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So this is Paleo

November 5, 2012

John and I took a new food challenge the past few months: we decided to follow the Paleo diet for September and October. What is Paleo? Commonly referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet, eating Paleo consists of meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, refined sugar, and processed oils. Read more about the Paleo diet here. Paleo eaters differ in their opinion of dairy products, but John and I decided that we would include dairy in limited amounts. We undertook this challenge, not necessarily as a permanent change, but as a way to give our bodies a break from sugar and grains, especially wheat. Since we already eat a diet relatively free of processed foods, we felt that this was a challenge we could reasonably undertake. We were pleasantly surprised to find the number of delicious recipes we could make, or adapt, to fit our needs. So what does eating Paleo look like?

This was one of our favorite dishes. Crock pot pulled pork over sweet potato fries, topped with a heaping portion of  homemade coleslaw. In this picture we ate them nacho style, but the day before we actually made this as pulled pork sliders with the fries as an alternative to buns, a la this recipe.

Orchard Turkey Burgers is absolutely one of my favorite recipes as of late, even before this challenge. Why? Try them!! Shredded apple cooked into turkey burger patties, topped with melted Brie and carmelized onions, all over a bed of lettuce with homemade balsamic vinaigrette–YUM!

Sorry for the bad photo quality on this one. Acorn squash stuffed with sloppy joe filling, served with a side of sauteed Brussells sprouts. This dish was sooo delicious and filling, and eating it felt like the epitome of fall comfort food.

We have eaten lots of vegetable-based soups. This one is a potato kale soup, recipe from the cookbook “Simply in Season” (which is a fantastic cookbook, by the way).  This soup is also delicious with sausage added, although this version is vegetarian.

Kale salad. Yes, we eat a lot of kale. And you should too! Healthiest vegetable out there, don’tcha know. I had already scarfed half of this before I remembered to take a picture. Tip: When using kale in a salad, you have to “massage” it for a few minutes to transform it from bitter and tough to flavorful and silky. You”ll notice a visible change when the kale is ready to eat: it will become darker and shrink in size. We topped our salad with sunflower seeds, almonds, craisins, golden raisins, and cucumber, plus a homemade dressing of some sort.

Though eating Paleo means limiting sugar intake, and eliminating processed sugars altogether, that didn’t mean we completely went without desserts. I found an awesome recipe for pumpkin cake made with coconut flour and honey, and let me say, it was DELISH! I honestly couldn’t tell the difference, and John even said it was the best pumpkin cake, or pumpkin bars, he’s ever had. I used this recipe. Tip: Do not be alarmed by the seemingly small amount of coconut flour the recipe calls for–coconut flour loves liquid, so you don’t have to use as much of this flour as you would with a regular wheat flour.

We also made a fantastic Sweet Potato Ice Cream recipe using coconut milk. If you haven’t had coconut milk ice cream, I highly recommend it. As opposed to other dairy alternatives, it is rich and creamy, and does not taste strongly of coconut. Please note, this recipe doesn’t call for any type of sweetener, but we added honey for extra sweetness.

We certainly do not consider ourselves to be role models of the Paleo diet, and we did have a few cheats now and then, but on the whole we stuck to this diet for about two months. And I can honestly say, it felt good to have a break from grains and sugars. We both noticed feeling healthier overall, and actually both unintentionally lost a few pounds. Since then, we have splurged a few times, but have tried to incorporate some of the Paleo ideas into our regular diet. Learning to make “healthy” desserts especially resonated with me, and I have tried some other fun ones, like avocado chocolate pudding, sweet potato brownies, and banana ice cream. My favorite Paleo blog, PaleOMG, has a LOT of fantastic recipes, especially in the dessert category, if you are interested in learning more!

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