Saturday, March 30, 2013

21-Day Sugar Detox Wrap Up

Hey All-
You may remember from a few posts back that I have been doing a 21-Day Sugar Detox.  You can read that post through this link.  Well, I finished that this week and am so stoked on it that I am going for another round starting April 1st!

The eating style is basically a version of low-carb, strict Paleo and it's working for my body really well. I did have one slip and drank half of a Vodka and club soda one night but I was kind of bored by it and never finished the drink.  I also spilled a bunch of it on my pants while playing Christmas Music on the bar's jukebox.  It was a strange day.  Regarding the "slip", I didn't beat myself up about it which I may  have been inclined to do in the past.  I've learned that there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection, but that we must move on when a mistake is made.  I still felt great the next day and picked up where I left off.

After the 21 days were up, I continued eating detox style for a few days.  Then, I decided that I wanted to do what I guess we can call, "The Skittle Experiment".  Or we could call it, "Juni Convinces Herself to Ease up a bit, for Christ's Sake".  I wanted Skittles and I wanted them now.  So I bought a pack and ate them.
Then I waited.
Were they good?  Hell yeah, they were good.
Did they taste like synthetic yuckiness and upset my zen like state of body/mind connection?  Nope, they just tasted awesome.
As I suspected, however, about 40 minutes later I got really tired.  Hello, Insulin Surge! It wasn't too bad and I recovered with a cup of coffee.
That evening, Tommy and I went to the movies and I had some popcorn and a Diet Coke (oh the horror!).  I enjoyed both very much and didn't feel compelled to overeat.

I woke up the next day feeling fine but with a slight ramp up in my hunger.  I've heard that bringing back in carbs can increase appetite and I certainly experienced that.  I allowed myself to eat a bit more food but only Sugar Detox stuff and the hunger levels have returned to where they were.

This Sunday is Easter and my friend's mom is making a ham with pineapple so I am not going to stress about eating a little bit of fruit infused pork but I am going to avoid anything else that may have gluten, dairy or legumes.  I think I will be more than happy with ham and veggies.  I will start up the detox again on April 1st and would like to go the full 21 days with no slips.
Here are the major lessons I've learned:
1.  I think my body does best with a Low Carb Paleo approach.  Fruit should be an occasional treat and veggies should make up the majority of my carb intake.  This approach really balances my appetite in a way that I like.

2.  Sleep has a major effect on my craving levels.  With adequate sleep, cravings are quite easy to overcome.

3.  Sometimes I think I want to eat something but I really don't.  However, it is good for ME to cut loose sometimes.  The post detox indulgences were not as good as I anticipated they would be.  I mean, I enjoyed them but it wasn't like angels singing from the heavens or anything.  The best part was just easing up a little bit.  For whatever reason, giving myself a pass was more satisfying than the indulgence itself.

4.  There is a feeling I now recognize as being "in good health".  I got this around the end of my first Whole30 and I felt it during this detox too but didn't manage to stay in it.  The feeling is light, clear, effortlessly joyful and very clean.   Like a shining, golden light around me.  Kind of hard to describe but now that I recognize it, I can seek it out more easily and hopefully stay there longer.  It is my intuitive belief that staying in this zone will bring dramatic improvements to my health in ways I cannot even imagine.

5.  Eating a ton of vegetables is like ingesting Super Powers.  The more veggies I eat, without creating a feeling of being "full", the better I feel.  It really has a noticeable  effect on my energy!

6.  I should avoid gluten and dairy at all costs.  I really just have to look at those two things as Non-Foods cuz my body just hates them.

Improvements I saw:
1.  Skin looks more clear and bright.  Keratosis Pilaris on upper arms noticeably smoother.
2.  Body Composition improved.  I know I lost weight but I decided to go with a "no numbers approach".  I just get a little too obsessive when I do.  I measured my waist a few times and saw inches drop.  I can just tell though and Tommy says he really sees a difference which is good enough for me.  I  have a pair of jeans I really want to get back into so they are my marker.  I'm not there yet, and it's going to take some time, but I have no doubt I'll get there.
3.  Energy more even and clean.  NO ups and downs, just steady good energy.
4.  Feel in control of my food intake and I crave good foods.
5.  My creativity is up!  I want to write, to sing, to tell jokes and laugh.  It's amazing how much this is affected.
6. Slight depression lifted.  I don't know why I was a little down but I was.  I'm sure it was nutritionally and stress related.

Like I said, I feel like this way of eating is really easy for me and I'd like to continue to see the benefits.  I don't know how many times I'll do this in the form of a 21-day detox but I just want to continue to strive to not slip up for the 3 week period as a way of really solidifying these healthy habits.   This cycle, I hope to incorporate more exercise as I do feel fat-adapted now and have the energy.
My goals this round include:
-Continued fat loss
-Staying in the "good health" zone
-more complexion improvement.  Hoping some of the small broken capillaries on my cheeks magically disappear
-Continuing to get rid of carb cravings

If you aren't a nutrition nerd, sorry if this post was boring.  If you are a NN, I hope you try this Detox!  It was probably one of the best experiments I've ever done!
Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cilantro and Coconut Vinaigrette - Quite possibly the only vinaigrette recipe you'll ever need.

So between not working at the moment and living in the slow pace of island life we have been doing quite a bit of home cooking. A couple weeks ago I came up with this tasty vinaigrette recipe. As much as the chef in me loves making complex vinaigrettes with complex flavors I also really enjoy a nice simple one that still packs a flavor punch! This is a simple 6 ingredient recipe that is easy to make and boasts plenty of tropical flavor.

Cilantro and Coconut Vinaigrette


1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar (or vinegar of your choice---apple cider vinegar works well too!)
1 heaping tablespoon of chopped cilantro
3 large diced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of finely diced sweet onion
1/2 cup of pure, unrefined, cold pressed coconut oil  (it melts where we live on it's own but if it's solid where you are, melt and allow to cool without solidifying before adding)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Simply combine all of these ingredients in a jar and shake well to 
Puerto Rican Salsa Music!
Store in fridge and remove 10 minutes before using to let the coconut oil loosen up. 
A quick zap and shake from the microwave will work too.

This recipe has been "Juni Approved" as sugar detox and Paleo friendly.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Bite Me

No, actually, please don't.
I'm talking to you, Mosquitoes!

You've probably gathered from any of my previous posts that I really like it here.  That everything is GREAT!  That's it's beautiful and I have all this time to feel rejuvenated and cook healthy food and blah blah blahbidy blah.  Yeah, you know, all the stuff that you are sitting at your computer reading about while secretly wanting to shoot me in my stupid, smiling mouth.

Well, I'm gonna throw you a bone here so you can stop hating me for just a second.

Apparently, about 10% of the human population is very attractive to mosquitoes...
Guess who's reeeeealllll special?

Yep, I'm a 10 percenter and I freaking hate it.

All whining aside, it hasn't been as bad here as it's been for me in the past.  When I was living in West Africa in 1997, I once counted over 70 bites on the back of my thigh.  I literally cried myself to sleep a few nights because the itching was so bad.  When I used to visit my family up in Washington State, I remember getting welts the size of the palm of my hand.  Puerto Rico has been tame in comparison but I never understood why I seemed to be more attractive than others to these annoying critters and had such a strong allergic reaction to their bites.

"You're just sweeter" says Tommy (my fiance) which is cute and all but infuriating at the same time.  He's got some kind of natural immunity to mosquitoes.  On the rare occasion that he does get bit, it MIGHT itch for an hour or something and then it just goes away. That lucky jerk.

Since we live in an age of technology, I decided to take to the interweb and get down to the bottom of this.  Here is what I found:

Their Main Food Source is NOT Blood
Wait. What?
Yeah, it's true. I guess male and female mosquitoes mostly eat nectars and other sugar sources for their own nourishment.  It's the female mosquitoes that need a "blood meal" in order to lay eggs.  Once she's had enough blood, she'll rest a few days and then lay eggs.

Stagnant Water is the Enemy
Most people know this but I'll repeat it just in case you forgot---mosquitoes have to lay eggs in a water source.  This means that the kiddy pool in your backyard may be your own personal mosquito breeding farm.  I'm not coming to  your house for wine night anymore....

Once the eggs are laid, it takes anywhere from 5-14 days for them to develop (egg, larvae, pupae) into an "adult mosquito" and it's typically within a few days after emerging from the pupal state that they will usually mate.

And you thought your 13-year old was growing up too fast!
Are these mosquitoes listening to too much Ke$ha while in the larval stage or something?!
Please, please no.  
Mosquitoes are kind of Freaky
When they do mate, the males create a swarm and the female flies directly into the swarm.  How does that work?  Does she have multiple partners?  How can she even see which male is the most worthy if they are all swarming around?  What is considered impressive and "mate worthy"?  Are you starting to feel as uncomfortable as I am about how much I am thinking about the sex life of mosquitoes?

I can only guess it's somewhat similar to what it would feel like to be Megan Fox walking into a dark nightclub full of 17 year old dudes.  
Oh boy(s).

They Don't Inject You With Poison
When a females bites a mammal to drink their blood, she injects a little of her saliva into the blood stream so it is easier for her to drink.  When she flies away, some of that saliva remains and your body creates a reaction to it (histamine is released) and the welt that ensues is determined by your immune response.  So basically, my immune system likes to get a bit carried away.  

So Why do they Like Me and Not Tommy?
Mosquitoes are attracted to potential blood meals, (aka YOU, Me and other mammals) by sight and smell.  
Sight wise, they like bright colors or black and are attracted to light.
So I'll stop wearing neon and a flashlight around my neck.  Simple.

The smell part is a bit more tricky. Personal chemistry plays a huge part here--scientists say that genetics make up 85% of why a mosquito may be attracted to you.  
They are attracted to carbon dioxide which is emitted when you exhale or more so when you exert yourself. So try not to jump around, run away or do that "twerking" dance thing that is getting a lot of attention right now.  No, I am not secretly practicing how to twerk when I am home alone.

That would be ridiculous...ummm, yeah.

But I back to SMELL!  They are also attracted to lactic acid and cholesterol on skin.  Lactic acid is emitted from  your muscles when you exercise.  The amount of cholesterol on your skin isn't tied to the cholesterol level that may come up on a test from the Dr's office, but is a result of being efficient at processing it and leaves byproducts on the surface of the skin.  I do have great cholesterol levels, so maybe that plays a part for me.  I also like to work out but haven't always so I don't know about that part in terms of my apparently irresistible scent.

Stress plays a role too.  People with high stress levels emit a smell that makes them unfavorable to the mosquito.  So here's another reason you can hate on my current stage of by-choice unemployment. Each day I relax, I'm more attractive to mosquitoes because I emit less of a "stressy smell".  

From what I've read, Scientists were able to pinpoint about 7 different chemical smells that made people either more or less attractive to the bug.  I could only find interesting info about the ones I mentioned above though.  

So What Am I Going to Do About Smelling Delicious?
After the 70 bites on the back of my thigh incident, I made a pact with the DEET devil that it could deform me or my future child in some way so long as I had protection from ever feeling that way again.    I still feel guilty about that.  For the rest of the year I spent in Ghana, I sprayed that terrible stuff on EVERYTHING.  I really hope it doesn't come back to haunt me. 

Nowadays, I like to go a more organic route.  I've been exploring things like foods one can eat to repel them.  Apparently garlic is good.  I eat a lot of garlic.  Garlic can also be good for repelling potential new friends, existing friends and fiances though.  Hmmm...

The most hopeful thing I found in my research was that the essential oil of Lemon Eucalyptus has proven to be just as effective if not MORESO than low levels of DEET.  That's impressive.  I found a cool little store in Old San Juan that sells a handmade blend of this oil among other oils that are supposed to repel insects and soothe existing bites.  Tried it out for the first time last night and it worked  good on my ankles but I didn't spray my knees and did still get bites there.  My guess is that it may need to be reapplied often too.  The smell is very similar to a Citronella candle, which I don't mind, but can be a bit much for others.  I'm going to experiment with it more as I'd really like to never use DEET again, if possible.
(UPDATE: I've found a number of natural products that DO work.  However, you must be absolutely religious about re-application and if you are planning on spending a significant time at an outside event or camping, you just have to use the chemical stuff).

I've heard from a number of sources who say that with time you develop a tolerance or an immunity to the bites.  I mean, how else would people who live in tropical climates their whole life be able to deal?  Have you ever seen someone who was born in Puerto Rico, Thailand or Mexico whining about bites?  I haven't.  I pray this will be the case for me and that within several months (boo hoo) that I will have developed my tolerance.  
(UPDATE: I just hit my TWO year anniversary living in the Carribean and sadly, I STILL get bitten on an almost daily basis.  My body seems to react a little better, just barely.  The good news is that I have found the on!)

I've been using After Bite on my existing bites (basically Amonia, which I find a bit alarming) as well as some Hydrocortisone gel.  They both provide temporary relief but I have to reapply often and probably do so way more than I am supposed to.  
(2 YEARS IN REACTION-Hydrocotisone is worthless.  After Bite is okay, but also pretty much worthless.  The long and short of it, after much time spent trying to find a non-chemical solution to dealing with the itch is that HEAT IS THE ANSWER.   Here is what to do:
Take a hairdryer and aim it on the bite leaving about 2-3 inches between the surface of your skin and the dryer.  The more quickly you do this after you receive the bite, the better.  
Turn the hairdryer on and heat the skin until you start to feel uncomfortable.
Turn the hairdryer off before you burn the skin!
After a few seconds, I usually have 100% itch relief for around 4-5 hours.  For me this is an absolute miracle.  I've recommended this method to others with the same issues and for some it works, for others it hasn't which is why I am including the other natural methods I tried. ) 

Apparently making an at home paste can work ---mixing water with baking soda helps to alkalize the bite and relieve itching.  Toothpaste has been recommended on a few sites too.

These are some of the more weird treatments that apparently work:
-Apply stick anti-persperant to the bite.  Something in the active ingredient negates the itch. (Update-tried this too and I think it worked but not as well as the hot washcloth)
-Rub a wet bar of soap on the bite.  I don't know why this works but I'm guessing it removes some of the saliva and/or maybe helps alkalize things.
-Paint the bite with clear nail polish.  Can't find the explanation for this one.  
-Rub the inside of a banana peel on the bite.  Also, no explanation.
-Apply the thin skin inside of a cracked egg to the bite and allow to dry.  When dry, peel off and it is supposed to draw things out.
-Rub your own saliva on the bite.  I just did this, and oddly enough, it worked!  Not sure how long it will last though...(Update-about 5 mins. Boo)

So there you have it, my hopefully informative Mosquito Rant.  As the above cartoon dictates, Mosquito, you are Nature's Jerk.  In the nobel words of ex-CIA Agent Bryan Mills from the Taken series, "I don't know where you are but I will look for you.   I will find you and I will kill you."

Consider yourself warned.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sugar and Spice---One is not so me

Let me start by saying that I've always been a self-proclaimed "Cookie Monster".  My dreams as a child  of becoming a baker were superseded by my nightmare that I'd devour all the inventory.   Not a good business model...My fantasy come true would have been to win a Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. My sole prerogative early in life was to get candy, lots of it.
I'm not gonna lie, looking at this picture STILL gives me a rush...
Having been the only kid in the family blessed with slow metabolism and an eventual Thyroid disorder,  you can probably put 2+2 together and realize that weight was a bit of an issue for me.  I wasn't huge, but when my brothers wanted to throw the ultimate insult at me, they knew to stick the phrase "chub rock" somewhere in the mix.  I remember always being hungry for so many things, food, love, praise, adventure...

I knew from a young age that Skinny Jeans were not going to be a part of my future.  Even though I still look at them on the rack, especially the cute ones with little pink heart patterns, I know better...Regardless, I was always well-liked and generally at ease socially growing up despite a little more junk in my trunk.  More of a Creative Type than a Jock Chick, I excelled in things like Performing Arts but always wished I could be healthier and more fit.  I thinned out a bit in high school but then I think Krispy Kreme came to the West Coast or something like that because my weight started to climb again.  After leaving for college, the dorm life got me to my highest weight ever.  Strangely enough, it was also around that time I discovered a major fascination with nutrition and begun studying it on my own time with quite a bit of voracity.   I cannot tell you how many books I've read and eating styles I've tried--you would think I'm crazy (like all my close friends do).  It just seemed so clear to me that food is the foundation of health but that the psyche is the roadblock, or it was to me and I wanted to break through.  I studied and experimented with quite a large amount of discipline yet still struggled with weight to various degrees and could never really quell that HUNGER.  My journey to Optimum Health always seemed to get a flat tire around Almost Thereville.

A little over a year ago, I turned my ever searching mind's eye to this somewhat new concept I hadn't heard of: Paleolithic Eating.  Otherwise known to the greater community as "Paleo" and very popular among Crossfit Gym goers.  The basic concept is this:

The Human diet should be comprised of foods that we have been eating since Caveman times (Animal proteins/Fats/Organs,Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds).  The foods that humans have created with the help of the Agricultural Revolution although cheap, have brought a tremendous amount of health issues into our world.  Obesity, Diabetes, Autoimmune Disease (like Hashimoto's, Fibromialgia, RA, and MANY more) have all been shown to have a direct link to our bodies inability to properly/optimally digest foods like grain (yes, even WHOLE grain), legumes,  dairy and we are basically overfed where carbohydrates are concerned.  We are really out of whack nutritionally.

What's even worse, is that for whatever sick reason, these foods have addictive qualities and unfortunately it can be the food that you are least tolerant of that you may not feel the ability to stop eating.  Like that moment when you realize that while watching It's Always Sunny you just ate an entire sleeve of Fig Newtons. Mind you, when I say least tolerant of that doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an allergic reaction to it like a child allergic to peanuts (legume!) who's throat swells up when exposed.  It could be something as commonly accepted (or lauded by teenage boys) like flatulence (FARTY Fart Farts), fatigue, foggy headedness, constipation and more.  The fact that we can sit down to a meal with family and friends and all feel like falling asleep or sit around clutching our aching bellies and laugh as your brother Jimbo toots the Ole' Butt Trumpet is symbolic of how far gone we are.  Isn't food supposed to GIVE us energy as opposed to taking it away?  Didn't Pac Man get a power boost when he ate the virtual Cherries?  We eat food to propel life.  How have we forgotten that so easily and accepted an opposite reality with so little alarm?

As basic as it sounds, it took real work on  my part to even know/remember what true hunger felt like. Does that sound crazy to you?  News Flash: it's not when you're sitting on your ass in front of the tv and decide some gummy worms are the best. idea. ever. but would refuse a plate of carrot sticks.  Think about it.

So, as you can probably tell, this Paleo concept resonated with me.  The deeper theory goes into how, with proper diet, our body finds hormonal balance.  Hormones are what control aging, mood and HUNGER.  Could I finally kill the Cookie Monster inside me?  I'd also been struggling a bit with my thyroid medication and felt I could use some nutritional fine tuning.  From what I read, Gluten (found in just about all mainstream bread, pasta and pastries) was likely the CAUSE of the Autoimmune disease I had.   Eek!  I'd been eating TONS of gluten every day for over 30  years.  Oops.

I've been exploring Paleo Eating for over a year now and I've had my ups and downs.  I felt good eating that way but at points I really thought I should feel BETTER for the amount of effort it seemed I was putting in (you have to cook a lot since most prepared foods contain all the things you are trying to avoid).  The social element was a bit tough too.  It gets a bit tiresome being "the picky one".  It can be costly.  I didn't magically turn into this chick:

Clearly, something was wrong....

Mind you, I was still on a carb/blood sugar roller coaster and eating full bags of Trader Joe's dried, unsweetened Mango in one sitting.  Cookie Monster did not want to go easily even if that meant hiding out in a Paleo Cave somewhere within me. 
When we decided to move to Puerto Rico last October, I kind of just threw it all out the window.  So  busy with work and preparing for the huge change, I just started eating whatever the hell I wanted to.  I mostly wanted to eat Rice Krispie Treats and Taquitos.  We also did what was basically a five week road trip driving cross country from CA to the East Coast (you can read about that in this previous post) and really didn't get to prepare any of our own food so I ate what I was given and didn't hesitate to partake in the goodies that were around me.  I was also a bit of a Champagne Wino and Hot Toddy fein, but that's another  story for another time. Or not. 

As painful as it was, and I'm pretty sure I had a 5 week stomach ache, I did see that I hadn't given Paleo a real shot.  My previous diet wasn't balanced even though I was eating healthy foods.  And even unbalanced, I felt waaaaaaaay better than I did eating all the crap I thought I wanted/missed.  Yes, that cinnamon bun tasted like sexy heaven in a g-string for those first few bites but was it worth the lethargy, brain fog and stomach ache that followed?  Was it worth the feeling I had when I got dressed in the morning, the sense of frumpiness I couldn't shake and increasingly tight pants?  The answer became quite clear to me and I knew what I had to do.

Cut to the 21-Day Sugar Detox Program created by Diane Sanfilippo.  Am I just getting to this now?  Jeez.  Thanks for still reading, if you are!

By doing Level 3 of her detox program, I decided to embark on a real/whole foods journey back to Paleo.  It's a 21-day program but I'm kind of trying to adopt this as a general way of eating since it is essentially a strict somewhat Low-Carb Paleo format---meats, fish, fats, organ meat if I can stomach it, vegetables, nuts, seeds and only particular fruits.   I think this is a good approach for me to remove the excess weight I put on in the last 6 months, get my blood sugar/carb cravings under control and really give this lifestyle a chance to show me the benefits of eating in a way that best balance out my particular health concerns.  I'm not going to go into a ton of detail here about the specifics of the program to be fair to the fact that she sells this on her website (and she's just a young woman trying to make a living helping people through nutrition so I don't want to screw her over).  I will say that I'm really enjoying the Detox so far and can feel a HUGE difference already.  

Here is a link to page where you can download the guide for yourself:

Considering that sugar is snuck into almost EVERYTHING, I'd bet most people would benefit from this type of experience.  Your health is YOUR health though, so you can do whatever you want. 
Here is a snippet of what Diane has on the 21-day Sugar Detox homepage.  Ask yourself these questions:

Do you experience…

  • Sugar cravings or carb cravings?
  • Energy spikes and dips throughout the day?
  • fatigue, lethargy, depression or anxiety?
  • brain fog, cloudy thinking, trouble concentrating?
  • hunger that goes from mild to intense very quickly?
The above issues are all signs that your blood sugar balance is a bit out of whack and that your diet may be too high in carbohydrates.  

I've been on the Detox for 12 days now and I'm very happy. Being in between jobs right now and having just moved to a totally different place has been helpful mostly.  It's been hard for me to find a few things that I'd know exactly where to get in LA, but having endless time to prepare food has eased the things that would have posed a challenge in LA.  I've had carb cravings and detox symptoms but enough around me to distract me like beautiful beaches and a new culture.  Getting a lot of sleep has also helped a ton.  The cravings come and go but I'm happy to report that my hunger has been reduced GREATLY.  Low carb eating really diminishes appetite.  Take that Cookie Monster!  I am not so overwhelmed by hunger that I make bad decisions nutritionally.  

You may be asking, "well, what exactly do you eat"?  Well, I'll tell you AND show you 'cuz I'm cool like that!

I usually eat about three meals and one snack, but it varies.  I may eat 2 bigger meals and one snack or three meals and two snacks.  I'm starting to feel like that skit on SNL about the Change you remember that one? 
I drink water, tea, coffee and sometimes club soda or sparkling mineral water.  You will notice that does not include alcohol, at least for now.   

It's about listening to your true hunger cues.  Just because it's called a "Detox" does not mean it's a "Fast".  You should not be hungry on this program.  After having made many of my favorite recipes withOUT some of the sugar containing items I might usually add (Worcestershire Sauce in meatloaf or a touch of honey in a vinaigrette) I have realized I don't really need them.   When you stop eating sugar, your taste buds change!  Really!  It's cray cray.  

So here are some of the things I've been eating:

Eggs are kind of my go to for Breakfast but I usually take a break from them every few days.  I like to make my eggs fried in a little coconut oil or clarified butter (butter with the milk fat removed so ok for those avoiding dairy).  I pair it with some sauteed spinach, or throw some veggies in scramble style and almost always pair with a glass of water and delicious Puerto Rican Coffee with coconut milk or sometimes a teaspoon of coconut oil.  If I'm feeling lazy, I might just eat the eggs by themselves or with a few slices of bacon.  Yep, you read that right. Bacon is a part of this.  If you weren't in before, I'm guessing you might be now!  

I also made Coconut Milk from scratch since the canned coconut milk here has been hard to find without preservatives that seem to upset my stomach.  Labor intensive but realllllly good.

If I am taking a break from eggs, I will rotate the meals I eat for lunch or dinner in as breakfast does not HAVE to be comprised of Breakfast Foods!
Hamburger using Romaine Lettuce instead of bun with Cucumber/Carrot /Sesame  salad

Ground Pork/Beef Tacos in Romaine shells, topped with Sofrito and served with Garlic Roasted Asparagus and Iced Herbal Sun Tea

Dry Roasted Chicken Thighs with steamed Cauliflower, Okra and Sauteed Onion

Spinach, Coconut, Almond and Pasteurized Egg Smoothie with Cinnamon before blending

After Blending!

Additionally, Tommy made some amazing pan-seared Pork Chops with a green olive Gastrique and a "kitchen sink" ratatouille of all the vegetables that needed to be used.  I was so excited to eat that meal that I didn't even wait to take my photo.  I made an awesome meatloaf too.

Snacks have been a small handful of almonds or a few bites of some leftovers.  I try to always have a little protein although I just had a sliced tomato with a quarter of an avocado and sea salt.  It was awesome.  Puerto Rico has Pincho Vendors all over the place too---it's a popular street food that's basically grilled chicken thighs on a stick.  A PERFECT PALEO SNACK! 

So there you have it.  I feel very blessed to be at a place in my life where I have the time and motivation to create the nutritional foundation I've been trying to create for many, many years.  In addition to the physical benefits I've experienced, such as better skin,  a much flatter belly and less bloating the mental benefits have been huge.  Examples include a more balanced mood and a generally happy disposition. I also find that I am more creative, humorous and hopeful about life.  I want to sing more.  

And I sure do like to sing. :)

As I climb down from my soapbox, I just want you to remember, Dear Reader, that we all have the power to control what we eat so why not give our bodies what they need to thrive?  All you have to look forward to (after a possible short period of discomfort) is a more peaceful mind, a more beautiful body and increased harmony with the natural world.  To me, this is a no-brainer.  Trade in your HUNGER for sweets for a sweeter HUNGER FOR LIFE!

Hasta Luego y Gracias para Leyendo!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Iguana Hunter

This post compared to my last pretty much sums up how drastically our lives have changed and how much of an adventure it has been thus far. From pig butchering in 20 degree weather in Pennsylvania to catching beach Iguanas in the 80 degree tropics its been a crazy of a few weeks!

Iguanas are eaten by locals on the island. I have ideas of smoked iguana tails in our sausage bouncing around in my head. So when I saw this dude trying to catch one I figured I could learn a thing or two about what and what not to do. Unfortunately for him he showed me both.

Pig Butchering 101

Ok, so time for me to catch up on this blog of ours. Before I get to all of the current amazing stuff to blog about here in PR I need to drop this one first. While spending a month back home with my family before we moved, we stayed about half of the time with my dad. My dad lives in Freeland, Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. It's a small (one traffic light) town tucked in the middle of miles of forest. Most of the folks there live off the land eating its farm animals, game meat, fish and produce from home gardens...

When I told my dad of the restaurant concept we have for PR that would be based on making our own artesian sausage he was excited to tell me that he had just purchased a 200+ pound pig at a friend's farm. The timing was right and we were able to be there for the big day of butchering.

To all my veggie friends, a warning: this post might not sit well with you. But keep in mind that this pig was completely pastured and killed in the most humane way possible...

We showed up around 9am. Upon approaching the designated "butcher box", we were a bit taken back by the fresh, red blood running from it and into the white snow.  See photo below. There was already a crew there working on the first pig that another family had purchased. The entire operation took place in a modified trailer container. It had everything - refrigerated box, ban saw, tables, grinders, you name it. They had the tools for the job.
Juni and I stayed on the sidelines and just observed as they made quick work of the first pig.

Next was our turn! To keep track of the pigs, each was given a name. We named ours "Hammy". They hooked Hammy up on the track and ran it out of the cool box. The giant carcass came cruising down the trailer right at me. I grabbed it and gave Juni a chance to live out her best Rocky Balboa impersonation. The girl has a wicked right hook!

Time to get to work. With the instruction of one of the guys at the farm, Juni and I single handedly butchered the entire pig in about an hour!

Pork belly to be made into bacon!

When it was all said and done, we ended up with 8 shoulder roasts (or pork butt), 2 tenderloins, over 20 chops, 2 hind quarters for ham, and over 25 lbs of ground pork for sausage. Plenty of meat to help sustain a family through the harsh winter months.

I was actually not the first chef to visit this farm. Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods did an entire episode about Scrapple here. For those who do not know about scrapple refer to Juni's earlier post, here.
Personally, I'm not a fan of it. Never have been. So we gave the head and other organs used for scrapple away to one of my dad's friends who makes it herself.

Andrew Zimmer autographed the ban saw.

A couple days later we had a chance to finally cook some of this delicious meat. I picked through my dad's wood pile and found some nice white oak and cherry. I did a simple dry rub on the chops and prepped some pineapple for grilling while Juni made some amazing sauteed chard and kale.
The meat was very mild and subtle. A big part of that is due to the lack of stress on the pig. The more stress on an animal (especially at slaughter) releases adrenaline which in turn taints the flavor of the meat. Based on the taste of this meat, this pig lived a very healthy and stress free life. The flavor was cleaner than anything you would get in a grocery store. There is nothing quite like knowing exactly where your food comes from...Thanks Hammy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And then it was real....

It's been months and months and throw what feels like a few more months in there but we finally made it. The relief I felt the moment we picked up our beloved pup, Zorra from the cargo area of United was long awaited, and appropriately sweet.

And, um, we LIVE here now!

Our dear friends, Rick and Lauryn picked us up and drove us to their place in Hatillo, where we will be renting a room while we apartment shop. Hatillo is the dairy capital of the island and is about an hour east of San Juan. I had a hot chocolate after dinner that evening and could tell the milk was local and fresh. So creamy!

This last week has been spent snorkeling and fishing at the gorgeous local beaches and allowing ourselves a little downtime to acclimate. Going from epic snow storms to tropical humidity deserves a little physical gentleness. With at least 5-7 pounds of creamed chip beef on my body that I could get rid of, I've also started a 21-day sugar detox program courtesy of one of my Paleo heroes, Dianne SanFillippo of Balanced Bites. Will be doing a seperate post on this later but if you care to check it out, here is the link:
Being able to take rest when I feel like it and having plenty of time for food prep has made it pretty easy so far.

Today we are visiting Rick in old San Juan so we can use his car to make a Costco run. We bought our CA memory foam mattress at a Costco and are praying they carry it here too. Our Queen size mattress was $600 and frigging awesome. Novaform is the brand name and I recommend it highly.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Hatillo to have plenty of conveniences. We basically sold all of our belongings before moving so it's nice to have access to Walmart and have been finding strange gems at the local TJ Max even though I know that our patronage will likely send us to a burning karmic hell. Ulp!

So far, I couldn't ask for better and feel a deep love for this culture and terrain that I have only felt before for CA. I know frustrations will come inevitably but for now, I'll enjoy the honeymoon period and work on my tan.
Hasta luego, Amigos! Con amor, Juni