Mixed Berry Muffins

IMG_0458 It was a baking day.

Well really it was my mum’s birthday and the entire family was coming to my house for dinner, including Grandma. So that meant her homemade chocolate chip cookies that are AMAZING but defiantly NOT paleo, a homemade birthday cake (also from Gma) and most likely a few other sweet treats.

Nothing that I, or my sister’s gluten free boyfriend could enjoy.

So it was a baking day but but necessity. I whipped up the Glorious & Gluttonous Paleo Gingerbread Cake, as I knew that was a winner. But I wanted something more.

So I turned to my best friend to get their advice – Google.

I felt like muffins, something easy to make, something that was not too sweet but would make me feel like I was able to eat dessert and then also take it for work the next morning as a snack.

I stumbled across many different gluten free, grain free and paleo recipes that fell into the muffin category. Many had chocolate as a listed ingredient. Still being new to this paleo eating and baking gig, I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to tackle the paleo chocolate, so bypassed all of these for a fruit option.

I landed on one recipe, quite simply as I had all of the ingredients, and also because the recipe allowed for flexibility and change based on a) what you pantry held and b) what your stomach wanted. You could basically put in any optional extras, flavorings, herbs, seeds or spices as long as they are on the approved paleo list. Here is what I used –

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups almond meal
  • ¾ tsp baking soda (gluten free)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs (organic, free range)
  • 1 mashed very ripe banana (or just mash that puppy longer)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar  (or honey, or coconut nectar, or maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (can also use fresh and just one type if you would prefer)

If you know how to bake muffins, then you know what the next steps are. Very easy, mix wet, mix dry, get temperature right, put in pans cook and eat. But if you don’t – here is a little reminder.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to about 180degree C.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. In a large bowl whisk the almond flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, banana, oil, agave nectar, vinegar and vanilla extract.
  5. For both of the above I used my kitchen aid again. It takes the hassle out of stirring, ensues things are well combined, and well, I spent so much money on that baby she better work for it!
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until blended.
  7. See note re kitchenaid
  8. Add your mixed berries.
  9. See note again re kitchenaid again
  10. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups.
  11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes until your muffins are set and your poker comes out clean.
  12. Move the tin to a cooling rack and let muffins cool in the tin 30 minutes.

Now here is a note – don’t expect these babies to rise like your normal full of self-raising flour muffins.  Also don’t expect them to look so perfect on the top like normal muffins. Personally I think I added too much fruit to the wet and hence my mountainous terrain on the top.  I think if you used almond flour instead it might make a difference, or if you were just more careful on how you put the goods in the tin.

The banana not only tastes good, but it also helps to keep the muffins moist. If you wanted something less sugary you could try sweet potato or pumpkin puree. I have also listed a few other suggestions above, but really these mixed ‘berry’ muffins could be mixed with ‘anything’ muffins.

IMG_0460

The Primal Challenge Day 30 – The Finale

Day 30. The final day. I’ve been putting off writing this post for as long as I can. Probably because it is officially the end of the challenge, and I’m not sure I want it to be.

My procrastination has led me to tackle my own version of chewy mocha power balls (no berries, a few extra dates) and a double serving of frosty fruit smash. I then ate half of it and put the rest in the freezer – I’m still worried about Friday’s skin fold test.

I wanted to make the paleo banana bread recipe, but my sister in law did and ate four pieces of it in one day, so I’m a little scared. You know my track record with other backed paleo goods. And nuts.

Lizzy told me today post WOD she felt posting the MODs each night was therapeutic, and she would miss it. I guess I feel the same way about my blog posts.

I started the idea for my first post when the voice in my head that often talks to me seemed to make a little bit of sense. You know that voice that often tells you what you should and shouldn’t do? Well mine often says it in a more colourful way, and sometimes rather than just saying yes or no, entire paragraphs of often useless drivel and one sided conversation ends up swimming in my head.

The beginning of the 30 day challenge  – something so new to me given I had never tried to cut out any food before, let alone multiple food groups – seemed to ignite that voice in my head and send her on a sugar fuelled drive, so much so I had to get it out.

Just as Lizzy did with her MODs, I found the writing therapeutic, and it was a simple way to reignite a very rusty passion and habit for writing.   I never expected others to like it, or to follow or to share it, or to comment. Or that on day 28 a random Crossfit Rookie News website would pick it up (where were you day 1?!).

So I know I don’t want that to be over.

But most of all, I don’t really want the 30 day challenge to be over, because I’m slightly scared of what I will do when it is.

There is still that bottle of wine (or three) in the fridge. Right next to the ciders and the beer and the mixers ready for the gin and vodka. I never normally drink during the week (when I am at home – if I am travelling, out to dinner or just out for drinks of course this rule does not apply) but there is part of me that is worried I might bust out a vodka on the rocks the moment I’m able to.

A few ears still remain of the Easter bunny that was eventually cracked open on Sunday night. I almost want to eat them now in case my husband gets to them first. I have the fear of missing out – a stupid fear – like there are no more Chocolate Easter Bunnies in the world. Like normal rabbits, they seem to be quite effective at multiplying and running around in other peoples gardens when not wanted.

And a few Tim Tams – the original, not those that have tried to catch up with crazy modern times and added more sugar to the already existing overflowing amount. There are a few of them left too.

The wheel of double Brie cheese is almost calling my name from here.

I don’t think I really want to eat these things (well maybe only a little) but once the word ‘challenge’ is removed from this entire clean eating gig, then my mental barrier which has been effectively blocking these nasties from me will be lifted, and maybe then I’ll return to my human self, loosing all superhero self control I had during the last 30 days.

I think that might be scarier than the primal fear I first felt.

So, reflection time. What exactly have a I learned/experienced/felt during these 30 days I hear you ask? Yes I literally hear you ask. Almost every day someone asks me if feel better, have I noticed a difference, has it been worth it.

So here it all is – sugar sweet, sweat and tears…

Lightbulb moments –

#1

I was VERY naïve when it came to some foods and healthy eating. As a 30 something who was actively exercising, and had friends who thought I was already on a very strict eating plan, I was in some way shape or form kidding myself.

Sugar is sugar, regardless if it is in chocolate cake or muesli bars. The entire time I was saying no thanks as others ate over stimulated Picnic bars (my ultimate favorite) or pieces of cake – and silently judging them for it – I was doing the same thing with my Carmen’s muesli, muesli bars, fruit, packaged soup and other no longer –never were – healthy foods.

Here Miss Sugar is no longer center stage. She has been reduced to a mere understudy in her now dirty and ripped tutu and doesn’t seem so attractive anymore.

#2

Sugar is EVERYWHERE.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  Hidden in much of what I had in my pantry and used every night for dinner, and then wondered why neither of us could loose any weight.  In case you think I am exaggerating, here is a list of where Miss Sugar hides, loitering in the curtains waiting for the main star to break her leg so she can take over….

  • Masterfoods dried herbs, including Lemon Pepper, Garlic Pepper Seasoning, Chicken Seasoning, Roast Vegetable Seasoning to name a few.
  • Tomato sauce – all brands
  • Fish sauce – most brands
  • Moist coconut flakes – yeah this little sucker almost had me!
  • All supermarket stocks
  • Premade pasta jars – a regular in my household before this
  • Most pre-packed nut mixes
  • Most ‘mixed fruit’ packages also include extra sugar – why I don’t know.
  • Most things that are ‘flavoured’ are not really natural and the ‘flavour’ is in fact sugar.
  • Most ‘light’ or ‘lite’ options
  • Salad dressings and mustards
  • Some herbs in jars (eg ground ‘fresh’ ginger)
  • Most things in jars eg curry powder, paste etc
  • Tinned foods – especially soup (did I mention this was my lunch most days prior to day 1?)

#3

Dinner can consist of food, real food, and still be satisfying without rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, quinoa, potato as a side option.

This one was hard to accept, because most of the above is – or was – a staple and favourite of mine.

#4

Corn is a grain. Yep I know, seems obvious – but I am blonde remember.

#5

Just because you are going through a learning journey relatively late in life, does not mean others are – so don’t presume their ignorance is as low as yours and preach to them if you want to have friends in the future.

#6

Eggs and smoothies keep you much fuller than sugar muesli and fat free milk for breakfast and you can never have too much bacon.

#7

Expect headaches, maybe a few stomach cramps or joint pains. Maybe that crazy voice in your head will scream at you so violently you want to poke out your own eyeballs with a spoon and swallow them with your hide the greens smoothie, or maybe you will just feel like shit for the first few days. It’s normal, deal with it.

#8

Don’t eat kale stems if you want a normal digestive experience the following day….

#10

Red wine jus – the only sugar coming from the red wine and balsamic vinegar – does not classify as a challenge fail. Paleo gingerbread – verdict is still out.

#11

You might like to ask permission to eat eggs at your desk in the morning before you warm them up in the microwave. Especially if in a communal office.

#12

Some supermarket eggs might look happy but they are not so watch out. Just because they have a smile printed on them, does not mean they are free range or organic, so check the packet carefully. Along with the coconut milk. There are many sneaky tricks talented marketers (like me) do to convince us the food we are buying is good for us, when really it is just crap.

#13

Paleo is not a dirty word – although the spellchecker seems to think it is (red line has been driving me crazy last 30 days).  It is a choice, not a diet, but a lifestyle for sometimes, often, almost always or every now and then. It’s a personal choice, and one that should be respected.

#14

It’s really not that hard. You can just say no. You look on the back of the pack, on the side of the jar, wherever the ingredient list is hidden and check what’s in it. Then you make your choice, and move on.

Hardest parts?

You probably want me to say laying off the booze.

For those that know me, you probably expect me to say laying off the booze (someone did ask for my advice on where to stay somewhere the other day as I would know all the local watering holes….) but really, I don’t think that was it.

Nor was it the often ridiculed, eye rolling, back handed comments and full face slaps I got during the 30 days from people like the pre primal me. Full of spite, bitterness, often a little resentful and mostly just very naïve and unaware.

The preparation was fine, I am an organised person by trade, and even though I love them, the potatoes didn’t even get me in the end.

Hardest part – worrying about not fitting in. By not taking that chip, or sitting on your hands so you don’t eat another olive because they are the only thing you can eat so you have had about 30 already, or not having that wine ‘just to be social’. Perhaps this is my own insecurities leaking through, but not being ‘normal’ or not ‘fitting in’ or being an ‘inconvenience’ and therefore making people unhappy was the hardest part for me, personally.

Oh, and the nuts. Of course, the nuts. That was pretty hard.

Best parts?

Well I have done a PB in both deadlifts and back squats – well above my own body weight – and I’ve improved in many other things too. Although still cant get a handstand….

I have a much bigger and better appreciation for real food. I no longer buy supermarket meat. Yes I used to. I tried to say it was a cost saving method, (please don’t judge me) and now get my vegetables from a market. My eggs are always smiling, where, ill be honest, before they were not.

Many, many new recipes to try at home for dinner and beyond.

My ranting, posting, blogging and talking to others has had an impact somewhere, even if only a few people. But I know of some who have actively made changes and just like I used to get happy feeding them poison, now I get happy by steering them away from it (don’t fear team, I will still bake for you).

Skin fold test aside (Friday people, Friday!) I’m sure there has been a difference in my body even if only on the inside.

The best part?

I did it.

Game set match.

I side kicked that stupid tutu wearing ballerina Miss Sugar and her toe dancing seduction to the no gluten and grain ground with little more than a few eggs. Well a lot more really, but I’m running out of stupid analogies and need to wrap this up.

The point is, the 30-day challenge is over and I’m a little melancholy because I enjoyed discovering more about real food, and I enjoyed writing about it and discovering more about myself.

So a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped or read my ‘boring blog’ along the way – too many to mention – but in particular Bec & Lizzy from Primal Junction, and those who encouraged, supported, and shared the 30 day journey with me, even those not participating formally in the challenge but ate clean ‘almost always’, ‘sometimes’, ‘every now and then’ or ‘most of the time’ (just lay off the banana bread for a bit Heidi) 😉

IMG_0430 IMG_0428 IMG_0429

The Primal Challenge Day 8

Week two was looming and I needed to shrug off the painful monkey that seemed to be both clinging to my shoulders and clutching my leg with his painful claws simultaneously, and send him scurrying back into the forest in search of a banana.

So after my roast pork dinner and a self indulgent winging blog post, I regrouped, and inspired by a colleague and fellow crossfit/clean eater’s photos of protein balls, zucchini cheesecake and coco-nutty granola, started cooking up a storm.

First – my ‘don’t hide the greens’ smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to hide the greens. The strange colour actually puts me off and reminds me I am drinking a leafy vegetable, but I had no beetroot to help change colour – and I don’t like beetroot anyway – and needed to (in more ways than one) suck it up. So I added in extra kale and a few extra berries and some chia seeds and imagined it was a lovely pastel colour rather than something that resembled grass when I took the first sip.  

And despite its strange spinach like colour, the taste test proved it was a winner.

Which at 11pm on Sunday night when I had to be up at 5:20am was a life savor.

Time then for some breakfast muffins.

These were easy and really are like a mini quiche. You can basically put whatever you want in the mixture. I used 1 x onion, 1 x green capsicum, 1 x tomato, around eight pieces of cooked free range bacon, some basil, salt, pepper, a little water and nine x free range eggs from our friends the happy chickens. I can almost hear them clucking with joy as they wander carelessly around.

Make sure you give your muffin pans a good spray of coconut oil, and when taking out the muffins let them cool but don’t go cold or they could get stuck in the bottom. Not that it matters – then you just have an omelet.

I actually ended up with two omelet’s as my impatience to get them out of the pan broke their little bottoms off (hey it was 11:45pm by then). But never fear my husband who has finally cottoned on to my new way of eating was up for a few. So into the Tupperware went the broken bums of bacon along with two sizeable full muffins.

I took the other eight. Don’t judge me, he has cereal as a backup and not afraid to eat it.

So yes, my husband finally knows that pasta is no longer on the menu. Or maybe he hasn’t realised that yet, because he has been very supportive. When I dragged him to the health food isle in Coles and stood staring blankly at the items trying in vain to find coconut oil – turns out it was in a jar and looked like a paste, not in a bottle that looked like oil, thanks for the heads up guys – he waited a full 30 seconds before leaving and wondering down to the freezer section to sneak an ice-cream tub into the trolley while I was not there to refuse.

He has eaten everything I have put in front of him, which is generally the same dinner as mine with a few slight modifications like adding a potato to his vegetable selection, without complaint. Although he did look at me quizzically with raised eyebrows when I told him it also meant I was off the grog.

The expression was short lived however before his eyes lit up with excitement. I realized then his light bulb moment was in fact the discovery of having a designated driver for the next few weeks.

The biggest realisation however comes when he offers me something, or goes to add something to his meal and I explain why I can’t have it.

  • Like tomato sauce having sugar.
  • Like the tinned mangoes having sugar added as a preservative.
  • Like the roasted vegetables Masterfoods herb shaker having sugar.

Although I couldn’t explain to him why potatoes are a no go. I love potatoes and am convinced I was Irish in a past life because I could eat them with every meal. So if someone can please explain to me why potatoes are not allowed I would be grateful. They come from the ground, and while I know our primitive paleo ancestors didn’t have spades as such, surely they could have given the women a rest by putting the club to a better use.

I can only imagine it is the starch or carbohydrates – everything I like about them.

However back to my breakfast muffins.  

Very tasty! I had two with a cup of smoothie this morning and am sure both would give Jamie Oliver a run for his healthy eating money.

They also filled me up delightfully and have kept me going with the aid of some trail mix going until lunch time.

I also think the monkey has gone, or at least run up a tree for the day. My shoulders are not as sore as they were this morning, despite the WOD – although I am glad I still used a lighter weight. Seems my muscles might need a bit longer recovery time than they did previously, but we will see during the week.

Again, I’m feeling pretty good. Not fantastically better than I was before the challenge, and I’m sure there are still a few downs throughout the ups, but overall I’m enjoying the challenge of taking part in the challenge.

I’m also looking forward to making the latest Primal Junction MOD – slow cooked beef ribs – and pretending I’ve just been clubbed by a stranger and dragged by the foot to a campfire to take part in a last night’s leftovers. If only there was potato. 

egg muffins geen smoothie muffinsave

The Primal Challenge Day 6

Quote

Last night was the first time I really craved something sweet. And like the buzzing of a mosquito hiding in a dark hot summers room, once I noticed it was there it annoyed the shit out of me.

Dinner was fine. Left over lamb cutlets and salad. My mineral waster was fine. Everything was fine. But come 8pm I had an itch that was in desperate need of scratching. No matter what I had said previously about sugar and how it held nothing for me, that I barely ate it, could easily go without, the realization that I was in fact addicted to it in someway shape or form, came crashing down with a hard reality

I tried to keep busy.

Two loads of washing, paying bills, fixing the modem that Telstra has somehow blocked so my new iinet account cant work on it – yeah thanks – don’t think that fight is over, watching the football.

Nothing worked.

By 8:30 I was googeling paleo friendly dessert.

Oh and the tasty things that came up!

Dark chocolate cake, almond meal cheesecake, cookies, rum balls, even mousse.

All of these delicious delicacies only made my itch larger and fuelled an already blazing fire, for while these wonderful clean eating desserts were paleo friendly, not one was entirely clean enough for the Primal Challenge. Dark chocolate, maple syrup, they all called for something on the banned substance list.

I was almost a shaking, drooling mess by the time I found the pancake recipe.

Almond meal pancakes. And I had all the ingredients. I found my trusty pancake mixing bowl, tried to ignore the standard recipe printed inside and its call out for ½ cup white sugar, and mixed my paleo, sugar free pancakes consisting of almond meal, eggs, water and coconut, with a fever paced flurry and hint of madness.

The pan barely had a chance to heat before I was pouring in the first round blob of goodness.

As I watched the sides bubble and darken, ready to be flipped, I wanted nothing more than to flip the half cooked savior into my salivating mouth.

Instead I showed restraint and made myself cook all six of the darlings before even tasting one.

Then they were on a plate (or at least two of them) and I was ready to dig in.

They were a little dry.

And dense.

And the texture was not great, mostly due to the overexcited amount of coconut I used.

To be frank, they didn’t cut it and I was disappointed and my craving was still there.

And then I remembered the honey sitting only feet away from me, hiding snug in the pantry door.

All natural, nothing artificial added honey.

Could this be the one time my inner cave man found their honeycomb after months of searching?

I took the squeeze bottle out of the pantry door and smelt it. I even turned the lid and squeezed it a little to watch the liquid gold push up to the top of the bottle.

I knew this was not right. This was not ok. But still I wanted it so bad. And I can’t even remember the last time I ate honey.

Before I could dwell on it any longer I hid the honey back in the pantry and sprinted the ten steps to where my ipad was and quickly typed an SOS to primal junction.

Hi friends, can you please confirm if honey is in or out for the challenge?

I was so desperate I wrote it twice.

And then the news I had dreaded came back to me…

Hey Stace, for the challenge it’s out – we’re trying to get rid of the sugar addiction and your brain doesn’t register the different types, be it natural or refined – it’s all sugar! So you’re still really feeding that addiction. Try and avoid it if you can…sorry

I think I knew it already.

So with a sigh and a shake of my head, I went back to my dry almond meal sugarless pancakes. I forced down two with the help of a few frozen berries (if that’s not ok then shoot me now) and put the rest in the fridge for Saturday’s breakfast.

I’ll admit. I was not in a good way. I went to bed unsatisfied and didn’t even see the end of the footy.

Saturday was a new day. Boxing with a friend who since meeting Kacey at the Primal Junction clean eating seminar has taken up yoga at Kula, and then vegie shopping at Richmond market. Fantastic!

Boxing was tough. Tougher than the week before when I was fuelled by a white wine and Thai food hangover. Today my legs felt sluggish and heavy and by the end of the session even holding up the pads was hard work.

I remembered the week before where I was almost sprinting between the circuit to now where every step felt like I was walking up Mount Everest with a 40k pack on my back, and hoped this was just another phase in my body recovering and preparing to be the mean, lean fighting machine I had promised myself it would be come.

Post boxing I dragged myself to the market. I stocked up on kale, celery, cauliflower, parsnips, pumpkin, avocados (I think I got 10 in total from at least three different stalls just to keep the competition alive) lemons and lettuce. I only stopped shopping because my bag was so heavy and my arms so tired I couldn’t carry anymore.

Despite my failed pancake effort the night prior, I dragged them out of the fridge again and glared at them with determination. You will be tasty!

Two poached free-range eggs, four pieces of organic Cannings bacon, half an avocado later and they were!

Delicious!

So delicious I forgave them for last nights effort and promised I would give them another crack further down the 30-day line.

So delicious I had to cook up another serve for my father in law who came over just as I was finishing them.

So delicious I have already run out of eggs and bacon.

So delicious I pepped myself up, forgot about my withdrawal symptoms night before and vowed the rest of Saturday would be a new Day 6 day!

But again, let’s curb that enthusiasm. It’s lunchtime Saturday, and a big football game still to come.  I’m trying not to think about it, because frankly, it could just be my tipping point.

Oh Day 6 how will you end!?

IMG_0328