Quick and Easy Chicken “Parm”

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I love using leftovers to make something delicious. I was craving chicken parmesan, but wanted a version that was both low-carb and gluten free.

We had a leftover tomato base (tomatoes, salt, garlic, and olive oil) from making pizza as well as fresh mozzarella, so he made a very simple version. He used chicken breast, topped with the tomato base and a bit of oregano, and then put fresh mozzarella slices on top.

Baked at 325 until done (took about 30 minutes).

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He served it with steamed broccoli.

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Seared Lamb Lollipops with Duck-fat Glazed Turnips

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Glazing root vegetables has turned into my absolute favorite preparation. I love how the glazing brings out the flavor, but makes the texture just melt-in-your mouth delicious.

For the final course of our dinner party, Nick paired his seared lamb lollipops (served here with cauliflower couscous and here with sous-vide glazed sunchokes) with duck-fat glazed turnips.

For the turnips, he used the recipe for glazed vegetables from the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. Combine peeled and sliced turnips with salt, sugar, and rendered duck-fat in a vacuum sealed bag. Sous-vide at 185F until tender (probably about 40 minutes). To finish, pour all contents into a sauce pan and reduce until the liquids coat the turnips in a glaze.

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A Shrinking Journey

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Or how I lost over 10% of my bodyweight in 7 weeks!

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile may have noticed a size change between my last post in April before I left for Japan and my most recent posts. The day I got back from my trip was the first weigh-in for a weight loss competition at my work. The winner will be the person who can lose the most weight by percentage (akin to the Biggest Loser).

Growing up, I was very active and athletic, and was involved in tons of sports like swimming, tennis, and soccer. Even though I was on the slightly bigger side, I kept the weight off with all of my activity despite my love of starchy foods. My weight started getting more out of control in college, but I was able to slim down my senior year.

Starting work full-time was the start of an upward spiral. A sedentary job coupled with less time to work out and lots of eating out and drinking was an extremely poor combination. I hit the “obese” category at 173 pounds for the first time, and that prompted a medically supervised weight loss program. I was able to lose just over 10 pounds, and started working out with a trainer.

Unfortunately I started getting really sick, and was ultimately diagnosed with celiac. As my intestine healed after cutting out gluten, combined with high-carb and high-calorie gluten-free substitutions, the weight piled back on, and just went kept going up and up. It led to an all-high weight of 196 pounds.

Some shots at my highest weight:

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I realized that I lost the most weight in the first few stages of the weight loss program I had done, which involved adding in new food groups every week or so (starting with protein, then vegetables, then dairy, then legumes, then grains). I’d been hearing about paleo and primal eating, so started reading books and blogs. I felt so much better cutting out most grains and legumes, upping fat, and lowering carbs. It was helping, but there was still something missing. I worked with a new doctor, who was able to diagnose a thyroid disorder. I found out that I have Hashimoto’s, and am hypothyroid, which means that I have an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism symptoms include obesity, depression, and fatigue (the latter two also make it difficult to combat the first). After some experimentation with medication, I found that armour thyroid worked best to relieve my symptoms. I also learned that “low-carb” eating tends to be the best option for hypothyroid patients.

During this time, Nick had proposed. I knew that I wanted to look fabulous on my wedding day (who doesn’t), so I went full force. Using primal, low-carb, and pretty severe calorie restriction, I was able to lose 40 pounds!

On our honeymoon:

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Unfortunately, I took it too far and too extreme. By cutting my calories so low I was feeling deprived. Then, I broke my foot a day and a half before my wedding. I was in a cast for nearly 2 full months (and in recovery for at least a month after), and then suffered a blood clot. Going from working out every day to being confined to my couch took a huge hit on my psyche. I became extremely depressed, and started reverting back to unhealthy habits. I tried a few times to restart without luck, and my weight kept going back up.

The competition at work was just what I needed. I’m extremely competitive, and a monetary incentive was an additional bonus. This time, however, I wanted to make sure it was sustainable. Primal and low-carb works, but I personally also need the addition of calorie tracking.

I track everything using MyFitnessPal, which is awesome because it syncs between my winphone, iPad, and the website.

The other key component for me is staying as active as possible. I try to weight train two to three times per week, and I use my fitbit to track my steps. I work on getting over ten thousand steps a day, and fit in runs, hikes, and backpacking trips.

Verdict: it works! The best part is, I usually have at least one meal/week where I stay within general primal guidelines, but don’t worry about calorie content. And I have tons of flexibility, so I don’t feel deprived.

I’m now at 18.4 pounds from my weight at the start of the competition, and 10.2% percentage weight loss. I’m also only 6 pounds above my wedding weight, and wearing the same clothes again!

So, what’s my ultimate goal? First, I’d like to win the competition! We have one week to go, and I’m currently in first place. Finally, I’d like to get under 20% body fat, and then maintain that weight for at least a year before any reevaluation.

Note: I’m a much bigger fan of body-fat percentage and size instead of BMI in terms of goal setting. In all of the pictures posted I’m “overweight” (current weight and wedding weight) or “obese” (starting weight and re-start weight) in terms of BMI. My ultimate goal of sub-20% body fat (which is considered to be extremely fit), would just get me under the “overweight” number.

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Source: http://strong-fitspiration.tumblr.com

Paleo Beef Stew

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I adore beef stew, but potatoes (a key ingredient) are high in carbs, and somewhat questionable in the paleo/primal world. The sunchokes were the perfect thickening and texture replacement, and added a fantastic depth of flavor.

  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef brother
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 sunchokes (chopped)
  • Tablespoon of tarragon
  • Shake of crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Splash of vinegar

First, brown the beef in the pressure cooker. Once it’s browned, pour off the fat. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, broth. Pressure cook for about 10-15 minutes. Open, add carrots, onion, and sunchokes, and pressure cook for another 10-15 minutes. Open, add a splash of vinegar, and enjoy!

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Primal Pork and Beans

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Green beans, that is!

When Nick was making dinner , he brought up an amusing point: “We eat a lot of weird vegetables! I think green beans are the most normal thing I’ve made in a long time.” There is some question in the paleo/primal community on green beans, since they’re technically legumes (Cordain is against them, Mark Sisson enjoys his side-dish green beans). For me personally, they don’t give me any digestive issues and they taste great (and they don’t have gluten!), so I see them as they’re a nice side to throw in the rotation.

We went to our Crossfit orientation last night, and I handled it pretty well (I’ve been working out 2-3 times a week with a personal trainer and we do a lot of Crossfit style workouts), but Nick was quite sore (though he did awesome!). We had a simple dinner so he could relax.

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First, he sprinkled the pork chops with a citrus spice mixture, and seared them on both sides. They were plated with a dash of mustard.

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For the green beans, he first toasted the pine nuts in a bit of olive oil. Then, he added the beans and sautéed them with the nuts, oil, and homemade raspberry red-wine vinegar.

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Sous-Vide Poached Salmon with Blood Orange Confit and Fried Brussels Sprouts

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Living in Seattle we have great seafood, and I’ve had some fabulous salmon over the years. This is probably my favorite version to date!

First, Nick brined the salmon in a sugar/salt mixture (brine ratio from Modernist Cuisine). Then, he vacuumed sealed the salmon in olive oil and sous-vided for 45 minutes at 112 degrees. The salmon was plated with fried salmon skin and topped with crème fraîche.

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For the blood orange confit, he boiled a mixture of simple syrup and white wine vinegar, and poured it over the blood orange slices. (Recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook).

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And finally, he made his tried and true Brussels sprouts fried in coconut oil. Yum!