Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Club Updates

MIA on Book Club Posts... but here were our last few books in case you're looking for reading recommendations!

#1 Oct 2010: A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion
Would not recommend

#2 Nov 2010: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrel

#3 Jan 2011: Those who Save Us by Jenna Bloom
The story from a German family during World War II.

#4 Feb 2011: Love Story by Eric Segal
Would not recommend

#5 Mar 2011 A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Would not recommend

#6 April 2011 ROOM by Emma Donoghue A sad story of a woman kept in captivity and her child's escape.
Highly Recommend

#6 May 2011 Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson more like 3 cups of deceit - the 'story' of a man who wants to promote world peace by providing education to underprivileged communities.
Would not recommend

#7 June 2011 Bossypants by Tina Fey so hilarious, it's worth the quick-light read
Highly Recommend

#8 July 2011: Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor  Mary Ellen's friend wrote this and it's totally worth reading! An honest diary of one woman's life as she lost her husband while pregnant with their first child. Makes you appreciate life, love and family.

#9 Aug 2011: Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Mahon  Short stories, easy reads, but not particularly a can't-put-it-down-page-turner.
Would not recommend

#10 Sept 2011: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini Loved Kite Runner, Loved this one too
Highly Recommend

#11 Oct 2011: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon oops, didn't read this one!
Didn't Read

#12 Nov 2011: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot An interesting story of a medical breakthrough due to one woman's cancer cells.

#13 Jan 2012: UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand
Didn't Read

#14 Feb 2012: Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez boring
Would not recommend

#15 Mar 2012: Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Socilogist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh

#16 Apr 2012: Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson The pages keep turning as you wonder if the next day will be the one of revealation. An incredible revelation about 3/4ths of the way through.
Highly Recommend

#17 May 2012: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain I found myself incredibly curious about the life of Ernest Hemmingway after this story of his first wife.
Highly Recommend

#18 June 2012: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Takes awhile to get into, but the second half of the book moves quickly once you've started deeply caring for the twins, Marion and Shiva.

#19 July 2012: 50 Shades of Gray Trilogy

#20 Sept 2012: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern The mythical story of a circus and two children bonded forever in a game where there are no rules.
Highly Recommend

#21 Oct 2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn A disturbing fictional story of a married couple bonded together by the psychotic wife.
Highly Recommend

#22 Dec 2012: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Friday, November 4, 2011

49 hours in Haiti

Ernie & I recently spent a long weekend in Haiti.  Having been around the world, I can safely say that Haiti is unlike any place I've ever seen in the world.  Although there is extreme poverty everywhere you look, there are thousands of helping hands from around the world.

My good friend Tony from Kellogg, aka "Travel Buddy" coined during our jaunt around southern Africa, is one of the many who are pitching in.  He has spent 44 weeks down in Haiti working to provide access to clean water for those in the Central Plateau. 

We met a kind woman on the plane (who recognized us from TV) that was traveling down to work in an Orphanage/School about an hour from the city.  A Colorado native, she spends much of her time in Haiti educating and caring for children orphaned by the earthquake.  We learned that there are makeshift-orphanages that solicit foreign donations, yet are not really an orphanage. They recruit neighborhood kids to pretend to be orphans while donors visit to check in on their investment.  She cautioned us to check into any orphanages we might donate to.

Tony picked us up in the Port-Au-Prince airport on Friday morning.  We had a jam packed day of meeting Tony's professional network. The fastest (but not safest) form of transport was mototaxi.  We traveled in a gang of mototaxis from one meeting to another and it was quite the experience! I had never been on a motorcycle before but I trusted Tony's judgement on this one.

Saturday morning was spent with 17 kids at a local orphanage where Ernie played soccer with the kids, they sang and jumped rope.  The soccer ball was so old and deflated, the ropes were several pieces of twine knotted together.  Kids ages 4-14 ran around in knock-off Crocs in the most vibrant colors worn to the sole. We often take for granted how easy it is to stop by the local sports store and buy a new soccer ball or new toys, while these children really test the longevity of material goods because they have very limited access to them.  I wish we had brought toys to donate, rather than cases of cookies and candy, although I'm sure they are grateful for anything we could have brought.

In the afternoon, we took a private "tap tap" (minivan) on a driving tour of downtown.  The palace was crushed and crumbled, while the once beautiful green park is now covered in a massive tent city. Approximately 600 thousand people live in tents. It's been almost two years since the damaging earthquake, yet there is still vast reminders of the destruction.  Roads are torn up with potholes every few feet, trash is carlessly littered everwhere and there's no goverment trash removal, houses with three walls and families still living inside.  Devestation was everywhere, except on the people's faces. Haitians seem content, happy and faithful to their religion. 

Off we were to the southern coastal city of Jacmel.  A tourism company owner from last night's book club encouraged us to go. She said "it's like New Orleans with the Creole architecture."  It may be Creole but there was little to no resemblance to New Orleans.  We stopped at a lovely hotel for a lobster lunch. "The view was better than the lobster," Tony accurately remarks.  The remainder of the day was spent with ex-pats on the beach eating fresh oysters and lobster (again) over lively conversation.

We met such a wide array of people, and thank them for their generosity.  Meetings with leaders included  the Haitian Tourism Board, American Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross, Cross International (thanks for housing us!), Save the Children, Caribbean Harvest Foundation, We Advance (a women and children's empowerment organization), World Vision, Rotary and perhaps the most inspirational of all - the Peace Dividend Trust.  There's somewhere between 2,900-5,000 Non-Profits making a social impact.

Despite all this help, there's still no infrastructure for some of the basics like education, electricty, clean water or sanitation.  I worry about the level of dependency the country has on foreign aid.  A new political leader was recently elected so time will tell if the significant changes needed will come to fruition.

The Amazing Race

Hello Again!

Sorry for the posting hiatus. I'm not sure that anyone will even see this post since it's been so long since I've updated the blog.  As you may or may not have heard, Ernie and I recently raced around the world on Season 19 of the Amazing Race!  Check out some of the fun articles that were posted during the cast announcement:

Entertainment Weekly got the exclusive annoucement!

I never thought we'd ever be in People Magazine. Not only once, but twice!

Thanks to some local support, you can read about us in the Chicago Sun Times and the Red Eye Chicago.

Perhaps the true mark of "making it", we got a small shout out in The Soup!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Caprese Salad Kebabs

1 package marinated fresh mozzarella
1 package fresh basil leaves
1 package grape tomatos
25 Toothpics

Super Easy Directions:
Load toothpicks with Mozarella ball, basil leaf then tomato
Sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt if desired

Book Club #7

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Book for May's Book Club Meeting!

Recipe's from last night's gathering to follow...

Black Bean & Corn Salsa

1 15-oz can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
1 8-oz can Mexican Corn, Drained and Rinsed (I also used regular corn)
1 8-oz can Diced Tomato
1 Jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup Cilantro
2 oz crumbled Feta Cheese
1 Plum Tomato, Diced

1. Mix beans, corn, canned and fresh tomato in medium bowl
2. Add jalapeno and cilantro, mix well
3. Add feta cheese
4. Serve with Tortialla Chips

Optional Add-on's
Sprinkle a bit of chili powder to spice it up!
Add Cayenne Pepper for a little bit of heat for your fiesta dip

This was an easy crowd pleaser!

Apricot Canapes


16 dried apricots
8 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
2 ounces chopped shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground pepper

1) Top each apricots with 1/2 teaspoon cheese. (Note: I used about a quarter teaspoon per piece)
2) Sprinkle with pistachios (Note: I pressed the crushed pistachios into the cheese which held it onto the apricot more easily)
3) Drizzle with honey; sprinkle with pepper.

Nutrition Profile
64 calories; 4 g fat ( 1 g sat , 2 g mono ); 1 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 20 mg sodium; 170 mg potassium.

Original Recipe and photo credit:

Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese and Almonds

20 large Medjool dates (you can find these in fresh produce)

2 oz. (1/2 of 4-oz. pkg.) ATHENOS Mild Feta Cheese
32 PLANTERS FLAVOR GROVE Skinless Almonds Sea Salt & Olive Oil (small 1.75 oz package)
10 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cut in half
20 wooden toothpicks

  1. HEAT oven to 425ºF.
  2. CUT slit in long side of each date, being careful to not cut completely through date. Remove and discard pits. Cut cheese into 16 (1x1/4-inch) sticks. Stuff each date with cheese and 2 nuts.
  3. WRAP 1 bacon piece around each date, completely enclosing cheese.  Push toothpick through to hold bacon around stuffed date.
  4. Place on rack of broiler pan.  
  5. BAKE 14 to 15 min. or until bacon is crisp, turning after 8 min. Cool 5 min; transfer to plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead tip:
Stuff and Wrap dates the night before. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Recipe and Photo from Kraft Foods.


Salmon and Cucumber Bites

1 cucumber, sliced into 1/4" thick discs
1 package salmon lox, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek strained yogurt (I prefer Athenos brand)
1 small package Fresh Dill

Mix sour cream and Greek yogurt in a small dish
Spoon sour cream mixture onto cucumber slices
Top with salmon
Garnish with sprig of fresh dill

Endive Boats with Sweet Potato

3 slices low sodium Oscar Meyer Bacon, sliced into 1/4" squares
1 small sweet potato, diced into 1/4" cubes
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
3 heads Belgian Endives
1/4 cup Sour Cream or Creme Fraische
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper

1.Cook the bacon in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it has rendered some of its fat, about 3 minutes.

2.Add the sweet potato and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the sweet potato is tender and the bacon starts to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the chives and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for a couple of minutes.

3.Slice the bottom 1/2 inch off the endives so some of the outer leaves break free. Cut another 1/2 inch off and break some more leaves free. Keep going until all the larger leaves are free. (You should have about 20.) If you like, trim the leaves so they're all the same length. Save the remaining endive for a salad.

4.Set the endive leaves on a large platter. Spoon the sweet potato mixture near the base of the leaves. Top each with a dollop of the creme fraiche and then sprinkle with the remaining chives. Serve immediately or let sit for up to 20 minutes before serving.
A tip for making ahead
You can prepare the bacon/potato mixture the night before. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate.  Reheat over medium heat in skillet until mixture is warm and continue from #4 above

Original Recipe and Photo credit:


Ernie and I found our way into a nearby new 'bakery' just around the corner from us.  Cassava was opened by Jorge, who spent much of his life in Ecuador.  He opened Cassava as a tribute to the plant.    With flour made from this plant, he's re-created the traditional Cassava Bread known as Pan de Yuca in Ecuador.

The best way to describe this bread is that it looks like a little doughball, about the size of a golf ball.

The outer crust is warm and flaky kind of like a bagel crust but not as crusty. The inside is chewy, similar to a favorite Asian treat of mine, mochi!

We tried 6 delicious flavors from jalapeno, to chocolate, to greek with feta cheese and olives.  It was tough to pick a favorite... so we may have to go back for more sun dried tomato flavored or one of Jorge's latest creations.

I also indulged in a cranberry muffin.  OH my goodness, this was the BEST gluten-free muffin I have ever tasted in my life!  I savored every moment and Ernie could only sneak in for a tiny bite.

I can't wait to try the new empanadas stuffed with grass-fed beef, cheddar cheese and sauteed onions!!!

All in all, Cassava is definitely a place to try for some gluten-free specialty items. I'm not sure I would call it a bakery because they don't have the traditional breads, bagels, cookies, pasteries, etc. that would qualify it as a bakery.   The inside also has a look and feel like a small cafe with their wireless internet and several college students gathering around their laptops. 

Cassava stashould position the place as a cafe rather than a bakery and offer more menu items that are hearty enough for lunch or dinner.  That way, the right target audience stops in rather than someone looking for a crusty baguette.

3338 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60657

Thursday, April 7, 2011 Commercial

I saw this commercial on TV and had to take a picture of my TV.
CBS Cares about celiac, we love CBS!!!

Le Colonial

Le Colonial was our pick for Ernie's birthday dinner this year. I had heard such great things about this place from several people and finally decided to give it a try when I saw their gluten-free menu online. 

I had apparently walked by this restaurant several times before and had never really noticed it. We were seated by the windows in the front. The insides had a very French Colonial feel to it with dark wooden panneling on the walls, extraordinarly high ceilings with detailed moulding.  The wait-staff was dressed in traditional Asian Kung-Fu suits made of cloth rather than silk.

We heard this place was a Vietnamese-French fusion place.  I'm not sure that it was anything more than Vietnamese food served in a French influenced decor with French wine on the list.  Either way, we ordered a white wine from the Loir Valley to start. 

As an appetizer, Ernie and I shared a salad #14 Goi Bun So.  The grilled sea scallops were so delicious, fresh and juicy.  The rest of the salad was just mesclun greens tossed with some rice noodles. I did like the vinagrette but the salad was pretty straight-forward.

For our main dish, we both ordered #40 Sup Do Bien.  The menu says: "Bouillabaisse of coconut saffron lemongrass broth, lobster, mussels, shrimp, scallops, & whitefish, with vermicelli noodles & aromatic herbs"  It was DELISH-ious!  There was a hearty amount of seafood, at least 3 pieces of lobster and more yummy scallops. The soup was light but filling and I love adding the fresh cilantro to the hot soup. 

While the food was great, and the final bill was worthy of a special occasion, I'm happy we experienced it but not sure I'd be returning anytime soon.  There are lots of Vietnamese places north of us that would be significantly less costly and probably equally as delicious (though they may skimp on the quality and quantity of the seafood).  I was also a bit turned off by the waitstaff and their seemingly snotty attitude towards us, like we weren't the upper echelon crowd that would normally dine there. 

The best part of the meal was eaves-dropping on the couple next to us that had to be the most painful first date ever.  The guy spent the majority of the time on his cell phone leisurely talking to his friends while the gal waited patiently with her hands folded in her lap. Then their food came, neither talked during the meal as they shoveled the food into their mouths. The guy asked for boxes to go and that was it!

Le Colonial
937 N Rush Street
Chicago, IL

Book Club #6

Room: A Novel

Tonight is book club! April's book was "Room" by Emma Donoghue.  It was a GREAT pick for the month. I don't want to give away too much becuase you should really read this one for yourself. While it discusses an extremely disturbing situation, Emma does a fantastic job of getting into the mind of a 5 year old boy and brining to life this certainly unordinary situation. 

I'm hosting this month's meeting and have made a variety of appetizers for the girls! I'll be posting recipes of the fun little finger foods after tonight!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wish me Luck

I started another new diet on Sunday. "Geez, what's new?" you say? But honestly, I haven't lost 1 lb since the start of the year and I am definitely not going to make my goal wedding weight unless I get serious.  Even with all my workouts and the new Warp Speed Fat loss, I haven't lost any weight. I have, however, increased my endurance significantly and cut about 45 sec off my mile pace. My clothes fit better and my stomach is down more than 2" which was my biggest problem area.

I'm using a 1300 calorie plan from my old Sports Nutritionist.  The meal plan has a good balance of all of food groups, with an emphasis on protein.  The food scale is a new staple on our countertop with my TI-30x calculator to help.  I didn't realize how my portions have grown over the last few years and I was probably consuming closer to 2000 cals/day which is way too much for my age/weight and activity level.

Three and a half days down. I am pretty hungry. It should take a little while for my stomach to adjust to the smaller portions and I know the first week is always the most difficult. I'm down 2.5 lbs since Sunday but it's probably mostly water weight.

The real task is making it through the weekend and not gaining it all back since that's basically been my M.O.  We like to go out to eat on the weekends, but we'll really have to cut that back now.  It will be a good excuse to save money too.

Stay Tuned...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Don't expect this recipe to taste like your traditional creamy beef stroganoff.  However, this is a much lighter, much much more healthy version that omits all of the sour cream, heavy gluten filled noodles and all those extra calories.

1 lb beef sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 carrot, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth (be sure to confirm it is gluten-free)
1 cup whole plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Brown the beef in a large nonstick skillet coated with olive oil cooking spray
2. Add onion, mushroom, carrot, garlic and continue to cook another 6-8 min
3. Add beef broth, salt, pepper, bring to a low boil
4. Add yogurt 1 tbsp at a time, stirring constantly
5. Cover and simmer for 15 min on medium-low heat
6. Remove lid, add cheese and stir until blended

Serving Suggestion: We served ours over Spaghetti Squash noodles but you can try quinoa noodles or your other favorite gluten-free noodle.

A view of Step #2:
Note that this recipe contains dairy so it's not Paleo, but it is still gluten-free!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Denver Quiche

This super-easy quiche is like a Denver Omlet! We made this for our fun St. Patty's Day breakfast at our friend Clare's.

2 cups shredded potatos (I used a pre-shredded, frozen package)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb Sausage, skins removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup 2% milk
12 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Toss potatos with olive oil
3. Press potatos into 9x12 baking dish
4. Bake 10-15 min until potatoes are golden. Remove from oven.
5. Brown sausage in a separate pan
6. Layer Sausage on top of golden shreeded potatos, layer onion and green pepper on top.
7. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, and salt. Add to Potato, sausage and onion pan.
8. Sprinkle with parsley
9. Bake for 20-30 min until firm
10. Sprinkle with shredded cheese once removed from oven. Let stand for 5 min while cheese melts.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bean-Free Bison Chili

You should REALLY try this chili - it is easiest the best chili recipe we have made! Bison meat is super healthy compared to regular beef. If you don't like bison, you can try grass fed beef.  We have also used a low fat ground turkey that produced equally as delicious results.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 lbs ground bison
2 medium size garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 can diced plum tomatoes (28oz)
1 can tomato sauce (14 oz)
1 can tomato paste (5.5 oz)
3 tbsp chili powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. Put oil in large saucepan. On medium-high heat, saute onion, green pepper and celery until onion is just beginning to soften.
2. Add bison. Stir and cook until bison is completely cooked.
3. Stir in garlic, diced tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili, bay leaf, oregano, basil, cumin and jalapeno pepper. Allow chili to come to boil, then reduce to simmer.
4. Cook stirring occasionally for the next 30 minutes.
5. Removed Bay Leaf and Serve.

Modified from

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Warp Speed Fat Loss Week 4

Here is week 4.

Warp Speed Fat Loss Week 3

I forgot to post Weeks 3 and 4 workouts but here they are... finished up this training module last week and will post results soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Five Flavors of Gluten-Free Chex Cereal

It's pretty exciting when there's a commercial from a big brand all about being gluten-free.  Ernie caught this commercial this morning about Gluten-Free Chex Mix.  Their website also has lots of recipes for other GF products, in addition to their Chex brand.

With new products like these, it's getting a little bit easier everyday to life a gluten-free life!  For others that aren't gluten-free, at least this new ad is driving awareness of Gluten and living gluten-free.
General Mills

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers

These are really quick and easy to make. The mix of lemon and cilantro are super flavorful!  Be careful not to purchase the pre-cooked shrimp as the recipe doesn't taste quite as good. (We made that mistake)

Prep: 5-10 min
Cook: 8 min

1 lb medium uncooked shrimp, shells removed
4 wooden skewers soaked in water for 1 hr, or metal skewers
8 ounces fresh pineapple cubed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil (optional)

Preheat oven to broil or ignite grill.
Thread shrimp and pineapple evenly onto skewers
Combine olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, and chili powder
Drizzle over skewers
Cook 8 minutes, turning at the halfway point
Remove from heat and drizzle with flaxseed oil

The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Beverages

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Das Foods' Gluten-Free Macaroons!

My first Chicago Cube-Mate has launched her own Candy Company called Das Foods.  Back in the day, we worked on the Seasonal gum & candy business until she went off to pursue her dream.  Katie started her business with delicious bite-sized salted caramels and has now expanded into a wide variety of offerings.  A new addition to her product line is Gluten-Free!  Horray!  I should also note that many of her other items are also gluten-free.

I first found these Gluten-Free Macaroons in France when I was googling "gluten-free eating in Paris."  I posted about our tasty findings at Paul's in this blog post.  Macaroons are made of almond flour and therefore are naturally gluten-free without the taste of those nasty substitute flours.  They are light, puffy cookies sandwiched around a creamy layer in the center.  You can sink your teeth into this bite-sized indulgent treat without feeling terribly guilty about the extra calories.  Plus, it's almost Valentine's Day so you deserve a little treat!  Buy your self a gluten-free Vday present or surprise your gluten-free honey.

Das Foods offers two flavors of the French cookie: Dark chocolate cream and Fleur de Sel Caramel Cream.  The 4 oz boxes have 6 macaroons.

Free Shipping for Valentines Day on orders over $30. Use Code VAL11.

Way to go Katie! We all thank you for brining yet another delicious treat to the Gluten-Free Community!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Warp Speed Fat Loss Week 2

Week two of Warp Speed was off to a rough start given that my back is suffering from the several hundred pounds of snow I removed from my car/parking space.  Our parking spot sits between two garages, and therefore, all of the snow drifted right on top of my car.  A sold 3-4 feet deep of snow needed to be moved! Four hours later, my spot is cleared and my body is sore.

View from the back door. You can still see the shape of the door in the snow. My car is that little mound.

That's neighbor Kari who helped shovel. She's standing in 2.5 feet of snow.  Our alley had turned into eskimo land!

That's the pile of snow that now fills Amy's parking spot. I worry about the day it all melts and seeps into our basement! Yikes!

It's now Friday. I still can't get my car out of the alley... so my manager picked me up for work today after 2 days of working from home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crave Restaurant, Minneapolis

I was recently in Minneapolis for work visiting corporate Target.  What an exciting office space! It was a little like young professional Utopia - everyone was beautiful, dressed to the nines and filled the common space with lots of energy and laughter.  Office spaces were decorated with home decor sold in your neighborhood Target Store.

Minneapolis itself was way too cold for me to ever consider moving there. It was -17 degrees F and even my nose hairs were frozen the moment we stepped outside into the frigid air.  Plus, it's kind of like being in a hampster cage with all the buildings connected by skyways.

Anyhow, going to MN gave me a good chance to catch up with my friend Tara who recently moved there to work for Unilever on the Target team. We used to sit in the same cube-pod at PG.  It was nice to catch up since I've only seen her once since her wedding a couple of years ago!

We met at Crave Restaurant.  What I loved about Crave is that they offered a separate menu that benefited the Boys & Girls Club.  If you ordered off this menu, a portion of the revenue is donated.  Plus, on the reciept, you could donate additional dollars. 

What I loved second most was the bison pot-roast that I ordered from the Boys & Girls club menu.  It was the most savory, tender piece of bison that I have ever eaten in my life. The shreds fell apart at the touch of my fork and paired ever so nicely with the smashed yam and curried chickpeas.  It was a mouth full of comfort-food-flavors.  Delish!  I'm on the lookout for a bison pot roast recipe that can even come close to Crave's.

Crave has a Gluten-Free menu and that's how Tara found the place to recommend it for our dinner.  Although, be wary, not all of the items are completely gluten-free and you may have to ask. I ordered the Proscuitto Wrapped Scallops that are marked "GF" on the menu but served on tiny slices of bread. Major buzzkill even though the scallps are pretty good. I just knocked off the crustini before consuming.

Crave Restaurant
Several Locations in MN, one in Orlando and one in Omaha (yeah, I don't get that one...)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

These muffins are full of protein and beta carotene.  It's important to use the Almond flour rather than 'gluten-free flour' that has that sharp/sour gluten-free taste.  The flax seed meal and coconut flakes add a nice texture and overall adds to the moist, bread-like bouncyness of these muffins. 

2 cups Almond Flour
1/2 cup Flaxseed Meal
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mixture
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
6 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons coconut flour, gently melted (or you can use butter but it's not as healthy)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut flakes (optional but adds nice texture)
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional, not used in the picture)
Aluminum foil muffin liners

  1. Preaheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, flaxseed meal, baking sodia, salt and spices into small bowl. Stir well and set aside.
  3. Place pumpkin puree in mixing bowl.
  4. One by one, crack the eggs into the bowl, mixing well with the pumpkin after each egg added.
  5. Add melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and blend well with whisk until moist and flour lumps are gone.
  7. Gently fold in coconut flakes and dark chocolate chips if using.
  8. Spoon into muffin pan lined with foil muffin liners to 2/3 full.  The muffins won't really rise much.
  9. Bake for 20-25 min until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin is clean when removed.
  10. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Weight Loss Update: Weeks 1-4

As you can see from the chart below, there was no weight loss progress in January.  Ugh. I never even broke 120 lbs. 

The good news is that I am seemingly stronger. I can squat 110, deadlift 100 and Bench press 80lbs.

It's time to switch things up. I have a new workout program called "Warp Speed Fat Loss".  Week 1 workout program below, you can click on the image to get a larger size.  I'm also doing my best to stick to protein (chicken, beef, fish) and veggies for 2 meals a day. We'll see how the next few weeks go... Let's hope for some progress.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Paleo Carne Asada

While not as tender as skirt steak, this Paleo version of Carne Asada is a suitable substitude with less fat.

1 jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds flank steak, pounded thin with meat tenderizing tool

Combine pepper, cumin, cilantro, lime juice and oil in a small container.
Put steak in large flat dish and pour mixture evenly over top
Marinate for at least two hours (we marinated overnight)
Preheat ovin to broil or ignite grill
Boril or grill for 10 min, turning at halfway point
Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes

The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Beverages

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Food Trends for the New Year

Pretty excited to read this food trends article (I was doing some research at work and came across this). We made the top of the list!

January 10, 2011
Food trends for the new year, from coconut water to bacon

By Allen Pierleoni

Gluten-free: "Expect to see more corn- and rice-based bread, cereal and pasta options, as well as other foods with 'gluten-free' on their labels."

Ethnic street food: Street food-inspired dishes such as kebabs, taquitos and tempura top the National Restaurant Association's 'What's Hot in 2011' chefs' survey for upcoming appetizer trends."

Thai iced tea: "The orange-colored beverage made with sweetened condensed milk is expected on more menus."

Tapas: "Look for a surge in tapas, small-plate meals and half-portions, predicts the National Restaurant Association's annual survey."

Artisan cheeses and bacon: "Look for (high-end) house-made bacon and handcrafted cheeses to start appearing in stores."

Seeds: "From flaxseed to chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, these morsels of monounsaturated fats are going to take a more prominent place on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves."

Grab-and-go snacks: "A growing number of fast-food chains, coffee shops and convenience stores are making over their grab-and-go selections."

Heirloom foods: "Heirloom crops refer to foods that were found in our early history of eating, and they're making a big comeback. Look for heirloom varieties of grains such as red rice, black rice, kamut and spelt in supermarkets."

Coconut water: "It's the health drink of the moment -- the liquid inside immature coconuts."

Hyper-local foods: "Thanks in part to Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden, growing your own food is suddenly 'in' and going hyper-local is all the rage. This year, people will want to know where their meals are coming from, down to the very farm."

Macarons: "Not to be confused with macaroons (a small coconut-based cookie), macarons (a meringue sandwich cookie) have already been tapped as the heir apparent to the designer cupcake craze."

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

While this wasn't our book club book, I'd highly recommend reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.  The story takes place in post-Civil War Jackson, Mississippi.  I loved the character development and that the story is told from the viewpoint of multiple heroines, both white and black.  It's discouraging to think that such segregation occured just a few short years ago, but encouraging to think that the future can only get better.

The author brings to life the love between white and black women who live side by side but never truly know each other. 

The Help

Paleo Turkey Burgers

These turkey burgers are full of flavor and a great dinner or reheated as lunch the next day.  If you've already been keeping gluten-free, you won't really miss the bun.

2 lbs lean ground turkey breast
1 egg
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small challot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grownd black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium beefsteak tomato, sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced into four 1/4-inch slices
1 small head butter lettuce

Preheat oven to broil or ignite grill
Combine turkey, egg, oil, challot and garlic with your hands
Shape into siz patties
Season with pepper and oregano
Broil patties for five minutes on each side
Serve topped with tomato and onion atop lettuce

The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Beverages

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Cinnamon Applesauce

Homemade apple sauce is delicious and fresh. Plus, you know it's much healther than the pre-packed versions that sit on the grocery shelves for months.  This is a super-easy recipe.

2 Cinnamon Sticks
4 Large Golden Delicious Apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Fill 4-quart stockpot with 1 inch of water and insert a steamer basket.
2) Place cinnamon sticks in basket and bring water to boil.
3) Add apples and cook for 20 min until soft.
4) Cool for 5 min and place in food processer. Puree until smooth.
5) Stir in vanilla and chill for 30 min before serving.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Defloured, gluten-free bakery

Thanks to Christina Kline for sharing this bakery!

Defloured Bakery
Currently no 'walk-in' bakery, but are carried at Swim Cafe and Lulu's Dim Sum

1357 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
T 312.492.8600
Lulu's Dim Sum
804 Davis

Evanston, IL 60201
Open Monday-Saturday 11:30-9:30
Sunday 11:30-9:00
847 869-4343

Logan Square Kitchen Valentine’s Pastry Market: February 12th-13th, 2010: defloured will be at the Logan Square Kitchen Valentine’s Market from 10am–3pm on Sunday, February 13th selling our assorted holiday treats! Come say hello with your mouth full sampling our goodies and buy your somebody special something special… or just for yourself (wink!).

Cauliflower Rice

Rice from cauliflower? No way! That's what we thought at least...

But this really looks like rice and has very little taste. It's great to serve with curries and stews like the Moroccan Chicken. Plus, it's super easy!

1 head of cauliflower

Cut cauliflower into florets. 
Steam for 5 minutes.
Run florets through a food processor using the grating blade, or manually grate.
Serve with your favorite curry or stew.

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook: Primal, Low Carb, Paleo, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free