. I had to try this out myself, and looked at a few different recipes before settling upon this one published in the New York Times as my inspiration.

François Payard’s Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

 2 3/4 cups walnut halves
3 cups confectioners’ sugar  (Subbed 1-3/4 C Sucanat, and 1/4 C agave nectar)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature (start with 2, and add more to get desired consistency in batter)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. (1) Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them. Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. (2) In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen).

Before baking.

 (3) Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes (note: mine took 20), until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The original recipe called for 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use that much refined sweetener in anything. So, with some trepidation, I substitued sucanat and agave nectar and cut the sweetener down to 2 cups. I also cut the egg whites to 2 and increased the baking time to 20 minutes, although your oven may vary so it’s a good idea to start with 14 and check every 2 minutes. You may want to open the oven about halfway through baking and press down with a spatula if they don’t spread out on their own (mine didn’t).

After baking.

The finished product is like a very dense, very chewy brownie. As someone who generally avoids sugar, they are almost too sweet for me, so next time I think I will try increasing the cocoa powder and reducing the sucanat, and perhaps adding a shot or two of espresso to add a little more non-sweet flavor. But overall, I give these cookies an A- and with minor tweaking, these would be an excellent treat on par with any you would find in a nice bakery.

Waldorf – The Perfect Summer’s End Salad

Last weekend, I was having lunch with my sweet 83-year-old mother, and she mentioned that she had recently made a great Waldorf Salad. I’ve never made one – they seemed kind of boring, a throwback from the 1970’s (maybe earlier, but I wouldn’t know). But as the week wore on and the office Labor Day potluck drew near, I knew I had to try my hand at making this classic picnic staple. 

Waldorf Salad (with a twist) – Serves 8-10
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon agave nectar (you can also use honey)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4-5 small apples (or 3 larger ones) — cored, and chopped
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, agave nectar, lemon juice, and salt.Toast the walnuts over medium-low heat on the stovetop (about 10 min) Stir in the apples, celery, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Chill until ready to serve.

Waldorf Salad

The traditional recipe calls for white sugar (not a fan) and raisins (not a fan) so I subbed in ingredients that were similar, that I like better. The combination of the sweet cranberries, crunchy apples, and nuts seems particularly satisfying on a warm, late Summer day.

What’s your favorite potluck salad?

Make this Summer Corn Salad. Now.

I’m on my own for dinner tonight, and my leftover hamburger patty was less than inspiring. I needed a side dish that could jazz up a boring protein, and this Summer Corn Salad from 101 Cookbooks definitely fits the bill.

Summer Corn Salad Recipe

 
 I love this salad because it has only a few ingredients, and is super easy to make. It would pair equally well with any kind of protein, I think. Since it’s just me tonight, I cut the recipe in half and it’s still plenty. Deviations from the original recipe are in italics.

Summer Corn Salad

6 ears of corn
1 large shallot, minced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons succanat
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup toasted pepitas
3/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Fresh or dried oregano

Shuck the corn and use a knife to cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels in a medium bowl with the shallot while you make the dressing.

Combine the lemon juice, salt, and sugar in a small bowl or jar. Gradually add the oil, whisking vigorously until the dressing comes together. Taste, and adjust with more lemon juice, salt or sugar, if needed. This dressing should be on the sweet side, not overly tangy.

Just before serving, add the seeds to the bowl of corn along with the dressing. Toss well. Top with dried oregano or use fresh out of your own herb planter, as I did. I rolled the little oregano leaves up together and then cut them into thin strips to use as the garnish.

By the way, if you haven’t bookmarked 101 Cookbooks yet, you might want to – it’s a great go-to site for fool-proof recipes that taste complex, yet are usually incredibly simple to make.