Paleo-Friendly Thai Almond Chicken Soup

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not embracing the paleo diet, but I did consider it for about 24 hours.  My friend Jer is doing an 83-day paleo challenge through his Crossfit gym and was looking for moral support via strength in numbers.  I’ve always turned down invitations to try Crossfit and self-torture diets, just because I’m a slave to my sweet tooth.  However, earlier last week, Jer brought up a good point after I feebly tried to rebuttal that I couldn’t give up al dente pasta in exchange for a washboard stomach.

Jeremy: al dente is nice
but this is amazing
http://pinterest.com/pin/15551561182987787/

Ok, Jer.  You won that argument.  I read the paleo how-to packet, said I would consider the 30-day “lifestyle change”,  and did a serious assessment of my eating habits and how vastly this would change my day-to-day.  For those that aren’t familiar with paleo, the basic principle is that you give up alcohol, legumes, dairy, sugar (real and artificial), and starchy carbs (i.e., corn, wheat, rice, potatoes, etc.) – altogether purging most processed foods from one’s diet.  This would mean giving up the smidge of cream and sugar in my morning coffee, morning bowl of milk and Kashi, afternoon Fage yogurt, and worst of all – desserts.  I shared the idea with my boss (also a dessert savant), and her response literally was, “AT!  WHAT NO!  YOU CAN’T DO THIS!!  Well, I’ll have to buy you a cake to send you off from [our favorite bakery]!”  She was serious.

I ended up not going through with it mostly because I’d have to give up baking as well. I also don’t eat a lot of meat and have thus turned to legumes and dairy over the last few years as an additional source of protein to balance my workouts.  Going paleo for 3o days would mean a big Meatfest Month (#TWSS), and I just wasn’t that interested.

My cube neighbor at work also brought up a good point when he said, “Instead of doing paleo, maybe you should quit vaccuming up 4,000 calories worth of food in a single sitting like Kirby.”  Sorry for partying, Dan.  My boss ended up getting the cake after all, and we even won a dozen free cookies for guessing the baker’s favorite cookie when she made the call.  It was a very happy day.  I felt like a 12-year old girl who just saw Justin Bieber for the first time.  Office productivity pretty much stopped when the baked goods arrived.

Anyway, I swear this is all relevant.  So my near-conversion to paleo got me to reevaluate what I’m doing wrong with my diet (e.g., binge-eating, too many sweets, etc).  Feeling inspired (as well as disgusted with myself from the three slices of the aforementioned cake), I looked up healthy recipes on WholeLiving.com (one of Martha Stewart’s sites) – most of which happened to be paleo-friendly – and found one for Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Collards, and Ginger.

Ingredients!

Instead of collards, I used kale… because I didn’t read the recipe closely enough.  Whatever, kale is healthier anyway.   I also added some fresh corn and red and yellow bell peppers for some extra texture and vitamin A.

Paleo-Friendly Thai Almond Chicken Soup

The sweet potatoes were nicely soft and the almond butter mixed in added an almost coconut milk flavor to the soup.  The soup itself had a not-too-thick creamy texture.  I would absolutely make this again!  Yum!

Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

In an effort to maintain what little sveltness I have during the gorge-friendly holiday season (and also because I never met a deal I didn’t like), I signed up for a month of unlimited classes at The Bar Method.  I stupidly neglected to do any research about what the exercises were like – I just heard it was a kick ass work out and that was good enough for me.  I walked into the fully-mirrored room for my first class earlier this week, sporting some loose-fitting running shorts and a t-shirt (my usual non-basketball workout attire) and quickly noticed everyone else was wearing fitted yoga pants and tanks.  I quickly dismissed this observation, attributing it to everyone being much more girly than my tomboyish self.

However, once the instructor started barking exercises, I immediately realized why fitted pants were a necessity.  One or both of my legs were either up in the air or on a ballet bar connected to a mirrored wall almost the entirety of the most embarrassing sixty minutes of my life.  I tried to hold my shorts against my leg, but the instructor kept calling me out for not having my arms in the right place or having bad posture as a result of being paranoid about the free show I was giving my Bar Method classmates.

Yes, I was THAT girl.  I did not know any better, and am forever ashamed.

As a last ditch attempt at salvaging my evening, I decided to make a nice dinner for myself.  After a quick perusal through good ol’ Martha’s  recipes, I found instructions for Pork Chops with Apple Chutney.  I used my nifty meat thermometer (that I tried to double as a candy thermometer a few months ago) to make sure I didn’t overcook the pork.

Browned Pork Chops Before the Oven

The chutney came out a bit on the acidic side due to my heavy-handedness with the apple cider vinegar, but I evened it out by adding some table sugar to it.

Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

Thanks, Martha.  You never let me down!

Turkey and Pumpkin Chili (and a bad case of Jalapeño Hands)

The fall brings a bounty of wonderful things every year – crisp air, Halloween, awesome seasonal produce, and an extra hour of sleep à la daylight savings.  Aside from butternut squash, pumpkin is another one of those pleasures the fall season presents.  [Disclaimer: a slew of treats highlighting delicious pumpkin is looming, so stay tuned for updates!]  First and foremost, I thought I’d throw in something I made featuring pumpkin that isn’t a dessert!

I found this great recipe for Turkey and Pumpkin Chili on the Whole Foods recipe website a couple of years ago.  Any excuse to sneak healthy and delicious things (i.e., quinoa, veggies, pumpkin, etc.) into my food is always welcome, but I was really impressed with the nuttiness that the pumpkin adds to an otherwise pretty standard chili.

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Side story – I diced a jalapeño to throw in some guacamole over the summer.  I’m not sure what kind of radioactive jalapeño I brought home from the market that day, but that little green pepper set my skin ablaze.   The burning sensation started in my fingertips, spread into my cuticles, up my fingers, and all over my hands.  Any part of me that I touched felt like it caught fire.  I washed my hands a dozen times and even took a shower to try to make it stop.  It even spread into my nostrils and eyes after I washed my face, and stayed there.  My boyfriend at the time did a quick Google search for “jalapeño hands” and found out my dilemma wasn’t as uncommon as we had thought.  The intense burning lasted about 4-5 hours (all from just one jalapeño) til it finally subsided on its own, but it was unbelievably uncomfortable.

Anyway, the point of that little digression is that when I cut up the jalapeño for this chili, you can be damned sure I wore gloves.  I recommend wearing gloves to anyone who might make this yummy chili too!

Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned.
  2. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, 1 cup water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Ladle chili into bowls and enjoy!

Pear and Arugula Salad

Pears and arugula were on sale at Ralph’s, so I decided to make a pear and arugula salad.  However, I hate crumbly cheese… goat, bleu, gorgonzola, feta…  If it comes in crumbles, I hate it.  Since most pear and arugula salad recipes incorporate some form of crumbly cheese, I decided to make my own version.  I love me some shaved parm, so I used that to give the salad the salty kick.  I threw in some avocado because… well… I throw avocado on everything.  I’ll definitely include some candied walnuts the next time I make this!

Pear and Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan Cheese

With the leftover bacon from the Shrimp and Spinach Salad that I made and the aforementioned arugula salad, I made a tasty BLTA using argula instead of lettuce.  Arugula and salty things go so well together!  NOM!

BATA (Bacon Arugula Tomato Avocado) is the new BLTA

Shrimp and Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

Back to food, my favorite thing.  I found this recipe in an issue of Women’s Health and made it for dinner a couple weeks ago.

According to the article, the fat in the bacon helps you absorb the antioxidant lutein from the spinach.  I’m always hesitant to make things with bacon, as I cringe when I see the actual stripes of fat I’m ingesting.  I used reduced sodium turkey bacon when I made this, which is a lot lower in fat than regular bacon.  Hopefully, I still got a good amount of lutein absorption!

Ingredients

Click here to view the recipe online.  If you decide to make this, I highly recommend using half an onion.  The recipe calls for a full onion, but the ration of onion-to-other-stuff was just absurd when I made this and I ended up throwing most of the onion away.

Shrimp and Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing and Women's Health Recipe