Monday, July 14, 2014

On Being Paleo In the South {Broccoli Salad Recipe}

There's no point in mincing words: eating healthy in the South is difficult, regardless of how you define "healthy". When I moved to Georgia in 2001, I was a vegetarian and was shocked to discover that the seemingly safe-to-my-lifestyle "veggie plate" was comprised almost entirely of veggies which had been cooked with some kind of animal fat!

I find myself in a similar conundrum lately as I settle in to a Paleo lifestyle.  This time, it isn't the animal fat that bothers me, though.  Rather, it is the hidden carbs (must we bread everything?), incessant sweetening (you've heard of Sweet Tea, right?), and cheesy-creaminess of a huge majority of traditional Southern dishes.  Couple that with the inescapable family clan dynamic that still exists (it's like peer pressure, only worse), and it's starts to feel impossible to navigate the food table at the innumerable barbecues, holiday celebrations, and family reunions.

Enter my summer savoir: broccoli salad.  Broccoli salad is one of Daddy M's favorite traditional dishes.  I developed his perfect broccoli salad in time for his 30th birthday party and it has become my go-to take-along to every summer gathering we host or attend (usually I get conned into making a second batch to hide in the fridge for Daddy M to snack on during the following week because we never, ever bring home leftovers).  My challenge at Fourth of July was creating a Paleo version to match the popularity of the original.

Thankfully, this was already a no-grain, no dairy recipe.  I substituted homemade Paleo mayo for the traditional Kraft mayo in the original recipe and palm sugar to replace the refined sugar.  I served both versions (labeled) side-by-side on the Fourth and the resounding verdict was that they tasted exactly the same! Victory!

Broccoli salad is a great accompaniment to hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill or, as I discovered with some precious leftovers, chicken thighs (the ones in the photo are the amazing Honey Mustard Thighs from The Paleo Kitchen cookbook, as shared on Nom Nom Paleo).  A few forkfuls are also delightful with a boiled egg for breakfast on the fly.


  • 1 cup Paleo mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • Scant 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • 1 head of broccoli or even better, 1 bag of broccoli florets, trimmed to bite-sized pieces
  • 8 pieces of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped 
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup green onions (white and green parts), chopped - this usually works out to be two whole green onions
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces, chopped (it honestly doesn't matter if they're toasted - being in the dressing will soften them again; if you're desperate for crunchy pecans, use toasted and add just before serving)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar and sugar.  Stir in the broccoli and toss to coat. Gently stir in bacon, raisins, onions and pecans.  Yep, it's that easy.

This is best made the night before or first thing in the morning if you will be serving in the afternoon or evening to give the flavors a chance to get to know each other before you devour them.  You will want to give the whole salad a good stir again just before serving - because the palm sugar doesn't dissolve in the mayo as well as the white sugar, the dressing remains a little runny and tends to settle at the bottom.

What's your go-to summer recipe for gatherings?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: The Perfume Collector

I love to read.  You probably can't tell from any of my recent posts (I think the last time I mentioned a book was my review of Lean In last September), but its true.  This doesn't mean I haven't read anything since then.  But very few books survived the hundred page rule, especially because I've been pretty wiped out tired lately.

However, within the last month I took a sabbatical from my (two) book clubs and gave myself license to read any old thing I wanted! (Gasp!)

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro was the first thing that caught my eye at Target after announcing my sabbatical, and I gleefully breezed through it in under a week! (Although I bought it in paperback, at the time I hit publish on this review, the Kindle version of The Perfume Collector was only $1.99 on Amazon!)

Tessaro weaves the story of Grace, a London socialite in the 1950's who receives an unexpected inheritance and sets off to discover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.  Her search takes her to Paris, and vicariously to New York City in the 1920s, as she learns her benefactor, Eva's story and how it ties in with her own (albeit somewhat predictably in the end).

Throughout the novel, scent and sensory memory play a significant role.  Different cultural approaches to the role of perfume also feature without derailing the story with a heavy philosophical discussion.  For example, a Russian perfumer whose work Eve inspires scoffs at the growing Anglo-American idea of having a signature scent, preferring instead an arsenal of varied fragrances to suit different moods.

(Are you a signature-scent wearer, or do you go with your mood? I'm a signature-scent gal myself - I've worn Burberry Classic since 1999.)

This was the perfect summer read for a history- and culture-loving girly girl who wants an adventurous European vacation but won't get one anytime soon!  Tessaro's descriptions of stylish Paris and sparkling Cannes supplied plenty of daydream fodder.

Highly recommended classy chick lit!

Disclosure: this post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Paleoversery Favorites

Six months ago yesterday, on almost a whim, I started my first Whole 30.  In some ways, I can't believe it's been half a year already since I "went Paleo": I still feel like a newbie on a lot of days.  But the changes in food choices - not just the eliminations but the increase of nutrient dense foods - have admittedly worked their way into habits and I've never felt better.

So in honor of my 6 month Paleoversery, I'm sharing some of my Paleo favorites (so far):
Favorite Breakfast: Danielle Walker's Smoky Sweet Potato Hash.  This is so easy to make, so delicious, and so filling!  It also stores well and reheats in seconds.  If you don't like heat first thing in the morning, try substituting cinnamon for the chili powder and paprika for the cayenne (this is Mouse's preferred variation).
Favorite Lunch: Chicken or Tuna Salad of almost any kind, but especially my Buffalo Chicken Salad or this Sweet Potato Tuna Salad from Eating Bird Food (made with Paleo mayo in place of hummus)
(I wanted to include a favorite dinner but I've honestly loved everything I've made and can't pick.  My Paleo Pinterest boards will give you an idea of some of the wonderful dinners I've made.) 
Pot-Luck Winner: Garlic Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" by Nom Nom Paleo.  If I were still a California girl, I may never have tried this recipe.  But marrying Daddy M over a dozen years ago forced me to rethink the food I bring to gatherings.  The basic rules in the South are that if it can't be served in a 9x13 it is probably not worth having, and lots of butter and/or cheese is required.  I took this to Easter with the fam and it was a huge hit! (Trick: if you're going to double or triple the batch like I did, save yourself some time and $$ and use frozen cauliflower - 1 bag = about 1 head.)
Surprise Favorite: Michelle Tam's Stir Fried Kale with Bacon.  I mean, everything is better with bacon, so this should not have been a surprise.  But I was not a major kale fan (and neither was the family) until I tried this recipe.  Now I always have to plan on sharing! (And, yes, that's leftovers with an egg for breakfast in the photo. I sometimes wake up craving kale, if you can believe that!)
Favorite Website: There are so many great ones out there (and I'm still discovering new ones daily!) that I didn't actually start buying cookbooks until a month ago.  Going by most-used, my favorites would have to be Nom Nom Paleo and Against All Grain.
I'm always up for trying something new - what are your Paleo favorites?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fitness Friday: Working Out With RA

The last few months have been relatively fitness-less for me.  In March I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  In a nutshell, RA is an autoimmune disease in which your body thinks the connective tissue in your joints is foreign or harmful and begins attacking it.  The result is swelling and painful joints and, frequently, lots and lots of fatigue.

In educating myself about RA, I've been pleased to read so many stories of athletes keeping up with an ambitious training schedule despite their RA.  It gives me hope that, once my rheumatologist and I find a treatment combination that works for me (in conjunction with making permanent my Paleo lifestyle), I'll be back to running or P90X or another new challenge.

In the meantime, it has been frustrating to keep moving (which RA patients are told is important both to maintain mobility as well as to avoid weight gain, which further stresses the joints) while perpetually exhausted and in (sometimes excruciating) pain. Particularly as a relatively active, young person (I'll be 35 later this year), and even though you know I'm not opposed to modifyingit has been difficult to find exercise guides that don't go too easy: a lot of "exercise for arthritis" resources are geared toward the elderly.

All of this is why I'm sharing today some of the exercises I've found helpful and do-able lately and some tips and tricks that are working for me.  I'm by no means a medical doctor, so listen to your own body and talk to your doctor before you dive in.  My hope in sharing is that there will be something helpful out there for the next thirty-something (or twenty-something or forty-something) who is out searching for ways to stay fit and have fun while waiting to get their RA under control.

I mean this in both a literal and workout sense.  RA joints are better with heat.  Ideally, as an RA patient, I'd work out at about 2 p.m. when I'd been awake and moving long enough to be warm naturally, but before fatigue from the day set in.  Realistically though, 5:30 a.m. is still where its at in my world.  If I wake up especially stiff, I will run my hands in the hottest water I can stand or use warm compresses to get my joints moving.

It also helps to gently stretch before diving into a workout.  This five-minute routine from Tara Stiles is enough to get me going without cutting too much into my workout time.

Good shoes are important for anyone and everyone when it comes to exercise.  But they're critical when your feet and ankles are tender.  Be open to the idea of having more than one pair, too - not just a running shoe and a training shoe, but different sizes depending on where you are with inflammation.  I keep both 9.5 and 10 on hand.  Oh, and when you find one you love (it took me 7) buy multiples! The big brands love to change their styles every year and you don't want to have to test drive every time you need shoes.

I've also been experimenting with wrist wraps to give me a little extra support for yoga, planks and (modified) push-ups.  I've been using them for about a week now and I notice a positive difference, especially in the duration I'm able to stay on my wrists.

I'm assuming if you're reading this, you have a pretty good fitness base and, like me, you still want a good sweat and burn but you're temporarily limited by pain and inflammation.  With that in mind, here are some of my favorite workouts lately.

Jessica Smith's Low Impact HIIT - When you want to move beyond walking and get your heart rate up, this is a great cardio segment that doesn't involve any jumping at all!  While its not full-length, try doing it multiple times between weight segments as a sort of DIY circuit.

Tone It Up's Bikini Body 2 - There isn't anything magical about this workout in particular - but the reason it works for me is that, unlike a lot of strength circuits, it doesn't involve getting up and down and up and down from the floor (something my wrists, knees and ankles are pretty whiny about lately): the warm-up and first circuit (which is done twice) is done standing; and the second circuit (also done twice) is done on a flat back on the floor.  Because it is high-rep (about 15 repetitions per exercise), I can get some muscle burn going with a relatively light weight (helpful when my fingers can't close tightly enough to safely use a heavier dumbbell).

Barre3 Standing Slim DVD - This workout is my go-to when I feel like I can't possibly manage anything else.  Barre workouts in general are billed as being good for folks with joint difficulties because they are (as a group) low impact.  The problem comes in (for me) with the amount of work that takes place in plank - bearing weight on the wrists.  As the name of this workout implies, the entire routine is done standing with little or no weight-bearing on the hands.  If you're pinched for pennies (who wouldn't be if Celebrex is part of your early treatment!) and don't want to splurge on the DVD version, the original YouTube version is also good.  Just be warned that there are some wall push-ups in the beginning that put minimal pressure on the wrists and shoulders.

When you get frustrated (and if you don't, please tell me what you're doing, because I still do!), remember, it's only temporary.  Unlike so many diseases and chronic illnesses RA is controllable (yay!).  As my rheumatologist reminded me, the jogging stroller will still be there for me once we get things under control.

If you've battled RA, what tips or favorite routines would you suggest to someone just starting their journey?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June FOTM: em CC

With summer's real arrival in June, I continued my ideal foundation quest with another CC cream.  My goal over the course of the year is to find my "perfect" foundation - one that is long wearing (particularly on my oily skin) without breaking me out, not too fussy to apply and under $40.  I'm not expecting a BB or CC alone to provide the medium- to full-coverage I was seeking so I'm pairing the BB and CC creams I'm testing with Bare Minerals over top.

($23 for 1.0 fl oz)

Since I loved the em cosmetics foundation I tested in February, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon when em came out with a CC cream.  This one is billed as a 3-in-1 that will "conceal, correct and protect" as well as moisturize.  

The consistency of the em CC is liquidy like a typical BB/CC or indeed a moisturizer.  It dispenses easily (a little too easily if you've stored the tube cap-down), applies easily with fingers, and provides a very natural look.

On the first day (with Bare Minerals) I noticed some shininess around my nose and chin by 11:00 a.m.  With the addition of my favorite MAC t-zone primer underneath and Stay Matte finishing powder, the look held up.

No problems at all washing off with the day was done.

Overall grade: B.  Why a B and not an A (and why the relatively bland review)? While the em CC met all my requirements, it was really no different (at least on my skin) from the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB that has become such a drugstore darling - for less than half the price.  Don't get me wrong, em has put together a solidly good CC.  But I've become spoiled by some of the other higher-end BB/CCs I've tested and, if I'm going to spend a little more, I expect great.