Home Made Date Paste…Let’s talk sweets, sweetheart

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My Martha-Moment: home made date paste looking ridiculously (and deliciously) pretty

Dates are approved on the whole 30 to use as a sweetener in sauces…but more on that in a second. Let’s talk sugar, sweetheart.

Sugar and additive sweeteners are basically food crack – they are magically and delightfully delicious and addictive and the more you consume, the more your body craves it, creating a vicious three-eyed-man-eating-sugar-monster cycle (…terrifying I know!) Artificial sweeteners (you know, the “calorie-free” and therefore “much more healthy” alternative to cane sugar) are even more devastating to your system because they act to overstimulate your system in ways not normally found in nature (example: Splenda is about 600 times sweeter than regular cane sugar…Last time I checked, Mother Nature did NOT intend for us to consume something like THAT). As your body becomes bombarded with this uber-sweetness, it becomes overstimulated over time and your sense of taste for sweet things becomes muted, which makes it more difficult to satisfy your crack-addicted sugar craving and things begin to spiral out of control. You gorge yourself on a batch of triple chocolate cupcakes. You call your mom crying. You channel Office Space and take a baseball bat to your bathroom scale, now your worst enemy. You become an insomniac with a collection of rare ceramic hobbits from the late-night shopping channels…you know things begin to get weird. Obviously, this is an unhealthy response. If you read “It Starts with Food” they go into depth on the body’s reaction to this sugar-spun spiral and all of the science behind it in a way that makes beautiful sense.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

The Whole 30 forbids uses of any kind of additive sweeteners (cane sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses, and of course the artificial sweeteners) so you can slay your sugar monster WITH THE EXCEPTION of fruit juice and dates as supplements in sauces (NOT to bake with…this is another no-no on the Whole 30). The Powers-That-Be (Melissa and Dallas) even recommended compliant bacon-wrapped-almond-stuffed dates as a fancy pants appy to serve when you are on the Whole 30 (pinky-out kind of stuff, let me tell you!)

So we have at last come to the point of this rambling sugar-coated topic. Even though we have finished our Whole 30, we are still trying to roughly follow the guidelines (though obviously not to the exact word). After being absolutely disgusted by the amount of added sugar and sweeteners found in the supermarket (Who the hell puts sugar in cold cuts?!? *throws arms up in disgust*) we want nothing to do with the sugar addicted sheeple (sheeple = sheep people. Noun. One that aimlessly follows the crowd). However, with that being said, sometimes you do need a smidgen of sweetness in some home made sauces otherwise they end up tasting…weird (but not as weird as someone who has a rare collection of ceramic hobbits). Insert date paste. Again: dates are approved on the whole 30 and I don’t plan on making cookies any time soon with this stuff. Here we go…

Dates are Mother Nature's little sugar bombs...use them sparingly and do NOT use them to feed your sugar dragon...
Dates are Mother Nature’s little sugar bombs…use them sparingly and do NOT use them to feed your sugar dragon…

Ingredients:
– 1 cup of medjool dates (pitted)
– 1/3 cup of water
– 1 tsp vanilla
– Pinch of salt

Recipe: Soften dates in warm water or in the microwave for a few seconds. Throw the dates and water in a food processor and pulse until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Add vanilla and salt and blend for another minute. Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated…voila! Date paste!

More on what to do with it later this week!
Cheers!
San aka #DomesticGoddess

Our Whole 30 Journey aka “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change”

Standard Whole 30 Brekkie
Whole 30: Or how to eat 5 dozen eggs in 4 weeks…thank goodness for backyard chickens.

This is going to be the first post of many about the Whole 30 so here is the quick and dirty definition: It is a 30-day strict paleo boot camp where you eliminate grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, processed foods (you end up reading a lot of food labels). It is meant for you to take a step back and completely re-evaluate your eating, drinking, and snacking habits. How hard could it be? I mean we both felt like we ate pretty well for the most part – I cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. Yeah, we ate quite a bit of cheese and dairy and loved a good sandwich on artisan bread every now and then, and I did have a popcorn and wine obsession…but we were healthy, right? Right ?!?

Looking back pre-paleo, we did not feel bad or ill necessarily…we just didn’t realize how good our bodies could feel by simply tweaking a few things in our day-to-day eating habits. It was eye-opening in a sense. In a mere thirty days the changes were palpable…We both lost weight. Our hiking speed and endurance increased. We slept better at night. Our overall moods and demeanor became more cheerful. My skin looked great. We felt invincible. Seriously.

Top of the World
My invincible superpowers are enhanced when I wear shutter shades.

When we first started, we were in a bit of a food-rut and so we jumped into the challenge with open minds (and hungry stomachs)…and honestly it was pretty easy to make the change. The food was delicious, fresh, and full of the right nutrients we needed to get through the day without a slump or snacking excessively. With that being said, it is relatively easy to change your eating and drinking habits when you are in the comforts of your own home, but where I think most people fail is when they are put in social situations: Going out to eat at a restaurant, going to a party or wedding, or just casually hanging out with friends on a weekend where temptations are high and that frosty beer is calling your name…

Our first true test was a weekend hanging out with our best friends (R and J). They took our Whole 30 in stride and decided to humor us after asking us the standard “are you crazy/what do you eat/why are you doing this” questions. We barbecued and sipped on sparkling water spiked with pomegranate juice in fancy-pants glasses and had a lovely time, as we always do with our closest friends. As we were cleaning up in the kitchen that evening, Diz and I looked at each other, sheepishly grinned and high-fived each other…first hurdle complete! No problem! What were we worried about in the first place?

Yum and yum
Fancy pants glass of “un-wine” (pom juice, sparkling water and a splash of lime). This is def. pinky out stuff.

The next challenge came about a week later when Diz left for the weekend to play in a beach volleyball tournament in Seaside, Oregon. Not only was I going to be by myself without his support during meals, but he was going to be subjected to peer pressure from his team mates, all of who are big hophead beer drinkers. Afterall, what is volleyball without a nice cold brewski to cool you down between sets? Diz however did marvelously and at meals ordered burgers without the bun, and asked for side salads instead of fries. He drank water instead of beer and stayed hydrated and well rested. I cleaned out our fridge by eating leftovers all weekend. Upon returning home we decided that we could totally handle this challenge hands down no problem.

Pinterest once just an idle pastime, became a coveted treasure-trove of recipes and meal plans (with the occasional funny meme about being paleo thrown in for laughs). Then I discovered the joys of Instagram (about 8 years too late, yeah yeah I know…) and found an immense support network of encouragement and love complete with gourmet recipes and mouthwatering pictures sprinkled in for good measure.

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Gorge and gorge date night – Record time up Hamilton Mountain and then he whisked me off to the Cultured Caveman in Portland for din din.

We ate a big breakfast Every. Single. Day. No exceptions. Our date nights (we call them Gorge and gorge…we go hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and then go out to eat afterward and gorge ourselves) didn’t change – we just found paleo restaurants in Portland (thank god for those PDX holistic hipsters!) that were Whole 30 approved. We cleaned out our pantry and purged all the undesirable things we couldn’t (and at this point really didn’t want to) eat. And we felt amazing. We embraced the change in our attitudes regarding food wholeheartedly and without any lingering regrets.

The days ticked by and we were approaching the hardest test of all: Getting through a wedding…gulp! We flew out to Michigan to celebrate the nuptials of our friends A and E. At this point, I had to buy a new dress because of the inches I lost off my waist and stomach. I felt fabulous and it showed because random people were coming up to me and commenting on how good I looked. My self-esteem was high as I soaked up the love of all of our friends and family who, though curious about the change in our lives were overall positive and supportive about what we were doing. We sipped on mineral water spiked with lime wedges and danced the night away. And the next morning as all of our buddies were nursing headaches and hangovers from an amazing party, we woke up early with clear heads and walked the 4ish miles around the lake. We survive a Latvian wedding without drinking!! We must be superheroes or something. We were unstoppable!

Cheers!
Lookin’ good and hangover free! That is “un-wine” in my hand (pom juice and sparkling water with a slice of lime)

The 30 days came and went and on day 31 we stuck with our same paleo routine. We were feeling so marvelous; we did not want to ruin that “Tiger Blood” feeling (No joke, they stole that phrase from Charlie Sheen to describe the glowing feeling of awesome). And wasn’t that the whole point of this challenge? To take that step back and re-evaluate what we put in our bodies and how it makes us feel. Since then we have re-introduced beer and wine in moderation but are sticking with the real-food paleo lifestyle. Sure, sometimes I have a craving for creamy brie cheese smeared on a crostini or a bite of mozzarella with my heirloom tomatoes and basil, but I stay strong. I admit that I will have a moment of weakness and cave for a bowl of salty popcorn but that is now an occasional indulgence and no longer a routine habit.

Whole 30
A picture is worth a thousand words…and this basically sums up the Whole 30 feeling of awesome.

So. If you stuck through reading this long-winded rambling and I have bored you to death yet, I would recommend looking up the Whole 30 website: http://whole30.com/ for more information. Find recipes on Pinterest and follow Whole30 on Instagram for more support. And seriously consider trying it. It’s only 30 days…what do you have to lose?

Cheers,
San

Not all who wander are lost

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Hello friends…
Blogging! How passé! How cliché! But I find that it is as good of a place as any to organize my wandering thoughts and ideas. Where else (besides Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram) could I make my mark on this social media driven world?

I used to do the blog thing quite religiously when we were engaged, copying and pasting and unabashedly stealing the ideas of other blushing brides-to-be and wishing that I had the time and energy (and the expensive DSLR camera) to make my pink frosted dreams a reality. Blerg…Disgusting, I know. Then after we got married and settled into a happily wedded life I fell off the blog bandwagon for about a year or so. Life moved on but after a few wine-fueled nights reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” of being a blogger I decided that perhaps I needed to give it another shot. This time around there was less shameless plagiarism about tulle table skirts and eco-friendly twinkle lights and more about hiking and the time spent in my kitchen. My love for cooking and baking blossomed during the first few years of our marriage and my ramblings became a bit more interesting (and subsequently delicious). To combat all of the empty cupcake calories and my expanding waistline, my other passion became hiking. I learned to appreciate the isolation and silence of the woods where I could do all of my diabolical planning and plotting and to relish the sweat and lactic-acid burn in my calves as I climbed hills and mountains. There really is nothing like watching the sun sparkle off of an isolated lake in the middle of the woods knowing that your own two feet got you there. Then with a thump, I fell off the wagon again out of sheer boredom. There was too much to do! Too much to see! There was not enough time in the day to sit down and write about stuff! Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. Another year passed blog-less and life got more interesting. We obtained chickens and grew hops and became Portland-hipster-urban-farmers or something of the sort. We changed our eating habits to reflect the paleo diet and cut out processed crap and more. We did a Whole 30 (much more on that later). And we continued to hike and explore and savor this beautiful area of the country.

So this is me hopping back on that wagon and giving the blog thing a third shot.

If dear reader, you decide to continue to endure my ramblings if even for a brief period of time you will likely be subjected to my two cents about urban chicken farming, paleo cooking and the Whole 30 program, hiking and backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding areas, and the ever-growing pile of unfinished DIY projects which tend to drive Diz mad.

Ready to dive into my brain? Deep breath now…

Cheers,
San aka #DomesticGoddess

Adventures on the trail in the kitchen